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Surprising Science

Why Aliens Would Defeat the Human Species

Seth Shostak, senior astronomer with the SETI Institute, advises Hollywood on the science of extraterrestrials. He says aliens would be vastly stronger than us and far more intelligent. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Seth Shostak, senior astronomer with the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, advises Hollywood on the science of extraterrestrials. Having served as the science consultant for films like Contact, Green Lantern and Battleship, Shostak says it will be years before the film industry catches up to scientific views on alien life, one of which concerns their superior strength: “Whoever takes the trouble to come visit us is probably a more aggressive personality. And if they have the technology to come here, the idea that we can take them on is like Napoleon taking on U.S. Air Force.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Despite the fact that most aliens are portrayed as biological equivalents to humans, plus being mucous-covered and squishy, “chances are,” said Shostak, “the first invaders will be some sort of artificially intelligent machinery.” That would likely make them immune to our biological diseases and keep them from ever procreating with us. “The idea that they’ve come for breeding purposes is more akin to wishful thinking by members of the audience who don’t have good social lives…It would be like trying to breed with an oak tree.” Of course, films are story driven, which is why Shostak’s views do not always find their way into movies. 

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