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Thread: Life on gas giants

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    Life on gas giants

    I think life may exist on some gas giants. But intelligent life is unlikely to be succeful there since they cant build any tools.

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    On Cosmic Safari they postulated creatures that are big fat hot air balloons floating between toxic gas layers with a long tendril with a mouth on the end that consumes passing small lifeforms. They said it was unlikely in Jupiter because it is too toxic, but perhaps in another gas giant.

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    Hmmm...

    No gas-giant indigenous intelligent life forms yet, but we do have some primitive lifeforms raised to intelligent status;



    http://www.orionsarm.com/eg/a/An.html#Angel_Hair
    http://www.orionsarm.com/clades/Mirrored_Owls.html
    and adapted humans living in tethered cloud balloon cities
    http://www.orionsarm.com/worlds/Ozymandias.html

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    I think it was Arthur C. Clarke wrote in one book of whale like creatures, swimming in the dense clouds or something. It's been a while, way back when I used to check out books from the library so I may be completely mistaken. That would be weird though.

    I'd be more inclined towards the airbag type like pufferfish or something. They'd be fun to pop and watch them fall towards the core. Killkillkill...ahem, too much Doom3 I guess.

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    You see the real problem is how life gets started; there are no seas for abiogenesis to occur in, so life would probably have to come from else where.

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    Re: Life on gas giants

    Quote Originally Posted by Excelsior
    I think life may exist on some gas giants. But intelligent life is unlikely to be succeful there since they cant build any tools.
    Why does intelligent life have to build tools to be sucessful?

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    Re: Life on gas giants

    Quote Originally Posted by harlequin
    Quote Originally Posted by Excelsior
    I think life may exist on some gas giants. But intelligent life is unlikely to be succeful there since they cant build any tools.
    Why does intelligent life have to build tools to be successful?
    Isn't that pretty much how we have succeeded? What's the use of intelligence if you can't do anything with it but think?
    Everything I need to know I learned through Googling.

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    Re: Life on gas giants

    Quote Originally Posted by ToSeek
    Quote Originally Posted by harlequin
    Quote Originally Posted by Excelsior
    I think life may exist on some gas giants. But intelligent life is unlikely to be succeful there since they cant build any tools.
    Why does intelligent life have to build tools to be successful?
    Isn't that pretty much how we have succeeded? What's the use of intelligence if you can't do anything with it but think?
    Well, that's kind of appealing, actually. I wouldn't want to spend more than 100 million years or so doing nothing but thinking, but, heck, everyone needs a holiday from time to time. :wink:

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    Quote Originally Posted by jt-3d
    I think it was Arthur C. Clarke wrote in one book of whale like creatures, swimming in the dense clouds or something. It's been a while, way back when I used to check out books from the library so I may be completely mistaken. That would be weird though..
    It was 2010. Bowman was watching them I think

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    The biggest problem I have with gasbag-type life forms in a gas giant atmosphere is this -- the atmospheres in question are mostly hydrogen. Nothing but pure hydrogen will work as a balloon gas in them, and even that will have a lousy lifting capability. It would be like filling a balloon on Earth with nitrogen, since nitrogen is slightly less dense than air. You'd need an awful lot of gas just to lift the skin, let alone any kind of meaningful payload. Hot "air" (okay, hot hydrogen) balloons would work much better, but a living creature based on this principle would need to expand incredible (by living creature standards) amounts of energy to keep its balloon warm. Where will this energy come from?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ilya
    The biggest problem I have with gasbag-type life forms in a gas giant atmosphere is this -- the atmospheres in question are mostly hydrogen. Nothing but pure hydrogen will work as a balloon gas in them, and even that will have a lousy lifting capability. It would be like filling a balloon on Earth with nitrogen, since nitrogen is slightly less dense than air. You'd need an awful lot of gas just to lift the skin, let alone any kind of meaningful payload. Hot "air" (okay, hot hydrogen) balloons would work much better, but a living creature based on this principle would need to expand incredible (by living creature standards) amounts of energy to keep its balloon warm. Where will this energy come from?
    Robert Forward had a stab at this in his novel Saturn Rukh. The inhabitants were really big (kilometer) delta-winged gasbags living off less-sentient floaters. Their life cycle involved diurnal altitude changes as the atmosphere warmed and cooled, with interesting wrinkles as to how the would see up or down as required and which part of the being was in charge. (And they thought just the Ramans did things in threes). An important hint to visitors - don't get in front of a Rukh with an enticingly warm object, like a reactor intended to extract He-3...

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    I read Saturn Rukh. Sorry, but it does not work. As described, rukhs are barely possible, but there is absolutely no way one could carry the weight of the lander, let alone have humans walk on its skin. And more to the point, how would the behavior you mentioned ever evolve in the first place? Likewise, how do rukh's prey animals survive? They are smaller, so they have greater skin-to-gas ratio, and no ability to change altitude.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jt-3d
    I think it was Arthur C. Clarke wrote in one book of whale like creatures, swimming in the dense clouds...
    "A Meeting with Medusa." Very highly recommended.

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    Re: Life on gas giants

    Quote Originally Posted by harlequin
    Quote Originally Posted by Excelsior
    I think life may exist on some gas giants. But intelligent life is unlikely to be succeful there since they cant build any tools.
    Why does intelligent life have to build tools to be sucessful?
    Without tool use there is no need for intelligence.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ilya
    The biggest problem I have with gasbag-type life forms in a gas giant atmosphere is this -- the atmospheres in question are mostly hydrogen.?
    Hmm... haven't looked into this a lot, but isn't hydrogen gas (H2) transparent? Since the upper clouds on Jupiter most certainly are not transparent, wouldn't that indicate gases other than H2?

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    Quote Originally Posted by JustAGuy
    Quote Originally Posted by Ilya
    The biggest problem I have with gasbag-type life forms in a gas giant atmosphere is this -- the atmospheres in question are mostly hydrogen.?
    Hmm... haven't looked into this a lot, but isn't hydrogen gas (H2) transparent? Since the upper clouds on Jupiter most certainly are not transparent, wouldn't that indicate gases other than H2?
    I think there maybe amonia and methene.

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    There are traces of methane, ammonia, perhaps water, organic compounds to give a bit of colour and variation on every gas giant; but they are mostly hydrogen, with a bit of helium.

    To make the fictional cloud cities of OA work I have had to suppose pure hot hydrogen balloons floating in an atmosphere of H and He, anchored in place by long adjustable tethers, (sky anchors) which gather electrical power from atmospheric electrical potential.
    These tethers incorporate very strong materials and superconductors, both of which are speculative (read 'fictional').

    (also used as an alternative to hot hydrogen is contained vacuum; this is even more 'speculative')...

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    Carl Sagan wrote about possibilities for gas-giant life in Cosmos. He came up with the folowing idea: organic compounds in the atmosphere ar hit by lightning forming amino acids and eventually simple life. This stuff is all photosynthetic and just floats un up- and downdrafts. Kind of like little bits of paper. Even in the Earth's atmosphere if I throw a apaper airplane off the Empire State Building (wouldn't recommend this -- I got in trouble :-) ) it stays in the air a while. Something like confetti stays up even longer.

    The lifeforms would be at the levels of the atmosphere where between the hydrogen you have huge clouds of other stuff-- these are the colorful clouds you see when you look at Jupiter or Saturn. They could even draw some energy from the heat of the planet, which can be pretty balmy at certain altitudes.

    Anyhow, the photosynthesizers' job is to reproduce really fast, and do it before they fall too far down and get cooked.

    Feeding on these are the big floaters -- these are the big gasbags that would have evolved from the confetti creatures, becoming larger to get more light. Some take on parachute like shapes, like parasails. Some enclose completely and fill with hydrogen, using a combination of heat from the sun and energy gathered by eating the confetti creatures. Eventually yuo get really efficient top predators that eat the gasbags and can actually fly.

    None of these creatures would be very substantial, by the way. And they would be big.

    As for intelligence, the relationship between that and tool use is far from clear -- it seems to me to be synergystic rather than chicken-and-egg. (You start tool use because you are a tad smarter -- more tool use encourages being smarter, which lets you make better tools, but how do the two interact?). We only have one example on earth of tool use leading to or being a complement to better brains. For whatever reason the chimps didn't make it to real smarts, and the other species that were smart enough to make tools all died out. So I would say the relationship is complicated at best.

    (A bit OT, but this is why one could argue that hominids are not terribly successful as a species, since our diversity is very low, whereas rodents are everywhere, diverse, and fill many niches. Having little diversity can make you vulnerable to all kinds of environmental shocks. Humans are pretty adaptable but not infinitely so. But diversity is only one measure of success in any case, there are many others).

    That said, there is no reason that gasbags might not develop ways to manipulate their environment. "Farming" the primary producers, for instance.

    -J

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