02/24/16 Respite 02

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  1. “First taste is free, dudes…”

  2. Holy crap PEACEFUL FIRST CONTACT!!! *Trekkie faint*

  3. They should do the bowing thing too.

    A hundred years from now when humans return to this planet, they’ll wonder why all the locals are constantly bowing at them.

  4. Funny how an alien has food edible to humans (except for the orange fringie).

  5. There must have been tremendous advances in nutritional science. 😉

    As things stand now, we really have no systematic idea how the stuff we’ve been eating for thousands of years really interacts with us. (Or more precisely, we have a lot of ideas about pathways but who knows how many more pathways still await description or how any of them work together).

    Impressive that we’ve been able to build a handy device that can extrapolate how (potentially) new stuff will interact with us.

    Q: How does the sensor work?
    A: Very well, thank you.

  6. KNO3 – the planet must be basically earthling-friendly, since they are walking around without breathing apparatus and able to touch other organisms without blowing up like balloons. And Hishla didn’t seem to suffer any ill-effects from sucking on Anna’s brain. So this all is pretty compatible with humans. Biochemically, at any rate.

  7. @andreas, I think the scanner is mostly doing stuff like scanning for common plant-based chemicals that are poisonous to humans, like strychnine, or hydrochloric acid.

  8. Word went out some time ago that Putin had been killed, shredded to get rid of the body, but mistakenly seen to a tea room where it was put on butter crackers for hors d’oeuvres.

    Yes, just another case of Putin on the Ritz.

  9. @andreas, we have several devices already that analyze food to test its safety. Nima analyzes food for gluten. Other devices test for sugar, salt, etc. There are also chips that test for the DNA of pathogens in food. No doubt by Anna’s time they can fit all that in a single analyzer.

  10. Well andreas, I think it works by sending out a mass spectrum of visible light, UV, and IR and analyzing the returns. Most molecules react to specific wavelengths, and has a spectral fingerprint. This is matched to a huge collection of molecules, then a guess is rendered. Mainly it will probably look for C-N bonds, heavy metals, and alkali compounds as well as what Muzhik and Coyoty said.

  11. @KNO3

    Scanner sure must be powerful to penetrate the depths of the material – and smart and sensitive to reconstruct its structure from stray reflections traveling back through the material layers a second time. This is why in imaging we generally put our sensors on the other side of the emitters 😉

    Problem is that it is perfectly possible to build fatal compounds from common building blocks. What wavelength signature does say, a smallpox virus return? Or prions, if you want to go to the macro-molecular level. Possible permutations are essentially endless.

    And again that’s just for screening for what we know of – my point was that proving a negative is impossibly harder. We don’t even know the molecular basis of their biology. How to even imagine a process that could effectively screen for unknown or untested compounds which then could be labeled dangerous per default?

    In a nutshell, there is a very real possibility that just by being on the planet and breathing its air humans could easily either condemn themselves to death by unknown diseases or inadvertently introduce bacterial life totally transforming their ecology.

    But of course that has been done to death from good-old H.G. Wells onward and is no fun anymore 😉

  12. Penetration? Again, it depends on the material. Have you ever shined a flashlight though your hand? Usually doesn’t take much.

    Yeah, Prions can be nasty. That would be the most likely to jump species probably. At their stage of technology, the device can probably guess what the interactions can happen. The scanner it looks like a best guess thingie, and not 100 percent accurate, not very many things are.

    Yup. Diseases can be really bad if it jumps species. But they have to jump species. And a lot of the local wildlife is compatible with human DNA and human minds.

  13. @andreas, for alien viruses and germs to infect us, they should be biologically compatible with us, having DNA that can cross with ours. Until we have actual alien specimens, we won’t know if DNA is a common basic structure for life or specific to Earth. Amino acids are common in comets, meteors, etc., but we haven’t found any organized into Earth-type DNA. Alien worlds may have basic life coding in structures specific to them, such as triple helixes, latices, soups, fullerines, etc., that have no key to disrupting Earth DNA. Author James White, a doctor who wrote the Sector General books, used this incompatibility as a rule in his universe, saying that aliens are just too alien to share diseases with each other. (Though, he did seem to be implying a “yet” in his stories. I think he might have intended to introduce a disease that did somehow cross between aliens.)

    Unless we and aliens have a common DNA ancestor, it’s very unlikely we can smallpox each other.

  14. @ kno3
    near-infrared light can penetrate through biological tissue pretty neatly (which is why we use it for near-infrared spectroscopy). Still, wouldn’t you need to place your detector on the other side of your hand if you shine a light through it?

    @ coyote
    Smallpox was an example of what’s known (but you still wouldn’t be able to scan for by shining a light through it unless your scanner can somehow reconstruct structure from identifiable molecular components).

    for alien viruses and germs to infect us, they should be biologically compatible with us

    If that were true, then you really don’t need a scanner for this. My point was they have a fancy scanner, but there is no way that they can know 😉

    btw I’m not really arguing this point. Magical “universal translators” and “tricorders” are part and parcel of the imagination running wild in the universe like so many cowboys and injuns (but hopefully with less infection and a better ethical compass 😉

  15. andreas, there is something called reflective spectroscopy. It’s a neat field. Yeah, the device needs more surface area for sensors placed at different angles, but well, can’t expect everyone to know about reflective spec.

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