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Chapter 7: The Morphology of Intelligent Life

The parameters of this study are within the limits under which matter can become ‘living’ and life forms can thrive.

Plant and animal life are highly organized conglomerates of matter which are subject to the laws of chemistry and physics. These laws carry restrictions when dealing with life, restriction which allow us to say: The complex molecular structure of a cell will become disorganized unless it can obtain external energy and effectively use it internally to overcome the continuing process of degeneration.

In order for there to be a pool of larger animal life forms, from whence our intelligent alien is drawn, there must be a complex ecological base in existence on the planet.

On the alien world, as on our own, external energy must be tapped for maintenance of internal order. The prime energy source on any of our model planets is radiation from the parent star.

Primieval development
In the primeval seas of alien worlds, it is reasonable to assume that biochemical adoptions favoring the use and storage of soar radiation would be drawn into the mainstream of the evolutionary process. These adoptions may well resemble chlorophyll in function, by converting low energy molecules into high energy molecules in the  presence of solar radiation and finally by moving and storing the resulting molecules for growth, reproduction, metabolic and regenerative use.

Life forms which convert and store solar energy (Producers) are  necessary as food for species which develop without the ability to produce their own food (Consumers).

Once the producers have made the necessary adoptions to live on land, their diversification and spread would begin. They would become more and more specialized, moving into virtually all planetary environments where life functions were possible. Meanwhile, following the expansion of the Producers, would be the Consumers. Prior to leaving the sea, the Consumers will have already begun to diversify into herbivores and carnivores, this process would continue on land.

Morphological considerations
On Earth, certain morphological relationships exist amongst the larger animals, which share a common or similar food source:

Its is common to find that the larger Herbivores graze in groups, that they are fast runners, have horns or antlers to assist in food collection, protection and mating behavior; and have teeth especially suited for grinding.

The large Carnivores also share common characteristics; they are very fast short distances runners, have  powerful front limbs with sharp nails and powerful jaws with teeth adapted for holding, cutting and chewing.

On any of our theoretical planets, specialized adoptions will exist which are derived from the life forms heredity, diet and environment.

Since the environments we’re studying can exist on planets around F2 through K1 stars and because these stars exist in profusion through out the galaxy, we can expect to find comparable structures performing similar biologically important functions, essentially everywhere.

We can expect to find intelligent aliens with some mechanical means of cutting or grinding their food. We can expect to find that within their bodies is an area where food is chemically processed before assimilation. They will need an internal or external framework to support their organs and muscles. They will have a nervous system with sensors so that they can find food, avoid being eaten and form social groups to pursue intricate social and engineering objectives.

One way to explore alien morphology, is to follow a piece of food through its body, while discussing the alien form in terms of ‘shape being related to function’ and biological adaptation.

On a distant world, a creature which had developed tool using intelligence, encounters a large morsel of food. The food item could be a fruit, a large seed pod, tuber, root or ‘roast’. This large tough piece of food needs to me mechanically cut, broken up and ground or softened prior to exposing it to chemical attack within the body. The purpose of mastication is to increase the total surface area of the food so that it cane be quickly and efficiently broken down into  the aliens chemical-biological building blocks. In order to accomplish this, a grinding and cutting surface is needed, this surface could be provided by specialized bone, teeth or even a beak,  and would need to be imbedded in a hard surface to protect the alien’s softer tissues from the forces exerted in mastication (chewing process).

The energy to operate the ‘chewing’ mechanism would have to be exerted through a muscle tissue which has the ability to repeatedly contract. We might envision a hydraulic system operating these grinding surfaces; however, muscle tissue would still be needed to power and control the flow of hydraulic fluids.

The cut and ground food would then pass into a short term storage area. This organ would be a holding area in which digestion may or may not begin. It is also possible that swallowed food would be channeled directly into an intestine.

The major digestive organ would have accessory organs associated with it which provide the various acids and enzymes necessary for digestion. This intestine like organ would have a large surface area covered with capillaries from the aliens circulatory system.

Digestible products would be chemically reduced to primary and special biochemical building blocks, absorbed through the intestinal wall and carried through out the aliens body. Indigestible materials would pass through the digestive organ for excretion..

“Food” chemicals absorbed from the circulatory system would be used by the bodies cells for construction of protoplasm and the release of energy. Inorganic salts, minerals and water would be used for the maintenance of his internal environment,  including pH and his endo or exoskeleton, etc.

Circulatory system
The circulatory system would be a network of various sized distribution vessels joining a pump or system of pumps. This system would be responsible for circulating food to the body’s cells, carry cellular waste to an organic filter for excretion. It would also play an important role in the body’s defense against infection as well as carry oxygen to the cells for oxidation of foods and carry off the byproducts of respiration.

Our model alien will need a respiratory system to move oxygen into the body. In small animals, a trachea system may exist which would operate by passive diffusion, but in larger animals, the body mass is such that oxygen demands are too great for such a method.

Its necessary to realize that on a majority of alien worlds that large, intelligent, tool using life would have developed with an active method of drawing portions of the atmosphere into their body.

As the inspired portion of atmosphere enters the body, it may be cooled or warmed as it passes over internal surfaces. Within the air entry and-or preconditioning passages, there may also be a filtering system of hair and mucous to remove small particulate matter.

The point at which air enters the bod,  ‘the nose’ maybe more conspicuous on aliens from colder, drier and dustier worlds and less conspicuous on warmer, moister worlds.

After the air is regulated for temperature and humidity, it would be drawn into an organ having a large surface area. This respiratory organ would be tied directly into the circulatory system for the transportation and absorption of oxygen and removal of byproducts from cellular oxidation. Entering the circulatory system, the oxygen could be carried to the cells as a gas, dissolved in the circulatory medium or attached to a respiratory pigment. On Earth, the common respiratory pigments are compounds of copper or iron. After oxidation had taken place in the cells, some of the by products would return to the lung for removal into the atmosphere.

Mechanical support
The model intelligent alien will need a rigid or semi rigid skeletal system for mechanical support of his body’s leverage system.\An exoskeleton, covering the entire body would be effective protection against cuts and abrasions; however, large life forms grow so fast that the exoskeleton would have to be shed many times during the maturing process. In those times when each old, outgrown exoskeleton was being shed, but before the new one had grown in, the alien would be vulnerable to predator attack.

A biologically more advantageous scheme would be to have an endo skeleton. One that does not render the possessor unduly defenseless during anytime of its life. Another advantage of the endo skeleton is that it leaves the skin exposed for maximum environmental sampling.

The endoskeleton would probably offer a means of protection for those vital organs which would lose efficiency if they were molested by bending and twisting and those requiring more or less continuous movement, such as the heart and lungs. Protection can be gained by a bone or cartilage cage surrounding the cavity where these organs would be carried.

The alien body may also have exoskeletal structures, such as claws, nails, horns, hoofs, beak, scales, feathers, hair, fur, boney plates, teeth, etc.

Our intelligent tool using alien will have legs for locomotion and jointed arms with jointed fingers for fine manipulation.

Where as at least two legs are necessary, we cannot fully  overlook quadrupeds intelligence. In Man and the primates, the front legs have become specialized modifications resulting in arms. So if we assign our alien four legs and two arms, we must remember that his distant ancestors had six legs. Would a planet with much higher gravity favor selection of species with  six legs?

On the planetary models, higher gravities would be more simply overcome biologically by reducing body weight, increased muscle mass and a tougher skeleton than by many legs.

Among bipeds it seems reasonable to assume the existence of ‘feet’ to facilitate in balance and locomotion.

The number of arms the alien may have depends somewhat on coordination and efficiency. It seems likely that with a system of bilateral symmetry two arms would suffice in practically and survival task offered by the environment. Once again, if we postulate an alien with four arms and two legs, its ancestors would have had six legs. Extra appendages require greater nervous complexity and exact a good deal of energy from the organism for their maintenance.

Hands with boney projections and attached muscle offer a good system of leverage. For a good grip, at least three fingers are needed, one  in opposition to the others. The number of fingers could be increased to perhaps seven or eight, but beyond this the advantage becomes questionable.

Sensory apparatus
Among the aliens arsenal of environmental sensors we can expect varying degrees of development in structures providing sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch-all factors that put any mobile life form into a sensory feedback loop with its surroundings.

Solar radiation is by far the greatest energy source in the environment, the velocity of light along with the reflective properties of matter make it a very important element in sampling ones surroundings. On Earth, various forms of eyes have developed on creatures with very different evolutionary histories, common examples are the common housefly, squid, andMan.

The structure and image perceiving properties of the human and squid’s eye are very similar, illustrating the parallel, yet independent development of these very complex structures.

Stars of spectral class F2 through F6 have a higher proportion of their output in the violet end of the light spectrum, while G8 through K1 stars have a greater proportion of their  visible light output in the red end of the spectrum than does the Sun. Its possible that aliens developing on worlds orbiting F2 to F6 stars may see a little farther into the violet, while those from call G8 to K1 stars may see into the infrared.

The number of eyes an intelligent creature has will not be highly variable. One eye does not provide the depth perception necessary for survival. Two eyes give adequate depth perception and a third eye would slightly increase this perceptive ability. Increasing the number of eyes beyond two or three does not increase survival at a linear rate since there is a diminishing return for the biological investment.

The ability to sense sound is valuable in communication and for locating the general location of other animal life. On the smaller planets with thinner atmospheres, sound may not play as important a role as it does on earth, where as on the larger planets with their denser atmospheres, sound may be more important.

With auditory sensors on either side of the body, the alien would be able to determine the direction a sound emanated from, he could then bring his eyes into play and search for detail.

The sense of smell will probably also play an important role. Olfactory sensors are actually chemical sensors that analyze the immediate atmosphere. They are not as important for locating the exact position of a chemical emitter as they are for determining its general direction and identity. On the smaller, lightly atmosphered planets, this may be not as well developed as on a larger planet with denser atmosphere.

The brain (and it’s housing)
Since a good deal of survival depends on fast reflexes and quickly transmitting incoming information into personal action, the shorter the time lapse between stimulation and reaction, the greater the chance of survival. Its reasonable to place the brain and major environmental sensors close to one another so that in an emergency, the sensors can relay information rapidly to the brain for processing.

We might find that in most intelligent, tool using aliens that the major environmental sensors, the brain and mouth are all located in a protected container that sits atop a semi flexible shaft. The free maneuverability of this portion of the body is important because of the speed at which the sensors could be brought to bare on a point. This location would reduce the input to movement time and the energy loss that would go with sensor grouping in the body’s trunk

The importance and physical sensitivity of these organs would preclude some means of protection such as an endo or exoskeletal vault. Such a structure would give adequate protection, provide a rigid base for the cutting and grinding surfaces of the mouth and serve as a rigid source for the attachment of the muscles which operate the masticating apparatus.

Brain weight, body mass & intelligence
In order to form an understanding of the relationship between brain weight, body mass and intelligence, lets momentarily look at the  relationship of these variables on Earth. The characteristic weight of the human brain is 2.86 pounds, while the average human adult has a body weight of 150 pounds, giving a brain to body ratio of about1:50.

In the animal kingdom, as body weight is increased above this ratio, the intellectual capacity of the brain is reduced. The reduction occurs because more neural tissue is being used to control the expanded body functions. Some examples of a decreased brain weight to body ration can be seen in the chimpanzee (1:150), gorilla (1:500) and elephant (1:1000).

On the other hand, if we reduce the body weight appreciably below the1:50ration, we find the animals overall weight has decreased to such a point that there simply isn’t enough neural tissue available for the complexity of intelligence. This can be illustrated by several types of monkeys, which have a brain to body weight of 1:17, and whose total body weight is less than the human brain!

Our brains have about 10¹º neurons with each neuron making  about 100 connections, giving us a possible information storage content of 10¹² bits.

Its quite possible that an intelligent alien would have about the same brain to body ratio. Variations in his physical environment might favor increased or reduced cell size, in effect making him larger or smaller; although gravity alone can accomplish the body size variation. The alien might fall right on the 1:50 ratio yet have as lower or higher degree  of neural activity, thus giving his species a lower or higher relative intelligence.

Alien height
The average height of an alien species on a planet similar to one of our model worlds cannot be known without observation; however, we can make some interesting, possibly relevant speculations.

We know that an intelligent, tool using alien must have a sizeable body mass or his brain would be too small to carry the number of neurons necessary for intelligence. On the other hand, a giant would have such a large body mass to brain ratio that much of his brains capacity would be used in body operation,  at the cost of ‘thought’.

The brain to body mass ratio’s need for about 10¹º  brain neurons tells us that an intelligent alien will probably fall within an ambiguous height range between extremely small’ and ‘extremely tall’, compared with Man (see ‘Alien Height’  illustration below).

Tests have shown that gravity affects growth length.

Its not unreasonable to assume that on a large planet with its high gravity, that over the eons, survival would have come to favor short creatures. A short muscular creature who trips and fall on a high gravity planet would receive on the average less injury than a tall creature. The shorter creature would not fall as far, nor hit the ground as fast or with as much force as a taller creature. Being incapacitated periodically from impacting on hard and irregular surfaces, is not a good survival strategy for any species. Higher gravity worlds may physically favor land dwelling life forms that have developed a low center of gravity. Conversely, low gravity planets may physically favor land life forms which are tall by comparison to Earth.

I’ve made the assumption, that as a rule of thumb, when moving between planetary models,  for each increase or decrease of 0.25 relative Earth gravity, that the average height of an alien intelligent species will inversely increase or decrease about twelve inches. This rule of thumb is only to be used for intelligent tool using life developing on planets within the parameters of this study. This assumption provides us with a general correlation between intelligent alien height and the mass of the home planet.

The illustration, Alien Height and Surface Gravity, below, is meant only as a guide to conceptuale your thinking. In the absence of data, we can at least  say that it does not violate the brain to body mass ratio and considers gravity and length studies.

Alien build
In this section we’ll attempt to draw a generalized relationship between the APST (average planetary surface temperature) and the average alien physique, or build.

Its true that surface temperatures vary with latitude on our model planets and that there will be a great variation in temperatures across the  face of the planet. What we will attempt to find is a potential relative average alien build for any given APST and planetary mass combination. The result of our inquiry into alien body build should be seen as “this is what the physical environment might tend to favor”. The more an environment tends to favor a particular biological response, the more frequently that biological response will be found to occur.

There seems to be a general trend in that many life forms in a hot climate have a large body surface area to body volume ratio. This says that ‘thin’ animals are best adapted to hot climates. In hot climates internal heat must be dissipated easily, thin bodies with a large surface area afford the means to do so.

In cold climates, many animals have developed a small surface area to body volume ratio. These bulky animals generate a lot of internal heat and lose it slowly to the cold environment through their bodies reduced surface area.

General physique on hot and cold planets

Table: Heat Storage & Dissipation, Based on Body Size

Trunk height (inches) 18 18
Trunk diameter (inches) 12 18
Trunk radius (inches) 6 9
Volume (cubic inches) 2034 4578
Area (square inches) 678 1017
Relative volume 1.0 2.2
Relative area 1.0 1.5

In this table, which compares surface area and body volume ratios, note that the bulky cold environment alien has 2.2 times the body volume of his thinner hot environment counterpart, but only has 1.5 times the surface area to lose the heat from. In a cold, low energy environment, a relatively bulky body would provide an energy savings advantage over a thin body. In a hot environment, the bulky alien would be at an  energy disadvantage. Trying to dissipate relatively large amounts of body heat into a hot environment through a comparatively small surface area, he would be faced with reduced activity or potential heat stroke.

Diagram: General Body Build of Intelligent Alien compared to APST & Planetary Mass

The diagram above, allows us to make some interesting speculations regarding the alien physique:
•  The average intelligent Being from a 0.25 Earth mass planet with 60ºC APST might be very thin and stand around seven plus feet tall. His tall, thin stature would make him appear almost mantis like.
•  A biped Being from a 0.25 Earth mass planet with a 0ºC APST would be tall to extremely tall by Earth standards, and his body build muscular and stocky.
•  An intelligent life form from a 3.0 Earth mass planet with 60ºC APST, would be short and thin, perhaps not unlike a thin 4-6 year old Human child.
•  Should this creature have developed on a 0ºC APST planet, he would still be short, but his large volume to surface area would make him bulky and muscular.

 Skin pigmentation
As you may recall, earlier we considered the possibility that an aliens vision might extend a bit further into the violet or red portions of the spectrum, if he developed on a planet orbiting an intrinsically hotter or cooler star. Stellar parameters can leave their trademark in the  biotic community in other ways as well.

As one moves up the Main Sequence of stars, from spectral class K1 to F2, the bulk of the radiative energy emitted by each  class of star tends to shift from the red-orange to blue-white end of the visible spectrum. As the shift occurs, there is an increase in the percentage of ultraviolet radiation as the temperature of the star increases.

The ultraviolet radiation found in sunlight is deadly, it kills cells, causes burns, can cause skin cancer, can incapacitate.

Skin pigmentation is a protective adaptation against ultraviolet radiation. On our own planet, over the last 12,000 plus years, Man has become variated into three broad skin color groupings: the heavily pigmented Negro from equatorial regions, the Asian-Indian- Mediterranean stocks from around 30º latitude, and the lightly pigmented almost albino stocks from 45º-50º latitude.

In equatorial regions, the ultraviolet radiation influx is so great that unprotected flesh can experience serious sunburns, here adaptively has favored a heavy dark skin pigmentation.

At about 30 latitude, the relative solar radiation level has decreased 14%; in this area of high pressure and fewer clouds, Man’s skin pigmentation ranges from dark brown to olive.

Around 60 latitude, the solar radiation influx has decreased to about 50% of that at the equator. In these latitudes, marked by low pressure and greater cloud cover, Man developed blonde hair and a rosy white skin color.

If we matched a drop of paint with skin color matching every person on Earth, then mixed all these variously tinted drops together, the average color, average skin color would resemble  that of the Asian-Indian.

What would the average skin color be of an alien from one of our model worlds?
An intelligent aliens level of pigmentation and general skin color are derived from basically three factors.
1) The spectral class of the star his planet orbits.
2) The planet’s axial inclination, hence seasonal exposure to UV
3) The planet’s average percentage cloud cover

Diagram: Pigmentation in Exposed Flesh
Reading the Pigmentation diagram above, we see that very heavy, dark pigmentation would be found as an average condition on a small planet with 30% cloud cover which orbited a high UV producing F2 spectral class star. On the other hand, there would be little if any pressure to develop protective skin pigmentation on a large warm world with 80% cloud cover, orbiting a low UV K1 star.

Near the middle of this diagram, Earth’s average human pigmentation has fallen in the “medium” range (light brown, as seen in Indian and Asian populations) and is entered as a circle with a + inside, marking Earth’s 47% cloud cover, and the Sun – a G2 spectral class star.
Note: I’ve entered the typical racial pigmentations found on our own planet to serve as a guide\ for the am ount of relative need for protection. Alien bio-chemistry could as well produce gray, yellow orange or even chamelion like hues, or supplement skin color with thicker skin, extensive body hair, fur, micro hair-feathers, etc.

Computer Program: Generation of the Alien Physique (low resolution)
The following computer program produces an alien physique from the parameters discussed in this study. The basic morphological subprogram was extracted from the much longer and more complex program, AFARHOME, which I wrote around in North Star B.A.S.I.C. in 1980, for use on my Processor Technology, Sol computer.

Term descriptions:

! means, “Print”
!CHR$(11) tells the computer to “Clear the screen”
REM this statement and all others on a given line are ignored by the computer.
T alphabetic letters denote numerical data; i.e. “123”
T$ alphabetic letters with a dollar sign denote alphanumeric data; i.e., “stop, look and listen”
DIM statement creates the space required for alphanumeric data
1000, 1010 line numbers which are the road map routing followed by the computers logic circuitry.

I hope that in extracting this program from AFARHOME, that I didn’t introduce any ‘bugs’ to foul you up.

Alien Morphology subprogram

10 !CHR$(11)
500 DIM D$(30), D1$(30), D2$(30), D3$(30), D4$(40), D5$(30)
510 DIM D6$(30), D7$(30), D8$(30), D9$(30), E$(30), E1$(30)
520 DIM E2$(30), E3$(30), E4$(30), E5$(30), E6$(30), E7$(30)
530 DIM E8$(45), E9$(40), L$(30), L1$(30), L2$(30), L3$(30)
540 DIM L4$(30), L5$(30), L6$(30), L7$(30), L8$(30), L9$(30)
550 DIM M$(30), M1$(30), M2$(30)
1010 !”What is the relative mass of your hypothetical planet?”
1020 !”Earth =1.0”
1030 !
1040 !”1) 0.25 2) 0.50 3) 1.0 4) 1.5 5) 2.0 6) 3.0”
1050 !
1060 INPUT “Choose mass by number”, H
1070 !CHR$(11)
1080 !”Choose an average planetary surface temperature.”
1090 !”Temperatures are in degrees Fahrenheit.”
1100 !
1110 !”1) 37 2) 59 3) 86 4) 113 5) 135
1120 !
1130 INPUT” Choose temperature by number.”, T
1140 !CHR$(11)
2010 D$=” 0.…0”
2020 D1$=” 0www0”
2030 D2$=” oWWWo”
2040 D3$=” o….o
2050 D4$=” ……”
2060 D5$=” wwww”
2070 D6$=” WWW”
2080 D7$=” (o^V^o)”
2090 D8$=” (ovo)”
2100 D9$=” o(ovo)o”
2110 E$=” o(oVo)o”
2120 E1$=” o(O..O)o”
2130 E2$=” (O..O)”
2140 E3$=” (OVO)”
2150 E4$=” ( – )”
2160 E5$=” \ – /”
2170 E6$=” (-)”
2180 E7$=” \-/”
2190 E8$=” =>====o====(..^..}====o====<=”
2200 E9$=” =>===o===(.^.)===o===<=”
2210 L$=” (==|==)”
2220 L1$=” (=|=)”
2230 L2$=” | |”
2240 L3$=” | |”
2250 L4$=” | |”
2260 L5$=” (/ \)”
2270 L6$=” ( / \ )”
2280 L7$=” ( / \ )”
2290 L8$=” || ||”
2300 L9$=” | | | |”
2310 M$=” | | | |
2320 M1$=” /ooO) (Ooo\”
2330 M2$=” /oO) (Oo\
9380 IF H>3 THEN 9390 ELSE 9430
9390 ON T GOTO 9400, 9410, 9410, 9420, 9420
9400 !D2$ \ D7$ \ GOTO 9540
9410 !D1$ \ D7$ \ GOTO 9540
9420 !D$ \ D7$ \ GOTO 9540
9430 IF H<5 THEN 9440 ELSE 9490
9440 ON T GOTO 9450, 9460, 9460, 9470, 9480
9450 !D$ \ E$ \ GOTO 9540
9460 ! D5$ \ D9$ \ GOTO 9540
9470 !D4$ \ D9$ \ GOTO 9540
9480 !D4$ \ D8$ \ GOTO 9540
9490 ON T GOTO 9500, 9510, 9510, 9520
9500 !D6$ \ E3$ \ GOTO 9540
9510 !D5$ \ E2$ \ GOTO 9540
9520 !D4$ \ E2$ \ GOTO9540
9530 !D4$ \ E1$
9550 ON T GOTO 9560, 9570, 9580, 9590
9560 !E4$ \ GOTO 9600
9570 !E5$ \ GOTO 9600
9580 !E6$ \ GOTO 9600
9590 !E7$
9605 IF H<4 THEN 9610 ELSE 9620
9610 !E8$ \ GOTO 9630
9620 !E9$
9640 IF H=1 THEN 9650 ELSE 9680
9650 IF T<3 THEN 9960 ELSE 9670
9660 ! L$ \ GOTO 9680
9670 !L1$
9685 ON H GOTO9690, 9720, 9750, 9790, 9820
9690 ON T GOTO 9700, 9700, 9710, 9710, 9710
9700 !LZ$ \ GOTO 9820
9710 !L3$ \ GOTO 9820
9720 ON T GOTO 9730, 9730, 9740, 9740, 9740
9730 !L2$ \ L2$ \ L2$ \ GOTO 9820
9740 !L3$ \ L3$ \ L3$ \ GOTO 9820
9750 ON T GOTO 9760, 9770, 9770, 9780, 9780
9760 ! L2$ \ L2$ \ GOTO 9820
9770 ! L3$ \ L3$ \ GOTO 9820
9780 ! L4$ \ L4$ \ GOTO 9820
9790 ON T GOTO 9800, 9800, 9810, 9810, 9810
9800 ! L3$ \ GOTO 9820
9810 ! L4$
9830 IF H < 4 THEN 9840 ELSE 9850
9840 ON T GOTO 9860, 9870, 9870, 9870, 9880
9850 ON T GOTO 9870, 9870, 9880, 9880, 9880
9860 ! L7$ \ GOTO 9890
9870 ! L6$ \ GOTO 9890
9880 ! L5$
9900 IF H=1 THEN 9910 ELSE 9940
9910 IF T < 3 THEN 9920 ELSE 9930
9920 !L9$ \ L9$ \ L9$ \ L9$ \ L9$ \ L9$ \ GOTO 10150
9930 !L8$ \ L8$ \ L8$ \ L8$ \ L8$ \ L8$ \ GOTO 10150
9940 IF H=2 THEN 9950 ELSE 9980
9950 IF T<3 THEN 9960 ELSE 9970
9960 ! L9$ \ L9$ \ L9$ \ L9$ \ L9$ \ GPTP 10150
9970 ! L8$ \ L8$ \ L8$ \ L8$ \ L8$ \ GOTO 10150
9980 IF H=3 THEN 9990 ELSE 10030
9990 ON TGOTO 10000,10010, 10010,10020, 10020
10000 ! M$ \ M$ \ M$ \ M$ \ GOTO 10150
10010 ! L9$ \ L9$ \ L9$ \ L9$ \ L9$ \ GOTO 10150
10020 ! L8$ \ L8$ \ L8$ \ L8$ \ GOTO 10150
10030 IF H = 4 THEN 10040 ELSE 10080
10040 ON TGOTO 10050,10060, 10060,10070, 10070
10050 ! M$ \ M$ \ M$ \ GOTO 10150
10060 ! L9$ \ L9$ \ L9$\ GOTO 10150
10070 ! L8$ \ L8$ \ L8$ \ GOTO 10150
10080 IF H=5 THEN 1090 ELSE 10120
10090 IF T<3 THEN 10100 ELSE 10110
10100 ! L9$ \ L9$ \ GOTO 10150
10110 ! L8$ \ L8$ \ GOTO 10150
10120 IF T<3 THEN 10130 ELSE 10140
10130 ! L9$ \ GOTO 10150
10140 ! L8$ \ GOTO 10150
10150 REM FEET
10160 IF H<5 10170 ELSE 10180
10170 ! M1$ \ GOTO 10200
10180 ! M2$
10200 ! CHR$(11)
10210 GOTO 1000
10220 END

Continued in Chapter 8: Into A New World

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Chapter 1: Water

Our approach to the study of other worlds will be made through the media of liquid water. Water plays a multiple role in the environment and biology’s of Earth. On other planets, whose atmosphere may contain relatively large amounts of oxygen, water would almost certainly be an important raw material for organic compound synthesis.

The Source
It is believed that water is derived primarily from the crystallization of materials within the planet’s crust and is there after brought to the surface by geysers and volcanism. The ability of volcanism to release large amounts of water can be seen in the volcano Paricutin, during its most active period, it released 16,000 tons of steam a day (3,855,000 gallons of water daily). Measurements of gasses extruded from active volcanoes show a 68-70% composition of water vapor.

A reference to this process of water formation can be seen in the mineral albite (Na2.AlO3.6SiO2), a constituent of crystalline rock. At 1100ºC an pressures appropriate to 7500 feet below the planet’s surface, albite holds 4% water. As the energy from the planet’s formation is dissipated and radioactive decay diminishes the temperature begins to drop. When the subterranean temperature reaches 960ºC, crystallization begins. At 820ºC, one half of the albite has crystallized. The pressure of the newly released water build up and finally breaks through to the surface. Once in the atmosphere, it remains in its vapor state until the atmosphere is saturated at prevailing temperatures and pressure, there after condensation and precipitation begin.

Atmospheric Moisture
The evaporation of water from the planet’s surface carries off large quantities of heat received from the parent star, thus helping to maintain a heat balance.

The atmospheric water vapor traps some of the infrared radiation which has been reradiated by the planet’s surface and provides the ‘greenhouse effect’. The effect of this trapped heat has increased Earth’s average surface temperature 30º-35ºC. Were it not for the greenhouse effect, our average surface temperature would be -10ºC (14ºF) instead of the mild 20ºC (68ºF)  which it actually is.

The formation of a large cloud cover prevents further the loss of planetary heat and has the effect of depressing daytime temperatures and elevating night-time temperatures.

In the atmosphere, some of the water vapor condenses on dust particles, forming what will become rain. This process not only leads to a renewed water supply for the biotic community, but removes dust particles from the lower atmosphere.

Water and the Life Process
Water in its liquid state is the solvent and dispersion media for all protoplasmic constituents. It is only because of the presence of this chemical that the process of absorption, secretion and excretion are made possible. Carbohydrate production by chlorophyllic plants is dependent on water for the donation of a hydrogen ion in part of the photosynthetic activity.

The energy released from the foods (chemical mixtures) we eat, is largely is largely brought about by hydrolytic splitting of protein, fats and carbohydrates.

Amongst Earth’s biology’s, we find that there is a large circulation of water from the environment through the organism and back to the environment. During the life of a plant, the water lost through transpiration may be 200 to 1000 times its dry weight.
A normal human, in average environmental conditions, looses about 13 oz of water in expired air, 17 oz in urine and 20 oz  from the skin in a 24 hour period (6-1/4 cups, minimum).

In general, the larger the animal, the more water is required for its survival. Water makes up 85-95% of the fresh weight of actively growing tissue; even dormant seeds are 5-10% water by weight.

It is biologically possible, that on small, warm, arid planets and on cold planets, where liquid water is not readily available, or where long periods of drought are experienced, that the percentage of water in an organisms cells may be somewhat less than found on Earth. Perhaps other methods of water retention or conservation would be in use, for example, water loss through evaporation might be small or entirely absent and higher life forms may be biochemically capable of using metabolic water (water derived from the oxidation of hydrogen in their food). These measures could also be coupled with the consumption of relatively high moisture foods, having a low protein diet and more concentrate urine.

Water is very important in the process of life and it will be found, in varying quantities, on all planet models explored in this study.
Continued in Chapter 2: Average Planetary Surface Temperature.

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SRAPO: Introduction

[“SRAPO is the eighth Journal  of Larry Francis Pierce, being written in the year of our Lord 1985, at the forest homestead – Nightstar *”.
I began the SRAPO project during 1965, while in my first years of college. Twenty years later, in 1985, the study was reworked and entered into Journal #8, along with the associated charts, tables and my hand drawn illustrations. By the mid 1990s, SRAPO was converted into digital form; it is now being converted into the WordPress blog format.]

[Drawing, composite ‘Gray’] .

[Drawing, Eye-environments: In the paper version of this study, the page above showing the ‘alien’ head, has a circular hole cut out where the eye is seen. The eye coloration comes from the next sheet of paper (the drawing immediately above)– the centrally located blue planet, becomes the eye of the alien on the preceding page.]

It is the purpose of this study to explore some plausible variations in extraterrestrial planetary ecology, particularly that of intelligent life forms.

Our primary environmental building block will include carbon based life utilizing liquid water as a solvent for chemical reactions. These and other limiting factors will be discussed as they’re approached in the text.

Data regarding Earth and the other planets in our solar system have been interlinked providing a basis for this study. In some instances, I’ve extrapolated, in that it was necessary to go beyond the given information to find a set of variations. Elsewhere, the absence of data has caused me to reason out a plausible scheme for variations, amongst environmental elements.
Periodically, you’ll see where I’ve entered the Earth standard or average to intuitively demonstrate the parameter being discussed.

By the time you’ve reached the end of this study: 1) you should have a basic understanding of exobiology and general planetology, 2) you will have a new appreciation of our home planet; 3) you’ll be able to write-up a SRAPO template for a hypothetical model world environment, one that might exist around a potentially habitable star system and, 4) if you hypothesize what an alien ‘looks’ like, you can plug the given characteristics into the SRAPO template and work backwards to  find the type planet and a range of stars which it may have come from.
Keep in mind, Man could probably live, with varying degrees of difficulty, in at least one region on most of the planets covered in this study. Likewise, life in general and intelligent life in particular from these planetary models could survive, perhaps even thrive, in some of the environments found on Earth.

Table: Symbols and Terms

APST Average Planetary Surface Temperature.
Ê The symbol for Earth
Ê= 1 States that the parameter mentioned is being compared to the same condition on Earth, where the value on Earth is taken relatively, as 1.0.
Š The symbol for our  star, the Sun.
Š=1 States that the parameter mentioned is being compared to the same condition on the Sun, where the value on the Sun is taken relatively, as 1.0.
small, weak Relative terms which state that the given parameter is considered to have a smaller value than found on Earth.
moderate, average States the parameter has a somewhat similar value as found for Earth.
large, great Means the parameter has a greater value than found on Earth.

The ‘Various Limiting Factors illustration below, sets the basic ground rules, defining the most common conditions under which we might expect to find intelligent life.

(Continued in SRAPO Chapter 1.  Water)

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Exploring the SRAPO Construct

‘Exploring the Construct’ shows what can be done with SRAPO.
(SRAPO is an acronym for Stellar Radii And Planetary Orbits)

As we start, you probably realize,  that in our daily lives we take for granted the individual and combined physical effects of the Earth and the Sun on the our environment, on Earth’s habitats, and on all the life on Earth.
How the star-planet environmental descriptions were derived for this section and how you will define your own theoretical star-planet systems, will be discussed later. In the book that follows,  you’ll be introduced to charts, tables, illustrations and templates which have been included to assist in your discovery. I’ve included mathematical equations, as they were called for, however, the charts and tables have been worked out with scales, thus replacing the need for further calculations.{1}


A star-planet system’s individual or combined parameters have direct physical consequences in determining gravity,  the amount and availability of liquid water, volcanic activity, as well as affecting the atmosphere, climate, seasons, length of year, and intelligent life physiology and morphology.

In order to simplify the star and planetary data and to make learning and visualization more intuitive, I’ve made much of this study ‘relative’. Numerical parameters are usually discussed as being relative to conditions found on Earth, or relative to our Sun; in doing so, I’ve used three symbols, that you’ll encounter:  Š, Ê and AU:

1)  Š, refers to our Sun’s normal condition equaling 1. So, when, star’s  “Diameter  Š =1.3” is given, it means that the star were looking at has a diameter 1.3 times that of our Sun.

2)  Ê, similarly refers to the given condition on planet Earth as equaling 1. Hence, when a planet’s “Mass Ê = 2” is seen in the table, it means the alien planet has a mass of 2 times that of the Earth.

3)  ‘AU’ is the common abbreviation for “astronomical unit”, a distance of about ninety-three million miles, the average distance between Earth and the Sun. For comparison, this distance is taken as AU=1. When  a planet is said to be “0.8 AU” from its parent star, it is only 80% as far away as we are from our Sun, or seen another way, its 20% closer to the heat and light source than we are to ours.

Generally, if a planet is closer to a more luminous star, the planet’s average surface air temperature will be hotter than on Earth. Conversely, if the planet orbits farther from a cool, less luminous star, then it’s average surface temperature will be colder than found on Earth.

If the planet is warmer than Earth, it may not have extensively ice capped polar regions; on the other hand, a cooler planet may have larger, deeper ice caps than Earth.
A large, warmer world would seem generally more humid, while a smaller cool world would have a drier atmosphere.

Let’s take an introductory look at the power of SRAPO by briefly analyzing two dissimilar star-planet systems.

Alien Star-Planet System #1
General description: A small rocky type planet located in the outer ecosphere of large, hot star

•  This system is dominated by a very hot, blue-white star with forty percent more mass and luminosity than our Sun. The heat and light output is such that any existing habitable planet must be in an ecosphere further from the star than we are from the Sun.
•  With our hypothetical planet located 2.1 AU from the star, we  have 67% as much light falling on the top of the atmosphere. Because this is a hot star with a relatively short stable period, we may expect a more turbulent turn over in dominant life forms on the planet.
•  We will now paint a picture of a rather small, dry, cold world. This small terrestrial planet has about half the surface area and half the gravity that we’re use to. Since it has only one fourth the mass, but half the surface area, we would expect there to exist a large dry land area to water ratio. Because there is a reduced amount of light and heat at the top of the atmosphere, the planet tends to be a chilly 37ºF, more than 20ºF cooler than Earth’s average. For comparison, the alien planet is about 2-1/2 times the mass of  Mars; however, because it orbits closer to its parent star, it is considerably more habitable, than what our ‘Rovers’ have found on the ‘red planet’.
•  The cold average planetary surface temperature (APST) would have resulted in the formation of geographically large ice caps, leaving a considerable amount of the planet to exist under cool dry desert conditions.
•  The planet has less oxygen in its relatively thin atmosphere which lends to a reduced oxidation rate and larger lung capacities for the larger mobile life forms.
•  Humidity is low, especially in the areas undergoing late Fall, early Spring and the nine month-long winter.
•  Although the planet is quite cool on average, life’s development may not have been greatly impeded; as relatively clear skies would allow ultra violet rays to easily penetrate into the warmer equatorial regions for easy activation of organic molecules.
•  There would have been less volcanic activity over geologic ages (unless the planet encountered relatively frequent large asteroid and-or comet strikes) and mountain formation would tend to produce some very tall structures. Once formed, mountains would tend to persist due to low burial and erosion rates.
•  The less dense atmosphere produces smaller wind pressure at comparable wind velocities and reduces sound wave propagation.
•  This cool planet would be home to some rather bulky large animal life and a wide variety of moisture conserving plant life.
•  Animals would have developed an efficient means of generating and storing heat at a high rate.
•  A man weighing 150 pounds on Earth would weigh only 78 pounds on this planet. So, what nature withholds in terms of average surface temperature, she makes up for with a low gravity which allows the larger life forms to be bulky and probably tall.
•  Due to the thin atmosphere, the sense of smell and hearing may be reduced while food, predator and mate location may rely more on visual input.
•  The longer day and a light 20% cloud cover allows for larger day and night temperature fluctuations.
•  If we assign a 45° axial inclination to the planet (twice Earth’s tilt), we’d find a great difference in the overall seasonal energy input to each hemisphere. As it is, the planet has a year equal to three of our years, or about 1,129 days, with each season being nine months long.
•  The extended Spring and Summer seasons would favor several successive generations of ‘grasses’, followed by a long, bitter cold, dormant winter period. ‘Trees’ (meaning, their counterparts) could easily exist along flood basins and in lower latitudes. Mid latitudes would consist of grasses, cold desert vegetation which would give way to a geographically, very large tundra.
•  Massive melting in the Summer polar region would produce interesting  liquid water movement patterns and undoubtedly affect a major portion of the planet’s life forms. North-south migration across the equatorial region might be expected of tall, long limbed quadrupeds, as they moved between late Fall in one hemisphere and  Spring in the other.
•  An intelligent, tool using, upright alien, on this low gravity planet might stand and average of seven or more feet tall. Cold temperatures would favor a stocky build which provides greater internal mass for heat generation and a smaller surface area for heat loss.
• A large frame would fit in well with a large chest which would house the expanded lung  capacity needed for breathing the thinner air.
•  Also, low gravity on this cool grassy world would tend to favor tall creatures with a greater lung capacity for long distance running or migration.
•  Due to overall cool temperatures, the day and night temperature fluctuation and the  extreme season lengths, higher life forms would probably have developed warm-blooded adaptations.
•  Nearly cloudless skies and a lighter, less dense atmosphere, would allow a large amount of UV to penetrate to the surface, this damaging radiation might be blocked by the aliens having developed dark pigmentation or maintenance of a fur coat.
•  Cool average surface temperatures, the long cold brittle winters and a generally dusty environment would favor hairy-furry bodies with a long nasal passage to prewarm and  remove dust from inhaled air. These ‘people’ would probably also have a larger, more powerful heart for delivering warmed blood and a thinner oxygen supply to peripheral organs and extremities.

Alien Star-Planet System #2
General description: A large planet located near the inner ecosphere of star slightly hotter than the Sun.

•  This system is dominated by a hot white star with a slightly grater mass than the Sun, but with 22% greater luminosity. Under such luminosity conditions a terrestrial type planet could be somewhat closer and yet a good deal further from its Sun than we are from Sol and still fall within the habitable ecosphere boundaries. For this example, I have placed the planet 0.8 AU or 78 million miles from its parent star. The planet is therefore 20% closer to a star with 22% more luminosity that the Sun, resulting in 74% more light falling on the top of the atmosphere.
•  This relatively hot star has a slightly shorter stable period than the Sun so we might expect a bit faster turnover in dominant life forms (should we consider changes driven by stellar effects alone)
•  We will now paint a picture of a large, hot wet world with an essentially continuous cloud cover of 88%. This planet has twice the water producing mass yet only 42% more surface area than Earth, which points to a large water to land ratio.

•  Such a world might contain several Australia size continents and many strings of islands rising from submerged planetary mountain chains.
•  There is a lot more sun light arriving at the top of the atmosphere, but much of this is reflected back into space by the planets expansive cloud cover.
•  Light penetrating the clouds to reach the surface would transform into long wave heat radiation, which becomes trapped and elevates temperatures via the green house effect. Light input, plus the green house effect would create an average surface air temperature (APST) in the neighborhood of 135ºF.
•  The hot, humid atmosphere would also contain a lot of oxygen leading to an accelerated oxidation rate and the necessity of smaller lung capacities for the larger, mobile land life forms.
•  The planet’s atmospheric density would provide greater wind pressure when compared to similar wind speeds on Earth, at the same time favor sound propagation.
•  The planets larger mass would provide more volcanic activity than we are used to, but volcanic effluents dispensed into the atmosphere would precipitate out faster.
•  The increased gravity would result in smaller mountain heights, while heavy frequent precipitation would enhance the burial rate and increase erosion. Subduction and other crustal movements beneath the seas would make tidal waves more common on this planet  than on ours.
•  This wet, hot and humid world would be home to rather small, sinuous dry land animal life and a variety of succulent and tropical like vegetation.
•  Animal life would have developed efficient means of getting rid of internal heat, since the  high temperatures found across much of the planet threaten the integrity of complex organic molecules with disruption.
The fast rate of planetary rotation helps reduce the day and night temperature differences, while a continuous cloud cover helps depress day temperatures and elevate night temperatures• 

•  If we assign the planet with 0° degree of axial inclination, then there is no tilt and therefore no seasons. In place of seasons, we create thermal zones. The hottest zone being on either side of the equator with moderating temperatures found as one proceeds toward either polar region.
•  Warm blooded, intelligent life would be found more frequently in the ‘cooler’ higher latitudes.
•  Due to the higher gravity and temperatures, our hypothetical intelligent alien would stand about four feet tall with a thin frame, supported by strong bones and powerful muscles. He would carry little if any fat. •  Due to the dense atmosphere, his sense of smell and particularly hearing, would be enhanced.
•  Ear flap projections might not be necessary around the aural tract.
•  A smaller heart and thinner blood would carry oxygen to body cells and to heat dissipating organic networks.
•  His eyes might be located a bit more peripherally than ours and he may have no nasal passage projection, or ‘nose’. Air could be taken in through one or more nasal apertures.
•  Temperature and humidity would favor a hairless, smooth body.
•  Although the planets extensive cloud cover would tend to shield animal life, the occasional clear day would result in severe sunburn, for this, at least a yellow-gray level of protective pigmentation would be required by skin cells. The alien would possibly appear a mid shade color.
•  On this alien world, life could easily develop and thrive in the higher latitudes where more temperate climates  are found.
•  With the existence of islands and small continents, even a hot wet world could develop intelligent, tool using, technically advanced life forms.

Such a world might sound hot and terrible to us, but to a creature born into that world with its genetic adaptations, the planet would be as comfortable in places, as Earth is to us. This intelligent life form, would find our planet uncomfortably cold and dry. The alien might not survive for long in the searing heat of his planet’s equatorial region, but how long would we survive, isolated, in either our own polar regions, or on the Anza-Borrego Desert, without shade and water?


1. The calculations were done with slide rule, in a time before home computers, and at a time when expensive personal scientific calculators were just showing up in specialty retail stores-in the period that can now be thought of as ‘digital prehistory’.

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What is SRAPO?

SRAPO¹: A Pursuit in Exobiology
Developed during the years 1965-2011, by Larry F. Pierce
[Above: The Carina  constellation]

Have you ever looked up at the myriad of stars sprinkled across the sky on a clear and beautiful warm summer night…and wondered? Did you wonder if perhaps a creature living on a planet around one of those far away lights was looking at his night sky too? …and perhaps just at the moment you were looking at his home star, he was looking across the gulf of space at our sun…and you were both wondering about one another. Did you wonder what the alien might look like? Did it ever cross your mind to wonder what he’d see when he stopped staring into the night sky, and again looked around at his own familiar surroundings? What if you could look through his eyes?

Imagine its late in the afternoon, almost dusk and you’re whisked away, then set down safely, but elsewhere on planet Earth. Without knowing your location, maybe you were set in any of these environments (see photographs below and imagine the sensations): Sahara desert; Death Valley; the Kalahari desert; the Eurasian Steppes;  US prairie; prairie-woodland;  woodlands of the eastern USA; the Pantanal Swamp; tropical Kauai, Hawaiian;  forests of central Oregon; the Tundra of northern Canada; the dry valleys of Antarctica, island chains, the shore of a continent… You’re standing there in one of those environments…its twilight, the colors have largely faded into grays. You look about, while feeling the temperature and humidity; you can  identify the general type of environment you have been set in. You can tell whether the vegetation is tall or short, thick or spindly, dense or thinly spread about, there may be sounds and smells carried in the air. Kicking at the ground you can just see whether the soil is sandy, composed of pebbles, whether its rocky, or covered by some type of  ‘organic’ matter. The things you sense and see about you are the way they are for a reason.

If you were not on Earth, but instead on a habitable planet about one of those distant stars, the things about you would still be the way they are, for a reason. Large habitable planets are generally quite wet, small ones are much drier; very hot or dry environments are likely to have water or temperature as the limiting factors for intelligent life; high relative gravity favors short and squat forms; high relative ultra violet ‘sunlight’ favors protective pigmentation; increasing planetary axial inclination favors life form mobility and hibernation…

SRAPO is a construct, a filtering lens that removes the unreasonable and focuses on the probable.

What is SRAPO?
Exploring the Construct
Book Introduction
Chapter 1: Water
Chapter 2: Average Planetary Surface Temperature
Chapter 3: Climatic factors
Chapter 4: Atmospheric Circulation
Chapter 5: Atmospheric Retention
Chapter 6: Stellar Parameters
Chapter 7: The Morphology of Intelligent Life
Chapter 8: Into A New World
Chapter 9: Data Correlation
Chapter 10: Templates
Note 1: SRAPO is an acronym for Stellar Radii and Planetary Orbits)

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