WANT Part XIV: Citric acid for blood

By Phil Plait | June 4, 2012 12:56 pm

Of course I want one of these!

It would give me something to eat while crawling through service corridors looking for the cat.

Tip o’ the sawed-off shotgun — for close encounters — to Wil Wheaton.

Related Posts:

WANT Part XIII: Moon throw
WANT Part XII: Earth Globe Fire Pit
WANT Part XI: To boldly slice
WANT Part IX: Levitating TARDIS edition
WANT Part VIII: Zen and the art of Apollo maintenance
Want: Part 6
Want: Part V, lunar furniture edition
Want: Part IV
Want: Part III
Want: Part II

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Geekery, Humor, SciFi, TV/Movies
MORE ABOUT: Alien, Pez, want

Comments (26)

  1. CR

    SWEET! (Pun intended, of course.)

  2. Zyggy

    Wait… it doesn’t dispense the Pez through the 2nd set of jaws?

    Subtract 10 points from Alien-Pez.


  3. Evie Plait

    Phil, what is that thing? I can’t make heads or tails of it!

  4. TGAP Dad

    I know I’m nerd-picking he, but IIRC, the dialog in original Alien film referred to “molecular” acid. I you want citric acid, eat an orange, Phil!

  5. Gary Ansorge

    3 TGAP

    Citric acid – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citric_acidMolecular formula, C6H8O7

    Note that citric acid IS a molecular acid. In fact, so is every other acid I know of, such as H2SO3, H2SO4, HCL, HF,,,and so one…

    Molecule means two or more elements stuck together in a covalent bond…

    Gary 7

  6. Carey

    I don’t know, citric acid (or its sodium salt, sodium citrate) prevents blood clots. If you let the alien “face plant” you and insert a Pez into your body, you might bleed to death.

    This convoluted nerd statement brought to you by many hours of platelet donation.

  7. MadScientist

    The lettering is unfortunate – it looks like “PEE” to me even though I know what it’s supposed to be. The color of what’s dispensed doesn’t help.

  8. Electro

    I would be reduced to spending hours on end with food coloring and a scalpel turning the PEZ candies into sets of “little jaws”

  9. Blargh

    TGAP Dad: the joke is that citric acid is an ingredient of PEZ (it’s a common candy flavoring).

    … and I too want one of these now.

  10. CR

    I’m guessing that somebody actually custom made that Alien dispenser, using the head and tip of the tail from the old MPC model kit (which was later re-released by AMT-Ertl)…

    …which means that I can make one of these myself, since I have that kit! Woo-hooooo! (Runs off to workshop to dig out kit, then remembers that he has no PEZ dispensers. Sigh.)

  11. DLC

    You should get moving, Phil. you know they mostly only come at night.
    . . . mostly.


  12. Jess Tauber

    Yada Yada Yada- its all so innocent and goofy, til the first signs of heartburn start to express themselves, and we all know where that leads- chest bursters with tophat and cane terrorizing the space diner customers with song and dance:

    Hello my honey, hello my baby, hello my ragtime gal, send me a post by wire- baby my heart’s on fire!
    If you refuse me, honey you’ll lose me, then you’ll be left alone- please telephone and tell me I’m your owwwwwwwwwwwwwnnnnnn…..!

    And that’s Barfolemew to you, buddy (and watch the tail…)

  13. amstrad

    I likes to eat you with my little mouth, too.

  14. JMW

    <Abby Sciuto impression>Phil! Phil! Phil! Check out Zen Pencils today!</Abby Sciuto impression>

  15. mike burkhart

    Just be glad its not a facehuger. By the way the upcomeing movie Promethies is a prequal to Alien. A little off topic: Iv’e returned to my alma mater Wikiuniversity to bursh up on my astronomical knowlge.

  16. mike burkhart

    One more thing , I see a major flaw in the Aliens repoductive process’ when the facehuger inserts the alien embryo into a human, the bodys defences (antibodys and other ) would attack it and destory it . Any foregin object(execpt food and drink) that enters the human body is subject to attack by the imune system especaly if it is causing damage to the cells of the body , the only way I can see that the alien would grow and burst out of you is if the facehuger surpress the imune system.

  17. josie

    mike- think about how well our immune system deals with parasites on its own, not very well. Tapeworms guinea worms, trichonella and any other of a whole host (pun intended) of critters can get established from their initial depository life stage. It’s not that far fetched ūüėČ nice thought though!

    Also, food and drink are not ingested into the body outright; they are ingested into the gut tract which is essentially a big windy hole running through your body mouth to anus. It’s only through digestion, the breaking down of the food into its nutrients that any of it gets into the body proper.

  18. Joseph G

    @#s 3,5,8,12, 13, et al: This whole comment thread is made of pure win.
    Concentrated molecular win.

    @17: Heh. “Big windy hole”. But yeah, the other question I would have is: how on (or off) Earth did the aliens evolve to parasitize critters (humans) that they’d never encountered before? Those facehuggers are perfectly adapted to hugging, well, faces. What if they encounter a sentient crab or pterasaur or something that’s got mouthparts that are difficult to grab on to, or just plain doesn’t have a human-sized head?
    Also, if the aliens have acid blood, doesn’t that imply that imply such a radically different body chemistry that a human simply wouldn’t make a good incubator? Wouldn’t human blood be like lye to them?

  19. Mark Hansen

    Joseph G, the facehuggers can also grab dogs, or oxen depending on which version of Alien 3 you watch.

  20. Jess Tauber

    Joseph G ti:kama:nude: “Wouldn‚Äôt human blood be like lye to them?”

    If I were you, I would neither lye to them nor with them. Not much of a sense of humor, that bunch….

    As for acid blood, its ‘molecular’, and you can hide all sorts of mysteriousness under that particular rubric (or Kubrick).

    One other thing- exactly what is it the Aliens eat? Little chest-burster can’t just absorb water to reach drone size, and what about big mamma? She’s constantly losing nonwater mass laying eggs. Something’s missing in this picture- after all the Alien body plan is built as if they had digestive tracts themselves- otherwise why teeth, why a body axis and tail?

    I know- they do nuclear transmutation- all they need is water and a few ions in it!

  21. Nigel Depledge

    Gary Ansorge (5) said:

    Note that citric acid IS a molecular acid. In fact, so is every other acid I know of, such as H2SO3, H2SO4, HCL, HF,,,and so one…

    Molecule means two or more elements stuck together in a covalent bond…

    Your last sentence is correct, which means that some of your examples are wrong.

    For instance, H2SO4 is the formula of sulphuric acid, which only ever exists as ions, not as a molecule (and in small-molecule chemistry, the term “molecule” almost exclusively refers to uncharged species).

    HCl and HF are the only “molecular acid” candidates in my book, because the pure substances are molecular gases, while in aqueous solution these are both strong acids (i.e. they dissociate completely into ions, so the hydrogen ion concentration is approximately equal to the acid concentration).

    Other, more technically “correct”, molecular acids, such as formic acid and citric acid, can exist as molecules in aqueous solution, but these are weak acids and thus would not be able to result in the effects seen in the movies, no matter what their concentration.

    By way of comparison, Coca-cola contains phosphoric acid and has a pH of approximately 2, which is pretty acidic. Lemon juice contains citric acid and ascorbic acid and has a pH in the vicinity of 1.5 – 2. A concentrated solution of HCl (say, 10 Molar, which is nearly as concentrated as it can get) will have a pH of -1.

  22. Jess Tauber

    Ah, but the Alien produces SMART acid- it knows when to activate itself, and what to react with! It keeps its business ends hidden til needed. Many proteins are acidic or have acidic side chains- all relatively weak of course. But who knows what odd structures might be hidden in an alien molecule. Maybe they use protons made with Mu or Tau series particles, or antimatter stabilized against annihilation til ready. Wouldn’t a positron act as a wonderful ‘acid’ (if not technically one)?

  23. Nigel Depledge

    @ Jess Tauber (22) –

    I think my head just exploded trying to think of all the chemistry that might or might not happen. Positronic acid!

  24. josie

    #18 Joseph –I agree with your concern! It had bothered me for a long time that Aliens, being naive to humans, were so facile with parasitizing us.

    So rather than suspending my disbelief entirely here is my rationalization: Aliens are a pseudo domesticated stock of genetically engineered game beast. The Predators use them as their quarry on hunting trips and have bred them to be dangerously flexible in host specificity.
    Predators are humanoid..ish. It looks like they have the same body plan as humans if not the same innards. So the chestbursters see that same basic shape in humans and just go for it.

    In reality most parasites are so dependent on a specific host that they could not switch like that. But that’s the part of my disbelief I suspend. After all, Ellen Ripley was my childhood hero so I cut the series a lil slack :)

  25. Brian Too

    I always chocked the “molecular acid” stuff up to the technobabble that sci-fi regularly uses. Like “sonic screwdriver” and “neutrino probes” or “tachyon bursts”. Sounds cool, vaguely plausible in a handwaving sort of way, just accept it as a plot point and move on.

    After all, if the “molecular acid” were as dangerous all that, how can the alien stand to use the stuff as blood? Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s blood vessels are made of unobtanium. And all it’s cell walls. And everything else the creature is made of!

  26. Nigel Depledge

    @ Josie (24) –

    Heh. Agreed.

    @ Brian Too (25) –

    Yes, you’re probably right. There are some acids that dissolve metals quite readily but take a far longer time to dissolve or degrade certain organic substances. After all, we humans make hydrochloric acid in our stomachs, and continually secrete mucus to protect the stomach lining.

    Oddly, given that the Aliens’ blood attacks metals and organic tissue equally aggressively, it seems more likely to me that it is a strong alkali such as sodium hydroxide (which readily dissolves aluminium that might conceivably be used in spacecraft structure). However, there is always the problem of what the Aliens use for veins and arteries. Maybe they naturally produce PTFE and use this for blood vessels . . .


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