SiliCon 2002 COTI Worldbuilding Report

Or,

How I Spent My Weekend Convention

         So Gerald Nordley asked me if I’d like to do a COTI track at SiliCon.  Of course, I always want to do COTI.  I’m a COTI addict.  But I’m also heavily involved in ERPS, the Experimental Rocket Propulsion Society, and we had a launch scheduled for that weekend.  As it turns out, we didn’t get the water system fixed out at the Rocket Ranch, so we had no firefighting water, so we had no static test of the engine, so we had no launch, and I was available.

         So Gerald scheduled a session for 6 PM Friday.  The registration line wasn’t moving at all when I arrived at 6:30, and I was afraid I was going to miss all the fun.  I called Lara Battles, who was also scheduled to be in the COTI session.  “Dude, we’re in Alexandria I.  Which, from the sound of it, is right behind you.”  It was.

         I went to Alexandria I, and found Gerald handing out information packets to Jim Funaro, Lara Battles, Candy Lowe, and Buzz Nelson.  Gerald briefed us on the solar system and planet he created.  He calls the planet Scoti (rhymes with COTI) (I had wondered if it was pronounced Scotty, and speculated that if so, the reason for the First Contact was that humans has discovered dilithium crystals on the planet), and it orbits a superjovian with a Uranian-type inclination.  The superjovian also has a very eccentric orbit around its parent K0 star.  So between the K0 star, the eccentric orbit, and the extreme inclination, Scoti is very cold.  The cold is ameliorated somewhat by tidal heating: Scoti’s primary has a second moon, about the same size as Scoti, and the tides between the two moons are strong enough to flex their crusts and produce heat.

          Gerald thought that since Jim and Lara would be on panels most of Saturday, and hence not available to create life on Scoti, they and Candy should be on the human team.  That left Buzz and me as the alien team.  Two is a pretty small team to build an entire world in one weekend, and I was a little concerned.  But Lara stuck around after Gerald finished briefing everyone, and she and Buzz and I speculated about what kind of life might develop there.

          We speculated that since the atmospheric pressure at the surface of Scoti is 1.5 bars, and the gravity is only 3/8 g, it would be easy to fly.  Four times easier than on Earth, in fact.  But flyers don’t do well in extreme cold.  The very attribute that enables them to fly, high surface area (wing) to volume (body) ratio, also makes them lose heat quickly.  Such a life form could probably survive if it evolved, but we didn’t see how it could evolve.

          So we decided our flyer had a two-form life cycle.  The adults were walruses, which do well in cold water, and the juveniles were flyers.  Baby Scotis start out as walruses, then the flippers morph into wings as they grow.  They fly around like crazy all during the short summer, gathering food for the winter.  We also talked about instead of juvenile flyers and mature walruses, having male flyers and female walruses.  We finally settled on a combination, with most of the flyers being male, and most of the flyers dying off during autumn.  Scoti is a harsh world.  We figured that when the flyers morphed into walruses over the winter, their wings would atrophy and fold along the body.

          The females give birth in the ocean in early spring, have lots of young, and suckle them in the ocean. The young are weaned early, learn to fly, and go gather food.

          The oceans don’t freeze solid all the way down during the winter, but the ice gets to tens of feet thick.  That much ice will prevent photosynthesis in the water below it, because not enough light gets through.  Our critters will have nothing to eat all winter, because nothing will grow under the ice.

         Our critters MUST winter over at volcanoes, because everywhere else is too cold.

          That was as far as we got Friday evening.  Lara had some outlandish ideas – she always does – but we couldn’t use any of them before we developed a life form and an ecosystem to support it.  Sorry Lara, no drunken melons this time around. <smile>

          Saturday morning I had a couple ideas while I was waiting for Buzz.  I ran them by him when we met in the lobby.

          The second moon has a 100 km deep ocean, but the same basic climate we do – cold. It also has tidal heating, but water carries away heat really well.  It’s probably only warm right around the volcanoes.  Meteoric seeding means it will have the same base life as Scoti. In fact, the question of where life originated will be even less meaningful here than between Earth and Mars.  Whichever moon life originates on, it will be spread to the other within a few million years.

          Since the other moon is covered with water and has no land, it will be impossible to develop a technological civilization there.  There is no fire and no way to refine metals.  I gave it whales, in tribute to Chris Chyba’s dolphin poets. I figured when Scoti developed space travel, we’d go to the second moon, find the whales, and conquer them. But would they notice?

          Our guys have land, so they can discover fire, and refine metals…but what do they use for hands?  Buzz said, tentacles.           
          OK, tentacles it is.

          Next question: What is civilization used for?  Braiding, making nets for fish?  Making canals for the walruses, so they can move easily on land?

          Because the juveniles are the flyers, the culture will reflect this.  Travel and adventure are for the young.

          Home Is Where The Heat Is.

          Then Buzz had to go to a panel, and wouldn’t be available for much of the day.  ACK!  I can’t be the alien team all by myself!  I’m an engineer. If you give me an idea, I can tell you everything you can and can’t do with it, and I can spin other ideas off of it.   But if you need raw ideas – and this early in the game, Scoti needed raw ideas badly – I’m the wrong man for the job.  I sat for a few minutes and tried to generate some ideas, but I just didn’t have enough to go on.

          So I did what every good Marine does when he’s faced with overwhelming odds and he’s out of rounds.  I called for reinforcements.  Specifically, I called Michael Wallis. “Hey Michael. Are you still interested in doing a Contact track at SiliCon, if I can get you in for free?” “Yeah…” “Good. Get your ass down here. I need help!” “OK...Randall, I’m shaving.  Can I call you back?” I bummed a twenty off Rebecca Inch-Partridge to help pay for Michael’s registration, and Rebecca told me I could bring a guest.  OK!  Over to registration and explain my problem.   “Is this the same Michael Wallis who’s moving to Toronto?  I haven’t seen him in forever.” The lady at registration proclaimed me an artist, since I was doing a COTI panel on Sunday.  OK…  So I got Michael’s badge and hied me off to collect him.

          We rapidly concluded that the Scotis would discover fire, and use it primarily for heat.  They would also use it to make ceramics and metals, and make spears for use against sharks and ships; that the Scotis would migrate between oases (volcanoes) during the summer; that there would be an explosion of life worldwide in the summer, much of it fungus; and that fabric made from kelp would be used to make gliders and airplanes.

          Because we had Gerald’s table listing the properties of the star, the primary, and its moons, we were able to determine that Scoti escape velocity is about 5 kps (km/sec), its orbital velocity around the primary is about 4 kps, and the delta-v to the second moon is about 1 kps.  Total delta-v to get to the second moon is about 10 kps.  (This is wrong, for two reasons.  First, you don’t need to add in the 4 kps orbital velocity, because you already have it.  Don’t do orbital mechanics on an empty stomach.  Second, I goofed on the primary – when Gerald said the inclination was Uranian, I took the whole planet as Uranian.  In fact, the primary is a superjovian, much more massive, with correspondingly higher orbital velocity: 31 kps.  This is not a fatal flaw, because Scoti astronauts could use gravity assist from Scoti several times per mission, and still get to the second moon in just a few days.)  The Scotis will use LOX/alcohol rockets, since they won’t have any kerosene or other petrochemicals.  Michael and I are big promoters of peroxide, but alcohol and peroxide dissolve in each other, and the solution is a high explosive – a fact the Scotis would soon discover if they tried this combination.

          The volcanoes will give them easy access to sulfur, CO2, and molten rock (mostly iron and silicon).  It’ll be hell to collect it, of course.  But that’s what juveniles are for.  They’re going to die in the fall anyway…

          Michael made the offhand observation that when they get into their industrial age, they’ll use tidal power to generate electricity.   “Yes!  Michael, in the immortal words of James T. Kirk, ‘Scotty, you’ve just earned your pay for the week.’”   “Only a week?”  “Kirk was a tough grader.”

          The ridge spanning the equatorial ocean is the only route for seasonal migration.   And it looks awfully cold.

          The flyers/walruses are the ancestral form of the Scoti.  They came to land and discovered an evolutionary advantage.  Coming to land was not intentional on their part: summer storms blew them there.  They evolved gradually keeping the flyer form through adulthood, and not morphing into walruses.

          The migration route is the isthmus with the volcanic ridge.  Scoti will farm in the temperate zone, and feed the cities on the ridge. This will drive transportation technology.

          Scoti have an endoskeleton, and are about the size of an eagle.  They have bilateral symmetry.  Buzz’s tentacles fell by the wayside here, as only bone can support a wing structure without expending energy.  They eat fish, fruit, kelp, whatever they can find.  They walk poorly, as most flyers do.

          Land flora is a willow-like tree, with short stout trunks and flexible branches.  Animals that get blown onto land by the storms grab the trees, and don’t get blown inland.  The trees’ branches inter-tangle to resist whipsaw storm damage.  Separate trees intertwine their branches, forming a canopy, below which the storm is moderated.  The flyers will first learn to manipulate their environment by weaving tunnels in the canopy.

          The flyers will use their hands and arms for gripping, along with their feet.  Their morphology is head, flexible neck to see behind them, body with wings, and legs.  They are hexapods.  This probably also means that the above comment about walking poorly doesn’t apply.

          To get a better feel for the environment in which our critter would evolve and live, I used Gerald’s insolation curves to calculate the temperatures we could expect at various times of the year.  The results were so challenging that I found Gerald between panels and complained, “As one god to another, you made my planet too cold.”  He seemed confident that life was up to the challenge of evolving in a place where ice is as hard as rock and carbon dioxide snows out of the air.  Sigh.  I asked him to promise me that at least the hot spots died gradually as they moved around, and that there were always some hot spots.  He did better than that, informing me that the hot spots don’t move around at all.

          So Michael and I decided that our critter evolved in the sea over a hot spot at 60 W 60 N, which keeps the sea temperate year round.  It’s an impact crater, a few million years old.  The impactor didn’t punch completely through the crust; it just thinned it out, enough that the heat from the upper mantle can get through and keep the sea warm enough to sustain life.  This was our only real arm wave.  We just didn’t see any other way to evolve intelligent life, and we didn’t want to be stuck with an ecology that evolved around an undersea smoker, because it could never develop technology, and would probably never even develop intelligence.  Makes for a dull First Contact.   “We’re on the surface.  What do we see?”   “Ice.”   Later, “We’re at the undersea vent.  What do we see?”   “Worms and crabs.”   “Are they saying anything? Do they see us?”   “No and no.”   Boring…!

          The cold on Scoti really stymied us.  It took us half of Saturday to come up with a way to evolve life.  During winter, the daily high at the poles is 50 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. At the equator, it’s worse, getting down to 90 below.  At those temperatures, an unprotected human would die within minutes.  Once we created the heat oasis at the impact crater sea, we had a winter low of 36 F, and a winter high of 59 F.  And actually, the low would probably get below freezing, because the area around the crater sea will be much colder, and there is always a lot of wind here.

          The cold also killed the two-form creature Buzz and Lara and I had created on Friday night. It’s so hard to live here that a creature that spent the extra energy to grow two different body forms would be swiftly removed from the gene pool.

          The price we paid for the winter-temperate crater sea was scalding heat – 143 F – in summer.  This provided evolutionary pressure to get out onto land during the summer. Predatory pressure from sharks kept the pressure on in winter.  Thus, our ancestor spent at least part of its time on land all year.  This created evolutionary pressure on mobility, and it evolved a bipedal form.

          Our life form was more like a seal than a walrus, since it needed to be able to handle temperature extremes, and a walrus would overheat.  The ancestral form used its paws to shell shellfish, much as Earth seals do.  This created evolutionary pressure to improve the dexterity of the paws, and they became hands.  Our seal-like ancestor – a selid – also ate fish and kelp.

          As our selid became smarter, it began to store the food it caught in summer, for the leaner times in winter.  Since it couldn’t store food in the water (something else would eat it, or it would decay, or dissolve), it stored the food on land.  This led to more time spent on land, and increased pressure for mobility. Stored food was typically iced fish and iced kelp, and the walkout freezer was as close as the igloo door.  Selids discovered the benefits of bamboo as a material for storage containers when opportunistic animals learned to forage the selids’ food caches.  At this point, our selids can be said to be sentient, and we will call them Scoti.  The plural is the same as the singular.  With animal-proof food storage, Scoti also began collecting and storing fruits, nuts, and seeds (this had previously been a waste of time, unless you wanted to attract animal foragers and scavengers).

          Agriculture was an accident.  Unlike humans, who developed agriculture and then food storage, Scoti developed food storage first, in response to a basic need.  Agriculture was opportunistic.  During the summer, occasional fiercer than normal storms would damage the food storage containers and buildings, and seeds would spill on the ground.  Inevitably, not all of the spilled seeds were reclaimed.  The following summer, plants grew where the seeds had been spilled.  Some bright Scoti reasoned that if they could do this by accident, they could probably do it on purpose.  The Scoti agricultural revolution was underwhelming in its impact on Scoti society.  “Oh, you can grow land plants.  Isn’t that special.  Call me when you find a way to grow fish.”

          The first tools were knives, sticks, and rope.  These were combined to make spears, which are quite useful in dealing with both ice and hungry animals.  Mobility was by sleds, surfing, and skiing.  The sleds were pulled by domesticated polar bears.  The polar bears, which had evolved as hibernators, were difficult to work with as winter set in.  They wanted to hibernate, not pull sleds, and they got surly about it.  Picture a polar bear with the attitude of a grumpy camel.  Skilled polar bear handlers were in great demand.

          From volcanoes, the Scoti got fire, obsidian, pumice, and good hard rock.  The obsidian was prized as knife blades and spear points.  The pumice was useful in debriding animal skins, willow tree braches, and kelp leaves.  Fire, of course, was prized as a portable heat source. With portable heat, the Scoti were not trapped on the Scoti [crater sea] shore during winter.

          Animal skins and kelp leaves make fabric.  Fabric makes bellows, which makes fire even hotter.  This allows the Scoti to learn to make glass, iron, and ceramics. From willow tree trunks and fabric, they make water wheels to harness the tide, and inland, windmills to harness the wind. Rotary power is used to grind kelp and seeds for bread, and for spinning fine fabrics.  From rotary power naturally comes the wheel, but it is useful for transport only in cities, and isn’t widely used. Sleds are just as efficient, and are easier to make and maintain.

          Time to talk about sex. (That got your attention, no?) In their basic biology, the Scoti retain the traits of their selid ancestors.  They reproduce only in late fall, and only in the sea. They give birth in the ocean in the early spring. Scoti form permanent pairs, but child rearing is communal.  The caregivers and crčche masters are older Scoti, mostly female.  On Scoti, it really does take a village to raise a child. With almost 50 fertile cycles in a lifetime, Scoti do not need to reproduce much to maintain a stable population.  The estrus mechanism is regulated by food intake: if, at the end of autumn, a Scoti has more than enough fat to sustain her through the winter, she will come into season. If not, she won’t.  This allows Scoti females a simple form of contraception: the starvation diet.  If a Scoti female really doesn’t want to have young next spring, she can go on a hunger strike.  This is the Scoti form of anorexia.  Many selid females died during the winter as a result of such privations, and the trait is moderately selected against even today. Scoti Elders traditionally choose who will mate with whom at the autumn mating festival.  This is the main reason the Elders are females; males are not fit to judge reproductive potential.  In human terms, the Scoti practice eugenics by default, always striving to produce a better society.

          Scoti have speech.  It is entirely tonal, without consonants.  It sounds like seals barking (oddly enough).  Barks carry well in water, and in a storm.  At dinner Sunday evening, Michael and I demonstrated the language for Gerald, Gayle, and Candy.  Michael barked in different tones and lengths while I translated, “When in the course…of human events…it becomes necessary…for one people…to dissolve …the political bands…which co, connect them with another…it – what? Say that again.”   “Ark ork oork ork ork arkark, urk.”   “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”   “You’re ruining it!”   “I forgot the rest of the speech.  Sorry.”

          Scoti speech is very context sensitive.  Scoti is what an individual calls himself, as we would say we are human.  Scoti also means People, as in, “We are The People.”   Scoti also means the crater sea.  It also means the city on the shore of the crater sea, and it also means the world.  You have to pay close attention to know what Scoti the speaker is talking about.  This does have the benefit that conversational Crazy Ivans are unheard of (Hi, Lara).

          Scoti developed writing very early on, well before the discovery of agriculture.  The writing was initially knots in rope, used to record the location of food caches.  As Scoti moved almost exclusively onto land, they began using pressed kelp leaves as a kind of papyrus, with calligraphy gradually replacing a more alphabetic notation derived from knots.

          Scoti is rendered habitable by tidal heating.  (In winter, the crustal hot spot provides most of the warmth Scoti [the crater sea] needs to keeps from freezing over.)  Well, if the tides are strong enough to flex the crust, what do they do to the ocean?   Crunch crunch, tides are an inverse cube, crunch crunch…  Oh wow. Equatorial tides are 25 to 50 meters out at sea.  When the tidal wave, and it is one, breaks on shore, it can get up to 300 feet high. Easily.  OK, but the equator if frozen solid, and we’re at 60 degrees north anyway, only half the distance from the polar axis.  Gosh, tides in Scoti are only 25 to 50 meters tall, with 150-foot breakers.  This has profound effects on the culture.  Besides the cold, the dominant feature in Scoti life is The Wave.  It defines the day, with The Wave coming at high noon every other day.  This corresponds with solar noon only once a year.  Is The Wave more important to Scoti than the sun?  You bet.  The sun waxes and wanes, gets colder and warmer, but the Wave is always the same.  It’s their planet wide Old Faithful.

          “Doing The Wave,” means either surfing or suicide.  Usually both, as surfing has a 99.99% mortality rate.  Suicide is atonement and/or trial by ordeal: if you live, you are forgiven your sin.  The second moon is The Wave God, known as Kahuna.  The causality is unmistakable, since The Wave is directly below Kahuna, and approaches at the same speed He does.  On Scoti, this is about 15 meters/second, or about 35 mph.

          The sun is the other Scoti god, and he is the pain god.  He makes the water too hot.

          The primary is on the other side of the moon from Scoti (Scoti is tide locked to the primary, of course).  So Scoti have never seen the primary, until they go exploring thousands of miles from Scoti. The primary is seven degrees across from Scoti – about the size of a softball at arm’s length.  It’s huge.  The Scoti have no clue it’s there.  [I got this wrong, when I forgot Gerald said the primary has a Saturn-like magnetic field. Compasses will always point to the primary.]  When the Scoti discover the primary, it has a windstorm raging.  It looks like Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.  It’s obviously an eye, and the primary is deemed The Watcher.  It is of course taboo to watch The Watcher, so the discovery expedition returns under a cloud. A scientific expedition goes to set up a field observatory in defiance of the taboo, and is put under a curse. So when they observe phases on The Watcher, correlate them with the position of the sun and with the dual phases of Nova Scoti (illuminated by both the sun and the primary), and report that The Watcher is no Watcher at all, but a world like Scoti, no one believes them.

          This signals a Dark Age in Scoti history.  But when the Elders die out, and the former mavericks become Elders in their turn, a scientific renaissance gradually comes into being.  About this time, the storm breaks up, and the canny scientific cadre tell the credulous that The Watcher is no longer Watching because the Scoti are on the right path with this renaissance business.  A cult lingers, believing, “The Watcher Will Return.”

          The Wave God doesn’t inspire mass religion, as worship of Kahuna is spiritual rather than procedural.  It’s a personal relationship; priests would be redundant.  Atheism and agnosticism are tolerated but amusedly scorned.  “You don’t have to believe in God.  God believes in you.  Want proof?  Go stand on the western shore.” [A note about directions here. On Earth, the western shore is the shore at the west edge of the land.  On Scoti, the western shore is the shore at the west edge of the water.  Only natural for an aquatic species.  The Wave approaches from the east, because Scoti is in a lower, faster orbit than Kahuna.] Since each Scoti’s relationship with god is a personal one, there is no communal temple.  There is a small conclave in each home.  Scoti burn a special type of kelp as an offering.

          Characterization of The Watcher as a planet encouraged seeing “God” as a world, eliminating a schism between nascent science and religion.  God became an invisible, abstract entity. He still offers punishment/atonement. The second moon is still called God or Kahuna formally, and Nova Scoti informally.  (We tried to work in Newfies, but with a 100 km deep ocean, how can you have Newfoundland where there is no land to newly find?)

          Naked eye astronomy established that Nova Scoti has an atmosphere, as occulted stars fade gradually before they wink out.  This has been known since selid times.  “Of course God has air. He has to breathe don’t he?”  In modern times, spectroscopy revealed molecular oxygen, which indicated the presence of life there.

          Scoti society is egalitarian and elder-based.  Scoti government is a council of Elders.  Elders chose leaders based on proven ability.  Innovation on Scoti is very slow, as Scoti Elders are even more conservative than Earth elders.  Scoti society has specialists, as any advanced society must, and young Scoti are apprenticed to do what they’re good at.  It may not be what they enjoy.  On Scoti, the Earth aphorism, “If you don’t enjoy something, don’t get good at it,” is very good advice, but is somewhat subversive.  Specialists have particular totems, which started as tools of the trade, but have become more ceremonial over the centuries. The totem of the scout, for example, is an ice spear. The totem of the Eldest Of The Scoti is the jawbone of a revered ancestor.

          This revered ancestor deserves his own paragraph.  Because The Wave is so invariably fatal to those who surf it, those few surfers who survive are held in awe.  The first recorded surfer, whose birth name is lost to history, was given the name Splat after his attempt ended in failure.  His successor, some years or decades later, was called Splatter.  His successor in turn was called Splattest. Their jawbones, or what other remains could be found, were used as totems in Elder Council.  Jawbones being only made of bone, they eventually wore out, and needed to be replaced.  Some years, at the autumn mating festival, an ambitious young male would announce his intention to become the next Splat, and after seeing that his family did not object, the Elders would allow him to Do The Wave.  If his jawbone was recovered intact, it was used as the next Council totem.  At some point after the invention of writing, the Splats began to be numbered.  The current Council totem is the jawbone of Splat XIV, which gives an indication of how old Scoti culture is – they have worn out thirteen jawbones in annual Councils. As the population increased, and some years more than one male would express a desire to be a candidate Splat, the bar was raised – a candidate would only become a Splat if he survived Doing The Wave (the Council would accept the gift of his jawbone at his funeral). A youth culture of Splat candidates – mostly scouts – has gradually arisen, and is held in mixed admiration and contempt by the rest of Scoti.

          At this point, Pat MacEwen stopped by to help.  She had some great ideas about biology, but we were well past that stage, and we were dismissive of her ideas, to our discredit.  Her thoughts on chemosensory, acoustic, and electro-sensory perception inspired me to think afresh about hibernation in the shower on Sunday morning. [Those who have lived with me will tell you I already hibernate in the shower.]  Humans have both aerobic and anaerobic metabolisms. Anaerobic metabolism kicks in when muscles, for example, use oxygen faster than the heart can deliver it.  The lactic acid produced as a waste product causes the “burn” that weight lifters seek.  So a combination of hibernation and anaerobic metabolism could keep selids and other animals alive during the winter, when they are trapped below the ice.  Pat confirmed this on Sunday afternoon, adding that anaerobic metabolism is only 1/8th as efficient as aerobic metabolism.  That’s more than good enough for a deeply hibernating animal in freezing water.

          Scoti property consists of small personal items.  Everything of value to society belongs to society.  Scoti are good socialists.  This is common in small communities in harsh environments.

          Scoti economics is primitive by Earth standards, consisting largely of trade and barter. Money has not been invented, as it is not needed.

          In the early millennia of Scoti civilization, housing consists of igloos.  It is gradually supplemented by buildings of bamboo, kelp, animal skins, and snow/ice.  Even in the Scoti industrial age, buildings are largely dug into the ice, with only one or two stories above ground for the storms to batter.

          Scoti have health care. Scoti care for their ill, injured, and aged.  A typical Scoti is fertile through age 50, and dies at age 60.  It is socially incumbent on the aged to remove themselves from society when they became a burden, and a typical Scoti funeral is a shared remembrance of the Scoti’s life, followed by the aged Scoti Doing The Wave. Some Scoti aged do not Do The Wave, and die in hospice after lengthy palliative care.  This is a source of shame to their families.

          Scoti industry was driven by steam and geothermal power in its early years.  As increasing productivity allowed a larger population, population pressure in turn drove Scoti out away from Scoti, and into the cold.  Demand for heat in the suburbs in winter became intense.  Suburban houses were initially heated by fire-driven steam, but this proved very inefficient. What was needed was a way to move energy into the suburbs in potential form.  Earth solved this problem with wood, coal, fuel oil, natural gas, and electricity.  On Scoti, wood is too valuable to burn, there is no coal or oil, and the discovery of electricity was long delayed by an error on my part.  The Scoti tried making alcohol with bioreactors, and piping it to the suburbs, but the pipes froze.  They then tried hydrogen peroxide, which will release steam, oxygen, and copious heat when you decompose it with a catalyst, and has the added benefit of not dumping valuable carbon into the air.  Unfortunately, peroxide freezes more easily than alcohol.  Neither of these burst the pipes, as only water expands on freezing, but neither did the pipes deliver any liquids for heating.  Scoti engineers settled for cracking the alcohol into natural gas and living with the inefficiency, until they got electricity.  Electrification took Scoti by storm.  Suddenly tidal power could be directly harnessed and used to generate hydrogen from seawater, and the hydrogen could be used to heat the suburbs without dumping carbon into the air.

          Portable energy sources also enable mobility.  On Earth this has given birth to the steamship, the railroad, the automobile, and the airplane.  On Scoti, it allows the sled to be supplemented by the snowmobile.  Snowmobiles are steam powered, with alcohol as the heat source.  The steam is captured, condensed, and re-used.  The carbon wastage is tolerated, as snowmobiles are not the dominant form of transport on Scoti.  Snowmobiles have very limited range in deep winter, as some of the alcohol must be burned to keep the alcohol tank from freezing, even when the crew is camped.  Some snowmobiles have been adapted to burn hydrogen, but this is still experimental.

          The first Scoti airplanes were steam powered, as were the human Samuel Langley’s early unmanned airplanes. Unlike on Earth, a steam powered airplane can fly well enough to carry a crew.  Like Langley, though, Scoti aviators soon turned to internal combustion engines because of their superior power to weight ratio.  As with snowmobiles, the carbon wastage is tolerated.  Later generations of airplanes used turbine engines, turbojets, and rockets.  These were used for atmospheric research and technology development until colonists in the southern hemisphere established themselves as a going concern.

          Once the southern colony was clearly there to stay, some kind of real time communication was necessary.  Scoti never discovered radio, because without a magnetic field [oops], they never discovered static magnetism.  They discovered electromagnetism, and used it to make permanent magnets and electric generators, but they haven’t yet discovered electromagnetic radiation.  So they have no radio, no radar, no microwave ovens, no television (…no motor car, not a single luxury, all here on G. Nordley’s world…), no Jerry Springer, no ESPN…sounds nice, actually.  Anyway, running a telegraph line over the equatorial glacier wouldn’t be practical even if it were possible.  The only alternative was telegraphy by heliograph, but that didn’t work at night.  Then someone realized that these new rockets could be used with these new lasers, to run a telegraphy service.  Specially trained telegraph operators could send messages in Scorse Code to rockets in orbit, and the crewmen there could relay the messages to the southern hemisphere.  Thus was born the Scoti space program.

          With regular space travel, Scoti began sending scouting parties to the second moon.  They discovered life there.  The dominant life form is a kind of whale.  It hibernates under the ice most of the year, as most Scoti animals do.  There are some indications the whales may be smarter than polar bears, but it’s hard to tell.

          A small colony is started on the second moon.  Scoti technology has no lasers powerful enough to be seen across hundreds of thousands of kilometers, so there is no real time communication between Scoti and Nova Scoti. Messages travel by ship. A weird “back to nature” cult is agitating for passage to Nova Scoti, to live “as our ancestors did.”  Youth. Clueless.  They didn’t call our ancestors Splat for nothing.  Those cultists wouldn’t survive their first winter.

          Scoti have dense oily fur, and can tolerate –40 F without clothing or shelter.  With clothing and shelter, Scoti can survive on land year round, but they can’t live off the land in winter.  As a very social species, Scoti explore in groups. Without radio, each scouting party is autonomous, but they’re not sanguine about it, preferring to leave decisions to the Elders.  Most scouting parties include a junior Elder as a decision manager.

          Scoti reaction to the unknown is to fall back, observe, and send for an Elder.  This was to show up very strongly in the First Contact simulation, when we stayed in character, consulted at length with our Elder, and bored the audience silly.  Pat MacEwen did a marvelous job as the Elder running the First Contact, especially considering that all she had to go on was a five-minute scattershot briefing by Michael, Buzz, and me.

          I have just discovered a new way to describe a COTI First Contact simulation.  It’s improv anthropology.  Along that line, Scoti has no environmentalists.  There is nothing you can do to make this environment worse. It does have a small but vocal group of anti-environmentalists, who want to dump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to warm the place up.  When Gerald introduced us, the greenies were holding a rally in the capitol.  They were chanting, as activists do at rallies.
         “What do we want?”
         “GREENHOUSE EFFECT!”
         “When do we want it?”
         “NOW!”

          Building this world was hard work and great fun.  It always is.

-R