Mar 28, 2015

Worlds in Collision

During the past month I've been exploring the history of the Ekcolir Reality and how Carl Sagan was brought into existence. Here, I want to continue reflecting on the importance of Sagan in the Exode Trilogy, particular the role that he plays in allowing Humanity to learn from the past experience of the Fru'wu. Also, I want to continue placing Exode in its proper cosmological context.

During the past few years, data from the Kepler exoplanet discovery mission has shown that many star systems have "super Earths" in orbits that are close to stars. If that pattern is the default for planet formation, then why is our Solar System different, with 4 relatively small "terrestrial" planets located close to the sun and all the larger planets far away from the sun?

Collisions: Velikovsky, Einstein and Sagan 
Etruscan art
The story Star Dance involves a time travel mission back to the start of the 20th century when Carl Sagan's grandparents and Immanuel Velikovsky were living in what would become the Soviet Union. From about 1945 to 1991 the world was locked in a balance of terror while the cold war rivals (USSR and USA) built up their stockpiles of nuclear weapons.

In the Ekcolir Reality, the Etruscan's formed a civilization that came to dominate Europe. There was no Roman Empire and Christianity never became a major influence in Europe. The rate of technological advance was slightly faster in the Ekcolir Reality than in the universe as we know it. Nuclear weapons became available during World War I, but chemical and nuclear weapons were not ever used on Earth. However, rising levels of greenhouse gases, ice cap melting and sea level rise became serious problems during the 20th century in the Ekcolir Reality (see this blog post).

Carl Sagan and other planetary scientists applied the concept of atmospheric gases acting to hold heat next to planets such as Venus. Accounting for the high surface temperature of Venus with the "greenhouse effect" put Sagan in conflict with fans of Velikovsky who imagined that Venus had been careening about the Solar System during historical times.

During the 20th century, scientists including Sagan developed the idea of "nuclear winter" and Isaac Asimov imagined a future in which the surface of Earth became too radioactive to support life. Growing up during the cold war, one of my most chilling science fiction reading experiences was Level 7. In the Exode Trilogy, Earth is caught in a strange temporal attractor that threatens to terminate Humanity either by nuclear catastrophe or by a runaway greenhouse effect.

Worlds in Collision by
Carlos Valenzuela
In order to kick Earth out of that strange attractor and save Humanity, Grean and Trysta must negotiate an end to the Time War.

Velikovsky had a medical education and then he went on to have a rather odd career. In the 1920s he supposedly became involved in a project that was related to the establishment of the Hebrew University. It is fun to imagine that Velikovsky became known to Albert Einstein at this time.

Velikovsky is interesting because of the way he tried to relate events during human history to cosmological events. Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov were also intrigued by the puzzle of how Humanity fits into the grand structure of the cosmos, an intellectual project that provides a foundation for speculative fiction.

In the Exode Trilogy, I have fun imagining that a few Earthlings have occasionally become aware of some of the secret history of Earth (see this blog post).

"Super Earths" close to Gliese 581
What if Velikovsky was told by an Interventionist agent that Venus is a base of operations for the Fru'wu and Jupiter helped form Venus as a planet that is too hot for humans, but a suitable hiding place in the Solar System for a Fru'wu base of operations? Not understanding what he had been told, Velikovsky went on to concoct his own theories.

In "Jupiter’s decisive role in the inner Solar System’s early evolution", Batygin and Laughlin report on their simulations of star system development which suggest that our Solar System might be unusual and particularly suitable for life because of the presence of Jupiter. They suggest that gravitational effects of Jupiter caused the early inner Solar System to become depleted of most of the planetary mass that otherwise might have formed Super Earths close to the Sun.

1954 - original cover art by Ed Emshwiller
But our Solar System does not have any "Super Earth" planets close to the Sun. Instead, we got our relatively small planet Earth and -us, Homo sapiens, a biological species that is able to contemplate and explore the universe.

For the Exode Trilogy, I imagine that Carl Sagan learns the troubled history of the Fru'wu, an alien species with a long history of dealing with carbon dioxide-rich atmospheres.

The modified "Future Science Fiction" magazine cover shown here is a whimsical imagining of Fru'wu explorers in the process of claiming some distant planet for their species.

Sagan visits Tar'tron in the Galactic Core and brings back to Earth a potential solution to our global warming crisis, but will the bumbling Earthlings be able to successfully deploy the alien technology that could save our planet?

Next: observing the 30th anniversary of Carl Sagan's science fiction novel Contact.

Visit the Gallery of book and magazine covers.

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