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Thread: Could a benthic, ocean floor culture develop metallurgy by employing volcanism?

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    Could a benthic, ocean floor culture develop metallurgy by employing volcanism?

    And are there any possibilities you can imagine in which a pelagic, or open ocean, culture could become a civilization?
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

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    Do civilizations require metals? The Mayans, Aztecs, etc. didn’t even have bronze.
    Calm down, have some dip. - George Carlin

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    They had gold, though. Gold is one of the few materials not corroded by seawater, as far as I recall.
    Some biological systems are capable of concentrating gold, which might allow a certain amount of the metal to be 'farmed' - although what these hypothetical undersea civilisations might do with gold is another matter.

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    And are there any possibilities you can imagine in which a pelagic, or open ocean, culture could become a civilization?
    How would they get close enough to the molten materials to make tools out of them?
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    What does 'employing volcanism' mean in this context?

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    Tapping into magma and lava to extract or forge metals.
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

    Stephen Colbert.

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    Tapping into magma and lava to extract or forge metals.
    OK. Hard to see how a benthic species would do that. Magma/lava is not metal - it's rock. They'd have to operate some sort of smelting process to extract metal. Doing that underwater would be quite a challenge. But I guess there are stranger things in the universe.

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    I was thinking they could use the lava to heat a crucible, which they could then place in a vacuum.
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

    Stephen Colbert.

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    How would they get a vacuum?
    SHARKS (crossed out) MONGEESE (sic) WITH FRICKIN' LASER BEAMS ATTACHED TO THEIR HEADS

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    It kinds of sounds like David Brin's Kithrup from Star Tide rising. The mechanism of ore exploitation is different and nothing seems to be using the material for anything, although it looks like a designed system. Perhaps something was using the metal for something, but they vanished.

    Kithrup is an water world with lots of heavy metals. For whatever reason, in the shallows were a type of tree-like lifeform that extracts metals from the sea floor. They use much of this material to grow, meaning eventually they fall into the hole they created.
    Solfe

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    How would they get a vacuum?
    by pumping out the water. They could set up a situation similar to the old experiment with the tube full of mercury inverted over a basin of water.
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

    Stephen Colbert.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    It kinds of sounds like David Brin's Kithrup from Star Tide rising. The mechanism of ore exploitation is different and nothing seems to be using the material for anything, although it looks like a designed system. Perhaps something was using the metal for something, but they vanished.

    Kithrup is an water world with lots of heavy metals. For whatever reason, in the shallows were a type of tree-like lifeform that extracts metals from the sea floor. They use much of this material to grow, meaning eventually they fall into the hole they created.
    SPOILERS:




    I though the trees turned out to be the larval stage of the Kithrup? Or am I misremembering.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by eburacum45 View Post
    They had gold, though. Gold is one of the few materials not corroded by seawater, as far as I recall.
    Some biological systems are capable of concentrating gold, which might allow a certain amount of the metal to be 'farmed' - although what these hypothetical undersea civilisations might do with gold is another matter.
    Could this be done with other metals? It seems like biologically concentrating, say, copper would be possible. Aren't there bacteria that make bog-iron?
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    The problem is that any metal apart from gold and a few others would corrode away quickly. Even gold would need to be insulated if you want to transmit electricity (I imagine batteries of electric eels charging up some kind of battery). The battery itself would need to be watertight. Probably one of the first technologies an underwater civilisation would need to invent would be a way of making watertight vessels, thus allowing chemistry to happen.

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    Quote Originally Posted by eburacum45 View Post
    Probably one of the first technologies an underwater civilisation would need to invent would be a way of making watertight vessels, thus allowing chemistry to happen.
    Wouldn't chemical means allow them to purify metals? I mean, if biology can do it, it seems like extreme heat isn't a total necessity.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Wouldn't chemical means allow them to purify metals? I mean, if biology can do it, it seems like extreme heat isn't a total necessity.
    The problem as I understand it is that biologically we build these scaffolds called metalloproteins (I happened to have just written a press release on the subject...) that basically take a metal ion and keep it in a shell that protects it from oxidation. So the hard part would be getting the metal into a single block. I guess they could build not pure metal but a kind of material with metal scaffolding, like bone or teeth or shells.


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