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Author Topic: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding  (Read 26946 times)

Offline JMack

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #60 on: April 15, 2015, 12:22:07 PM »
Here's a link to the Colonial Williamsburg history journal. Scroll down to see all articles on things like bastards, fleas, winter cold and more. Very interesting for getting snippets of info on life before electricity, etc.

http://www.history.org/foundation/journal/feature2.cfm#.VS5JFk9vcao.gmail
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Offline Nora

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #61 on: April 25, 2015, 04:10:31 PM »
Alright, another insight on a life fact maaaaaany stories, be it in movies or books, get very wrong.
Hunger, fasting and starvation.

http://blogs.plos.org/obesitypanacea/2011/05/13/the-science-of-starvation-how-long-can-humans-survive-without-food-or-water/

http://annienygma.com/2013/05/the-worlds-longest-fast/

Going a bit more into the details of what happens to your body as you starve/fast : http://io9.com/5941883/how-your-body-fights-to-keep-you-alive-when-youre-starving

This one is also interesting. While they describe complete starvation (nothing but water) you'll notice that it isn't "recommended" to starve a soldier for 10 days because the guys got tired and unmotivated, but they sure as hell survived without any indicated lasting ill-effect : http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/20/7/672.abstract

So. In general movies and some books treat the matter of food in a rather ridiculous manner. Panic at the idea of loosing the last bits of ration food. 3 days without food and characters start to think death is looming! After 3 days, you'll be puking, not dying.
It's a surprisingly common misrepresentation!
Any french or german speaker might want to check the very good documentary on fasting done by Arte.
While life in general gets harder and harder, and someone walking/hunting/running, on only water, would probably last longer than someone sitting on their arse sipping at fresh water, we can still pretty easily give a month worth of active starvation to any character who is gifted with enough water.
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Offline Yora

Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #62 on: April 25, 2015, 04:53:15 PM »
Yeah, I was thinking about just that a few days ago.

While you won't die from hunger for a very long time, you're in no shape to go hunting much sooner. But the main problem is really getting water.

Another very interesting thing is that some reptiles, especially large one, can go for over a year without food. They don't really do anything other than lying around doozing all day, but even after having had nothing to eat for a year they still can get back to normal without any lasting damage.
Given that dragons are huge, it's not actually completely improbable that one could sleep for a decade.
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Offline Nora

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #63 on: April 25, 2015, 04:59:57 PM »
Yeah, I was thinking about just that a few days ago.

While you won't die from hunger for a very long time, you're in no shape to go hunting much sooner. But the main problem is really getting water.

Another very interesting thing is that some reptiles, especially large one, can go for over a year without food. They don't really do anything other than lying around doozing all day, but even after having had nothing to eat for a year they still can get back to normal without any lasting damage.
Given that dragons are huge, it's not actually completely improbable that one could sleep for a decade.

Well that's the thing though, people who fast often manage to keep activities going. Ideally drinking teas, light broth and other nutritional drinks is best, but overall getting a good fast isn't as bad as often believed.
Yeah, penguins also get some great results in fasting. When they reproduce, one of the couple stays with the baby (the male I think?) for 2 to 4 months, while the other goes hunting.
If a penguin can do that, a dragon sleeping on his hoard could have it easy...
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Offline Raptori

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #64 on: April 25, 2015, 05:09:20 PM »
Yeah, I was thinking about just that a few days ago.

While you won't die from hunger for a very long time, you're in no shape to go hunting much sooner. But the main problem is really getting water.

Another very interesting thing is that some reptiles, especially large one, can go for over a year without food. They don't really do anything other than lying around doozing all day, but even after having had nothing to eat for a year they still can get back to normal without any lasting damage.
Given that dragons are huge, it's not actually completely improbable that one could sleep for a decade.

Well that's the thing though, people who fast often manage to keep activities going. Ideally drinking teas, light broth and other nutritional drinks is best, but overall getting a good fast isn't as bad as often believed.
Yeah, penguins also get some great results in fasting. When they reproduce, one of the couple stays with the baby (the male I think?) for 2 to 4 months, while the other goes hunting.
If a penguin can do that, a dragon sleeping on his hoard could have it easy...
If you're talking about emperor penguins, then yah it's not really great - they come close to starving every time. If the female is late (or dead), the male has to choose between abandoning his child and starvation. Plus it takes a lot of fat storage for them to last even that long. It's definitely possible, but it's best to give a good reason for it.

I think a better comparison to the dragon sleeping on his hoard is bears hibernating  ;)
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Offline Yora

Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #65 on: April 25, 2015, 07:26:05 PM »
But do you know why the penguins are doing it? Because that's literally the only place in the entire world where absolutely nobody is coming and trying to eat you. It's the safest place anywhere, because nobody else can survive there.
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Offline Raptori

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #66 on: April 25, 2015, 07:41:00 PM »
But do you know why the penguins are doing it? Because that's literally the only place in the entire world where absolutely nobody is coming and trying to eat you. It's the safest place anywhere, because nobody else can survive there.
Yep, exactly. As with everything in nature it's an imperfect solution to several problems, and obviously it's now so ingrained in their society and habits that it'd be pretty much impossible for them to change.
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Offline Yora

Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #67 on: April 25, 2015, 07:46:49 PM »
Which brings me to another lesson of worldbuilding: Evolution is lazy.

Creatures don't evolve to a form that is perfect for their environment, but just good enough to not go extinct. Natural selection really only selects for "not dying faster than you reproduce".

Offline Raptori

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #68 on: April 25, 2015, 07:50:25 PM »
Which brings me to another lesson of worldbuilding: Evolution is lazy.

Creatures don't evolve to a form that is perfect for their environment, but just good enough to not go extinct. Natural selection really only selects for "not dying faster than you reproduce".
Yep, exactly. Also, the idea that "humans are the pinnacle of evolution" is ludicrous on several counts, not least because evolution isn't reaching towards anything in particular. There is no "more evolved" or "less evolved". And genetic evolution doesn't necessarily mean actual change either - sharks have remained physically unchanged for millions of years, but their dna has actually continued to change.

There are tons of incredibly interesting things out there that never make it into fiction. One thing I absolutely loved reading about was ring species (think that was the name anyway) for example. Definitely going to put that into our writing somewhere...  :P

Edit: Ring species was correct. Such an awesome phenomenon, definitely wouldn't be out of place in fantasy.
 
« Last Edit: April 25, 2015, 07:54:42 PM by Raptori »
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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #69 on: April 25, 2015, 07:57:24 PM »
the idea that "humans are the pinnacle of evolution" is ludicrous on several counts,
Or when people say that our environment/world is perfect for humans - well duh, because if it was different, 'humans' would be different too, perfect to whatever this other environment would be.
Like people defining 'life' based on Earth's parameters and ignoring all other possibilities out there.
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Offline JMack

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #70 on: April 25, 2015, 08:11:15 PM »

There are tons of incredibly interesting things out there that never make it into fiction. One thing I absolutely loved reading about was ring species (think that was the name anyway) for example. Definitely going to put that into our writing somewhere...  :P

Edit: Ring species was correct. Such an awesome phenomenon, definitely wouldn't be out of place in fantasy.
My dentist once told me that plaque on your teeth is colonies (or houses colonies) of bacteria and that in the environment of your mouth can communicate to each other via chemicals. When an event occurs on one side of the mouth (say, flossing), the plaque on the other side is affected.

I think he said they "sing" to each other, but I suspect that's an incorrect and sort of hopeful memory.  ;D
Or he's just weird like that.
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Offline Raptori

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #71 on: April 25, 2015, 08:30:25 PM »
the idea that "humans are the pinnacle of evolution" is ludicrous on several counts,
Or when people say that our environment/world is perfect for humans - well duh, because if it was different, 'humans' would be different too, perfect to whatever this other environment would be.
Like people defining 'life' based on Earth's parameters and ignoring all other possibilities out there.
Perfect is stretching it a bit of course, says the pedant in me

But yeah, it really bugs me when people assume that all life must have evolved under the exact same conditions as life on earth. It's a good starting point, but it seems like a really arrogant assumption to make.



There are tons of incredibly interesting things out there that never make it into fiction. One thing I absolutely loved reading about was ring species (think that was the name anyway) for example. Definitely going to put that into our writing somewhere...  :P

Edit: Ring species was correct. Such an awesome phenomenon, definitely wouldn't be out of place in fantasy.
My dentist once told me that plaque on your teeth is colonies (or houses colonies) of bacteria and that in the environment of your mouth can communicate to each other via chemicals. When an event occurs on one side of the mouth (say, flossing), the plaque on the other side is affected.

I think he said they "sing" to each other, but I suspect that's an incorrect and sort of hopeful memory.  ;D
Or he's just weird like that.
Lol crazy, that reminds me of the descolada in the sequels to Ender's Game.  :o
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Offline Yora

Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #72 on: April 25, 2015, 09:48:19 PM »
Like people defining 'life' based on Earth's parameters and ignoring all other possibilities out there.

There are however very good reasons to expect most alien life to be found on planets similar to earth and have many similarities to Earth life.

The most basic one is chemistry. Even the most basic living things consist of many different chemical elements and substances that are combined and arranged in very complex ways. And to get chemical to mix and combine, you really want them to be in a liquid. If they aregas they are unlikely stay together long enough for longer reactions and processes, and when they are solid they can not mix. Having the chemicals all in a body of liquid is perfect. That's why animal cells are mostly filled with water. Water also happens to be a really amazing substance. For one thing it consists of Hydrogen and Oxygen, which are the first and fourth most common elements in the entire universe so there is plenty of it in asteroids and newly formed planets. It also is able to dissolve a staggering number of other chemical compounds. There is no known acid that can dissolve nearly as many substances as water can. We can't rule out that there is any life in the universe not based around water, but it's not coincidence that Earth is the most watery planet in the solar system. This stuff is really amazing to mix chemicals.
Life is also most likely to start right at the edge of water and land, because then you can have the sun heat little puddles and make them evaporate, and a few hours later another big waves makes it wet again, allowing for many more chemical processes tha you could get entirely underwater. So a planet that is completely covered by water with no land might still not have any life, but that's hard to predict.

If you have a planet that is somewhat like Earth, then all life on that planet has to evolve to forms that are well suited to deal with that environment. And guess what, creatures on Earth have been at it for over a billion years to evolve forms that are best adapted for just this kind of environment. And even though there are potentially unlimited possibilities for animal forms, im practice there are only relatively few that are actually being used. And mutations are completely random, so it can be assumed that over the last billion years, almost everything has been tried out. But we still see the same forms everwhere all the time. Because these are the best to deal with an environment that has Earth like gravity, an atmosphere as thick as ours, with a given amount of oxygen and sunlight, snd temperatures in which water is a liquid.
Anything that you would find on a similar planet and you would call an animal will most probably have a mouth and a stomach, eyes, bones, and legs. The ancestors of vertebrates and squids had split of into different evolutionary paths long before the development of eyes with lenses, but now a human eye and a squid eye look almost the same and work the same way with the same parts. Because thisis just an amzing way to detect light reflecting of objects in the environment. And it's very likely that on a planet with a similar star, animals also would get eyes like these. Anything you would find would not be a dog or a fish, but it would probably look pretty similar to one. Just look at dolphins. They are descended from animals that looked like rats, and now they look almost exactly like sharks. And sharks have been using that body shape almost unchanged since a time before any animals went on land. There were also reptiles that went back to water and also evolved into the same form. While there is no evolutionary perfection, this body shape is so ludicrously well suited for life in Earth oceans that it evolved several times. If we find large animals on an Earth like planet,I would actually be very surprised if there isn't something that also looks like a shark.

True, other planets can have very different environmental conditions than we have on Earth. But these are rarely seen in science fiction and almost never in fantasy. So scientifically speaking the old practice of taking existing animals and slightly changing their colors and horns is actually the most plausible way to create fictional creatures.

Offline Raptori

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #73 on: April 25, 2015, 11:17:27 PM »
And mutations are completely random, so it can be assumed that over the last billion years, almost everything has been tried out.
I don't think that's even remotely possible. The processes of evolution are actually a massive handicap, and there are a ton of things that would be wildly successful that are almost impossible to occur naturally. It's possible that they could happen, but it's extremely implausible.

A perfect example would be the axle - technically speaking that could develop through evolution, but the chances of it actually happening are miniscule. Each individual mutation from A to B (so in this example from ball & socket to axle) would have to be beneficial enough to be an adaptation that is passed on. There's just too big a jump, and evolution doesn't deal in jumps like that. If we develop genetics to the point where we can essentially program anything we want, however...


And yeah, you'd expect to see convergent evolution - we see it all the time on earth, no reason we wouldn't expect to see it elsewhere. That's not to say evolution elsewhere couldn't have gone down a completely different path though, just that the ecological niches that exist would generally result in life forms that work in similar ways.

Eyes are a good example of that actually, sight has evolved multiple times, and some of the different eye systems are very different to others - just compare mammal eyes to insect eyes.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2015, 11:20:54 PM by Raptori »
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Offline Elfy

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #74 on: April 26, 2015, 12:39:48 AM »
But do you know why the penguins are doing it? Because that's literally the only place in the entire world where absolutely nobody is coming and trying to eat you. It's the safest place anywhere, because nobody else can survive there.
That'd work if penguins only occurred in the Antarctic, but they don't. Even the ones down there take their lives in their own hands every time they go searching for food. The leopard seals in particular enjoy eating penguins. We have penguins here in Australia, there's a fairly large colony on Phillip Island, seeing them come in nightly is actually a tourist attraction, before people realised that and commercialised it and protected that colony they were under threat from foxes, domestic pets like cats and dogs and also feral cats and dogs. There's also a colony living in St Kilda quite close to the city. There are between 17 and 20 species of penguin, and they can occur as far north as near the equator, which is where the Galapagos penguin comes from.
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