Who Are You Calling Exo?

exosciences (also xenosciences) (n.): Including exogeology, exogeography, exoclimatology, exobiology, exoecology, exosophontology, exomemetics, etc.

An archaic series of terms referring to the various sciences when applied to off-planet phenomena, usually used with reference to the speaker’s homeworld.

This terminology fell into rapid disrepute after the first full conference of the Fellowship of Natural Philosophy after the reunification of the Thirteen Colonies, in which, upon entering the nomenclaturical dispute over the proper terminology to describe each individual colony’s branch of the exosciences – then in its third hour – Academician Excellence Corvis Ejava, Dean Pro Tem, declared “it’s a big [redacted] galaxy and none of your homeworlds are that [redacted] special”, adding that the prospect of having to use 300 billion different terms to describe the same studies depending on where you were was “the single most bloody stupid thing I’ve heard in the last 900 years, and I have students”.

The term geography, while possessed of some local bias, persisted for several hundred years after this conference, before being universally replaced with galactography, following representations from the scientific community of the hydrogen-breathing sssc!haaaouú that while their homeworlds could be described as many things, “geo-“ was not one of them.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary

Trope-a-Day: No Biochemical Barriers

No Biochemical Barriers: Averted, mostly.

While there will be absolutely no Half Human Hybrids, or indeed Half Anything Hybrids running around, as I said back then, it can get a mite fuzzy:

Alien Food is Edible: Well, no, for the most part it isn’t, given differing biochemistries, chiralities, etc., etc.  Even really simple molecules can be tricky.  By and large, if you end up in a serious Interspecies Romance or Mixed Marriage, you are going to need two kitchens, or at least two refrigerators.  That being said… with the help of a genetic engineer, some helpful symbiotic bacteria, some drugs, and a really good chef, it’s often possible to find a few dishes you can share.  Unless, y’know, one of you is made of rock or something.

Cross-Species Diseases: Uncommon, since for one thing, viruses just won’t work, and parasites often need to interact enough with their hosts’ biology to not work either.  Bacteria – well, they’re more often a problem since the environment can offer enough of the right stuff to let them grow, the resilient and resourceful little buggers that they are, even if it’s not exactly the same disease when it happens to a different host, and immune responses can vary.  (They tend to be much more of an ecological problem than a medical one, which is why they sterilize you – no, not like that – when you go offworld.)  And allergen issues are downright common.

But anything cross-species that’s effective, similar, and contagious… that’s bioweapon/nanoweapon sign.

All Atmospheres Are Equal: Elemental abundances, energy sources, and the problem of Too Much Oxygen Causing Wildfires mean that there are a decent number of oxygen-nitrogen garden worlds out there, but the ammonia, halogen, hydrogen, methane, and sulphide breathers out there would like to point out that all atmospheres sure aren’t equal for them.  And even the people for whom the basic gas mix is right still often need filter/compressor masks due to low partial pressures (or suits due to issues with the absolute pressure or temperature), toxic gases in the mix, and allergens.  People who travel extensively often can get around some of these problems with extensive lung and immune system gene-work, but by no means all of them, and all the really different gas mixes/pressures/temperatures will still kill you.

Of course, all of these problems can be solved by doing the old Body Surf, but it’s not like that doesn’t have problems of its own…

And The White Walls Are Not White

A post I made elsewhere concerning colors according to alien eyes:

Indeed so, even if they happen to use the same chunk of the EM spectrum we do as “visible light”. There are, I suppose, some restrictions on what’s likely, since moving too far into the longer wavelengths starts to give you resolution problems and moving too far into the short wavelengths gives you issues once you start trying to come up with plausible eyes that run off ionizing radiation, but even so. The eldrae, for example, whose visual spectrum stretches a little down and a little further up from the human one, have three colors we don’t: gallé (infrared), ivén (low UV), and serís (high UV); the kaeth, by contrast, have two infrareds, no UVs, and can’t see the wavelengths we call “violet”, either. And that’s before we get into all the subjective issues of how the actual qualia differ, if that’s even a question that’s possible to answer.

The standard interlingua has a set of compromise color names defined by the frequency bands of the light in question, specifically to help sort out this whole sort of general mish-mash with which colors look like what to whom, once all the optical system differences get sorted out. (Consult your friendly translator’s test card for what each color looks like to you!)

Of course, where life gets really interesting is that the human visual system, due to its architecture, innately does some averaging inasmuch as it can’t tell the difference between red-and-green and yellow in light, or between blue-and-yellow and green in pigments; the brain never gets that data. But there’s no reason that a visual system has to work that way, although I assume in my universe for various implementation reasons most of them do – so, imagine how wildly different the world would look to someone who sees all the different mixed pigments/lights we use to produce that shade of green as entirely different colors, and the same for every other shade…

(And then try and imagine using one of their control panels – quick, is that the yellow alarm light flashing, or the red-and-green one?)