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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2012 3:45 am 
Boardlord
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The ultimate reason is that I always envisioned Almea as a setting for novels. By their nature fantasy novels don't really encourage a lot of conbiology. (Except for monsters, which aren't really biology, just... monsterology.)

I mean, think about a character having a meal. It's nice to say what they ate; it's not that fabulous to hear that they had cumetu, zeri of shuchmyaso with a süro-based sauce, fazholo with draba, and for dessert a leme bulondula with embrezihi. That's not atmosphere, that's reader abuse. And it doesn't really help to explain what all of these things are... that' s the sort of off-putting infodump that makes a novel hard to get into.

I would think differently if I were creating a movie, a comic, or a video game. In a visual medium you can show all this stuff very quickly, without distracting the viewer from the story.

And again, if you like conbiology, have fun with it.


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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2012 5:33 am 
Niš
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I guess that really depends on how you look at it.

I actually wasn't thinking about those kinds of details, just generalizing ones that help paint a different scene for your world, such as my world having an orange sky at certain times, blue plants, and some funny colored snow (not sure what color the snow is yet). All of these things of course are explainable with the conbiology of the world (Eurydice), which is for the book's appendix. It would also depend on what kind of a story you're writing as well I suppose...


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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 6:00 pm 
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It's difficult to imagine a biology resembling what we know of the various Almean species that could accomplish *any* of the things it's suggested 'magic' can accomplish. Not impossible - many terrestrial organisms have the ability to sense and produce magnetic and electric fields. But moving objects, or transmitting ideas across significant distances (especially in media other than water)... those things are hard to explain, and our understanding of both physics and plausible biology doesn't really permit them. Mind control is right out.

Of course, our current understanding of physics also doesn't provide a ready means for a ship of Greeks to be transferred from Earth to Almea... wherever it is, anyway. And the ilii seem to have taken science and technology far beyond what our own species has. For all we know, all of the paranormal things that happen in Almea are effected by extremely advanced ilii technology that cannot be easily seen or touched, that uses principles known to us or even beyond what we know. Sufficiently advanced tech would be pretty hard to distinguish from 'magic'.

Isn't it suggested that the ktuvoks might have been engineered by the ilii?


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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 8:34 pm 
Boardlord
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Melend, I pretty much answered everything in your first paragraph on the previous page of this thread, if a little cantankerously.

Kind of funny that you mention mind control as "right out" when it .

I'm not saying that biology is equivalent to magic, but people seem to be declaring that things are "impossible" way too easily. Not only does the natural world have some strange extremes, but everyday experience, looked at in terms of physics, is full of powerful things that form a toolkit for the conworlder.

Telekinesis in particular (if that's what you meant by "moving objects") is a stretch. If the object doesn't have its own nervous system, direct or indirect physical manipulation are going to be easier.

(The iliu didn't create the ktuvoks, though there is a suggestion that each species may have created at least some of the other Thinking Kinds.)


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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 8:52 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 9:45 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2013 1:13 am 
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So would the brain bits necessary for this transmission of information be present in some rudimentary form in any of the iliu's sibling species? If so, could it be the true source of the ktuvoks' hypnotic power? Also I imagine that people on Almea would be able to describe things they've seen to each other more easily because they might be transmitting that information on some subconscious level.


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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2013 11:20 pm 
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Yes, yes, and no. (And the last is mostly due to reasons of narrative: Almean humans aren't supposed to be that weird for terrestrial readers.)


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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 7:44 am 
Sanno
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It's certainly theoretically possible to alter mental states at a distance through EM waves. However, leaving aside the problem of evolution (it seems like a massive step requiring a lot of rewiring with no advantages in the intermediate states), it doesn't seem feasible that a humanlike animal could actually produce enough electrical power to transmit the (incredibly precise) waves over a useful distance. That precision is also problematic - you'd have to not only transmit exactly the right 'thought', but you'd have to transmit it to precisely the right place in the brain - no point stimulating the visual cortex with an auditory message, at best that'll just be confusing and at worst it'll have no effect at all.
It's also important to bear in mind that we don't actually have electromagnetic waves bouncing around in our heads - we have sporadically firing neurons. The projected waves wouldn't just have to change the pattern of existing waves, but would face the much harder task of getting particular neurons to fire in particular orders. To illustrate the difference: we already have EM pulses that can interfere with electronics, and it's conceivable that we might be able to build sufficiently precise EM pulse generators that we can, say, rewrite a computer program at a distance, or remote-control an electric car. As it is, the imprecise EM pulses generally just fry all the electronics they hit. But: EM pulses have no effect at all on organic brains. Affecting an electrochemical system at a distance would require an order of magnitude more radiation.
And those waves of radiation have to penetrate deep enough into the brain to trigger neurons not near the surface, while at the same time not simply frying the neurons nearer the surface...

The problems can be seen just by looking at real electroreception. It only works in water, because the waves can't pass through enough air to be in any way useful. [Echidnas can get some signal by having their electroreceptors very close to very damp soil]. Even in water, fish that have evolved to communicate through electric fields only have an effective range of, at most, a couple of meters. And that sort of communication is barely more subtle than "hi, I'm here, I'm a female such-and-such".

It's true that humans have devised ways to effect the brain through EM at a distance. We can make you twitch, and we can unreliably make you see flashes of light. To do this, we need a magnetic field similar in size to an MRI machine's field, and we need to place those magnets right next to your head - and to actually target even a particular area of the brain you need those magnets to cover something like half the length of your skull, because of course the only way to target a particular point with a wave is to have two waves begin a distance apart, so that you can target the focal point.
This has problems, however. In order to have enough power to go from just outside your skull to a couple of centimeters inside your skull and still be able to randomly knock out enough neurons to make you maybe see a flash... well, let's just you mustn't have any metal touching your skin, because that amount of power heats up metal enough to burn skin on contact. [They discovered this the hard way - don't use metalic EEG monitors when you're putting a magnetic field through someone's head!]. And even if you don't have anything metalic on you, you're still likely to get skin and muscle pain, because to get to the brain you have to go through the skin and the muscle.

Leaving aside the question of whether the precision to target individual neurons in specific orders from some distance away is in any way even vaguely feasible, we can get a vague idea of what you'd have to be like to be able to do it, power-wise. You'd have to be eating every minute of the day, preferably eating uranium, and you'd have to have biologically evolved superconductors in your brain. You wouldn't bother with putting pictures into people's heads, because you'd be a walking death ray, except that the chances are you'd fry your own nervous system the first time you tried to transmit. Or just boil your own blood by heating up the iron...

(for comparison, the most powerful bioelectrics in reality are the electric fish, where a big part of their body is based around electrogeneration, and it shapes their entire way of life... the maximum any animal can produce is around 600 volts, or around 1 amp (not in the same animal - high voltage fish have low current and vice versa).)

Incidentally, if you can put a picture in my head, let alone put a thought in my head, you can also control my body. Actually, controlling gross physical behaviour would be a hell of a lot easier than controlling thoughts, or even just controlling sensations.

Fine control of anything also requires the tendentious leap that we all have identical brain layouts. While it's true that most of us have the same brain scheme on the gross level - certain parts of the brain do certain sorts of things - there's no reason to think that the neural layouts themselves are the same for everybody, rather than being functionally equivalent networks that have developed in each brain semi-independently (and the fact that completely different areas of the brain can be rewired for certain purposes when the original wiring elsewhere gets damaged certainly seems to suggest that the detailed architecture is variable, both between people and over time). This would make anything more precise than general stimulation of this sense or that, or maybe this emotion or that, completely impossible. Perhaps, as a stretch, it might be possible over time to learn the layout of one person's brain enough to influence it? But to influence the brain of any random person you haven't met before... completely impossible. Impossible for three reasons: you can't produce that much power, and if you could there would be massive sideeffects; you almost certainly can't target that power sufficiently precisely; and even if you could you wouldn't know where to target it in more than the most general terms, except perhaps after detailed study of the subject.

--------------------------------------------

Passive telepathy, on the other hand, is a lot more possible. It could theoretically be possible to have EM receptors delicate enough to detect the tiny bioelectric changes that accompany thoughts (and to have them be able to cancel out your own bioelectrics, and the magnetic field of the earth and whatnot). You'd still expect only to be able to get very general impressions - telepathy, not telepsychy - though maybe between individuals who knew each other well there could be more, or perhaps the species has evolved to be very similar in this respect. And this passive telepathy could be boosted by the 'sender', who wouldn't so much actually send anything but would think 'really hard' and order their thoughts in a certain easily-read way.

This would be possible, though still very, very unlikely, and hardly worth evolving. But it would be a mere miracle of nature, rather than, in the case of thought control at a distance, an actual honest-to-god miracle.

Needless to say, all this becomes a lot easier if you have physical contact, particularly physical contact designed for telepathy, and if you have penetrative contract straight into the nervous system it becomes almost no problem at all (I say almost because the problem of translation would still exist - the individuals would still have to have evolved specifically for their thoughts to be readable, or else the individuals would have to know each other really well).

----------

What's overwhelmingly easier is ideomotor telepathy. This is the principle that mental states are expressed in body language, and hence observation of the body allows deductions about the mind. This is what we do all the time - we often know that someone is angry without actually waiting for them to say so - but we tend not to appreciate the extent of the effect. Those who study ideomotor phenomena can seem like telepaths. The classic case study is the horse, 'Clever Hans', who was able to answer complex numerical questions and yes-or-no questions by observing the behaviour of the person who asked him the question - assuming that the questioner (or his trainer in the audience) knew the answer themselves, the horse could give the right answer nine out of ten times. The person who worked this out then tried to emulate it himself, and discovered that he could be 90% accurate in deducing the answer to yes-or-no questions from the appearance of the person who asked the question.
In humans, going beyond obvious body language is difficult. It requires study and practice, and is still fairly limited in extent - you may be able to guess yes or no, or even have an idea what sort of things a person is thinking about (particular if you've primed them to respond in different ways), but true 'telepathy' is beyond us.
However, other species may have developed this to a more sophisticated level, to a point that actually does equate to telepathy. Then again, such a species would likely also develop the ability to lie through fine body language - humans aren't good at this, but largely because we've never had to be. So this wouldn't be telepathy in the circumvents-lying way. And if you want the signals to be read, you'll exaggerate them. So in fact what we'd actually see is basically just language, but conveyed through sign language rather than sound. However, if the signs are still quite subtle, an individual who has evolved to read them, and has developed an interest in humans and has applied their evolved hypersensitivity to small visual cues to human behaviour, would indeed seem like a mind-reader to a human audience.

Mesmerism, the induction of mental behaviours through the body language of the speaker, is rather more fanciful, but still sort-of believable. This wouldn't be so applicable to humans, though, unless the alien had evolved to influence humans, or had applied considerable study to the problem of how to do so.

However, mesmerism is in the realms of the highly improbable... rather than flat-out mental-influence-at-a-distance-through-EM, which so far as I can see is clearly in the realms of magic alone.

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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 5:32 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2013 5:29 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Mon May 13, 2013 4:55 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2013 8:14 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Wed May 22, 2013 12:14 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Mon May 27, 2013 6:28 am 
Avisaru
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And it started out with a species of which many individuals liked humans anyway. Read In Defence of Dogs by John Bradshaw. His theory is that we (accidentally) selected those wolves who were less shy and more willing to hang around with us, and they evolved into the domestic dog. We left the shyer and more mistrustful wolves in the wild. When we try to tame the modern wolf, the results are much more disappointing.


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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Mon May 27, 2013 9:27 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2013 7:46 am 
Avisaru
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Zompist implies somewhere that ktuvoks have shorter lifetimes than humans, but I can't find the reference - comment please, zomp?


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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2013 8:35 am 
Lebom
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Also, do non-humans engage much in wizardry, apart from Patiku's original question about magic affecting their evolution or their current natural or 'natural' abilities? The Flaids are into alchemy, but I don't recall ever seeing a reference to a non-human doing the 'interaction with Powers' style of wizardry.


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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2013 4:38 pm 
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Ars Lande's speculations are quite clever and reasonable. I don't think long lives would be necessary, only a continuity of culture, and ktuvok empires are good at that.

Can't find any reference to their lifespan in a quick search, Mornche.

As for non-humans and magic... the iliu would certainly never do magic in the human way— essentially by becoming a pet of the Powers. They'd consider it immoral as well as foolish. However, they'd say that they're in touch with the good Powers— but as allies not pets. Note that one of the iliu-ktuvok wars was fought largely with magic.

The elcari have a word for sorcery (guña), but I'd say they don't generally have the temperament for it. They don't care for abstract studies, especially ones with unreliable effects.

Flaids are curious and some would dabble in magic just as some humans would. They generally abhor displays of power, complete solitude, and the sort of humorless personality that would devote itself to a Power. On the other hand they are fairly tolerant of eccentricity and wouldn't prevent someone from pursuing magic unless they became dangerous. In the story of Jeerio a wizard is mentioned, Dorgetno; as the story is set in Flora he would certainly be a flaid, not a human.


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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Wed Jun 12, 2013 4:05 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Thu Jun 13, 2013 8:57 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Thu Jul 25, 2013 4:52 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Thu Jul 25, 2013 7:10 pm 
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Last edited by Melend on Wed Aug 14, 2013 6:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Wed Aug 07, 2013 10:07 am 
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You can just get lucky, too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01LFxJ4SPPY It's not hard to imagine a scenario in a primitive tribe where a mutation like this could lead an individual to dominate an activity (like hunting at night), gain much prestige because of it, and then spread their genes far and wide. It's not as useful in a modern industrial society though.


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 Post subject: Re: Evolution on Almea
PostPosted: Wed Aug 07, 2013 5:17 pm 
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