Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Triton's Migration in Full Detail

In my previous blog post, I teased the global journeys taken by our two biggest colossi, Triton and Proteus.  Triton walks a path stopping at 50 of the world's most populous cities while Proteus's journey takes him to 23 of our tallest skyscrapers (including several that have yet to be finished in 2015, such as the Wilshire Grand in Los Angeles and Hermitage Plaza in Paris).  Today I'd like to offer more insight into Triton's migration.

Before addressing the length and required time of their journeys, the first question is: how would they cross the water?  As my titans will often be wildly different in their biological and physiological make-up, so too must be their methods of locomotion.  While I plan to have at least one or two who "doggy paddle" their way across the seas, I want Triton and Proteus to stay dry from at least the knees down, for reasons that will be revealed closer to the book's release.  To accomplish this and maintain a degree of realism, I turned first to water striders.  Water striders have a sort of cilia/hair system around their feet that allows them to "walk on water," which I've adapted for use on my two biggest titans.  However, if you strapped extra weight to a water strider's back (like, oh say, a city full of humans), the extra weight would sink it.  To solve this problem of added weight, I looked 100 years to the past in my book and to real-world Finnish biomimetics.

It's always been my intent, in my fictional universe, to have a period of one to three years in which humans frantically developed and implemented their plans for leaving the ground-level surface while the mysterious red-orange fog slowly covered the Earth.  When adapting to life in a "theriopolis" (or beast-city), keeping us above the surface on water would be as important as getting above the 1,000-foot fog ceiling in the first place.  If these teams observed Triton traversing the water, his strider-like cilia would be an immediate point of focus.  Next, to counteract the added weight of a population and its township on Triton's back, it would simply be a matter of developing a long-lasting flotation device to help keep us up.  Conventional balloon/bladder systems would leak or be crushed, possibly in a matter of months.  But a solid, flexible, superbuoyant shoe of some kind would accommodate changes in terrain, weather and weight, providing a long-term solution to compensate for our mass.

The Helsinki University of Technology in Espoo, Finland, has already developed a breakthrough material that solves the "water-walking" problem raised by Triton.  Explained further at the American Chemical Society website, this aerogel, derived from the cellulose in plants, keeps 1000x its own weight buoyant in water.  If we combine this with the water strider's nano-fibrous seafaring, so to speak, the solution becomes clear.

Let's pretend we shod Triton like a horse with just 5,000 lbs. of Helsinki University's nanocellulose aerogel on each of his four feet.  That's the weight of one mid-size sedan each - a small burden to lift for a half-mile tall creature.  With that, we could float 20 million pounds of added weight without Triton's feet even treading any deeper on his trek across the ocean, let alone sinking him entirely.  This equates to roughly 60 small homes - each the size of a two-bedroom apartment - plus their inhabitants, even before calculating in what Triton's (and the remainder of his cilia's) natural buoyancy could keep up.

By neutralizing much of this added cargo's gravitational pressure on the water, Triton could maintain a steady speed as he skated the ocean's surface.  The second question is:  How long is Triton's journey, assuming he could walk on the surface and float along the water?  Like I said, Triton is attracted to the Earth's cities that had the highest populations before we left the surface.  He walks a global path stopping at 50 of those cities, which are pinpointed on this downloadable map along with Proteus's path, which I'll discuss another time.  Connecting these 50 points in a semi-linear pattern (with brief stops to stretch his legs in Saipan and Honolulu), Triton completes his circuit in 48,033 miles.  For current hypothetical purposes, I'm assuming Triton meanders at about 15 mph.  Simple division tells us that, if he didn't stop for an instant at any one city, his trip around the globe would take 3,202 hours, or 133 days and 10 hours.  If he paused for an hour per city, it would take him 135 days and 12 hours to circle the earth completely.

The third question is:  Why figure this stuff out so exactly?  First, I hate deus ex machinas.  Nearly anything I put in a book, I want explained and believable.  "Suspension of disbelief" is a great mental tool that allows us to go along with a fictional story, but I aim to test your faith as little as is humanly possible.  Second, by writing distinct personality traits and locomotive speeds for each leviathan, I can triangulate their global position down to within 10 miles (or one hour) for any moment in their 100-year tenure roaming the planet.  If a person needs to travel from Triton to Proteus (for example), I need to know when, where and how often the two would cross paths in order to make that happen.  Since this book will involve a healthy amount of inter-colossi travel, I couldn't ask a reader to pay money for it if I kept saying "Oh, fortunately, these two beasts just happened to cross paths that day."  If one character needs to get to a city that his/her titan doesn't visit - or to a person on another titan - one or several transfers (plus some overnight stays atop skyscrapers in between) arise as feasible options.

With these planned migration routes, Earth just became a worldwide above-level subway system.

Thanks for reading.  Stay tuned for more insight into my next book.

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