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The desert planet Arrakis from Dune: Part Two could actually exist: here is what scientists say

Dmytro IvancheskulNews
The movie Dune: Part Two takes place on the imaginary desert planet Arrakis. Source: Warner Bros/collage by OBOZ.UA

The desert planet Arrakis, created by the imagination of science fiction writer Frank Herbert, where the Dune novels and films take place, could well exist in reality and have conditions for human habitation. The only exception is the giant sandworms, the sizes of which were exaggerated by the author.

This conclusion was reached by experts interviewed by Science News. In particular, a climatologist from the University of Bristol in England Alexander Farnsworth and his team conducted a computer simulation of the climate on Arrakis, and vertebrate paleontologist from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville (USA) Patrick Lewis assessed the biological reality of the world.

Farnsworth and his team took as a basis the physical laws that determine the weather and climate on Earth. This makes sense as Herbert drew inspiration for Arrakis from "a kind of semi-science that studies dune systems on the Earth itself."

They then developed this world using data that can be found in Herbert's books as well as in the Dune Encyclopedia.

It is known that although the atmosphere of the fictional planet is similar to the Earth's, it has certain differences. Arrakis has less carbon dioxide in its atmosphere (about 350 parts per million versus 417 on Earth). Dune also has much more ozone in the lower atmosphere: 0.5% of the gases in the atmosphere compared to 0.000001% on Earth.

It is the latter factor, according to scientists, that is crucial for understanding the planet. Since ozone is a powerful greenhouse gas, it is what makes Arrakis' atmosphere much warmer than Earth's.

At the same time, for people on Earth, this amount of ozone would be "incredibly toxic" and "almost fatal," so ozone purification technologies would have to be used.

At the same time, such an amount of ozone would protect the planet well from the harmful radiation of its star Canopus, which does exist in our sky (it is also known as Alpha Carinae), but there is no planet in reality.

The star Arrakis is much hotter than our Sun, and therefore the desert planet would have to be much further away from its luminary than the Earth.

As for the climate on the planet, the authors of the study did not find confirmation of Herbert's idea of the existence of ice polar caps that melted in summer. Their modeling showed that the temperature at the poles would reach 70°C in summer, so there would be no caps there at all. In addition, the weather on Arrakis is too dry to replenish the ice caps in winter.

Scientists also believe that the best place for people to live on the planet would not be in the middle latitudes and places near the poles, which would suffer from extreme summer heat and very cold winters with frosts down to -75°C. Instead, the tropical latitudes of Arrakis would be a relatively more pleasant prospect, with maximum heat reaching 45°C and 15°C during the coldest periods.

However, the tropics on Arrakis would be famous for hurricane-force winds that would regularly cover the inhabitants with sand and create dunes up to 250 meters high.

As Farnsworth points out, this does not make Arrakis uninhabitable. However, people would have needed technology and a lot of outside support to deliver food and water.

As for the legendary giant worms, they probably just couldn't exist. According to the novel, their size reached up to 400 meters, which poses certain problems.

For invertebrate worms, oxygen is a problem, Lewis explained. Worms often absorb oxygen through their skin. The larger the animal, the harder it is for it to get oxygen to its internal organs.

Thus, the worms from Arrakis would have to be vertebrates, like the Zygaspis from sub-Saharan Africa. However, real earthworms are about 20-30 centimeters long and up to 7 millimeters thick.

If there were 400-meter-long worms on Arrakis, they would have to be solid bone, or they would simply be crushed by the planet's gravity. There are huge whales on Earth, but they live in water, which solves the problem with gravity.

Lewis suggests that the giant worms of Dune could exist if they had skeletons made of an ultralight material that is unknown on Earth. This would allow them to solve the problem with gravity. However, there would still be the problem of extremely strong muscles that would allow such a giant creature to move. And even the presence of such muscles creates a new problem: they would emit a lot of heat energy, which would definitely be a disaster for a creature living on a hot planet.

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