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Titan sugar

  1. Feb 12, 2005 #1


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    long ago and far away there was a planet that had a reducing atmosphere like Titan, the air there was mostly nitrogen like our air but instead of oxygen it had some percentage methane

    so sugars and fats were useless as foods because there was no oxygen to metabolize them, you would not, for example, eat a chocolate granola bar for energy because it wouldnt give you any

    all the plants and animals were very unhappy because there was no such thing as food, so they called a meeting to decide what to do about it.

    One of the pigs, whose name was Carlo, was a great chemist and he had an idea. suppose the plants all produced compounds like Nitrogen Tetroxide! said carlo. that would be just like sugar on this world. It would give you an immediate sugar high. You could even run your car on it!

    Yes, said one of the squirrels, and KO2 and K2O5!!!
    The squirrel happened to know that these compounds will react with methane----which was available in unlimited amounts----and release energy. They are the strong oxidizing agents potassium superoxide and potassium pentoxide. (potassium superoxide is also sometimes called tetroxide.)

    Buzz buzz we agree, said the bees, we suggest that the flowers all have nectar of hydrogen peroxide H2O2 in them, instead of sugar-water.
    The nectar they have now is useless so who wants to fly around getting that stuff!

    The plants got the idea that it would be in their interest to switch over to making storable oxidants---to use as energy reserves in their own seeds, in place of oils and starches, and to reward the services performed by animals.
    So they immediately switched over.

    After that if you squeezed an apple the cider you got out was hydrogen peroxide. And like Carlo said, you could run your car on it.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 18, 2005 #2


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    Ah . . . said Seymour the Owl, but we may have to consider some population controls, for there simply isn't too much energy here. We are far from the Sun, so it we have little energy to run our cars with.
  4. Feb 18, 2005 #3


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    I am beholden to you Ohwilleke, you have rescued this thread from oblivion. thanks.

    Actually I was thinking of the planet as being closer to its star (more like earth in that respect) and having enough energy and warmth. But nevertheless being like Titan in having a reducing atmosphere. There may be some inconsistencies: I dont know enough about the way planets work to be able to tell.

    storable oxidants, in my experience, are nasty chemicals
    but if you had an atmosphere with methane in it wouldnt you want to
    stash away energy in the form of oxidants (rather than, say, as carbs and fats)?
  5. Feb 21, 2005 #4


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    I quite agree. One of the mistakes people pondering the likelihood of life outside the Solar system often make is assuming that other life would have the same working requiements as life on Earth, a point which has also been made by Carl Sagan.

    Methane breathers or silicon based life forms are going to have different chemistries than NOCH based life on Earth. And, too many people assume that the only place you have have life on a big gas giant planet is at its "surface" where pressures are intense, when a moderate sized gas giant moon or floating high in the Jovian clouds at a point of moderate temperature and pressure makes far more sense.
  6. Feb 22, 2005 #5
    If life does exist on Titan I dought methane would be the primary source of energy. If life ran off the methane it woud be depleted by now because the methane reserves couldn't regenerate themselves fast enough. Unless methane is being produced by some biological/nature source at a large rate. But if it was, the amount of biomass needed to "burn" the methane in order to keep the ecosystem in balance would imply dense vegetation. Atleast enough vegetation that it would have been seen by the Hugens Probe.

    More likely, life would be from some type of geothermal source. A solar driven ecosystem is out because not enough light reaches the surface.

    Yes, but can those reactions happen at the below freezing temperature on Titan?

    I'm sure thats what all those primordial photosynthetic bacteria who live 2 billion years ago on Earth thought when they saw all the abundent CO2 in the atmosphere! They found out the hard way when over 95% of them went exstinct because they depleted all the CO2.
  7. Feb 22, 2005 #6


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    One could imagine a pretty small steady state biosphere. As long as there is a "methane cycle" similar to the nitrogen cycle on Earth with sinks and sources that are equial.

    Quote 1 answers Quote 2.

    Now, if only they'd had a Kyoto Treaty, they might have saved themselves.
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