Are aliens fictional

Netflix series "Alien Worlds" - fantastic, but sometimes misleading

With extremely detailed and imaginative 3-D animations, the Netflix series illustrates what life on exoplanets could look like. How the search for traces of life in distant worlds actually works is practically lost.

Over the past two decades, astronomers have discovered thousands of planets orbiting other stars. Is there life there? And if so, what does it look like? That’s what the Netflix series “Alien Worlds” is all about. The film treats the subject in the form of a mixture of documentary and fiction.

In the film passages illustrated by means of 3-D computer graphics, the viewer goes to a different exoplanet in each of the four episodes and immerses himself there in a lifelike world with exotic creatures. The fictional ecosystems of the also fictional planets are portrayed in incredible detail. For example, so-called sky grasses live on the planet Atlas, which have six wings and spend their entire adult life in the thick atmosphere of the planet. The male skygrass have long tails - the longer, the greater the chance for the females.

Then the film pans to the ground and reports on the rhinoceros beetle in the form of an animal documentary. With him, the length of the horn is used for sexual competition. In this way, the film creates parallels between terrestrial reality and exoplanetary fiction.

Those who like to immerse themselves in fantastic worlds and would like to learn something about life on earth will love "Extra-Terrestrial Worlds". To others, the imaginative design will seem over-the-top. The aliens are presented as facts, as if the fictional part were also a documentary. It is unnecessary and misleading. A space probe will never reach exoplanets, let alone land there. They are simply too far away for that. What exactly crawls and flies on these distant worlds will therefore remain forever hidden from us - unless an intelligent civilization living there reveals its existence to us.

Chemical fingerprint of the atmosphere

How the search for life on exoplanets really works can be found in episode three for just a few minutes. There the astrophysicist Natalie Batalha from the University of California in Santa Cruz is portrayed. In the future, she will look for a fingerprint in the light that reflects the atmosphere of exoplanets, which could indicate traces of life. In the film, she shows a colorful pattern with black stripes on the screen of her laptop. A few atoms or molecules can be identified in this spectrum. The big question in the future will be: Does a corresponding spectrum of a planet's atmosphere actually indicate life, or are the substances discovered not of biological origin? This is far less spectacular than 3-D animated ecosystems on exoplanets. But it is the comparatively profane reality in the search for traces of life on other worlds.

Found a bug? Report it now.