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Author Topic: 'They' cannot see you now.  (Read 33334 times)
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Re: 'They' cannot see you now.
« Reply #135 on: August 04, 2004, 03:01:42 pm »

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Who says the Orz are older than the Arilou?  For that matter, who says it even makes sense to talk about the 'age' of an interdimensional species?  As you've already commented, each dimension could easily have completely different rules of physics and temporality - the idea of 'age' almost definitely doesn't translate very direactly between dimensions.


Yes, it's tough monkeying around with Orz linguistic best-fits, but I would argue there is significance in calling the Arilou *quick babies*. The idea implies that both in the timescale they operate on and the total time of their existence the Arilou are on a lower level than the Orz, at least from the Orz's point of view. Of course babies may imply maturity level or sophistication or power rather than age -- it's interesting that the Orz call Arilou *babies* and other species *silly cows* and *sad animals*. Babies are infinitely weaker and stupider and less capable than adults, but they're the same kind of thing as an adult human being and we value them the same way we value adult human beings. The difference between human infants and animals, infant or adult, is one of kind, not age. Interesting.

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As you comment further on, most people seem to like the interpretation of the Orz as a single sentient being with multiple projections into this dimension.  As such, Orz is a singular sentient being (rather than many sentient beings), but whether there are other Orz's (i.e. other sentient organisms of the same 'species' as Orz), or whether Orz is a singular and unique phenomenon, is open to speculation.


As far as whether there are other Orz... I think the *cousins* reference is to Orz-like things that aren't Orz, though whether they're distinct the way we'd think of one human as being distinct from another is questionable. But if you think of all the connotations the word "cousin" has and why the computer might have picked it as a best-fit, it makes sense -- a cousin is someone related to you, kind of like you, but someone who lives somewhere else and has a different family and doesn't share your line of descent. Also interesting is that the Orz reports you to the *cousins* when you become a *camper* and says the *cousins* want to *join* you, when none of the Orz *join* you themselves.

I think it may be that the Orz for whatever reason can't do to you what they did to the Androsynth, but they leave the possibility open someone else might, and the someone else just hasn't arrived yet. Ooh, sequel possibility.

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I think this is the topic on which I disagree most with that seems to be the dominant interpretation of multidimensionality that I've seen expressed in this thread, so forgive me if I get a little longwinded here.  Although the best-fit terms (*above*, *below*, *middle*) seem to suggest it, I think visualizing the dimensions as a linear 'stack' like an office building is not the right way to think about it.  Multidimensionality doesn't necessarily just mean adding an axis to everything, such that any given location in spacetime (3 spacial coordinates, 1 temporal coordinate) in our dimension has a counterpart in all the other dimensions (by adding a dimension coordinate) - that implies way too much linearity (i.e. the idea of one dimension having exactly two neighbors, one in each direction).


Oh sure. There's absolutely no reason to think that all the other-dimensional spaces we can access are all the ones there are. And one-to-one correspondences between the spaces obviously seems unlikely, because distances are greatly compressed between the different spaces and the shape of space is radically twisted and bent as you go from one to the next. QuasiSpace portals' layout bear no relationship to their counterparts in Hyperspace, and we're told that the layout of the Hyperspatial Home Sector is a greatly distorted version of what those same stars look like in TrueSpace. Who knows? It's possible that in TrueSpace Sol and the star given the Hyperspace Astrogation designation "Algol" (which is a totally different star from the star we TrueSpace astronomers call Algol) are neighbors while the star called "Sirius" is hundreds of lightyears away. You can't tell from Hyperspace, nor do you care, because traveling even a few lightyears in TrueSpace from star to star is utterly impossible.

Still, I think that while Hyperspace is distorted from TrueSpace it's probably not seriously distorted the way QuasiSpace is from Hyperspace -- in Hyperspace the Galaxy is still the Galaxy, with a core and an edge and sectors, and I think stars that are close in TrueSpace are probably close in Hyperspace too. Hyperspace is a dimension that's a lot "closer", if that's a meaningful term, to ours, in terms of similarity and ease of travel, than QuasiSpace is to Hyperspace. (I do think that people who think of the spaces as being stacked on top of each other like pancakes are being too literal; the Arilou never say anything like that, just saying that the Orz are from "elsewhere". And the Orz linguistic best-fits *above* and *below* are just that, best-fits, probably chosen for the connotations of going upward and downward rather than any meaningful opposition between the two on a physical axis.)

But yeah, QuasiSpace is hard to get to. Keep in mind that as far as we know absolutely no one but the Arilou have QuasiSpace travel. If the Precursors were ever there, we have no sign of it, and the Arilou don't mention it at all. The Milieu didn't go there, since the Ur-Quan seem to utterly lack the technology. Either the Arilou are really good at defending their homes and keeping unwanteds out of QS, or else DF is just really hard to research, and smart races instinctively stay away from it.

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In fact, multidimensionality probably isn't even as simple as thinking of more axes along which to travel between dimensions: if getting from another dimension to this one was the hard part, and getting around within one dimension was the easy part, then why haven't *They* devoured everything in this dimension?  They clearly know this dimension exists and even know how to find it, since *They* either came here to eat the Androsynth or else caused the Androsynth to move to *Them* - but if *They* could do that, why wouldn't they do it to everyone else in this dimension, too?  Why would they need to *smell* each race separately in order to get to them, even if they're all in the same dimension?


Because the Star Control universe is a science fantasy that feels free to play with quasi-scientific magicla and spiritual concepts. *They* somehow depend on consciousness and awareness -- invading a race doesn't involve invading the physical space they occupy but invading their minds. *They* can only affect those who are conscious of them and aware of them. Why? It makes no sense in our universe, but *they* aren't from our universe, are they? Very Lovecraftian and creepy -- *they* may be pure consciousness, without a material form, and only able to affect things when they interact with other consciousnesses; you need to believe in them for them to exist. And yet, once you begin to suspect their existence, it's hard not to keep believing in them and thinking about them, like trying not to picture a white elephant. All they need to do is get their foot in the door -- do a *few* miracles and hauntings and plant a few suggestions in people's minds thanks to the opportunity they get when DF research breaks down the normal rules -- and then they can spread to a certain area. But they don't seem to have the power to come here on their own, or devour a race because they wish it -- the rules of *below* are more complicated than that. (Very reminiscent of the odd code of honor Biblical daemons are said to have.)

The idea that *above* is also some sort of spiritual realm where information and consciousness matter more than matter also has evidence behind it. There's a sort of spiritual element to the way the Arilou act and talk (they perceive time differently, they "discorporate" instead of dying, and so on) but also it neatly explains the odd reasoning behind the fact that your ship moves around in QS without consuming fuel. The absolute and constant drag imposed by Hyperspace was already a bit much to swallow, but it was in its way physically plausible. But it makes no sense for QS to both "drag" on your ship the way HS does and try to pull you to a standstill and yet take *no acceleration* to move through. If your engines aren't firing and pushing you forward, what's fighting the drag? And even if you don't need to fire your engines, you *are* firing your engines when you push the accelerator button; the ship's systems haven't changed since you left HS, have they? Why aren't the engines burning and consuming fuel when you're pushing the button that tells them to?

Crazy idea: The Arilou call QuasiSpace "Quasi"-Space for a reason -- it's not just a higher space like Hyperspace is over TrueSpace. Quasi-Space means something that appears like space but isn't, in the sense that TrueSpace and Hyperspace are physical spaces. Maybe QuasiSpace is a spiritual or mental universe where consciousness lives and operates according to nonphysical rules. So the Arilou's minds are powerful enough to allow them to live in QS on their home planet, which they "moved" to QS by visualizing it so strongly in QS that it can exist there (full of laws-of-physics defying wonders like "The Mountain Clouds of Thought" and "The Tangible Wish", names that evoke consciousness made physical). So the Arilou living there can do things like live forever with their souls surviving after death, because in QS it's their bodies that depend on their minds, not vice versa.

Maybe your ship exists in QS because you and your crew can't imagine surviving in QS without your ship, so you picture it around you and it exists there, but the only things with basic, true existence there are you and your crew's minds. So when you move the ship around the ship's engines can't burn -- there aren't physical laws complex enough to allow the engines to work at all in QS. But when you navigate the ship you *expect* the ship to move -- you're *willing* the ship to move, and the ship moves in response to your will, not to the nonexistent physical laws that are supposed to make its engines work. Hence QS is empty except for the portals that lead back to HS, because your mind can't perceive exits to places you know nothing about. And so on. It's not a perfect theory, but I find it quite compelling.

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I don't necessarily agree.  People seem to like this interpretation because it allows them to take the next step and point out that Orz might not realize that destroying our ships actually does hurt (and in fact permenantly destroys) sentient beings.  I don't like this interpretation, first of all because we never specified what kind of 'projection' of Orz it is that we see; if they're literally like 'fingers' that 'poke through' into our dimension but share some kind of connection to the 'true' Orz, then wouldn't it hurt a little to cut those fingers off?  It is possible that the projections are more like holograms - something that we can perceive and allows us to interact with the Orz, but which is not 'real' and does not have any impact on the 'true' Orz.  But even if this is the case, it seems plausible (from other things Orz says) that Orz understands that *dancing* in *heavy space* is actually bad for, and hurts, the people who live in *heavy space*.  If it didn't think that, why would it threaten to *dance* with us in order to get us to stop doing something it doesn't like, such as ask about the Androsynth?


No, the Orz do understand what we are, at least sort of. They *know* that we're not like the Orz; they specifically tell us that we are *many bubbles* and they are *fingers* and therefore they are not like us. So it's no good saying they think we're collective organisms too and if we explained individuality to them they'd change their ways.

It's more like, in my view, that the Orz (the high-level Orz, the big thing that the Orz we see are just fingers of) knows about us, but just doesn't care about us, and doesn't even understand why it should care. The same way (bringing back the tired old amoeba analogy) we don't really see what's so bad about killing germs when they threaten our lives, or when they make things inconvenient, or even going out of our way to kill and torture germs because we find it interesting and scientifically enlightening. Heck, not even germs; we do experiments with and play games using all sorts of things for fun.

The Orz may feel no more remorse about its *fingers* killing humans than we feel when our bodies'  white blood cells kill off random bacteria in our bodies, even bacteria that pose no threat to us. I mean, c'mon, why should we care? They're bacteria. And we're so high above them that our conscious minds consider the whole process automatic -- we have no way to stop it even if we wanted to. We don't really know what our white blood cells are doing -- they do what they do, they're a part of us, we let them run around and make decisions and respond to things and never give them any more thought than that.

That's probably the most chilling way to view the Orz, since it questions the relevance or meaningfulness of any attempt to judge them by human standards of good and evil, and underscores just how implacable they are -- not only can we not stop them, they can't stop themselves, and they can't even conceive of ever being able to stop themselves, or thinking on the level that would let them know there was anything to stop. (Yeah, we educated humans know all about how our white blood cells kill off bacteria in our intestines. That doesn't mean we actually experience it, or think about it, or care about it.) Bacteria may not like what we do, if the bacteria's way of "liking" or "disliking" something is at all similar to what humans mean when they like or dislike. But why should we care? How the hell should a bacterium have the right to impose on our consciences? Do *we* really have the right to ask the Orz to give a rat's ass about our welfare...?

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I agree with a previous poster that the Taalo probably met Orz in another dimension, after the Taalo figured out IDF.  But has anyone in the SC2 universe ever expressed concern that the Taalo might have fallen prey to *Them*?  If the Taalo have been galavanting around between dimensions, it seems that they would have almost definitely encountered *Them*, since the Androsynth had only just begin to poke a few holes when *They* immediately came and wiped them out.  So if the Taalo were somehow not vulnerable to *Them*, how come?  Maybe it has something to do with the Taalo's other precularity - their psionic ability.  If the Taalo were a species whose consciousness was such that psionic ability was second nature, maybe that also protects them from *Them*?  (That sounds convoluted, I know)  Maybe *They* 'eat' species not in a physical or literal way, but in a psychic way - like 'eat'ing their souls, and it only works if the prey can't protect itself psionically.  On the other hand, if that were true, it seems like the Arilou would have encouraged psionic ability in Humans to enable us to protect ourselves, and that doesn't seem to be the case.  On the other other hand, maybe the Taalo were, in fact, devoured by *Them*, and we just never heard about it.  Or maybe we did and I'm just forgetting it.


Orz definitely had something to do with Taalo. They claim that they were spreading throughout *Pretty Space* to *play* with the Taalo; they say the Dnyarri were *chasing* the Taalo and now they're *chasing* the Taalo. This sounds ominous, and sounds like the Orz and Taalo are enemies (at least from a mortal point of view) and that the Orz are making war on them. But they also call the Taalo *campers* and say they're better *campers* than you; since they tell you this when you're an ally, maybe the conflict reaches a point where the Taalo and Orz make peace?

It's my strong conviction that *They* and Orz are the same. It seems like the simplest and most obvious conclusion. (Also Paul and Ford openly revealed that the Orz and the "They" who offed the Androsynth are one and the same entity in a chat session.) Maybe not literally the same -- the invisible poltergeist *They* are certainly quite different in nature from the physical Orz fishfolk in the metal suits, the *fingers*, but they could be two manifestations of one infintely larger phenomenon. The Orz true nature, whatever it is, may have avatars of flesh and blood and metal it uses for playing one kind of game and ghostly fingers it uses to reach into people's minds directly when it suits it. The coolest theory in my mind is the theory that *They* are the pure manifestations of whatever dark Lovecraftian god lives in *Pretty Space*, and *They* infested the Androsynth's minds and then the Androsynth's bodies, playing with them, mutating them into strange and whimsical shapes, messing with their technology and their civilization and wreaking havoc, until it had something it was satisfied with. The physiology, psychology and technology of the Orz might be what's left over after the Androsynth have been thoroughly *played* with... maybe explaining why the Orz get so mad when you mention the Androsynth, because there's still a hint of Androsynth humanity inside of them that makes them uncomfortable.

In any case the way *They* work seems to require them to be in a different dimension from their victims and to break the laws of physics in certain ways. If the Taalo -- who are brilliant in ways we don't understand -- found a way to meaningfully survive in *PrettySpace*, maybe by turning themselves into spiritual beings, maybe having a technology that preserves their forms there, then the Orz-entity's tricks with *Them* might not work and it might have to confront them more as equals, things with the same kind of power if not the same level of power as it has. That status of being like equals could be what makes them better *campers* than you -- it might be tied to the sort of *time tricks* they're playing. Again, who really knows? But it's interesting to speculate about. I don't think I'd like a sequel where the Taalo popped up as nice, friendly talking rocks -- the only satisfying way for them to return would be strangely and irrevocably altered by their sojourn into *PrettySpace*.

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Along those lines, maybe the Precursors ultimate destination wasn't another dimension, but rather extinction: maybe the Precursors attracted the attention of *Them* and were just as vulnerable as the Androsynth.  Knowing that *They* were coming, and not wanting to put other life in this galaxy at risk, maybe the Precursors set up the Rainbow Worlds to mask our *smell* and then went somewhere else in order to draw *Them* away from us; when *They* caught up to the Precursors and devoured them, at least *They* didn't also catch wind of the other life in this galaxy in the process.  It would seem in line with the Precursor's noble image to sacrifice themselves to protect fledgling life.  


Nice theory. The Spathi call the Rainbow Worlds dump sites, but what do they know? The Precursors may have left radioactive wastes there to power the Rainbow effect, or as a convenient by-product of frantically dismantling their technology as doom looms near, or whatever. But the Rainbow effect does seem to be a sensor-scramblng effect; the idea being the Rainbow, according to the Melnorme, is that no matter what kind of sensors are used on it the signals come back as totally scrambled noise that goes all the way up and down whatever spectrum is being used to analyze the Rainbow World. Maybe this holds for *Their* ability to smell as well...
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Re: 'They' cannot see you now.
« Reply #136 on: August 04, 2004, 08:31:26 pm »

... except you can still scan the surface of rainbow worlds for minerals, and get accurate readings. Maybe it's because it's a precursor ship doing the scanning?
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Re: 'They' cannot see you now.
« Reply #137 on: August 04, 2004, 10:26:26 pm »

Or maybe because the worlds' function as "dump sites" is secondary to the Rainbow effect -- that is, they treated the surface of the world with whatever causes the Rainbow scrambling, then dumped a whole bunch of their extra radioactives on the surface. Even though you can see and pick up the minerals you can't tell anything about what the terrain under them is like.
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Re: 'They' cannot see you now.
« Reply #138 on: August 05, 2004, 04:05:26 am »

But why would the precursors dump valuable radioactive materals? Your ships uses them with a little changes - Seems to me that the radioactive materails are to keep the real trash in check.  
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Re: 'They' cannot see you now.
« Reply #139 on: August 06, 2004, 12:36:04 pm »

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one of the things we do know about Slylandro is that they're evolved from predators, which means they had to physically surround, overpower and consume other life forms. That implies they're probably not tiny for Source life.

First, even tiny creatures may prey on even smaller ones.
Second, some predators hunt for prey bigger than themselves.
Third, I don't think the Slylandro were ever predators: "At first, we were little more than mindless consumers who glided at the edge of windwalls straining the air for small animalcules. But even then we were social creatures, who invented language so that we could better cooperate when herding food into dense concentrations."

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The immense length of their memories, and the fact that even on Source physical laws are the same as on Earth, means that there's a physical limit to how small they can be and still retain data encompassing lifespans measured in Drahn.

How much is there to remember in a world where "the only things we know about are clouds, food and other Slylandro"? The things they will remember would be the special things, like a visit from the Precursors.

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The analogy I always had in my mind for Slylandro was deep-sea creatures. And the intelligent top-of-the-food-chain species in the ocean do tend to a larger size than similar animals on land

It seems to me that all creatures in water can be (but don't have to) be larger because species with a density about equal to water do not need to have to have parts of their body support the rest. It's not only the top-of-the-food-chain species.
But just like on land, I see no reason why the "intelligent top-of-the-food-chain species" need to be the larger ones. And even if they are the larger ones, that's only compared to others. This still don't have to be very large compared to humans for instance.
As a water analogy, I thought of the Slylandro more like big jellyfish. This is partially based on the in-game graphics and the description as "gas bags". As brains will have to have many interconnected components, I suspect that the brains will be denser than air, which would mean they'd either have to be compensated for by lighter components, or be only a small fraction of the whole (which would suggest large Slylandro), in order to stay "buoyant".

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If anything, the pressure within a gas giant is a lot *greater* than the pressure in the Earth's ocean.

Not in the upper reaches of the atmosphere.

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It gives the Slylandro more reason to be big, since support structures in general are going to have to be larger and contain more redundancies not to be crushed by random movements in the ambient medium.

It's possible the Slylandro would just have to go with the air flow, their control being limited to making small course adjustments. I'd think the Slylandro would have learned/evolved to avoid the really dangerous places.

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There's a reason that the idea of the gigantic gasbag is familiar; it's been done in a few other science fiction stories before, and the native inhabitants of Jupiter or wherever do tend to be described as enormous in scale, because a life form that can survive the titanic energies in a gas giant is more believable as large than small.

These stories are not familiar to me. Anyhow, while only a huge life form may be able to resist the forces, smaller life forms can survive by just go wherever the wind takes them.

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(Never mind that, although we don't know what sensors the Precursors or the Melnorme had, for them to be detectable inside the maelstrom of a gas giant they'd probably have to be pretty large and noticeable.)

I disagree. It's not unlikely that many life forms have a very recognisable spectrum. If the Precursors were looking for life forms on the planet to study (while intelligent life on gas giants may be rare, simple life forms may be fairly common), they may have been looking for small scale deviations in the larger, relatively regular features.
I expect the Precursors to have very high resolution scanners and very sophisticated computers to make sense of all that information.

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To the Slylandro their environment is boring, because they're adapted to it and have long since killed off their natural enemies, but the medium they live in is one that would utterly destroy the Vindicator if it flew into it because of the sheer kinetic energy, discarding concerns about heat or radiation or active chemicals.

While the forces may be extreme, they're not unpredictable. If you go with the flow, you could survive. It's like standing still on the middle of the highway. That will not be very good for you and your car, but if you move at the same speed as the rest of the traffic, in the same direction, you should be ok.

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Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think it's the *first* 500 km of the gas giant's atmosphere. It's *a* 500-km pressure zone that's safe for them to move around in, but it's still safely inside the atmosphere of the planet.

From the Star Control II Role Playing Resource Guide: "The Slylandro are an ancient race of gasbag people who live in the upper reaches of a gas giant's atmosphere."

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And I find it just plain unbelievable that you can get sentient life from a gasbag whose internal pressure is no more than 1 atmosphere. Life processes require a certain amount of density of the chemicals involved in order for there to be a certain rate of chemical reactions that allows life processes. If chemicals are too sparse or too rarefied, life can't survive, or life only survives in very small and simple ways.

500 km is still a large region. It's possible that certain processes only take places in the lower regions. Maybe it's the reverse of sea mammals: they could go down to "breathe" and then go up for a while.

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Earth's atmosphere dissipates too fast, lets gases separate quickly without reacting with each other

I don't quite understand what you mean here. Not all gasses react to each other. And some need a catalyst at certain pressures and temperatures.

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-- almost everything important we take from the air must be dissolved in water before it's in a form useful to life.

You mean oxygen in blood? The liquid in this case seems just to be a way for transport.

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This is why aspiring xenologists barely bother to speculate about finding life forms as giant gas clouds on Mars or Venus or Titan; if there isn't a liquid medium or the equivalent (and superpressurized gas inside a gas giant is an equivalent) then it's not worth looking for life as we know it.

Bacteria live in clouds on Earth. Why not on other planets?
And I'd like to see some source for "This is why aspiring xenologists barely bother to speculate [...]" (and I think the term is xenobiologist).

Note that I'm not saying the Slylandro aren't very big. I just think your arguments so far have not successfully made the point that they are.

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Occam's Razor. There are a lot of things that make the Precursors special other than the fact that they're very ancient sentient life forms. It seems kind of much to assume that whatever they were afraid of had to be some kind of universal threat, rather than something specific to the Precursors themselves.

What I actually meant to point out was that "not a universal threat" does not mean that their reason for leaving as they did must be "a threat to their status as godlike rulers of the galaxy" (for as far as their status can be considered as such).
Maybe it was another race they wanted to protect. Maybe there was a sudden opportunity for them that they might miss if they did not act quickly. For all we know they forgot they left the stove on.

Also, I don't think Occam's Razor is applicable here. Star Control is still a story. And an interesting story is about things that are uncommon (while not impossible).

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Re: 'They' cannot see you now.
« Reply #140 on: August 06, 2004, 03:48:40 pm »

Wild theories this time. Time to blow some holes Smiley.

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Orz definitely had something to do with Taalo. They claim that they were spreading throughout *Pretty Space* to *play* with the Taalo; they say the Dnyarri were *chasing* the Taalo and now they're *chasing* the Taalo.

The exact text is:
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Taalo are in *heavy space* and next what?
They spread to *Pretty Space* because Dnyarri are chasing them.
Now Dnyarri are sleeping, so Orz can *chase* them.

The last "them" could refer to the Dnyarri.
The Taalo were thought to be destroyed, and only later the Ur-Quan fought themselves free and "put the Dnyarri to sleep". The Orz could have been chasing the Taalo from the moment they entered pretty space. Yet the "so" suggests that what made the chasing possible was the Dnyarri being put to sleep.
Which makes it seem plausible that the Orz are hunting the "sleeping" Dnyarri, and as they are aboard the Ur-Quan ships, that would suggest the Orz are fighting Ur-Quan.

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(Also Paul and Ford openly revealed that the Orz and the "They" who offed the Androsynth are one and the same entity in a chat session.)

I challenge you to back that claim up, because I'm pretty sure they did not say that.

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*They* infested the Androsynth's minds and then the Androsynth's bodies, playing with them, mutating them into strange and whimsical shapes, messing with their technology and their civilization and wreaking havoc, until it had something it was satisfied with. The physiology, psychology and technology of the Orz might be what's left over after the Androsynth have been thoroughly *played* with... maybe explaining why the Orz get so mad when you mention the Androsynth, because there's still a hint of Androsynth humanity inside of them that makes them uncomfortable.

Nope:
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<LordR-man> Fwiffo- What really happened to the Androsynth in sc2?
<Fwiffo> In regards to the Androsynth: They were snagged by the entity
        who/which projected its fingers into our dimension (which looked to
        us as the Orz.)


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Re: 'They' cannot see you now.
« Reply #141 on: August 06, 2004, 04:25:03 pm »

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even the upper layers of Jupiter register hundreds of atmospheres. There's no way space wouldn't make them pop, and the cost of building a capsule that could hold that much pressure inside of it would be an immense engineering problem, even if the Precursors, say, had the knowhow to do it.

Hundreds of atmospheres is peanuts. The deepest known point in the ocean is 10924 metres deep. At that depth the pressure would be about 1089 atmosphere. That place has been visited by a submarine, in 1960.
Now is protecting a sphere-like capsule from outside pressure easier than from inside pressure, but it doesn't seem like anything the Precursors couldn't handle.

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Re: 'They' cannot see you now.
« Reply #142 on: August 06, 2004, 05:44:20 pm »

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First, even tiny creatures may prey on even smaller ones.
Second, some predators hunt for prey bigger than themselves.
Third, I don't think the Slylandro were ever predators: "At first, we were little more than mindless consumers who glided at the edge of windwalls straining the air for small animalcules. But even then we were social creatures, who invented language so that we could better cooperate when herding food into dense concentrations."


The Slylandro are mobile beings that survive by eating other life forms, life forms that they had to hunt, even if the hunting was a less violent process than it was for our ancestors. You can't really "herd" the equivalent of plankton. (And they do say there are hundreds of species, including predators and prey, but that they categorize everything into "clouds", "food" and "Slylandro", meaning all species, even the mobile predators, are food to them, so they weren't doing the equivalent of just grazing on insects. Go me for looking up the transcript.)

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As a water analogy, I thought of the Slylandro more like big jellyfish. This is partially based on the in-game graphics and the description as "gas bags". As brains will have to have many interconnected components, I suspect that the brains will be denser than air, which would mean they'd either have to be compensated for by lighter components, or be only a small fraction of the whole (which would suggest large Slylandro), in order to stay "buoyant".


Gas doesn't necessarily mean "air". The gas inside a gas giant is many times denser than the atmosphere of Earth. But yes, if the physical processes they operate on are anything like Earth animals', a bigger rather than smaller size suggests itself -- they need to hold up dense organs in a buoyant environment, so will surround themselves with more volume, along with the considerations I mentioned about more stored tissue leading to a longer potential lifespan, mass needed to hold memory, etc.

Also -- just thought of this, though it may have been in the back of my mind and been the strongest reason for my suspicion that the Slylandro were big -- just how are you seeing the Slylandro, anyway? You do visually see them, and their glowing bits inside of them. But you're in orbit high above -- it's either your sensors or the Precursor broadcasting satellite's sensors that's beaming an image of Content to Hover to you. You can see Content to Hover pretty clearly on your screen, with a nice clear view of the glowy bits inside of him -- if he's anywhere near human-sized, the Precursors have *amazing* telescopes. It's like building a telescope that can see down into the Marianas Trench from orbit, only the distance is probably multiplied by several times (if they're near the top of the upper reaches) or several hundred times (if they're a bit further down) and the material you have to scan through is a lot thicker and in a lot more chaotic motion.

Yes, the sensors probably are amazing no matter what, but it stretches credibility less if the Slylandro are really big things.

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Not in the upper reaches of the atmosphere.


Define "upper reaches". The parts where the gas flows freely at immense pressures with random electric discharges and storms and such *are* the upper reaches. The lower reaches -- the core -- of Jupiter are the parts we know very little about, where hydrogen is compressed into a metallic form, gases are in a state where nuclear fusion is randomly happening but not enough to initiate a stellar chain reaction, and such. It was never my thought that Slylandro lived in the lower reaches of the gas giant, where they'd probably be impossible to detect and be even weirder than we think they are now.

"In the upper reaches" doesn't, to me, mean "right at the very surface". Gas giants are hundreds of kilometers across -- a 500 km band could be 10,000  km in from the surface and still be in the "upper reaches". (They're probably actually a bit higher up than that, but the upper tenth of a planet could certainly count as "upper reaches".)

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It's possible the Slylandro would just have to go with the air flow, their control being limited to making small course adjustments. I'd think the Slylandro would have learned/evolved to avoid the really dangerous places.


If Slylandro can only tack with the wind like crude hot-air balloons, it's a lot harder to justify their ever developing intelligence; they developed intelligence because they needed to coordinate complex actions to herd prey species that were avoiding them, remember? And they don't talk like they're seriously restricted by currents -- they talk like they have the run of the planet ("If someone is bothering you, you can simply go somewhere else" -- not sound advice for current-drifters who really would be trapped with their neighbors for long periods of time).

Besides, it's not the fact that there are dangerous places that I'm alluding to -- Slylandro probably don't surf Great Spots. (Though they do have a kind of machismo culture with the whole Depths-diving.) But the Source equivalent of a clear, sunny day is still a writhing maelstrom compared to the worst storm on Earth. This is true even if you go up top where the pressure is less -- the average wind speed, chance for electrical discharge, ambient radiation, etc. is all much higher, generated by the sheer mass of the planet releasing a great deal more energy in its internal movements than the much dinkier Earth atmosphere. Slylandro *must* be a lot tougher in most conceivable ways than any Earth animal to live in that environment at all, even if from *their* perspective they're pampered, lazy civilized folk.

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I disagree. It's not unlikely that many life forms have a very recognisable spectrum. If the Precursors were looking for life forms on the planet to study (while intelligent life on gas giants may be rare, simple life forms may be fairly common), they may have been looking for small scale deviations in the larger, relatively regular features.
I expect the Precursors to have very high resolution scanners and very sophisticated computers to make sense of all that information.


"Spectrum" of what, radiation? Life isn't defined by some sort of special life radiation it emits; if it has a concrete definition it's as a set of complex self-reproducing chemical processes, which don't generate any particular kind of special radiation. (It probably radiates waste heat, but you couldn't tell the difference between a warm human body and a warm steam vent with just an infrared-sensitive scanner.)

The whole Star Trek thing of energy signatures and such is seriously overplayed. Especially in a gas giant where the chemistry of life must be wildly different from anything you'd see on an Earthlike planet, the only sure signs of life are the common sense ones -- Are things moving in non-chaotic, orderly patterns? Are there particular object shapes and behaviors that can't be explained by simple forces? If you have time to look, do you see complex chemicals that form themselves rather than being spontaneously formed and destroyed? It takes time and patience to look for those features, particularly when peering into something like a gas giant.

A gas giant has a very large amount of volume to look through with a lot more patterns and movements and things happening than on a rock like ours. It's like comparing the complexities of my backyard to the entire Pacific Ocean. Star Control 2 acknowledges this, and acknowledges in the manual that gas giants are such a soupy mess that everyone agrees trying to find practical data or resources from them is a waste of time.

Slylandro do say sentient life instead of just "life", though that's not proof that there *is* other known gas giant life -- after all, you sure as heck don't know of any, yet they don't bother to tell you if the Precursors did find other gasbags somewhere else. And the Melnorme pay an exorbitant price to analyze Source's life because the information is so unique (they do say the life of Source in general, not just the Slylandro). I don't think the idea of the Precursors having a detailed and thorough search process to find gas giant life forms is all that likely.

'Sides, this was in their time of desperation just before they disappeared -- why would they be doing routine searches for life? The only reason they'd talk to the Slylandro at such a time would be if the Slylandro were such a compelling and obvious anomaly that a good scientist couldn't resist. They'd have to be large enough so that their movements are visible from orbit, at least as large patterns moving across the sky (like bird flights) -- this also argues against the theory that they simply drift with the currents.

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500 km is still a large region. It's possible that certain processes only take places in the lower regions. Maybe it's the reverse of sea mammals: they could go down to "breathe" and then go up for a while.


If so we hear nothing about it, and it seems like the sort of thing they'd slip in to their discussion of the Depths and the Void. But it still doesn't really make sense to me to have the 500 km region hovering at the very top of the atmosphere like that; Earth's atmosphere is itself less than 50 or so km thick. The line at which the pressure gets to be 1 atmosphere fades into space pretty soon after; I have a hard time believing that a creature shaped like the Slylandro that's probably dependent on its medium for locomotion and, like jellyfish, probably dependent on the in/out cycle in its main body bag for basic life processes, could function at all in free space, much less report no ill effects except slowly getting tipsy. The pressure gradient would probably be less steep lower down where the effects of gas hovering on the transition between gas and liquid would have more of an effect (no, I'm not a real astronomer, sorry for my horribly vague phrasing).

But this isn't relevant; the real question is whether it's plausible for life to exist in an environment of all 1 atmosphere pressure gas, and I say probably not.

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I don't quite understand what you mean here. Not all gasses react to each other. And some need a catalyst at certain pressures and temperatures.


Right. And the majority of chemical reactions involving common elements and compounds require certain activation energies. These energies are a lot lower under certain conditions; generally, on our planet water acts as an ideal solvent that creates the conditions necessary for the chemical reactions of life. Without water, the energies involved would need to be too high to keep these reactions going, and would be far more likely to cross the line of *other* reactions that would cause the complex life structures to break down. Water as a medium acts as a powerful general "catalyst" and is absolutely essential for life as we know it; the same molecules in dry, powdered form or dry gaseous form could sit in an area boiling with energy (the surface of Mercury, say) and never do a single thing.

You need a way to force ions to remain free and interact with each other; water, as a polar solvent, provides one method. Another method might be to have gas at such high temperatures that it remains free and fluid, but under such pressures that it has liquid-like properties; pressures that allow bonds to form and break easily by moving electrons close enough to jump from one molecule to another (apologies again for the squishy language: I'm no chemist but I was raised in a household of them so I have a  picture in my head of how it works). We *know* water does it; we don't know if you could get the right chemical soup at the right level of radiation and heat to get the same effect, without there being too *much* energy that would break down your complex chemical structures by sheer random heat as soon as they formed. Hence we're much less excited about discovering gas giant life than water-based life on rocky worlds. But if it could happen, it'd have to happen in a soupy highly charged pressurized-gas environment that had the same potential as a soupy ocean of water and dissolved ions on Earth.

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 Bacteria live in clouds on Earth. Why not on other planets?
And I'd like to see some source for "This is why aspiring xenologists barely bother to speculate [...]" (and I think the term is xenobiologist).

Note that I'm not saying the Slylandro aren't very big. I just think your arguments so far have not successfully made the point that they are.


Heck no. The most basic processes that make life life -- DNA replication, protein synthesis, and the respiration that allows cells to get energy from food, both aerobic and anaerobic -- are utterly dependent on water. Water provides the basic building blocks that link monomers together -- water is used up to put together proteins and released when proteins break down, which is one reason eating lots of high-protein food dehydrates you. The watery medium is what allows the molecules that control and manipulate oxygen (like hemoglobin) to work; without those controls in place oxygen is nothing but a deadly corrosive gas (one reason why air bubbles floating in your blood are a Very Bad Thing). Blood is a secondary consideration; every single one of your body's cells is a little bag of watery goo. Every living part of your body depends on water -- it's no surprise Slylandro call us "fluid sacks".

The bacteria that live in the air are cells; they contain a watery solution. They *evolved* in the ocean or some other water source, as did all Earth life -- the ion concentration in our bloodstreams, scientists speculate, is precisely balanced to be that of the ancient ocean when life evolved in it; we just carry that ancient home ocean around with us, even though the real ocean has since dissolved more rocks and gotten a lot saltier (one barrier to new life spontaneously evolving on our planet).

Whatever exotic blend of gases under profoundly un-Earth-like conditions can make floating gases act like ions dissolved in water (and it'd have to be exotic), life could only evolve in *that*, not in gases at Earthlike temperature and pressures, where nearly all common elements will adopt common compound forms and stay stable there without changing. And while bacteria-like things could migrate from their original environment to an environment infinitely less dense, less energy-rich, less full of the things they need and survive, I find it hard to believe a whole ecosystem of big organisms; it'd be the leap from oceans to land times a hundred, since the cells or their equivalents of cells would have to maintain not just a water solution but a high-pressure high-energy mix of gases inside of themselves in a low-pressure environment that would be trying to make them explode.

Sigh. I don't have time to look up sources just now -- it's late -- but there is an interesting absence of evidence that might be evidence of absence. When people think of where there might be life in the solar system, they point to Mars (if the signs of liquid water pan out), maybe Titan (if there's liquid methane and liquid methane can be shown to act like liquid water) or maybe one of the moons of Jupiter like Europa (where we know there very well might be liquid water because there's frozen ice). Liquid water is a big deal. When was the last time you heard about a serious effort to look for life that didn't involve water?

And the study of alien life is a field without any data (or hardly any data), so it's not really formalized enough to have a single name. I prefer "xenologist" because speculating about aliens is a vague enough hobby with so little hard data that you can lump it all into one category. If you want to make distinctions between studying sentient aliens' cultures and technology and studying alien life forms in general, be my guest.

I never said it was hard-and-fast proven in the game what size Slylandro were. It is, after all, just a game, and if the game wanted us to know the game would tell us, maybe in some humorous fashion. (Melnorme: "The Slylandro are a race roughly the size of the odd human artifacts you know as Goodyear Blimps, and quite similar to said blimps in their physiology, rarity and pleasant disposition.") But when trying to treat sf as hard sf, there are a lot of things you can assume if you're allowed to assume a certain similarity to real life, and what little I know about this stuff in real life makes it much more natural for me to picture the Slylandro as big.
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Re: 'They' cannot see you now.
« Reply #143 on: August 06, 2004, 06:31:56 pm »

Ok Art, you said that Slylandro have to be big to be able to defy the massive forces in the gas giant. The problem is that the bigger the object is, the higher are the forces that it needs to defy.
If the Slylandro were big enough for you to see them from orbit and  lived somewhere in the middle of their atmosphere where the conditions are quite extreme, their metabolism would need to produce more energy then an avarage nuclear power plant.
They could be big and still survive, if they lived in the outer reaches of the atmosphere where the pressure, wind speed and whatnot  is considerably smaller. Still it would easier for them to survive if they were smaller.
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Re: 'They' cannot see you now.
« Reply #144 on: August 07, 2004, 01:02:59 am »

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Gas doesn't necessarily mean "air". The gas inside a gas giant is many times denser than the atmosphere of Earth.

When I say "air" I mean the mixture of gasses in the atmosphere.

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Also -- just thought of this, though it may have been in the back of my mind and been the strongest reason for my suspicion that the Slylandro were big -- just how are you seeing the Slylandro, anyway? You do visually see them, and their glowing bits inside of them. But you're in orbit high above -- it's either your sensors or the Precursor broadcasting satellite's sensors that's beaming an image of Content to Hover to you.

I'm not sure whether the broadcasting satellite is even still in place. The text "They even installed a broadcasting satellite in orbit around our world
which let us talk with them whenever we wanted." suggests to me that they could talk to the precursors while they were away.

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You can see Content to Hover pretty clearly on your screen, with a nice clear view of the glowy bits inside of him -- if he's anywhere near human-sized, the Precursors have *amazing* telescopes. It's like building a telescope that can see down into the Marianas Trench from orbit, only the distance is probably multiplied by several times (if they're near the top of the upper reaches) or several hundred times (if they're a bit further down) and the material you have to scan through is a lot thicker and in a lot more chaotic motion.

It's a bit of a stretch, but a pretty advanced software could perhaps compensate for the scattering of the light. Especially if you scan from different places so that various data can be combined. This could be common knowledge among space-faring races.
And if necessary, we could always accept what you see in the game as just a convenient representation of what's really happening.

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Define "upper reaches".

This was a litteral quote from the hints book. By this wording, I'd expect the distance from the top to be substantially less than the width of the habitable band. The band itself is 500km wide. So maybe the 600 to 100km from the top?

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The parts where the gas flows freely at immense pressures with random electric discharges and storms and such *are* the upper reaches.

You assume all gas giants are like the ones in our solar system. Source may be a lot more friendly.

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If Slylandro can only tack with the wind like crude hot-air balloons, it's a lot harder to justify their ever developing intelligence; they developed intelligence because they needed to coordinate complex actions to herd prey species that were avoiding them, remember?

Within quiet patches (and large streams that move at a constant speed) they may have the ability to move at will. It's just when they move in fast streams that they would have to submit. Again driving on roads sounds like a good comparison. On freeways the only thing you can do is change lanes to change where you are going, and pass other cars within the flow. In a small town you will be able to move pretty much at will.

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And they don't talk like they're seriously restricted by currents -- they talk like they have the run of the planet ("If someone is bothering you, you can simply go somewhere else" -- not sound advice for current-drifters who really would be trapped with their neighbors for long periods of time).

Slylandro take things slow. If it takes a few weeks to move a few kilometers, they may still consider that "go there at will".

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Besides, it's not the fact that there are dangerous places that I'm alluding to -- Slylandro probably don't surf Great Spots.

They may in fact. The dangerous place is around the edges of such a Great Spot. If you're in the stream of the great spot, and simple let yourself be moved with the speed of the winds there, you're not in any danger.

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"Spectrum" of what, radiation? Life isn't defined by some sort of special life radiation it emits; if it has a concrete definition it's as a set of complex self-reproducing chemical processes, which don't generate any particular kind of special radiation. (It probably radiates waste heat, but you couldn't tell the difference between a warm human body and a warm steam vent with just an infrared-sensitive scanner.)

You can recognise a material by the spectrum of its radiation. Very local deviations in the spectrum of a part of the planet may point to life. A very fast computer with smart software may find these in a short time.

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Star Control 2 acknowledges this, and acknowledges in the manual that gas giants are such a soupy mess that everyone agrees trying to find practical data or resources from them is a waste of time.

It doesn't say that at all.
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Although there has been some discussion of harvesting the upper atmosphere of gas giants with enormous ?scoop-ships,? your flagship is incapable of
gleaning any useful minerals from such planets.


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Slylandro do say sentient life instead of just "life", though that's not proof that there *is* other known gas giant life -- after all, you sure as heck don't know of any, yet they don't bother to tell you if the Precursors did find other gasbags somewhere else.

The Slylandro say
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As far as we know, we're the only sentient species who's ever evolved in the atmosphere of a gas giant. Of course, from what we know, most Travellers like yourselves don't have much interest in gas giants so maybe there are others like us Slylandro out there somewhere.

The manual says:
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To date, no complex life-form has ever been found in/on a gas giant; however, research into this field has been minimal.

This at least suggests simple life has been found.

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And the Melnorme pay an exorbitant price to analyze Source's life because the information is so unique (they do say the life of Source in general, not just the Slylandro). I don't think the idea of the Precursors having a detailed and thorough search process to find gas giant life forms is all that likely.

I never claimed that. But I do find it likely that the Precursors would make a detailed inventory of all planets in this region of space. A scan for (even simple) life could be standard.

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'Sides, this was in their time of desperation just before they disappeared -- why would they be doing routine searches for life?

I'm not sure they were "worried" all the time they visited the Slylandro. When joyous lifting said the Precursors were "always hurrying from place to place" she may just have been refering to the last period.
Anyhow, the Precursors visited the Slylandro over several Drahn. That's a long period. If you look at how long it would take you to scan all the planets in this area, that would only be a fraction of the time the Precursors would have been worried. And it may even have been part of their search.

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The only reason they'd talk to the Slylandro at such a time would be if the Slylandro were such a compelling and obvious anomaly that a good scientist couldn't resist. They'd have to be large enough so that their movements are visible from orbit, at least as large patterns moving across the sky (like bird flights) -- this also argues against the theory that they simply drift with the currents.

I don't see that. Once the Precursors knew about the Slylandro, they may just stop by on occasion, when they're in the neighbourhood.

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But this isn't relevant; the real question is whether it's plausible for life to exist in an environment of all 1 atmosphere pressure gas, and I say probably not.

It wouldn't be much different from a balloon on Earth. I'd think something similar could evolve. And the high end of their acceptable environment may very well be lower. I'm not claiming they'd have to be able to live all the way up to the vacuum.

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[whole story about how water is used in Earth life

That still doesn't convince me that there can be no other way. Water is abundant on Earth. It makes sense that it's used a lot. But that doesn't mean that without something like water life cannot exist.
Also look here.

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And while bacteria-like things could migrate from their original environment to an environment infinitely less dense, less energy-rich, less full of the things they need and survive, I find it hard to believe a whole ecosystem of big organisms; it'd be the leap from oceans to land times a hundred, since the cells or their equivalents of cells would have to maintain not just a water solution but a high-pressure high-energy mix of gases inside of themselves in a low-pressure environment that would be trying to make them explode.

It can go very gradually. If a life form is capable of going just a bit higher, it will have an advantage over the ones that can't. Natural selection does the rest.

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And the study of alien life is a field without any data (or hardly any data), so it's not really formalized enough to have a single name. I prefer "xenologist" because speculating about aliens is a vague enough hobby with so little hard data that you can lump it all into one category.

It's an actual scientific field.

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If you want to make distinctions between studying sentient aliens' cultures and technology and studying alien life forms in general, be my guest.

That's the difference between astrosociobiology and  exobiologgy.

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But when trying to treat sf as hard sf, there are a lot of things you can assume if you're allowed to assume a certain similarity to real life, and what little I know about this stuff in real life makes it much more natural for me to picture the Slylandro as big.

Not to me. To me both small and large size is possible.
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Re: 'They' cannot see you now.
« Reply #145 on: August 07, 2004, 01:44:25 am »

I hesitate to play the 'off-topic' card, since technically this thread has been off topic for a long time, and nobody's really sure what the topic *was* anymore, but I think this Slylandro discussion deserves its own thread.  Or you guys could just PM eachother.  Smiley
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Re: 'They' cannot see you now.
« Reply #146 on: August 07, 2004, 04:46:31 am »

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I hesitate to play the 'off-topic' card, since technically this thread has been off topic for a long time, and nobody's really sure what the topic *was* anymore, but I think this Slylandro discussion deserves its own thread.  Or you guys could just PM eachother.  Smiley

You're absolutely right. I didn't even realise it.

As for the Slylandro, I personally have spent enough time on the subject, but if anyone still wants to respond, we can discuss the matter further in a seperate thread.
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Re: 'They' cannot see you now.
« Reply #147 on: August 07, 2004, 05:25:06 am »

Yeah, I agree. The whole Slylandro thing spun kind of out of control. My apologies.

One quick note about the off-topic topic before this off-topic topic: I don't think we necessarily disagree that much about the Precursor thing, since I think we both think that the Precursors could've left for any reason and that the chance that there was a threat to the Slylandro because there may've been a threat to the Precursors is minimal. I think you misread what I said as saying the Precursors left because of a threat *to* their status as rulers of the galaxy, when I said the Precursors left because of a threat that occurred *because of* their status as rulers of the galaxy (i.e. whatever opportunity they were seeking, race they were seeking to protect, threat they were fleeing, it wasn't something that would've happened to them had they not been the Precursors --- not some universal thing, anyway).

The original reason for all this was someone, I think, pointing at a possible inconsistency between the Slylandro living in Precursor times and not having been eaten by the Eternal Ones, and me saying that's only a problem if SC3 is canon and if not there's no reason for us to think there are Eternal One-type things at all, and devolving into questions of how and why the Slylandro would/could be rescued if it *was* a problem, and a whole lot of unnecessary stuff. Smiley
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Re: 'They' cannot see you now.
« Reply #148 on: August 08, 2004, 06:51:03 am »

To resurrect something that's come up a few times in this thread...

I was playing the other day and noticed something odd.  One of the fairly universal interpretations that this community (or at least this thread) has made about SC2 is that Orz is a singular entity which projects multiple *fingers*, or however you translate the concept, into this dimension; this means talking to any of Orz's *fingers* is equivalent, since you're still communicating with the same extra-dimensional entity.

But if that's the case, why do the Orz make you go to their/its "homeworld" in order to form an alliance?  First of all, it's not their/its "homeworld", but even if they/it have designated that their/its base of operations, why would the *fingers* present there be any different than those present on every Orz ship you encounter in hyperspace?

Seems to suggest that there are, in fact, multiple distinct entities that make up the Orz; maybe it's just a few and each one has multiple *fingers*, and the "leader" is the one whose *fingers* all stay on the "homeworld"?  It still seems contradictory, though, since the Orz do say some things that fairly strongly suggest there being just one Orz (I forget the exact wording, but "you think I am many bubbles, but I am just Orz", for example).
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Re: 'They' cannot see you now.
« Reply #149 on: August 08, 2004, 09:29:53 am »

Many things the Orz do seem intended to make them seem like just another random alien race; if you buy the theory that the Orz bodies are a warped version of Androsynth, taken over by the real entity behind Orz, whatever it is, it might make sense that they by design have separate physiologies (the fish bodies), different ships, a different language and a different homeworld from the original Androsynth. (The fact that they really are a different order of being from another dimension explains why they're so *bad* at fitting in or deflecting suspicion.)

I can't think of any good reason why the *fingers* of some extradimensional entity should have to look like green fish-folk that breathe an ethanol solution and fly blue batwing ships, much less other things like having a specific homeworld and ranked captains aboard their ships and such, other than that they're following what they see as the rules of *heavy space* life.
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