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Would Aliens Die on Earth? | Unveiled

VOICE OVER: Noah Baum WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Johnson
What would happen if aliens invaded Earth tomorrow? Typical sci-fi narratives tell of extraterrestrial higher powers sent to destroy everything that gets in their way... but reality might not be so simple! In this video, Unveiled explores whether an extraterrestrial race could even survive the environment of Earth at all...
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Could an Alien Civilization Survive on Earth?


H.G. Wells’ seminal science-fiction novel “The War of the Worlds” tells of an apocalyptic invasion of Martian war machines aiming to eradicate the human race. And ever since Wells set the tone, we’ve seen a slew of similar, end of the world stories where humanity seems certain to fall to an extraterrestrial foe. But, is our planet really so vulnerable to alien invasion?

This is Unveiled, and today we’re answering the extraordinary question; could an alien civilization survive on Earth?

It’s first useful to think of ourselves as the aliens and explore how we would function on another planet. Our own prospects do rely heavily on the kind of planet we’d be going to, but considering just those that are closest to us, the outlook isn’t all that encouraging… we more than likely wouldn’t survive, unless we employed some elaborate terraforming technologies to build advanced space stations or to precisely mimic Earth’s environment. It’s why the search for planets already “Earth-like” in the wider universe is so important.

But, even were we to stumble across a world with just the right atmosphere and temperatures naturally, the threat of disease would still be very high. We’d have little idea what sorts of pathogens and poisons might lurk on an alien world... To the point where we could spend decades running interplanetary reconnaissance missions before we ever sent an actual human to visit anywhere else - just look at how seemingly “slowly” we’re already studying Mars! It’d be no use just “turning up” and expecting an extraterrestrial environment to be safe for us… so any aliens visiting Earth, friendly or hostile, would almost certainly be faced with the same issues. Should they be invading Earth, they’d have had to have done their homework beforehand or else risk their invasion failing from the moment they arrive. But, equally, if they “came in peace”, they’d require as close to a complete understanding of Earth’s properties before showing up.

Perhaps they would stand more of a chance if they arrived with good intentions, however… as we could always decide to help them. A risky move, perhaps, but by welcoming and assisting them we’d also have the opportunity to build an enlightening relationship with a unique, intelligent, and advanced space-faring species. For us, it’d be the ultimate in scientific case studies and could even accelerate our own ambitions with space and interstellar travel… granting humanity access to proven alien tech and intelligence. Meanwhile, for the aliens, striking a positive link with the inhabitants of the planet they’ve just arrived at could truly be the difference between living and dying. With humans acting as guides they’d at least have a better chance of understanding and reacting to conditions on the ground. By helping them to survive here, we could be better placed to survive somewhere else.

But, while a well-meaning and productive relationship between us and an unknown otherworldly race sounds fantastic… just plain human history tells us that it’s not all that likely to happen, with even Wells’ “War of the Worlds” partly inspired by various conflicts in time. The very fact that an extraterrestrial lifeform had managed to get here from some dim and distant star system would reveal a phenomenal level of technology and know-how - far superior to anything we could offer. So, if they did also carry weapons or harbour any type of aggressive intention, then the chances are that we wouldn’t be able to defend against them - despite holding “home advantage”. In terms of; “Could an alien civilization survive war on Earth?”… the answer’s almost certainly; “yes” - if technological superiority equates to victory on the battlefield. Such a conflict may not even play out on Earth itself, however, with potential alien aggressors preferring to target our planet from afar - deciding to circle Earth rather than descend down onto it.

Regardless of the intentions they hold, a delayed approach like this could well be key for their chances of survival. It’d allow an alien race time to scope out Earth before putting themselves at the mercy of it. For all-guns-blazing conquerors, it’d open a window to remove all Earthly life which poses a threat to them; for peaceful visitors, it’d provide enough time to work out a way to communicate with their human hosts. For both cases, the next move would be to send mechanical probes and rovers to the surface to further avoid any potentially irreversible biological risk.

Because, more than anything else, the biggest threat to an alien civilization on Earth is still disease. Organic life on Earth has been around for millions of years and remains, to this day, susceptible to sickness and infection. There are devastating illnesses not even we have reliable cures for or vaccines against… And, with the World Health Organization now listing antimicrobial resistance as one of the most significant threats to modern life, the preventative measures we do have in place could soon be less effective. For an incoming but ill-adapted alien race, then, even our relatively routine problems - like the common cold, for example - could prove deadly. And, as many of our vaccines rely on herd immunity - meaning lots of people need to have them before they work - an alien race could well fall foul to nature before anything else. All of which means that, if war were to break out between us and them, it’d most likely be a fight fought with biological weapons, rather than nuclear. But, even then, as human history also shows just how quickly whole communities can be wiped out when exposed to a previously unknown disease, we’d be as susceptible to an “alien plague” as an extraterrestrial race would be to our own germs and bacteria.

The problems an alien civilization would face on Earth are theoretically very similar to those that a human colony would face elsewhere - the only major difference being that we obviously know there’s life to contend with on our particular planet. In general, they’d need to be sure that they could survive or adapt to Earth’s most fundamental, atmospheric conditions; they’d need to be able to feed on whatever it was that gave them life; and, if the situation was to turn ugly, they’d have to withstand whatever weapons the human race could aim at them. It’d be a tough ask, but if anything ever manages to travel all this way, then we can only guess that they’d have all the bases covered to stay long-term!
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