Thursday, 21 May 2015

Planetary Engineering II

Poul Anderson, Starfarers (New York, 1999).

On the planet that the Tahirians are transforming (see previous post), the many giant pyramids drill down to the core with magma pumps, artificially kick-starting subduction which:

releases elements like potassium;
"'...raises new rock to take up carbon dioxide as carbonate...'" (p. 237);
lowers old rock before the carbon dioxide is depleted;
thus establishes the cycle that will maintain a breathable atmosphere.

The pyramids also:

bleed core energy off into pools and channels instead of into shield volcanoes;
use the bled energy for geochemistry, atmosphere stabilization and greenhouse regulation;
process the magma for calcium, phosphorus and potassium unless this is done by erosion and biology;
control their robots with complex, colored light signals from the metal trees which "'...make up a computer-sensor network.'" (p. 235)

The metal forest contains domes, "...pentagonal upthrusts, helices, congeries." (p. 234) Its blinking lights cause an epileptic fit in human beings and the computers might have a harmful inductive effect on human brains.

Surface water contains aggregating microscopic life while germs gnaw rock into soil but this life, guided by biological and nanorobotic mechanisms, not by a natural origin or selection, might need only half a billion years to produce a habitable environment.

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