Sunday, September 30, 2012

"Zarig - The Only Home For Life"

(c) 2012


Jordan S. Bassior

Many people are excited by the recent discovery of hundreds of extra-Sharan planets, including numerous small Zarigoid worlds.  From at least a couple of these, astronomers have detected the spectrographic signature of liquid water, an essential for life.

This has led certain optimistic fabulists to imagine that these small Zarigoid worlds could be home to life, even sapient life, and perhaps technological civilizations like our own.  This is, sadly, improbable, and in this article I will explain why.

As is well known, our homeworld Zarig has a mass of about 25 sextillion tons, which ensures that our crust is stable and avoids the crustal fracturing and motion which afflicts smaller zarigoid worlds over long periods of time, and would in theory prevent the formation of the great shield volcanoes (because the tectonic plates would move relative to them) which build the atmosphere which helps warm our world and is constantly abraded by the wind from our daystar Shara.  Why, on such unfortunate planets, the scraping against or even subduction of these plates would cause the very crust to shake:  how would a crystal forest ever get to grow? ...  and we well know the importance of the crystal forests in our ecosystem, only they are able to reach down through the ocean layers to bring up metals from the ocean floor up into the nitrogen-oxygen-carbon dioxide layer which higher life breathes!

Such small planets -- say of around 6-7 sextillion tons, like little lifeless Zag, the next world in from us around Shara -- would have trouble retaining air and water when their suns flared, which happens quite frequently.   A habitable planet, such as Zarig, has a surface atmospheric pressure of 100 or more pounds per square inch, which is what makes it possible to have a layer of air-crystal-plants which screens the surface from deadly sharan radiation, while collecting the useful energy and transmitting down to the surface through the airplants' root systems.

Indeed, crystallife might never evolve.   Computer models demonstrate that on a smaller zarigoid world, most of the vital heavy metals, including the radioactives, would almost completely settle to the center.   Life's own evolution would be slowed by the relative dearth of uranium and thorium, to name the two most common actinides, in the crust.

And would intelligent life evolve at all?  We gained our intelligence by the intellectual complexity required by our triphibious lives:  walking, climbing, spreading our wings to fly, and swimming through the oceans.  On a smaller zarigoid world, would the air even be thick enough for large animals to fly?  Would there be enough water to cover the entire planet?  All the smaller zarigoid planets in our own system either have no oceans or pathetic little oceans that are at most a few miles deep, from which the naked crust protrudes into the barren skies.

Civilization would be difficult.  Even if there were enough metals to support life, would there be enough to allow the construction of tools, houses and vehicles?  Even primitive Zarigians could get metals by felling the appropriate plants or slaying the appropriate beasts and extracting their nodules:  how would the hypothetical primitives obtain metals on a sub-Zarigoid world, where the plants and beasts had no such nodules?  They could hardly mine their ocean floors without first building all sorts of vehicles and machines for such a purpose, and they could not build such vehicles and other machines without first having the metals!

And how would this hypothetic race ever attain space travel?  On Zarig it was easy to float our airports higher and higher in the sky, until eventually we managed to build ones high enough above the atmosphere for our atomic rockets to easily attain orbit?  Would life on a subZarigoid world even have enough radioactives to build atomic rockets?  The weak forces of chemistry are of course inadequate to attain orbital spaceflight.

No, it is clear that the subZarigoid worlds now appearing in our space telescopes are either lifeless, or their life non-sapient, or forever bound to their planetary surfaces.  Let us shed tears of pity from all  of our eyes for such poor lost beings, if they exist; and waggle our tentacles and flash our skins in relief that we were born on the one and only planet in the Universe uniquely crafted by the Creator for the evolution of life, sweet benign Zarig!


  1. An interesting world you're building here. Think of expanding on the idea? It strikes me as having potential for xenofiction.

    1. Heya ... sorry I took so long to unscreen this. I've been very busy the last week or so and I hadn't even realized it was to Fantastic Worlds rather than Jordan179.

      I had the thought myself -- I originally created Zarig to show how every one of the arguments for the uninhabitability of superterrestrials could be turned on its head: given an inhabited superterrestrial, the natives would doubtless find terrestrials the Earth's size to be unlikely homes for life and civilization. I hope you caught just how hellish Zarig would be from our point of view -- temperatures well below the boiling point of water but still too hot for all but extremophiles, planet-girdling supertropical saltwater oceans with living "islands," everything reeking of growth and decay, tremendous amounts of heavy metals and even radioactives in all life forms to the point that merely breathing in unfiltered Zarigian air would be cumulatively toxic to us: I kindly chose to have the atmospheric carbon be in the form of dioxide but actually a lot of superterrestrials might have it in the form of monoxide, depending on the free-carbon to free-oxygen ratio, with very little free oxygen in the atmosphere at all (since the Zarigians have biochemistries fundamentally like our own including breathing diatomic oxygen as an oxidizer, they would find those worlds toxic as well).

      But yeah -- I could see doing xenofiction about the Zarigians. Especially as they explored the Universe and found that smaller (and bigger) worls might also have life :)