On the side of the valley in which the first complex is found, there is a giant skull carved into the overlooking crag. It’s easy—given the other transgressions in the film—to dismiss this as spookhouse attempt at being scary. But what if (stay with me here) it’s a warning sign, an alien Mr. Yuk, put there for other sentient humanoids to understand that this place is deadly with a capital D? This explains why the outpost hasn’t been disturbed by rescuers of their own race. They were smart enough to see the warning and turn right back around. (Why they didn’t nuke it from orbit is another question.)
Seeing this as a warning label raises other questions. Why wouldn’t a warning be technological or linguistic, like most of the interfaces inside the complex? The black infection material is still deadly after 2000 years. Who knows how much longer it will be viable? So where the interfaces inside are for immediate use, the warning outside needs to be effective for millennia, outlasting both the power reserves that would drive technology and the persistent semantics that would cement linguistic understanding. Rock, in contrast, lasts a very, very long time. Even during the erosion the shape and its clear meaning will simply lose clarity, not wink out altogether.
Similarly, this shape is a clear symbol of death that is tied to biology, which changes on evolutionary timeframes, guaranteeing its readability for—hopefully—longer than the xenomorph liquid would be a danger.
For these reasons, this is labeling that is more than a Castle Grayskull set dressing attempt at scaaaarrrry, but a reasonable choice at providing an effective warning that will last as long as the danger. You know, providing visiting scientists actually pay attention to such things.
Sorry this is offtopic: what happened to the “Escape Pod” article? Had it in my rss feed and now it appears to be gone.
Glad you’re anticipating that post, Axel. It was posted rather than scheduled, so we did a quick retraction. You’ll see it on the blog tomorrow morning!
In retrospect: I could have thought of that myself. Now I spoiled it for all the others . . .
Still looking forward to the articel though 🙂
Hi, Chris. I’m enjoying your exploration of the ‘Prometheus’ tech.
I trust you know of Jodorowsky’s unproduced ‘Dune’ film, from the 70’s. ‘Mr. Yuk’ is almost directly from the Giger illustrations of the Harkonen castle.
I had no idea, actually! Thanks for calling out the connection! (And glad you’re enjoying. Tomorrow’s the last interface, then the report card, and then a very special post from one of the interface designers!)
This reminds me of a plan I’ve heard to to build a bunch of scary spikes around the US’s long term radioactive material storage facility to warn people away.
It also reminds me of a plan I heard to redo the nuclear warning logo from the abstract black & yellow design which is only scary if you know what it means, and replace it with an image of a person running from rays.
Both wise. These huge interface timeframe issues have also been tackled by the Long Now. <3 them.
Well the second one was in part due to problems that have been had when radioactive waste is lost in places that aren’t modernized, to whom an abstract symbol means nothing, such as the Goiânia accident.
I had not heard of this, and….horrifying… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goi%C3%A2nia_accident