Official Edgar Rice Burroughs Tribute Site
Since 1996 ~ Over 10,000 Webpages in Archive
Volume 1505

Den Valdron


Life on Jupiter and Astral Terraforming
Astral Projection
Transforming Jupiter
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 thing.

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 our own.

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 indeed.

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.

Life 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?

Astral Projection.

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 body.

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 Farthest Star.

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.

Transforming Jupiter

Okay, its out of the question that Jupiter would naturally develop an earthlike habitat, occupied by earthlike humans and compatible creatures.

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 stable.

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 miles...”
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 south.

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 cards right.

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 torches.

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.]

Life 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 complexion.

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. 

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. 

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.

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 on Earth.

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.

NASA Image Library

To the Main Navigation Chart
Den Valdron's Fantasy Worlds of ERB

ERBzine Weekly Webzine
Visit our thousands of other sites at:
ERB Text, ERB Images and Tarzan® are ©Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
All Original Work ©1996-2006/2010 by Bill Hillman and/or Contributing Authors/Owners
No part of this web site may be reproduced without permission from the respective owners.