Netflix's Alien Worlds Is the Most Scientific Imagination of Alien Life
No matter where you are in the universe, physics dictates there is only one way to fly efficiently, one way to swim efficiently, and one way to walk efficiently, and that is how science should imagine how alien life could look based on how organisms on Earth have evolved.
“The Earth, home to millions of species. But what might live beyond? There are countless planets throughout the universe. If life exists on only a fraction on them, then the universe must be alive,” begins the opening scene of Alien Worlds, a four-episode Netflix Original documentary series about imagined worlds filled with alien life.
“All living things have the same needs: to feed, reproduce, and evolve. By applying the laws of life on Earth to the rest of the universe, it’s possible to imagine what could live on alien worlds,” it adds.
Alien Worlds is the most scientific imagination of how extraterrestrial life could look like if we ever discover them. The series draws parallels between alien planets and life on Earth, and how convergent evolution could be taking place here and on other worlds at this very moment.
Convergent evolution is the process in which separate and unrelated species independently evolve similar traits as a result of adapting to similar environments. For example, where there is atmosphere, organisms tend to take flight by evolving wings. In physics, there is only one way to fly if you’re an animal, and that is by growing wings. The same must be true for extraterrestrial life.
Alien Worlds also imagined predator-prey dynamics on the fictional world of Atlas, a planet twice the mass of Earth, and consequently has a thicker atmosphere and stronger gravity. On Atlas, sky grazers are giant herbivores who live their entire lives in flight.
A Sky Grazer on Planet Atlas
“Because of the extra gravity, the sky grazers weigh twice as much as they would on Earth. But they don’t fall from the sky. The atmosphere is thick enough to keep them airborne,” the narrator explains.
Alien Worlds feels a lot like a BBC documentary on wildlife. What’s good about it is how it explains in layman’s terms all the science in the series. It also seeks to normalize the idea that alien life is not only a possibility but a reality.
Because it only has four episodes that run 40 minutes each, Alien Worlds is a pleasant treat to anyone who is not prepared to invest a lot of time and emotion in long-running, top-ranking series.