Jun 1, 2014
Earth Versus Alien Invasion
Just once I'd like to see a movie accurately depict an alien invasion of Earth. One movie with none of this stuff with naked aliens who come to a planet where water falls out of the sky when water is acid to them or aliens smart enough to transport their entire population across star systems but don't know how to build a firewall or any of the other myriad ways that brave humans have managed to defeat an invading alien species in the movies. One movie showing reality: an alien species who would actually have the intelligence and technology to wipe out human civilization as easily as we can destroy a beaver dam.
If an alien race ever came to Earth it would be for one of two reasons. It wouldn't be because they want our gold --- any non-organic minerals we have on Earth they can find in the rest of the solar system and access with much less difficulty than here on Earth. (We do have organic mineral resources like oil and coal, but, do you really think that any civilization that can travel between the stars is going to need oil and coal and couldn't manufacture it?) It won't because they want our water ---- there's plenty of water out there. In fact, there are two whole moons of it out there just in this solar system.
No, there are just two reasons for aliens to come to Earth. Two things that are rare.
The first is us, meaning life on Earth. The amazing wonder of the Earth that is. Hopefully, to the aliens that wonder would include humans. Our society. Our culture. And they want to know us. In that case, presumably they won't want to wipe out human civilization --- not intentionally. And the Close Encounters type of movie is not what I'm talking about when I say alien invasion.
The second is our climate. We are a planet in the habitable "Goldilocks" zone with a very large moon (relative to planet size) and a core generating a magnetic field that protects us from radiation and allows Earth to retain its atmosphere. The combination of those factors means that we have an unusually stable climate without the long term wobbles in the Earth's axis that a planet with a small moon would experience. This results in the rich, diverse life that has evolved on planet Earth.
Now if the aliens come here because of our climate, then what are humans but a species damaging that climate and depleting the Earth's resources? In other words, we're the pests in the cornfield. We're the fox sneaking around the hen house. We're the prairie dog colony where the housing development is about to be built. We're using up what the aliens need. And why should aliens treat us any better than we treated "lower" species that inconvenienced us? If the aliens came all this way they must need the planet damn badly.
And, make no mistake, the aliens will have the technology to take it. No race with the ability to cross star systems is going to be stopped by our military like in Battle: Los Angeles or by guerrillas with guns like in "Falling Skies." They're going to kick our ass. Hello end of human civilization. The only reason they'll be any kind of human civilization left will be if the aliens have a use for us: slave labor, food, etc. And they sure as hell aren't going to need to keep over 7 billion of us alive for that.
So say hello to alien invaders. Say goodbye to human civilization.
But say hello to the alien invaders at a distance. Wave at the sky. Because if the alien invaders want to wipe out human civilization --- in contrast to every movie I've ever seen on this subject --- the aliens don't have to come down here. Earth is at the bottom of a gravity well. All the aliens have to do is stay up in space and throw rocks at us. And the solar system has plenty of ammunition. Any species with the ability to travel between stars is going to have the ability to move large asteroids or take rock from the moon and throw it at us. (Rocks from the moon were the weapon of choice in Robert A. Heinlein's novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.)
The aliens could even decide how much damage they want to do depending on how much of a clean slate they want and how long they want to wait for the environment to recover. Looking for relatively minor damage? Most humans live near the coast: go for water impacts that will cause tsunamis big enough to devastate the coastlines. Then target inland cities and military bases with individual impacts. A rock big enough to cause a Tunguska impact will wipe out a city. It's true that this is the kind of attack that some humans will survive. But they'll survive without any kind of infrastructure. When whatever modern weapons the humans have run out of ammo they'll be no way to reload them because there will no longer be any plants manufacturing the ammunition. Do you think the sick, starving stragglers of humanity are going to be able to wipe out the alien invaders with homemade black powder and lead bullets? No, any remaining humans will be reduced to hiding just to stay free/alive. Sure, a few might manage to steal some of the invader's weapons and use them, but you're not going to win a war that way.
If the aliens want a clean slate (or as close to it as is feasible) and have the time to wait for the environment to recover then they can go for a mass extinction size event. Those would be the really large rocks like the impact that helped wipe out the dinosaurs. Drop something or several somethings big enough to cause significant worldwide climate change and the die-off will happen. Then once the climate's settled down, the aliens can come in with their own species of microbes, plants and animals to create their own version of Earth.
Now I realize this isn't going to make for the most cheerful movie. But "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" started off with blowing up the planet Earth. So why can't we have one A-movie where the aliens come to Earth, humans get wiped out and the aliens take over the planet? The closing scene could be in a museum on an alien inhabited Earth as the new dominant species looks at an exhibit of the previous inhabitants.
For more about science in the movies, read "Star Wars, Einstein and When Lucas Got It Right" and "Difficulty Levels of Death Star Versus Various Astronomical Bodies."
You might also enjoy "The Black Hole That (Didn't) Devour the Galaxy" and "My Illustrated Astronomy Definitions."
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