Planets and Boards

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I really enjoy the semi-lucid half awake state, where we lapse in consciousness, yet avoid being totally engulfed by our unconscious. We’ve all been there, tired as a seven billion year old fading star, looking forward to our last few steps of awakeness till we eventually fade back into sleep. However, that interlude is my favourite, when our brain doesn’t quite yet come to grips with the mindlessness that is our dreams, and different parts of the brain are calling it a night. It’s an almost hollow comfortable numbness.

My board exams are going on, and that involves a fair bit of studying. It’s not as much as I used to do before, but there are still a few hours involved that make me get to bed just before sunrise.

Yesterday I was thinking about how thrilling, not fun, but thrilling, it would be to be able to traverse different planets. I’m bored with our solar system. The only places we can go where we don’t immediately die is probably Titan or Enceladus. Europa is probably the most scientifically interesting, but all these three moons are way off from our current habitable standards. And with earth politics in the way, I don’t see us living anywhere except on this pale blue dot for the next dozen or so decades until some world-threatening disaster happens. Or a war.

I was imagining living on a planet that’s a few hundred light years away from Sol. Remember, this is in that state of semi-lucid consciousness. It’s probably somewhere in a star system we already know with a name like IBAS3529. The planet had vague light yellow atmosphere. It was slightly makosmaller than the Earth, almost Mars sized. There’s a lot of greenery everywhere, but since the planet is smaller, the water bodies are a lot less frequent and spread out, because rains are rarer. The planet has conventional water (H20), however the lakes are lot larger, and oceans, shallower but larger. It was quite a quaint little planet in my imagination. Then I was imagining the wildlife, how there are quadrupedal dog-like creatures that are slightly larger but less aggressive. The microorganisms are different from earth, but similar enough to have various Earth-like counterparts, almost as if they’d shared a genetic lineage somewhere down the line. Thinking about it, a lot of this is extremely similar to Mass Effect, which was one of the best games I’ve ever played.

This is quite a nice alien world, I imagine. If there were oxygen, that is.

A lot of my dreams involve planets and space travel, because I’ve been fascinated with outer space since I was tinier than I am now.

On this planet that I was thinking about, I was imagining a human settlement; a colony, perhaps. What would it take to have a functioning human colony there provided that the air and gravitational field was hospitable enough. For one, we’d need a lot of engineers and manual labour to lay down the electric grids and build the foundations; pipes, wires, satellites, transport. Then imagining those workers, do they really want to be on a planet several billion miles away from their home laying down pipes in a potentially dangerous alien environment? The pay would be great, I imagine, so they’re doing it only for the money. Then there’d be the domestication of animals. That’s one thing humans are good at; taming or killing wildlife, whichever suits their needs at the given time. Hopefully this planet of mine wouldn’t turn into Mauritius with the Dodo.

I long time ago I wrote a paper on the habitability of Mars with my friend Chevy. This was almost two years ago, when I knew considerably less about the universe, but I’m still surprised at how good it was. The paper was written for some vague competition that we participated in (we didn’t qualify).

Here it is, if you want to read it: The Martian Habitability Hypothesis

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Upamanyu Acharya is a writer who doesn't write. Sometimes he's an artist, musician, photographer, physicist or lazy student. His hobbies include being vague, bending rules, time-travel, and embellishment of words. This is his personal blog where he writes on topics ranging from leadership skills to the consistency of jam.

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