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Can I get your opinions please?

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Space_Goose

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First of all, I have absolutely no idea what sections of these forums this question should be under so admins, you may want to move it..

As I said in my introductory post on these forums, I joined initially to help me with research for a realistic science fiction novel that I am in the process of planning and writing. I have gotten some information and ideas from these forums. I also joined another forum which has to do with all sciences including astronomy, biology, geology ect. Recently, I went to this other forum and posted a query regarding Plate Tectonics. Most scientists seems to agree that in order for a planet to support advanced life, Plate Tectonics is a necessity. So what I was wanting to know on this other forum was if anyone had any ideas or suggestions who this rule could be broken. If there was some way that may complex life could evolve on a world without plate tectonics. The reason I gave for my question was that I was trying to think outside the box.

In just about every sci-fi move or story you see, aliens are always very human like. They are almost always bi-pedal and for most part, seem to have the same biology as use, breathing oxygen, drinking water ect. For purposes of my story, I wanted humans t encounter life that was completely exotic and completely un-earth like. So I was trying to get them to discuss this.

Basically everyone of the other forums seem to believe that biologically wise, advanced life would have to be like us. According to the members of this other Forum, all advance life would have to either be a plant or an animal and there for would require CO2 and Oxygen. One guy on the forums said that the basic laws of evolution would be the same everywhere so life is likely to be very familiar on another planet and be very earth like.

I am just not sure about that. Personally I have read too much about microbial life and how resilient it can be to think the above. Granted, there is a huge difference between microbial life and complex life but I still personally believe that a complex plant or animal could evolve in an environment with little to no liquid water and little to no Oxygen and CO2.

One scenario I have come up with that I am really thinking about, is having a planet very much like Earth, around the same gravity, temperature, and even has Oxygen and liquid water. But besides Oxygen, it has high amounts of Chlorine in its atmosphere. Now of course, any Earth animal or planet wouldn't last long on this world but I was thinking that like could have evolved on a world like this. The people on the other forums shot this down as well. They said it just wasn't possible.

So what do you guys thing about the above. I would love to get a debate going just so I can judge what you guys thinks about all of this.

I realize that is probably isn't what this forum is for but I was really frustrated with the other forum. No one was willing to debate on anything. One guy even said alien life to be advanced would have to be very much like us. When I bought up the fact that if things would have happened different on earth, why couldn't reptiles have evolved to become intelligent. His answer to that was no, because reptiles can't use tools...... So I got very frustrated there. I really did hesitate to post this on here but I figure the worst that could happen is the post could be locked… right????

Would appreciate the thoughts of those here.
 
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Boris_Badenov

Guest
Any intelligent life form is going to have to be able to manipulate tools. Other than that the sky's the limit.
 
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Space_Goose

Guest
One of the things that kept being said on the other forums as I was trying to come up with different none Earth like scenerios is that Oxygen is required for complex life because oxygen is needed for the complex chemical reactions with Carbon. At least that is what everyone was say so, they concluded that complex life could not form in an oxygen free environment. I bought up the fact.... what about Silicon based life. They told me, Silicon could not form life.......

I am glad to see that someone besides me thinks that life can be more varied.
 
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csmyth3025

Guest
The very early Earth had virtually no free oxygen. If all those nasty blue-green algae hadn't crapped out oxygen all over the place we might be the kind of creatures your trying to imagine.

Chris
 
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neilsox

Guest
Life can evolve without plate tectonics, but some of the essential resources near the surface get used up, unless volcanism and or plate tectonics renews those resources. Advanced life would have to evolve quickly (is that possible?) Very advanced life could likely cope with the shortages of some resources. Free chlorine and free oxygen are rare in this solar system. The blue green algae used methane and water to produce much of the free oxygen of Earth's atmosphere. Could a different living organism make free chlorine from sodium chloride = salt and water? Maybe, chemists use electricity instead of the Sun as the energy source. Likely the concept has not been heavily funded, so maybe. We don't know of any organisms that can survive in equal amounts of free chlorine and free oxygen, but the blue green algae flourished in a mixture if methane and free oxygen, so perhaps. Please correct me if some of this is wrong. Neil
 
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adrenalynn

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>> Life can evolve without plate tectonics

I don't mean to nit-pick on you, Neil, but would you reconsider that statement? It seems you base a lot of your premise on that, but exemplars today, right this instant, appear infinitely scarce.
 
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csmyth3025

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I think your focus on methane is misplaced, Neil. The Wikipedia article on cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) contains the following passage:

Photosynthesis in cyanobacteria generally uses water as an electron donor and produces oxygen as a by-product, though some may also use hydrogen sulfide as occurs among other photosynthetic bacteria. Carbon dioxide is reduced to form carbohydrates via the Calvin cycle.
There's a lot of other technical information in this article, which can be found here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyanobacteria

Chris
 
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kg

Guest
Is there any possibility that volcanism and plate tectonics could be replaced by meteor strikes if they happened often enough?
 
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CAllenDoudna

Guest
Well, Goose, I wouldn't let a few narrow-minded people block a good idea. There is no reason to believe dinosaurs couldn't have developped a great civilization and perhaps our iron mines are the rust of their cities. I don't believe that for one minute, but fiction is just that--fiction--and once in awhile it's sort of enjoyable to dispense with reality.

Intelligent life can take many forms: human, octopus, crab--all would be suitable if you're not needlely narrow-minded. Is there some reason why animals can't also be plants? Do plants need roots in the ground or can't they have feet yet still carry on photosynthesis?
 
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captdude

Guest
As a person who enjoys writing himself, I have a few ideas to share. The people of your planet would lack metal resources so ANY metal would be extremely precious. There would be no continental drift. If it was a water world like earth - then all of the continents would be slowly eroding away until there was no dry land. (a fine concept for a novel right there) No earth quakes, no volcanism and no rising mountains.
Their technology would have to be "green" based - as in organic farming, beasts of burden, wind, geothermal, heat & hydro power. As for oxygen breathing; with a planetary sampling of one to base any "educated" opion on - I think you could take the liberty of creating a non-carbon based life form (silicon?) Here is a link that I think will give you some ideas on that premise.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypothetical_types_of_biochemistry
 
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Couerl

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Writing good sci-fi is just that, writing good sci-fi.. Nobody cares about plate tectonics in good sci-fi, they care about a good story with good characters, plots, themes, postulations etc . If plate tectonics is critical to your overall extrapolation then fine, include it somehow but, if it just turns out to be pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo for the sake of something "new" then forgettabout it.
 
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a_lost_packet_

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Space_Goose":3253nr8c said:
... If there was some way that may complex life could evolve on a world without plate tectonics. The reason I gave for my question was that I was trying to think outside the box.
Well, "The Box" is there for a reason. Is a "dead world" without plate tectonics absolutely necessary? Here's an article that sums up the major contributions of plate tectonics fairly well:Astrobio-Plate Tectonics Do you need a carbon cycle? Are there other mechanisms that could help strengthen a protective magnetic field? Do your critters need igneous rock formations? If you're going to go "all out" and break the mold, break it thoroughly. There's no use leaving logical speedbumps if you want to suspend disbelief. What about a world where life is confined to the sea and tidal forces caused by a close companion act to redistribute what elements are necessary and deliveries of much needed materials are facilitated by the pairs' attraction of comets and meteors? If you're making a "not Earth" then make it different...

Basically everyone of the other forums seem to believe that biologically wise, advanced life would have to be like us. According to the members of this other Forum, all advance life would have to either be a plant or an animal and there for would require CO2 and Oxygen. One guy on the forums said that the basic laws of evolution would be the same everywhere so life is likely to be very familiar on another planet and be very earth like.
Uh... Well, they're mostly wrong. Tell 'em I said so. :) Now, the Laws of Evolution are the same everywhere - They're not confined to just Earth. But, Evolution is a process and is not bound by chemical bonds. Evolution is the journey of living species changing through time. As long as they are alive, can somehow pass along their traits to offspring and these traits can be acquired through mutation, the species can participated in the game of Evolution. Who can say whether the definition of "plant" or "animal" even applies to organisms that have a completely different evolutionary history than those on Earth? Taxonomy is a human invention, not a Natural one. We classify organisms in order to establish some kind of sensible order to the collection of life on Earth. But, that doesn't mean those are the only classifications available. Taxonomists are a notoriously unruly bunch, for all of their pigeonholing. I'd love to see opposing groups arguing over the proper placement of slime molds...

I am just not sure about that. Personally I have read too much about microbial life and how resilient it can be to think the above. Granted, there is a huge difference between microbial life and complex life but I still personally believe that a complex plant or animal could evolve in an environment with little to no liquid water and little to no Oxygen and CO2.
Good for you for having doubts of their claims! But, while you may have doubts, realize how subtle they really are. For instance, water is the most common solvent on Earth. It is simply AWESOME at bringing compounds together and breaking them apart again. You want a world without water? That's fine - Figure out another mechanism that accomplishes the same thing. Oxygen is great because it facilitates so many energy producing processes. Want to get rid of it in your organisms? OK, here's a blurb on cellular respiration: Biology - Cellular Respiration Figure out another way for all those Cell Bio 101 processes to happen without it and you're on your way.

One scenario I have come up with that I am really thinking about, is having a planet very much like Earth, around the same gravity, temperature, and even has Oxygen and liquid water. But besides Oxygen, it has high amounts of Chlorine in its atmosphere. Now of course, any Earth animal or planet wouldn't last long on this world but I was thinking that like could have evolved on a world like this. The people on the other forums shot this down as well. They said it just wasn't possible.
Chlorine is corrosive. It's nasty. But, for that matter, oxygen is corrosive as well. But, chlorine is a necessary element for life. Without it, photosynthesis wouldn't be possible as we know it. It has roles within our own bodies as well. But, too much free Cl in the atmosphere would cause problems with living cells. Just as household bleach breaks the boundaries of the cell walls of troublesome organisms, so would chlorine as it transported corrosive oxygen to the surface cells of living things. Their cell walls would have to be very different, able to handle Cl's corrosive, oxidizing nature. More importantly, Evolution would have to have managed to overcome this. Cells that, on Earth, may have evolved in such a way to provide a stable, interior environment that protected against the solvency of water would have to have also evolved to counter the corrosive nature of Chlorine.

So what do you guys thing about the above. I would love to get a debate going just so I can judge what you guys thinks about all of this.
Methinks you think to much. :) In other words, I think you're overthinking the problem. Look at the real Hard Science Fiction authors out there. What do they do? For instance, do the killer B's of Brin, Bear and Benford spend a lot of time on chemistry? Chemistry is hard. Chemistry is not well understood by many people. Further, it's not "fanstastic" like Physics. There is absolutely NO ROOM for mystery in chemistry. Chemistry relies on absolutes. If element A is present and element B is present and environment C is established then reaction D will take place - ALWAYS. There's no random die roll, no uncertainty. Without chemistry's complete stability, life would not exist. But, for all that, it's usually ignored in Sci-Fi because, quite frankly, editors know that readers are going to skip those pages...

I realize that is probably isn't what this forum is for but I was really frustrated with the other forum. No one was willing to debate on anything. One guy even said alien life to be advanced would have to be very much like us.
Ask him to give an example...

When I bought up the fact that if things would have happened different on earth, why couldn't reptiles have evolved to become intelligent. His answer to that was no, because reptiles can't use tools......
?? Uh, his answer doesn't make any sense. Being a reptile doesn't preclude one from using tools. Being intelligent, on the other hand, is part of the requirements for advanced tool use. Find a reasonably intelligent reptile with the physical ability to use tools and an advantageous survival strategy available through tool use, and I bet you'd find a tool-using reptile.

Just don't forget that taxonomy is a human invention, not a Natural one - The definition of "reptile" may not apply off of Earth no matter how "reptilish" your aliens may look.

Would appreciate the thoughts of those here.
In my opinion..

You're writing Science Fiction. Well, that means there's some fiction in there, somewhere, right? How can you have starship hulls made of unobtainium when, in your Universe, there's no unobtanium? Sure, use science to help create a believable Universe. BUT, when science fails or our knowledge is simply too limited, it's up to the writer to finish the painting that our ignorance can not complete. Combine real life knowledge with creative license. After all, you're writing a fictional story. It'd be helpful if there was some fiction in it.

Do you need a dead world? Do you need chlorine? Do you need to focus so much on chemistry that your readers will fall asleep trying to balance equations? Sure, you need to pay attention to the big stuff. But, you only need to pay attention to the "Big Stuff" that people know.

People know about poisons. So, an alien species that evolved on a different world with different chemicals present would likely find much of our food poisonous. It may even find our atmosphere poisonous. Heck, it may not "breathe" as we understand it but secrete some noxious gooey substance that acts as a medium of exchange for cellular respiration. It may like our atmosphere just fine because of that, I don't know. The point is - You don't have to make readers crack open their organic chemistry books in order to understand your subtle hard-science points.

Paint your milieu with a broad brush. Use the fine brush for what it's made for - Characters and Story.

Nothing is more boring than reading a novel that is little more than a travel brochure. Don't turn yours into a chemistry book. Insert some vague references to some plausible evolution and neato chemistry hijinks and then let that part go on its own. Believe me, most readers are not going to email you asking how your alien species managed a Kreb's cycle. Focus on Characters, Story, Setting - In that order.
 
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a_lost_packet_

Guest
Couerl":2gvoybn5 said:
Writing good sci-fi is just that, writing good sci-fi.. Nobody cares about plate tectonics in good sci-fi, they care about a good story with good characters, plots, themes, postulations etc . If plate tectonics is critical to your overall extrapolation then fine, include it somehow but, if it just turns out to be pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo for the sake of something "new" then forgettabout it.
Absolutely. I am incapable of stating such points so succinctly. There are too many words and too much internet ink with which to create them for me to pass up such an opportunity. :)

Well said.
 
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Couerl

Guest
a_lost_packet_":owb2i0z1 said:
Absolutely. I am incapable of stating such points so succinctly..
I consider it considerate to consider people's reading time. I try and say what I mean with as little fat as possible. I'm not one of those who thinks the "average" person is stupid and I think they can fill in the blanks themselves and if they can't, well it's good practice.. :ugeek:
 
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