27 Comments

  1. Since they are a different species, it is extremely unlikely that they would be vulnerable to our COVID-19. Diseases jumping species is quite rare as it is and if their biology is different, unlikely. In War of the Worlds (and maybe this cartoon), aliens are susceptible to our diseases as an allegory for how the Old World explorers infected the New World. But in that case, both populations were human, so different. And very one-way in the transfer of infection too, but not really the fault of Europeans.

  2. Wouldn’t the War of the Worlds/Old Wotld Explorers metaphor have worked better if the EUROPEANS had died?

  3. For that matter, how different could our species be if they have an astronaut named Bob?

    (Though granted, his full name might be Bobrh¤nifarigum)

  4. In War of the Worlds the Europeans did die. In that metaphor, the Martians are the Europeans. It was a reversal on what actually happened on Earth.

    And his name is actually Borborygmus, but that is just an approximation in our language. It is actually pronounced as follows:

  5. Jumping species isn’t THAT rare — that’s where all our worst viruses come from. Jumping class is trickier. But it looks like bats, pangolins, humans, tigers, and maybe housecats can maybe carry SARS-CoV-2. All mammals, but fairly different types of mammals.

    So long as Bob’s species aren’t mammals, though, they’re probably okay.

  6. The video covers that. It’s rare and requires the right conditions. If it was easy and common, we’d be in big trouble. But it is pretty much inevitable under the right conditions. Like when enough people buy lottery tickets, someone eventually wins. The New World didn’t have the conditions to develop many really deadly diseases to infect the Europeans with, so the pandemics were pretty much one way.

  7. Yeah, that video is basically a restatement of a third of Jared Diamond’s GUNS, GERMS AND STEEL in ten minutes. But it gets some bits wrong in ways that a LOT of people get stuff wrong — for instance, it suggests that plagues leave survivors immune. Which… isn’t always true. They gave the suggestion that, for instance, you can only get cholera once. That’s… deeply erroneous.

    And the idea that it’s “rare” for diseases to jump species is one of those errors, I think. I mean, obviously, it depends on what you mean by “rare”. And, for that matter, what you mean by “disease”. But viruses, for instance, are remarkably good at changing contexts. I mean, some of the all time great killer diseases AREN’T viruses — the malaria parasite remains the all time human-killin’ champ — but the majority of the impressive emerging diseases ARE, because they are good at hanging out in pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and, apparently, bats and pangolins, and becoming deadly to humans.

  8. I’ve seen enough Star Trek to know that most aliens are humanoids and much more closely biologically related than you would expect for creature that evolved on different planets. There was some explanation with Preservers, blah, blah, seeding the galaxy, blah, blah, reasons, blah, blah plot convenience. If we’re closely related enough to most aliens for Kirk to want to sleep with them, we’re surely closely related enough to transmit diseases.

  9. Some would argue that virus jumps are common, because we have experienced three nasty epidemics (SARS, MERS, and Covid-19) within a couple decades. However, these three strains are all closely related, and don’t really prove the adaptability of viruses in general. When compared to the vast numbers of viruses that exist in all sorts of animals (and plants), the percentage of viruses that can make the hop is not that sizeable.
    P.S. @ J-L – Let’s give Deering some credit for his hand-lettered dialog. I think the cursive “and” was intended to convey emphasis, similar to the way that italics are used in printed text.

  10. And the idea that it’s “rare” for diseases to jump species is one of those errors, I think. I mean, obviously, it depends on what you mean by “rare”. And, for that matter, what you mean by “disease”.

    And what you mean by “species.”

    Flu viruses are notorious for living in all sorts of warm-blooded animals, and also for having the viral equivalent of sex and mixing up their genetic units all the time.

  11. >“(NOT A CIDU)”

    >Why not?

    >Because… it isn’t? I’m not sure I understand the question.

    Then…. what’s it about? I sure as heck don’t understand it.

  12. @ WW – “…closely related enough to most aliens for Kirk to want to sleep with them…
    Relationship has nothing to do with it. I’ll bet that Kirk would even have slept with the Horta, and the only reason he didn’t was that Shatner objected.

  13. Kirk’s reputation for promiscuity has been way overblown by popular culture over the years. Certainly he liked the ladies but it wasn’t nearly as common as everyone thinks — especially aliens.

  14. Powers: Kirk slept with multiple creature of different species. In real life, wouldn’t you say someone who was so eager to have sex that he kept sleeping with non-human creatures a bit overeager?

  15. Woozy, it’s right there in the subject line: There’s a pandemic going on, so it’s not a good time for a visit.

  16. “Woozy, it’s right there in the subject line: There’s a pandemic going on, so it’s not a good time for a visit.”

    ANd that’s funny … why?

  17. Woozy: It’s “funny” to think that we’re so preoccupied with coronovirus that we don’t make a big fuss about aliens arriving, and actually tell them we’re too busy right now. I mean, it’s not actually that funny, but it’s comprehensible as a joke.

  18. Viruses can jump species, but all terrestrial species are closely related. The aliens would have a very different DNA. Or as Larry Niven said in the classic “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex”:
    “LL could more easily breed with an ear of corn than with Kal-El.”
    And poor aliens – they come all this way to visit and find the place closed. Happens to me all the time.

  19. I hesitate to get involved, being as it’s a poor attempt at a comic to begin with, but it seems to me that Bob is the alien sitting beside the speaker, and the speaker is phoning home to the Orson, saying that while Bob went down to have a look, Bob is too overcome right now to say anything other than, “it’s not a good time,” and he has a huge tear running down his face, Sicilian Indian style. I think this was meant more as a tribute or somesuch than it was meant as a gag; it’s supposed to be touching, I think.

  20. The funny thing about Niven was that the biology in his stories was often very bad. Starting with the “Humans originated as aliens from many lightyears away” in the stories featuring Protectors.

  21. Robert is sitting here and I showed him the strip and read him the comments – his comment –
    Those aliens that Kirk did not sleep with – Ricker did.

    (Also – species are humanoid at the request of the costume department.)

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