back to article Watch out for the GIGANTIC ALIEN JELLYFISH, warns space boffin

A British satellite expert reckons aliens will be enormous bewildering monsters ideal for depicting on telly science shows, the very sort of programme the government adviser is happy to front. Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock said extraterrestrials could be football-field-size jellyfish with orange stomaches that float in the skies of …


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  1. P Saunders

    those aren't her ideas

    they're arthur c clarke's (a meeting with medusa) and arthur conan doyle's (the horror of the heights).

    1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

      Why would anyone trust a British satellite expert?

      On a topic of biology?

      That's like asking your barber to defend you in court on a criminal matter. They might be a good at cutting hair, but they are not qualified to practice law.

      Aderin-Pocock might be a decent person to discuss satellites, but she's fundamentally unqualified to discuss terrestrial biology, much less astrobiology.

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: Why would anyone trust a British satellite expert?

        Some people know a lot about things that they aren't professionally involved in. I don't think she's asking (or anyone else is asking on her behalf) that you should consider her argments based on her position. Nowhere does she say: "I'm right about aliens because I work with satellites." She's just putting forward some arguments that can be considered on their own merits. And in an interview where she was asked to do so as far as I can see. Is there anything wrong with what she's saying?

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Why would anyone trust a British satellite expert?

        I think you'll find that almost anyone is well qualified to discuss astrobiology. Unless you know of any silicon based lifeform experts who can disprove her ramblings I'd just nod patronisingly and wait for some data to come along and add a small iota of science to the subject.

      3. NomNomNom

        Re: Why would anyone trust a British satellite expert?

        "Why would anyone trust a British satellite expert?

        On a topic of biology?"

        maybe because she's talking about space biology no? considering her job is all about looking at space I'd say she has a pretty good idea what could grow up there.

        1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

          Re: Why would anyone trust a British satellite expert?

          That type of ill-logic is why Physicists like to point out that real Sciences don't feel they have to explicitly put the word Science in the name of their field. (Like Computer Science or Social Science do.)

        2. tmTM

          Space Biology?!?

          That would be a corner of Science where we have absolutely no evidence to base any theory's upon making everything just someone's opinion, or more often something they saw on tv or read in a Sci-fi book.

          They key word there being 'Fiction'

        3. Thorne

          Re: Why would anyone trust a British satellite expert?

          Lets be realistic. Nobody has met an alien (at least without the help of mind altering substances) and therefore nobody really has any idea of whats out there.

      4. Ron 6

        Re: Why would anyone trust a British satellite expert?

        A I recall from my biochemistry (MANY moons ago) silicon analogs for DNA becomes more and more unstable the longer the chains become (if you try to replace carbon with silicon.) That restricts the versatility of silicon in extremely large molecules (but then the human DNA appears to have a large amount of redundancy built into it) so the biochemistry would have to be seen before we could explore it.

    2. Greg J Preece

      Re: those aren't her ideas

      I was also going to call on the stuff stolen from Clarke, but I was thinking Odyssey 3 (I think it's 3 - the aliens living in Jupiter's atmosphere).

      1. Mike Richards Silver badge

        Re: those aren't her ideas

        Carl Sagan's 'Cosmos' featured a painting of (and I have to use the word) blobominations in Jupiter's atmosphere, based on work by Sagan and a colleague from Cornell, Ernest Salpeter. They knew the planet's interior was rich in organic molecules and warm, so life wasn't out of the question.

      2. Thorne

        Re: those aren't her ideas

        I thought she stole the idea off the Skylandro in Star Control 2. With the floating gasbags and blinky lights, she's clearly a Star Control 2 fan.

    3. Andrew Moore

      Re: those aren't her ideas

      Also Heinlein's Starman Jones.

    4. LarsG

      Re: those aren't her ideas

      And in all of human history we haven't met one yet!

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ACC? John Carpenter I believe.

      So, we're talking about an orangey-coloured rubbery gas-bag-like alien are we? That's been done.

    6. jimbarter

      Re: those aren't her ideas

      Silica based life, is also not new

  2. Ged T

    I think she's read "The Culture: Look to Winward"

    by Iain M Banks...

    1. Andy Farley
      Thumb Up

      Re: I think she's read "The Culture: Look to Winward"

      More The Algebraist.

      1. Chris 3

        Re: I think she's read "The Culture: Look to Winward"

        Came here to say that: Sounds very much like a Dweller

        1. Gazareth

          Re: I think she's read "The Culture: Look to Winward"

          The Dwellers were wheel shaped or something?

          Sounds more like his companion the littler Hathering or whatever her name was.

        2. amatheum

          Re: I think she's read "The Culture: Look to Winward"

          Agreed, or an Affront.

    2. Mephistro

      Re: I think she's read "The Culture: Look to Winward"

      There are similar beings in 'Excession', by the same author, inhabiting an artificial world.

  3. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge


    " jellyfish with orange stomaches (sic) that float in the skies of Titan while supported by small onion-shaped gas balls under their flaps."

    I'll have a bottle of whatever she's drinking, and my friend Harvey will have another carrot juice.

  4. m0r1arty


    Isn't this just a rehash of Carl Sagan's 'atmospheric beast'?

  5. Chazmon

    nah its superintelligent forms of the colour blue.

    Douglas Adams definatly had the most original aliens apart from the main cast of course

  6. Miek

    Can anyone explain how inhaling/exhaling ambient gas from the atmosphere would allow a creature to ascend and descend? I would have thought the creature would need to inhale a gas lighter than the atmospheric gas surrounding it.

    1. Andrew Moore

      I'm guessing the same way a submarine uses water as ballast to dive and surface.

      1. Johan Bastiaansen

        yellow submarine?

        You're guessing.?

        And you're wrong.

        A submarine uses compressed air to blow out water tanks, replacing water (heavy) with air (lighter).

        What lighter stuff does the alien creature have? Compressed vacuum?

        She could secrete water or condense it from the atmosphere. That could work.

        But Miek is right. His comment shows how bad this thing is thought through.

        1. h4rm0ny

          Re: yellow submarine?

          Well it wouldn't necessarily need to change its boyancy. Not as long as the gradient in atmospheric density is gradual enough to be irrelevant. Birds are able to go up and down without having to change their density. They just need motive force in the appropriate direction. As birds are heavier than air, they need to provide it themselves to go up (and they just use gravity to go down). But a creature that had near-neutral boyancy in the atmosphere would just need to squirt some air upwards or downwards to descend or ascend. I mean sharks don't need to change their density to rise or fall in water, do they? And from the sounds of this, we're talking pretty dense atmospheres.

        2. I'm sparticus

          Re: yellow submarine?

          Not entirely true; The reletive mass of a submarine when dived is pretty much the same as the displaced water, and only minor changes in ballast are required at constant depth, usually as waste is discharged and food is consumed. To change a submarines depth, internal ballast tanks are used where the surrounding water is flooded in to increase the mass of the boat or pumped out by the ballast pump to decrease the mass of the boat, hence changing the depth.

          The only other variable is that the volume of the submarine will change with depth due to the crush effect, thus becoming denser the deeper you wish to dive, therefore requiring de-ballasting on the way down.

          I suppose the 'creature' in question would be internally less dense than the atmosphere around it, apart from it's onion shaped balls, which it would presumably blow only if it wanted to get really high!

    2. Steve Knox


      If you inhale air from your top, and exhale air from your bottom*, you should be taking in lighter air and expelling heavier air. The difference may not be much, but if you're large enough and move enough air, plus have an internal mechanism to filter the heavier parts from the lighter parts, it might work.

      * WHAT IS all that sniggering!? This is a serious scientific discussion!

    3. TheRead
      IT Angle

      I think it could be possible if it actually filtered out certain gases when it inhaled/absorbed gas from the atmosphere. This would allow it to change the density of the air around it directly.

      Just a thought.

    4. Tom 7 Silver badge

      re boyancy

      well fish manage it by dissolving/releasing gas from their body out of/into their swim bladder - no need to inhale or exhale for that at all.

      Heat and pressure changes are pretty good at changing a gasses density too,

    5. Mephistro

      @ Miek

      The creature could turn nutrients into energy and heat the gas inside it, just like our hot air balloons. It could also get some energy from sunlight -if available in big enough amounts- and capture hot gas from rising convection currents; While on the convection current, it could absorb hot air, and that would give it buoyancy when it left the hot current.

      If instead of a balloon-like structures it had some kind of hard carapace, it could also use some muscles to decrease its interior pressure. This last method could probably make sense in very dense atmospheres.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    they could look just like politicians - the lowest form of life on this planet.

    1. Eddy Ito

      Re: optionally

      The politicians only look like that because they had to fight the lawyers to get to the bottom.

      Now then about those jellyfish, sliced thin a little vinegar, chili pepper and perhaps a bit of cucumber... so when do we dine they get here.

  8. Mike Bell

    The Ladybird Book of Astrobiology

    Yeah, I read that too when I was a lad.

    But surely it says there are only three civilisations active in the universe at any one time rather than four?

    Quick! Someone get hold of Kevin Warwick for the definitive answer.

    1. Johan Bastiaansen

      Re: The Ladybird Book of Astrobiology

      Perhaps we humans aren't considered a civilisation?

      1. Colin Brett

        Re: The Ladybird Book of Astrobiology

        "Perhaps we humans aren't considered a civilisation?"

        I was going to make a similar point. Three civilisations ... and us under the loosest possible definition of "civilisation".


  9. Mr Temporary Handle

    Reminds me of all the waffle about Doggerland. A rather soggy expanse of apparently lifeless mud at the bottom of the North Sea.

    I seem to remember that the 'professor' responsible for that got his arse kicked by his vice-chancellor for being "over enthusiastic" :)

    1. Colin Brett

      "Reminds me of all the waffle about Doggerland. A rather soggy expanse of apparently lifeless mud at the bottom of the North Sea."

      No. I think you'll find that's Gateshead which is, unfortunately, on the surface.


  10. maccy
    IT Angle


    You mistakenly call Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock a boffin. Clearly she isn't that, given her talent for shameless self-promotion; but she isn't a trick-cyclist either. I think we need a new catchphrase at El Reg.

  11. Francis Boyle

    Things is

    I've never seen an actual little green man in SF. (And I've seen and watched a lot.) Now Rutans on the other hand. (Even if what they did was less floating and more been dragged along by an invisible string.)

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Things is

      "I've never seen an actual little green man in SF"

      Pah! Kids today! No idea about the classic literature of old. The Mekon was green. And little.

      Even Davros was a sort of swampy muddy brownish green. Although he did look more green in the days of black and white telly.

  12. myarse

    Tell me if I'm wrong but I thought silicon couldn't form long polymers so no chance of DNA like structures made from it, hence all life being carbon based?

  13. sisk

    Aliens are giant gasbags?

    Well, that certainly shines a different light on the conspiracy theories, given how many gasbags we have in elected offices.

    Yeah, yeah. I'm going.

  14. Jelliphiish


    I've never been to jupiter.. uranus, now..

  15. Chris 171

    Space Bats

    See title

  16. Gordon Fecyk

    Because it's a BIG STUPID JELLYFISH!!!!11!!1!oneone

    We found the hanar!

    Next thing we'll find out, is that The Reapers are coming in December 2012.

  17. tekHedd

    So cutting edge!

    Silicon based life forms that are completely nonhuman, possibly insectoid? Gosh that will take some imagination! Or you could just get some 60 year old back issues of Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine...which is where I first saw this idea put forth. And, I might add, presented entirely from an alien point of view, which was quite awesome.

    I say that if a scientist wants to talk about his neat theories for possible forms of alien life, he should learn to write a decent short story.

    Beer, even though my work day is sadly far from over.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    better start training with MetalSlug.

    1. Gordon Fecyk

      This one has forgotten whether its heat-sink is over-capacity. It wonders if the criminal scum considers itself fortunate.

  19. Supplicant

    I, for one, welcome our new giant cnidarian overlords.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Planet of the Boobs

    Oh, silicon. I thought you said silicone.

  21. David Pollard

    Nukes in space

    That's the only language they'll understand.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    " jellyfish with orange stomaches (sic) that float in the skies of Titan while supported by small onion-shaped gas balls under their flaps."

    Sounds like the next candidate for an El Reg post-pub-snack taste-test. Certainly sounds no less appetising than some of the other gorge-fests

  23. jake Silver badge

    Semi-intelligent Jovian Gasbags?

    So that's where Rush Limbaugh hails from.

  24. NomNomNom

    How does this happen? Did some journalist come across her in the pub on one drunken night?

    Drunken reporter: "Hi I am a journalist, what do you do?"

    "I'm a satellite expert"

    "Oh cool so you must know a lot about space and aliens then?"

    "Uh not really"

    "No come on, what do they look like the aliens?"

    "How would I know I just work on satellites?"

    "You must have some idea! Take a guess"

    "Okay well perhaps they would be silicon based and look like giant jellyfish"

    I wonder if she woke up the next day, saw the headlines "satellite expert says aliens look like giant jellyfish" and went "oh. s***"

    Next time ask me I can come up with better aliens. I am thinking of beings made of cardboard that resemble giant skid marks. Skid marks that mutter aimlessly about subjects we cannot comprehend.

  25. James Hughes 1

    Peter Hamilton

    had a book with gas bags aliens in the Jovian atmosphere IIRC. 'The Nano Flower'?

  26. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    What a load of Pococks ... just nicks an 'old' sci-fi image and makes it sound like her idea.

    I don't know why but she just annoys me so much (even more that a well known set of teeth ... amazzzzing ... gaze whistfully into space ... !)

  27. Maurice Tate


    I think you're missing a "Y"...

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Best fit yet for unoriginality

    At least I can only assume this is the best example of her outright idea theft, as I am not aware of most of the other references cited above.

    Check this one out, an absolute classic, and I believe that the whole "predator/prey" thing is pretty much exactly as she "came up with":

    You'll find it under "Jupiter" Not very surprising.

  29. Mike Flugennock

    Heinlein? Clarke? Doyle?

    James Cameron? Her ideas were inspired by that great oceanographer, James Cameron?

    I suspect that some of her ideas may have also been inspired by that great astrobiologist, Ed Wood.

  30. Mephistro

    "She estimates there will be as few as four alien civilisations sharing the universe at a time simultaneous to the human race"

    Wow! She has solved the Drake Equation all by herself! Either that or she took that figure from her ass.

    1. Julian Bradfield

      In which case she has one smart donkey.

  31. Peter Clarke 1

    Special Effects

    No,no, aliens are humanoid with a few extra bits on the head. If aliens really look like this then the CGI budgets will go through the roof.

    Had she just watched the film Monsters?

  32. Furbian

    Grief, this has degenerated into a 'beat up satellite woman'

    Has anyone considered the sort of company such a person might keep? She probably keeps company with, maybe through working with things that go into space, other people who do research into other space related matters. Much more so than the vast majority of the general populace,

    I know this from experience, as I have a lot of contact with people working on some new processor technology, have read some new papers on it, and even peer reviewed a few. Is it my field of work? No, do I know more it about it than the vast majority of the population, yes.It's my prerogative that I don't wish to offer comment on it.

    Anyhow, I don't see any in the 'extra terrestrial exploration' field complaining loudly about her public statement.

  33. Robert E A Harvey


    There is hardly a corner of this planet without perfectly-adapted life evolving into it. So how about above the clouds?

    Back in the 50s & 60s there were reports of falls of a mysterious substance called Angel Hair, a phenomenon not recently reported. I've often wondered if diaphonous gas-bag creatures used to fill our skies, solar heated and so vast and light that the tiniest temperature difference would keep them afloat. And the era of jetliners ploughed through them and wiped them out before we knew they were there.

  34. jukejoint

    I've never seen her speak...

    ...I imagine the interviewer replied "OK, L. Ron, whatevs"

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "She estimates there will be as few as four alien civilisations sharing the universe ..."

    What is this based on exactly?!

    1. Ron 6

      Re: "She estimates there will be as few as four alien civilisations sharing the universe ..."

      E.E. Doc Smith Lensman series?

    2. Robert E A Harvey

      Re: "She estimates there will be as few as four alien civilisations sharing the universe ..."

      Dunno. Bt if she;s right I hope we find all 4 ('cos I don't reckon we qualify.).

  36. jimbarter


    ...and this

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