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New world with nothing but Dirt and air

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Showing 1-22 of 22 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 29, 2012, 5:32:27 PM PDT
Joe says:
If there was a world that did not have life but had an ocean and land with dirt. What would you start with to build it up for humans to inhabit. Examples such as send worms to start building the soil, send krill for future fish to feed on, send rabbits for the land, etc.

Posted on Jul 29, 2012, 6:56:42 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 29, 2012, 6:57:36 PM PDT
Tom Rogers says:
It would be tricksy, all sorts of wild and wacky stuff would happen:

I've seen some interesting discussions of 'dirt' on the early earth too.

Posted on Jul 29, 2012, 7:01:38 PM PDT

If there was no life, then the planet wouldn't have oxygen, so krill and worms would die immediately. You probably need to start off with cyanobacteria.

Posted on Jul 29, 2012, 7:37:05 PM PDT
If there is no life, then the planet doesn't even have 'dirt', which has particles of dead plant matter in it. There might be sand and dust and rocky outcroppings in various places. If you assume the geology of your planet will be Earthlike, that gives you a place to start your geological research.

I mostly agree with Bob. If the mixture of gasses you are calling 'air' has oxygen in it, but bacteria did not produce that oxygen, we need an explanation.

Most living things depend on other living things. You'll probably need to start off with a large number of species, all at once.

Posted on Jul 29, 2012, 8:16:30 PM PDT
Joe says:
Very good thoughts. I know very little of biology and what it would take to create breathable air. Without dirt could plants survive to produce oxygen. Just trying to get my mind around how you could take a planet that is warm similar to Earth and has water and a basic atmosphere and what you could take from Earth to put on it to make it into a life sustaining planet.

Posted on Jul 29, 2012, 9:11:03 PM PDT
The 'original' oxygen didn't come from plants, but very primitive bacteria that did their work without oxygen. They excreted oxygen as poisonous waste. Different plants require different nutrients in the soil. I think even to start off with you need a fairly complex ecology, I am not sure if you could set this up without pollinators. If some of your plants need to be pollinated, you may need bees, and to survive they will need ...

It might not be hard to bring seeds from many plants and maybe fertilized eggs from many animals. Unlike Noah, you don't have to worry about cleaning up after any fully grown elephants.

Posted on Jul 29, 2012, 10:24:33 PM PDT
Murray Leinster's "The Forgotten Planet" addresses all of the above concerns. It's a scifi classic.

Posted on Jul 30, 2012, 8:24:18 AM PDT
Heinlein's "Farmer in the Sky" also deals with terraforming a bare planet (acre by acre), in this case starting without even rock powder. Maybe not fully realistic, but pretty advanced for the time.

Unless you have a few billion years to wait around, you probably aren't going to try to reproduce the early Earth.

Posted on Jul 30, 2012, 7:02:38 PM PDT
Joe says:
Okay, so assuming that the land was able to grow plants, what animals would you populate it with? I would think rabbits would be a good start along with bees for helping the flowers. I would guess Krill would be needed to start the ocean life.

Posted on Jul 30, 2012, 7:13:29 PM PDT
For a balanced ecology you'll want to start with many species at once. OK, you have rabbits to eat the plants, a good start. So now they breed rapidly, eat all the plants (or almost all, some plants might have deep roots or be inaccessible) and die of starvation. The plants are more likely to survive this cycle than the rabbits, but no guarantee for either of them.

Now if we have some predators to eat the rabbits, we might be able to reach an equilibrium. It will work even better if we have different species of herbivores, predators, and plants. Different plants use different nutrients in the soil. If you have several species of predator, a disease hitting one won't start a rapid population swing in the herbivores.

Posted on Jul 31, 2012, 2:56:48 PM PDT
I had gotten a PC game for my daughter a number of years ago that was like this. You populated your planet with vegetation, herbivores and carnivores. It was pretty hard to keep things in balance and not have the carnivores eat all the herbivores and then all die off, or have the herbivores eat all the plants and then die off.

I forget the name of the game. It got boring after a while, so we tossed it. (It wasn't SPORE.)

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 31, 2012, 3:03:17 PM PDT
Rev Otter says:
was it SimEarth? loved that game ...

Posted on Jul 31, 2012, 3:31:26 PM PDT
No, it wasn't SimEarth. Nor 'The Living Planet', nor 'Evolution: The Game of Intelligent Life' nor 'Creatures'. I tried to Google a bunch of these terms, but I haven't been able to spot the game in any of the results.

There's a pretty good list of these games here->

The only thing about the game I remember was these flying pterodactyl type of carnivores that ate everything voraciously if you put them on the planet.

Posted on Aug 3, 2012, 12:11:38 AM PDT
interesting thread. I recall a paper I read a few years ago that spoke of a red sky when earth was empty, then early bacteria in the oceans evolved to algae that took the carbon dioxide and nitrogen (may have been something else, I'm posting on my phone from a vague memory without access to my library), releasing the oxygen. the theory was that the entire oceans would have been covered by the algae, which later would have become extinct due to the massive climate change it caused by altering the atmosphere beyond its survival composition.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 3, 2012, 12:48:39 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Aug 3, 2012, 12:49:02 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 3, 2012, 12:53:27 AM PDT
Lj3d says:
I'm not a big fan of terraforming. If the world is lifeless, its worthy of study because it could tell us how life came to be. Earthly visitors are more than likely going to contaminate a lifeless world capable of supporting life anyway so to paraphrase the old "What does a beautiful woman have to do to get a guy...just show up!" Earthly visitors need only show up and life of some kind will probably get started eventually, although it would be microbiological until the first plants grew out of that...but I'm speculating here.

Posted on Aug 3, 2012, 7:44:10 AM PDT
M. R. Mortimer,

Was it a red sky, or a red ocean? From what I've read, the Earth's oceans were full of iron until the early bacteria created oxygen, and then the iron "rusted out". See->

Posted on Aug 3, 2012, 7:47:52 AM PDT

" Earthly visitors are more than likely going to contaminate a lifeless world capable of supporting life anyway ..."

You'll be happy to know that the Dawn spaceship has been mandated to stay in a much higher orbit than it needs to be, so as not to contaminate the asteroid Ceres when it gets there in 2015. It is in a low orbit about Vesta now, since that is a rocky asteroid, but scientists think that Ceres has water and so might have life.

At least NASA is thinking about the contamination issue for a long time.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 3, 2012, 7:57:25 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Jul 15, 2016, 3:06:57 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 3, 2012, 9:01:41 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 3, 2012, 10:04:47 AM PDT
Tom Rogers says:
It was supposed to be pink skies, Bob. At least based on the original lyrics of the Irving Berlin tune:

pink skies
smiling at me
nothing but pink skies
do I see

pink days
all of them gone
nothing but blue skies
from now on

Posted on Aug 3, 2012, 11:37:27 AM PDT


In reply to an earlier post on Aug 3, 2012, 11:58:46 AM PDT
Lj3d says:
To some degree NASA always considers the contamination risks. With Viking, the spacecraft were subjected to sterilization before embarking on their missions. As for some earthlike world not yet bearing life, thats so far into the future that the contamination issue will be left for whatever generation goes there. And thats assuming we find such a world within less than a hundred light years.
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Discussion in:  Science Fiction forum
Participants:  10
Total posts:  22
Initial post:  Jul 29, 2012
Latest post:  Aug 3, 2012

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