On Earth, there are a lot of traces of earthshaking cosmic impacts. To call simply two: Meteor Crater in Arizona, which is about 3,900 toes (1,200 meters) large, and the Chicxulub crater, centered off the coast of Mexico, which is greater than 110 miles (180 km) large and was doubtless attributable to the asteroid strike that ended the age of dinosaurs.
What if the world had been continually bombarded with space-rock smashups, sufficiently big and frequent sufficient to form the course of complete cultures? In my science-fiction novelette “By the Will of the Gods,” showing in the January-February 2021 issue of Analog magazine, I explored this state of affairs on a fictional planet referred to as Pell. Here is what such a world could be like.
Harmful meteor strikes are uncommon in recorded historical past on Earth, however the 2013 fireball explosion over Chelyabinsk, Russia, is proof they may simply wreak havoc on humanity. Scientists estimated the Chelyabinsk asteroid was about 62 toes (19 m) large and weighed about 13,200 tons (12,000 metric tons), and that the full vitality of the explosion was equal to a detonation of about 500 kilotons of TNT. Compared, the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki every had the explosive energy of solely about 16 kilotons of TNT.
Associated: Asteroid shower rained space rocks on Earth and the moon 800 million years ago
How would possibly societies on Pell view such cosmic impacts? In historic tales similar to these of Atlantis or Sodom and Gomorrah, the destruction of cities is commonly linked with some form of divine wrath. As such, cultures on that fictional world would possibly doubtless see cosmic strikes as punishment from the gods. In “By the Will of the Gods,” the time period for a sufferer of a cosmic influence is “starcrossed,” and a complete starcrossed tradition — referred to as the Kingdom of the Golden Delta — was struck by a cosmic influence again in historic historical past. This kingdom is modeled after the numerous Earth civilizations that developed round river deltas, similar to these of Egypt and Mesopotamia. Within the novelette, Deltans expertise centuries of bigotry after the influence compelled them from their homeland That is not so completely different from the intolerance usually confronted by refugee and diaspora populations throughout historical past on Earth.
What different social results would possibly cosmic impacts have in the event that they had been commonplace? In an interview with the South China Morning Submit, cultural anthropologist Joseph Bosco recommended that superstitions might come from a want to regulate the setting, a necessity that may show particularly robust within the face of random occasions. Being continually beset by random disasters within the type of meteor showers would possibly imply societies cling to superstition even into their trendy eras.
(Even now on Earth, with out a barrage of area rocks, many superstitions are widespread within the modern-day: the idea in elves and fairies in Iceland, or in jinns throughout Muslim societies, or in witchcraft in Africa, or in astrology internationally. )
One response to this added unpredictability could be a faith that facilities round fortune-telling. Since many disasters in life cannot be defined, I assumed it would make sense that establishments would possibly emerge to assist impose a way of that means and construction onto the world, the place folks may search for assist or for management over their very own destiny.
Scientists have additionally discovered that feelings regarding uncertainty in regards to the world not solely lead folks to embrace the paranormal, but additionally to harbor beliefs in huge conspiracies and help robust governments, in keeping with analysis printed in 2015 within the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
Beams of sunshine
Given the extraordinary injury that cosmic impacts may have on civilizations that emerge on a planet like Pell, societies there would possibly finally focus a whole lot of effort on deflecting incoming rocks. For example, quite a lot of scientific analysis and growth could be dedicated to creating giant laser arrays to blast such rocks into oblivion.
Any know-how constructed for one function usually finally ends up discovering different makes use of as nicely. As such, Pell’s large laser arrays assist drive interplanetary exploration, propelling light sails throughout area. In fact, any spacecraft flying in area round Pell would possibly get destroyed by impacts with meteoroids too small to identify.
I reasoned that any laser arrays in area would doubtless be solar-powered, which jogged my memory of Arthur C. Clarke’s Hugo and Nebula award-winning “Rendezvous with Rama.” In that novel, the society that emerges on Mercury turns into a serious interplanetary energy resulting from all of the photo voltaic vitality it receives from Mercury’s proximity to the solar, utilizing this vitality to fireplace laser beams and launch mined metals throughout the photo voltaic system. In “By the Will of the Gods,” the story is about on a metropolis throughout the innermost planet of Pell’s system, partly due to all of the photo voltaic vitality out there there.
So there you may have it. A world that marries a superstitious tradition with interplanetary exploration. It is wonderful enjoyable to think about how altering one facet of life on Earth might need every kind of ripple results.
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