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CosmosUp | December 6, 2019

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What Traits would have an Alien Race?

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Viral And Bacterial Immunity


It’s a common trope in Science Fiction that aliens, having never encountered Earth bacteria before, will succumb to simple diseases which they have no immunity to. Just look at the pilgrims and conquistadors, and the havoc smallpox and typhus wreaked on unexposed native populations.

But conquistadors and Aztecs were both human. According to Seth Shostak, senior engineer from SETI, bacteria are limited to the life forms they are biochemically related to. Our germs have evolved to survive on our unique DNA.

Even viruses and bacterial infections that infect one species on our planet will only rarely spread to another. Dogs don’t routinely get the ‘flu, for example. Any alien life form that invaded earth will likely be immune to earthly diseases, so don’t expect a War of the Worlds solution.


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  1. Brad Arnold

    The only thing I’ll add is that they probably will be governed by general rules of behavior. One might be to preserve uniqueness in the universe. In other words, the universe has ubiquitous resources, whereas uniqueness is by definition special. Why destroy uniqueness to slightly more efficiently harvest resources?


  2. Brad Arnold

    On a different note: I’ve been intrigued by the concept of exponential production. Land a 3D printer, and equipment to produce toner from an exoplanet, then print more 3D printers and equipment to grow production exponentially. Same for the Singularity – build a thinking machine that builds a better thinking machine and so forth. What is the great filter preventing aliens from doing the same and spreading throughout the universe rapidly?

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