How would a blind race become a space faring civilization?

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How would a blind race become a space faring civilization?

Postby liberonscien » Fri Jun 03, 2016 5:40 am UTC

Inspired in part by the aquatic thread, this is simple:

How would blind creatures go to space? How would they even know what space was?

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Re: How would a blind race become a space faring civilization?

Postby Soupspoon » Fri Jun 03, 2016 10:16 am UTC

I think the question is aimed at "how would they conduct basic astronomy?", i.e. discover places to go in space, which I'll address momentarily.

If blind as bats (not that bats are blind, but let's go with it, and assume a sightless pteropus sapiens or similar), they obviously can navigate and interpret their own world, somehow. Perhaps with echolocation, competitively with those creatures that can see. If any can. Is it a dark-world, for some reason, with little1 use for sight? Given the number of independent sight/proto-sight developments, there's got to be a reason why it never happened. Enforced subterranean biosphere away from harsh, atmosphere thinning/superheating light of an over-radiating sun?

Anyway, they've become viable tool-users, to an industrial and then technological level. Or else the base question is moot or is answered by an Uplift scenario. In their exploration of the world, these assumed chiropteroids have then developed/enhanced their flight in flying machines to expand their (perhaps already present, perhaps lost to their tool-use physical developments) personal flying abilities. These will have had sonically opaque 'windows' at the stage when open-cockpit design is made impractical by the increased speeds/altitudes of their creations (or other 'hidden' dangers of the external world), and augmented by tactile/haptic indicators or something akin to a 'pinscreen display' that can be 'echolooked-at'. Progression to 'glass cockpit' analogue (a 'pin cockpit'?) will have to be made when supersonic flight is achieved, with no more use for personal sonar-sight outside the plane, fed by non-sonic sensors.

Because, by this point, science ought to have developed such sensors. Perhaps analogues to our radar (if not also radar, at some point, despite the difference in application at those points across the electromagnetic spectrum... and perhaps the latter sooner, coming from the habitual practice of sonar), from early investigations as to how heat can be detected even if not echo-seen, as they become capable. (Compare and contrast active and passive 'seeing', naturally, whichever detection-method is used.) And like discovery of radio-waves/X-rays, for us, their experiential world expands, with a little help from science.

And when they point their passive 'electromagnetic telescopes' up to beyond the thinning air that, even with technology, they have up until now been unable to traverse, they detect the eqivalents of radio-galaxies, but in invisible (to them) 'visible' (to us) parts of the electromagnetic spectrum... Or else in whatever 'near-visible' spectrum they find works best for surface-based electromagnetic-detection (noting the kind of UV and IR absorbtions in an atmosphere like ours, although with a hostile surface enforcing subterranean living, that might not be relevent). Or else the dust-shrouded planet has to make do with actual radio-astronomy and/or active radio-echolocation development to get through the 'optical chaff'. But depends on the nature of the reasoning for this world being a Kingdom Of The Blind, such that the technoking is only now developing 'one eye' of their own, with which they will expand their horizons.

In short, regardless of deficiencies in sight, by having developed abilities to sufficiently rival whatever senses all directly competing species use, they must become technological. And, once technological, expanding their natural senses by sensors brings about astronomy and thus the ability to probe destinations to space-fare to, for their technological prowess to rise to the challenge in providing the appropriate transport for.

(I'm tempted to say that sightlessness is a strange condition, given its usefulness and apparent ubiquity, even if only infra-red from hot rocks 'illuminates' the environment for cruder biological forms of sight-lines to form from, but a sufficiently opaque atmosphere ('hydro'sphere? Without spoiling the 'development of fire' analogue?) or other such contrivance could factor, here. And it's an anthropocentric bias. A selichamorphic being might well be unable to understand being electrosensually 'blind' and yet be capable of having developed (crude!) electrical devices, manipulators and sensors... Perhaps instead of bat-people, I could have gone for Europan shark-people? But I haven't read any aquatic thread, yet, so I steered clear of that.)

1 Could be as rare/under-rated, from an anthropocentric viewpoint, as electrical-sensing as used by various creatures, or indeed the echolocation method that I'm switching in as sight-replacement for this whole example.

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Re: How would a blind race become a space faring civilization?

Postby Xanthir » Fri Jun 03, 2016 11:13 pm UTC

Shorter Soupspoon: Most of tech development can proceed along identical or very similar tracks for a blind species (especially if they instead echolocate, but that's not required), it'll just use more tactile displays. They won't discover stars until they actually discover the electromagnetic spectrum, and start wondering what these persistent radio signals are (or something similar) and point their instruments upward, but after that they're on the same track as us.
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Re: How would a blind race become a space faring civilization?

Postby jewish_scientist » Mon Aug 08, 2016 4:10 pm UTC

I had to reread the title a couple of times before I realized this thread is not about a contest between the visually impaired.
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Re: How would a blind race become a space faring civilization?

Postby bouer » Sun Sep 04, 2016 2:33 pm UTC

Interesting to think of a people who hear or feel, or even taste or smell, the sky.

If the species has a good sense of hearing then that's probably the best way to use instruments to see long distance immediately. It could even be one before computers are invented. Convert electromagnetic radiation to electricity, amplify it and alter the frequency, then send it through a speaker. Another thing that could be done is focus an image onto a surface that either changes shape itself, or changes electromagnetic properties which in turn changes the shape of a nearby tactile surface.

Longer term recordings might be in the form of etchings or raised bumps that can be read, like blind humans can read braille and specially made maps.

If they orbit a star, that at least, should be easily and early on figured out. They'll notice heat coming from some direction, changing daily. As communication develops over the planet they'll eventually figure out that at any time half of the planet is being heated while the other half isn't. They'll do experiments just like eratosthenes did, using shadows and simple geometry to figure out the shape and size of the planet, and the approximate shape, size, and distance of the sun. They'll also soon enough figure out that an atmosphere exists, and that it attenuates radiative heat, and they'll figure out about gravity, and that it affects the atmosphere and presumably the planet itself and the sun. With these discoveries they should eventually realize that their planet orbits the sun at a great distance, and that there must be near vacuum in between.

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