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<   No. 1469   2007-02-03   >

Comic #1469

1 {scene: Another part of Bune, where Paris is talking with a man.}
1 Paris: So you're a genetic engineer?
2 fforbes-Davïs: Yes. I'm part of a team designing variant human genotypes for high gravity worlds. We make them shorter to better deal with the mechanical stresses.
3 Paris: Interesting. What's this work called?
4 fforbes-Davïs: The human G-gnome project.

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The Human Genome Project is (or was, depending on your point of view) a scientific project with the aim of sequencing and mapping the entire genome of a human being. According to some definitions, the goal has been achieved, with pretty much all of the most interesting bits of the genome being sequenced, but there remain long chains of repetitive DNA that are difficult to analyse and have not been fully mapped yet.

The really wild thing is all of these data are publicly available and searchable via your web browser. From multiple different sites. Not that it will mean much to anyone who isn't a professional geneticist, but hey, it's there if you want it.

Now we can get down to the really interesting stuff, like designing variant humans who can breathe underwater, and live on high-G planets!

2016-10-05 Rerun commentary: The ocean behind them is because they're on Bune, a predominantly oceanic-world, with just a few small islands. This man Paris has met has obviously taken her to the beach for a walk in the sand, or something.

Actually, in a world that's 99% ocean and with just a few small islands, would there be beaches? Sand comes from coastal erosion, and given there's barely any coast (compared to say Earth), you'd expect there to be barely any sand. You probably need hundreds of kilometres of coastline to generate enough sand to make one beach. So on Bune there probably isn't much sand at all, and the coastlines might all be rocky.

EDIT: Okay, clearly I know nothing about sand. Various readers write:

Depends on what kind of sand - actually the white sand on tropical beaches, is in part coral - the result of Parrot fish gnawing on coral reefs for food - and other parts are tiny shell of foraminifera and broken down parts of the shell of other, larger life lifeforms.

There might be less "quartzy" sand, but more of the tropical kind, since the marine environment is probably teaming with life. (At least if there's enough oxygen to support life...)

I think sand on Bune's small islands isn't improbable, and in fact would be quite likely.

For example, look at all the various small islands scattered around the Pacific. I live in Hawaii, and there are plenty of beaches among the Hawaiian islands, especially the older ones. As the Hawaiian archipelago is some of the most isolated land on earth, it's exceedingly improbable that any of the sand here came from a continent (as it would have to migrate several thousand miles/kiometers across the ocean, and up from the sea floor several thousand feet/meters below). While I haven't had the pleasure of visiting other Pacific islands, from the pictures I've seen most of them don't appear very rocky at all; usually they're ringed in beaches.

There's one important contributor to sand formation that isn't mentioned in the annotation: coral. Coral (the organism) creates its exoskeletal colonies from minerals drawn from seawater, and then eventually those exoskeletons break down and become white sand. It's like a renewable sand generator, which helps keep all those tiny atolls in the south Pacific from eroding away. Though I suppose it's never been specified whether Bune has a coral-type organism or not; that would definitely affect the amount of sand present if there's no coral. There would likely still be some beaches, though, as here on the Big Island of Hawaii most of the beaches just have black sand made from basalt (plus the green sand beach made from olivine down near South Point), without much white sand at all yet.

In fact, if the islands are volcanic, sand could be formed at the same time the beach was, as it's been observed forming directly where lava impacts the ocean.

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