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I need a plausibly scientific explanation for how an alien species could "transmute" a skull from bone into a glassy or crystalline substance. It doesn't need to to be too hard-science-y, just enough to be a surface level explanation. I know organic to mineral is pretty much an impossible transition, short of magic. But something that fast-tracks the fossilization process, maybe turning it into diamond more than crystal, could be achieved through a chemical bath and/or some kind of radiation treatment. Does this seem plausible? Edit: the main purpose is to preserve skulls of ancestors for veneration.

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  • $\begingroup$ Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. $\endgroup$
    – Community Bot
    Feb 28, 2022 at 15:33
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    $\begingroup$ Certain inexplicable memes just scream "Boring Episode", and crystal skulls are right up there - only slightly behind "waves" of alien invaders or putting the hero of the series on trial. Please, no crystal skull! Maybe make it a candy skull; we have to finish eating it before November 3 dawns or it will be the end of the world. At least it'd be different... $\endgroup$ Mar 1, 2022 at 0:11
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    $\begingroup$ @MikeSerfas Eh, crystal skulls were fine until they ruined Indiana Jones... $\endgroup$ Mar 1, 2022 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ Do these aliens need their own crystal skulls, or are they transforming human skulls? $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Mar 1, 2022 at 23:14
  • $\begingroup$ their own. its used for preservation for veneration/ancestor worship. $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2022 at 13:38

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Opalized.

opal bone

https://www.opalauctions.com/learn/did-you-know/australian-dinosaurs-opalised-bones

Fossils are created when the organic matrix from a creature has a mineral containing solution soak into it. The organic parts rot away and the mineral containing solution turns to rock. Or to crystal. Opalized fossils are rare but not vanishingly rare. The mineral containing solution is soluble silica and the crystal formed by that is opal.

Your aliens could use soluble silica to produce opal skulls. It takes quite a while to make an opal but maybe the aliens have tech to speed it up. Or maybe the aliens take quite a while.

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  • $\begingroup$ That’s the sort of “surface level” explanation I was looking for. Just enough to say it’s some kind of opalization process, but hand-waving the time required. $\endgroup$ Mar 1, 2022 at 23:08
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Already done by the scientists at Caltech.

First, the researchers removed calcium from the bones: calcium contributes to opacity, and bone tissue has a much higher amount of calcium than soft tissues. Next, because lipids also provide tissues with structure, the team infused the bone with a hydrogel that locked cellular components like proteins and nucleic acids into place and preserved the architecture of the samples. Finally, a gentle detergent was flowed throughout the bone to wash away the lipids, leaving the bone transparent to the eye.

This builds up on old technology that renders corpses translucent (though not completely - you could see a lot of the insides). I thought of including some images, but it might be uncomfortable for some, so if you wish you can google for "translucent mice".

Anyway, since you can do this to bones, you can also add your own colorants to make the transparent bones seem reddish, greenish or whatever glassy color you wish.

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Since you put "transmute" in quotes; perhaps it isn't the actual skull, but a 3-D printed exact copy of the skull; in crystal. Accurate to the molecular level, after being rapidly but destructively scanned. They were using it as a model to study, and it is the alien custom to make such models durable enough to remain unchanged for many thousands of years; even if they only wanted it for a brief period of time.

This can be so accurate it cannot be distinguished from an actual transmutation. that is why you see no casting marks, carving marks, etc, even under a microscope. Why you can even see, say, the beginnings of a tooth cavity, or a crack in the root of a tooth, or reknit bone from an injury.

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  • $\begingroup$ You seem to skip part of the procedure.. as this is a science-based question, this answer needs some extra explanation, to make it plausible. The skull is destructively scanned, but how is this 3-D printed glass skull put around a person's brain after that ? Is the brain squeezed into that new skull, in some way ? How long does the printing take ? And what's this person's brain doing between the moment the skull is destructively scanned away and the moment the new skull is put back ? $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Feb 28, 2022 at 18:50
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    $\begingroup$ I guess I should have specified that the skulls in question are deceased and being preserved for veneration. $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2022 at 19:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Goodies I presume the skulls are not still in use; like existing "crystal skulls" already on Earth. Although those are apparently solid; but filling in the voids with crystal would not be difficult. Nothing in the question says the skull is to be used by a living person (or alien); that wouldn't make sense. $\endgroup$
    – Amadeus
    Feb 28, 2022 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexGalbraith Well, preserving the exact form of the skull may still count as veneration; like people today venerating likenesses of their relatives, in paintings, sculpture, or photographs. I've seen religions where people set up altars around such likenesses and pray to them. Or pray for them. Where their "offerings" are photographs and such of what is going on their life; pictures of babies, college degrees, wedding photographs, etc, left for the perusal of the dead. A way to keep them in their life. $\endgroup$
    – Amadeus
    Feb 28, 2022 at 19:33
  • $\begingroup$ Ah ok.. veneration.. that's a different application I had in mind hehe $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Feb 28, 2022 at 20:19

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