Aliens in Pittsburgh?

No, this isn't Hazleton revisited. I'm talking about real aliens, which as Samantha Bennett points out in today's P-G neighborhood sections, may be living right under our noses. (Or in them, in the opinion of the P-G's headline writer.)

Professor Paul Davies says that there may be life forms totally unlike anything we know living in hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean or in lakes contaminated with arsenic. Astute readers will recognize this as the premise of "Arsenic and Old Lakes," starring Cary Grant as a wacky EPA administrator. The BBC story quotes professor Davies as telling the symposium, "We don't have to go to other planets to find weird life. It could be right in front of our noses -- or even in our noses." ...

The theme of this symposium that the professor spoke at was an alternate genesis of life on Earth, a "shadow biosphere" that started separately from the history of life as we know it and has evolved parallel to our known biosphere but undetected by us ...

Seriously, the other biosphere is invisible to us because we don't know how to look for it. We've built instruments and technology to look for what we expected to find, like carbon-based microbes and critters with DNA like ours, but as professor Davies puts it, "Maybe one of the elements life uses -- carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus -- could be replaced by something else."

It occurred to Sam, as it no doubt already occurred to you, that this whole business echoes that scene in the first Men in Black movie where Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith are talking in front of a bank of monitors that show aliens masquerading as celebrity humanoids. "Elvis isn't dead. He just went home." That explains a lot, right?

Sam is too kind, however, to bring the point home for Pittsburghers. If Zombies Ate My Headlines at the Carbolic Smoke Ball, then are aliens running the city?

My plea for leadership seems to have fallen on dumbfounded ears. Has it been so long that Pittsburghers no longer know leadership when they see it? Or does silence mean that there are no leaders here, off the football field and the ice?

How about a plea to out the aliens?

Who among us is from another planet? (Or, who among you; as Tonto never said, "What you mean we, kemo sabe?") What planet (make them up if you need to), and how do you know?


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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at] Mike also blogs at, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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Pittsblog 2.0 has a motto: "It's steel good in Pittsburgh." Say it aloud, with a Pittsburgh accent.

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