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Thread: How realistic is the alien from the movie 'Life'? Specifically it's strength?

  1. #1 How realistic is the alien from the movie 'Life'? Specifically it's strength? 
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    Okay, so this is going to seem like a really odd post, and quite frankly I'm very depressed that I even need to make it, but there it is. So shortly after the movie 'Life' came out a few months ago, I had come across one of the scenes posted on YouTube. Specifically the scene where the alien, despite being completely boneless and seemingly only being about the size and thickness of a typical latex glove, only around 30 or 40 grams at most, manages to force a man's clenched fist open and proceed to essentially pulverize his hand. I had made what I thought would be a 'do duh!' remark in the comments section in the effect of enjoying how creepy the scene was but there's simply no way any organism that size could be that strong. But it's actually turned into an all-out flame war of people saying I'm an idiot and shouldn't judge an alien by the standards we would a terrestrial organism.

    In the story, Calvin is described as simultaneously being "all muscle, all eye, and all brain", and people seem to think that the 'all muscle' part makes it capable of seemingly defying the laws of physics. Anyway, I know perfectly well that this scene is impossible as portrayed, but could anyone who knows the physics that would be at play here and maybe some rough calculations tell me if I'm wrong about this? Or if I'm right, provide some rough figures to demonstrate it? I confess I'm not familiar with anatomy.

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    Moderator Moderator Janus's Avatar
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    Jun 2007
    I'd be less concerned about the "strength" issue, as I would about the energy needed. Strength would just come down to what the life form is made of. Where something that small gets the energy needed to perform such a task is a bit more problematic.
    It's basically the Superman conundrum:
    You can explain his strength by just assuming that his muscular density is much greater than ours, but where does he get the energy to perform his feats of strength? Cannon has it that he gets his power from the Sun, but on the surface of the Earth, Sunlight produces ~ 1 watt per square meter. A typical man has about 2 m^2 surface area. So even if his entire surface was exposed to sunlight for 16 hrs (during the summer) per day this amounts to just 57600 joules of energy or 0.032 kilowatt hours. A typical human's basic metabolic rate burns somewhere in the range of 2000 Calories per day, this works out to be over 8 million joules, which far exceeds the energy Superman could get from the Sun. In other words, sunlight would not even be able to keep his basic metabolism running, let alone give him enough energy to perform super-human feats.

    Last edited by Janus; July 29th, 2017 at 08:31 AM.
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  4. #3  
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    Don't think long term energy is really a problem--it's far more the ability to rapidly use stored energy in the tissue or rapidly transfer and metabolize stored energy thorughout the orgasm to get those sugars and O2 to the muscle. For example, reptiles use a lot less energy than mammals but are still fully capable of very high strength and short sprints.
    Alliens, of course, could have a completely different biology making arguments about their relatively short term strength pointless.
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