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Thread: An Alternative for Plate Techtonics????

  1. #1 An Alternative for Plate Techtonics???? 
    Forum Freshman Martian_Monkey's Avatar
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    Hello,

    I have been working on a scientifically accurate, science fiction novel. One of my big problems with currents works is that that the aliens always seem very earth like. They always seem to breath Oxygen, drink water, ect. So I am trying to think out side the box, especially since we have found evidence that their may be methane based life on Titan, and the discovery of life on earth that actually "breaths" arsenic. I am a firm believe that complex life can form on planets very much different than earth.

    One of the big things that scientists seem to agree on based on my own research, is that Plate Tectonics are necessary for a planet to sustain complex life. The reasoning being, a planet must have a way of recycling it self or else organics will just keep being stacked on top of each other until all the organic compounds are used up and no more life can be created.

    I am currently looking into the possibility of complex life existing on a planet orbiting a red dwarf, or brown dwarf, or maybe even the moon of a gas giant. A planet or moon in this scenario will be tidally locked (if they are close enough to the red dwarf to be warm). I have read several times that a tidally locked planet could not have plate tectonics. I have never read and article that explained why a tidally locked planet could not have plate tectonics but again, just based off the sources I have read.

    So I was wondering if anyone on these forums had or knew of a theory about this? I have been unable to find a theory where complex life could evolve and be sustained on a world with no plate tectonics. Any thoughts would be appreciated.


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  3. #2  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    I do not immediately see why a tidally locked planet could not have plate tectonics. the 'motor for plate tectonics is internal heat. As long as you have that you can have, though will not necessarily have, plate tectonics.

    Where did you read that you could not?


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  4. #3  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    I do not immediately see why a tidally locked planet could not have plate tectonics. the 'motor for plate tectonics is internal heat. As long as you have that you can have, though will not necessarily have, plate tectonics.

    Where did you read that you could not?
    The only possible link that I can think of is that tidal locking requires quite a bit of time to implement, and that smaller bodies might well cool to the point at which the internal heat is insufficient for plate tectonics by the time that tidal locking has occurred. This by no means precludes tidal locking of planets that exhibit plate tectonics, but might be an element in determining the probability of tidal locking vs tectonic activity.
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  5. #4 Re: An Alternative for Plate Techtonics???? 
    Moderator Moderator TheBiologista's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Martian_Monkey
    So I am trying to think out side the box, especially since we have found evidence that their may be methane based life on Titan...
    Really? Is it not something similar to what we're seeing with Mars? More methane than we'd expect to see without life or a methane producing reaction of some kind... I mean, we're drawing an inference from life on Earth. Methane on Earth is often produced by life, they're not "methane based", they just make the stuff. So we look for methane as a possible marker for life elsewhere.

    Besides, "methane-based" would make little sense since methane is a hydrocarbon. Life that makes some fundamental use of methane would be carbon based.
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    Forum Freshman Martian_Monkey's Avatar
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    The first time I ever had the "No plate Tectonics mentioned to me was from a former professor of mine. I minored in Astronomy in College and as I was starting my research for this book to make sure all of my science was in order, I contacted on my former professor just to get his opinion on one of my alien races. This alien race is a very important one in my story so I wanted to get another opinion that my descriptions and all would work scientifically.

    This Alien races home world was a moon of a Gas Giant. When I was running my descriptions of the moon by him, he is the first who mentioned that the moon would be tidally locked so no plate tectonics, flat with no real mountain ranges, very swampy with a lot of lakes and shallow seas. I never really understood why a tidally locked moon would necessarily be like this. But then I posted this description on another forum I am a member of and the members there seemed to agree with it.

    My notes here have one online sourced listed for a Tidally locked body not being able to have plate tectonics but all I have written is online source next to it. I spent last night and today so far trying to find it again without success.

    So no, I'm sorry I can't give you a link to an on line source at the moment.


    And TheBiologista,

    You are correct of course, my saying that the possible life on Titan was Methane based came from the title of the article I was reading which called the life Methane based.
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  7. #6  
    Forum Masters Degree Twit of wit's Avatar
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    I think you are mistaken. Life in similar environments should be similar. You should not try to create something bizarre, unless you want to create some bizarre environment for it.
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    Europa is tidally locked to Jupiter and is a candidate object that we might look for life on one day. On Europa, tidal forces generated by orbital eccentricity and axial tilt of the moon with respect to its orbital plane can also provide considerably energy to heat the interior of such a body. Perhaps such processes could generate enough heat on your fictional planet to get some plate tectonics going? I can't do the maths on this one though...
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  9. #8  
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    plate tectonics is required on solid bodies, but on a gas giant with no solid center(although it is sometimes speculated they may have a liquid core) it should not be required. the service to biology provided by plate tectonics on earth could be provided by weather patterns on a gas giant. just something to consider with your alien races.
    physics: accurate, objective, boring
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  10. #9  
    Forum Freshman Martian_Monkey's Avatar
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    So, it seems to be a general consensus by those who have replied that, Yes, plate tectonics is required for a world to sustain complex life. It also seems to be a consensus that Plat Tectonics should not be affected by the forces of Tidal locking. But wouldn't the gravitational affects of the Gas giant have some affect if the moon did indeed have plat tectonics? We know that with the moon Jupiter for instance, that Europa and Io for instance are being pulled on by Jupiter’s gravity and also being pulled on by other moons, Io by Europa and Europa by Ganymede I think. I know that our moon doesn't appear to have any effects on Plate Tectonics here on earth but the gravitational pull a Gas Giant would exert on a moon would be greater than our moon applies to the earth. So in the case of a Tidally locked Moon of a Gas Giant, if it had Plate Tectonics, would all the plates be more inclined to move towards the side of the moon facing the planet? I suppose this would mean Quakes would be more frequent on this side of the moon and would also be full of very high mountain ranges. Basically, if the moon was earth like, with oceans and seas and plat tectonics which of course would mean it would also have continental drift. Wouldn't all the continents be inclined to move towards the side of the moon that always faces the planet?

    In response to Twit of wit,

    Perhaps I am mistaken, perhaps not. We will not truly know until we find complex life elsewhere. I am writing a story that is scientifically plausible, I don't have a crystal ball so we will probably find, thousands or even hundreds of years from now..... I will have gotten a lot wrong in my novel. I love star Wars, but there is A LOT of the science in Star War which just doesn't work. I am out to create a similarly epic story but without as many scientifically inaccuracies.
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  11. #10  
    Forum Masters Degree Twit of wit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Martian_Monkey
    I love star Wars, but there is A LOT of the science in Star War which just doesn't work. I am out to create a similarly epic story but without as many scientifically inaccuracies.
    You are right, but this is not one of them. Organisms living in similar environments are similar even if they are not related.
    Some examples:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...gent_evolution
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evoluti...tion_of_leaves
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convergent_evolution
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  12. #11  
    Forum Freshman Martian_Monkey's Avatar
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    Maybe so but as I stated in my original post, I am trying to create life that evolved on a planet that is not quit like earth. I agree with what you say. If you took life and put it in a similar environment to earth, we probably would find life that we might find very familiar to us and yet also slightly different. But consider life as we don't know it. Microbial life has proven its self to be very resilient and we are all descended from it. Lets take an environment that would be very, very hostile to use, lets say Venus for instance or a planet like Venus in a far away star system. Perhaps, before Venus started heating up due to its atmosphere, microbial life started up on it. Now as the planet heated up, some of these microbial could have taken hold under ground in spent lava tunnels evolving over time perhaps even evolving so that they could cope with the immense heat, atmospheric pressure, and high acidity of the Atmosphere. Now I will agree that sounds very unlikely but from what I have seen, I think it could be possible again just based off how resilient microbial life is here on earth. Now what ever this life would be like, I think we can agree, it would not be earth like... As earth would be just as toxic to them as Venus would be to us.

    I am just tired of all aliens in all sci-fi stories, having two arms, two legs, one or two sets of eyes and being for the most part, very humanoid. So I am trying to think outside the box. Even if their planet was every earthlike, what are the chances that on another world, it would an Ape like animal that evolved to become intelligent? Why not a marine animal, or a lizard, or even an insect???

    That is my point and what I am trying to do with my story. So while I do agree with you, I am still trying to think about other possibilities.
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  13. #12  
    Forum Masters Degree Twit of wit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Martian_Monkey
    Even if their planet was every earthlike, what are the chances that on another world, it would an Ape like animal that evolved to become intelligent? Why not a marine animal, or a lizard, or even an insect???
    They are not able to create and use tools.
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  14. #13  
    Forum Freshman Martian_Monkey's Avatar
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    On Earth no.... but who is to say that on some alien world, there is not an insect like creature or a crustacean who has evolved the intelligence to use to tools. Just because primates are the only animals on earth who use tools, doesn't mean that would true everywhere in the Universe. Evolution doesn't have a set blue print, each animal evolves to survive in his or her environment. Change the environment even a little bit, remove a predator, prey, change the temperature, ect. anything pretty much should effect evolution.

    Please, I mean no disrespect to you and I do appreciate your input but I feel that you are being very closed minded in this regard.

    Based off of your reasoning, if we do ever discover intelligent life anywhere in the Universe, we should expect them to look human and maybe even act human. I personally don't think that would happen even on a planet just like earth. We are here today because of several factors and variables, change any of them and things may be very, very different. Dauphins and Whales have shown to be very intelligent as well, they just have no real way of using tools. What if a Dauphine or Whale had evolved arms, legs, fingers..... They may be the most intelligent species on the planet today, not us. It is hard to say again none of this can be proven. I am a believer in the power of evolution and I just think that there are infinite possibilities when it comes to evolution on an alien world.
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  15. #14  
    Forum Masters Degree Twit of wit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Martian_Monkey
    Dauphins and Whales have shown to be very intelligent as well, they just have no real way of using tools.
    And that is exactly what I meant. Very intelligent marine animals will be just very intelligent marine animals. No technology without hands.
    What if a Dauphine or Whale had evolved arms, legs, fingers...
    They would be very humanoid, not suitable for your sci-fi.
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Twit of wit
    Quote Originally Posted by Martian_Monkey
    Dauphins and Whales have shown to be very intelligent as well, they just have no real way of using tools.
    And that is exactly what I meant. Very intelligent marine animals will be just very intelligent marine animals. No technology without hands.
    What if a Dauphine or Whale had evolved arms, legs, fingers...
    They would be very humanoid, not suitable for your sci-fi.
    reptilian-like animals could very well evolve to use tools... And why are 'hands' necessary? wouldn't any appendage capable of manipulating an object suffice? why not tentacles? Think of District 9. Would you call the appendages of the aliens 'hands'?
    Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools, because they have to say something.
    -Plato

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  17. #16  
    Forum Freshman Martian_Monkey's Avatar
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    Arcane_Mathematician,

    yes, that is exactly what I was getting at. But also what I am saying... if there was another reptile like animal that evolved on another planet, would it really be a reptile?? The creature might have a lot in common with Earth Reptiles but being that it evolved on another world, might be genetically different. maybe not even have DNA at all but something else. Would you really be able to classify it as a reptile? If we went to Europa and dropped a probe through the ice and found a creature that looked like a crab, does that mean its a crab??? Now as far as an everyday house hold name, yeah we could call it a Europian Crab or something like that but I don't think in reality it could be classified in the same family as a crab.

    Sorry now, this topic as gone way off course. I am enjoying the discussion though, you guys are making me think and I am coming up with some new ideas.

    But when I said none earth like in my first post, I was talking about a creature who maybe didn't breath Oxygen or CO2, Maybe they evolved on a planet with a large amount of Chlorine in the atmosphere or going back to Venus again, a planet with a very high atmospheric pressure. I am fairly certain that an animal evolving under these conditions wouldn't look very earth like but who knows. I would love to be proven wrong.
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  18. #17  
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    The animal would necessarily have DNA, breathe Oxygen, and not necessarily be genetically similar to an earth reptile.

    Life exists because of the way that carbon interacts with oxygen and hydrogen, and chlorine is just a monkey wrench in the works. There needs to be oxygen.
    Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools, because they have to say something.
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  19. #18  
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    What if the life is not Carbon based but based on say Silicon??? Life evolved on earth before it had an oxygen rich atmosphere. In fact, that is how Oxygen, Probably, got into our atmosphere, micro-organisms started photosynthesis and put the Oxygen into the atmosphere. Also, I know it is not proven but what about the evidence that there is life on Titan.... not much Oxygen there as far as I have read. I realize that there is a huge difference between complex life and microbial life but you must have microbial life first before you can have complex life. And if microbial life took hold and evolved to adapt to and thrive in an atmosphere rich in Chlorine for instance. Isn't it possible to have life that might actually use Chlorine?

    Now again, I will admit I may be wrong so I am not arguing with you per say, but I think that a lot of us think about life as it is on earth because at the moment, that is all the life we know of so I guess it is hard not too. If there is life on Titan, what is it consuming and breathing??

    So are all the sci-fi books right?? Will all aliens breath oxygen and drink water.... or is there a possibility that just maybe... they might could breath some other gas. Maybe they could even survive without water... maybe they need some other compound...... Just speculating and thinking here.
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  20. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Martian_Monkey
    What if the life is not Carbon based but based on say Silicon??? Life evolved on earth before it had an oxygen rich atmosphere. In fact, that is how Oxygen, Probably, got into our atmosphere, micro-organisms started photosynthesis and put the Oxygen into the atmosphere. Also, I know it is not proven but what about the evidence that there is life on Titan.... not much Oxygen there as far as I have read. I realize that there is a huge difference between complex life and microbial life but you must have microbial life first before you can have complex life. And if microbial life took hold and evolved to adapt to and thrive in an atmosphere rich in Chlorine for instance. Isn't it possible to have life that might actually use Chlorine?

    Now again, I will admit I may be wrong so I am not arguing with you per say, but I think that a lot of us think about life as it is on earth because at the moment, that is all the life we know of so I guess it is hard not too. If there is life on Titan, what is it consuming and breathing??

    So are all the sci-fi books right?? Will all aliens breath oxygen and drink water.... or is there a possibility that just maybe... they might could breath some other gas. Maybe they could even survive without water... maybe they need some other compound...... Just speculating and thinking here.
    no... There was always oxygen, just not in elemental state. Carbon dioxide, for instance, is a valid source of oxygen. Silicon has been shown to not be able to reproduce the same chains as carbon, it's just not quite good enough for life.
    Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools, because they have to say something.
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