Thursday, October 15, 2009

What Will They Be Like?: The Face

There is one spectacular element of our human form that hasn't been directly addressed: our face and its distinctive pattern. This is a bit shorter than the humanoid form stuff [hurrah] and folks looking for longer detailed treatments of any of these matters really should go to the convergent evolution literature and check "me" out. I've done the best I could on a topic of interest but not my area of concentration. Read Morris [see last post] as a superb start.
Well, the face. All of us advanced Earthian life forms seem to not only have one, but it's eerily similar. It seems you look like a dog--no offense so do I [although unkind people have emphasized that more than I feel necessary.] Our facial patterns are the same at a fairly high level of generalization as regards symmetry, top-bottom placement of organs [relative to one another], numbers of organs, and functions. We have a single tube entry point, naturally for a predatory tube. Then we have other sensory organs bilaterally arrayed [also naturally for a predatory tube]. Those organs are specialized for the inputs that they should be. The light collectors are prominent. So are the vibration collectors. Two types of chemical collectors exist. There are very few other force options, and Mother Nature has either ignored them [remember Risk-vs-Reward], or applies our sensory apparatus to them in subtler ways. We do not seem to sense either of the nuclear forces. We sense Gravity only crudely [as to its existence as a gross general attraction] or more subtly for reasons like balance. There seems no use for an externally positioned special organ. Whether we sense magnetic fields is controversial. Some Organisms appear to do so. In each case the sensing mechanisms are internal. [remember this is a post mostly about the face]. Electric fields are in a similar situation. Unless such fields existed in an environment tied somehow to survival, there would be no need for dedicated external organs anywhere. But light, vibration [sound], and chemicals: yes and everywhere. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The positioning of these organs on the face is not arbitrary. The input orifice of the tube is central and is, as the focus, the only non-bilaterally-symmetric feature. For the vast majority of eco-styles, there are no other sensitive structures below the mouth. As the tube bumps, slides, scuttles along the ground, the area below is the source of constant collisions and possible damages. It's also where most of the other trouble can be run into: dangerous small things which don't really want to be eaten as an example. Eyes want to be "up" anyway, to take in the most potential useful information. You want to be able to see things coming and not have lunch bite your eye off---sorry but there's not a lot better way of saying it. The chemical receptors need to be placed as close to the mouth as possible. They'll hopefully help you not "eat something you wish you hadn't". Parking the nose directly over the mouth is the winning design feature and the taste buds are even IN the mouth. This leaves the ears. They can move up and down or get big or small depending on who knows what, and this is a clue that such diversity is probably to be expected when ET shows up. "Face" yes; "features" with variable sizes and slightly different positioning, also yes. Why "two"? Bilateral symmetry demands the even number and then the Risks-vs-Rewards kicks in. Especially for big beasts, the energy, materials, and maintenance required for big organs is a significant survival issue. Even moreso is the risk of injury and death in another vital spot. We can't make an equation for Mother Nature's calculation on this . We only know that She did it with big animals every time. There's a college biology course worth more on these things, but that's a flavor as to why I believe that the humanoid face will be the norm. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The similarities among advanced life forms do not presume identity. An identical form would be very suspicious [as far as independent evolution] indeed. That's why Sagan said what he said to me about the Face-on-Mars. There are many areas where such differences should be expected. Size is one. ET should have some respectable size [some folks have tried to calculate the needed volume for a fully-intelligent and otherwise normally-functioning brain and have decided that about a softball size is a decent guess.] I don't think we know enough on this yet [note those rare individuals whose brain seems to have "condensed" along the inner skull surface] but intuition says that sparrow-sized ETs are too small--and if we're playing a liklihood game, at least not ones first choice. Note that on our planet, a typical chimp is far smaller than most adult human males, but in raw strength it is no contest. Even with varying gravitational upbringings, the rough size of ET must have quite a diversity. One thing that I believe is unlikely to be featured on our visitors is any structure that had some function that was replaceable by intelligent technology or other think-it-out behavior. Horns, tusks, thick hair [for the bugs to nest in], and excrescences of all kinds. I feel that over all those early millennia of intelligent adaptation, the intelligent forms will shuck off the relatively useless and become pretty structurally "clean". For that reason there are a few UFO cases that I view very suspiciously as having nothing to do with evolved ET life assuming that they were real in the first place, and one "wave" [the hairy dwarves of Venezuela] that seem more like folkloric mischief makers than advanced ET. But my eyes are still open.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A few bits just for fun...the hand...what a brilliant thing. Note that you've got one strength function built in [finger curl-up grasp with the force directed perfectly up/down the arm] and one fine manipulation function with the opposable digit. Is our hand forced? I don't think so. But whatever manipulative forelimb ET has, it better be able to do those two jobs. At a minimum the number of digits could be different ---but not too different too few = no function; too many loses the risks/rewards game. Note also how beautifully and relaxedly your arms swing up ending with your hands in perfect position to protect your eyes [same thing down below by the way]. Such matters probably force certain height to arm section ratios to be forced. Note that you have only two arm sections plus the hand--your limbs are not articulated with large numbers of parts. The three you have is good. You can cover each of the three dimensions of space by angling your "pieces" accordingly if you must in a task. More is not enough better to be honored by the game. The most common structural element in planetary life is known as the "fiber-wound cylinder". It allows flexible things to bend and yet at the same time be strong and resist compression. Physically, you can calculate the precise angle which should maximize these features. That is the exact angle of the winding that Nature uses and has evolved several times. Scientists have measured how strong the bones of mammals are [all sizes of mammals]. And animal behavioral observers can measure the kinds of activities that those animals face in their normal lives. Mother Nature has designed the mammals not only with bones which can handle those stresses but She has put in a safety factor. It is the exact same safety factor. [about a factor of three redundancy ]. No more; no less. Many things will be different with ET; many will be the same. Structurally, many things will have to have met the survival challenges posed by the laws of nature regardless of where they live. Other variations within these themes will be possible and doubtless plentiful. And when it comes to technology specifics, there will surely be "no juke boxes on Jupiter".

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