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(io9)   What's the most believable alien in science fiction? Nerd fight, to the right   (io9.com) divider line 132
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5110 clicks; posted to Geek » on 27 Jul 2013 at 8:23 AM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-07-27 08:11:57 AM
i.imgur.com
 
2013-07-27 08:33:10 AM
Why not Zoidberg?
 
2013-07-27 08:33:57 AM
The Horta.
 
2013-07-27 08:36:19 AM
images1.wikia.nocookie.net

/not really, I just like posting that
 
2013-07-27 08:36:33 AM
Mork
 
2013-07-27 08:38:36 AM
kildall.com
 
2013-07-27 08:40:57 AM
Can't post pics from my phone, but I always liked the giant single-celled organism in space from trek TOS.


/or the moties.
 
2013-07-27 08:45:11 AM
farm7.staticflickr.com
 
2013-07-27 08:46:12 AM
Maybe not believable but I like the Mars Attacks martians.  ack doves and all that ack
 
2013-07-27 08:48:46 AM

Shadow Blasko: Can't post pics from my phone, but I always liked the giant single-celled organism in space from trek TOS.


/or the moties.


I thought of Trek as well. The gigantic viruses from Voyager or maybe the hyper-evolved Warp 10 salamanders also from Voyager.
 
2013-07-27 09:02:00 AM
From memory from a book a SF writing:

Ancient Greeks and Romans are more alien than most authors Martians.
 
2013-07-27 09:02:56 AM
That's a thread on a message board, not an article...

...oh, it's supposed to be an article? The author just didn't include any suggestions of his own? I see...
 
2013-07-27 09:05:57 AM

Shadow Blasko: the moties.


All hail Niven! The Moties, Pierson's Puppeteers, Kizinti, Protectors, etc.

The Tines and the Skroderiders from Vernor Vinge'sA Fire Upon the Deep and the Spiders from A Deepness in the Sky.

Several choices from Babylon 5 and Farscape,
 
2013-07-27 09:09:52 AM
It... honestly depends.

In my Space Opera setting 'The Phoenix Inheritance', the Precursor-race terraformed and planetary-engineered the galaxy to be biologically similar to each other, with a few oddities here and there. The result was that the most alien of the 'Precursor-Style' intelligent aliens were no more alien in thought than Randian Libertarians, Utopian Communists, Conservative Constitutional Monarchists, Ugandans, and North Koreans.

The same goes for the biosphere, it's all fairly compatible... if you consider North American Plains-grass to be compatable with South-Asian plants and such.

Whereas the Semita, the 100% racial villains of said setting, are incomprehensible. They are true aliens.

I don't know where I was going with this.
 
2013-07-27 09:11:26 AM

Gaambit: That's a thread on a message board, not an article...

...oh, it's supposed to be an article? The author just didn't include any suggestions of his own? I see...


An increasing number of "articles" are little more than taunts, meant to start a nerd slapfight.
 
2013-07-27 09:14:40 AM
www.globalgraphica.com
 
2013-07-27 09:16:18 AM
It's a toss up: the crystalline entity or jar jar binks
 
2013-07-27 09:16:30 AM
Anything that has no resemblance to anything that ever existed on earth.
 
2013-07-27 09:19:37 AM
The Hanar from Mass Effect are pretty believable. They look nothing like a human and do not communicate with sound.
 
2013-07-27 09:21:33 AM
Hmmmm. I'm thinking something bug-like, a la the Hive from Anne McCaffrey's Tower and Hive series, or the bugs in Starship Troopers. Or, we go to another world, only to get massively sick from the aliens we *can't*, sort of a reverse War of the Worlds situation.

Honestly, it may very well turn out that the least believable is the one that we will see first. A short convo with a friend yielded the assumption that symmetry is common to everything, so of course an alien would be symmetrical. But what if asymmetry developed on that planet as a survival trait?

I'm watching all the ST:TNG with my fiance, and I have to say, just the variety of aliens so far has been pretty cool, even considering how far removed it is. . . Or I suppose I should say how little ahead of the current technology it is now. (Cool moment when realizing we were watching the show on what is essentially a version of the datapad, only more versatile, really)
 
2013-07-27 09:22:34 AM
^can't see.

/iPad, sorry :(
 
2013-07-27 09:25:01 AM

Peki: Honestly, it may very well turn out that the least believable is the one that we will see first. A short convo with a friend yielded the assumption that symmetry is common to everything, so of course an alien would be symmetrical. But what if asymmetry developed on that planet as a survival trait?


Plants are not symmetric. Just saying.
 
2013-07-27 09:53:30 AM
Duh.  It's Alf, of course.

\either that, or Popplers
 
2013-07-27 10:06:19 AM
Asimov's extra dimensional aliens that had 3 distinct sexes until maturity.
From a very unique first contact short story that I can't remember the name of.
 
2013-07-27 10:07:25 AM
also Vorlons and Shadows from B5.
 
2013-07-27 10:07:33 AM
The aliens from Mac And Me. The most original aliens ever because they are complete and utter morons.
 
2013-07-27 10:12:38 AM
The Mooninites.
 
2013-07-27 10:13:06 AM
25.media.tumblr.com
 
2013-07-27 10:16:08 AM
www.sesamestreet.org
 
2013-07-27 10:27:47 AM
Probably the Zerg.
 
2013-07-27 10:29:06 AM
img.photobucket.com
He's green and everything.
 
2013-07-27 10:29:32 AM
Tribbles
 
2013-07-27 10:39:02 AM
I've always been partial to those who speak English with European accents.  Ancient Romans sounded like Brits, you know.
 
2013-07-27 10:47:19 AM
#1 The Gorn

#2 The Prawns from District 9

#3 Predator
 
2013-07-27 10:51:34 AM
www.alterexa.com
 
2013-07-27 10:52:34 AM

Uncle Tractor: Peki: Honestly, it may very well turn out that the least believable is the one that we will see first. A short convo with a friend yielded the assumption that symmetry is common to everything, so of course an alien would be symmetrical. But what if asymmetry developed on that planet as a survival trait?

Plants are not symmetric. Just saying.


I think it comes down to balance being beneficial for creatures that move frequently.  Sure, balance can be done for asymmetric things as well, but it takes more control.  Granted, this only matters because of interactions with gravity, air resistance, and traction.  Even so, most creatures aren't all that symmetric when you consider their inner workings.
 
2013-07-27 10:56:01 AM
davidszondy.com
 
2013-07-27 11:01:04 AM
Niven did more than a decent job with his aliens. The Kzin, Puppeteers, the Outsiders--helium based intelligences with motives beyond the ken of life based on far warmer climes--and the Thrint and Tnuctipun and even came up with a good reason for so much of his aliens being based on similar chemistry, and the Bandersnatch.

The Moties, from his collaboration with Jerry Pournelle were impressive in not just their physical alien nature, but likewise an entirely different psychology. Niven doesn't postulate just alien critters, but what might drive these lifeforms.
 
2013-07-27 11:02:12 AM
Super intelligent shade of the color blue.
 
2013-07-27 11:02:56 AM
Paul!
 
2013-07-27 11:04:44 AM
What, no Coneheads?
 
2013-07-27 11:28:04 AM
The 4 dead aliens in the back of the '64 Chevy Malibu.
 
2013-07-27 11:28:21 AM

Uncle Bester: Asimov's extra dimensional aliens that had 3 distinct sexes until maturity.
From a very unique first contact short story that I can't remember the name of.


If I read you right, that would be Asimov's novel "Whom Gods Destroy".
 
2013-07-27 11:34:41 AM
www.wallpaper-source.com
 
2013-07-27 11:46:12 AM
24.media.tumblr.com
 
2013-07-27 11:48:01 AM
Yars and the Qotile
 
2013-07-27 11:54:51 AM

Gaambit: That's a thread on a message board, not an article...

...oh, it's supposed to be an article? The author just didn't include any suggestions of his own? I see...


That was my first thought as well.  WTF was that?  Does someone get paid to do that?
 
2013-07-27 11:59:57 AM
t0.gstatic.com
 
2013-07-27 12:04:57 PM
The planet from Lem's Solaris.  The book, not the movies which were pure shiat.
 
2013-07-27 12:14:38 PM
i1142.photobucket.com
 
2013-07-27 12:18:15 PM
Uncle Tractor:

Plants are not symmetric. Just saying.

Actually plants display both radial (flowers, trunks) and bilateral (flat leaves) symmetry. Its just more complex and often combined.
 
2013-07-27 12:26:09 PM
i290.photobucket.com

Elephants ... in ... SPAAAAAAAAAAAAACE
 
2013-07-27 12:34:23 PM
The space virus/bacteria from the Andromeda Strain.
 
2013-07-27 12:34:42 PM
We have no comparison, so most of them are just as believable as each other.
 
2013-07-27 12:46:20 PM
oldstersview.files.wordpress.com
 
2013-07-27 12:47:41 PM

FuturePastNow: Probably the Zerg.


In the grim darkness of the far future there is only ...plagiarism
 
2013-07-27 01:03:38 PM
encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com
 
2013-07-27 01:17:19 PM
www.morethings.com
 
2013-07-27 01:28:28 PM

Roller Bob: Super intelligent shade of the color blue.


I believe you mean "colour"...
 
2013-07-27 01:30:11 PM
images2.wikia.nocookie.net
 
2013-07-27 01:43:49 PM
images4.wikia.nocookie.net
 
2013-07-27 01:47:24 PM
Klaatu
 
2013-07-27 01:47:26 PM
biffbampop.files.wordpress.com
/Because you know they're not coming here to spread peace, joy and cures for cancer any more than Cristoforo Colombo showed up to teach the Caribs state-of-the-art 15th century metallurgy.
 
2013-07-27 01:48:37 PM
2.bp.blogspot.com
(the one on the left)
 
2013-07-27 02:05:11 PM

hubiestubert: Niven did more than a decent job with his aliens. The Kzin, Puppeteers, the Outsiders--helium based intelligences with motives beyond the ken of life based on far warmer climes--and the Thrint and Tnuctipun and even came up with a good reason for so much of his aliens being based on similar chemistry, and the Bandersnatch.

The Moties, from his collaboration with Jerry Pournelle were impressive in not just their physical alien nature, but likewise an entirely different psychology. Niven doesn't postulate just alien critters, but what might drive these lifeforms.


I like the Puppeteers. The fact that their brains are not near their sensory organs and are well protected in the hump makes sense. And the various Moties seem to be derived from a former, base species and are the only animals left on a planet that experiences frequent global wars.
 
2013-07-27 02:06:07 PM
Believable ... because of their incredible acting.

images4.wikia.nocookie.net

1.bp.blogspot.com
 
2013-07-27 02:07:55 PM
I always thought that the Keks from Diane Duane's Wizard's Holiday were fairly believable.  The Demisiv, as well, especially if you read the short story that deals with their reproductive methods.  She makes a case for how mobile, sentient plantlife could evolve and it makes sense.  The Mesklinites from Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement are another plausible race, too.  In terms of humanoid ones....the Johrlac from Seanan McGuire's InCryptid books.  The biology is well thought-out, and it makes sense as to why they evolved to be humanoid after long contact with humans - they're stealth hunters, and need to blend in.
 
2013-07-27 02:22:01 PM

spankymacfarland2001: Actually plants display both radial (flowers, trunks) and bilateral (flat leaves) symmetry. Its just more complex and often combined.


...But the plant as a whole is not symmetric (unless we're talking some kind of fractal symmetry).
 
2013-07-27 02:33:55 PM

SpdrJay: Mork


4.bp.blogspot.com

/so much cocaine
 
2013-07-27 02:43:27 PM
cf.drafthouse.com
 
2013-07-27 02:54:07 PM
Most believable alien in science fiction...Well, if the ones that just aren't possible are:

Xindi Aquatic (and any other aquatic race)
"God" from Star Trek V
Klingons (the fighting would pretty much limit how far they'd advance)
Pakleds (too stupid to get into space)
the Space Dinosaurs from that one episode of Star Trek: Voyager
Kazon (L.A. Gangs in space, even with their back story of having stolen all their tech from the Trabe still isn't possible on a long term scale since they'd have no knowledge for repairs, or ability to refuel or rearm weapons)
Ocampa (females only have one child, and they mate with one person for life.  So barring any untimely accidents and if the population is perfectly 50% female and no homosexuality, each generation is 50% less than the previous generation.  Not to mention that 9 year life span thing).
Those bird people from the Voyager episode "Ex Post Facto" (A bird race that evolves to be mammalian who's only trace of avian roots are pointless feathers on the head.  Yes, I know at this point I've done a good job of trashing early Voyager).
Any race, ANY race from any science fiction series where the female isn't a mammal but has tits.
The race from Enterprise where the female got Trip pregnant.  Aliens can't get a gender that can't get pregnant pregnant.  Also, why would the female have tits when it was Trip who was growing nipples?
Xenomorph.  They are a silicon based life form who reproduces by getting the other races to reproduce.  Ignoring that stomach acid would destroy the egg, carbon based life forms can't support the growth of a silicon based life form.
Races with covered up mouths, stupid looking bumpy foreheads or silly noses (Cardassian, Klingon, Bajorians, plenty of Trek aliens of the week)
Crystaline Entity (a space born creature that evolves to travel space to eat planets, WTF?)
The Voyager alien race in the episode 'Cathexis' where they where an energy race living in a nebula that ate living neural energy (Look, why would an alien race evolve to eat a food that is not near where it evolves?).
Xindi Insectoid (too many limbs for an intelligent species.  More limbs means more brain power would be devoted to limb movement)


So, what would a more realistic alien look like?  Humanoid would pretty much be the way to go.  Warm blooded (sorry reptilians), dry environment (needed for technology), nothing that is there to look alien (forehead ridges for example), intelligent with fingers for tool manipulation.  So pretty much any sci-fi alien that looks human, including those with funny ears and different skin colors along with a language both verbal and written.  So:
Vulcans/Romulans
Orions
cat people
wookies
ewoks
Breen (Breen are great because they even look like they evolved on a planet that isn't quite as warm as Earth is, showing that you don't need to evolve in an Earth like atmosphere.  Though Weyoun did point out that the Breen homeworld was tropical not arctic.  Possible that he was lying since the Federation though they were from a frozen homeworld and you'd think the Federation would have at least sent a probe out that way at some point.  Still, another source did explain that Breen wasn't a race, but more of a collective like the Federation and that it was four other races all wearing those suits, one race was from a cold planet, another was dog like (hence the muzzle like snout on the helmet) and the Federation, Klingons and others just assumed since the all wore the same suit it was just one race, so maybe they identified the wrong planet as the homeworld meaning that it's possible the Dominion did the same thing).
I would even say the Ferengi would be possible until you figure in that their planet is very muddy and constantly rains, making technology growth slow (again, you would need a dry environment).
Borg and Cybermen (a collective race that abandons organics for machine in order to survive and ends up losing the ability for sexual reproduction so it forces members of compatible alien races to join to keep the cyborg race going is a possible end point for one race and birth of a new race).
Thals and Kaleds.

Not mentioned are races that are created in labs, like the Vorta, Jem'Hadar, Dalek, clone troopers, Sontarans since they aren't natural evolutions.

Extreme end of the evolutionary end that is possible not to ever come into being:
Q
TimeLord

Freaking impossible:
any energy being race even if they started out human like an transcended to energy.  As for why Q is more possible, it was pretty much hinted at in Voyager that Q was a race that evolved both organically and technologically to the point that they appear god like with them being on the extreme end of evolution and technology which would explain their powers, their immortality and why they stopped talking and having sex.  Once you're immortal why sexually reproduce since it's purpose is to keep the species going?
 
2013-07-27 02:54:16 PM
A super-intelligent shade of the colour blue
 
2013-07-27 03:13:42 PM

Nicholas D. Wolfwood: Uncle Bester: Asimov's extra dimensional aliens that had 3 distinct sexes until maturity.
From a very unique first contact short story that I can't remember the name of.

If I read you right, that would be Asimov's novel "Whom Gods Destroy".


Actually it's entitled "The Gods Themselves" It won both the Hugo and the Nebula in 1972.
 
2013-07-27 03:40:26 PM

Great Janitor: Most believable alien in science fiction...Well, if the ones that just aren't possible are:

Xindi Aquatic (and any other aquatic race)
"God" from Star Trek V
Klingons (the fighting would pretty much limit how far they'd advance)
Pakleds (too stupid to get into space)
the Space Dinosaurs from that one episode of Star Trek: Voyager
Kazon (L.A. Gangs in space, even with their back story of having stolen all their tech from the Trabe still isn't possible on a long term scale since they'd have no knowledge for repairs, or ability to refuel or rearm weapons)
Ocampa (females only have one child, and they mate with one person for life.  So barring any untimely accidents and if the population is perfectly 50% female and no homosexuality, each generation is 50% less than the previous generation.  Not to mention that 9 year life span thing).
Those bird people from the Voyager episode "Ex Post Facto" (A bird race that evolves to be mammalian who's only trace of avian roots are pointless feathers on the head.  Yes, I know at this point I've done a good job of trashing early Voyager).
Any race, ANY race from any science fiction series where the female isn't a mammal but has tits.
The race from Enterprise where the female got Trip pregnant.  Aliens can't get a gender that can't get pregnant pregnant.  Also, why would the female have tits when it was Trip who was growing nipples?
Xenomorph.  They are a silicon based life form who reproduces by getting the other races to reproduce.  Ignoring that stomach acid would destroy the egg, carbon based life forms can't support the growth of a silicon based life form.
Races with covered up mouths, stupid looking bumpy foreheads or silly noses (Cardassian, Klingon, Bajorians, plenty of Trek aliens of the week)
Crystaline Entity (a space born creature that evolves to travel space to eat planets, WTF?)
The Voyager alien race in the episode 'Cathexis' where they where an energy race living in a nebula that ate living neural energy (Look, why wo ...


Your anti-tit agenda sickens me.
 
2013-07-27 03:54:50 PM

Lochsteppe: Great Janitor: Most believable alien in science fiction...Well, if the ones that just aren't possible are:

Xindi Aquatic (and any other aquatic race)
"God" from Star Trek V
Klingons (the fighting would pretty much limit how far they'd advance)
Pakleds (too stupid to get into space)
the Space Dinosaurs from that one episode of Star Trek: Voyager
Kazon (L.A. Gangs in space, even with their back story of having stolen all their tech from the Trabe still isn't possible on a long term scale since they'd have no knowledge for repairs, or ability to refuel or rearm weapons)
Ocampa (females only have one child, and they mate with one person for life.  So barring any untimely accidents and if the population is perfectly 50% female and no homosexuality, each generation is 50% less than the previous generation.  Not to mention that 9 year life span thing).
Those bird people from the Voyager episode "Ex Post Facto" (A bird race that evolves to be mammalian who's only trace of avian roots are pointless feathers on the head.  Yes, I know at this point I've done a good job of trashing early Voyager).
Any race, ANY race from any science fiction series where the female isn't a mammal but has tits.
The race from Enterprise where the female got Trip pregnant.  Aliens can't get a gender that can't get pregnant pregnant.  Also, why would the female have tits when it was Trip who was growing nipples?
Xenomorph.  They are a silicon based life form who reproduces by getting the other races to reproduce.  Ignoring that stomach acid would destroy the egg, carbon based life forms can't support the growth of a silicon based life form.
Races with covered up mouths, stupid looking bumpy foreheads or silly noses (Cardassian, Klingon, Bajorians, plenty of Trek aliens of the week)
Crystaline Entity (a space born creature that evolves to travel space to eat planets, WTF?)
The Voyager alien race in the episode 'Cathexis' where they where an energy race living in a nebula that ate living neural energ ...


Your anti-tit agenda sickens me.

I'm very pro-tit.  It just doesn't make sense for non-mammals to have mammary glands.
 
2013-07-27 04:05:25 PM

Uncle Tractor: Anything that has no resemblance to anything that ever existed on earth.


I dunno... Let's face it: speed is a pretty positive survival trait, for both predators and prey, and having two pairs of legs, connected with a springy spine, is about the best way to be fast. I suppose, if you found a planet where there were no predators, you might not need that speed, but I wouldn't be surprised if (in the future) we discovered planets evolve four-limbed creatures much more often than we would think.
 
2013-07-27 04:13:18 PM

Great Janitor: Lochsteppe: Great Janitor: Most believable alien in science fiction...Well, if the ones that just aren't possible are:


Your anti-tit agenda sickens me.

I'm very pro-tit.  It just doesn't make sense for non-mammals to have mammary glands.


Did any of the characters/sources you cited ever say "These are mammary glands"?  No.  Avian/reptilian/amphibian/robotic species are just as entitled as we are to have two sexy, symmetrically-placed lumps on their females' chests. What they're used for is none of our business.  Check your mammalian privilege.

;)
 
2013-07-27 04:19:41 PM

Dadoo: Uncle Tractor: Anything that has no resemblance to anything that ever existed on earth.

I dunno... Let's face it: speed is a pretty positive survival trait, for both predators and prey, and having two pairs of legs, connected with a springy spine, is about the best way to be fast. I suppose, if you found a planet where there were no predators, you might not need that speed, but I wouldn't be surprised if (in the future) we discovered planets evolve four-limbed creatures much more often than we would think.


Well, as I pointed out, four limbs (two arms and two legs) is the optimum since it allows the brain to spend less resources focusing on limb movement.  Look at it here on Earth, there aren't any advanced animals with more than four limbs and a tail.  Your cat or dog is far more advanced than your spider or centipede.  As far as predator or prey goes, any intelligent life we may encounter is going to be an omnivore.  Kind of hard to climb to the top of the evolutionary ladder when your the prey, and herbivores are prey.  I also don't think speed is going to be a requirement.  Look at how slow humans are to other animals, even compared to those that would enjoy a human snack.  We survived due to our large brain being able to outwit faster animals by climbing into trees and using weapons.  Again, we'll see the same in other intelligent alien races.  Now, we could see intelligent amphibians such as Admiral Akbar.
 
2013-07-27 04:22:10 PM

Lochsteppe: Great Janitor: Lochsteppe: Great Janitor: Most believable alien in science fiction...Well, if the ones that just aren't possible are:

Your anti-tit agenda sickens me.

I'm very pro-tit.  It just doesn't make sense for non-mammals to have mammary glands.

Did any of the characters/sources you cited ever say "These are mammary glands"?  No.  Avian/reptilian/amphibian/robotic species are just as entitled as we are to have two sexy, symmetrically-placed lumps on their females' chests. What they're used for is none of our business.  Check your mammalian privilege.

;)


When it comes to breasts, I don't believe in separate but equal for all.  I believe that only mammals should have breasts.  A cat having six breasts is better than a reptile having two.
 
2013-07-27 04:23:34 PM
I know people have blocked it out, but really? I would have thought there would be one
 
2013-07-27 04:24:10 PM
1.bp.blogspot.com
 
2013-07-27 04:24:50 PM

Piizzadude: I know people have blocked it out, but really? I would have thought there would be one


www.nypost.com

it was there in the preview....
 
2013-07-27 04:44:23 PM
media.tumblr.com

Quarians from Mass Effect. If there ever were an alien race that evolved on a separate planet with an amino-acid based biochemistry like ours, it would have zero immunity to our viruses and bacteria and likely have respiratory/circulatory systems calibrated to a different atmosphere. There is no way it could survive on a human ship without constantly wearing an environmentally controlled full body suit.
 
2013-07-27 04:52:35 PM
Great Janitor:Well, as I pointed out, four limbs (two arms and two legs) is the optimum since it allows the brain to spend less resoures focusing on limb movement.  Look at it here on Earth, there aren't any advanced animals with more than four limbs and a tail.  Your cat or dog is far more advanced than your spider or centipede.  As far as predator or prey goes, any intelligent life we may encounter is going to be an omnivore.  Kind of hard to climb to the top of the evolutionary ladder when your the prey, and herbivores are prey.  I also don't think speed is going to be a requirement.  Look at how slow humans are to other animals, even compared to those that would enjoy a human snack.  We survived due to our large brain being able to outwit faster animals by climbing into trees and using weapons.  Again, we'll see the same in other intelligent alien races.  Now, we could see intelligent amphibians such as Admiral Akbar.

Number of legs correlates to "advanced" evolution, but not in the way that you are implying.  It's not that the number of legs imposes significant overhead costs on the brain, but that everything that had 6 legs or more was also paired with a less adaptable, less efficient respiratory system (gas transfer via spiracles).  Once you exceed a certain (and relatively puny) size, the spiracles can't cycle enough oxygen in to keep you alive. Also, the oxygen content of our atmosphere has changed pretty dramatically from the era of giant bugs. It became less and less optimal for giant-sized 6-legged bugs, and they croaked.


So it's very possible that you *might* find species with more than 4 limbs out on other planets, but their ratios of atmospheric gases will have to have been stable and optimal for any 6-legged species (insect, mammalian or otherwise).  And it would help if the ancestors of the alien 6-legged species had a track record of strong, positive evolutionary developments, like an endoskeleton, large lungs, etc.  That's why our large mammals have 4 limbs today--their ancestors did, and extra limb mutations are exceedingly rare.  Shared genetic heritage, not the innate superiority of 4 limbs.
 
2013-07-27 04:53:43 PM

Great Janitor: Most believable alien in science fiction...Well, if the ones that just aren't possible are:

Xindi Aquatic (and any other aquatic race)
"God" from Star Trek V
Klingons (the fighting would pretty much limit how far they'd advance)
Pakleds (too stupid to get into space)
the Space Dinosaurs from that one episode of Star Trek: Voyager
Kazon (L.A. Gangs in space, even with their back story of having stolen all their tech from the Trabe still isn't possible on a long term scale since they'd have no knowledge for repairs, or ability to refuel or rearm weapons)
Ocampa (females only have one child, and they mate with one person for life.  So barring any untimely accidents and if the population is perfectly 50% female and no homosexuality, each generation is 50% less than the previous generation.  Not to mention that 9 year life span thing).
Those bird people from the Voyager episode "Ex Post Facto" (A bird race that evolves to be mammalian who's only trace of avian roots are pointless feathers on the head.  Yes, I know at this point I've done a good job of trashing early Voyager).
Any race, ANY race from any science fiction series where the female isn't a mammal but has tits.
The race from Enterprise where the female got Trip pregnant.  Aliens can't get a gender that can't get pregnant pregnant.  Also, why would the female have tits when it was Trip who was growing nipples?
Xenomorph.  They are a silicon based life form who reproduces by getting the other races to reproduce.  Ignoring that stomach acid would destroy the egg, carbon based life forms can't support the growth of a silicon based life form.
Races with covered up mouths, stupid looking bumpy foreheads or silly noses (Cardassian, Klingon, Bajorians, plenty of Trek aliens of the week)
Crystaline Entity (a space born creature that evolves to travel space to eat planets, WTF?)
The Voyager alien race in the episode 'Cathexis' where they where an energy race living in a nebula that ate living neural energy (Look, why would an alien race evolve to eat a food that is not near where it evolves?).
Xindi Insectoid (too many limbs for an intelligent species.  More limbs means more brain power would be devoted to limb movement)


So, what would a more realistic alien look like?  Humanoid would pretty much be the way to go.  Warm blooded (sorry reptilians), dry environment (needed for technology), nothing that is there to look alien (forehead ridges for example), intelligent with fingers for tool manipulation.  So pretty much any sci-fi alien that looks human, including those with funny ears and different skin colors along with a language both verbal and written.  So:
Vulcans/Romulans
Orions
cat people
wookies
ewoks
Breen (Breen are great because they even look like they evolved on a planet that isn't quite as warm as Earth is, showing that you don't need to evolve in an Earth like atmosphere.  Though Weyoun did point out that the Breen homeworld was tropical not arctic.  Possible that he was lying since the Federation though they were from a frozen homeworld and you'd think the Federation would have at least sent a probe out that way at some point.  Still, another source did explain that Breen wasn't a race, but more of a collective like the Federation and that it was four other races all wearing those suits, one race was from a cold planet, another was dog like (hence the muzzle like snout on the helmet) and the Federation, Klingons and others just assumed since the all wore the same suit it was just one race, so maybe they identified the wrong planet as the homeworld meaning that it's possible the Dominion did the same thing).
I would even say the Ferengi would be possible until you figure in that their planet is very muddy and constantly rains, making technology growth slow (again, you would need a dry environment).
Borg and Cybermen (a collective race that abandons organics for machine in order to survive and ends up losing the ability for sexual reproduction so it forces members of compatible alien races to join to keep the cyborg race going is a possible end point for one race and birth of a new race).
Thals and Kaleds.

Not mentioned are races that are created in labs, like the Vorta, Jem'Hadar, Dalek, clone troopers, Sontarans since they aren't natural evolutions.

Extreme end of the evolutionary end that is possible not to ever come into being:
Q
TimeLord

Freaking impossible:
any energy being race even if they started out human like an transcended to energy.  As for why Q is more possible, it was pretty much hinted at in Voyager that Q was a race that evolved both organically and technologically to the point that they appear god like with them being on the extreme end of evolution and technology which would explain their powers, their immortality and why they stopped talking and having sex.  Once you're immortal why sexually reproduce since it's purpose is to keep the species going?


I'm genuinely curious. Why would life from "wet" climates have trouble creating technology?

For my part I think that, until we learn otherwise, life will follow the patterns we've already seen. So it follows that there could be:

Insectoid
Mammalian
Reptilian
Saurian/Avian
Bacterial
Plants
Fish
Mollusks
Jellyfish
Amphibian
Probably a few more I'm forgetting . . .

We are already absolutely certain life forms of this type exist. Given a different planet with a different set of environmental variables one of them have come out on top of the evolutionary heap. An evolved-tool using race is something else entirely, beyond having opposable digitalia to use for grasping who can say?
 
2013-07-27 04:54:01 PM
Thread fails without:

static.tvtropes.org
 
2013-07-27 04:57:44 PM

Tommy Moo: Quarians from Mass Effect. If there ever were an alien race that evolved on a separate planet with an amino-acid based biochemistry like ours, it would have zero immunity to our viruses and bacteria and likely have respiratory/circulatory systems calibrated to a different atmosphere. There is no way it could survive on a human ship without constantly wearing an environmentally controlled full body suit.


As long as it has an emerrrrrgency induction porrrt (*hic!*)
 
2013-07-27 05:04:42 PM
Assuming supersymmetry is a valid model of the universe and supersymmetric partners of fundamental particles exist, probably the most alien aliens are the "photino birds" of the Xeelee Sequence books (which are lifeforms made of leptino-based "dark matter" who are attempting to xenoform their habitats--the gravity wells of stars--to make them not susceptible to destruction by supernovae; alas, this also tends to be fatal to the possibility of baryonic life like, oh, pretty much everything based on protons and electrons and hadrons and leptons in general).

If we don't go into bionta based on supersymmetric partners, probably my favourite (and a good candidate for "most alien aliens ever depicted that one might run into in space") would be pretty much all of the methanopulmonic (methane-breathing) species in the Chanur Saga books.  About the only ones the oxypulmonics can really talk to in a sense are the t'ca, which are basically methane-breathing worm-like things that apparently have pentaradial symmetry (up to and including having five brain-analogues connected in a ring--like a biological Beowulf cluster) and who speak entirely in matrices of five (via harmonics, and yes, all the words in a "word matrix" can be read as sentences going forward, backward, up, down, and diagonally--and all the readings are equally valid); because of the unique way t'ca talk, translator computers of a sort are needed to render T'ca Matrix Talk to something folks with one non-networked brain can understand :D  (Oh, and they also tend to give birth whilst stressed.  The books do not go into t'ca sex or if t'ca (or any of the other methanopulmonics) even have analogues to gender; for all we know, t'ca could reproduce by budding when stressed.)  The chii tend to hang out with the t'ca, resemble a mess of sticks in constant motion, and nobody is sure if they are a client race or pets of the t'ca (they're apparently so alien that if they're sentient only the t'ca can talk with them); the k'nnn (one of my favourite alien races depicted, hands down) resemble giant dust bunnies/hairballs with spidery legs, have the most advanced tech among the races in the trade compact they're in...and are so damn alien that only the t'ca can talk with them in any sense (and apparently it is EXTREMELY rudimentary at that), did not understand the concept of trade when first discovered (when k'nnn ships would raid other ships and take what they wanted) and still do not entirely understand the whole "trade" concept (the most they've gotten it down is "we take what we want off your ship and we'll leave random old crap behind that we don't want"; fortunately for the k'nnn, their "crap" is pretty awesome according to the other races)...and have long, long, epic whalesong-esque songs they sing whilst in transit that could be epic ballads or could just be navigational instructions for all anyone knows.

If methanopulmonic races aren't considered likely...Puppeteers and Moties tend to be among my favourites for "races you can have a conversation with", and I'm also unreasonably fond of Nemo Ramjet's "Snaiad" speculative xenoevolution art series (basically he's created an entire world of non-namegiving species with a very different base than chordate-analogues--he's also enough of a biologist he can manage to make something plausible...and some of what he's come up with is wonderfully weird :D).

(I'll also admit to one of my favourite alien races in popular art being the Orz in the Star Control series.  Their/its actual nature is interesting as hell to me, but for those who haven't played the series...I'd rather not spoil the surprise too much.  Suffice it to say that they start out amusing (thanks to a translator machine that must be trying to work with the local equivalent of K'nnn) and turn out downright Lovecraftian...that said, I'm not so sure they're plausible alien aliens without, well, some particular assumptions re M-theory.)
 
2013-07-27 05:17:08 PM
upload.wikimedia.org
 
2013-07-27 05:23:36 PM

Tommy Moo: [media.tumblr.com image 418x500]

Quarians from Mass Effect. If there ever were an alien race that evolved on a separate planet with an amino-acid based biochemistry like ours, it would have zero immunity to our viruses and bacteria and likely have respiratory/circulatory systems calibrated to a different atmosphere. There is no way it could survive on a human ship without constantly wearing an environmentally controlled full body suit.


I do have to admit the Quarians pleased me for exactly this reason :D  (Then again, I also liked how they had levorotary and dextrorotary amino-acid-based species :D)

(Then again, I'm also a bit of a fan of "books that deal with aliens that do NOT exactly fit within the standard chordate model".  I'm not so convinced evolution on all planets would go towards bilateral life forms with mouth-first sensory-organs-first, for one.)

Continuing Exotic Aliens--Not 100% sure it would be plausible, but one of the more fun sci-fi series (as far as truly alien aliens that we try to make contact with) are in the Dragon's Egg series...basically human observers see the cheela (very tiny--sesame seed sized, even--aliens that evolved from degenerate matter on the surface of a neutron star) evolve, go through an entire major civilisation cycle (from the "bang the rocks together, guys" stage to first contact via laser communication) in a month...and since cheela live too darn fast to really talk with humans, we end up communicating with them via information packets sent back and forth (essentially sending each other our respective archived versions of the Internet).  Eventually the cheela develop grav-manipulation (in advance of humans) for face-to-face first contact...and then cut off communications (after leaving the rough equivalent of geocaches in multiple parts of their galaxy) because in comparison to THEM we're too primitive... :D  And then in the sequel a massive starquake (a phenomenon actually documented with neutron stars) pretty much throws the non-spacefaring parts of the cheela civilisation into a deep Dark Ages analogue thanks to a major population crash on the surface (and the spacefarers losing the tech to live on surface), complete with the cheela equivalent of Genghis Khan or Attila the Hun attempting to TAKE OVER ALL THE THINGS.  Again, pretty much in the span of a month. :D

/have I mentioned I like alien aliens? :D
//why yes, I DO tend to play the lizard scum in RPGs where this is a possibility
 
2013-07-27 05:35:50 PM

Great Janitor: Klingons (the fighting would pretty much limit how far they'd advance)
Pakleds (too stupid to get into space)


For the Klingons, the warrior culture is recent, post spaceships.
For the Pakleds, they aren't stupid, they just suck at communication.
 
2013-07-27 05:37:29 PM

Tommy Moo: [media.tumblr.com image 418x500]

Quarians from Mass Effect. If there ever were an alien race that evolved on a separate planet with an amino-acid based biochemistry like ours, it would have zero immunity to our viruses and bacteria and likely have respiratory/circulatory systems calibrated to a different atmosphere. There is no way it could survive on a human ship without constantly wearing an environmentally controlled full body suit.


Most people consider that a flawed idea  They may indeed have no immunity, but Earth viruses and bacteria did not evolve to take advantage of them either.  If you goggle it, you can find some interesting articles about it as a discredited idea.
 
2013-07-27 05:50:48 PM

Boudyro: 'm genuinely curious. Why would life from "wet" climates have trouble creating technology?

For my part I think that, until we learn otherwise, life will follow the patterns we've already seen. So it follows that there could be:

Insectoid
Mammalian
Reptilian
Saurian/Avian
Bacterial
Plants
Fish
Mollusks
Jellyfish
Amphibian
Probably a few more I'm forgetting . . .

We are already absolutely certain life forms of this type exist. Given a different planet with a different set of environmental variables one of them have come out on top of the evolutionary heap. An evolved-tool using race is something else entirely, beyond having opposable digitalia to use for grasping who can say?


The reason why wet environments would suck for creating technology: try to smelt anything underwater.  There is the strong belief that dolphins may be more intelligent than humans, but their living in the ocean and lack of ability to use or create tools is going to hold them back and keep them out of the stars.  The Ferengi, even though their planet is a muddy swamp with constant rain, they can still develop clean rooms to allow them to create advanced technology, and that's going to be needed before their technology can develop really.  Try taking apart a computer, dumping the parts into a mud puddle and then rebuild it, how well do you think it's going to function?
 
2013-07-27 05:51:25 PM
Really interesting thread, I wish there were more like these.
 
2013-07-27 06:12:13 PM

Free Radical:


Two plants having an argument?
 
2013-07-27 06:46:10 PM
I still get a kick out of the concept of "Talking Meat"


http://www.terrybisson.com/page6/page 6.html
 
2013-07-27 07:06:43 PM
I always thought the aliens from Far scape were the most believable, not so much from a biological standpoint (too many humanoids) but they all *acted* alien. Their logic, judgement, and entire thought process was distinctly non-human. And it was the first show I saw where every new location wasn't a "planet of hats".
 
2013-07-27 07:12:30 PM
Jebus?
 
2013-07-27 07:14:12 PM

starsrift: The Horta.


Agreed.
 
2013-07-27 07:31:37 PM
i88.photobucket.com
 
2013-07-27 08:08:51 PM

Great Janitor: Look at how slow humans are to other animals, even compared to those that would enjoy a human snack. We survived due to our large brain being able to outwit faster animals by climbing into trees and using weapons.


For that to work, you have to evolve intelligence, and you're certainly not going to evolve both four limbs and intelligence at the same time. What are your evolutionary ancestors going to do, before they become smart? Being fast would certainly help them.
 
2013-07-27 08:14:42 PM
Old Man Winter:

kildall.com

Thread over.


Th
 
2013-07-27 09:48:48 PM
www.multimediamouth.com
latimesherocomplex.files.wordpress.com
t0.gstatic.com
 
2013-07-27 09:54:46 PM
Aliens would be humanoid, insectoid, or designed / artificial.  I don't think that this is all that difficult =)
 
2013-07-27 10:23:11 PM

BullBearMS: The Tines and the Skroderiders from Vernor Vinge'sA Fire Upon the Deep and the Spiders from A Deepness in the Sky.

Several choices from Babylon 5 and Farscape,


Agree with the Tines and the Skroders, they were plausible. Agree about Farscape, too, they did a good job--a very good job when you consider their budget was significantly less than The Next Generation, and the aliens were often alot better. Stories were better, too, but thats another matter. Actually, now that you mention it, the Skroders and Pilot had some similarities.

Herbert did a pretty good job with plausible species in his Dosadi series, except perhaps for the pan spechi, and thats only because they "chose to look like humans". I think Herbert just decided that he didnt feel like having to figure out another the appearance of another group of aliens. The rest of their life cycle was interesting.

Gowachin Law FTW.
 
2013-07-27 10:41:06 PM

Tommy Moo: Quarians from Mass Effect. If there ever were an alien race that evolved on a separate planet with an amino-acid based biochemistry like ours, it would have zero immunity to our viruses and bacteria and likely have respiratory/circulatory systems calibrated to a different atmosphere. There is no way it could survive on a human ship without constantly wearing an environmentally controlled full body suit.


They're also good in bed.
 
2013-07-27 11:04:54 PM
Hanar
Vorlons
Octospiders
Shadows
'Prawns'

Humans.  We are aliens to someone.  And to me, humans are a very believable species.
 
2013-07-27 11:17:00 PM

Great Janitor: Freaking impossible:
any energy being race even if they started out human like an transcended to energy.  As for why Q is more possible, it was pretty much hinted at in Voyager that Q was a race that evolved both organically and technologically to the point that they appear god like with them being on the extreme end of evolution and technology which would explain their powers, their immortality and why they stopped talking and having sex.   Once you're immortal why sexually reproduce since it's purpose is to keep the species going?


Ever have sex?
 
2013-07-27 11:19:17 PM

Dadoo: Uncle Tractor: Anything that has no resemblance to anything that ever existed on earth.

I dunno... Let's face it: speed is a pretty positive survival trait, for both predators and prey, and having two pairs of legs, connected with a springy spine, is about the best way to be fast. I suppose, if you found a planet where there were no predators, you might not need that speed, but I wouldn't be surprised if (in the future) we discovered planets evolve four-limbed creatures much more often than we would think.


Spines and double legs are only a means to an end.  My car is faster than the fastest land mammal and has neither a spine or legs.  Not that I think that a planet could evolve organic cars (but hey, who knows) but that there's more than one way to skin a cat.
 
2013-07-27 11:26:05 PM
1.bp.blogspot.com
 
2013-07-27 11:31:50 PM

LrdPhoenix: Great Janitor: Klingons (the fighting would pretty much limit how far they'd advance)
Pakleds (too stupid to get into space)

For the Klingons, the warrior culture is recent, post spaceships.
For the Pakleds, they aren't stupid, they just suck at communication.


So is the episode in STNG where everyone devolves to their more primitive forms not cannon?
 
2013-07-28 12:48:31 AM

Great Janitor: Boudyro: 'm genuinely curious. Why would life from "wet" climates have trouble creating technology?

For my part I think that, until we learn otherwise, life will follow the patterns we've already seen. So it follows that there could be:

Insectoid
Mammalian
Reptilian
Saurian/Avian
Bacterial
Plants
Fish
Mollusks
Jellyfish
Amphibian
Probably a few more I'm forgetting . . .

We are already absolutely certain life forms of this type exist. Given a different planet with a different set of environmental variables one of them have come out on top of the evolutionary heap. An evolved-tool using race is something else entirely, beyond having opposable digitalia to use for grasping who can say?

The reason why wet environments would suck for creating technology: try to smelt anything underwater.  There is the strong belief that dolphins may be more intelligent than humans, but their living in the ocean and lack of ability to use or create tools is going to hold them back and keep them out of the stars.  The Ferengi, even though their planet is a muddy swamp with constant rain, they can still develop clean rooms to allow them to create advanced technology, and that's going to be needed before their technology can develop really.  Try taking apart a computer, dumping the parts into a mud puddle and then rebuild it, how well do you think it's going to function?


So when you say that you mean they couldn't develop OUR technology.

That's completely ruling out biological tech, for which we have abundant evidence with the ongoing process of evolution. We already know for certain genes can be changed to create different functionalities because genes DO change. The modern dog is an example of a radical and relatively quick deliberate alteration of a species by a "more intelligent" species, and we didn't even have to use any pointy metal things to do it.

Keep in mind that a watery environment is, at it's simplest, just a different and denser type of atmosphere. It may present certain challenges to some advancements but it may also make other advancements relatively trivial. Smelting in water may be difficult or impossible, but creating an evacuated pocket in which to work on the metal isn't really a far stretch. It wouldn't be much different in practice than us learning how to evacuate air from a sealed chamber.

Lastly, we didn't start out smelting ores and making transistors. There are long chains of materials sciences that lead us to those points. Our forbearers originally found materials in their natural state and made use of them.

A theoretical aquatic race just starting out would have access to stone, plant fibers, shells, bone and natural metal deposits just as our ancestors did. The critical sticking points may be underwater access to wood and fire. Both of which are non-existent or extremely rare as far as we know.
 
2013-07-28 01:10:22 AM
WereBear666: Actually it's entitled "The Gods Themselves" It won both the Hugo and the Nebula in 1972.

Quite right; I stand corrected.  Thank you.

/that'll teach me to post before my morning coffee.
//confused 'The Gods Themselves' (Asimov) with 'Whom Gods Destroy' (ST:TOS)
//slashies, threes, you know the drill
 
2013-07-28 01:27:08 AM
3.bp.blogspot.com
 
2013-07-28 01:45:48 AM
It's cute how people limit what is possible.  It does make things easier I'll admit.

As for 2 legs vs 4 legs: having 2 legs is more efficient than 4, so you can outlast other 4 legged species in a jog.  Google 'persistence hunt'.  Tho it helps if you have some other graspy extensions for to hold some useful items.
 
2013-07-28 02:10:24 AM

Dadoo: I dunno... Let's face it: speed is a pretty positive survival trait, for both predators and prey, and having two pairs of legs, connected with a springy spine, is about the best way to be fast.


Is it? How about a round body that rolls? Or a single long leg that lets the animal jump long distances? Or a sail-like appendage that lets the animal blow with the wind? Or ...? The possibilities are endless.

The spine was evolved for swimming. It's OK for running on four, I guess, but crap for upright walking.

 I suppose, if you found a planet where there were no predators, you might not need that speed, but I wouldn't be surprised if (in the future) we discovered planets evolve four-limbed creatures much more often than we would think.

Well, we won't know for sure until we actually find another planet with life. Some things we can be sure of; they'll almost certainly have eyes (because they are very easy to evolve -- happened dozens of times here on earth), and we'll be able to recognize them as such, and things like gravity and aerodynamics will have an effect on the way they look.
 
2013-07-28 03:46:29 AM

Uncle Tractor: Dadoo: I dunno... Let's face it: speed is a pretty positive survival trait, for both predators and prey, and having two pairs of legs, connected with a springy spine, is about the best way to be fast.

Is it? How about a round body that rolls?


How would you keep your eyes focused of where you're going?

Or a single long leg that lets the animal jump long distances?

Too much of your metabolism would be spent keeping that long leg alive. I vaguely remember reading somewhere that current thinking believes it's one of the reasons we don't have mammals with six legs: an extra pair of legs wouldn't improve survival rates, so keeping them alive is wasted energy.

Or a sail-like appendage that lets the animal blow with the wind?

I might be able to give you this one...

Or ...? The possibilities are endless.

Not really. Can you come up with something, anything, that gives you a clear speed advantage over running with four legs, without making the rest of your senses less useful?

The spine was evolved for swimming. It's OK for running on four, I guess, but crap for upright walking.

I'll agree with you, there, but most of the species I'm aware of that walk upright have at least a modicum of intelligence, and use it to find other ways to evade (or be) predators.

Well, we won't know for sure until we actually find another planet with life. Some things we can be sure of; they'll almost certainly have eyes (because they are very easy to evolve -- happened dozens of times here on earth), and we'll be able to recognize them as such, and things like gravity and aerodynamics will have an effect on the way they look.

I'll agree with you here, too. I'm not saying four legs is the only way, just that I've never heard anyone suggest a compelling alternative.
 
2013-07-28 03:55:52 AM
No mention of Hawk the Birdman from Buck Rogers?

Son, I am disappoint.

/Beedy-beedy-beeedy

//Hiya Wilma

///Guess what else rhymes with Buck?
 
2013-07-28 05:19:06 AM

Dadoo: Can you come up with something, anything, that gives you a clear speed advantage over running with four legs, without making the rest of your senses less useful?


Wings.
 
2013-07-28 05:43:49 AM

Dadoo: Uncle Tractor: Dadoo: I dunno... Let's face it: speed is a pretty positive survival trait, for both predators and prey, and having two pairs of legs, connected with a springy spine, is about the best way to be fast.

Is it? How about a round body that rolls?
How would you keep your eyes focused of where you're going?


It could have a whole bunch of eyes -- spheric vision, and a brain capable of keeping track of the input.

Or a single long leg that lets the animal jump long distances?

Too much of your metabolism would be spent keeping that long leg alive. I vaguely remember reading somewhere that current thinking believes it's one of the reasons we don't have mammals with six legs: an extra pair of legs wouldn't improve survival rates, so keeping them alive is wasted energy.


Not only that, but extra limbs are a liability in the sense that they are limbs that can be injured, tissue that can get infected, and so on. One long limb is simpler than two limbs. Imagine a kangaroo with one thick leg instead of two thin ones. It's a simpler body design and less chance of injury (because the one leg would be thicker and stronger).

Or ...? The possibilities are endless.

Not really. Can you come up with something, anything, that gives you a clear speed advantage over running with four legs, without making the rest of your senses less useful?


I'd go with something that rolls or sails. Who knows what evolution can come up with? We're used to what lives here on earth, and our imagination is limited by it.

Also, speed isn't the only survival strategy. A slow panzer-slug with built-in camouflage (chromatophores or plants growing on it's shell for example) could be a fearsome predator. All would have to do is find a place that smells like prey and wait.
 
2013-07-28 08:17:19 AM

Dadoo: I'm not saying four legs is the only way, just that I've never heard anyone suggest a compelling alternative.


Larry Niven's short story 'Flare Time' has an interesting take. It's part of his N-Space short story collection.
 
2013-07-28 08:19:11 AM

Uncle Tractor: Dadoo: Uncle Tractor: Dadoo: I dunno... Let's face it: speed is a pretty positive survival trait, for both predators and prey, and having two pairs of legs, connected with a springy spine, is about the best way to be fast.

Is it? How about a round body that rolls?
How would you keep your eyes focused of where you're going?

It could have a whole bunch of eyes -- spheric vision, and a brain capable of keeping track of the input.

Or a single long leg that lets the animal jump long distances?

Too much of your metabolism would be spent keeping that long leg alive. I vaguely remember reading somewhere that current thinking believes it's one of the reasons we don't have mammals with six legs: an extra pair of legs wouldn't improve survival rates, so keeping them alive is wasted energy.

Not only that, but extra limbs are a liability in the sense that they are limbs that can be injured, tissue that can get infected, and so on. One long limb is simpler than two limbs. Imagine a kangaroo with one thick leg instead of two thin ones. It's a simpler body design and less chance of injury (because the one leg would be thicker and stronger).

Or ...? The possibilities are endless.

Not really. Can you come up with something, anything, that gives you a clear speed advantage over running with four legs, without making the rest of your senses less useful?

I'd go with something that rolls or sails. Who knows what evolution can come up with? We're used to what lives here on earth, and our imagination is limited by it.

Also, speed isn't the only survival strategy. A slow panzer-slug with built-in camouflage (chromatophores or plants growing on it's shell for example) could be a fearsome predator. All would have to do is find a place that smells like prey and wait.


24.media.tumblr.com
 
2013-07-28 08:28:12 AM
static.tvtropes.org

Monster Robot, FTW.
 
2013-07-28 11:43:47 AM

ertznay: Jebus?


Alien Jebus says...

www.alienjesus.com
 
2013-07-28 12:12:28 PM

jeanwearinfool: LrdPhoenix: Great Janitor: Klingons (the fighting would pretty much limit how far they'd advance)
Pakleds (too stupid to get into space)

For the Klingons, the warrior culture is recent, post spaceships.
For the Pakleds, they aren't stupid, they just suck at communication.

So is the episode in STNG where everyone devolves to their more primitive forms not canon?


Just because they were large, hulking beasts in the past doesn't mean that they were always that way later on.  After all, when was the last time you made a nest of leaves in a tree, or jumped from one tree to another, or sunk like a stone in water, or flung poo at someone?  Or how about birds, their ancestors used to run down and kill things bigger than elephants, don't see that happening much anymore.
 
2013-07-28 01:57:53 PM

LrdPhoenix: Just because they were large, hulking beasts in the past doesn't mean that they were always that way later on.  After all, when was the last time you made a nest of leaves in a tree, or jumped from one tree to another, or sunk like a stone in water, or flung poo at someone?  Or how about birds, their ancestors used to run down and kill things bigger than elephants, don't see that happening much anymore.


Point of order: Simians and humans shared a common hominid ancestor, but current thinking is that the typical simian traits you describe (living in trees, flinging poo, etc.) are traits that simians developed after the proto-humans and proto-simians split off into separate branches of the same evolutionary tree.  ie. Humans were never poo-flinging monkeys.
 
2013-07-28 02:16:32 PM
sharetv.org
 
2013-07-28 02:42:12 PM
www.freepresshouston.com
 
2013-07-28 02:44:21 PM

Too late for Caturday...

mos.totalfilm.com
 
2013-07-28 03:17:21 PM
Just because you can imagine it, doesn't mean it's likely to evolve. If we ever discover any really, really weird aliens, I would put money on them having been engineered at least to some degree.

Nature is very, very good at weeding out survival mechanisms that don't use the least possible energy to produce a reproductive advantage.

And, for the record, it's not speed, bipedalism, or intelligence that has been key to the survival of hominids. It's social behavior. Individual humans don't survive very well in the bush, but we're terrifying in packs.
 
2013-07-28 07:46:12 PM

LrdPhoenix: jeanwearinfool: LrdPhoenix: Great Janitor: Klingons (the fighting would pretty much limit how far they'd advance)
Pakleds (too stupid to get into space)

For the Klingons, the warrior culture is recent, post spaceships.
For the Pakleds, they aren't stupid, they just suck at communication.

So is the episode in STNG where everyone devolves to their more primitive forms not canon?

Just because they were large, hulking beasts in the past doesn't mean that they were always that way later on.  After all, when was the last time you made a nest of leaves in a tree, or jumped from one tree to another, or sunk like a stone in water, or flung poo at someone?  Or how about birds, their ancestors used to run down and kill things bigger than elephants, don't see that happening much anymore.


Additional point of order--there is evidence ground-running dinosaurian predation of large land animals DID exist up until at least 1,000,000 BCE and possibly as recently as 12,000 BCE (phorusrhacids--the terror birds, essentially now considered giant sereimas from hell--had a lifestyle and hunting style very much like classical non-avian theropod dinosaurs; there has also been some speculation that some mihirungs may have been carnivorous based on jaw and beak structure, and at least one bird traditionally considered a phorusrhacid (Brontornis) may be a mihirung-like predatory anseriform (basically another Goose from Hell) though evidence is starting to swing more towards it being a phorusrhacid (and one quite able to take down something hippo-sized if not elephant-sized).

One could also argue that predatory clades of mammals other than monotremes ALSO took down critters larger than elephants long ago but no longer do so.  (Indricotheres got a good bit above elephant-size (actually to the size of medium-sized sauropods) and are the largest land eutherians and land mammaliforms known; they are a now-extinct clade of rhino-kin (basically imagine ginormous hornless proto-rhinos that were built like giraffes) that existed up to 20 million years ago.  Hyaenodonts (a creodont clade) and entelodonts (a clade of--not making this up--giant carnivorous pigs the size of rhinos) may well have hunted them.  Rather more recently, deinotherians (a rather obscure elephantiform clade sometimes known as the "bottom-jaw-tusked" elephants) also approached small-to-medium sauropod size (of around 10-12 tons; modern elephants and their closest extinct kin such as mammoths are more in the 5-7 ton range) and was almost certainly preyed upon by macharidont cats (the famous "saber-toothed" and rather more obscure "dirk-toothed" cats like Smilodon and Homotherium).)

There's also nothing saying a future extinction event couldn't take out most mammals save for our "bird-analogues" (bats) in a similar manner to how non-avian dinosaurs got taken out in an extinction event; there's nothing that says that a second Age of Dinosaurs couldn't rear its head in such a case (with large herbivore and carnivore clades evolving from modern theropod dinosaurs, aka, birds--hell, even the OMFG HUEG sauropods evolved from teeny little ground-running dinosauriforms about the size of a chicken); there's also nothing that says THOSE couldn't die off in a future extinction event and the Age of Bats begin after THAT.  (Pretty much, evolution and mass extinction events have generally involved sauropods and archosaurs repeatedly trading spots as the Big Land Critters since the Carboniferous--after "reptiles" (read: functionally, amniotes) forked from temnospondyl amphibians...who themselves tended to share the Big Land Animal spot with some pretty big arthropods (the famous griffonflies--dragonfly-like critters with wingspans of three feet--and good old Arthropleura the eight-foot-long millipede cow-analogue--yes, they were big and scary but fortunately completely herbivorous).  Basically, mass extinctions and who ends up on top after them tend to play out in the Biblical sense of "The first shall be last, and the last shall be first"...)
 
2013-07-28 10:16:01 PM

jeanwearinfool: Dadoo: Uncle Tractor: Anything that has no resemblance to anything that ever existed on earth.

I dunno... Let's face it: speed is a pretty positive survival trait, for both predators and prey, and having two pairs of legs, connected with a springy spine, is about the best way to be fast. I suppose, if you found a planet where there were no predators, you might not need that speed, but I wouldn't be surprised if (in the future) we discovered planets evolve four-limbed creatures much more often than we would think.

Spines and double legs are only a means to an end.  My car is faster than the fastest land mammal and has neither a spine or legs.  Not that I think that a planet could evolve organic cars (but hey, who knows) but that there's more than one way to skin a cat.


Organic car. . . You mean like a horse?

/funny how things look from an alien perspective. A horse would indeed be an organic transportation device. Just like we are ugly carbon bags of mostly water.
 
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