How could aquatic aliens become space-faring civilizations?

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Re: How could aquatic aliens become space-faring civilizatio

Postby AvatarIII » Mon Sep 10, 2012 9:46 pm UTC

if possible, gold would be better. very unreactive, conductive, and has a can be worked easily.

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Re: How could aquatic aliens become space-faring civilizatio

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Sep 10, 2012 10:41 pm UTC

sh0tbEaN wrote:Well i think that maybe a way around the stone age to bronze age jump might be to bypass it altogether. There is a type of deep sea snail which processes the the plume from underwater vent, which had lead to the snails shell been made of nickel. So its not to hard to imagine that other lifeforms could process gold, zinc, and so on. Using stone age tools as a base an alien could make shells over the snails as the shell grows and keep changing to mold so you shape the metal into whatever shape required.

I adore this idea, and wrote a sci-fi variant of this. Biologically mediated concentration of just about any material is a phenomenally cool concept, and an interesting way aquatic intelligences could get around a lot of chemistry. I think it's a pretty well used trope in sci-fi too, aquatic life being particularly adept at biotechnologies.
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Re: How could aquatic aliens become space-faring civilizatio

Postby ImagingGeek » Tue Sep 18, 2012 9:19 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
sh0tbEaN wrote:Well i think that maybe a way around the stone age to bronze age jump might be to bypass it altogether. There is a type of deep sea snail which processes the the plume from underwater vent, which had lead to the snails shell been made of nickel. So its not to hard to imagine that other lifeforms could process gold, zinc, and so on. Using stone age tools as a base an alien could make shells over the snails as the shell grows and keep changing to mold so you shape the metal into whatever shape required.

I adore this idea, and wrote a sci-fi variant of this. Biologically mediated concentration of just about any material is a phenomenally cool concept, and an interesting way aquatic intelligences could get around a lot of chemistry. I think it's a pretty well used trope in sci-fi too, aquatic life being particularly adept at biotechnologies.

This is a good point - there are a number of ways that metals, etc, could be built into objects using processes like biological accretion in place of conventional fire-and-hammers metallurgy. Recent work in the biotech field has shown that neurons can be assembled into computers, biological conductors can be made, etc, meaning many processes we use metals for could be replaced with an equivalent engineer biologic. In addition, the absence of easy metallurgy could lead to technological movement in vastly different directions - i.e. composites & polymers in place of metals. Indeed, in our own technological development we're beginning to use these in place of metals for many applications - they are, in terms of space craft, quite often superior to their metallic counter-parts.

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Re: How could aquatic aliens become space-faring civilizatio

Postby endolith » Tue Oct 28, 2014 12:15 am UTC

Why would dolphins plow? Why would spaceships require metals? Underwater technology would be far different from ours. How would a spaceship/rocket made like a giant calcium carbonate seashell fare?

Considering oceans are so good at shielding from radiation, and atmospheres are so fragile and easy to blow away, it seems likely that most aliens are aquatic, and possibly the reason for the Fermi paradox?

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Re: How could aquatic aliens become space-faring civilizatio

Postby JPatten » Tue Oct 28, 2014 12:41 am UTC

With out an atmosphere or ice shell your liquid ocean will boil away. It is atmospheric pressure that lets water stay liquid.

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Re: How could aquatic aliens become space-faring civilizatio

Postby stoppedcaring » Tue Oct 28, 2014 2:17 pm UTC

JPatten wrote:With out an atmosphere or ice shell your liquid ocean will boil away. It is atmospheric pressure that lets water stay liquid.

This is a crazy thought if you stop to consider it. The only reason we have oceans is because the water is squeezed onto the surface in liquid form by a blanket of gas equivalent to fifteen feet of concrete.

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Re: How could aquatic aliens become space-faring civilizatio

Postby JPatten » Tue Oct 28, 2014 2:33 pm UTC

Add to that, our atmosphere can only hang around because we have a nice big magnetic field to keep the solar wind from stripping away the atmosphere.

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Re: How could aquatic aliens become space-faring civilizatio

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Oct 28, 2014 2:38 pm UTC

JPatten wrote:Add to that, our atmosphere can only hang around because we have a nice big magnetic field to keep the solar wind from stripping away the atmosphere.
That's not entirely true. The solar wind does strip away hydrogen, but it's not a very large amount. Even over the length of the Earths lifespan, it wouldn't amount to much.
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Re: How could aquatic aliens become space-faring civilizatio

Postby Neil_Boekend » Tue Oct 28, 2014 2:50 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I don't recall the novel, but I remember reading some sci-fi that includes an alien species with very advanced mathematics, but very limited technology, because of how much technology is fire based. I found this a bit reachy, insofar as how much mathematics was advanced due to observations of space.

A sufficiently advanced aquatic civilization might develop combustion based technologies over time, and simply develop work arounds for the fact that water is an excellent conductor of heat/electricity, or learn early on how to engineer water evacuated chambers. That said, an aquatic race is probably going to have strikingly lower evolutionary imperative to

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Dunno if it was the same, but in some of the books of Niven there were aquatic aliens that could connect into a highly inteligent being. Nerves had to connect in order to allow them to do that. The compound being was able to simulate just about anything. Including fusion reactions and FTL drives.
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Re: How could aquatic aliens become space-faring civilizatio

Postby Whizbang » Tue Oct 28, 2014 3:09 pm UTC

Requirements for intelligent, space-faring aquatic species:

1: Intelligence (Whatever that means. Some form of higher consciousness and problem solving ability)
2: Prehensile limbs (Tool making)
3: Strong social tendencies (must pass knowledge to offspring and even share knowledge with entire species to promote invention and large projects. Part of this is also "Language", as you cannot pass complex knowledge without complex communication.)

These three are definitely a must have. It is hard to imagine that any species with the above traits wouldn't develop high technology eventually. What other traits are must haves? What traits would make things easier?

#1 is shown to exist in aquatic species (Dolphin, Octopus, etc.)
#2 is shown to exist in aquatic species (Octopus, etc.)
#3 is shown to exist in aquatic species ("School of fish" - Many, many aquatic species are social, though their lack of #1 and #2 limits this.)

So, it is not too much to imagine a species could evolve with all three traits.

It is easy to imagine such a species quickly mastering other species to achieve their goals of safety and prosperity. Think of Coral Reef farming. If a sufficiently intelligent species were to carefully mold a coral reef as it grows, they could create complex structures such as castles and palaces. Tools, as said earlier in the thread, could at first be in the form of sharpened stone flakes or seashells. Various plants can be used as ropes to tie items together, or woven to form barriers or nets. I am sure even underwater glue could be found or invented using natural products. So, stone age level of technology is very possible and even probable, given the size of the universe. From there it is finding other ways to make rigid structures that don't involve heavy things like coral (which also takes a long time to grow). As said, perhaps an intelligent aquatic species would more quickly hit on plastics and polymers if they weren't first relying on metals. Given the same hundreds of thousands of years to figure it out as humans have had, I am confident that trial and error will result in some solid materials that can be crafted on demand and are strong enough to support aquatic life outside of the sea. Once this aquatic species has technology to leave the sea, the bulk of the work has been done, as the biggest hurdle to space travel is keeping people alive outside of their natural environments. I'd hazard to say that an aquatic species, though with a high initial hurdle, might have a bigger advantage once they do achieve space travel.

As to whether or not they would seek to leave the sea, think of this. Their goal is to have stronger and more reliable structures for complex buildings and tools. Wood is an obvious resource, but is scarce in the sea. So at first they seek driftwood. The beings closest to the shore will have a huge advantage here and will seek and develop ways to harvest wood from the land. The problem with wood is that it floats, of course. So initially it will be weighted down by tying it to stones and the like. But its natural buoyancy will lead to exploration and invention, I am sure.

Another problem is that the sea causes quicker decay and breakdown of things. This, too, would be an advantage in disguise. We used metal for so long because it lasts for so long. But in the ocean, things will rot away very quickly, which will cause our intelligent species to always seek better and more durable materials. Such a species may not even need the added pressure of warfare to instigate invention. The greater challenges will promote these things all by themselves.

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Re: How could aquatic aliens become space-faring civilizatio

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Oct 28, 2014 3:40 pm UTC

Whizbang wrote:Wood is an obvious resource, but is scarce in the sea.
Why would they use wood? Why wouldn't they continue using calcium carbonate? A number of mollusks use an incredibly strong glue, I wager they could be domesticated and bred for use. If anything, aquatic creatures materials science would probably be ceramics based until they began using stones and metals.

They may not need to leave the sea to pursue much of their technology and advancement, conducting all their observations via floating satellites or such. Their space faring, if it requires bringing an aquatic environment with them, would be hampered, of course, though perhaps small technological or even biological adaptions that let them survive on land would be easy enough.
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Re: How could aquatic aliens become space-faring civilizatio

Postby Mokele » Tue Oct 28, 2014 4:08 pm UTC

Could being immersed in water, with no pockets of gas within the body and neutral buoyancy, allow for improved tolerance of accelerations? Especially since a marine species will likely be able to tolerate great pressures with ease.

If so, and if the improvement is very significant, they may simply be able to ditch rockets altogether and use something that amounts to a giant gun (propulsion to be determined) to fire them into space.
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Re: How could aquatic aliens become space-faring civilizatio

Postby stoppedcaring » Tue Oct 28, 2014 4:21 pm UTC

Mokele wrote:Could being immersed in water, with no pockets of gas within the body and neutral buoyancy, allow for improved tolerance of accelerations? Especially since a marine species will likely be able to tolerate great pressures with ease.

If so, and if the improvement is very significant, they may simply be able to ditch rockets altogether and use something that amounts to a giant gun (propulsion to be determined) to fire them into space.

On the one hand, they could more easily build a gun that goes from the ocean floor to the surface simply because they have the water to hold it up. And atmospheric air provides an easy way to depressurize the gun in comparison to the water pressure.

On the other hand, they'd have trouble depressurizing the gun completely simply because going from water to air is such a great leap compared to going from air to vacuum.

The ability to build larger structures supported by water is helpful. I can see them breeding a fast-growing coral of some kind that would be shaped in a cylinder, then continue lifting it above the surface as it grows underwater, ultimately creating a very large tube for a combination rocket+gun launcher.

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Re: How could aquatic aliens become space-faring civilizatio

Postby Beavertails » Thu Dec 10, 2015 3:02 pm UTC

Image + Image =

Image ?
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Re: How could aquatic aliens become space-faring civilizatio

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Dec 15, 2015 8:16 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I don't recall the novel, but I remember reading some sci-fi that includes an alien species with very advanced mathematics, but very limited technology, because of how much technology is fire based. I found this a bit reachy, insofar as how much mathematics was advanced due to observations of space.

A sufficiently advanced aquatic civilization might develop combustion based technologies over time, and simply develop work arounds for the fact that water is an excellent conductor of heat/electricity, or learn early on how to engineer water evacuated chambers. That said, an aquatic race is probably going to have strikingly lower evolutionary imperative to



This is a wee bit late, but it's the Flouen(sp?) from Rocheworld. There's a sequel as well, Return to Rocheworld. I found them pretty interesting, not so much for the central story or anything as the nifty worldbuilding.

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Re: How could aquatic aliens become space-faring civilizatio

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Dec 15, 2015 8:44 pm UTC

That's not ringing a bell. I think it may have been one of the races from the Old Mans War series? I think the Consu were aquatic?

Maybe I'm thinking of something from a videogame. I'm bad at knowing things and stuff.
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Re: How could aquatic aliens become space-faring civilizatio

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Dec 15, 2015 9:17 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:That's not ringing a bell. I think it may have been one of the races from the Old Mans War series? I think the Consu were aquatic?

Maybe I'm thinking of something from a videogame. I'm bad at knowing things and stuff.


Rocheworld, the aquatic math-loving aliens liked to surf on waves, and condensed into rock-like states for solving hard problems. Also a crazy planetary system, with basically eggworlds in a tight orbit.

Interesting if it's a common trend between a few books, though. I haven't read Old Mans War yet, so not sure on that.


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