Saturday, 13 September 2014

More On The Macromolecule

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 1 Apr 2014.

Anderson, Poul, "Iron" IN Niven, Larry, Ed. The Man-Kzin Wars (London, 1989), pp. 27-177.

We learn more about the organic matter covering Prima and also about the yellow matter covering the other airless bodies in the red dwarf system. Both kinds of matter are cleverly integrated into the plot of "Iron."

Cosmic radiation within galaxies and quantum mechanics between galaxies caused random changes in the supermolecule that had covered Prima. Chemical structures that assimilated fresh material more efficiently were naturally selected, including:

atom-grabbing and catalytic components;
ways of -
passing atoms between receptors;
extracting planetary material;
breaking down carbonates and silicates;
incorporating metallic atoms;
growing and combining through clathrate formation.

The thin surface-covering mantle, strongly bound to the underlying rock and activated by approaching light, ripples in waves that emanate from darker nodes while it knits a landed spaceship's landing jacks into its structure, then gradually eats the ship.

The supernova-produced yellow material, comprising faceted spherical molecules of linked carbon atoms, each molecule surrounding a single metal atom, acts in aggregate like a fluid and possibly played a basic role in the origin of planetary life. When Saxtorph falls into a hole filled with such matter, he can neither climb nor swim out and it blocks his radio but Laurinda, knowing that he is there, rescues him with a cable.

Thick plastic heat-sealed bags of yellow matter superglued to landing jacks enable a spaceship to land and stand safely on Prima for hours because:

"The devourer could not quickly incorporate atoms so strongly interlinked. As it did, more flowed in to fill the gaps." (p. 175)

Thus, the yellow problem solves the organic problem.

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