Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Alien Technology - 1. Biology/Physiology - Part III


"Enclosure" © DigitalBlasphemy.com
I was speaking with a mathematics instructor and retired Methodist minister today about logic. He brought up an interesting speculation: for many of hundreds, even thousands, of years ancient Greek logic has held sway. It is an either/or binary type of logic. But with modern advances in the study of DNA (logic with four variables) and computer science and quantum physics (fuzzy logic), binary logic is found to be too restrictive. It does not describe reality - most things are not black and white, off or on. Most things are diverse with a continuum, or range, of values. He wondered what our world would be like now if instead of binary type of logic, the ancient Greeks instead embraced more complicated logic. How would that affect technology?

Why did the Greeks use binary logic to begin with? Most things on the surface seem to be in binaries: hot and cold, night and day, left and right, dry and wet. We have two arms, two legs, two eyes, two ears, and two nostrils in our nose. We have male and female genders. However, that overlooks the other options: warm, twilight, middle. Maybe this binary thinking came from a moral sense - things are either bad or good - no in between. For some, the in between is worst (the Bible picks up on this - that it is better to be hot or cold than to be lukewarm, morally1). It is also a simpler way to deal with things and such logic worked well enough for them. It even worked well enough for computers at first. Our scientific and technological advances are what helped pushed for the increased use of fuzzy logic. I think some of today's problems, as my mathematical minister friend was alluding to, is caused by this clash of classic binary thinking and modern "multi" thinking.

So, for alien sentient beings, some may develop non-binary thinking early on. Let us take, for example, theoretical alien beings on a planet in a trinary star system; there are solar system configurations that would allow for more than just Day - Night: two stars orbiting close to each other with a third orbiting further out, like a planet, with the planets orbiting in between. Now give the planet a large moon and with such an arrangement, there could be:
    • A Main Day (with the main star seen either by itself, with the partner star directly behind or in directly in front of it, or with its partner star beside it),

    • with a Minor Day as its night (the third orbiting star only seen, the other stars "behind" the planet - normally the day side for planets around a solitary star),

    • with the Minor Day sometimes bolstered by the moon reflecting the main stars light, increasing the brightness of the night (though with possible occasional momentary eclipses);

    • or a Main Day (with the main star seen either by itself, with the partner star directly behind or in directly in front of it, or with its partner star beside it),

    • with a Minor Day as its night (the third orbiting star only seen, the other stars "behind" the planet - normally the day side for planets around a solitary star),

    • with the moon sometimes on the Main Day side giving, depending upon the size of the moon and its orbital tilt, either momentary partial or full eclipses, or just hanging dimly in the Main Day sky and thus not adding any light to the Minor Day side;

    • or a True Main Day when all three stars are grouped visually together in the sky,

    • with either a True Night where no star nor moon is seen in the sky opposite of the Special Main Day side,

    • or a Partial Night where none of the three stars are seen, but the moon is visible, reflecting back with its brightest intensity (since it is reflecting all three stars).

This would give the primitive sentient beings an "in your face" non-binary example. Maybe for such beings, the number three would hold such a long and deep importance across all their theologies and cultures throughout their history that thinking in binary would seem unnatural. Maybe this is the type of system the Ramans came from (see Arthur C. Clarke's brilliant Rendezvous with Rama series)!

So, could some sentient species develop fuzzy logic quicker than we did? And how would that affect their early technologies?

We won't necessarily find the answers to these kinds of questions in this blog, but I hope we can have fun speculating on them. And in a rather large universe (and with parallel universes possible), maybe, just maybe, some or more of what we speculate could somewhere be true.

If nothing else, it may help us to see our own world in a new way, to appreciate it on some deeper level (as well as help an occasional fiction writer!).

Notes:

1. Revelations 3:16: "So because you are not one thing or the other, I will have no more to do with you" (Bible in Basic English) or "So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth" (KJV).

2 comments :

Anonymous said...

May such aliens be more peaceful since they do not think the "either with us or against us" lithania?

Mr. David Michael Merchant said...

Would be nice. I know I'm tired of that type of thinking here on Earth.