on Jupiter and Astral Terraforming
Life Forms of Jupiter
“At last we broke
through, and what a sight was revealed to my astonished eyes! A great
world lay below me, illuminated by a weird red light which seemed to
emanate from the inner surface of the cloud envelope, shedding a rosy glow
over mountain, hill, dale, plain, and ocean. At first I could in
no way account for this all pervading illumination; but presently,
my eyes roving over the magnificent panorama lying below me, I saw in the
distance an enormous volcano, from which giant flames billowed upward
thousands of feet into the air. As I was to learn later, the crater of
this giant was a full hundred miles in diameter and along the planet's
equator there stretched a chain of these Gargantuan torches for some thirty
thousand miles, while others were dotted over the entire surface of the
globe, giving both light and heat to a world that would have been dark
and cold without them. As we dropped lower, I saw what appeared to
be cities, all located at a respectful distance from these craters.”
Here's Burroughs' idea for Jupiter. Beneath
its clouds, there is a surface. But of course, that surface
would be cold and dark, given the distance from the sun. So
he comes up with giant Volcanoes to heat the planet and light his civilization.
There are other things. The seas are
stirred to a froth by the tides of four gigantic moons. There are
no seasons. And of course, there's that whole centrifugal anti-gravity
Of course, science has moved on, we now know a
lot more about Jupiter, some of which was suspected in Burroughs time.
Burroughs seems confused as to the nature of Jupiter, conceiving it as
simply a very big earth-like planet with a surface not too different from
We now know that there is no surface.
Jupiter is a gas giant, and as such, its simply layer upon layer of atmosphere,
gases getting heavier and more condensed, all the way down to a core that
is literally hydrogen compressed into a metal. This is the
nature of all the gas giants, as we understand them, just big balls of
gas wrapped around small cores, their sheer mass holding their volume together.
Jupiter does have four giant moons, two around
the size of Earths Moon, and two more around the size of planet Mercury.
And it turns out, it's got 40 odd other satellites, some of them very peculiar
It's the biggest radio emitter in the Solar System
(apart from the sun) with a massively powerful electromagnetic field.
And I'm sure Burroughs would have been pleased to know that it is actually
hot. Jupiter, because of the friction of its gravitational compression,
actually radiates more heat than it receives. Unfortunately,
it doesn't have enough mass to get a fusion reaction going, so Jupiter
will never make it as a star.
In photographs from space probes and telescopes,
Jupiter appears to be striped, made up of distinct different coloured bands.
It's believed that these different bands are actually different atmosphere
patterns or wind channels. Moving up and down latitudes, the
winds move faster or slower, segregating themselves into distinct bands.
The differing colour comes from differences in the composition of atmosphere
within each band.
And in fact, Jupiter's atmosphere is believed
to vary as you go down through the layers. Light gases swim
at the top, heavier gases are more prominent further down.
There may well be layers of water or water vapour, of ammonia, of nitrogen,
of methane. Changes in temperature might cause
gases to congeal, to act as liquids or even solids at different points.
As we'll continue to discover, Jupiter is a strange
and exotic world in its own right.
on Jupiter and Astral Terraforming
All right. So we've got Jupiter.
What are the chances of the planet that we know developing reasonably human
life like the Morgors, and definitely human life like the Savators?
Zip. Nil. Nada. No chance!
There might be some hope for life on Jupiter.
But it will be an alien life quite unlike anything walking the surface
of the Earth.
So, how do we explain it in Burroughs universe?
Let me back up and explain this a little more.
I'll refer you to my other essay “Are
Barsoomians Human” which discusses the subject in more detail.
But for those of you who are a bit lazy, I'll recap the principle ideas.
John Carter travel to Mars without a rocket.
How does he do this? Apparently, he astrally projects
himself and arrives hale and hearty and stark naked. Astral
projection doesn't seem to work as well for wardrobes. Over the course
of the books, John Carter turns into a regular interplanetary commuter,
returning to Earth, traveling back to Mars, and eventually making the trip
just to be sociable.. Later on, Ulysses Paxton makes it to Mars,
in the Master Mind of Mars. Betty Callwell apparently travels
to Venus, and then returns to Earth, in Escape on Venus, and in Beyond
the Farthest Star, an Earthman materializes in another solar system.
But it gets interesting. John Carter
apparently left his body behind when he traveled to Barsoom. Apparently,
his soul cashed a ticket for a new body when it got to Mars. Meanwhile,
Ulysses Paxton had his legs blown off in WWI, while the Earthman in Beyond
the Farthest Star was in a plane crash on Earth. Despite this,
Paxton has his legs back on Barsoom, and Tangor the Earthman does not materialize
in smithereens. So, apparently they got new bodies too.
Now the question is, where do these bodies come
from? Apparently, Astral projection to other worlds seems to
cause or involve the transformation of matter and energy to create a new
body out of thin air. A new body similar, but not identical,
to the old one.... Remember, Paxton no longer has legs on his old
At least four people in Burroughs chronicle have
made interplanetary trips, some of them more than once. We
can assume that this talent is common in the history of Burroughs universe.
Perhaps in the past, more mystical cultures, or more gifted individuals
did it far more often. This might explain why every inhabited planet
in the Burroughs universe has a human population, often living alongside
more genuinely alien creatures. If the spread of humanity is
because of this talent, we can assume that it is not a fluke, but an innate
gift of the human race.
What about other creatures? Well,
there may be dogs in heaven, but there are no dogs on Mars.
Nor, for that matter, Green Men on Venus. This talent seems
restricted to human beings.
But is it? How is it that planet after planet,
no matter how improbable, support environments tolerable to Earth humans?
Is it a coincidence, or is something more at work?
Remember that human astral teleportation involves
transformation of matter or energy to create a new body, not an identical
one, but a new one similar to the old. Perhaps there is a process
where entire planets are transformed.
Perhaps the faculty of astral teleportation is
simply a human refinement of a capacity collectively inherent in terrestrial
life. My theory is that at times of stress, such as mass extinction
or a major planetary trauma like a meteor hit or a massive volcano or earthquake,
the accumulated trauma and death energies of billions and billions of terrestrial
plants and animals is discharged from Earth and drawn toward the gravity
of other worlds. (Or perhaps no trauma or mass death is required,
the process may simply happen automatically every time the poles reverse,
or for some other geophysical or metaphysical reason). There,
whatever energies or processes that are at work to create a human body
at the end of an astral teleportation, operate to transform matter and
energy not just to recreate plants and animals, but to recreate the environment
that they exist in. So a new atmosphere is created, or an old atmosphere
is transformed, the surface is inundated with water, rocks transformed
to soil, and so forth.
It isn't perfect of course. The human
bodies materializing are not exactly the same, or in the same conditions
as the ones departed. And yet, human personalities and will
might operate to maintain a similar appearance. The new life
that materializes is not necessarily identical to the terrestrial life,
it may be hydridized, mutated, altered, it may be adjusted to conditions
of its new planet. The new fauna and flora are Earth normal
on levels of cellular biology and molecular chemistry... John Carter
can eat a martian steak. But on the macro level of morphology, considerable
drift takes place.
Essentially, what happens is that Mars is astrally
colonized and terraformed by Earths life forces, or perhaps by Earths geomagnetic
field, or a clone or fragment of Earths collective ‘astral body.’
And Venus is then colonized and terraformed as well.
It likely happens successfully only once.
Once life is established on Mars or Venus, it has its own ‘collective astral
body’ and thus become immune to further large scale infestations from Earth,
although individual humans can still seep through.
And of course, sometimes its more difficult than
other times. Both Mars and Venus begin as reasonably Earthlike
bodies. The Moon is colonized and transformed, but conditions
there are too extreme, the world is too small to hold its atmosphere, and
transformation fails on the Moon's surface... But succeeds in the
Moon's interior world.
Colonization extends even beyond the Solar System,
transforming worlds well beyond the reach of our sun, as in Beyond the
Of course, if the transformation does not take
and the world dies or is dead, then there is no local ‘collective astral
body’ to repel, and Earths clones or fragments may try again and again
until finally, they achieve some form of stability.
Which brings us to Jupiter.
Okay, its out of the question that Jupiter would
naturally develop an earthlike habitat, occupied by earthlike humans and
But now we are talking about metaphysical terraforming.
So, how could this happen? After all, its just a gigantic ball of
differentiated gas. Create an Earthlike environment, and in five
minutes, it will unravel.
Or would it. Perhaps the metaphysical terraforming
process is adaptive, tending to home in on or repeat until conditions become
Could we get a stable earthlike environment upon
Jupiter? Just remotely possibly. But we'd have
to go back to Burroughs Eurobus (Jupiter) and take a look around.
John Carter estimates that Eurobus’ surface area
is 34 billion square miles. This is impressive, but there are
other parts to his novella that suggest the matter may be more complex.
Carter also notes that centrifugal force counteracts
gravity to make him much lighter. Well, we'll swallow that
for want of anything better. But this creates a problem.
Centrifugal force is strongest at the Equator, and diminishes the further
way you get. John Carter himself hints at this when he notes
Volcanoes scattered all over the planet, but:
“As I was along the planet's equator
there stretched a chain of these Gargantuan torches for some thirty thousand
John Carter seems to imply that the planet's own
centrifugal force is driving this equatorial chain of Volcanoes.
So, let's go with it. Centrifugal
force lightens gravity in Burroughs universe, you might get similar effects
in ours, though our physics and math might require higher speeds, but what
the hell. Physics works just a little differently over there.
By the way, centrifugal force produces something
called a coriolis effect, in which objects thrown from a spinning object
tend to curve. On Burroughs Jupiter, centrifugal force and
gravity balance each other out, but I suspect that bizarre things would
happen if you tried to play baseball there. Depending on the direction
you pitched from, balls might fall flat, accelerate unbelievably, or curve
off in bizarre directions, perhaps even doubling back. This
would imply that spears, bows and arrows, or projectile weapons might not
be all that useful on Eurobus.
At the Equator, Carter may well be his usual powerhouse
self. But way up in the northern hemisphere, he'd be
crawling on all fours.
So what? Well, the Morgors and Savators
don't seem to be any stronger than John Carter. In fact, they seem
appreciably weaker. Carter punches a Morgor across a room,
seems able to kill with a blow, and has no difficulty manhandling even
powerful looking Savators. Now, if they were common across
the planet, outside the narrow band where centrifugal force would lighten
gravity... then they should all be able to dear John Carter limb from limb.
The Earthman should be in mortal danger of being pummeled by schoolgirls.
The fact that little children aren't stealing
his lunch money, tells us that both the Morgors and Savators occupy, not
the whole planet, but merely the centrifuge zone around the equator.
All right, big deal. So everyone is
living on the Equator, call it a thousand mile wide, three hundred thousand
mile long strip. That's still a huge pile of territory.
But what are they breathing?
The answer is simple: Air. They
are at a layer within Jupiter's equatorial band, which consists of a large
part of oxygen, with nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon and some inert gases, at
a pressure and temperature loosely compatible with Earths.
Improbable, yes. But if you've got metaphysical terraforming, you
might be able to tweak a particular layer and band of atmosphere to behave
in a certain way. Above, you would have lighter hydrogens and
heliums, beyond the level of the heavy oxygen and carbon molecules.
Below, you'd get your heavier elements, your methanes, your carbon laden
stuff, more inert molecules like argon. But you might be able
to get a ‘golden band’ of relatively habitable conditions, surrounded by
unbreathable air, above, below and even to the sides.
After Hydrogen, Oxygen is one of the most common
substances in the Universe. Actually, it is the third most common
substance, after Hydrogen and Carbon. It is also one of the lightest
substances, being ranked eight on the periodic table. Carbon
and Nitrogen sit between Hydrogen and Oxygen.
Remember that the layers of atmosphere, and the
bands of atmosphere on Jupiter are differentiated. The mixture of
the atmosphere varies as you go higher or lower, or as you go north to
So, smart guy, what are they standing on?
All right. Let's back up a little.
Go grab a periodic table.
Hydrogen is the basic atom, composed of one proton,
one neutron, and one electron. A hydrogen molecule consists
of two hydrogen atoms sharing electrons, but it isn't terribly stable.
Hydrogen, being the smallest possible molecules composed of the smallest
possible atoms, is extremely light. Everything else is made up of
either heavier atoms, or more atoms, or both. Helium is made
up of hydrogen atoms in a more stable configuration and so is a little
heavier but a lot safer and more inert than Hydrogen. Because
Hydrogen and Helium are so light, they rise in the presence of other molecules,
which sink to the bottom, effectively pushing them up. This
is how Hydrogen and Helium balloons work.
Hydrogen is also the most common substance in
the Universe, and is a large part of the make up of both the Sun and Jupiter.
Oxygen is a molecule composed of two oxygen atoms.
(Ozone is composed of three oxygen atoms, but that's neither here nor there.)
So, being heavier than Hydrogen molecules, it will tend to sink.
You could have an oxygen layer beneath a hydrogen layer, if you play your
Then we have water. Water is two atoms
of hydrogen with one atom of oxygen. That, as a three atom combo,
makes it heavier than oxygen, a two atom molecule, and so it sinks.
We have three layers now. Hydrogen, then Oxygen, then Water
(H20). Carbon dioxide is composed of two oxygen atoms and a
carbon atom (C20) so its heavier than water and sinks. Carbon,
Oxygen and Hydrogen are all flexible molecules and combine in all sorts
of other ways, all of which are heavier and sink.
So, we have our layers, correct?
Actually, we probably wouldn't have completely pure layers, but rather,
different graduations of mixture in different layers. So your
Oxygen layer would be mostly oxygen, but with bits of Hydrogen, Helium,
Nitrogen, Water and Carbon Dioxide, along with other things.
Go higher, and Oxygen thins out and it goes towards Hydrogen and Helium.
Go lower, and the light gases thin out and the heavier gases predominate.
But we might get a fairly distinct layer containing a breathable mixture.
All right, so we haven't done anything new yet.
But stay with us.
What does water do? It turns to ice.
And when water turns to ice, what does it do? It expands.
That is, water in the form of ice takes up more volume than water in its
liquid form. This is why ice floats. It is literally
slightly lighter than the water it sits in.
So you have water on Jupiter, and it sinks below
the oxygen layer.... And freezes. Between the cold
and the pressure, it freezes, and so you have snowflakes on Jupiter, and
then slush, and then floating sheets, and eventually gigantic icebergs
as large as continents, perhaps as large or larger than the earth.
They're not pure icebergs. They're probably
mixed up with all sorts of contaminants. You've got carbon in there,
ammonia, methane, god knows what else.
So, we have these giant icebergs, which are essentially
frozen water. Frozen water takes up more volume than liquid
water, and so it floats. On Jupiter, the icebergs rise through
the thicken atmosphere, slowly ascending up towards the oxygen level.
Jupiter may be a place where snow falls up.
And of course, as they rise, the pressure drops,
the atmosphere warms, and their tops start to melt or sublimate.
The ‘water’ portion dissipates away, leaving the contaminants behind.
And soon the iceberg's tip is covered by a sludge of heavier molecules,
including carbon and even metals.
The process is ongoing, the iceberg toddles along
at the lower edge of the oxygen layer, slowly melting at the top, slowly
rising as it melts, with new ice adding underneath to give lift.
The sludge at the top accretes into something that might resemble lands.
The vast bulk of the iceberg, perhaps 80 to 90% of it floats along at lower
levels of the atmosphere, leaving only the tip in lighter, human supporting,
earth norm air pressure and mixes.
Which is what the human, plant and animal life
on Eurobus are living on. The upper ten or twenty per
cent of gigantic floating icebergs.
Essentially, life on Eurobus is dwelling on a
planet ringing chain of colossal icebergs, or ice sheets, poking up into
the lower levels of an oxygen belt at the Equator. The oxygen
belt and equatorial belts may well be moving much faster than the neighboring
belts, may have far more centrifugal force, and may be consequently warmer.
Centrifugal force, for instance, may well be part
of the force pushing the icebergs up into the oxygen layer.
Beneath or around the icebergs, at the lower level
of the oxygen layer, is a kind of water/ice/methane slush.
A sort of savage ocean of ferocious waves as John Carter describes.
What about volcanoes? Hell, show me
a continent sized iceberg, mixed with contaminants, bouncing around in
a jet stream and subject to all sorts of tidal, gravitational and centrifugal
forces, and I'll show you volcanoes. John Carter described
the Volcanoes as ‘torches’, and in fact, they may well be. Rather
than volcanoes spewing magma, these structures may actually be discharging
methane slush, or hydrogen, or something exotic and flammable, making them
literally burning torches. If our atmosphere can produce lightning
bolts, I suspect that Jupiter's more exotic chemistries will produce volcano
Of course, this hardly seems all that stable.
One might imagine maps of the ‘continent bergs’ would be pretty useless,
because they would all be moving independently in the jet stream, and so
would be moving closer or further from each other, rotating in relation
to each other. Nor would these bergs be the safest place to be.
A few dozen, or a few thousand years, might see them change radically.
The life span of a berg might be no more than a few centuries or millennia.
Moreover, bergs might rotate or flip, or might break up, or drift out of
the jet stream. Any number of interesting things could happen, even
to a berg the size of a continent or moon.
And its quite likely that the whole environment
is hardly stable. If the jet stream slows, the mixture of gases
change, the icebergs could rise too high, or drop too low. Any number
of things could happen.
Earths ‘astral projection’ terraforming might
succeed in rendering this area of Jupiter hospitable to terrestrial type
life, tweaking it a bit, or perhaps converting or transforming an area
fundamentally. But in the long run, it wouldn't last.
In a few million, perhaps as little as a few hundred thousand or tens of
thousands of years, the system might start to dissipate.
In fact, the fate of Barsoom might suggest that
Earths terraforming is slowly losing its hold there as well, as the local
conditions of the planet's small size and remoteness and composition slowly
reassert themselves. It is likely that Jupiter's Earthlike
zone is an artificial, unstable transient region which will die or disintegrate
over time as the planet's natural processes reassert themselves.
It has existed long enough for the civilizations of Morgor and Savator
to emerge and establish themselves, so presumably, it may endure for thousands
or even hundreds of thousands of years longer.
Yet I cannot escape the feeling that it is not
quite real, that Jupiter will not be denied, and once again, the king of
Gods shall devour its children. Nothing lives forever, and
if it is only a matter of time, then perhaps that time is enough.
Of course, if the Jovian environment is that unstable,
that may well explain the Morgor's desperate urge to get the hell off.
[Footnote: Actually, I
suspect I've made a few mistakes in my chemistry and would love to hear
a person who knows a bit more about the subject try and straighten it out.
But at worst, what I think I've done is created a slightly more rational
or plausible sounding explanation to revision Burroughs own time worn notions.
I hope that you've found it at least a bit interesting.]
Forms of Jupiter
Unfortunately, Burroughs doesn't give us much
to work with. But I do have a few notes.
The Savators are clearly human. Their only
distinguishing feature is blue skin, but apart from that, they are human
through and through, barely distinguishable from Martian races only by
The Morgors, or skeleton men are also a human
subgroup. John Carter pretty much acknowledges this in his
appraisal of them:
“It certainly must be habitable for a race
quite similar to our own. These people had lungs, a heart, kidneys, a liver,
and other internal organs similar to our own. I knew this for a fact,
as I could see them every time one of the Morgors stood between me
and a bright light, so thin and transparent was the parchment-like skin
that stretched tightly over their frames.”
Essentially, they have the same frames and proportions
as humans, merely supernally thin. They have the same organs.
They have language, technology, buildings and emotions. In
short, they are merely a mutated version of humanity, and probably not
the most mutated version in the solar system.
Overall, the technology displayed seems roughly
on a par with that of the Barsoomians. It's true that the Morgor's
have mastered invisibility and space travel. But preliminary
space travel was achieve by Fal Sivas in Swords of Mars, and invisibility
as well as other remarkable weapons were perfected by Phor Tak in A
Fighting Man of Mars. Phor Tak also invented equivalents
to the Amtor's T-Rays and R-Rays, from the Carson of Venus saga, and Orthis
Death Ray in The Moon Men. Invisibility was also within
the power of the rival communities of Invak and Onvak on Barsoom.
While the Morgor's might appear to be ahead, there seems nothing they have
accomplished that is not within the powers of Barsoomians, particularly
of minds such as Ras Thavas.
Apart from that, there is fairly little to note
with respect to the animals. John Carter makes very little
mention of them.
The plants are worthy of a short discussion:
That forest! I almost hesitate to describe it,
so weird, so unearthly was it.
Almost wholly deprived of sunlight, the
foliage was pale, pale with a deathlike pallor, tinged with rose where
the reflected light of the fiery volcanoes filtered through. But this was
by far its least uncanny aspect: the limbs of the trees moved like living
things. They writhed and twined -- myriad, snakelike things. I had scarcely
noticed them until we halted. Suddenly one dropped down and wrapped itself
about me.... Han Du pointed up. I looked. Above me, at the
end of a strong stem, was a huge blossom -- a horrible thing! In
its center was a large mouth armed with many teeth, and above the
mouth were two staring, lidless eyes. ..."You must always be on your guard
when in one of our forests," he warned me. "These trees are living, carnivorous
animals. They have a nervous system and a brain, and it is generally believed
that they have a language and talk with one another." Just
then a hideous scream broke from above us. I looked up, expecting to see
some strange, Jupiterian beast above me, but there was nothing but the
writhing limbs and the staring eyes of the great blossoms of the man-trees.
Burroughs is not just going for a cheap thrill.
He's world building. He imagines plants without photosynthesis, and
this is what he comes up with.
Han Du laughed. "Their nervous systems are of
a low order," he said, "and their reactions correspondingly slow and sluggish.
It took all this time for the pain of my sword cut to reach the brain of
the blossom to which that limb belongs." “If you ever have to sleep
out in the woods, build a smudge. The blossoms don't like smoke. They close
up, and then they cannot see to attack you. But be sure that you don't
oversleep your smudge." ... Vegetable life on Jupiter, practically
devoid of sunlight, has developed along entirely different lines from that
on earth. Nearly all of it has some animal attributes and nearly all of
it is carnivorous, the smaller plants devouring insects, the larger, in
turn, depending upon the larger animals for sustenance on up to the maneaters
such as I had encountered and those which Han Du said caught and devoured
even the hugest animals that exist upon this strange planet.
The only catch is that they're not plants.
If they've got nervous systems, sensory systems and digestive systems,
then they're animals not plants. They're sessile animals locked
in place. But then, so are barnacles, sea cucumbers, anemones, or
those strange tube worms living down at the bottom of volcanic trenches
In another sense though, they are clearly the
replacement of plants on this world. Sitting on a sludge of
carbons, hydrocarbons and other exotic chemistry, these creatures are metabolizing
energy from chemistry without the need of sunlight.