Here’s a freebie…

I had an idea for an interesting story setup just now. It’s not a story setting I’m likely to use in the near future, but it was fun to think about.

If the world were substantially hotter, it would only be habitable at the poles. It leads to some cool scenarios when people are finally able to get to the other pole. Naturally, it would be more interesting if there were people there already, but how did those people get there? Are there entirely separate evolutionary branches going on, and if so, how do the results compare?

I’m not sure whether a habitable planet that is that much hotter would need more of its surface covered with water or less. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

Other questions arise, like:

Cosmology: would cultures that develop in polar regions have the same misconceptions that Earth civilizations did? Would seeing the sun go around in circles rather than rising and setting alter the perception of the solar system?

Cosmology 2: What shape would such people imagine the Earth to be? Perhaps an inverted bowl, which continues to bulge outward until you reach the edge? Maybe the bowl is spinning on some sort of flat surface beneath, which would explain the seasonal motion of the sun.

Mythology: The sun is important, but too much sun is deadly. Would a culture whose boundaries are defined by the strength of the sun imagine that evil lurks in the shadows they way we do, or are the shadows where the good guys take refuge from the evil that inhabits the sunny regions?

Navigation: It doesn’t seem to me that anyone will be inventing a compass in those parts. When travelers venture far to the south, what troubles are they going to encounter when trying to find their way around?

Weather: I bet there would be days when the huge storms come from the south (for the north pole dwellers) fed by the extra energy from the sun.


4 thoughts on “Here’s a freebie…

  1. Man, I had just composed a great response, and then my computer crashed, and my crash-recovery files just don’t contain it … so I’ll have to rewrite it, but before I do, I’m test-posting to make sure things are working …

  2. First, if this was a very hot planet to start with, its inhabitants would have evolved to survive on most of the planet’s surface, not just the poles. That presumably means that the planet was temperate to start with, and then a sudden climate change occurred that forced the evolving human-like life forms to live at the poles.

    Cosmology: If the planet is the same size as our Earth, the inhabitants would perceive it to be flat, not an inverted bowl. The motion of the sun would be a spiral, coming in to its tightest at the summer solstice, spiraling out and away beyond the horizon in the fall and disappearing, then coming back in the spring to repeat the dance. The inhabitants of the north pole might see the sun’s motion as akin to a giant tetherball, winding up on a pole and then unwinding — although they’d have to have some way of accounting for the sun’s motion being always counterclockwise and not reversing at the solstices.

    Navigation: You’re right that a compass wouldn’t be effective and so wouldn’t be invented by this planet’s inhabitants. They’d be using celestial navigation, the sun in the summer and the stars in winter. As they ventured south, they’d have to adapt, learning to deal with having the sun for an increasing part of every day, even in winter, and learning new constellations by which to navigate. Once they cross the equator, they start losing their old familiar constellations altogether.

  3. I’m glad you found the idea worthy of a thought-out answer – twice, even! Worth it, though; that’s good stuff.

    I was imagining that most of the planet could not support multi-celled life at all, much like the polar regions of Earth are inhospitable and did not know complex life until we used technology to put it there. Life is adaptable and durable, but there are limits.

    Having complex life confined to such a small region might also have some interesting consequences, especially if there are plate tectonics involved.

    The flat world view would make celestial navigation problematic for the first explorers, as they would expect the north star to always be straight up. In fact, they would not be able to use celestial navigation close to home without an accurate clock. As those first explorers traveled, the change of stellar motion would be what led to the “Big Bowl” theory.

    Heck, for these guys the concept of a day would exist, but as little more than an abstraction. The ideas of nocturnal and diurnal would be completely foreign to them.

    Religion: When people die, they “go south”. Perhaps when good people die, they go north. (Stephen Hawking points out that the concept of going north when you’re standing at the north pole is just as meaningless as ‘before the big bang’. For these people north would be out of the universe and into a land of shade trees and cool beverages.)

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