Prometheus Analysis Part VIII – Act 3

I have classified the plot in Prometheus into different Acts. Act 1 corresponds to all events preceding the first exploration on LV 223. Act 2 is the exploration and the immediate aftermath when the crew escapes back to the ship. Now, let us focus on Act 3, which details the happenings back on the ship before they venture back into the hollow facility on LV 223.

As we saw at the end of Act 2, the crew finally makes it safe to the ship after a dramatic encounter with a storm, sans Fifield and Millburn, who are lost inside the hollow facility. Captain Janek advises them to stay put inside the cave for the night due to the storm. The next scene is a critical element in Act 3. This is the scene where Shaw, Ford and David examine the head of the engineer that they brought along from the cave. In their preliminary inspection and based on further scans, it is evident that what they see is actually an exoskeleton type helmet.

Scan of the engineer's head - Copyright 20th Century Fox

Scan of the engineer’s head – Copyright 20th Century Fox

David carefully removes it and the head is revealed, which is incredibly human like. In the meantime, Vickers comes by and asks Shaw if all of the engineers were dead, to which Shaw replies that she doesn’t know. Upon further inspection they see some remarkable features on the head and Shaw says that they could be new cells in a state of change. Vickers then asks what they are changing into. Shaw then theorizes that they could trick the nervous system into thinking it’s still alive by running a stemline into the locus coeruleus. They play around with the current and after an incremental increase to about 50 amps, the engineer’s eyes start twitching. It becomes vigorous after a while and the mouth starts opening and closing as well. They try to reduce the current, but its too late. The face starts twitching violently and the black goo starts oozing out of his skull. They have no other choice, but to contain the head. David contains the head in a glass shield and the head suddenly explodes. Ford complains about the smell and David poignantly comments that the engineer was mortal after all. Finally, they decide to take a sample for DNA testing and the the movie progresses to the next scene.

Engineer’s eye twitch – Copyright 20th Century Fox

Black Goo oozing out of the head – Copyright 20th Century Fox

Before going to the next scene, let us see what we can learn from the engineer’s examination. There are a couple of important things one could observe from the examination. First, the engineer’s head is in a state of change with new cells replacing his old ones and changing into something. Second, the black goo oozing out of his head prior to the explosion. It would be easy to explain the black goo since, it is evident that the engineers had been experimenting on themselves. The black goo turned out to be more potent than they had imagined and eventually caused their death.

Now, let us look into the cells and their state of change. Here, I would like to make a hypothesis. It goes all the way back (or forward, if you consider the time line from Prometheus) to the original Alien movie. There’s a scene in the film, right after the very first examination of Kane with the facehugger attached, where Ash and Ripley have a short conversation. When Ripley asks Ash if he has found something about the visitor, Ash replies that he has confirmed that the creature has an outer layer of protein polysaccharides and has a funny habit of shedding his cells and replacing them with polarized Silicon. He further theorizes that it provides him a prolonged resistance to survive in adverse environmental conditions.

Tough little son of a bitch scene – Alien 1979 (Copyright 20th Century Fox)

There we have it. It’s all about Silicon. As we saw in Alien, it is more complex – the creature is a perfect carbon-silicon hybrid organism. Carbon is the main source in it’s earliest life cycle and upon subduing the host, it rapidly evolves to replace its carbon base with silicon. But the carbon map is not completely gone. This carbon base is still a vital aspect the production of eggs, facehuggers or in some cases, direct infection by the creature. Life begins as carbon based and turns into silicon based during the life cycle of the Alien.

So, it is highly possible that the replacement of cells on the engineer’s head reflects this shift from carbon to silicon. It then seems that the black goo had been successful in doing what it was intended to do, to a lesser degree. But, all in all the experimentation was unsuccessful and hence, the carbon-silicon transition is not that drastic. That’s why it was mentioned in passing by Shaw and Ford. Now, I do have a theory for why the whole experiment failed. It has to do with a critical element they had overlooked in the way they had planned creating the Alien. But, I will talk about it a bit later.

The Devil in the Dark

Star Trek Original Series

I would like to take a small sidestep and talk about Star Trek. Wait, what the hell has Star Trek gotta do with Alien and Prometheus? I am getting there. In the first season of the original series, there was an episode titled, “The Devil in the Dark”. It was the 25th episode and first aired on March 9, 1967. The plot of the episode is as follows:

On stardate 3196.1, Enterprise attends to a worrisome request for help from a pergium mining colony on planet Janus VI. It seems that a strange creature has been acting up and has killed 50 miners and destroyed a whole array of equipments. The miners are all burnt beyond recognition. It suggests that the creature uses a strong acid to attack and due to its corrosive nature, the miners instantly disintegrated. Kirk, Spock and McCoy beamed down to the planet and based on their investigations come to the conclusion that they are dealing with something that is radically different and put in their own words, “Life as we didn’t know it.”

Spock inspecting a silicon nodule (Later turns out to be an egg) – The Devil in the Dark

Without going into complete details about the episode, what they learned is that the creature is silicon based and lives deep under the surface of the planet. It produces an extremely corrosive type of acid to digest rocks and hard material to navigate. When the miners reached the level where the creature lived, it naturally had to defend itself against the intruders. Based on Spock’s mind-meld, we also learn that the creature is called Horta and every 50,000 years, the entire race of Hortas die, except only one who acts as a protector of the eggs. When the humans encroached upon the egg resting area, it had to attack to protect her children. In the end, everything turns out fine.

A reactor room sabotaged by the creature’s corrosive acid – The Devil in the Dark

Horta, the creature – The Devil in the Dark

Spock’s mind-meld with Horta – The Devil in the Dark

This episode is pretty interesting in the Alien context for two reasons. One, the Horta is silicon based and two, it produces a corrosive acid both to aid in its mobility and as a defense mechanism. The fact that the episode aired in 1967, I just wonder how much of an influence it had on the original Alien, in terms of thinking about its biology. 

Silicon based Life

Now, let us talk about the plausibility of  natural evolution of a silicon based life form. Based on what we know, it would be highly unlikely for such an evolution. One can think of many reasons for such an improbability. Firstly, there is a huge abundance of carbon in our universe, compared to silicon. This is the case, thanks to stellar evolution. Secondly, we all know that organic life is made possible due to carbon’s ability to bond and form complex molecules. Silicon based complex molecules can exist, but their bond lengths are longer than carbon bond lengths and hence, silicon bonds are weaker and can quickly become unstable. For instance, a group of silicon based complex molecules, polysilanes, are extremely unstable in UV light.

There is another issue as well. But, I believe this could be dealt with, at least theoretically. I am talking about expulsion of respiratory waste. If the organism evolved in an oxygen based environment, then silicon dioxide (silica) is the carbon dioxide equivalent. But, silica is solid as we very well know. Yet, there are some extreme critter like life forms on our own planet that can expel silica. Even in our earth’s history, there are some fine examples of workarounds for such a situation. You see, silica need not be expelled as a solid. It is soluble in water, and hence there could be an intermediary step, prior to expulsion. If you look at the case of diatomites, you would see that the ash of these once-living creatures contains a fair amount of silica. Nearly 30% of the earth’s crust is composed of silicon. Carbon, on the other hand is less than 2%. The all important enzymes on earth are composed of protein (amino acids), sugars and metal complexes, not carbon. If you think that just long chain carbon molecules are enough for life, think again. What is crucial is the fact that such molecules should contain hydrogen and a polar end group. This is the norm as far as our own biological makeup is concerned (fat and lipids). Life as we know it has to satisfy the criterion above. That’s why polysilanes are interesting, because they fit the niche perfectly.

It would be fascinating to speculate on what a strange world it would be where such a creature could evolve. Such a speculation would also provide us hints about the biology of the Alien as designed by the engineers. For a natural evolution of a silicon based organism, it would be reasonable to assume that the environment might be devoid of oxygen. Strongly reducing conditions might be the norm (similar to conditions on prehistoric earth before the evolution of photosynthetic bacteria). But, if oxygen were present, it provides us with another fascinating possibility – the environment might be highly acidic or strongly basic. Why? It would simply facilitate the transfer or silicon around the “body”. Fluoride/fluorine might be the redox couple that replaces oxygen/water, which is the carbon based redox equivalent. Energy might be derived from UV rather than from chemical sources. And what about energy storage? Surely not as a carbohydrate! May be polysilane or polysilazane? What of the enzymes? They would probably have to me more flexible, have specific shapes and reversible binding. Chemical changes to their structures would have to affect the binding affinity and change the presentation of active sites. What kind of active sites would these putative enzymes have? For us, solution-based processes are the norm. May be, the silicon creatures would use liquid methane or ammonia or even carbon dioxide as the solvent. I could go on, but I will stop right here. Bottom line is, such a creature would be a biological marvel and involve a completely new, fascinating mode of chemical communication!

Such a scenario paints a very interesting picture. Remember, when I first spoke about the inconsistency of the very first scene when the engineer sacrificed himself on prehistoric earth? I said, it should have happened way prior to the evolution of photosynthetic bacteria and hence, the atmosphere was reduced due to the lack of oxygen but that the engineer obviously did not show any discomfort breathing. Could it be that silicon had already been part of the engineer’s biology and that way he could survive breathing in a reduced environment? This silicon part of his biology never got replicated during natural evolution on earth. Just a thought! The next thing has to do with the acid part of the creature. It has been established very well that the Alien “bleeds” corrosive acid. which acts as a defense mechanism. In the next section, let us look into this aspect and how it fits logically into the silicon basis for the organism.

Bacillus cereus

Silicon is considered to be a quasi-essential element for most living organisms, even here on earth. Bacteria, Bacillus strains in particular, are well known to have an efficient silicate uptake system in place. The physiological function of such process though had remained obscure for a long time. But, evidence is currently emerging that helps define the role of such an uptake process. It turns out that in Bacillus cereus, the Si is deposited in a spore coat layer of nanometer-sized particles that enhances ….. wait for it ….. acid resistance. Such a novel acid resistance of the spore mediated by Si encapsulation was also observed in other Bacillus strains, representing a general adaptation enhancing survival under acidic conditions. If that is the case for bacteria, then you can imagine the role played by silicon for a creature like the Alien. There has to be a profound mechanism that would require silicon to play a larger role. Perhaps, in addition to enhancing the survival standards of the creature in extreme situations, the silicon also helps in preserving its “acid blood” preventing the Alien from an internal corrosion of sorts. There is another thing. The fact that the creature has polarized silicon, it means that we are talking about some kind of organosilicon material that involves carbon-silicon bonds. That way, irrespective of the specifics of the biology, it provides a possibility to sort of still preserve the carbon basis in a form that could be utilized in various cycles of the creature’s existence.

In conclusion, the state of change of cells on the engineer’s head points to the replacement of normal cells with polarized silicon. The engineers could not achieve the efficiency level of the Alien creature and hence, not that drastic of a change.

Now, let us proceed to the next scene. David is seen communicating with someone. He says that he will take care of it and mentions that it is unfortunately slightly broken. After he is done, he is confronted by Vickers, who wants to know what the other person had said. After some resistance, David tells Vickers that he asked him to try harder. Later in the film, it becomes clear with whom he is communicating. The interesting part in this scene is the fact that David mentions about something broken. Could he be talking about the vase that he brought with him? At this point it is not that clear.

In the meantime, Shaw and Ford analyze the genetic sample they obtained from the engineer’s head and compare it to human DNA. Obviously, they find a match letting them conclude that humans are engineers.

Engineer’s DNA Match with Humans – Copyright 20th Century Fox

We also see that David is inspecting the stone vase that he snuck into the ship. He breaks open one of the glass storage columns holding the black goo and takes a drop in his finger. He realizes that the goo is reactive and comments that big things have small beginnings.

Black Goo inside a glass column – Copyright 20th Century Fox

Big things have small beginnings – Copyright 20th Century Fox

In the next pivotal scene, David meets a disappointed Holloway and offers to pour him a drink. They also strike a conversation about the purpose of their visit to LV 223 and if Holloway found what he was looking for. At first, Holloway is sort of condescending to David, seemingly considering him to be sub-human. Actually, he was a bit less receptive to David even in the very beginning. Prior to their first inspection on LV 223 there were all suiting up. Holloway asked David why he would need a suit, since he is android. David said that it would make others comfortable if he stuck to the norms. They have a philosophical conversation about why the humans created David and how that correlates to engineers making humans. At the end, David pours Holloway a drink, but, he taints it with the black goo that he inspected prior to meeting Holloway, who ends up drinking it.

It brings us to another aspect of the title of the film, Prometheus. Remember, I wrote earlier that Prometheus is also a trickster figure in Greek mythology? By stealing fire from the Gods and giving it to humans, he inadvertently started a monumental chain reaction which resulted in both good and bad. David fits that profile perfectly. If he hadn’t spiked Holloway’s drink with the goo, it might have been very different. Not just that, as we will see in the next few sections, he is central to the progression of the entire movie. In my opinion, he knows more than he is actually letting them know. Besides, his short conversation with the unknown person earlier is also pretty mysterious. It would be interesting to know if he has his own motives for doing what he is doing. More on David a bit later.

The next scene cuts to the interior of the structure they previously explored. Fifield and Millburn, who are stranded in the structure come across a pile of dead engineer bodies. Its a huge pile and high up. It is obvious to Fifield that they were running from something. They notice something that shocks them. The engineers bear a gaping wound on their chests, where something seemed to have opened up from inside – akin to an explosion of sorts. Millburn is extra worried. Janek, the captain, interrupts them from the ship and enquires them about their position. He seems to have observed a ping, a click westward from their original position. He concurs that the probe might be picking up a life form. This shocks both Fifield and Millburn, but suddenly the ping disappears. Janek thinks it might be a glitch. He advises them to stay tight and they will be picked up in the morning. Fifield tells Janek that what they have seen inside the structure is worrisome and asks if the visual they are transmitting is picked up by Prometheus. Janek tells them that the signals come in sporadically due to the storm. Fifield and Millburn finally decide going eastward, since they don’t want to run into the life form that Prometheus picked up westward from them.

One of the elements in the above scene is a bit confusing for me. It has to do with the dead engineer bodies with their chests ripped open from within. It tells that something broke out, but what exactly? I would like to come back to this issue a bit later. This scene though could tell us a bit as to how to resolve another piece of inconsistency in the film as it relates to Alien. This had been bothering me for a long time. Hopefully, when we discuss this aspect in detail later, a consensus would emerge.

In the next scene, Shaw is recording her findings and Holloway walks in. Without going into the romanticism of the scene, basically, Holloway is happy that they found a link between the engineers and humans. Although, he is a bit disappointed that they couldn’t talk to them. The fact that they have now found out that engineers made humans, Holloway asks Shaw if she would remove her cross. Shaw tells him no, and that we still wouldn’t know who made them. Then they talk about creation of life and how easy it would be. Shaw, being infertile, becomes emotional, and after a couple of moments of consolation, they both end up having sex.

Sexual intercourse is an important element here, since, the infection that Holloway was carrying, courtesy of David, is transmitted to Shaw. As we see later in the film, it results in a whole lot of chaos.

In the meantime, there is some bantering going on between Vickers and Janek, which results in both of them sleeping together. The scene them cuts to the structure. Fifield and Millburn reach the spot from the beginning of the film where they first discovered the stone vases and the human looking head. The vases are all affected with black goo flowing out of them. The goo seems to have also mutated a few worm like creatures that we saw in the beginning. Millburn and Fifield encounter such a creature. They try to inform Prometheus about the creature and as they put it, is an elongated reptilian type creature, thirty to forty inches long and transparent. Since, Janek is busy engaging in coitus with Vickers, he is not listening. Millburn tries to touch the creature, at which point it flaps its head open. Suddenly, the creature seizes Millburn’s hand and wraps around his arm real tight. The grip becomes so strong that his arm snaps. Fifield tries to cut the creature off Millburn’s arm, but the acid blood of the creature gets sprayed on Fifield’s helmet melting it onto Fifield’s face. The creature then gets into Millburn’s suit and crawls into his mouth, knocking him out. Fifield falls face first on the pool of black goo and that starts mutating him real fast.

Now, it’s morning, the next day. Holloway feels sick and checks himself out in the mirror. He finds that his eyes are blood shot with something crawling in them. As he is about to freak out, Janek calls Shaw if she is up already and that they are planning to go back to the structure since they haven’t heard anything from Millburn and Fifield for quite a while. As they are about to leave for the structure, Janek asks Ravel, if he had fixed the glitch, to which Ravel replies negative. Janek informs David that a probe is picking up a life form and the signal pops up every hour or so for a couple of seconds before disappearing again. David, seemingly interested in the “glitch”, volunteers to find the “faulty” probe and fix it. Janek agrees.

It is evident that Holloway has been infected pretty badly by the black goo and he is fast changing. David, figures out that the glitch could point out to something or someone who is still alive and he is motivated to find the source. At this point, Shaw knows nothing about Holloway’s infection.

With that, we conclude Act 3. I hope I have not missed any important element of the whole Act. We learned a few things here, namely, that the skin of the engineer was changing, getting their organic cells replaced by polarized silicon, their DNA matches with human’s and hence, humans are engineers, David seemed to have figured out some specifics of the black goo and his deliberate tainting of Holloway’s drink leads to a chain of events, Fifield and Millburn find that the black goo had mutated worm like creatures inside the structure, one of which killed Millburn. So many developments, one might say. Anyway, let us focus on the next Act that chronicles the second visit to the structure in the next post.

GUI Interface in Visual Basic – CSI Stupidity

This is very old, I know. But, I had to post it here. I am a fan of the original CSI. It used to have some of the best writing on television. It used to be very efficient as far as the scientific facts are concerned. But, of late, the show has suffered. Don’t even get me started on the various spin-offs. They are the worst. I think that the folks in charge of writing have unfortunately concluded that they have to resort to tortuous plotlines and backgrounds to make the show interesting. As a consequence, scientific terminology and tech related buzzwords get thrown around that make absolutely no sense whatsoever. The following scene is an example of that.

Where do you even start with a dialogue like that? I am sure most computer hackers burst out in laughter on seeing this scene. I spit coffee when I heard that for the first time a few years ago. User saxon3049 from freebsd forums summarized the situation aptly as follows:

most CSI shows that always get the vital clue from the reflection of the killers face in the dog turd on Saturn taken with the Hubble telescope that happened to be passing overhead.

Lol! By the way, let’s not even go to 24! That series was a goldmine for tech related comedy.

Talking about FreeBSD, how about this, courtesy of lme@, a FreeBSD developer. It’s full of awesomeness!

Beastie Cookies – From lme@

By the way, I am almost done with the next part of Prometheus analysis. It will be up shortly..

OMNI Magazine

OMNI Magazine – From flickriver.com

If you are a science fiction fan, I think I don’t have to say anything other than the word OMNI. The magazine has carried many many SciFi shorts from a whole variety of authors like, George R. R. Martin, William Gibson etc., ever since 1978. Many a time, the magazine also carried real scientific articles and has always been one of the greatest magazines for a long long time until its last Internet version in 1998. If you think you might have missed out on 20 years of goldmine, fear not. The entire OMNI magazine dating from 1978 till 1998 is out on archive.org. I know this is old news, but, if some of you weren’t aware of it, head to archive for the downloads.

Enjoy reading!

Prometheus Analysis Part VII B – The Mural

One thing is clear from the mural – the creation of Alien was no accident. The engineers knew exactly what they wanted to create. It is also evident that they had even figured out the life cycle of the creature. This would explain the facehugger on the mural. But, a few interesting questions also emerge from this scenario. Let us address them one by one.

“Alien” Mural – Detailed (Copyright 20th Century Fox)

Time Frame – When did the Engineers conceive the Alien?

In my opinion, this is an extremely important question to address. The ‘schematics’ seem fairly detailed, and hence, it wouldn’t be illogical to assume that they had also worked out the specifics of the biology of the creature, not just its life-cycle. Now, from a time standpoint, there are a couple of possibilities. Let us explore both of them and try to figure out which one is the likeliest.

Scenario 1: The engineers conceived the idea for Alien prior to engineering life on earth.

Scenario 2: Alien was designed roughly around the beginning of the Vulgar Era (Common Era or A.D) in the Gregorian calendar of our history. (Yes, I know the term Vulgar Era isn’t used that often, but for our current discussion it fits).

I am sure you would agree with me that scenario 1 is a bit illogical. If it were true, it would mean that the sole reason for engineering life on earth was to invite a few people over to LV 223 to use as specimens for experimenting with the black goo aiding in the creation of Alien! Not to mention, they were willing to wait nearly 4.6 billion years to accomplish their mission! The whole idea seems a bit far fetched and totally inefficient for such an advanced race. Hence, I am absolutely positive that this time frame can be ruled out.

Scenario 2 seems more likely. It would mean that there was some “event” in human history that changed the engineers’ opinion of us as a race. May be we didn’t meet their standards and they thought of us as a monumental failure. So, they conceived Alien both as a way to correct their mistake and at the same time, use us in it’s creation or evolution.

A few interesting things can be gleaned from such a scenario. First off, the importance of LV 223 should be considered. It is clear that LV 223 was the focal point of the engineers’ grand scheme of things long long time ago. This is based on the star map that we saw in the beginning of the film. Going by the oldest such map dating back to more than 35,000 years ago, it is clear that they had something planned for us on the moon, LV 223. Else, they wouldn’t invite us there. The only thing I could think of is that their intentions then were very different, perhaps even benevolent, Thanks to the so called event, it all changed and the engineers suddenly went batshit crazy and developed the schematics for the Alien and started engineering the black goo for that purpose. Now, as far as a rough estimate is concerned, we do have a clue. When Shaw dated the dead engineer in the cave, she said he’s been dead for nearly 2000 years give or take. When Prometheus was close to its destination, we saw the date was December 21st, 2093. So, that would roughly put the time of the “infection” at around 100 AD. This estimate should provide an ample window when the event happened and the engineers developed the black goo weapon.

I would just like to mention a bit about the organizational structure of the engineers in the context of the reverse engineered black goo. If there had been a common consensus in the development of a weaponized form of the black goo, it surprises me that seemingly no effort had been made on part of the engineers to save the ones on LV 223 who were exposed to this plague. Irrespective of the heightened danger that such a situation presented, it is strange that the affected engineers were left to deal with the mess themselves. More than 2000 years had passed in the meantime, with no evidence of a mop up operation of some kind. It certainly paints the possibility that the modified bioweapon exercise on LV 223 was perhaps the work of some bad apples, a community of engineers who took offense to the “event” and it was an emotion that was not shared by all of them. The other group of engineers had planned on something else for the humans on LV 223. This would mean that we could have two groups of engineers and the one which felt the need to punish humans and the other that did not want to get involved. Just a thought. Anyway, I will come back to this issue much later in my thesis when we address later scenes.

By the way, there is another very important aspect of the mural that I am deliberately not touching upon right now. It has to do with the posture of the Alien! I am sure you guys would probably observe the special nature of such a pose. I will talk about it in detail during my final discussions.

Clown Prince of Crime – Psychoanalysis Update

The Joker – Psychoanalysis Update

I would like to briefly interject with some other news. Over the last few months, I had spoken about my Psychoanalysis of The Joker thesis. I had last mentioned that I was postponing my publication due to the shootings in Aurora, Colorado. I would just like to mention that I have not forgotten about it. The reason is a person from a publishing house contacted me sometime ago and asked if I was interested in getting it published as a book. It came out of the blue and I thought I could  give it a shot. Just a few minutes ago, I got a phone call from her and she said she has been given the go-ahead by her boss, provided I make some modifications. I am not really sure how big a change is being requested really. Got a Skype conversation planned with her this Sunday. Keeping my fingers crossed.

The publishing house is a medium-sized one and have an excellent portfolio. I will reveal more information if the deal goes through. Pretty excited!

Prometheus Analysis Part VII A – The Mural

The scene inside the “tomb” is probably one of the most important scenes in the whole film, because it is the first time we get to see signs of the creature link between Prometheus and Alien. Although it is not that direct, it reveals itself in the fascinating mural inside the tomb. I am sure you folks would agree that the whole scene is reminiscent of being inside an ancient Egyptian tomb –  the hieroglyphics, murals etc. But, given the plot of the film, it wouldn’t be illogical to assume that the ancient Egyptians had been influenced by the Engineers and hence, the architectural ideas of the Engineers is the original. In fact, the lead in to the discovery of the tomb in itself is a treasure chest of information – starting from the discovery of the hologram to the scene when they escape the tomb we are bombarded with important symbolism and imagery that provide a key to connect the storyline of Prometheus with Alien. Let us explore them one by one.

Let us revisit the hologram activation scene. David discovers hieroglyphic inscriptions on the wall of the corridor, which look like in the image below. In total, he performs five actions to activate the hologram. Two downward swipes, left to right, press one, fourth action is unclear and finally, another press. Now, the above information is not that important, but, the glyphs reminded me of something else. In Alien, in the very beginning, as the credits were rolling, the title played out on top of the screen with a series of vertical and slanted bars organizing into the word, Alien. Of course, I am not claiming that it means something. It’s just that I thought it was interesting to look at both the scenes from that context.

Hologram Hieroglyphs – Prometheus (Copyright 20th Century Fox)

Titles – Alien 1979 (Copyright 20th Century Fox)

The next interesting imagery is when they follow the hologram eventually finding the door to the tomb. Again, a fairly detailed hieroglyphic inscription greets them. You can observe them in the next couple of images. If you recall, Holloway asked David with an almost exasperated expression whether he could read them, to which David responded perhaps.

Hieroglyphs outside the tomb I – Prometheus (Copyright 20th Century Fox)

Hieroglyphs outside the tomb II – Prometheus (Copyright 20th Century Fox)

If you compare these glyphs with the one that activated the hologram, you could see that there are similarities. I have marked them in the following picture. Note that the ||| glyph is oft repeated in two styles – a bar on top and a bar on bottom. Although, the one encountered earlier had no bars either on top or bottom. Given the intersection between the two glyphs, I am positive David could have at least gotten an idea about what it says.

Similar characters shared with hologram activator – Prometheus (Copyright 20th Century Fox)

OK, now let us discuss the imagery inside the tomb. The pictures below show four different shots of one such image. There is no big mystery in the fact that it depicts an engineer enveloped in some kind of misty layer. But, what is not so clear is that his right hand leads to something unknown. I could not make out any details from the structure. It could be a headless body in a similar position like the engineer and happens to depict a right limb or it could be something more complex. Whatever it could be, would it be possible that this image projects the idea that this thing is envisioned to be something that”evolved” from the engineer? I am not really sure. May be I am just imagining or seeing things. But, the image is nevertheless interesting. I think I will watch this scene in super slow motion tonight again and try to see if there’s more to it.

Engineer Mural inside the tomb I – Copyright 20th Century Fox

Engineer Mural inside the tomb II – Copyright 20th Century Fox

Engineer Mural inside the tomb III – Copyright 20th Century Fox

Engineer Mural inside the tomb IV – Copyright 20th Century Fox

Defining Moment – The Mural

It is time now to pay attention to the all important mural inside the tomb. I think it is fairly evident that the mural depicts the classic Alien creature that we all love to death. Of course, it is not completely detailed, but the important features are all there –  the head, the exoskeleton like structure, stretched out hands, bipedalism.

Alien Mural inside the tomb – Copyright 20th Century Fox

In addition, the wavy, viscous nature of the mural texture looks very similar to the way the black goo reacted and moved before it started overflowing. You could see the details of the mural texture and the black goo motion in the following pictures. Such a parallel between the two opens up the possibility that the black goo is sentient (If this assumption is right, then it is another win for The X Files as it relates to Prometheus).

“Alien” Mural – Detailed (Copyright 20th Century Fox)

Wavy motion of the viscous black goo – Copyright 20th Century Fox

Ancient Egypt inspiration?

I had mentioned earlier that the symbolism and images have ancient Egyptian style written all over it, but, that the engineers could have influenced the Egyptians during their frequent visitations during that time. I would like to advance this idea of reverse logic further and am gonna talk about another interesting aspect of the mural. Please remember, this is another one of those not in the ballpark ideas my sick mind conjured up. It could be entirely wrong, but nevertheless, I hope it provides an interesting twist.

The following personal story segment has no bearing with the analysis, so, feel free to ignore it.

*START – Personal Story*

When I was roughly around 15-16 years old I saw a documentary on TV about the discovery of Tutankhamun’s Tomb. It made quite an impact on me that I started visiting the British Library in Madras almost every evening after school just to learn more about ancient Egypt. To have had a civilization like that in our evolution history is certainly a very proud thing for us as a race. But, as you know a lifetime is not sufficient to learn everything about ancient Egypt. Hence, I focused my interest mostly on aspects of the Old Kingdom and the New Kingdom until the Greek invasion. Those evenings spent at the Library did not go in vain though. Six years later, a friend of mine cleared his Common Admission Test (CAT), organized by the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) in India. IIM is a premier management institute in India and is famous all over the world for their programs. It is also probably one of the most difficult schools to get into. If you clear the test, you have to take part in a Group Discussion, followed by an in-depth interview, where anything goes. Anyway, my friend got an interview invite from IIM-Ahmedabad, the best IIM in the country and he asked me advice about strengthening his hobby areas, just in case it comes up in the interview. He thought Egyptology could help him, since, it is something very different and that might interest the interview panel. We had a month before the interview and we spent almost 4-5 hours everyday and we would discuss about ancient Egypt. Since time was short, I advised him that we could just look into the New Kingdom, especially the burial rituals, Gods and two pharaohs, Ramses and Akhenaten. I am a huge fan of Akhenaten and he was the first and probably the only one to go against stereotype of that time and was way ahead of the curve both in his thinking and ideology. I hoped our efforts would turn out useful for my friend. As luck would have it, he was asked about his hobbies in the interview and upon hearing Egyptology, the panel was surprised. One professor in the panel had dabbled in Egyptology himself and he was very excited to meet a prospective student with a similar interest. It made the environment a bit friendlier, my friend said. They ended up talking about Akhenaten in particular. My friend got admitted into IIM-Ahmedabad. I am not saying that he got the seat solely because of his discussion about Egyptology, but it did come in handy. Self high five.

*END – Personal Story*

Atum – Heliopolistic Creation Mythology

The idea is connected with creation myths of ancient Egypt. Although there are many theologies based on the prominence of a certain God in one of the major cities in Egypt, they all contribute in one form or the other to the creation mythology. I am not going to focus on all of them, since there is a wealth of information available on the net, starting from Wikipedia. But, what I would like to do is talk about one of the important deities during that period – Atum or Atem or simply, Tem. It is suggested that his name is derived from the word, tem, which means to complete or finish. He is regarded as a complete one and he is credited with both creation and ultimately destruction of life. Atum was the central God in the ancient city of Heliopolis. Hence, the creation myth involving Atum originated in Heliopolis. According to this creation theory, Atum created Himself by sitting on a mound that arose from the primordial waters of the abyss, called Nu. Sometimes, He Himself is considered as the mound. Why do I have to talk about Atum, you ask? Here’s why – He is also credited with the creation of god Shu and goddess Tefnut. He created them by spitting them out of his mouth. It is believed that he was masturbating and upon orgasm he took the semen in his mouth and spit it out thereby creating the gods. The texts from that time suggest various mechanisms for the creation, but they all involve masturbation, semen and spitting. So, the underlying thing here is that he created the twin gods by spitting them out. Shu and Tefnut eventually married each other!

The reason why I find Atum’s story in the context of the mural fascinating is because the Prometheus mural not only reveals the classic alien, but also a head type of thing right above it. It is animal-like (bull?) and I could see distinctive features like, eyes, mouth and nostrils (Atum, for instance, is thought of taking the form of a snake, mongoose or a bull sometimes). Considering the Atum-centric mythology and the relative proximity of the Alien to the mouth of the head above it in the mural together, I cannot ignore thinking about a connection between the two. At the risk of sounding like a broken ancient record, I would again like to emphasize that it is just a hypothesis and I might be dead wrong and the film makers never really cared about any Egyptian influence.

Coming back to Atum, He is a self-engendered god and He chooses when to create and when to destroy. He exercises authority over all life and has complete control over everything. So, the engineers are like Atum and they consider themselves as omnipotent beings and they have the authority and power to engineer and destroy life. That is reflective of a massive God complex! In that context, the unknown head like thing on top of the mural could be a reference to the engineers themselves and that the Alien is their “spat out” creation.

Sexual Connotations

The original Alien was pretty unsettling for a lot of people at that time because it turned the concept of sex on its head.  Dan O’Bannon (Bless him), the writer of Alien even mentioned in one of his interviews that his idea was to unsettle the average male viewer with the whole facehugger sequence. If you look at it, it is basically oral rape, the wrapping of its legs tightly around the host, insertion of its proboscis down the throat simultaneously implanting the embryo, all of it presents a violent image of sex. Not to mention the culmination of the entire process with birth of the chestburster, which is one of those biggest “Holy Shit!” moments in movie history. So, the mouth of the host is integral to the whole cycle.

Facehugger Rape – Alien 1979 (Copyright 20th Century Fox)

Masturbating Atum on the left

Now, let us look at the Atum-centric creation myth again. Of course, many would say that the image of a god masturbating and taking his own semen inside his mouth (see pictures to the right and the one below) before spitting it out creating other gods is sick. Some would even say that it is somewhat amoral and all that crap. Also, the spat out gods, who are siblings, married and gave birth to other gods. So, you see there are a lot of things here that would make people uncomfortable. But, ancient Egyptians believed it and were fine with the idea (If you thought Atum masturbation myth was odd, you should read about the infamous lettuce incident between Horus and his evil uncle Set. Horus’s father Osiris was killed by Set and Horus wanted to exact revenge. My point is, sexual aspects are fairly common not just in ancient Egypt, but in many other ancient religions, like Hinduism as well). It just shows how morality was perceived earlier and how it changed over the years, thanks to a certain religion. I will come back to the issue of morality later on in my thesis, because I think it is going to be the key in answering some of our pressing questions about the engineers’ intent.

Same picture as before – Semen consumption

Due to all this I think it is not that far fetched to compare the Atum-centric creation myth with the mural and the deeper meaning that such a comparison unravels.

Now, getting back to Prometheus, we saw that the murals started changing after a while inside the tomb. The group then rushes out of the place. One of the shots of another mural that showed this change or “evolution” is given below. If you paid attention to the scene, you would see something like the classic alien head and its famous bony appendage with which it would attack. I have marked it for easy viewing. I might be seeing things, but I just thought of mentioning.

Mural Evolution inside the tomb – Copyright 20th Century Fox

Finally we come to the last scene related to the mural. When you see the following picture, it should become clear. I am sure everyone would agree that on the bottom right corner, what we see is a classic facehugger! Holloway’s light even emphasizes this part of the mural, which is a clever way on part of the filmmakers to give us further clues. The fact that the alien and the facehugger is heavily represented in the mural shows that the engineers knew what they exactly wanted to create. I would elaborate on these aspects in my next post, which will be the final part of the mural analysis.

Facehugger – Prometheus (Copyright 20th Century Fox)

Review

So, there is a heavy reliance on Egyptian style hieroglyphs and symbolism to not just further the movie, but, also give us hardcore fans some subtle hints helping us connect the dots. There is a stylistic resemblance between some of the glyphs and the way the title, “Alien” played out in the original film. The scene inside the tomb depicts a variety of murals that show engineers, the original alien creature and the facehugger. Looking at some of the aspects of the whole scene through an ancient Egyptian eye lens provides us with a few other fascinating ideas that cover issues like creation and sexuality.

Whoa! That took some time. Anyway, I still need to talk a bit about how the mural might tell us about the engineers’ intent in engineering this creature. I will do it in my next post.

Prometheus Analysis Part VI B – Black Goo: What could it be?

Black Goo – Phase I: Engineering Life

Pivotal Scene

OK, now that I have gotten my thoughts about Prometheus X Files connection posted, let us look into the black goo itself. As I had theorized in the Origins Section, I would assume that the first variant of the black goo used in engineering life on prehistoric Earth was a rapid reverse-evolution catalyst of some kind. This would aid the disintegration of the engineer into biological precursors that could re-evolve under the right conditions anywhere in any planetary system. But the crowning achievement of this reverse evolution is that the genetic makeup of the initiator in question is somehow preserved. This way, even under the threat of a natural extinction, their genetic template is intact and it could be used to re-engineer the entire race.

Now, taking into account the engineer’s intervention time period and adding an exaggerated estimate of say, another 100-200 million years for them to have reached a capability of engineering life in an alien world, it puts the age of the engineer race somewhere close to 4 billion years! Earth, at 4.6 billion years old is just a little more than half billion years older than that. It is very likely that the engineers are right on top of their natural evolutionary chain. Whether it maxed out when the engineers appeared or not is a question that is open. But, I am sure everyone would agree that for a race of beings to have survived that long it would have required an external intervention of sorts. There must have been a lot of bottlenecks on the way in their survival – Natural factors dictated by evolution, home planet conditions (depletion of natural resources, possibility of their Sun going Nova or becoming a red giant like our Sun would in about 5 billion years), threats of war (We do see in the film that the engineers are not that peaceful after all. Besides, they have a pretty sophisticated militaristic wing in their society. Based on all this one is led to think about the possibility of past wars that would have had the potential to wipe out the entire race), to name a few. But, obviously they did not perish. Instead, they had mastered space travel, established colonies in farthest of places and most fascinatingly, have figured out the secrets of life.

What would we do?

At the risk of sounding a bit like John Quinones, I would now like to contemplate on our own future. Could we attain the success of the engineers, not just from the survival front, but also from the technological standpoint. As I had mentioned earlier, my idea with this whole exercise is to discuss the happenings in the movie under the framework of our current scientific knowledge and speculate on what the future would be like for us. The modern human is just around 200 thousand years old. Many thinkers, philosophers, biologists and futurists have pondered over a long time about our fate in the evolutionary scheme of things. Most of them agree upon the fact that we are on the verge of reaching the apex of the evolutionary tree.

Human Brain

How we further evolve is directly connected to the future of intelligence – hence, the brain and the nervous system come into play. Our brain evolved from a chimpanzee like brain, which was three times smaller than ours. So, a natural question arises about the evolution of a larger brain. Michel Hofman had addressed this question and based on his extrapolation studies he concluded that our brain is pretty close to its potential to generate maximum intelligence. He reasoned that although a larger size marginally would improve the intelligence potential and cognitive functions, there would be problems with communication between various structures in the brain. A decrease in communication time would consequently result in the reduction of processing power. Unless, nature comes out with another way to increase/improve organic intelligence by some other means, it would be safe to assume that our brain has almost reached its maximum potential. For more, you should watch the fascinating program, “What We Still Don’t Know: Are We Real?”. It is a fantastic documentary, hosted by Sir Martin Rees and features, Max Tegmark (Mathematical Universe Hypothesis), Leonard Susskind (Co-founder of String Theory and The Holographic Principle), John Conway (Mathematician, Game of Life), Michel Hofman (Neurobiologist) and others. The discussion about the brain and intelligence starts at around 30 minutes, 50 seconds mark.

So, keeping in mind the evolution driven constraints and other biological bottlenecks, it is only by intervention that we could ensure that we survive billions of years as a race. It could be at the organic level and such an intervention would undoubtedly lead us into unlocking the secrets of emergence of life itself from the harmonious association between the organic molecules. This understanding would further pave the way to recreate life from its components. This could eventually even lead to immortality.

Another interesting avenue of intervention could happen at the cusp between human and machine evolution. Given how far we have come until now in the development of machine intelligence, I believe that such a scenario could be a real possibility.  Development of autonomous AI, micro-machines, in the spirit of Ghost in the Shell would be not that far fetched. Essentially, it could lead to the creation of a carbon-silicon hybrid of sorts that could improve life and perhaps spawn the birth of a kind of superhuman both in terms of physical strength and intellect.

Black Goo – Phase II: Bioweapon

Black Goo inside the Ship

Now, let us talk about the second, more sinister incarnation of the black substance. I have no doubt in my mind that it is some kind of bioweapon. But, questions remain over the engineers’ intention developing the weapon. It is clear that this black goo is an engineered variant of the substance from the first scene, since it is intended to create a life form as well. I further believe that the engineers knew exactly what kind of life form they wanted to engineer. The reasoning behind this belief is the mural we saw in the tomb inside the ship. The mural is my main focus in my next post. From what we saw in the first exploration scene, it is clear something terrible happened that resulted in the deaths of many engineers. It could be that the engineers underestimated the potency of the substance or it is likely they experimented on some of their own (They certainly don’t shy away from sacrificing themselves for the cause of engineering life). But, more on this later. In the meantime there are a few questions that bother me.

1. From their survival standards alone, it is evident that the engineer race must have an organized society with a hierarchical structure – one that would involve a group of leaders who would be the main decision makers. The militaristic subculture also shows that they should have a proactive defence network that would include a few other key decision makers as well. But, they do answer to the aforementioned leaders. May be we will know more about this in the second film and it might even turn out to be an integral part in solving the many puzzles.

2. I talked about this earlier as well. Based on the star maps the engineers showed the early humans, it is obvious that the engineers invited us to a place that is not their home and on top of that what we now know is some kind of weapons facility. Why would they invite us to this place? Not to mention that one such invitation dates back to nearly 35,000 years ago. Such a special status for LV 223 is hence, most fascinating. Were they planning to let us know how it is done? I mean, the whole engineering life thing. Could it be that their intentions changed suddenly around 2000 years ago due to human development completely having gone against their expectations?

Questions, questions! Anyway, once we explore the mural angle in the next post, I am sure we can further our hypothesis that would provide a solution to some of our problems.