A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

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Is this an intriguing idea?

Yes
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90%
No
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10%
 
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby Charlie! » Tue Jul 31, 2012 6:12 am UTC

I was born in a water moon...
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby idobox » Tue Jul 31, 2012 10:41 am UTC

Assuming a reasonable amount of carbon, nitrogen, and other elements, that planet could sustain life, and that would be a pretty neat ecosystem.

First of all, boatloads of organic material would sink, and some life forms would specialize in catching it, or maybe be able to live near the core. Jellyfishes would rule the depths.
Second, if we assume there are no ice caps, the only way life could get out of the water would be by animals resembling flying fish evolving into bird like animals that would probably have an aquatic larval state.
With no rocks or coral reefs, it would be impossible to nest or hide. I suppose there would be few animals resembling crustaceans, but a lot of filtering animals and their predators, both probably quite large.
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby yurell » Tue Jul 31, 2012 11:05 am UTC

Wouldn't a lot of nutrients be permanently lost on the ocean floor, though? I'd imagine the depth and pressures would make the abyssal plain look like shallow water, and would be even deeper than the Challenger Deep.
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby idobox » Tue Jul 31, 2012 12:50 pm UTC

I don't see why life could [edit]not[/edit] thrive on the bottom of that ocean. Of course, pressure would be absurdly high, but as long as water remains liquid, life should be possible. Can cytoplasm even turn into ice VI ?
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby Yakk » Tue Jul 31, 2012 2:10 pm UTC

idobox, you missed a "not".

You can look at our oceans, where life gets really sparse near the bottom, outside of some vents. Sunlight is really, really, really good life-fuel.
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby idobox » Tue Jul 31, 2012 2:53 pm UTC

Corrected.

Some organic material is bound to fall, and with the solid core being so deep, its surface would be significantly smaller, concentrating nutrients.
You don't need sunlight when you have garbage. And life is not that scarce in Earth deep oceans, even outside vents, because a lot of garbage falls down.
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Jul 31, 2012 5:36 pm UTC

If the planet has earth-like gravity (as per my original post), the size of the ice core is not actually that much smaller than the planet as a whole, relatively speaking.
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby mercutio_stencil » Tue Jul 31, 2012 9:02 pm UTC

Personally, I'm imagine giant neutrally buoyant filter feeders floating around at depth, living off the organic detritus that falls. Marine snow is a pretty big thing in our oceans, and I can only imagine the potential nutrients available would push some form of life to use it as an energy source.

Once you have some big floating things, (I'm thinking kilometers big, for coolness sake, maybe someone else can come up with a good reason) then it's fairly simple to have other organisms built to take advantage of the habitat provided by the filterers. They would become floating coral reefs, self contained ecosystems floating around in the depths of the ocean. The vastness of the planet would mean that they would rarely interact with one another, causing each one to evolve differently, and when they did interact, it would be as if they were interacting with a new and different alien world.

The surface life would of course be obsessed with gathering sunlight, if I were in charge, I'd go for giant photosynthetic manta rays freely floating on the surface. Actually, they'd be kind of like the living islands that sailors spoke of in days of yore, with entire cities built on the backs of turtles.

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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby idobox » Wed Aug 01, 2012 10:06 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:If the planet has earth-like gravity (as per my original post), the size of the ice core is not actually that much smaller than the planet as a whole, relatively speaking.

At constant Earth gravity and constant density, at 0°C, water turns to ice VI at about 600MPa, which gives a depth of 600km.
A ball of uncrompessible water that doesn't turn into iceVI would need to be roughly 40 000km in radius. Even by taking compression and higher density ice VI into account, that's still a big planet. Much bigger than I expected.

mercutio_stencil wrote:Personally, I'm imagine giant neutrally buoyant filter feeders floating around at depth, living off the organic detritus that falls. Marine snow is a pretty big thing in our oceans, and I can only imagine the potential nutrients available would push some form of life to use it as an energy source.

They don't exist in our oceans, I don't really see a reason they would exist in that ocean. The closest thing is giant jellyfishes, and I don't think they live very deep.
I rather imagine large filtering animals that move and eat whatever has already fallen down, or the microbes that develop there.

I also imagine scavengers moving large distances to feed off the remains of large animals that died and sunk.

I also imagine seaweeds evolving first to live on the surface to catch the most sunlight, the thickest ones becoming nesting sites for bird-like animals and using their dejections and other organic materials as fertilizers.
The result would be rather large floating plant like islands.
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby mercutio_stencil » Wed Aug 01, 2012 8:58 pm UTC

idobox wrote:
mercutio_stencil wrote:Personally, I'm imagine giant neutrally buoyant filter feeders floating around at depth, living off the organic detritus that falls. Marine snow is a pretty big thing in our oceans, and I can only imagine the potential nutrients available would push some form of life to use it as an energy source.

They don't exist in our oceans, I don't really see a reason they would exist in that ocean. The closest thing is giant jellyfishes, and I don't think they live very deep.
I rather imagine large filtering animals that move and eat whatever has already fallen down, or the microbes that develop there.

I also imagine scavengers moving large distances to feed off the remains of large animals that died and sunk.


While I admit rule of cool comes first, we have plenty of huge filter feeders on our planet (Think baleen whales). Whales live a much more energy intensive life than my hypothetical things do, and marine snow would be much more prominent, especially at depths. Given the greater concentration of resources, I think it would be fair to assume that we would see a greater diversity of life. We already have the phenomenon of deep sea gigantism, and the tendency for deep sea organisms to show reduced skeletons. There's also Bergmann's rule, which states that the colder the environment, the larger the organisms tend to be.

I don't think that the scavenger approach is much more likely; unlike whale falls in our ocean, there isn't really a stopping point (pending the physics of the ice core) so it would require an incredible amount of energy expended to chase down these carcases, and an ability to survive at a wide range of pressures, simply in order to feed effectively. Most of the organisms that take care of whale falls here are relatively slow moving and they can take years to decompose the corpse.

Which raises the point, unless there is some mechanism (or organism) to bring the minerals from bones back to the surface, there will end up being a pretty heavy nutrient deficiency. At the center of the planet, would there just be a ball of crushed, compressed bone?

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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby Charlie! » Thu Aug 02, 2012 6:36 am UTC

mercutio_stencil wrote:Which raises the point, unless there is some mechanism (or organism) to bring the minerals from bones back to the surface, there will end up being a pretty heavy nutrient deficiency. At the center of the planet, would there just be a ball of crushed, compressed bone?

(i.e. limestone). If you're starting with a big ball of water, then definitely you have some problems getting enough minerals for bones in the first place. Carbon-based substitutes might work, if we're assuming there's lots of organic gunk in our ball of water.
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby idobox » Thu Aug 02, 2012 10:20 am UTC

mercutio_stencil wrote:While I admit rule of cool comes first, we have plenty of huge filter feeders on our planet (Think baleen whales). Whales live a much more energy intensive life than my hypothetical things do, and marine snow would be much more prominent, especially at depths. Given the greater concentration of resources, I think it would be fair to assume that we would see a greater diversity of life. We already have the phenomenon of deep sea gigantism, and the tendency for deep sea organisms to show reduced skeletons. There's also Bergmann's rule, which states that the colder the environment, the larger the organisms tend to be.

I don't think that the scavenger approach is much more likely; unlike whale falls in our ocean, there isn't really a stopping point (pending the physics of the ice core) so it would require an incredible amount of energy expended to chase down these carcases, and an ability to survive at a wide range of pressures, simply in order to feed effectively. Most of the organisms that take care of whale falls here are relatively slow moving and they can take years to decompose the corpse.


There would be a solid core, and marine snow will accumulate on it, so the bottom of that ocean shouldn't be very different from ours, except for the absurd pressure. Harvesting whatever has fallen and accumulated on the ground would be more efficient than maintaining a large capture surface, that's why I envision animals filtering the mud, eating the thin sheet of organic matter. Bergmann's rule is about surface vs volume, the colder the environment, the rounder the animal, to limit heat losses. That doesn't work with thin animals. Also, I'm pretty sure cold blooded animals can adapt to live at most temperatures.

Charlie! wrote:(i.e. limestone). If you're starting with a big ball of water, then definitely you have some problems getting enough minerals for bones in the first place. Carbon-based substitutes might work, if we're assuming there's lots of organic gunk in our ball of water.

Plants manage to be rigid without bones, horns and chitin shells are animal examples. True bones are far from being necessary.
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby yurell » Thu Aug 02, 2012 10:45 am UTC

How cold would the floor be? I seem to recall that the temperature at the bottom of the ocean IRL is warmer than the waters above it due to adiabatic heating.
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Thu Aug 02, 2012 2:37 pm UTC

Charlie! wrote:
mercutio_stencil wrote:Which raises the point, unless there is some mechanism (or organism) to bring the minerals from bones back to the surface, there will end up being a pretty heavy nutrient deficiency. At the center of the planet, would there just be a ball of crushed, compressed bone?

(i.e. limestone). If you're starting with a big ball of water, then definitely you have some problems getting enough minerals for bones in the first place. Carbon-based substitutes might work, if we're assuming there's lots of organic gunk in our ball of water.

Limestone is made of calcium carbonate, which is definitely water soluble. I think questions about elements coming back to the surface from the depths revolves around them being water soluble. Does anybody know if solids and gases would dissolve anything like normally in water at pressures just below forming ice VI?

yurell wrote:How cold would the floor be? I seem to recall that the temperature at the bottom of the ocean IRL is warmer than the waters above it due to adiabatic heating.

Hydrogen and oxygen isotopes decay either very quickly, or not at all. So radioactive decay wouldn't be a source of heat like on earth. Gmalivuk also specified that the planet doesn't have any primordial heat at this point.
So there wouldn't be any adiabatic heating because the planet would be the the same temperature throughout, with a little fluctuation on the surface.
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby Sizik » Fri Aug 03, 2012 7:56 pm UTC

It could be heated tidally.
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Aug 03, 2012 8:07 pm UTC

Microbes and other food chains could solubilize minerals. Calcium, for example, in sea water, is fairly easily and robustly maintained by a variety of biological and abiological processes.

I think it's a pretty neat idea for a world. I remember reading in various sci-fi that you'd never see complex technology arise, because so much of technological progress requires combustion. I wager you'd still see fairly complicated chemistry arise, but, I imagine a number of required reactions would be strikingly more dangerous in an aqueous environment.

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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby chenille » Fri Aug 03, 2012 10:50 pm UTC

Even so, our plankton is only abundant where there is upwelling of nutrients from the bottom. Here that's a long way down, so there would be much, much less mixing with the top, and dissolved materials would take a long time to get back. So if there are plankton that extract them, I imagine they would have to be very scarce and slow-growing. Probably only occasional microbes like our endoliths, since predators would be hard to support, and without them they might as well not bother growing big before reproducing.

At the bottom material should accumulate well enough, but if the slow trickle of plankton are the only source of energy that means life there would have to be pretty scarce too. If there's a way for cells to survive the pressure - since it's right on the edge of solidifying, they would need some trick to avoid or survive occasional pressure-freezing, so that's some interesting chemistry already.

But all in all, the resources are just spread out over so much volume and separated by so much distance, it's hard to imagine much of any size.

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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Aug 03, 2012 11:24 pm UTC

Out of curiosity, assuming 1g, approximately how deep can water get before the pressure forces it to crystallize?

I also remembered reading now from Gaia theory that much of the dissolved mineral content of the oceans is thought to be a combination of land-surface run off, plate tectonic mixing, and biological processes. At least that's what it was thought to be from in the mid 90's.
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Aug 04, 2012 12:08 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Out of curiosity, assuming 1g, approximately how deep can water get before the pressure forces it to crystallize?
It happens on the order of 1GPa, or 10,000 atmospheres, or 100km of 1g/cc density water in a 1g gravitational field.
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby Izawwlgood » Sat Aug 04, 2012 4:47 am UTC

Wow cool. For comparison, the Marina Trench is approximately 11km deep.
So, assuming various trace minerals, is the thinking for this hypothetical that a ball of pure water would form, outgas/evaporate enough to create atmo, and then maintain general spherical shape around a solid water core?

I'm trying to phrase this as correctly as possible; would such a mass be dense enough such that the water at the edge of the planetary sphere still be under enough gravitational attraction to stay part of the sphere? I guess it'd be rather difficult to determine the size of the solid, compressed solid water core?

Maybe I'm thinking about this the wrong way. Assume water in space. Everything deeper than 100km is going to be solid. What is the compression factor of this form of solid water?
EDIT:Because life can do anything, I love the idea of lifeforms rooting around the bottom, digging through the asteroid debris and burrowing into the solid ice, leaving it mealy and full of more life. Or, you know, a dead zone from which no organic matter returns.
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby Sockmonkey » Sat Aug 04, 2012 11:26 pm UTC

I would think that the variey of species would be less than that of earth's oceans since there are no land masses to isolate species from one another. Aside from the different layers of depth, it's all one big undifferentiated biome.
Adding minor impurities is enough to make water a passable conductor, so you could have a magnetic field. Just not as strong since everything below 600-900 km is solid. Possible multiple poles due to random currents?
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby Izawwlgood » Sat Aug 04, 2012 11:27 pm UTC

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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby Uberconfused » Tue Aug 07, 2012 5:44 pm UTC

Sounds like this would be a horrible place. I am assuming that for this we would still be human and not some sort of weird fish hybrid creature in which case crap still floats.... mostly. So I can only assume that after a certain amount of time the outer layer of the water world would be surrounded by human waste and a layer of methane gas making the surface uninhabitable. At this point all life under the water would begin to die off from lack of sunlight. Enjoy.

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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby oxoiron » Tue Aug 07, 2012 9:52 pm UTC

If you are going to assume humans are there, it seems safe to assume that there are also organisms in the water compatible with human life. This being the case, there would be plenty of things living off of the crap of other things (circle of life and whatnot). There is no reason to think that the atmosphere would turn into a cloud of methane. It's hard to find a by-product of life that some other form of life hasn't found a use for (including methane).
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby chenille » Tue Aug 07, 2012 10:11 pm UTC

In the long run a supply of organic waste at the top would be great for life, because it would actually make nutrients and energy available in the same place, instead of having one settle a hundred kilometres below the other. The main problem with loose fertilizer here on Earth is causing blooms of microbes that choke everything else out, so if there's nothing else around, it doesn't sound so bad. If there are other organisms, it becomes a question of how toxic the waste is, how fast the ecosystem recycles it, how fast we add it, and so on, same as here.

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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Wed Aug 08, 2012 6:34 pm UTC

Quizatzhaderac wrote:So radioactive decay wouldn't be a source of heat like on earth.

After using math®, I've decided to retract that statement.

Assuming the same H2O to K+ mass ratio as in human body (260:1), the same K40 mass fraction of potassium as on earth, and the same mass as earth. (using the K mass fraction of the mantle figure from Wikipedia) K40 alone would produce 1.15 * 10^14 W of internal heating, more than twice Earth's 4.42 × 10^13 W total heat loss.

Now if we assumed the same temperature gradient as earth (a little less than 1 degree K per kilometer) we shouldn't get any ice VI as the temperature would be too high at 90 km, or ice VII at 900 KM. Unfortunately Gmalivuk's super phase diagram stops at 1000 K, but I suspect that in the earth's core's conditions (7,000 K, 360 GPa) water would be a fluid.

My best guesses of what would happen are that either 1) The planet's temperature is about melting point below 90 km, with a negative feedback mechanism where high temperatures lead to fluids, which lead to convection, which leads to cooling; and low temperatures lead to insulation, which leads to heating. Or 2) The planet is fluid throughout, with a complex an inefficient convection system. Akin to how atmosphere's have vertical structure.
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby mercutio_stencil » Thu Aug 09, 2012 12:46 am UTC

chenille wrote:In the long run a supply of organic waste at the top would be great for life, because it would actually make nutrients and energy available in the same place, instead of having one settle a hundred kilometres below the other. The main problem with loose fertilizer here on Earth is causing blooms of microbes that choke everything else out, so if there's nothing else around, it doesn't sound so bad. If there are other organisms, it becomes a question of how toxic the waste is, how fast the ecosystem recycles it, how fast we add it, and so on, same as here.


The microbial blooms are only a a short term problem, and only in an environment not designed to accommodate them. On this planet, the environment would be much more(pardon the pun) fluid, and I'd imagine that lots of things would be adapted to take advantage of temporary food sources. There could be a temporary bloom in algae, followed by a corresponding explosion of the corresponding predators, leading to complex, if temporary, ecosystems. Especially if there isn't a solid core to accumulate resources (Still waiting on the physics to reach a conclusion) then the ecosystem could end up looking a lot like the ones built around modern whale falls. Long periods of stagnation, with animals lying dormant, or else living low energy lifestyles, followed by a great abundance of foodstuff, an orgy of feeding and sex (is there any other kind of orgy), and then a mass die-off (or return to dormancy) when the resource is depleted.

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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby idobox » Thu Aug 09, 2012 9:34 am UTC

Quizatzhaderac wrote:Assuming the same H2O to K+ mass ratio as in human body (260:1)

I think this ratio is unrealistic. It would make a physiological serum ball, not a water ball.
Earth oceans have .04% of K+ by mass, according to wikipedia, about 10 times less.
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby HungryHobo » Thu Aug 09, 2012 2:39 pm UTC

just to throw something in.

There's an interesting substance ,alpha-cyclodextrine, which freezes when you warm it.

http://www.phschool.com/science/science ... _heat.html

It's a ring, when warmed it distorts presenting it's innards for hydrogen bonding.

At room temperature, about 20°C, the mixture is a clear liquid. It transforms into a milky white block at a temperature between 45°C and 75°C, depending on the proportions of the mixture's ingredients. This is not a gelling effect, the researchers say.

"There's no chemical change," notes physical chemist Ralf Schweins of the Laue-Langevin Institute in Grenoble, a member of the research team. "When you cool it down, it becomes a liquid again." Tests also indicate that the heat-formed solid reliquefies when heated above approximately 95°C, the team reports.


a waterworld with a large portion of this chemical, perhaps under the pretext of it being secreted by some organism could include hot icebergs floating around the equator.

45 degrees plus would be pretty murderous though and the proportions might be a bit crazy or poisonous.
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Thu Aug 09, 2012 3:20 pm UTC

idobox wrote:I think this ratio is unrealistic. It would make a physiological serum ball, not a water ball.
Earth oceans have .04% of K+ by mass, according to wikipedia, about 10 times less.


Unrealistic by what measure? We're already assuming about 80 times the galactic mass fraction of oxygen, so it seems fair game to pick and choose the elemental composition.

As for it being "water": water is defined in two ways. The new (scientific) way: the fluid made of H2O. Or the original way:the fluid common in everyday life, which was discovered to be a solution mainly composed of H2O.
The ocean contains 2.7 times as much sodium as I'm postulating, so it is even further from the H2O definition.

As to it being like a human physiological serum: true. But if we want a solution to support life, it needs to at least be a culture. Ocean algae (for example) won't grow in distilled water, one needs sea water. We wouldn't call sea water a "physiological serum" because it's how we found the sea and the algea; however we're not going to "find" this planet.
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby chenille » Thu Aug 09, 2012 4:24 pm UTC

I think you might at least stick to freshwater, though, which does have its own algae. If you start with a mix that heavy in minerals, you really can't expect them to stay distributed homogenously through it. Long before the ocean turns so salty, you're going to end up with some kind of rocky core like Europa or Callisto. It definitely changes the geology a lot from what a nearly-pure water world would look like.

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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby idobox » Thu Aug 09, 2012 4:29 pm UTC

Quizatzhaderac wrote:Unrealistic by what measure?

Unrealistic is a poor choice of word. Very different from Earth oceans would have been better.
But actually, I have no idea whether high levels of potassium would even be a trouble for standard marine life.

And if you want the core of the planet to be liquid, you just need to assume the proper amount of initial heat, coming from whatever process created the planet in the first place. Sure, the planet will cool down, but that should take a few millions of years.
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Thu Aug 09, 2012 8:39 pm UTC

idobox wrote:...Very different from Earth oceans would have been better.

Very true. Though I'd consider that a good thing. For the context of this thread I'd pretty much define interesting = (ability to support life) * (difference from earth).

I'd think we all want enough impurities to sustain life, which should be at least a little more brackish then freshwater (.05 total solids), as all of the minerals would need to come from solution. If we want it to be human drinkable it should also have much less sodium then sea water. Earth's seas have 1.08% Na,
Recommended human consumption, (relative to water) is recommended at .115%, although food would probably have higher than water concentrations.
Fresh water is defined (according to the Groundwater Foundation) as .05% or less solids; which I think is what freshwater fish need.

chenille wrote:If you start with a mix that heavy in minerals, you really can't expect them to stay distributed homogenously through it


Looking at the salinity profile of the ocean, it doesn't seem to change much over several kilometers (note the x-axis covers just 2.5 percentage points), and that's much more mineral rich then I'm proposing. Over short distances, the dissolving/precipitation energies should dwarf gravitational potentials.
At large distances it's an issue of more, versus less salty water. The saltier water is denser at the same temperature, but it's also nuclear powered, so large build ups should produce heat, then convection, then minerals moving higher up.
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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby chenille » Thu Aug 09, 2012 10:51 pm UTC

Yes, but 2.5 percentage points over a few kilometres allows for a lot of change over the scales we're talking about. More important, conditions are going to change dramatically. Once you go a substantial distance down we have pressures high enough to crush water into the compact ices, and in your model you have temperatures high enough to prevent it from solidifying despite them. So then most of the planet is going to be an extremely hot and compressed super-critical gas.

Is that going to hold much in solution? My naive guess is that as soon as you reach a point cool enough, the salts will start snowing out of it. In which case convection is not going to keep things mixed, but rather separate them out, leaving more minerals near the bottom and sending more and more volatiles to the top. Over geological time this would lead to differentiation like we see in larger icy-rocky moons (the smaller moons, which cooled faster, are the more uniform ones).

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Re: A real water world (merged with "a big ball of water")

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Fri Aug 10, 2012 7:44 pm UTC

chenille wrote:... as soon as you reach a point cool enough, the salts will start snowing out of it


You mean hot enough right? In neither the original isothermal model or heat gradient ones do we have temperatures low enough for for salt to come out (except maybe at the poles).

As for the hydrophobia (for want of a better word) of super-critical water. I think that may be an issue with any concentration of salts. I suppose it depends on what happens at the interface of liquid and super-critical water. Also apparently water decomposes somewhere "well over 2000 °C".
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