Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Creating Alien Aliens: Does How Aliens SENSE Their World REALLY Make Them Alien: A Thought Experiment With SOUND…

Five decades ago, I started my college career with the intent of becoming a marine biologist. I found out I had to get a BS in biology before I could even begin work on MARINE biology; especially because there WEREN'T any marine biology programs in Minnesota.

Along the way, the science fiction stories I'd been writing since I was 13 began to grow more believable. With my BS in biology and a fascination with genetics, I started to use more science in my fiction.

After reading hard SF for the past 50 years, and writing hard SF successfully for the past 20, I've started to dig deeper into what it takes to create realistic alien life forms. In the following series, I'll be sharing some of what I've learned. I've had some of those stories published, some not...I teach a class to GT young people every summer called ALIEN WORLDS. I've learned a lot preparing for that class for the past 25 years...so...I have the opportunity to share with you what I've learned thus far. Take what you can use, leave the rest. Let me know what YOU'VE learned. Without further ado...

All right…I want to start doing some experimenting with creating aliens based on the information in Dr. Robert Freitas, Jr’s book, XENOLOGY (link below). So, first the facts/observations and concept: 

“For instance, water striders…Much like the kinesthetic sensors in human bodies which provide continuous positional and velocity data for each limb (called Proprioception), water striders can detect the slightest disturbance traveling across the surface of the water…one species conducts its entire courtship display using complex patterns of modulated surface waves…”

“[some] spiders are known to use surface wave communication by] strumming the webs they weave in specific rhythms and patterns…between mother and offspring…Desert scorpions can also detect compressional and surface waves in sand to locate prey…”

“…the universe inhabited by such creatures [using] two-dimensional waves [would create a world of] ‘persistence messages’. 3-D acoustical waves pass an observer…one time, never to return again…oscillations in 2-D media die away only very slowly from frictional forces. The entire surface space is set in motion by such stimuli, and damping is often very weak. The media continues to ‘wave’ for a long time after[wards]…[it would sound like] they were in an echo chamber. Words would have a peculiar drawn out quality, persisting long after they have been spoken. And since the higher frequencies always travel faster than the lower ones, each repetition of the echo will sound distinctly different. The word will stretch itself thin, the higher pitched treble notes bunching together at the beginning of the sound and the progressively lower bass tones trailing behind.’”

BTW: this concept has already been PERFECTLY explored in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s, winner of the Arthur Clarke Award in 2016 and nominated for a similar award in France and Germany, CHILDREN OF TIME details a millennia-long Human mission to seed Humanity on another world gone horribly wrong that creates a civilization of intelligent “spiders”. If you haven’t done so, read it for a fascinating story – and an explanation of this form of communication.

I’ll play around with this in my own way: say I’m a First Contact specialist, and there is an obviously sapient civilization on a world that is made up. The atmosphere is going to have to be exceptionally dense, so I’m going to postulate that the world is, while NOT a water world, has an atmosphere that Humans would describe as incredibly HUMID. “If the relative humidity is 100 percent (i.e., dewpoint temperature and actual air temperature are the same), this does NOT necessarily mean that precipitation will occur. It simply means that the maximum amount of moisture is in the air at the particular temperature the air is at.”

I’m going to add a denser atmosphere on this world as well. How do my aliens sense vibrational waves in this dense, wet atmosphere? I’m going to give them long bristles – maybe rigid, protective spines surrounded by a “bush” of delicate, sensitive fibers. Do I have to have them be spiders or other creepy-crawly things? Nah, I’m going to make them a bit like large echidna…spiny anteaters. Not small enough to “step on”; large enough to both hold a complex brain somewhere in their bodies…let’s say in the CENTER of the body mass, well-protected by bone, and equidistant from the surface of “spines and bushes” – plus I’m going to raise them off the ground by giving them four longish motivation limbs, jointed so that movement in any direction is easy. They’ll have a “manipulation limb” between each “leg” – so four legs, four arms, a brain in the center…

They’ll need something to see with…above each arm, an eye, roughly equivalent to a Human eye…nah, how about more like a land snail’s eyes (and nose – they typically have two tentacles with eyes, two tentacles below them that “smell”. So the body is ringed with eight eyes and eight “noses”…

I’m also going to give them fur, though not as boring as Human fur. About half of the fur is a sort of extension of the sensory “bush” and can change color somewhat as well as compress and extend. It’s shorter than the spines, the bush, and the eye and snorf-stalks.

OK, there I am on the Home World of the Echidnates – which is what they’ll end up being called in the Human-Alien Contact records for all time…

How do I talk to them? How do I even approach them?

Approach is easy – they see and smell all around them (BTW, I’m excluding predators and disease at this point to keep the thought experiment easier…) They’ll see me as slightly taller than they are; though very weirdly…spindly and incredibly balanced on two legs – they’re smart enough to be able to recognize Human legs as a version of their own legs. Eyes same thing – smart ones will look at us, see the big knob on top and make a serious connection that OUR sensory organs seem to be clustered on a single tentacle – the legs and arms, while two of each seems to be courting a life of constant falling over, are at least recognizable.

Now for sound. I’m going to give the Echidnate Home World an atmosphere that is, while uncomfortably humid for us, breathable, though the O2 level is higher and the CO2 level is lower. There are some nasty fungi and other microorganisms in the air, though it appears that they can’t gain much foothold in Humans. However, the world around us is less…rigid than our own world.

Trees seem to be limited to Ginko-type plants, maybe palms, lots of hardwood. In fact, from what we can see, there’s not much in the way of “wood stuff” around. Structures appear to be stone, though the main construction material appears to be a sort of “land-based” coral. We don’t seem much in the way of metal tools; though stone, the coral, and other “nonmetals” appear to be used as Humans would use metal. We DO know that they have radio communication minimally, but it seems that LASERS are predominant…

I lift up my hand, and I speak a version of a language we’ve picked up from several of their laser coms. My target Echidnate stops and turns so that two pairs of eyes and noses are aimed at me. One leg forward, the other three back, forming a stable-looking tripod. Two side-arms swing forward, and the third, forward arm hangs, slightly coiled straight at me. “We come in peace,” I say, hoping that we’ve parsed out the words correctly. The landing of our own spacecraft was never hindered by the spacecraft we discovered exploring their star system.

The spines-and-bushes on the Echidnate’s back vibrate and my host opens a thin-lipped mouth above the eye and scent stalks and speaks. The sounds are surprisingly high-pitched, more child-like than what I expected. Suddenly understanding that the higher-pitched sounds will facilitate speedier communication than my lower-pitched male voice, I gesture and one of the women on the First Contact team who steps up and repeats our message of greeting…I also wonder if they have four mouths as well. I make a mental note to talk with our xenobiologist – what and how they eat will be another interesting aspect of these new sapient beings.

We recall that, somewhat like Humans, the Echidnate sense their world in a more-or-less single dimension. We also notice that the one we’re trying to contact stands in front of a curved wall of solidly-grown coral colored bright blue. I can hear the fain echo of our voices, as if the Echidnate is standing at the focal point of a parabola…

OK – there you go. Using the information I had and extrapolated, I now have a totally new alien; one I’d never imagined…

Next Time: ACOUSTICAL SENSES: Three Dimensional

Source: http://www.xenology.info/Xeno/13.3.1.htmhttp://www.xenology.info/Xeno/13.3.2.htm
Image: https://image.shutterstock.com/image-illustration/alien-human-600w-136457129.jpg