by Max Barry

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DispatchAccountDiplomacy

by The Sayoko Soyjack of Unified Communist Councils. . 8 reads.

[EAU] Distant Past








TheㅤㅤㅤDistantㅤㅤㅤPast

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    Let us rewind time to a prehistoric era 4 billion years ago.

    The Milky Way as we know it today was a much younger place, as it was in the process of forming through gradual mergers with many dwarf galaxies. This proto-milky way is just over three-quarters the mass of the modern galaxy. Mihnyeo children would learn that their galaxy contained less than 70 billion stars and has a fairly atypical shape, as the milky way's beautiful spirals were just beginning to form. Looking at a star chart, the Mihnyeo would find themselves located near the outskirts of the young galaxy.

    To the Mihnyeo this made perfect sense. Throughout this time, a much higher proportion of stars were massive stars, stellar behemoths that regularly exploded in violent supernovae. The radiation produced by such events was so powerful, entire planets could be stripped bare, even from distances of many light-years away. Since the densities of stars were much higher toward the galactic core, it made sense that the Minhyeo homeworld was situated near the edge, nestled within the benign galactic suburbs if you will. While stars were generally more massive than they are today, perhaps it strikes off as a miracle that the Minhyeo's homeworld orbited a young white sun much brighter than our own.

    Because this much younger star had less heavy elements accumulated inside its core, it would produce a stellar luminosity that was only three times greater than that of our sun, which explained why their planet was nearly two times further away from their star than Erudia is, as it was in this habitable zone where liquid water could remain stable on the surface. Because of this greater distance though, their star ironically appeared 20% smaller in their sky. Although the Minhyeo homeworld received the same amount of radiation from their star as Erudia does, the radiation had a different profile, producing a far more even distribution of radiation across the visible light spectrum and ultraviolet light. In the formative years, this UV light kick-started life and evolution through a process of abiogenesis; experiencing much faster mutation rates than those seen on Erudia. Life here soon developed photosynthesis which came to thrive under this white star, but so intense was the white light component that many plants and indeed animals here had evolved green pigmentation, reflecting most of the higher intensity light as there was simply too much otherwise.

    Having developed in such an environment, the Minhyeo developed to be capable of observing far more hues and tones of green than we. They had dozens of names for different shades that the Erudite eye could never even distinguish, green was seen as the color of life and red was the color of death due to the color of the hemoglobin present in their blood. Before the Minhyeo developed technology or science, they would look up at the night sky and see it littered with blueish white stars that they interpreted to be the source of life penetrating the cosmos itself. But they also saw reddish patches and blobs proliferating their sky, which they once believed was blood staining the heavens from battles between their mythical deities.

    Centuries later, the Minhyeo would realize that these were in fact luminous star-forming regions, stellar nurseries where stars were forming five times higher than the milk-way we know today. When the Minhyeo astronomers first suggested this idea, they were considered heretics to many of their religious leaders with often dire consequences. But over time Minhyeo culture accepted that these weren't regions of death, but rather regions of birth. Their homeworld was over one and a half times greater than the mass of Erudia, which stemmed from the younger age of their solar system. You see the universe at the time was just nine billion years old, just enough time had passed for stars to manufacture heavy elements needed for the formation of planets, back then there were 7% fewer heavy elements than there are in the modern era. The Minhyeo system was the fortuitous product of particularly metal-rich star-forming nebulae, four billion years ago. The region enjoyed being fertilized by the metals from the supernovae of numerous nearby hypergiant stars. And whilst many of the stars that formed subsequently were not well suited for life, the Mihnyeo star was. It had seven planets, the Mihnyeo system's largest planet was a voluminous giant composed of nitrogen gases in the middle of the system, with three similarly sized gas giants comprising the outer rim while rocky worlds would represent the four other bodies of the inner ring, the Mihnyeo's homeworld was the second closest planet to the sun.

    The Mihnyeo's higher mass had some important ramifications. Its larger size meant that it cooled far slower than Erudia, so Mihnyeo geologists believed that plate tectonics would not shut off and create a stagnant lid until billions of years later into the future. A larger mass of course also meant a bigger size, being 13% larger than Erudia in diameter, was 21% greater in surface area, and gravity 17% stronger than that of Erudia. We can imagine that the Mihnyeo would have evolved with heavier frames and bones to we Erudites, perhaps having a shorter and stockier build. Since surface pressure is proportional to gravity, the air would also be heavier on the surface too. With more oxygen to breathe, perhaps the Mihnyeo would have evolved a higher metabolism to adjust, having shorter life spans as a result of this. The higher surface gravity meant that the planet had a stronger hold of its atmosphere than Erudia, leading to a leaner gaseous envelope. As light passed through this thinner atmosphere, the lesser column depth had a decreased capacity to absorb and scatter the light within it leading to a much darker blue sky. This also meant there was less production from the damaging ultraviolet radiation from their home star as the ozone layer was much thinner. This radiation damages cells, ripping apart genetic material, and threatens life so much that initially, all life on Mihnyeo world evolved underwater or below the surface. Eventually, the land was conquered when a new genetic repair mechanism evolved that could repair both single and double-stranded DNA. Within the cells of all Mihnyeo, damaged DNA is moved into a compartmental ring-like structure where nucleotides from the outside of the ring could then fuse and repair it. A similar mechanism would eventually be discovered on Erudia within an extremophile bacteria residing within the hydrothermal depths of our oceans.

    For thousands of years, Mihnyeo culture, society, and civilization flourished. They developed mathematics, science, astronomy and studied the early Milky Way around them. They discovered many wonders through these activities. Amongst the billions of stars around them, they would witness multitudes of supernovae, tidal disruption events, and watch stars wink out into black holes. The cosmos was gloriously generous when it came to high-energy events. Within the center of their galaxy, they discovered one gargantuan black hole. Beyond the galactic field, they witnessed a zoo of galactic mergers, galaxies binding, smearing, and stretching across space as gravity inexorably brought them together. To the Mihnyeo, the universe was a place of frenetic change, a cosmos where merging and coagulation were a common theme, but a place that was inherently violent, dangerous, and largely hostile to life forms like themselves. In all of those wonders, the fervent maelstrom of activity, merging, and birth, the Mihnyeo eventually wondered were they alone?

    Mihnyeo astrobiologists had reasoned that stars like their own were the best place to look for life. Specifically, they hypothesized that stars of similar mass to our sun would likely not produce enough high-energy radiation to foster the rapid mutation rates that their planet had experienced; something that the Mihnyeo generally considered a necessity to enable intelligent life to one day evolve. Higher mass stars were also no good, surely too short-lived. After all, their own star was still in its relative infancy and probably had over a dozen billion years left to its life span. The Mihnyeo was an inherently deeply social species, their shorter form meant that they could only have survived through cooperation with one another and their superior intellect over the rest of their biosphere. Solitary confinement was fatal to a Mihnyeo, so torturous that they would die in the face of prolonged absence from social contact. For them, the search for life in the universe, for others like themselves, was a deeply spiritual and intimate compulsion. It wasn't just a scientific question, their entire culture became increasingly organized around the search. The fear of being alone was so keen on that whenever a Mihnyeo scientist warned that it was a possibility, it would spark massive outrage and backlash in their society. Ironically, in the midst of their scientific search for alien life, this resistance nurtured a parallel vein of denialism and anti-science across the planet.

    Within their society, a sense of depression and anxiety grew, piece by piece, as science began to hint that there was indeed something very special about their home. Some of this anxiety was countered by just sheer denialism but at the same time, the underground use of narcotic compounds grew in popularity to provide a momentary reprieve. Amongst these, most potently chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, had a unique and effective numbing effect on the Mihnyeo brain with apparently no side effects. This eventually led to their legalization and ubiquitous adoption within Mihnyeo society. This wonder drug soon found use in many parts of the industry too, particularly aerosol repellants and refrigeration due to its low flammability and toxicity. Soon CFC production and use saw an unprecedented rise during these years and was aggressively marketed in hopes of quelling the anxiety. However numb, the obsession for the search of life had grown so strong that it dominated Mihnyeo culture by now. Across the planet, many states began to impose rules stating that schools could not teach that there's anything unusual about the Mihnyeo home system, that it must be typical and life was therefore surely common, just waiting to be found. Eventually, the mediocrity principle became the central dogma of the educational system, but in quiet moments many Mihnyeo scientists would admit despairing the forceful ignorance of the growing contrarian evidence, for by now their astronomers had discovered that planets like their own were in fact incredibly rare and that much of the galaxy simply looked too violent for life. Yet, publishing such findings became increasingly difficult. The insatiable thirst for alien life was frequently exploited for personal gain by many members of Mihnyeo society. These bad actors would tell the world what they wanted to hear; that a nearby planet had alien structures on it, or that they had received a private radio communication from another star, or that they'd interacted with aliens or alien technology directly. Eventually, the truth of these fallacies was revealed, causing the anti-science sentiment to be propelled further as trust increasingly broke down between scientists and the public.

    Around this time, a group of Mihnyeo meteorologists became alarmed at new observations of their planetary atmosphere. Their thin ozone layer that acted as the shield protecting their world from their star's UV flux was seemingly disappearing. It was soon realized that the unthinkable was true: that the wonder drug their society had become so addicted to was the root cause. CFCs were destroying ozone molecules and had already started to form a small hole around the planet's poles. Their work took years to finally publish, with many refusing to print such controversial findings. But to the dismay of the scientist, the discovery was almost completely ignored with society carrying on as business as usual, and science outlets preferring to discuss the latest UFO sightings instead.



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