Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Hybrids to the rescue

Well, I've got good news and I've got bad news, courtesy of a professor at Oxford University.

The good news is that climate change is being taken care of.  All of the worries about ice sheets melting, sea level rise, and stronger storms can be set aside.

The bad news is that in order for all this to happen, humans have to be willing to have sex with aliens.

I wish I was making this up.  Young-hae Chi, a professor of Korean at Oxford, has published a book called Alien Visitations and the End of Humanity, in which he tells us that there are already some human/alien hybrids walking around.  There are four categories: small, tall and bold, insect-like, and scaly with cold, reptilian eyes.

What I'm wondering is, if there are all these hybrids walking around, why haven't I seen any?  Although I have to admit the first two categories are kind of vague, and Stephen Miller could easily fit into the last one.  But at least there aren't any insect people around, which is a good thing, because that'd be fucking creepy.

Still from "The Web Planet," from season two of Dr. Who.  Okay, these weren't so much creepy as ridiculous, especially considering the really annoying chirping sound they made.

"[T]hey come not for the sake of us, but for the sake of them," Chi says.  "[For] their survival, but their survival is actually our survival as well — the survival of the entire biosphere."

How exactly this works, or the specifics of how making lots of human/alien hybrid babies is going to stop climate change, Chi never says, and it sounds like he may not be clear on this himself.  "I'm looking for more evidence to support my view," he said.

I'll just bet he is.

Of course, even if there are intelligent aliens visiting the Earth, there's a serious problem with the hybridization claim, and it goes beyond supposing that humans and the aliens have the right combination of orifices and pokey-outy-bits to make it work from a mechanical standpoint.  While it's possible that extraterrestrial life would be DNA-based -- DNA and RNA nucleotides seem to be relatively easy to make abiotically, and are likely to be common in the universe -- it is extraordinarily unlikely that they would read it the same way we do.  The "translation chart," from which you can use the sequence of a messenger RNA molecule to determine the amino acid sequence of the protein it makes, is thought to be arbitrary, and there's no reason why even if there is some RNA-to-protein correspondence on the Planet G'zork, it'd be the same one we use.  (I emphasize the word thought in the previous sentence.  How the translation chart evolved, and whether it actually is arbitrary, is one of the unsolved problems of biological evolution.  If the translation chart was constrained to evolve the way it did, it might be that the decoding process is fairly uniform throughout the universe...  but I doubt it.)

So while I like Mr. Spock and Deanna Troi and B'Elanna Torres as much as the next Trek geek, that sort of thing is pretty certainly impossible.

Anyhow, I'm thinking that Dr. Chi is just making shit up, and should focus on his Korean classes and leave the astrobiology to the astrobiologists.

Still, it'd be nice to do something about climate change.  I mean, our current "leaders" are doing bugger-all, so maybe we should all welcome our alien overlords.  Although I draw the line at having sex with them.  I'm open-minded and all, but I do have my limits.


This week's Skeptophilia book recommendation is for any of my readers who, like me, grew up on Star Trek in any of its iterations -- The Physics of Star Trek by Lawrence Krauss.  In this delightful book, Krauss, a physicist at Arizona State University, looks into the feasibility of the canonical Star Trek technology, from the possible (the holodeck, phasers, cloaking devices) to the much less feasible (photon torpedoes, tricorders) to the probably impossible (transporters, replicators, and -- sadly -- warp drive).

Along the way you'll learn some physics, and have a lot of fun revisiting some of your favorite tropes from one of the most successful science fiction franchises ever invented, one that went far beyond the dreams of its creator, Gene Roddenberry -- one that truly went places where no one had gone before.

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