Ask a resident biologist: creating believable aliens
We live with biological laws every day of our lives, just as we do with physical ones. When a cartoon character bounces with a jerk, it looks wrong whether you or I know anything about the math or not. The same is true of biology, in a less obvious way. Imagine flying lobsters, and you'll know what I mean. As a person who taught college biology for years, and whose research specialty was evolution in orchids, I have a thing or two to say about possible and impossible developments in aliens. (Some of my friends would insist I always have a thing or two to say.) In They came from Outer Space: creating Believable Aliens (SFWA Bulletin, 1997), I talk about why there are no little green men, or aliens with two heads, or slime that composes poetry. This is going to be true even for life as we don't know it. You can bet on it. I'll be glad to bet on it with you. On the other hand, there's probably a world somewhere with sentient jellyfish that have external digestion.
If you're curious about
something you've seen in books or the media, or if you'd like a
biologist's input for something you're writing, let's discuss it!
(quoll at molvray dot com)
They Toil Not
A story of life-as-we-don't-know-it that makes physical, chemical, and biological sense. (Well, I think it makes sense. If you don't, write and tell me why.)
Exobiology and Intelligence
A look at the evolution
of intelligence using speculations about aliens to study issues in
biology, evolution, cognition, and world-building. Written as a short
course on the subject, it could be used in a class.
Gamma Ray Bursters and alien space ships
Okay. It turns out GRBs are merely great flaming balls of gas exploding with the force of millions of Suns and creating black holes. Bah, humbug. My theory was based on a physically possible interpretation of the data available in 1994, and, more important, it was fun. (Although, even then, everyone knew that fun was all it was likely to be).
The all-sky map of gamma radiation shows a GRB overwhelming all other gamma radiation in the whole sky. This is mind-boggling, considering that GRBs come from the far reaches of the universe. The graph shows the response of an orbiting detector as the burst passes. The animation is slightly faster than real time, but not by much. Image credits: Laura Whitlock, NASA.