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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."

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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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    I can see genetic engineering making life forms that can do all these things, but it is harder to think of them evolving, without help. I think they might stay tubeworms.

    It was all chordata like Haikouichthys could do to get away from all those evil eurypterid pincers or the like:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ9d2tapqYM https://news.nationalgeographic.com/...ury-video-spd/

    Though a Sea Scorpion could manipulate things to some degree.
    Last edited by publiusr; 2019-May-25 at 06:24 PM.

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    What about on ocean worlds?
    "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 publiusr View Post
    I can see genetic engineering making life forms that can do all these things, but it is harder to think of them evolving, without help. I think they might stay tubeworms.

    It was all chordata like Haikouichthys could do to get away from all those evil eurypterid pincers or the like:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ9d2tapqYM https://news.nationalgeographic.com/...ury-video-spd/

    Though a Sea Scorpion could manipulate things to some degree.
    On Earth, sure.

    But a non-Terrestrial underwater species might be possible, especially in the oceans of an ice moon.

    They'd likely develop domestication and selective breeding long before genetic engineering.
    "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
    On Earth, sure.

    But a non-Terrestrial underwater species might be possible, especially in the oceans of an ice moon.
    I think the point was that it is hard to imagine how things like the ability to purify metals could evolve naturally. There are a lot of things, like purifying liquids, that are fairly doable in our environment because we are used to using vessels for drinking, but I think underwater it would be harder to develop those tools. Iím not sure how you could work with glass or ceramics without fire, for example.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I think the point was that it is hard to imagine how things like the ability to purify metals could evolve naturally. There are a lot of things, like purifying liquids, that are fairly doable in our environment because we are used to using vessels for drinking, but I think underwater it would be harder to develop those tools. I’m not sure how you could work with glass or ceramics without fire, for example.
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    I was responding to post #17, above.

    Yes, I agree it would be difficult. But that's where the volcanism could come in, hypothetically. Another possible source of high heat could be chemical reactions; but where they'd get the materials simply moves back the problem one step.

    Not glass, but; diatoms and some sponges create siliceous structures, can these be converted into useful form? It would also probably require an intense heat source.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I think the point was that it is hard to imagine how things like the ability to purify metals could evolve naturally.

    Ah, I see what you mean. I read it as publiusr saying that a civilized species with tool use, would be hard to evolve on a sea floor. He mentioned manipulative limbs such as pincers.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Speaking of mineral concentrating biology, the scaly-foot gastropod grows iron pyrite scales. Limpet teeth (with iron minerals) are the hardest found in nature.
    "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
    Speaking of mineral concentrating biology, the scaly-foot gastropod grows iron pyrite scales. Limpet teeth (with iron minerals) are the hardest found in nature.
    It is pretty interesting what living things can do. Whether you could actually convert that into metallurgy is another question, but at least you could have a supply of iron in some form.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    It is pretty interesting what living things can do. Whether you could actually convert that into metallurgy is another question, but at least you could have a supply of iron in some form.


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    I can see a technology tree developing that doesn't use pure metals until it reaches the level of vacuum pumps. What that would look like is anyone's guess.
    "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
    I can see a technology tree developing that doesn't use pure metals until it reaches the level of vacuum pumps. What that would look like is anyone's guess.
    I think it would be a fascinating intellectual exercise, kind of like steampunk, to try to figure out how such a technological civilization could develop. I suspect it would be really hard to imagine, but thatís what makes it interesting. Basing stories on such a background would be cool too.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I think it would be a fascinating intellectual exercise, kind of like steampunk, to try to figure out how such a technological civilization could develop. I suspect it would be really hard to imagine, but that’s what makes it interesting. Basing stories on such a background would be cool too.
    I can see a combination of selectively bred life forms and biomimetic machines, based on observing what works in that environment. No wood, no wheels, no combustion, probably no light but bioluminescence. But they may develop things we never did, either.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Basing stories on such a background would be cool too.
    They already have, it's called Aquaman.
    "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
    They already have, it's called Aquaman.
    Funny that you mention that. I used to watch it on TV when I was a kid.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Funny that you mention that. I used to watch it on TV when I was a kid.
    The Filmation version was the REAL Aquaman, not this slacker from the movies!
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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