How likely is the ending of War of the Worlds?

Column: How likely is the ending of War of the Worlds?

A couple of observations:

  1. Viruses may tend to be species-specific, but that’s not a universal rule – for instance, rabies can infect any warm-blooded mammal. It only takes one strain, so virus infections of our would-be alien overlords isn’t necessarily out of the question if the alien biochemistry is generally compatible (e.g. DNA/RNA based coding).

  2. Wells described the Martians as falling to a combination of “putrefactive and disease bacteria” – they didn’t just get sick; they rotted like slabs of meat left out on a hot day. The putrefaction scenario may be the most plausible threat to our would-be alien overlords if their biochemistry is sufficiently different that they don’t have antibodies that recognize anything remotely similar to earth bacteria but sufficiently similar to have proteins, fats, etc (i.e. “made out of meat”).

If a kzinti were rabid, how would you know?

Michael Crichton simply turned the concept around for The Andromeda Strain.

Cecil says Spielberg and his writers should have come up with a new way for humans to win the war. Scientifically, maybe, but almost everyone knows what won that fictional war, even people who never read the book. So the audiences will expect it and, unless he comes up with a truly brilliant alternative, will be disappointed.

As far as the science, it actually doesn’t have to be bacteria that grow in Earth-animal flesh. There’s lots of bacteria that live in many other environments, and perhaps one of those environments might be similar enough to the flesh of alien beings. Probably not likely, but them Martians shouldn’t have taken the risk.

We have exactly one example of a biosphere. Any guessing about what other types of biospheres are possible (and therefore how likely pathogens from one are likely to effect organisms from another) are just that–pure guessing. It is like the Drake equation.

Mars is not totally representative of alien worlds in terms of, well… alien-ness. It is frequently the closest world to earth and meteors on either world may have originated on the other. If we are postulating life on Mars, it is not implausible that it may have a common origin with that of earth. And therefore be far more biochemically compatible than you’d expect.

This is not that case for, say, Alpha Centauri.

We also have to consider protein spin … any Roger Zelazny fan knows that half the aliens out there are made of proteins incompatible to any Earth-based life … at best these critters are inert, at worst deadly poisonous … proteins and DNA that are exactly the same structurally except they spin the opposite way … speaking of DNA, who says the well known four bases are the only ones? … that’s not even true on Earth {Cite = “Expanding the DNA alphabet: ‘Extra’ DNA base found to be stable in mammals” - ScienceDaily - June 22nd, 2015} …

My guess is that the first things to show up here will be robots … it’ll just too expensive to send out living things across space … so just covering the solar panels with oatmeal should do the trick …

“Although Planet’s native life is based, like Earth’s, on right-handed
DNA, and codes for all the same amino acids, the inevitable chemical
and structural differences from a billion years of evolution in an
alien environment render the native plant life highly poisonous
to humans. Juicy, ripe grenade fruits may look appealing, but a
mouthful of organonitrates will certainly change your mind in a hurry.”

    -- Lady Deirdre Skye,
       "A Comparative Biology of Planet"

This. I didn’t see the remake, but if they also came from Mars then there is a good chance that they would have similar biologies to what is here on Earth. There is speculation that life on Earth started on Mars and was thrown here by meteor impacts. Almost certainly there has been cross contamination the other way as well, so if there were life on Mars, especially advanced life, it’s possible that bacteria and even some virus strains could affect the other (of course, that might mean that those aliens would be killing us as well by coming here).

Heck, even Alpha Centauri has possibilities if the theory of panspermia is correct, as all life in the universe (or at least this galaxy) might have a common origin.

:confused: If there’s a fifth base there, which of the more well-known bases does it pair with?

Somehow I’d gotten the impression that the Martians didn’t even know what microbes were. That given the late 19th- early 20th century fad for antisepsis, the readers would presume that an ultra-advanced civilization would have long ago purged microorganisms from their environment.

In a later episode of the ‘League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’, they are set to deal with the Martian invasion. They heroically keep the Martians on the other side of the Thames, giving time to launch a capsule across the river, winning the war.

Even the League are disgusted when they discover that the weapon was germ warfare (an anthrax bomb, IIRC). Furthermore, many civilians were left to die of anthrax as well. When they express their shock, the government representative controlling the League dismissively says something like, “We’ll say the Martians died of germs, and the people died of Martians.”

Actually, all life (except for the Eddorians) are related to Arisians.

This (was speculated to have )happened in (the original) Ringworld, by Niven.

I’m wondering if this all changed when Niven decided that the Ringworld was a Protector project???

Wells states that Mars didn’t have bacteria, which strikes me as dubious – what, did evolution somehow jump from primordial soup to large organisms?

That’s actually okay according to the theory of spontaneous generation, which was still in common use in the late 19th Century … whatever the biologist thought, the general public during the Victoria Period in England weren’t so hot on the idea of “humans = monkeys” quite yet … and HG Wells wanted to sell books …

Science fiction has this license, no bacteria on Mars is as believable as faster-than-light travel … at warp 10, the Starship Enterprise still takes 5 months to get to Alpha Centauri … but who’s quibbling? …

From the text of the article, it appears to be a replacement for cytosine … the authors are vague about this part of their research …

He wasn’t the only one who had that idea. John Varley’s Eight Worlds universe (The Ophiuchi Hotline, etc) had that as well. It’s quite possibly the most impossible thing in that universe. Well, that combined with his notion of how medicine is going to evolve.

Well, in the ‘Ringworld’ scenario, they (supposedly) eliminated all pathogens, not all bacteria. Then the civilization collapsed after they contracted a plague contracted from an unexpectedly dirty telephone… sorry, wrong story… they contracted a plague of (possibly) mutated gut bacteria.

Still fairly simple-minded microbiology.

Again, this was proposed before characters realized that they were dealing with a Pak construct (and before characters had an inkling of how much the Pupeteers were stirring the pots of other cultures).

Anyway, as far as OP goes, I vote very improbable (unless Mars was origin of Earthly life or both biospheres were otherwise commonly derived).

Actually, I take that back- most pathogens have specifically evolved virulence factors.

The vast majority of random bacteria are either non-harmful or beneficial. (Beneficial also takes co-evolution.)