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How to Colonize The Outer Worlds

This episode of Because Space is brought to you by the Outer Worlds. We've all visualized fantastical worlds described in books and on our screens. But how would thosedescriptions impact the climate and laws of physics inthose imaginary places? How would Frodo and his crewtrek across Middle Earth if the planet stayed trueto the book's description? Could a place like Tatooine, with it's twin suns, really exist and support life? (upbeat music) Our very own Earth is not flat. Let me repeat that forthe people in the back. The Earth is not flat. On the other hand, Arda is.

For those of you who aren'tinto Lord of the Rings, Middle Earth is situatedon a planet named Arda. While Middle Eartheventually became round, which is a topic for a wholedifferent conversation, but in the flat days of Arda, what kind of effect would it haveon the inhabitants? The first big issue is the magnetic field. On our very own Earth, werely on the molten iron in the outer core to generate currents of electricity due to convection. Thus, locking in oursustained magnetic field.

This field protects our atmosphere from being chipped away by the sun. It acts as a shieldagainst the solar winds which, are charged particlesbeing emitted by the sun, which would otherwise, strip our atmosphere molecule by molecule. And, in turn, the magneticfield's existence keeps us alive. In a flat configuration, you don't have the ability to have a molten core. Even a flat molten plane inthe middle of Arda wouldn't make sense because, in theearly formative period, gravity would want that to reassemble into a sphere and not a plane. That means if MiddleEarth actually existed, it would not have acore which could sustain a magnetic field and thus,Frodo and his friends would be in an uninhabitable,barren Middle Earth. The Lord of the Rings would've been much less interesting without the climactic ring disposal in the moltenlave within Mount Doom. But if the planet was indeed flat, even the iconic landscape couldn't exist. On a flat world, therewould be no plate tectonics so you wouldn't have theability to generate the friction or the divergence of platesto generate a volcano. No volcano means no molten lava for the Ring to take it's final plunge.

Does that mean Sauron would've won? Now that we've established a flat Arda will have no magnetic fieldand no volcanic activity, there's another huge componentthat will throw things off. Gravity. An interesting parallel wouldbe to look at asteroids, which come in all shapesand sizes, and could have an aspect ratio that will allow us to consider it as relatively, potato-like. Not flat, but it's not a sphere. Asteroids are challenging toexplore for the scientists who design landers and hoppersbecause the gravitational field on the surface is bothlow and highly non-linear. That means you could be onone part of the asteroid and weigh ten poundsand move to another part of the asteroid and weigh thirty pounds. You can imagine gravity being this eerie on a planet like Arda. Since it is flat, the vector may point to the center of the plane.

Which means, if you live towards the edge, the gravity pulls muchdifferently than at the center. Gravity eventually will bepulling more horizontally and plants would grow diagonally and fruit will fall diagonally since they will be inclined to followthe gravitational pull. How do you like them apples? Now that we've figured out how Middle Earth works andmy precious is safe, let's switch gears to another fictitious land in a galaxy far, far away. Tatooine. Can a planet like that really exist? Why, yes. Tatooine is the home planetto Anakin and Luke Skywalker and was portrayed as apretty inhospitable place with no vegetation and water sourced from atmospheric moisture.

Binary star systems can either be circumbinary or circumstellar. Circumbinary means the distance between the two stars, relativeto the orbiting planet, is small enough that theplanet orbits both stars. Circumstellar means the distance between the two stars are largerso the planet orbits only one of the stars in the system. In either case, in a multiple star system, as you orbit one or both stars, since both stars have somegravitational influence, whether big or small, itcould create gravitational instabilities as it navigates it's orbit.

So binary systems in general may not be the ideal place you'd wanna live. A circumbinary planet would have a day and a night like we do on our own planet. Since the suns will be closer relative to the distance betweenthem and the planet. A circumstellar planetwould have days and nights that vary depending on whereit is with respect to each sun. If the suns were onopposite sides of the planet for example, the entire planetwill experience day time.
There are binary starsystems orbiting consistently around one another to provide a stable, hot, but stable, source of energy. If Tatooine was far enoughaway, it could actually work. Tatooine is slightly smallerthan Earth at 10,465 kilometers in diameter, and it'sorbital period is 304 days. Which means they don'thave turkey or holidays. With these inputs, andthanks to Kepler's laws, in order to have anorbital period of 304 days, Tatooine would be placed around the same distance theEarth is from the Sun. That means they did a prettygreat job checking the math. At the time that Star Wars was released, that system lived onlyin the sci-fi worlds.

There have now been severaldiscoveries by the Kepler satellite that makes thisdepiction closer to a reality. Kepler 16 is a binary starsystem in the constellation, Cygnus, where both starsare separated by a .22 AU. You could imagine that one staris where our sun is located and the second starwould split the distance between our sun and Mercury. These two stars orbit each other and the planet Kepler 16b is .7 AU, which puts it aroundwhere Venus is located. It's a bit smaller butcomparable to Saturn in size. So it's pretty huge. The chances of life on this planet is slim but there still is much to be understood. Now that we're all primedup with real life examples, you can still enjoy Frodo'strek across Middle Earth even though you know thatthe abnormal gravity fields and lack of tectonic activity would completely change the story line. You could also sit backand enjoy that a planet with two suns, likeTatooine, actually exists.

Thanks to missions such as Kepler and the Hubble space telescope, the realm of possibility for typesof worlds is broadening. Science fiction canturn into science fact. Unless you think the Earth is flat, no amount of science isgonna help you there. Because Space! Thanks again to The Outer Worlds for sponsoring today's episode. The Outer Worlds is a single player RPG from Obsidian Entertainmentand Private Division. Explore the edge ofthe galaxy by traveling to the Halcyon Colony,where you'll be embroiled in a vast, interstellar conspiracy. And only you can decide everyone's fate. The Outer Worlds is availablenow for PC, PS4, and XBOX One. Welcome to the future!Try not to break it. (upbeat music) 


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