Monday, March 7, 2016

Thirty Days of Space 1889: The World(s)

This weekend I read the first chapter of the Ubiquity Space 1889 RPG, "The World of Space 1889." The first chapter provides a brief overview of the Space 1889 setting, with an emphasis on technology.

A few key items are:
  • No telephones
  • No radio
  • Telegraphs (and of course mail) are how you communicate across vast distances on Earth
  • Heliographs are the only way to communicate across vast distances in space, and even then, planets like Earth and Mars may be on opposite sides of the sun (and therefore out of communication) for up to six months at a time
  • Mars has more gravity than it should (90% of Earth's)
  • There is an odd speculation that terrestrial planets' distance from the sun may tell us something about their relative age, with the outer worlds having existed for progressively greater spans of time. This latter point deserves some amplification.
The asteroid belt is Space 1889 is purportedly due to the break up of a planet called Phaeton. Now suppose for a moment that Phaeton was the first terrestrial planet, and therefore the first to reach advanced senescence and break apart.

Mars is the next oldest. Its formerly advanced civilizations are now in decline, with mere city-states left where once great empires stood. Mars' climate gradually is drying out. In time, the planet will become completely uninhabitable and it will break apart like Phaeton did.

Earth is still blue with abundant life. It represents an earlier stage of planetary evolution than Mars. Human civilization is more advanced at this point in time, meaning that our technology level is higher than on Mars, and our civilizations are expansionist and imperialistic rather than in decline.

Venus represents a stage some 150 million years younger than Earth. It is a humid, wet planet with ubiquitous shallow seas. Dinosaurs are everywhere. The only intelligent life are spear-using lizardmen. 

Mercury is even worse. It is a tidally-locked hell world. One face of the planet is scorched by the sun. The other face is frozen. Between them runs a narrow band of riverine canyons in perpetual twilight. This is the abode of extremely primitive life forms; the kind that have just emerged from the sea for the first time.

Now Darwin's The Origin of the Species By Means of Natural Selection had already been published in 1859. One wonders how the apparent discovery that planetary age increases with distance from the sun resonates or conflicts with evolutionary theory? Evolutionary theory tends to be presented in stages that correspond with geological eras. But is it one thing to depict those stages based on one planet's fossil record and geology, and yet another to assert that the stages will follow the same pattern on other worlds, and in a manner in which relative distance from the sun predicts one's current stage?  There's a lot to think about here, as this moves evolution into a much closer and less contingent orbit around physics. 

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