1. Wolf Daemon

    Wolf Daemon Active Member

    Jan 29, 2016
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    Half Terraformed Planet

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Wolf Daemon, Nov 6, 2016.

    How would a half terraformed planet effect people? How well would they be able to breath the air?

    In my universe, on un-livable rocks at least, colonies are created with their own oxygen supply and such but are only temporary as they try to terraform the planet with large terraforming machines (I have always imagined the terraformers from Aliens)


    An event occurred that caused inhabitants to flee certain planets and without constant looking after a lot of the terraformers would fail. My question is, what would become of the planet. Would there be enough air to breath for short times or would people need to continue to wearing oxygenated masks and such to live outside.

    And in the occurrence that people were stranded on the planet would they simply die or evolve/mutate to be better suited to breath the air?

    Anybody who knows me/of me on this board knows I have been creating an expansive universe for my book and more and this is something I have overlooked that I find interesting.
  2. Ebenezer Lux

    Ebenezer Lux Member

    Oct 31, 2016
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    Disclaimer that I am not a scientist, but let's look at Mars as an example. If it was partially terraformed, unless there was a properly pressurized and oxygenated dome, I doubt anyone would be able to breathe in a foreign atmosphere without a breathing apparatus. As for what would happen to a body outside the "terraformed" zone, that would depend on the default conditions of the planet before it was terraformed. This is an excellent question to post on Quora for scientists to puzzle out.

    An article that might have some interesting information about the effects of foreign environments on the human body.
    Wolf Daemon likes this.
  3. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 1, 2008
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    El Tembloroso Caribe
    The thing to remember about oxygen is that it is the sluttiest of elements. It hooks with anything that will give it the time of day. Without some kind of large-scale apparatus (technological or biosphere) to put oxygen back into free circulation, it very quickly binds out and is not usable to oxygen breathing types like you and I.

    They would die. The kind of evolution you're talking about to adapt an organism to breath another kind of atmosphere would be on the billions of years range, and not likely at all to happen to something as complex as a human. You need to start that kind of change with something very, very simple.
    Dreamsoap, Cave Troll and Denegroth like this.
  4. NigeTheHat

    NigeTheHat Contributor Contributor

    Nov 20, 2008
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    It'll depend how self-sustaining the system has become, and that'll probably depend on the planets in question.

    My memory of this stuff is pretty shaky (so treat the following with a possibly-talking-crap disclaimer), but I think that for Earth, one of the reasons our atmosphere hasn't been stripped away by the solar wind is our magnetosphere. Not every planet has got one, we do because the core's full of iron. If your planet doesn't, it's going to need the terraformers to keep replenishing the atmosphere. Some of them breaking wouldn't mean it was instantly uninhabitable, but they'd definitely be on a clock. If it does have a magnetosphere, it'll depend on if the biosphere's developed to an extent that it can sustain the oxygen levels. All of this could be different for every planet in your universe, so you can probably make most options plausible.
  5. CaitlinCarver

    CaitlinCarver Member

    Jun 15, 2016
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    What exactly do you mean by 'half-terraformed?' Do you mean that the terraforming process is half-complete, or only that half of the planet is terraformed? I'm going to assume the former in my reply.

    First of all, we're talking about lifeless rocks, right? Small, no atmosphere to speak of, and no life. (Remember that there is a HUGE ethical debate about terraforming other planets; ask me about it if you're interested.)

    It really depends on how far into the future your story is set. It's clearly between now and the point when humans possess the capacity to completely terraform a planet without setting up a colony first. It also depends on the technology you're using. If we're talking about small, lifeless rocks with no atmosphere, then several questions need to be asked. Is the planet's gravitational pull strong enough to hold an atmosphere, or if there artificial gravity in play? What is the trajectory of this rock/planet? How far is from the sun? How do people get power, if not from the sun? Surely, oil is old news by then.

    Now, on your half-terraformed planet, remember that the atmosphere doesn't yet protect the inhabitants of the planet from the sun's harmful and deadly UV rays, particularly UVC rays that we are protected from on Earth. They would probably die quickly and painfully from this oversight, but assuming they didn't, there is no way for evolution to kick into play unless the planet is at least 90% terraformed (don't quote me on the number; I'm not a real scientist yet). Think of the way evolution works. Those with 'weak' genes (in this case, those would couldn't breathe the air) would die before they were able to procreate, leaving those with stronger genes to procreate and pass on their genes to the next generation. However, it's not a 1-2-3-done process and takes tens of thousands of years at the very least. By then, who is to say that the descendants of those first human settlers are even human?
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  6. Denegroth

    Denegroth Banned

    Nov 20, 2016
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    South Florida
    Believe it or not I've given this some thought over the years. You take the ambitious technos and their sure-fire solutions, add it to the hit or miss nature of capitalism, throw in things like abandoned accelerator projects to balance a budge temporarily, or abandoning finding the vector for ebola just as the find is about to be made, for the same reason - the rust belt...and you have ample reason to imagine them starting a massive venture, and stopping in the middle of it. Or, as you propose in the OP, letting it fall into entropy due to lack of maintenance.

    How would those left behind on this planet with a half-assed attempt to terraform it survive? What would be their quality of life? (If I'm not mistaken the graphic in your OP is from Aliens, a good example of a fictional partial attempt.) What I was always left with when pondering this is the numbers. When planning their project the engineers worked out the requirements for the project to work - "work" meaning "create a livable environment." Should the project not be completed, then it would fail. Failure in this instance would mean the death of the life forms imported into the environs. So...it's a wash. Nobody lives. No story here.
  7. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

    Aug 8, 2015
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    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    Have you ever watched Ghosts of Mars, or Red Faction.
    Ghosts of Mars has 80% terraformed and they can breath, but they use breathing apparatus
    for those who are not acclimated to the thinner air.

    Red faction only regions within the terraforming regions allow them to breath. If anyone
    were to go out side of this 'fence' of breathable air would be in the Martian atmosphere
    and die. If one of the terraformers were to be disabled then the whole thing breaks down
    and the people inside the 'fence' would die slowly from oxygen deprivation, as the Martian
    atmosphere comes in to replace the air.

    So basically your people will need some sort of enviro-suit or breathing apparatus
    depending on how the terrafomed planet is along. 50% would be more advisable
    to have an enviro-suit as the atmosphere could possibly allow a lot of solar radiation
    in that would be lethal to them.
  8. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Potatoes again? Supporter Contributor

    Feb 12, 2015
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    Face down in the dirt
    As stated upthread, "half-terraformed" is a slippery concept, especially when you consider Terra herself. Would a world that resembled the Dry Valleys of Antarctica or the Atacama Desert in Chile be considered "terraformed" if it started out similar to Mars? What about if the starting point was Venus?

    Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy takes Mars from its present day state to one where children can play on the beach and swim in the Northern Ocean, but along the way he addresses both ethical and practical concerns. At one point, the environment has been altered to where there are breathable levels of oxygen, along with plant life and some genetically altered animals, but the CO2 levels are still toxic to baseline humans. They're able to walk in the outside air with filter masks, and taking a single breath without is a folk cure for colds among the younger Martians. This would sound like a reasonable "half-terraformed" point to me.
  9. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

    Apr 20, 2016
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    Depends on the planet, most likely it'd become unstable and collapse very quickly. Without cycles, planets die and if only half of a biosphere is built, it likely won't be able to keep itself going.
  10. EnginEsq

    EnginEsq Member

    Oct 29, 2016
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    Possibly pertinent and interesting info on Earth's atmospheric history from Wikipedia: (emphasis added)

    The constant re-arrangement of continents by plate tectonics influences the long-term evolution of the atmosphere by transferring carbon dioxide to and from large continental carbonate stores. Free oxygen did not exist in the atmosphere until about 2.4 billion years ago during the Great Oxygenation Event and its appearance is indicated by the end of the banded iron formations. Before this time, any oxygen produced by photosynthesis was consumed by oxidation of reduced materials, notably iron. Molecules of free oxygen did not start to accumulate in the atmosphere until the rate of production of oxygen began to exceed the availability of reducing materials. This point signifies a shift from a reducing atmosphere to an oxidizing atmosphere. O2 showed major variations until reaching a steady state of more than 15% by the end of the Precambrian.[33] The following time span from 541 million years ago to the present day is the Phanerozoic Eon, during the earliest period of which, the Cambrian, oxygen-requiring metazoan life forms began to appear.

    The amount of oxygen in the atmosphere has fluctuated over the last 600 million years, reaching a peak of about 30% around 280 million years ago, significantly higher than today's 21%. Two main processes govern changes in the atmosphere: Plants use carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, releasing oxygen. Breakdown of pyrite and volcanic eruptions release sulfur into the atmosphere, which oxidizes and hence reduces the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere. However, volcanic eruptions also release carbon dioxide, which plants can convert to oxygen. The exact cause of the variation of the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere is not known. Periods with much oxygen in the atmosphere are associated with rapid development of animals. Today's atmosphere contains 21% oxygen, which is high enough for this rapid development of animals.[34]
    Iain Aschendale likes this.
  11. Dreamsoap

    Dreamsoap New Member

    Nov 24, 2016
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    For the process of terraforming, you may want to look into extremophile bacteria. The presence of oxygen and how well the survivors may fair without breathing equipment is dependent on a huge number of factors. The best way to answer your question is how to do the "terraforming machines" actually terraform? Do they just run around throwing rocks or do they do science? When scientists talk about terraforming places like Mars, they're not talking about just throwing down a colony and expecting rivers to flow. How do you get the oxygen out of the other compounds so that people can breathe it? First of all like others mentioned, does the planet have it's own atmosphere and do you have to make one? Why did you choose one without an atmosphere? Is it that none that had one were suitable enough? Usually for massive scale projects like, you still want to choose the most human compatible planet or at least something that has materials that can make the process as easy as possible so you don't have to constantly ship things from elsewhere. This is why Mars is a prime candidate. Obviously we wouldn't ever bother with Venus or Uranus. What scientists are looking at is being able to plant some bacteria that can survive current conditions (extremophiles), utilize some kind of compound there as a food source and have oxygen and or cabon dioxide as a waste product. Which then could be used to feed something else and create an eco system that mimics Earth. But for the colonists fleeing, if they escaped and depending on the ratio of oxygen present (assuming there's enough to be breathable), they may adapt to be able to breathe it over time like people who live at very high altitudes or they may just die. If they did indeed adapt, they would get very sick and weak first. Some might even die from other complications just as a by product of having a weakened immune system. This is all assuming that somehow they were able to secure enough food and water while fleeing. You need to decide the variables present and then do research on those effects.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2016
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