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I'm writing a story that takes place in a world where people live on continent-sized chunks of earth (basically the size of tectonic plates) suspended in the air, left over from some cataclysmic event.

Before this event, it was a thriving planet with a technology level slightly superior to our own (with highly advanced nanotechnology and other magnetic-based technology)

I've done a lot of research on google in order to find some possible solutions for what hold up the islands, and the one that sticks out to me the most is superconductivity (AKA quantum locking).

I do want the explanation to be more natural-physical, involving technology as little as possible.

There are two important factors to this scenario:

  1. It needs to be feasible;
  2. Life still needs to be possible.

As far as the feasibility goes, I've also considered possibilities such as having a certain material in the mantle or aesthenosphere, or possibly a high iron content in the crust before the continents are lifted into the air (although I think the latter could affect life on the planet and probably wouldn't work very well).

I've also thought of using diamagnetism instead of having iron-content. But it'd somehow have to be scaled up a TON, and that's not super intuitive.

TL;DR: How could I have a feasible floating continent scenario through natural-ish means?

-If I remember other things I've researched or if I have/remember any other ideas, I will probably edit the OP.

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In the real world? Not feasible at all. It might just be possible with quantum-locked superconductors, but (unless these are cryogenic aliens living on a world with a surface temperature well below 100K) that will not happen naturally. Maybe room-temperature superconductors are possible, but if so, they are definitely not simple natural materials; they would have to have been manufactured are artificially distributed throughout the continental crust in massive quantities.

Now, that said, that is the explanation for the floating mountains of Pandora from Avatar. So, y'know, it's science fiction. You can get away with it if you want.

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  • $\begingroup$ Room temperature superconductor? I ‘ardly know ‘er! $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Aug 16 at 14:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Logan R. Kearsley I am aware of how cold superconductors usually need to be to work. I guess what I should be asking for is: How could I explain away superconductivity of gigantic floating tectonic plates in a way that allows humans to survive on it. I am mostly open to the idea of having them wear a suit of some sort when outside or something like that if need be. (Do you think I should clarify this more in the OP?) $\endgroup$ – Dave Murdock Aug 16 at 22:19
  • $\begingroup$ @DaveMurdock Yes, I should ask what I mean in the question. L.R.K may have varying mileage on the topic, I speak for myself. $\endgroup$ – 011358 smell Aug 17 at 3:31
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    $\begingroup$ @DaveMurdock I either wouldn't explain it, or I'd just say that it was done artificially somehow. If neither of those work for you, I'd ask a second question just on that. $\endgroup$ – Logan R. Kearsley Aug 17 at 23:24
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I like the idea of a planet that blew up. Not a deathstar type explosion, more like an object that gets super heated then cooled very quickly. A fracturing. Massive hemispheres are still locked together having only shifted slightly from the whole, but creating huge cliffs and valleys, some as deep as the core itself. The tectonic plate size chunks that didn't get flung off into infinity are still locked in the gravitational pull of the ruined planet, but sort of 'float' like satellites or moons. The atmosphere might be different from plane to plane, lending to vastly different species or evolutions.

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  • $\begingroup$ I really like the idea of the planet "fracturing". That's definitely not something I'd considered! Do you have any idea of how this could happen? $\endgroup$ – Dave Murdock Aug 23 at 22:19
  • $\begingroup$ @DaveMurdock -The only thing that comes to mind is the rapid heating and cooling scenario I mentioned...maybe the planet passes thru an intense thermal wave or too close to a sun flair. I'm not into astrophysics enough to know what could cause that, but it's your planet... it could just as well have a mantle and crust of brittle lead as it could glass or peanut butter. Personally, I don't see the need for a 'how' if it's the only world the characters know, it just needs to be experienced from their perspective. I hope this helps! $\endgroup$ – NotVizzini Aug 26 at 23:44

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