Discoveries and Science Fiction

Discoveries, discoveries, discoveries… there’s been a lot of them recently. The most exciting has been the seven planets discovered around the brown dwarf, Trappist-1. Below is an artist’s impression of what the planet might look like in reality, thanks to NASA.

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Once you look at the orbital periods of the seven planets, you soon realise that they orbit in resonance. For example for every three orbits planet d completes, planet e completes two orbits. This is very likely to mean that the whole system has settled down into a very stable configuration. And this means that the planets are very likely to have the same side facing the their sun all the time. Taking the consequences even further… we’ve got what are called Terminator worlds i.e. there is a ribbon of area around the world where night meets day, i.e. you could be in the forever dawn or evening. It is also like that that same band will include a narrower band where the temperature is just right. This, in my opinion, includes those planets that are outside the Goldilocks zone (the zone where you are likely to find liquid water on the planet – the Goldilocks zone planet are e, f and g).

I don’t know if Nature Futures were lucky or they had been tipped off about the impending announcement so they get one of their authors to write a story, but they did publish such a one. It is here.

There are various implications of this discovery. With the planets aligned as they are, the chances become higher of having a human-habitable planet. With Trappist-1 only being 39.6 light years away from us, it becomes an attractive long term aim for us humans to try to get there.

Our current technology could, with time and investment, do it with generation ships. So it’s feasible. There are promising technologies on the horizon that could make the journey easier. Hence the buzz of excitement this announcement has caused.

Shortly before this came out in the press, there was another intriguing announcement, namely that life forms were discovered in crystals in the Naica caves of Mexico, which could be up to 50,000 years old. Yes, I did say IN CRYSTALS. These microbes existed on minerals such as iron and manganese in hot temperatures. The hot temperature was basically the microbial energy source. The discoverer called it ‘super life‘. See here for details.

Now, let’s look at how these two discoveries could be put together. We have Terminator worlds where one face will always be much hotter than that comfortable band for human habitation. Those hotter places could harbour similar ‘super life‘.

All it would take would be for someone or some robot to bring back a crystal with microbial life back to the human settlements… and you could have the settlement wiped out, or worse the microbes could interfere with our DNA or RNA to change some aspects of our human traits (I’ll leave which up to your all too vivd imaginations).

I did once have a story publish about something very similar to this kind of microbial life locked away from the rest of the world. I’d placed it on Mars. Yes, there were differences. Unfortunately the publication concerned is no longer available. So I am repeating it below.

But you will find it begs all sorts of questions that we, as a human race, ought to be asking. And this is only the tiniest tip of the iceberg. It really is time for science fiction to once again take up the mantle of trying to discuss our likely futures, both to warn of where the human race might go wrong and to identify opportunities that might, for one reason or another, be missed.

 

A Fate of Dust

The shadow of the cliff wall broke through the amber dust to almost touch the left side of the dart she was flying in. Claudine shrieked.

The shriek became a cough. That turned into more coughs. These changed into retching that continued on and on.

At last, it subsided enough for her to get her breath back and her bleary eyesight to clear. Her faceplate was splattered with a few spots that looked like blood. They were probably some remnants of her breakfast, though she could not remember eating anything that was as dark a red. Out of habit, she touched the spacesuit’s switch to clean the faceplate. Her view dimmed momentarily before she could again see through a clear faceplate.

Claudine eased back into her seat, but could not relax. If only she could be sure her autopilot had picked out a safe route through this, the wo

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5 thoughts on “Discoveries and Science Fiction

    1. Hello Sarah. Science fiction is one of the few genres where the imagination can be extreme. The others are fantasy and horror – which may be why all three genres are lumped together as speculative fiction. The more extreme the science fiction, the harder it is to write in a way that those who don’t have a natural empathy to imagination can understand it. An simple example is that I do on occasion have to come up with new words to describe concepts because there is nothing available in the english language to do this. (Note to self – really must put together a science fiction english dictionary of the words I’ve come up with.) But this imagination needs be fed with seed corn of discoveries and inventions – which is why it is indeed an exciting time to be a science fiction writer with so much ‘new science’ coming along.

      1. I totally agree with you – there’s never been a better time to be both a science fiction writer and reader:). I seem to recall there was an online science fiction dictionary of all the inventions and phrases coins for said inventions – it used to be part of the SF Reader website database and was very extensive. But that was several years ago – I don’t know whether it has been kept up or what happened to it…

  1. Fascinating to imagine how it would be to live on a “terminator” world. Tempting to suppose the abrupt barriers to settlement could lead to forms of religion premised on forbidden territories protected by a vengeful god.

    1. Hello JS. Welcome to my blog. Interesting thoughts here. A Terminator world would certainly affect the way a society develops in many different ways. Religion is definitely one. Population restraint could be another. Difficulty in developing science is a possible impedance. And so it goes on. There is certainly enough food for thought for a novel with this idea.

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