Gotta Catch ’em up

Previously on SOX… (remember to read in that cool advert, deep voice, you know the one)
Ben and Ross tackle a python to get it to run code
Lucy spends 8+ hours trying to get python to work before realising python is incorrectly installed
What is silicon life? How does it work? Does anybody know? We don’t! (or do we?…) Find out more with the Joe and Xinyi show!
Ned sits on many keyboards

As of this week (week 5, the sad week in which my french buddy drowned. I scratched Joe’s foot for a week after I heard that un-deux-trois cat sank), we reached a stage where in terms of theory for life, we have 3 habitable zones to look for and in terms of the program, it produces data that can almost accurately depict night/day cycles of an exoplanet based on measurable and predictable data. 

In terms of Benedek & Ross’ code, it is at a stage where it produces a temperature against time graph of a certain location (or locations) on the planet. The script determines the energy loss and energy gain of the location and calculates the temperature curve based on that. The program determines the temperature curve based on: obliquity of the planet, radius of the orbit, radius of the planet, the star’s luminosity and the albedo of the planet. The program neglects the atmosphere/greenhouse effect, therefore it produces temperatures slightly lower than the actual data. The simulation is more reliable when not asked to simulate extreme conditions (for example north pole), as the simulation does not include heat redistribution of the surface of the planet. Now they’re working on determining how the composition and the thickness of the atmosphere creates the greenhouse effect and how it changes the temperature of the planet. The next steps for the code is to take into account greenhouse effects as they would raise the overall temperature of the planets.

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Fig. 2: A graph showing the temperature change of an Earth-like planet over 3 years, created by Big Ben’s code!

For the 3 possible zones, we’re looking into one hot with a protic solvent (a solvent that breaks into H^+ and negative ions) such that tectosilicates or biogenic silica might become more reactive, one cold with a aprotic, non-polar solvent (N_2 or CH_4) for the long chained silanes and polysilicon halides which under other conditions is too explosive. The other zone we would like to look at is more comparable to earth conditions, hosting organic silicon crossover compounds that can host the same functional groups as organic compounds. In the coming weeks, we will look into these three zones in more detail to determine more specific requirements.

In terms of tangents, the group has been incredibly focused with no distractions. At all. Except when Joe and Lucy realised that using geothermal energy to ionise certain silicon based materials that might also hold Nitrogen or Helium allowing them to shoot lasers. Laser aliens could also feed their young with the energy from that if they were autotrophs. Here is a scientific diagram I made with my own two paws to describe this effect:

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Fig.3 – We’re probably not insane

So no tangents at all. Oh yeah we also spent a few hours talking about european folk metal but that doesn’t count, a cat gotta waste his time somehow and that e-mail to Zita was already written up!

On a more serious note, we did hypothesise that silicon based organisms could be autotrophic, feeding off thermal energy, chemicals or light from their surroundings similar to deep ocean fish and plants. This is a little more complex than we need to go for determining conditions but it is interesting & could be helpful in future work.

On an optimistic note, Xinyi made lots of progress in researching possible solvents, in terms of more protic solvents, it could be possible to use Sulfuric, Silicic or Hydrochloric acid meanwhile the cooler planets may be able to use liquid nitrogen, methane or even ethane. In terms of a more earth-like zone, possible solvents could even be water or maybe ammonia! After we look at the reactivity of certain materials with these, we can determine possible solvents then use their melting and boiling points as a range of habitable temperatures.

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