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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Truth Behind Mutants




The truth is out there.


While it may not be in the form that many "X-Files" fans had hoped, such as extraterrestrial visitors, several plots in the popular sci-fi program are given scientific explanations in a new book by one of the show's science advisers. That's one reason "The X-Files," now in its seventh season, is so compelling, says Anne Simon, author of "The Real Science Behind The X-Files: Microbes, Meteorites, and Mutants" (Simon & Schuster, $25).


Simon offers a scientific basis for popular story lines, including the killer Alaskan worms and the deadly mites that were awakened after millions of years by loggers. "Science lends a lot of realism to the show, and that lends to its popularity," said Simon, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Massachusetts.


For example, in the episode "Darkness Falls," loggers were found dead and covered in swarms of mites glowing iridescent green. Simon suggests that the fictional mites' DNA could have been protected by amber (fossilized sap from the trees). Noting that certain bacteria are able to form spores, which protect them from harsh environments and allow them to lay dormant for millions of years, Simon hypothesizes that the fictional mites' eggs could have been revived when a volcano hurled them into the air and the force of falling back to earth caused them to crack.


When "The X-Files" premiered in 1992, Simon writes, she was dubious of a science-fiction show. But she was agreeably surprised. Not only were scientists correctly depicted, she says, but the methods they use are realistic, and so is the equipment.


Simon, who knows the show's creator, Chris Carter, often reads the scripts for scientific accuracy. She also suggests ideas for plots, such as the real-life fruit flies that have legs coming out of their mouths.


"I thought that would be a cool 'X-File' organism," Simon said. "I made a couple of other semi-suggestions, but nothing else has hit his fancy."