The microbes reside in the rings around a gas giant, adhering to cosmic dust and feeding on sunlight and carbon minerals. While it seems there should be enough collisions to keep the microbes in circulation, I feel something a little more active will be necessary for an increase in complexity

My current idea would be for the microbes to evolve an electretic exoskeleton made of quartz. It seems that quartz is a good natural material for an electret, and certain bacteria are capable of creating quartz already. There are also electric organisms, including bacteria, which deal with electric charges, and that could adapt into organelles for creating electrets. Furthermore, there should be a lot of silicon/oxygen availible in the dust and rocks, which will provide resources for the electret

This electretic exoskeleton would attract dust to the meteoroids that these microbes reside on, thus increasing their resources and allowing for further complexity, or for survival in more resource-poor regions

Could this adaptation work as I've described within realistic biology and physics, or is there something I've overlooked here?

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Is electretic a typo or some unexplained property? $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch By 'electretic' I mean 'working as an electret', like how 'magnetic' means 'working as a magnet' $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 18:47
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @IchthysKing how is that different from magnetic? $\endgroup$
    – Rafael
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 18:54
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    $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch: An electret is a material with an (almost) permanent electric polarization; it is the electric correspondent of a permanent magnet. Electrets are widely used, for example, for (some kinds of) microphones or for some kinds of transducers. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ It looks like you've done all the worldbuilding and are just checking if you did a good job? Looks great. Go forth and have fun. As for "could my fictional creature exist [work] within realistic biology?" The answer is 99.99% always no, because it doesn't exist in biology. Frankly, I think you've done a good job of using Real World creatures to rationalize your fictional creature. Well done. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 19:12

2 Answers 2


This is an interesting question. There are a few aspects that might matter.

  1. The electrostatic forces on small particles are stronger than

  2. There is a tendency for charge neutrality, if the material is polarized and has the same number of positive and negative charges, and the electret is because of separation of charge

  3. In the space environment you have a lot of charged particles in
    solar wind, cosmic rays, etc.

The first point would impact how close and how easily the charged particles would get close to each other. It also can do things like order the particles into a line or a crystal depending on how the forces balance out.

The second point is perhaps important if the microbe is separating the charge and the little microbes become positive on one end and negative on the other end. But are other wise charge neutral. This would also impact how the might organize spatially of how close they could come together. In the presence of an electric field perhaps they could also change their orientation.

The third point is related to how the microbes might get charged up by the external radiation. e.g. solar wind. Satellite can have a problem with charge build up. Also depending where you are in space if you get too much charge, you can spark into a plasma.

For charged to be trapped, if the material is a good insulator like an oxide, it can be trapped for a long time, (although it may move and redistribute at slow times scales.

Another fun thing to think about is that the radiation can produce an ionization trail in the microbe, this is destructive to our DNA, but maybe the cosmic microbe could have some way to separate the holes and electrons and use it as an energy source.


No, a microbe cannot draw in dust using electric quartz. Electric quartz is a type of crystal that can create an electric field, which can be used to attract or repel charged particles. However, dust is made up of very small particles that are not electrically charged, so the electric field created by the electric quartz would not be able to attract or repel the dust.


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