Would an ET be harmed by Earthly bacteria/virus?

Discussion in 'Biology & Genetics' started by Dinosaur, Oct 15, 2009.

  1. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

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    "The War of the Worlds" was on TV today. I only watched for a few minutes since I have seen several versions of this movie.

    In the original story & some (all?) of the movies, the aliens die due to not being immune to some disease non-existent on their home world.

    While an interesting & clever SciFi concept, I wonder if it is valid biochemistry.

    I would expect alien biochemistry to be very similar to the Earthly biochemistry, but not an exact match. I think it is possible (actually likely) that aliens biochemistry would be based on the double helix as it is here on Earth.

    However, I think that it is possible for DNA to use more than one set of building blocks: Douglas R. Hofstadter described this in at least two of his books.

    Earthly disease bacteria/virus evolved to attack earthly creatures. I wonder if any would attack an ET. Very unlikely if the basic building blocks were different. Perhaps not likely even if the same building blocks were used, due to different evolutionary pressures.

    I do not have strong feeelings about the latter situation (same building blocks).
     
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  3. greenboy Registered Senior Member

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    Logic says, yes. if you get a plane and fly to Mexico City and drink a glass of water tomorrow morning you are going to be pooping your brains out, because the Ecoli in Mexico City is completly different to the E. coli in the State, they call that Montenzuma Revange, and let me remind you we are from the same planet than the Mexican are. And the same happens if you go to China or Madrid Spain, different bacterias all over the globe.
     
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  5. christa Frankly, I don't give a dam! Valued Senior Member

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    i would like to think that our bacteria and virus would attack an ET... But if they are supper different then we are, there would be no way... AIDS, do they have white blood cells? Strep Throat, do they have throats? TB, do they have lungs? Cancer? how would it affect them?
     
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  7. Randwolf Ignorance killed the cat Valued Senior Member

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    Personally, I think any "aliens" with sufficient technology to contemplate attacking and using our Earth for their own nefarious reasons would have thought of the possibility of "foreign" germs doing them harm far ahead of actual invasian.

    Hence they would be prepared for it, positive pressure ships, etc.

    I mean, we would, wouldn't we? Since, so obviously, we have already thought of the opposite possibility... Don't you think they would be smart enough to "suit up"? Please, people...
     
  8. Hercules Rockefeller Beatings will continue until morale improves. Moderator

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    Viruses rely on specific cell surface receptors to gain entry to their host cells. Thus, viruses tend to be much more host-specific then bacteria. If a given virus is capable of cross-species infection, the pathogenicity can vary widely between the different species.
     
  9. Anti-Flag Pun intended Registered Senior Member

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    Whilst this is true, let's just play hypothetical biological scenarios out as though they haven't thought of it.

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  10. madanthonywayne Morning in America Staff Member

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    On the other hand, why would they want to take over the planet if they couldn't live on it? In the War of the World's book, the Martians invade because their planet is dying. It's live on Earth, or die. So perhaps they figured they'd take their chances with the local pathogens.
     
  11. superstring01 Moderator

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    No. Any species capable of traversing the stars would surely have access to advanced genetic, cybernetic and nano technologies. I have serious doubts that they would even be entirely organic (if organic at all). If they were, the employment of nanobots, modified symbiotic viruses and an array of genetic techniques would give such a species immunity to any contagion mother nature threw at it.

    Consider it: We've (those who've posted on this thread, alone) thought of this possibility. Do you think it would escape the hyper advanced intelligence that decided to pay our planet a visit?

    ~String
     
  12. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

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    Oh come on!
    Are trying to say that a bunch of hyper-inyelligentaliens with FTL travel and ginormous starships are going to be as smart or smarter than the people who post on SciForums?
    Really.

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  13. Hercules Rockefeller Beatings will continue until morale improves. Moderator

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    Clearly the spirit of the OP was to speculate on whether ET biology would be susceptible to Terrestrial pathogens, not whether ET technology would effectively counter them. Sheesh.

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  14. Ophiolite Valued Senior Member

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    In fairness, several of the posters on sciforums are hyper-inyelligent aliens with FTL travel and ginormous starships.
     
  15. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

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    Ouch I just noticed that.
    Not the best way to discuss intelligence (or otherwise).
    **** this, I'm off to put the finishing touches to my starship design...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 19, 2009
  16. madanthonywayne Morning in America Staff Member

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    I get your point, but advanced technology is not necesarily indicative of higher intelligence. The aliens may simply have been around longer. Furthermore, advanced technology in the area of FTL doesn't guarantee advanced biotech/nanotech.
     
  17. Randwolf Ignorance killed the cat Valued Senior Member

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    No, and I can't prove it does because we only have a sample size of "1/2", but I would imagine a high correlation would exist between advancements in FTL tech and biotech/nanotech.

    Unless, which is of course a possibility, said aliens' brains are hardwired in such a different way that they lend themselves much more easily and accurately to innately solving astrophysical problem then our own, they are going to need computers.

    I would think that such futuristic computers would have nanotechnology and perhaps biotech components involved, just to keep the damn things running and repaired. As you are undoubtedly aware, we are currently working on hybrid bio-synthetic processors, it just seems the logical way to go.

    Hence, full circle, in order to have FTL, you almost have to have extremely intricate computers, hence the biotech / nanotech familiarity. If so, then you have the high probability that the aliens can defend themselves against earthly microorganisms - whether by mechanical or biotechnical means.


    But personally, madanthonywayne, wouldn't you speculate a high correlation would exist between advancements in FTL tech and biotech/nanotech?
     
  18. jpappl Valued Senior Member

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    Why do you think they keep stealing cows. ?

    They are doing testing before the mass invasion.
     
  19. Pandaemoni Valued Senior Member

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    That is right. Also, viruses use host cell DNA to replicate themselves using amino acids present in the host cell. There is no reason to believe aliens all have DNA just because we do, any more than there is reason to believe they will have recognizable faces, four limbs, five senses or breathe, etc.

    There is no reason to believe that the 20 chemicals that make up all life on earth--the amino acids--are necessary for life. Carbon can reorganize elements into many thousands of chemicals, there is no reason to believe that those 20 are uniquely special in the role of life throughout the universe.

    In short, viruses are evolved, just like everything else living, to interact with life as we know it. If aliens came here, they would need to adapt to the new alien physiology because they would be likely able to impact them on a cellular level.
     
  20. Nasor Valued Senior Member

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    To echo what a few other people said, I doubt very much that alien biochemistry would be compatible enough with earth biochemistry for our microbes to bother the aliens. Viruses are right out, because they totally depend on "earth-style" DNA. I guess bacteria might be able to affect them, but again I doubt it. Most bacteria will probably have digestive enzymes etc. that are very specific to earth biochemistry, and even ignoring the alien's immune system, the body of an alien would probably be a pretty inhospitable place for earth bacteria in terms of pH etc.
     
  21. madanthonywayne Morning in America Staff Member

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    If the aliens were here for any length of time, and their biology was anything at all like ours, I think local bacteria or fungi would quickly evolve to take avantage of this new niche. Look at life on earth. We find it everywhere, even in the most extreme environments. If there's a food source to be had, some lifeform will adapt itself to take advantage of it.

    Now if they were silicone based or something, that would be a different story.
     
  22. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    Bacteria perhaps, viruses very unlikely, heck an alien of even organic chemistry may not even be metabolically compatible with life on earth, meaning nothing could "eat" it and vise versa (it could not eat any terrestrial food) some bacteria are able to survive on simple achiral carbon molecules which I would assume even aliens would produce, so they could potential grow in them. The aliens immune system is another big if, perhaps it is fully capable of dealing with terrestrial life, perhaps not.
     

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