Mack Williams column: Like life, everywhere, but not alive

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 9, 2020

By Mack Williams
I recently thought back to the old 1980 Carl Sagan “Cosmos” series on public TV, and his conversations about the possibility of life on other worlds looking different than on Earth, and in fact, being based on other elements than what all life on Earth is based on — carbon. Remember, to the aliens in “Star Trek the Motion Picture” (1979), Captain Kirk and crew were just “carbon-based units infesting the Starship Enterprise.”
Sagan surmised that on some other world there might be life which spends its entire time in the upper air (even birds don’t do that).
That’s really not that strange, because we’re used to some life forms spending all of their time in the water. Otherwise, why go fishing?.
Over the last few years, I’ve noticed something that, just like actual life, has seemed to have carved out a multitude of niches for itself within every habitat known to human experience. I even saw a picture of one of these “things” on the sea floor.
I’ve personally seen examples of them hanging from the twigs at the end of the highest tree limbs, in both young saplings and giants. I’ve also seen them caught in the leaves and stalks of tall roadside weeds. And some of their brightest colors almost steal the glory of the morning glories. I’ve even seen some of them flying high in the wind like kites or balloons. And since they seem to be so universal in their presence, I guess I should go ahead and give some a scientific, natural name, just as the scientists do in the scientific journals, adding some description of each.
I will include in their made-up, pseudo-scientific name, the word “Medusa,” since that is part of the actual scientific name for the jellyfish, which, like they, also has a “bag-like” shape. And just like jellyfish, I’ve seen them floating in the water, but only in river water; because as far as I know, there are no freshwater jellyfish.
These phenomena have spread everywhere, just like life. It is very sad they have done so, for they are not in the least bit alive.
Here are a few which I have “classified” (and a reminder that the second part of the name is not capitalized in the scientific literature, despite what we may be used to seeing).
Medusa dollargeneralensis — invariably of a yellow color
Medusa walmartensis — invariably of a dark gray color
Medusa targetensis — white, with the strange marking of a red circle surrounding a red dot
Medusa thankyouensis — white, with the word “Thank You” repeated multiple times. Any specimen of these which has very recently entered the natural world carries the smell of some popular foodstuff within it.
Just like actual living things, they’re everywhere, but sadly so!

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