I have a creature that, thanks to its multiple, unique DNA chains, is impervious to cancer. So now I will move on to the next aspect: energy production.

This creature has two types of energy production methods: long-term, endurance energy, and short-term, sprint energy. The endurance energy is produced in the normal fashion: by eating food and digesting it. Endurance energy is used to power normal cellular functions, keep the heart beating, allow brain activity, etc.

Sprint energy, however, needs to be able to produce tremendous amounts of energy in a very short time, but doesn't need to be maintained for more than a few minutes at a time. Because my creature is impervious to cancer, I'm not worried about high-energy reactions causing harm to its cells. Since I like the unknowns in fringe sciences, I've settled on cold fusion as the engine for sprint energy.

However, nuclear physics isn't part of my knowledge set, so I'm asking the community the following two questions:

  • How realistic is an internal, organic cold fusion engine?
  • How would such an engine work?

I'm aware cold fusion is an oft-discredited field of science with many detractors claiming it's impossible, so cold fusion research doesn't get the same attention as the mainstream sciences. As such, I am not tagging this as either science-based or hard-science, but answers based in science are strongly preferred.

  • $\begingroup$ Is cold fusion a kind of nuclear synthesis at all? As far as I did understand, thats just a... gently exothermic reaction that last over a long time producing a bit of heat that can be used... speaking of using, what do you plan to do with such a creature? Stuff it into a glass with kathodes and using it as source of green energy (you must feed it I assume)? Is it a sentient creature or some kind of space squiggly? $\endgroup$ – Confused Merlin Jan 13 '16 at 14:22
  • $\begingroup$ @ConfusedMerlin Sentient, yes. I was planning on having humans use them to battle each other. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jan 13 '16 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre It's worth nothing that cold fusion is not exactly that extreme reaction that regular fusion is. IF it is possible at all, it will not exactly generate bursts of energy, but more likely a slow, constant, and small heat flow. That's why Cold Fusion is also called a Low Energy Nuclear Reaction - LENR. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar Jan 13 '16 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ @ThalesPereira Would regular fusion be a better engine than a cold fusion one, in this instance? $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jan 13 '16 at 16:58
  • $\begingroup$ I don't really think that any fusion engine would be viable for a organic creature, to be honest. To start regular fusion you already need a lot of power, and cold fusion is more like a low-yeld generator. If you want a nuclear powered creature, it would be easier to go with some fission reaction, in a uranium-rich environment. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar Jan 14 '16 at 11:20

As someone with a strong physics background:

Not a clue. That's not me admitting that I don't know, that's me saying that experts in cold fusion still completely disagree about how it works, and experts in fusion of any kind still completely disagree about whether it works (as you noted in your question). So: Given that no-one seems to have a clue, and we're going into biology as well (which, in many ways, we know less about than cold fusion), the only answer I can give is (at best) a guess.

Your creature ingests a lot of hydrocarbons. Somehow the carbon is stripped from the hydrogen and energy is liberated, leaving an abundance of hydrogen in the creature's stomach. This passes by a membrane which (though processes unknown) strips out the hydrogen and stores it in a special 'nodule' inside the creature's flesh, made out of an as yet unknown material that stores hydrogen at above average densities. Electrical conduits around this nodule create undulating magnetic fields that gently massage the hydrogen into a configuration more favourable to fusion (How this happens is unknown), and the hydrogen starts to fuse at body temperature.

This gently raises the temperature of the nodule and keeps this otherwise cold blooded creature warm even in the dead of night (that's the only reason I can think of for a cold fusion reaction in an animal). The excess helium (and most of the hydrogen, given that we're still talking very low levels of fusion) are expelled into the darkness as part of the most unknowable flatulence in history.

  • $\begingroup$ hydrogen readily passes through lots of things - even steel. so that part is at least known $\endgroup$ – jk. Jul 24 '17 at 14:05

My general opinion is that no living creature could manipulate subatomic events on a cellular level.

Reasons to back that opinion:

  • Every known biological event happens on molecular (or higher) level which is at least two magnitudes larger than subatomic.
  • Every known biological structure is carbon based and any sort of nuclear reaction (I can't deal anything with "cold" in cold fusion, so I will assume it means "controlled" in contrary of hot as in "exploding".) happening inside a carbon-based cell would produce enough heat to burn the proteins of that cell.
  • Every known creature utilities some sort of chemical energy. (Plants transform electromagnetic energy to chemical before utilizing.)

So, how could that work if it worked:

You would need an alternative digestive system to utilize fusion energy which has nothing to do with the regular one.

Creating the energy:

I would suggest to have one use only "reactor cells" which are cell sized hydrogen bombs, and a "reaction chamber stomach" where those cells would explode. (Please note that I don't have the slightest idea how a cell would be able to create fusion!) The stomach should have a very thick wall made out of non-organic material (preferably containing lots of heavy metals to reduce radiation) which would be consumed using the regular digestive system.

Protection from the heat: Even if the reaction is under control, the "nuclear stomach" will undoubtedly heat up, therefore it must be bedded in an organ which is capable to cool it down (possibly by some liquid). The liquid will become extremely hot and somewhat radioactive so will be emptied from the body.

Utilising the energy:

At least this is something that is done in real nature: electromagnetic energy can be utilized using some version of photosynthesis using special energy draining cells which are injected to the nuclear stomach together with a few fusion cells. Those cells could transform the nuclear energy to some high energy-density chemical fuel which could be utilized in other parts of the body. Please note, that these cells will also die in the nuclear booms so they must be replaced after every "boom".

Cleaning up after using the "nuclear stomach":

The nuclear stomach is something that should be frequently replaced, because it would become radioactive very soon and consists of a material that can resist tiny nuclear explosions so the body will not be capable to decompose it. The tissues around the nuclear stomach will also need replacement for the same reason.

Please note:

I'm neither a biologist nor a nuclear physicist and can't back my statement with more than common sense.

  • $\begingroup$ "Every known biological event happens on molecular (or higher) level which is at least two magnitudes larger than subatomic." Not necessarily: wired.com/2011/01/quantum-birds $\endgroup$ – Whelkaholism Jan 13 '16 at 16:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Cold Fusion is not a explosive reaction. It's really different from regular fusion, which is on what your answer seems based on $\endgroup$ – T. Sar Jan 13 '16 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Whelkaholism Nice but - as the article states - "Conclusive proof doesn’t yet exist, but multiple lines of evidence suggest it." $\endgroup$ – mg30rg Aug 4 '16 at 8:32
  • $\begingroup$ there are also fungi that can feed on nuclear produced Gamma radiation in the same way plants can utilize sunlight. Radiotrophic fungus en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiotrophic_fungus $\endgroup$ – John Jul 22 '17 at 16:16

I'm afraid I can't picture it happening.

Cold fusion is not, to our knowledge, even "a thing".

Bringing two positively charged nuclei together in order to perform fusion requires a lot of very specifically concentrated energy.

This would be an incredibly delicate process. If anything went wrong there would be little bits of "creature" raining to the ground for miles around.

How could a living organism evolve to perform this kind of process internally, and unconsciously?

You can wave a lot of science away in a story, but this is just too much to swallow without completely giving up on plausibility.

  • $\begingroup$ Pointing out that cold fusion very quickly becomes hot if you do it wrong reminds me of swamp dragons in the Diskworld series, only more nuclear. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jan 13 '16 at 14:40
  • $\begingroup$ To be fair, I never said this process would be performed wholly subconsciously. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jan 13 '16 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs - the whole time I was writing this that was exactly what I was thinking of !!!! And specifically Sam Vimes using one as a weapon against the dwarfs trying to attack him that one time. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Jan 13 '16 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre - consider how complex the human body is. Thousands of processes are taking place without us even being aware. Our hearts beat without our thinking about it - something fundamental to our survival. Anything as basic as sprinting has to be unconscious thought, otherwise your creature is focusing on all the wrong things, and will simply become another failed branch of evolution. If it needs to perform complex calculations before it takes a step it's gonna end up starving to death. If we had to consciously remember to keep our hearts beating humanity would have died out long ago. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Jan 13 '16 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ My intention is for the process to be started consciously, but progress and resolve subconsciously. So the creature chooses to sprint, but the motions are carried out instinctively. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jan 13 '16 at 14:55

I learned about muon-catalyzed fusion reading up for another question: Multi-purpose Fictional Chemical Element Needed

It is not cold fusion or typical "hot" fusion but a third type, which can operate at room temperature but which relies on catalysis by muons. It is not done much because muons are scarce. If you could give your creature a source of Muonium they could use that to catalyze the low temperature fusion.

Muons are heavy cousins of electrons. On replacing an electron in hydrogen, this muon hydrogen can participate in room temperature fusion reactions.

In regard to an organism taking advantage of this, I am not worried about the great energy released by fusion. Fusion is energetic, but so is oxidation of fats. We do not have grease fires inside our body: the reaction is wrapped in chemistry that slows it down and lets use convert the energy released into ATP, the energy currency of cells. So too with fusion.

I think probably the way to do it is to have the energy output from the fusion reaction absorbed by a chemical reaction - for example some large molecule (I envision a ring with many metal atoms) that is moved to an energetically unfavorable state by the muon fusion. The individual metal atoms then revert back to their low energy state in an orderly fashion, allowing the energy to be captured gradually at ATP.


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