Why aliens won't look like Flipper: The science of extraterrestrial tales
By Alan Boyle
Lots of aliens will be hitting the streets this Halloween. There'll be big-headed, beady-eyed grays ... pointy-eared Starfleet officers ... reptiles with mouths that bristle with fangs ... fur-faced wookiees and more.
But you hardly ever see depictions of extraterrestrials that live underwater — and there's a good reason for that, says Don Lincoln, author of a new book titled "Alien Universe: Extraterrestrial Life in Our Minds and in the Cosmos."
The reason? It's hard to build a fire underwater.
Some experts speculate that many of the habitable planets in our galaxy are water worlds, with no land in sight. But those wouldn't the best places for technologically advanced civilizations to take root.
"There could be alien cavemen underwater," Lincoln, a physicist at Fermilab in Illinois, told NBC News. "But truly, you can't smelt metal." And that means it's unlikely that intelligent dolphins will ever develop the technology for spaceflight.
In "Alien Universe," Lincoln blends together a compendium of alien tales going back to H.G. Wells and even earlier, plus a look at the scientific parameters that define the search space for intelligent aliens.
The book isn't aimed at veteran UFO fans looking for the latest revelations about the alien conspiracy. . . .
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