With NASA’s recent discovery that water flows on Mars, life in some form on that planet now seems plausible. Imagine if the tables were turned and intelligent Martian beings explored life on Earth. If they studied our modern society, they might be perplexed by some of our dietary and exercise habits. Here’s what a Martian’s report might look like:
Human beings travel in land-based vehicles from their homes to facilities called fitness centres. Once inside, the humans engage in curiously repetitive behaviours. Some of them walk on moving sidewalks called treadmills. Others pedal stationary bicycles. Still others row boats that are not in water. In all cases, they go nowhere. I’ve witnessed many humans performing various lifting movements against the force of gravity using objects they aptly call dumbbells.
Some humans engage in group fitness classes. A leader jumps around to the beat of loud music that would give me an antennae-ache. The human species’ evolution to date does not include extrasensory perception. Thus, the leader shouts commands at the participants. The participants attempt to imitate the leader’s every move. I’ve previously noted this sort of purposeful mimicry in apes and chimpanzees.
The rooms in which people exercise have mirrored walls. Humans seem to gain pleasure from observing themselves. The stronger ones flex and pose gratuitously. Perhaps that’s a mating ritual. Unlike our highly evolved, streamlined Martian bodies, humans come in various shapes and sizes. Some of them work out a lot in pursuit of thinner, stronger or more flexible bodies. Some fear aging. If only they knew that, by Martian standards, a 100-year-old is still a baby.
After completing their exercise, they leave the fitness centre. Some of them drive to their workplace where they typically sit for the next eight hours. Others drive to a building where they exchange currency for something called a doughnut. I’ve yet to determine why they consume these rings composed of sugar and fat if their desire is to lose weight. The doughnuts are often accompanied by a dark beverage containing artificial sweetener that humans think will prevent weight gain. Such beverages – which have no nutritional value – are an odd choice considering Earth has plenty of clean drinking water.
After the humans drive back to their homes, some of them remove boxes from a cooling machine and place them inside a heating machine. With the push of a button, they have hot food ready to eat in minutes. I haven’t figured out why so many of them eat this type of calorically dense food given that they are sedentary most hours of the day as opposed to their hunter and gatherer ancestors.
Once the meal is complete, the humans walk approximately 10 metres and sit down. They use a relatively primitive remote control and watch moving images on a TV. We had similar technology on Mars light years ago. Popular genres of programs include cooking, weight-loss and sports. I’ve documented many cases of humans sitting for hours at a time, staring at programs and only moving to get what they call a snack. Snacks often consist of more over-processed foods packaged in colourful human-made materials such as plastic. The empty plastic containers are later placed in bins outside their homes for collection by other humans in an effort to lessen damage to the Earth’s environment. Sighting of humans hauling bins to the curb suggests that even inactive humans engage in occasional, physically demanding movements.
Optimally, humans should sleep an average of six to eight hours, but I’ve observed many staying up late playing mindless games or communicating with fellow humans elsewhere on Earth via their computers. In the morning, many of them feel tired and irritable.
The majority of humans are overweight according to their blueprint. This is a recent phenomenon. On my last visit to Earth just 50 years ago, only a small percentage of humans were too heavy. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. Some humans are very active and fit and eat healthy meals, which they prepare from whole foods cultivated on Earth.
I’ve learned from this galactic voyage that there is variation among humans in terms of their physical appearance, health and habits. Some of these differences are genetic, but most are due to individual choices and behaviours or access to information and other resources. Although they differ in many ways from us, humans share a common bond with us Martians – the desire to live long and prosper.