Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

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Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by Rossum » 2010-07-17 06:35pm

Okay, assume you are the leader of humanity or at least in a pretty decent position of power. Humans have access to FTL travel and have some colonized planets outside of our Solar System. There are no signs of alien life or civilization as far as anyone knows. Production capacity is decent but there are problems with colonization due to a lack of readily accesable chemical fuels on lifeless planets.

Then, one day you get word that a team of scientists have developed organic technology they say could result in the development of organic computers, custom designed tissues and organs grafted onto humans, self-healing organic hulls, plants that can survive on alien planets and produce biofuel for the colonits, and a wide variety of other ideas. They all have nice well-documented proposals and reports on what they can or can't do... and what they can do with the proper funding. They are confident that with the enough time and funding their organic technology can be used to make almost anything that traditional technology could (within reason).

Their technology makes use of man-made cells utilizing genetic codes that were programmed from the ground up without relying on existing natural DNA... though it is mostly chemically compatible with terrestrial chemistry (They already made a sort of edible 'bamboo' that can survive and grow in a hard vacuum as long as its roots have access to water. The inside makes decent bread flour or gerbil food.). With the right funding they are certain that their tech could revolutionize the Empire... even make bioships if anybody really needed or wanted anything like that.


So, assuming that the scientists have the tools and technology to work with, the desire and drive to make something out of their organic tech, and you have a few trillion space dollars laying around to spend on anything... what would you have these scientists work on?


My idea: Have them develop a durable organic plant that can be seeded onto a variety of worlds to grow fuels for the colonists. Sort of like producing fossil fuels... it has taken our own Earth millions of years to produce all the oil and coal we have today and we're burning up alot of it to maintain the energy requirements for our civilization. Colonies on other planets would need energy to start up.

So, seed the planets with plants that are especially designed to produce some kind of biofuel and work to stockpile or distribute it to places that colonists could collect it. Maybe extract other things from the ground like metals or fissile materials in a form that can be easily harvested later, but we don't want these accidentally mutating into a weed that damages ships or metal structures by leeching minerals from them.


Other than that... maybe grow bubble-like plant structures that are designed to maintain an earth-like atmosphere inside them. If they grow really big then they could serve as makeshift houses by colonists, if they are smaller they could be punctured to harvest the air inside, if a whole bunch of them grow on a planet then they might be able to change the atmosphere of the planet to a more earth-like one. Or produce Ozone to develop an ozone layer.
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Re: Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by Darth Nostril » 2010-07-17 07:45pm

Rossum wrote: So, seed the planets with plants that are especially designed to produce some kind of biofuel and work to stockpile or distribute it to places that colonists could collect it. Maybe extract other things from the ground like metals or fissile materials in a form that can be easily harvested later.
Yeah it's called Tiberium.
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Re: Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by Uncluttered » 2010-07-17 08:39pm

You had me at self repairing hulls.

Now I know that most people here will be quick to point out, that bio-ships are useless in a fight, and that may be true.

Last I checked, I was able to go on a road trip without fighting pirates. For most uses, this would be fine.

Even on war ship, much of the components could be organic. You'll want a mix of hardware to resist different threats, but anything that will kill organic computers, life support etc, will kill the crew.

I wouldn't worry about the Bio fuels so much. If you have spaceflight with FTL, you have cheap nuclear power. If you want a low tech fuel for whatever reason, use algae.
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Re: Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by Ghost Rider » 2010-07-17 08:47pm

Rossum wrote:Okay, assume you are the leader of humanity or at least in a pretty decent position of power. Humans have access to FTL travel and have some colonized planets outside of our Solar System. There are no signs of alien life or civilization as far as anyone knows. Production capacity is decent but there are problems with colonization due to a lack of readily accesable chemical fuels on lifeless planets.
This completely depends on a complete unknown that you aren't giving us.

Is it within 10-20 years and fuel becomes nil, or is it a situation that which can be determined that said fuel needs to be used solely for needed purposes?
Then, one day you get word that a team of scientists have developed organic technology they say could result in the development of organic computers, custom designed tissues and organs grafted onto humans, self-healing organic hulls, plants that can survive on alien planets and produce biofuel for the colonits, and a wide variety of other ideas. They all have nice well-documented proposals and reports on what they can or can't do... and what they can do with the proper funding. They are confident that with the enough time and funding their organic technology can be used to make almost anything that traditional technology could (within reason).
Aside from medical, they are wildly full of shit. If taken in a logical context this would mean that said group of eggheads have somehow found a way to grow steel from cells.
Their technology makes use of man-made cells utilizing genetic codes that were programmed from the ground up without relying on existing natural DNA... though it is mostly chemically compatible with terrestrial chemistry (They already made a sort of edible 'bamboo' that can survive and grow in a hard vacuum as long as its roots have access to water. The inside makes decent bread flour or gerbil food.). With the right funding they are certain that their tech could revolutionize the Empire... even make bioships if anybody really needed or wanted anything like that.
Again, this is akin to saying they made cells that can be as good as everything inorganic...with the major problem being it has to be grown, thuse fed energy, and constantly needing energy to sustain itself regardless of situation.

Hell, it gets worse then the usual insanity. I do not need to fuel my car when it's standing still, this technology means I would if incorporated as such, with none of the benefits. To say nothing of sickness, and the other nuances biological beings have that inorganic has none of.
So, assuming that the scientists have the tools and technology to work with, the desire and drive to make something out of their organic tech, and you have a few trillion space dollars laying around to spend on anything... what would you have these scientists work on?
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Re: Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by Lord of the Abyss » 2010-07-17 08:52pm

A few ideas:

Can your non-organic technology self-repair and/or replicate itself? Realistically that should be possible, but if the setting can't pull it off there's a huge number of uses for something that won't wear out and can make more of itself.

Organic "sheathing" for conventional technology. This can be useful both aesthetically and practically. Humans have evolved to like organic shapes, and the sheathing could be designed to provide a machine friendly interior environment while being low or positive impact on the outside environment (if not actually in vacuum).

In general, a prettier replacement for conventional technology (where high end capability isn't needed). There's no reason that organic technology has to have the "bugs and tumorous lumps" appearance it usually seems to have in visual sci-fi; it could look like pretty plant and animal life instead.

Create a "technoecosystem"; an entire ecosystem of artificial organisms, designed to serve as the self building and repairing infrastructure for a human population. Drop the seed for such a thing on a planet or asteroid, come back later and you'll have cities and housing and so forth all ready to move into, complete with amenities and organic servants.
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Re: Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by Zixinus » 2010-07-17 09:08pm

One other, somewhat icky, solution is to create a life-support system within spaceships, using sunlight and the human waste products as fuel (plus extra biomass if necessary). An organic life support that is intertwined with the biological systems of a human being as well as designed to be much more robust in regards of biochemistry (it is the only thing it has to do after all), might end up more reliable than cold, steel technology pumping various chemicals or giving certain amount of shocks to the right places. Then again, there is the issue of cell degredation and the likes.

The endless application of creating various symbionts for various human uses is, of course, there. Stuff, like living suits that allow the wearer to live in inhospitable and cold environments (such as Mars, essentially specially-designed spacesuits) to more cosmetic things, like penis-extending whatits (and of course, allowing unimaginable medicine).
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Re: Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by Rossum » 2010-07-17 11:20pm

To be honest, alot of their proposals would be impractical (or at least they acknowledge that many things could be done better with standard technology) but they want to toss out as many ideas as they can and feel are at least possible so they can get funding. Fund work on a bioship and they could work on all the technologies needed to build it and it could result in lots of other uses (like a life support system that grows its own filters or something). So yeah, alot of it could lead to a dead end or be impracical but leads to useful result along the way.
Ghost Rider wrote: This completely depends on a complete unknown that you aren't giving us.

Is it within 10-20 years and fuel becomes nil, or is it a situation that which can be determined that said fuel needs to be used solely for needed purposes?
Assume that nuclear fission, fusion, and other conventional energy generation technologies are available, but its pretty tough gathering the needed fuels on some planets or setting up the generators needed to get fusion working. Its hard to mine for uranium when you don't have cheap oil to run the machinery to dig it, and the fusion reactors that run on hydrogen tend to be really big and need precice calibration to get enough energy from the process. Established planets like Earth have loads of fuel and factories, but things are pretty tight on other colonies and there is a big push to spread humanity as far, wide, and fast as possible before 'we run into anyone else'.

Soo... there are lots of colonies out there who have to be careful how they use their resources like fuel, energy, water, and air. Most colonies are kind of like the Terren faction in Starcraft in that they basically live inside ships and sealed buildings and only exit in space suits or vehicles. Terraforming takes decades or centuries at least and many think the payoff is too little and too far away to bother.

Uncluttered wrote:You had me at self repairing hulls.

Now I know that most people here will be quick to point out, that bio-ships are useless in a fight, and that may be true.

Last I checked, I was able to go on a road trip without fighting pirates. For most uses, this would be fine.

Even on war ship, much of the components could be organic. You'll want a mix of hardware to resist different threats, but anything that will kill organic computers, life support etc, will kill the crew.

I wouldn't worry about the Bio fuels so much. If you have spaceflight with FTL, you have cheap nuclear power. If you want a low tech fuel for whatever reason, use algae.
I imagine that a 'bioship' would still stick to conventional hulls for safety. A hull made out of high-tolerance ceramic or metal would be much better than a hull made out of meat or bone. Though, with the right advancements, they could make a tissue that produces a plastic-like substance that makes a good protective shell or sealant for the ship. It would be something like the exoskeleton or shell of a creature, but made out of a special material better suited for the hull of a ship.

If something punctures a hole in the side then the tissue secretes a sealant to 'scab' over the wound and keep the hull from depressurizing. Then, after a while it works to heal up the damaged area as much as it can. Certainly not a perfect 'heal everything instantly' feature in most biowank scenarios, but if the ship is flying for long periods in space and there is the risk of punctures then it would be useful for the ship to be able to heal itself from the inside without exposing too much of its insides to space. Again, the whole ship would likely have inorganic protective armor to supplement its weaker bio-armor underneath, but the squishy insides could protect themselves if the hull breaches.

Ghost Rider wrote:Again, this is akin to saying they made cells that can be as good as everything inorganic...with the major problem being it has to be grown, thuse fed energy, and constantly needing energy to sustain itself regardless of situation.

Hell, it gets worse then the usual insanity. I do not need to fuel my car when it's standing still, this technology means I would if incorporated as such, with none of the benefits. To say nothing of sickness, and the other nuances biological beings have that inorganic has none of.
Again, to be fair, these guys are kind of begging for funding. They figure out what the government is willing to pay for, they promise to make it, they do a bunch of research and work and make something that fits the bill as much as possible given the limits of what they can do... and either get more funding when they suceed or use what they learned to advance in other areas.

As far as the need of organic cells to have constant energy to sustain it... not necessarily. Bone is made out of cells that filled themselves with calcium, died and then became nonliving frame that the body uses to support itself. Bones have living tissue in them, but they are inside the bones for protection or to repair it if it breaks. Spiders and bees have glands that produce silk or wax which they use to build stuff with. You could have a biological device that produces a durable plastic which can then be used to make all sorts of stuff like a ships hull or sealant or other things. Also, there are various species of animals that can survive for long periods without eating... like cicadas or frozen frogs or various micro-organisms. The living cells could possibly enter a dormant state in which they don't use energy and only 'awaken' when they are needed.

Again, biological material does have its own problems and isn't suitable for every task... but the guys working on the project would probably find ways to work around that or minimize the drawbacks while working on their strengths.

Ghost Rider wrote:They make the medical advancements and get the fuck out of my face.
Gotcha. Are you interested in super-soldier serums? Specially designed muscles that can be grafted to increase a persons strength? Modified yeast cells that mass-produce the medicines that colonies need? Or something like extra-efficient lungs that let people survive on less oxygen while decreasing the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning?
Lord of the Abyss wrote:Create a "technoecosystem"; an entire ecosystem of artificial organisms, designed to serve as the self building and repairing infrastructure for a human population. Drop the seed for such a thing on a planet or asteroid, come back later and you'll have cities and housing and so forth all ready to move into, complete with amenities and organic servants.
Yeah, that reminds me of how the Orks work and to a lesser extent the Zerg. The Orks release spores which grow into a wide variety of plants and lesser animals and finally into the Orks themselves. So that even if an Ork dies then there is the problem of them transforming the world into an Ork world and decades later a bunch of feral Orks start their own civilization. Zerg are similar but they are all controlled by an overmind that has them direct their actions. I like the Zerg because it looks like they spread and bring their ecosystem to lifeless worlds... if they weren't out to kill everyone then it would be cool because after a few million years and an asteroid or two and they could be like the dinosaurs and leave fossil fuels behind for later civilizations.


If a human civilization were to develop a "technecosystem" they could just as easily incorporate their own DNA into the mix... have a seed drop onto a planet and slowly start terraforming it until the environment is suitable for humans. Then, the system starts growing human clones like pod people or something. Granted, there could be some complications that result from that... but it would indeed help spread the human genome throughout the universe. Give the bio-organic humans those Na'vi ponytail things to interface with their ecosystem and you could create a horrible mish-mash of the Na'vi, humans, Orks, Zerg, and Daelkyr (from the Eberron Campain Setting).
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Re: Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by sirocco » 2010-07-18 03:48am

Rossum wrote:If a human civilization were to develop a "technecosystem" they could just as easily incorporate their own DNA into the mix... have a seed drop onto a planet and slowly start terraforming it until the environment is suitable for humans. Then, the system starts growing human clones like pod people or something. Granted, there could be some complications that result from that... but it would indeed help spread the human genome throughout the universe. Give the bio-organic humans those Na'vi ponytail things to interface with their ecosystem and you could create a horrible mish-mash of the Na'vi, humans, Orks, Zerg, and Daelkyr (from the Eberron Campain Setting).
Well you could also have regular spaceships with a computer core that stores human minds (don't know if Earth got advanced enough to perform that). You fly the spaceships from Earth to your technecosystem world and once they get there they download the minds into the artificial bodies manufactured there.

That will certainly solves some of the problem inherent to blank-slate human artificially grown light-years from any kind of education system.
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Re: Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by adam_grif » 2010-07-18 04:03am

Once again, need to make a distinction between "Organic" and "Biological". Diamond / Carbon Nanotubes, any number of materials that utilize carbon are "organic" in the chemical sense. Organic does not equal squishy and useless. Biological systems aren't necessarily either. Exoskeletons in nature are proof that it's possible for "hard" biological things to exist, although granted they aren't nearly as tough as man-made things. If we're talking some kind of future starship that was specifically engineered to be a starship, there aren't any compelling reasons why it couldn't grow, self replicate and self repair while still having an outer hull made of metals, advanced composites and so on.

Certain materials require specialized construction methods, but that's what artificial "organs" are for. Although I say organ, there's no reason why it ought to look like a human internal organ, and may bear a closer resemblance to a factory.
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Re: Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by Shroom Man 777 » 2010-07-18 04:27am

You know, it would be awesome to have an organic vehicle, like a car or a space ship or whatever. Like all organic beings, it has to stay alive, even when it's not moving. So you have to fuel it even if you're not using it, unlike an inorganic vehicle that doesn't have to be fueled when it's not moving or not being used. Ghost Rider pointed this out.

Now, see, the awesomest part of this is that since the organic vehicle has to be fueled even when it's standing still, then if this organic vehicle doesn't move and doesn't get any exercise, and you just keep on feed/fueling it, then it'll grow fat! Like, imagine an organic car in the garage or an organic spaceship in drydock, you keep on feeding it and feeding it so it won't starve! And then it'll grow morbidly obese! Awesome! :lol:

before i can use my organic vehicle, since it has grown so fat, i'd have to give it some exercise by letting it jog on an organic treadmill or let it push some organic weights or do some organic jump rope :lol:

I wonder if I can customize my organic car. I don't like wheels, I prefer giving my organic car some legs. Maybe when I honk its horn, instead of honking it can neigh instead. Then instead of organic fuel like gasoline, I can feed it hay. I have an organic horsie! PONY PUFF PRINCESS! =^___________^=
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Re: Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by dworkin » 2010-07-18 05:18am

Erm, what stops these wonder organisms doing the other irritating thing living things do? Evolving, that is. And given that its a blind, anyway that's a good way system this does not bode well for the co-passengers.

What if your organic air scrubber bacteria mutate and set the oxygen / carbon dioxide mix at something else?
As for something that seals hull-breaches. I would just shoot the salesman.
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Re: Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by Zixinus » 2010-07-18 07:19am

but things are pretty tight on other colonies and there is a big push to spread humanity as far, wide, and fast as possible before 'we run into anyone else'.
I don't usually harp on this, but if nuclear power sources are a pain, why not use solar? In space, it much more practical than on the surface of the Earth (for starters: 24/7, constant sunshine). Unless you are extremely far away from the sun, they should give a steady supply of power.
Also there are other means, like tapping strong magnetic fields that planets generate (or what occur between planets). Then there is using the local planet's geology, if that can be done.

You imply that tailor-made organisms could make the equivalent of oil: rich, ready-burning material that can power heat engines that would produce electricity.

However, if other resources are scarse, and that probably includes water and food, why bother showering a dead planet with such plants, when you can shower it with plants that will produce usefull stuff (chemicals for artificial food production/growing, water, etc) rather than use the available plant-resources for generating electricity?

I am assuming you can use the same fuel for creating oil and food.

However, another solution presents itself: use this bio-technology to replace as many regular electric devices (anything from home appliances to big machines) using organic material that you can more easily produce and supply.

There is the "horses don't need united steel" argument that could favour this: an organic ecosystem tailor-made to give us stuff would build its own infrastructre (more-or-less, depending on how much oversight is needed). You definitely can't say the same thing for cars.
And then it'll grow morbidly obese!
It could use that fat as fuel while its not doing anything? Or use that fat later one, when its moving stuff? Like, what fat is meant to do (IIRC)?

I mean, obese horses are rarely a problem, as far as I know.
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Erm, what stops these wonder organisms doing the other irritating thing living things do? Evolving, that is.[\quote]

You do realise it would take many, many, many generations until any diffences could be made?

Plus, they would be tailor-made organisms, so you can install measures to minimize mutations or install genetic killswitches that would prevent a mutated plant/organism being something you don't want it to.

Also, depending on the size and application, you would make most heavy-duty organisms (Shrommy's "Pony Puff Princess" brand car) once.
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Re: Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by bobnik » 2010-07-18 07:23am

I've always liked the biotechnology from Peter F. Hamilton's books. Even without the obviously magitech "patterning cells" that allow FTL and extracting energy from the fabric of space-time, there were some very good ideas. The orbital habitats, even without being sentient, seemed well designed. Admittedly, they were hybrid creations with non-organic technology installed within them.
dworkin wrote:Erm, what stops these wonder organisms doing the other irritating thing living things do? Evolving, that is. And given that its a blind, anyway that's a good way system this does not bode well for the co-passengers.

What if your organic air scrubber bacteria mutate and set the oxygen / carbon dioxide mix at something else?
As for something that seals hull-breaches. I would just shoot the salesman.
Eugenics. If it stuffs up, you don't let breed and/or make any more without tweaking the design. It works for agriculture. In some respects, evolution may be a good thing, making it work better, or providing new applications. Some people may also wish to actually create an evolving ecosystem in space, as in the Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons.
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Re: Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by Shroom Man 777 » 2010-07-18 03:05pm

A good application of organic technology would be to mutate all the birds in, say, New York or something into recyclatrons, in which they can eat all the waste food (instead of letting hobos eat them) and even plastics, then their gastrointestinal systems can be lined with those plastic-digesting bacterias, and then these post-pigeons would fly over to the refinery and their bird-poo would be composed of oils and petrochemicals! The police could have biotech doggies that can smell out bombs, and with artificial muscles that allow them to chase down baddies while running as fast as cheetahs, oh man, imagine a car chase - except instead of police cruisers, the K-9 unit is the one chasing down drunken drivers and using their hydraulic jaws to bite the wheels off escaping bad guys!

There would be evil applications for this though. Bad guys might genetically engineer cats and HUEG KITTENS into hyperintelligent stealthy low-observable post-kittehs that can go all cat burglar while maintaining relatively low radar cross sections (RCS), with fur lined with radar absorbent materials (RAM)!

The obvious answer to this would be to upgrade the police dog K9s' sensor package and let them use datalinks, so they can have bistatic radar! With active electronically scanned arrays!

Imagine genetically engineering the trees, so they can listen in on people's conversations! Flowers with high-resolution cameras, that can see through your clothes! Grass that can do shit!

Back to the birds. Imagine hacking the birds and unleashing them to peck on the eyeballs of people! Or letting the birdies spy on people! Their petrochemical poo might be used to poo on people, imagine getting smeared by bird shit, yeah, but this shit would be made out of oil and the birds can make use of their beaks to make a spark and set you on fire! Oh man!
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Re: Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by Artemas » 2010-07-18 03:14pm

Maybe the bird poo is actually an IR strobe, marking the target for larger, high altitude guided cluster bombings poo strikes.
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Re: Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by Shroom Man 777 » 2010-07-18 03:25pm

The bird eyes have hyperspectral capabilities, so poo can be used as a marker. They also have additional eyes added into wingtip-mounted hardpoints, modular eyeballs that can emit laser target designators. Organic FLIR! Organic LANTIRN pods!

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Re: Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by Uncluttered » 2010-07-18 04:55pm

Artemas wrote:Maybe the bird poo is actually an IR strobe, marking the target for larger, high altitude guided cluster bombings poo strikes.
Holy SHIT! (pun intended) I like it.


With an IR strobe, you have to have some flashing bacteria. The oscillations aren't the problem, oscillations are an understood emergent phenomenon. The problem is the IR emmisions. Too much energy, and the bacteria cooks itself. It would have to be a very big shit. Maybe a strobing IR reflector?
I wonder if you could do that now, with a radio active marker?

How about feeding that pigeon a compound high in aluminum and iron oxide. The pigeon will be designed to mix them together into a "paste" with a time released acid to ignite it.

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Re: Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by Shroom Man 777 » 2010-07-19 04:38am

Maybe instead of IR strobing, since the poo is made out of combustible petrochemicals, it can instead just work like a good old fashioned flare? Maybe the birds can manufacture phosphorus, so we can end up with ambiguous situations where the Geneva Conventions say that the birds were pooping phosphorus shit on people and that it's a war crime, but in defense of the birds they can just say that they were using the phosphorus to designate targets rather then setting civilians on fire. :D
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Re: Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by thegreatpl » 2010-07-20 03:29pm

hmmmmm, an obvious use no one has really expanded on yet is using the technology to evolve humanity. Why not give us wings? Or gills and turn us into merpeople? Certainly this is going to be one of the first applications that occur to certain people.

With gills and fins then we can colonize the oceans, and thus be able to spread out more. We could also colonize the waters of some Ice-worlds if we add on a load of blubber and perhaps something like seal fur.

Why not modify our lungs to breath other atmospheres? Hard vacuum is probably too hard to do, since you would also have to add a bunch of radiation protectors and harden your skin to stop expansion. But other atmospheres i think would be possible.

I would definitely agree with having us with Na'vi like bio connections. You could then link up and drive the ships around, interface with computers, ect.

I think that using the technology to colonize other planets would be very useful. Especially having them grow infrastructure. The question really is whether or not the time scale makes it worth it. Is it quicker to build a factory, or grow a factory? On colony worlds, it might very well be worth it, since growing is probably quicker than building up the infrastructure the old fashioned way.

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Re: Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by Serafina » 2010-07-20 03:40pm

hmmmmm, an obvious use no one has really expanded on yet is using the technology to evolve humanity. Why not give us wings? Or gills and turn us into merpeople? Certainly this is going to be one of the first applications that occur to certain people.
Because biology doesn't work like that and hard technology is more useful.
Granted, the gills could work - but there is just no way to give a humanoid being functional wings.
With gills and fins then we can colonize the oceans, and thus be able to spread out more. We could also colonize the waters of some Ice-worlds if we add on a load of blubber and perhaps something like seal fur.
Building domed cities is more practical than that.
Why not modify our lungs to breath other atmospheres? Hard vacuum is probably too hard to do, since you would also have to add a bunch of radiation protectors and harden your skin to stop expansion. But other atmospheres i think would be possible.
That's one of the practical applications - but still limited, since we just NEED oxygen.
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Re: Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by thegreatpl » 2010-07-20 03:59pm

I would think that it would be possible to make a humanoid fly, but you would need a lot of serious modding to the basic human structure. The bones alone would have to be replaced with some extremely lightweight yet durable material. Of course, I am not a physicist or anything like that.

One way to get oxygen is making a symbiotic bacteria live in, or perhaps replace, lungs, so that they churn out oxygen and absorb whatever the atmosphere is.

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Re: Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by Shroom Man 777 » 2010-07-20 04:10pm

thegreatpl wrote:I would think that it would be possible to make a humanoid fly, but you would need a lot of serious modding to the basic human structure. The bones alone would have to be replaced with some extremely lightweight yet durable material. Of course, I am not a physicist or anything like that.
And lots of super-efficient muscles to beat the wings.
One way to get oxygen is making a symbiotic bacteria live in, or perhaps replace, lungs, so that they churn out oxygen and absorb whatever the atmosphere is.
That's already what your alveoli (thinggies in the lungs) do. The better way to do it is to modify the lungs to be more like bird lungs, which are structured differently than mammal lungs and are more efficient. There was a thread in SLAM, a couple of years ago I think, that details on the structural differences of bird lungs and their efficiency compared to mammalian ones.
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Re: Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by Simon_Jester » 2010-07-20 04:28pm

Most of the uses for this would be in terraforming, or in tailoring organisms to do things we already do with organisms (like farming) to alien environments. In those roles the biotech has real potential; otherwise not so much except for aesthetic and luxury roles.
dworkin wrote:Erm, what stops these wonder organisms doing the other irritating thing living things do? Evolving, that is. And given that its a blind, anyway that's a good way system this does not bode well for the co-passengers.
They do evolve, by artificial selection: we copy the ones we like and kill the ones we don't. Just like dogs, who are now very useful to man, entirely because we applied artificial selection to wolves.
What if your organic air scrubber bacteria mutate and set the oxygen / carbon dioxide mix at something else?
Use several vats of air scrubber bacteria, with significant reserve capacity. If the bacteria in one vat start to mutate, kill the contents of the vat (bleach or extreme temperatures are good here) and replace it with samples taken from another vat. Simple.
Artemas wrote:Maybe the bird poo is actually an IR strobe, marking the target for larger, high altitude guided cluster bombings poo strikes.
They already do this. I have horrible memories of the time a flock of birds carpet-bombed my car immediately after takeoff, scoring five direct hits on the windshield alone...
Serafina wrote:
hmmmmm, an obvious use no one has really expanded on yet is using the technology to evolve humanity. Why not give us wings? Or gills and turn us into merpeople? Certainly this is going to be one of the first applications that occur to certain people.
Because biology doesn't work like that and hard technology is more useful.
Granted, the gills could work - but there is just no way to give a humanoid being functional wings.
Well, not without really redefining "humanoid." Something with spindly, feeble legs, an arm/wing span of several meters, with a ridiculously inflated chest to make room for the flight muscles... from the last time this was discussed, I imagine that you could sort of have something humanoid with at least limited flight, but it would be a shitty way to do it and the resulting humanoid would look very, very deformed.

Certainly not useful unless you've got some poor mad fool who just has this tremendous desire to turn himself into a bird-man no matter the cost.
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Re: Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by Rossum » 2010-07-20 05:41pm

the idea of pidgeon bombers has given me some ideas on semi-viable means of making biotech combat units. Keep in mind that no matter what sort of frankenstien monster you churn out, a guy with a gun should be able to take it out and no matter how much bony armor or reduntant organs you give the things you just can't hatch big monsters faster than a properly equipped set of soldiers can shoot them.

It seems the ideal biotech monster would be a swarm of lots of tiny monsters, probably all hatched from one queen like how ants or bees work. The dedicated egg layer can lay eggs much faster than a creature that has to hunt for its food, and you can reduce mutations by being selective about which egg layer is laying eggs.


Anyway, maybe have a huge swarm or flock of birds or flying insects with tough bones or outer shells. The shells wouldn't really be there to protect them, just to do damage to whatever it is that they crash into. Airplanes or fighter jets have to travel really fast to fly or deliver their payloads to their enemies, get your flying rock-pidgeons to make a huge swarm and get in the way of the airplane. The pigeons don't have to have a huge energy payload in themselves (making flying pigeons that explode with any force worth sending into combat is a bad idea) they just have to be able to get in the way of moving enemies and make a really nasty splat when the enemy crashes into them.

If their reflexes are fast enough and they can spot incoming objects (maybe give them some kind of radio communication ability so they can talk to eachother) then they could defend against missiles by intercepting them in mid flight. No way to be fast enough to outrun a missile (unless they fart jet fuel or something) so they would have to form giant clouds of millions of them to make maneuvering though their controlled space impossible.

Alternately for ground target, the swarm flies to a position high above their target and either drop rocks on the enemy or perform suicide dive bombing runs. Give them eyesight good enough to pick their target, guiding wings that let them steer their decent to hit the target, and a sharp bony point on their faces to puncture armor when they crash.
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Re: Any decent use for space-capable organic technology?

Post by Discorde » 2010-07-21 08:22am

Assuming that your spacefaring civilization has pesky meatbags loitering about in spaceships and habs (as opposed to just having robots doing all work in space), then there is one thing that *requires* a component of biological technology: Growing food in space. As your space population grows larger, at some point it becomes unfeasible to ship out all their dietary requirements from planets, no matter whether you're doing so by rocket or by beanstalk.

So, I'd probably have the biotechs start work on a scheme for sustainable farming in space. Perhaps based on something like Dyson Trees, converting comets and ice asteroids to stable mini-ecosystems, with a plant-based lifeform (eg. Dyson's "tree", but probably not something that would look like a naturally occurring terrestrial tree) forming the base, and a population of simple animals (and, of course, microbes). These mini-ecosystems could then be host to a small population of farmers (humans or robots) who oversee and manage ecosystem stability - and harvest excess plant matter (and perhaps animals for meat). If this scheme works, then adding more farms can be done by towing objects in from the Kuiper Belt or Oort Cloud and placing them in suitable orbits.

Another application of genetic biotech that would probably be useful: Rather than carrying around small replicas of Earth environments in spaceships, perhaps our spacer population could be gradually engineered to have easier-met environmental requirements - if they could live decently in low-g, low-pressure and low-oxygen environments (perhaps adding monkey-like prehensile feet, so they can use rungs on the walls and ceilings to move about), then the space program becomes more cost-effective over time.

Squishy battleships are probably a bad idea, though.

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