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Science and Speculation in the War and Space Trilogy

This is a small look at a few of the concepts used in the War and Space Trilogy of novellas.  I have avoided being too specific because I don’t want to give the stories away.

Designing Aliens

Any science fiction or science fantasy writer who includes extraterrestrial aliens in her or his stories needs to consider what sort of alien might be found on other planets.

It was said by the noted writer on alien matters, Robert Challis, that if aliens on another planets are similar to humans beings in the sense that they have a head with two eyes, two arms and two legs it suggests that either they have a common origin with us, or that it is evidence that there is a God.

The God part may be based on an interpretation of Genesis Chapter 1, verse 27. (“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”)  The interpretation sometimes put on this verse is that humans share a physical form with God.  I do not intend to go into this in too much detail here, but I think that it is very unlikely to be referring to physical form, but rather to a spiritual or mental similarity, such as having free will.

However, very many fictional aliens are remarkably similar to us both physically and mentally.  In some cases, including Star Trek, there is an explanation given.  One episode of Star Trek did have evidence of a common origin, but some of the other episodes had remarkably similar aliens who it is difficult to see how they could have had a common origin with humans.  It is very convenient in a movie or television series to have aliens who can be played by human actors with some good makeup.

A writer of science fiction books has more scope for the imagination.  He can describe the alien life forms without the inconvenience of having to portray it on a screen.

Personally I would be very surprised if humanoid Aliens with no common origin to us exist.  Therefore my aliens look nothing like humans, except where they have a clear common origin.

DNA

It is sometimes assumed that extraterrestrials will have DNA (Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid in US English or Desoxyribose Nucleic Acid in UK English.)  While this sounds more likely to me than the existence of extraterrestrial humanoids, I think the assumption that this chemical is the inevitable hereditary molecule is incorrect.  Some progress has even been made in producing synthetic variations of DNA.

In an environment high in elements and low in some of the ones we need, different hereditary molecules could occur.  In two of the fictional planets in my books, Boron plays a much more important part in their plants and animals than it does in ones we are familiar with.

On one of the fictional planets in one of my books (Battle for Homeworld) there is a planet with very little Phosphorous, but a lot of Arsenic.  The life forms of this planet have hereditary molecules using Arsenic instead of Phosphorous. This idea is based on some controversial research funded by NASA into life in Mono Lake which has a lot of arsenic and little Phosphorous.  Although the conclusions of the researchers are still being argued about it appears that the highly reactive element Arsenic might be being incorporated into the molecules of the living things in the lake molecules.

In my story, the Arsenic using aliens have a higher mutation rate than we do.

Chlorophyll

Most of the plants we see every day are green because of the Chlorophyll they use for photosynthesis. A few science fiction writers such as Fred and Geoffrey Hoyle in their classic, Fifth Planet, have alien plants using Chlorophyll.

Incidentally, Professor Sir Fred Hoyle was both a proponent of a steady state theory of the universe and the inventor of the term “Big Bang.”

However, even on the Earth there are other types of pigment used for photosynthesis, so in guessing that Chlorophyll is specific to Earth plants and extraterrestrial ones use other chemicals in its place I am not introducing an unlikely concept.

Most of the main characters in my books are religious people.  Many of them are also scientists and accept that the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection provides a good model for life as we know it.  They see no conflict between their religious beliefs and this theory.

This attitude is similar to the attitude of the churches that the majority of Christians belong to. A minority of Christians insist on their own interpretation of the Holy Bible; these people consider that evolution is not compatible with their interpretation of the Holy Bible.  I apologise if anything I write offends anyone.

Although the majority of Christians belong to churches that accept the theory of evolution, Muslims have more trouble accepting this theory, but some Muslims do, including the Muslim scientist in my books.

Although the adaptations of many creatures are amazingly good, a detailed look at them suggests that if they were designed, it was done in a very unintelligent way.  For example, the suggestion that Almighty God designed human beings so that about 8% of us would be born with major birth defects is bordering on the blasphemous.

Parallel Evolution

There are a lot of things that appear to have been evolved more than once on the Earth.  One of these is legs.  For example, the legs of the Tardigrades seem to have evolved independently of the legs of Humans.  Some of my aliens have legs.

Manipulatory organs also appear to have evolved more than once, for example, our hands seem to have evolved independently of the Elephant’s trunk.  It seems likely that to become technologically advanced manipulatory organs of some sort are necessary.

Beaks have evolved independently in different groups of animals, but teeth seem to be less common. Some beaks exist among my aliens, but none of them have teeth in the Human sense.

Eyes of many different types are present in many different Earth animals, and plants are also light sensitive.  This is the same in my alien animals and plants.

Common Origin

The things I wrote about the unlikelihood of Aliens looking anything like us do not apply if they also came from the Earth.

Our Ancestors

Humans move around. There have been several major movements of people from one continent to another, but although our ancestors moved continents, the distances were enough to create partially isolated populations which could evolve separately.

1,000,000 years ago, there were Humans on Earth who were somewhat like us.  About that time one of the many splits between populations occurred, giving rise to the ancestors of the Neanderthals (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis). Roughly 640,000 years ago, another split happened separating off the Denisovans from the Neanderthals.  Both these subspecies of Human have contributed to our DNA, but the total of the two is probably less than 10%, so although some of our ancestors came from these groups, they were not our main ancestors.

Our main ancestors seem to be Homo sapiens idaltu, or a very similar relative.  This subspecies was on average bigger than modern Humans and had a bigger brain.  Neanderthals also had a brain as big as or slightly bigger than the average Homo sapiens sapiens.  Of course, brain size is not quite the same as intelligence although there is a relationship.  There is no reason to assume that we are more intelligent than our ancestors of the last 1,000,000 years.  I said that there is no reason, but it could be objected that if these people were as intelligent as us, ‘why didn’t they develop technology comparable to what we have now?’  But this question immediately raises the related one, ‘did they develop technology?’

There is no evidence that they did, beyond various stone etc. tools.  However many of our modern materials would not last even 10,000 years, so we cannot rule out earlier very advanced civilizations, even ones which had space travel.  If they did and have travelled to other star systems we might one day meet them again.

LASERS and MASERS

The maser (Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) as used as a weapon in my books is a

concentrated beam of coherent microwaves.  The lasers are similar, but use light or even higher frequency electromagnetic waves such as x-rays.  All the frequencies of laser used in my books are based on lasers that have been made, but they are enormously more powerful than any existing ones.

Communicating with Aliens

In many science fiction stories, communication with the aliens of other planets seems ridiculously easy.  It is true that if they go to another country where they know nothing of the language many people can pick up the language of the country quite quickly, but that is with members of our own species.  An extraterrestrial is likely to be much further from us than we are from Dolphins. Dolphins are also mammals and we have had acquaintance with them for thousands of years.  Some communication is definitely done, but people still argue about whether or not they have a language in our sense of the word.  Progress is being made in understanding Dolphin language.

So if it has taken us so long to communicate with Dolphins, I suspect that communicating at a high level with extraterrestrials will be even more difficult.

Telepathy and Tele-empathy

Telepathy is the transfer of information from one individual to another, while tele-empathy is the transfer of feelings.  The evidence for telepathy is poor, but there are many people who believe it is possible. Recent advances with Neuroimaging suggest that there is a faint possibility that one day some very limited machine assisted telepathy might be achievable.  In the book, ‘The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence’ which is the novel before the ‘War Trilogy’ in the ‘Bad Boy Cycle’, a very special case of machine assisted telepathy is done.

Tele-empathy is more difficult to test, but there are many people who are able to give instances where it appeared to happen.  Some of these possible cases of tele-empathic transfer involve twins, especially identical twins.

In the second two books of the War and Space Trilogy, the tele-empathic identical twins Chance and Nigel Jones are major characters.

In science fiction, telepathy is much more common than it appears to be in real life, and there are many cases of Xenotelepathy with Humans and aliens communicating telepathically. Personally I doubt if this will happen, but I suspect that the transfer of feelings is a little more likely.

Power Sources

All the large space ships used in The War Trilogy are powered by hot focus fusion.  This system focuses a beam of ions of one sort to intersects another beam of a different type of ion and has the two beams meet at a point where by magnetic pinches and other tricks the temperature at the tiny point of intersection is billions of degrees so the ions fuse, releasing energy.  Potentially this system could be used for a wide range of elements, under good control, producing relatively few nasty by products.

I only envisage that this system could be used for very large space craft.  In my trilogy, most of the smaller space ships are powered by cold fusion.  Although cold fusion has been demonstrated as being possible, no one has so far been able to use it in a way that reliably produces more energy than is put into the system.

This doesn’t mean that in the future we will not find a way of making this process a practical source of power, and many experimenters are working on this.

Muon Catalysed Cold Fusion

Muons (Full name Mu-mesons) are elementary particles with about 207 times as much mass as an electron.  There are positive, neutral and negative muons.  A negative Muon can take the place of an electron in an atom.  When a Deuterium atom has a Muon instead of an electron, their average diameter is much less and the nuclei of two atoms can get close enough to fuse together.  After catalysing one fusion reaction the Muon can go on to catalyse more fusion reactions.

This was theorized about in 1947 by F. C. Frank.  It has been demonstrated many times experimentally.  However, there are problems.  A Muon can be made in an accelerator, but the energy needed is over 100 times the energy released by one fusion. Another problem is that Muons decay in a short time.  Their average life is only about a 500,000th of a second.  A second problem is that sometimes the Muon is lost to the system by becoming attached to a Helium Nucleus.

So far, this type of fusion cannot produce usable power, but experimenters are still working on it, and some in Japan are hopeful that the problems can be solved.

Palladium Assisted Cold Fusion

Some metals have an affinity for Hydrogen which is not fully understood.  Palladium is one of these.  It can absorb Hydrogen or Deuterium so that a piece of this metal can contain as many Deuterium atoms as Palladium atoms.  This can be assisted electrically, making the Palladium an electrode in an electrolysis cell.

If that is done, the Deuterium atoms are quite close together in the metal.  But they are no closer than they get in chemical compounds.  Accepted theories suggest that fusion should not occur in the palladium.

In the 1920, J Tandberg of Sweden and, separately, F. Paneth and K. Peters, of Germany observed the apparent fusion of Hydrogen to Helium using Palladium.  These were later generally accepted as mistakes.

In 1989, Dr. Stanley Pons and Dr. Martin Fleischmann at the University of Utah observed the production of amounts of heat far higher than they could explain by chemical means.

Attempts by other people to replicate their experiments were not very successful.  There was a suspicion that the experimenters, who were trying to patent their discovery, had not released all experimental conditions.

An important part of the scientific process is that results need to be repeatable.  If not all the relevant information is released then this is difficult to do.

At this point most scientists decided that the results were spurious.  This view was particularly easy to take because the results seemed to contradict accepted theories.

The idea of chemical processes influencing nuclear ones is something of an anathema to Physicists.  However, anathema is a religious thing and should have no place in science.

Since then many scientists have continued research on cold fusion along the same lines as Pons and Fleischmann.  Some are now claiming to have repeatable results.  They have been hampered by the reluctance of the established scientific journals to publish anything about cold fusion.

Another problem is that some sources, although they are saying things about cold fusion, the same sources are also talking about things like Astral Projection and Spirit Guides, so they create a suspicion that cold fusion is no more real than the other things they publish.