Wild (Social) Science Kingdom


I really enjoy this sort of stuff: using what they presently know, scientists have made educated – and now computerized – guesses about what life looks like on other planets. The results are fun and remind me of one of those books you sometimes find where they do something similar, only no hard science; just imagination. You can read the story and marvel at the slideshow over on Wired (Link).

Here’s the thing that gets me about this story though. Okay, so they used complex algorithms and “applied the principles of natural selection and adaptation”, but doesn’t that stuff look like something from an old pulp novel? I mean, I’ve seen the “Gulphog” somewhere and it probably wasn’t on National Geographic. And doesn’t the image above of the “Pagoda Tree” look equally familiar? I’ve seen that thing somewhere else. I’m sure of it.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a good sign when scientists exercise their creative muscles to fill in the gaps. It’s just a shame when they don’t seem to acknowledge what part of the science is still just that – imagination (aka: informed conjecture). If they did mention it, Wired appears to omit that part. Personally, I could see these results at the cineplex.

Y’know, it’d be a kick to take their computerized results and explanations and see how other artists and designers re-interpret the solutions – all under the same constraints, of course. Why not make this a social computing activity? That way, we might better gauge how much we don’t know simply by seeing the range of ideas that spring from our own minds.

For example, the Gulphog is shown with a UV-detecting eye on top of it’s toothy skull (see image below).


Why not make it a compound eye? More like a fly. Or in multiples like a spider? Or maybe the Gulphog has a uv-blind cousin with skin that forms rock-like armor plating to both protect it from a nasty sun burn and hungry predators. All that extra weight probably makes it less mobile so it’s a bit like a slug. But it might still have that same toothy-tusky grin and look something like … well … this … a concept I did for a long-dead indy videogame that does all that and then rolls itself up like a roly-poly millipede. Now imagine what the uncle looks like that’s related to both of these. Now imagine a multitude of participants in this exercise.

There’s an untapped resource out there in all our imaginations. It’s now connected via the internet. A shame it’s not being utilized.

{Images source: Wired}