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Writing and Publishing > Planet building

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message 1: by Sue (new)

Sue Bowling (sueannbowling) | 19 comments Is anyone else bothered by planets that violate known physical laws? Starting next week, my longer (500-1000 words) weekend blogs will be on planet building for a while, starting with the life cycle of stars and how it affects sun size, color, and time for evolution of life.

message 2: by Paul (new)

Paul Yes, they are annoying. Authors blithely stick in multiple moons and suns, without considering the effects on e.g. tidal patterns, seasonal extremes and period of annual rotation.

OK, in the Discworld series, Pratchett bluntly states the world is flat and balanced on four elephants. OK, if we don't want to accept that concept, don't read the books.

But in SF, particularly hard SF, I want accuracy and plausible extrapolation.

message 3: by Gwendolyn (last edited Sep 09, 2010 08:35PM) (new)

Gwendolyn (drgwen) | 36 comments Paul wrote: "OK, in the Discworld series, Pratchett bluntly states the world is flat and balanced on four elephants. "

And he can do that because its fantasy... and not Science Fiction.

And it's world building, which means the world and its science can conform to whatever set of rules the author desires to use.

message 4: by Chaeya (new)

Chaeya | 44 comments I'm mixed about this. I watch a lot of science shows so I put my limited knowledge of physics together and came up with my planet that has three moons. I put the planet 23 light years away from Earth's galaxy with a similar atmopshere and eco system except that the inhabitants tend to be between 7 and 8 feet tall and so are the animals and trees larger. They have more oxygen and their atmosphere is lighter. When they come here, the gravity is too heavy for them and they'd suffer health problems if they stayed to long. When we go there, we feel very dizzy and light-headed until we get used to the atmosphere. Because of the three moons and the effects of those, they are very spiritual people and can manipulate energy fields/matter or what we would call "magic." I didn't get real heavy into the explanation because I didn't want to turn people off as pushing spiritual issues. Their system of time is different and their years.

I'm not perfect, I know a physicist or scientist could come in and debunct my planet, but the point is, I made it sound as real as I could.

Now for something really spooky. I came across an article about two years after I started my story where they found an earthlike sun 20 light years from Earth. I thought that was interesting.

I've read books that have red skies and having a surface of crystal rock and other wild imaginings, but if the story is good, I'm not going to be all Stephen Hawkin about it.

Hollywood makes sci-fi movies every day where much of the planetary info is completely impossible. Just watching 2012 is impossible, but it got made into a movie, so . . .


message 5: by Sue (new)

Sue Bowling (sueannbowling) | 19 comments Three moons is fine as long as you get the phases right. (e/g, you cannot have a crescent moon rising in the east as the sun sets in the west, or full moons scattered all over the sky.)

message 6: by Chaeya (last edited Sep 10, 2010 05:27PM) (new)

Chaeya | 44 comments You know, I didn't go into a lot of detail with it other than they rise at different times, one becomes visible early during the day and the large one doesn't appear until the evening. As far as the phases, I didn't have the opportunity to explain the different phases and the seasons. There is one time in a cycle when they are all full and the three of them align. That's when my character get's initiated because I figured the magnetic pull would be the strongest.

I had thought about doing a section on my website where I could fill in all the interesting facts about the planet for those who are interested in reading about it. I didn't want to bog down the reader with too much information, but I did my best to satisfy the science geeks like myself who would call me on my "so-called facts." But then, you just can't make everyone happy.


message 7: by Keiji (new)

Keiji Miashin Well here's a question. For those of us that don't have the finances/means/time/patience to sift through all the highly detailed and scattered scientific data around the world...

Is there a book, or several books, that present planetary physics in layman's terms? What would be a good resource for people doing their planet building?

message 8: by Sue (new)

Sue Bowling (sueannbowling) | 19 comments I'm putting up bits on my blog in the longer weekend posts. Got to get working on the equilibrium temperature of a planet for this evening. As a physicist/geophysicist who's taught basic astronomy I do know a little. May skip a week and do something on how a hurricane works pretty soon.

message 9: by Chaeya (new)

Chaeya | 44 comments Thanks Sue, I would like to check it out.


message 10: by Lisa M (last edited Sep 17, 2010 08:51AM) (new)

Lisa M | 8 comments I subscribe to an astronomy email newletter (from for interesting little facts that I may one day slip into my story. For example, did you know it's possible to have hot ice? "Ice" is solid water, and with enough gravity water molecules will compress, become super heated and solidify: hot ice. I wish I could find that article again. It was fasinating.

Anyway, reliable newletters can also be a great source for believable planet building, giving little tidbits of information that most people might not know.

@Sue, I look forward to reading your blog. Sound interesting!

EDIT -- I found this, but I'm not sure it's the original article I read.

message 11: by Sue (new)

Sue Bowling (sueannbowling) | 19 comments I think you want The key factor is pressure, not gravity--but in either case, this is NOT a world fit for human beings to live on! This is not ordinary ice, btw, but a form of H2O existing only at very high pressure. Check the Wikipedia article for the phase diagram: and note that the pressure scale shown is logarithmic--each major line is at ten times the value of the one below it. For reference, the triple point is at .6% of atmospheric pressure, so some of the odder forms of ice are possible at hundreds of atmospheres pressure.

message 12: by Lisa M (new)

Lisa M | 8 comments Thanks Sue. :)

It's been a long time since I've read the article and I couldn't quite remember the details. Pressure makes more sense. Definately not a world for humans! The LiveScience link isn't working for me though. (LiveScience also has an interesting email newletter, for anyone who might be interested.)

message 13: by Steven (last edited Jul 01, 2011 07:08AM) (new)

Steven Jordan (stevenlylejordan) | 30 comments I think the greater knowledge we gain on how planets work is partially driving the "terraforming" craze (of which I, too, am guilty) of rebuilding planets to be more Earth-like. In most cases, it's no more realistic than the multiple-mooned planets under orange skies, etc, that used to be written... it's just the new breed of writers extending the power of engineering to planetary scales.

Either way, it can make for some entertaining writing, however accurate it is.

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