5
$\begingroup$

So I'm trying to develop a world that's very inhospitable to my characters (humans.) And I'm looking for a some sort of fine dust that is naturally occurring but deadly if inhaled after about a day of breathing it in. This threat would have to be easily nullified with a dust mask.

The world itself is Cold (about -10 degrees F.) It has a lower gravity but a slightly thicker atmosphere than Earth (about 2 atm.) This dust would be found everywhere.

Currently I'm using fine sulfur dust.

Any good alternatives? And if so what effect would it have on a snowy landscape?

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Could you elaborate a little more? What kinds of areas will have the deadly dust? How quickly do you want people to die? Are you okay if it takes a few hours, or does it need to be a few minutes? $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Feb 24 '16 at 15:34
  • $\begingroup$ If your world is Earth-like (since you also use plain old humans) you should consider adding the tag "Earth-like" If not, please specify in what your world is different from earth. As Xandar said we need more general information about the world and you plan. $\endgroup$ – vanillagod Feb 24 '16 at 15:34
  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking fungal spores but your environment is too cold $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Feb 25 '16 at 11:23
  • $\begingroup$ Note that under 2 atmosphere, the freezing temperature of water is almost unchanged. Boiling goes up to 400K. Plane would fly very easilly $\endgroup$ – Madlozoz Feb 25 '16 at 14:15
4
$\begingroup$

One idea is that a really cold world doesn't have to be a dead world.
Bowlturner is right that moisture in the air or snow is going to knock out the dust pretty fast, and so you'll have to replenish it somehow.

So you could have a plant that thrives in the cold, and that releases spores into the air. This could have advantages for the plant since it would be a way to spread or pollinate without insects which might have trouble with a cold world.

It could be some kind of snow algae.

Many spores are harmful to humans, and would drift in the wind or hang on the air for a while before precipitating out and seeding more algae.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

OK, there is a problem. Moisture removes dust from the atmosphere. Ever notice in the spring after a rain all the pollen stuck to cars? So a 'world' with lots of dust everywhere is likely to be fairly arid.

On top of that Snow builds around particulates in the air as well. So to have lots of dust AND snow, it means there is something constantly spewing this stuff back into the air. Maybe a volcano, but it would dissipate the farther from the source you get.

A snowy landscape with lots of sulfur dust would mean you have lots of yellow snow. Any dust particle you pick would possibly change the color of the snow.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Don't eat the yellow snow... $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Feb 24 '16 at 19:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If it's volcanic dust, everyone could get pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis! (OMG I've never had the opportunity to use that word in a legitimate sentence before!!) $\endgroup$ – BrettFromLA Feb 24 '16 at 22:56
1
$\begingroup$

Silica, or Silicon dioxide, is a major part of sand - very plentiful on Earth, and likely to be found anywhere with both silicon and oxygen. For humans, it is harmless to the touch, but dangerous if inhaled, leading to silicosis - scarring of the lungs, which can further lead to any number of problems. In cold, dry air, all you need is a light breeze to kick the dust into the air. Heavy snowfall wouldn't keep down the dust; in fact, at those temperatures, it may even make it worse, as the dust and snow would mix without the snow melting, and wind would toss both snow and dust around equally. The cold temperatures coupled with scarred lungs would make it difficult to survive. With enough dust and cold wind, the damage done to your lungs would be immense; without a basic breathing filter and goggles, you would quickly be unable to breathe. Even short-term exposure could lead to permanently damaged lungs.

Worse, silica dust gets in everything. It's so tiny, sharp, and hard, it can scratch glass, ruin hinges, and generally destroy any equipment with moving parts...

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Why bother with dust?
-10F (-30C) air would damage your lungs pretty fast.Especially with thicker atmosphere.

A simple mask nullify the problem by letting the air warm up before inhaled. Simply by being in the same space as you skin.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ -10F is not that cold. While cold temperatures can cause burning due to the air being dry, it does warm up before hitting the lungs. Couple sources: why breathing cold air hurts, is cold weather running bad for you, how to breath in cold weather $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Feb 25 '16 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ That's about 70K of difference with you lungs. As there is 2 atmosphere, I would expect the same effect than a 140k diference (that's a wild guess). I'm not sure you can survive long while breathing -110C air (thanks for the link, I thought it was a bigger problem) $\endgroup$ – Madlozoz Feb 25 '16 at 14:44
0
$\begingroup$

Vinegar aka acetic acid.
You'd have to imagine a bio-phenomena for it to occur in massive quantities, but it's reasonable.
Pure vinegar freeze at 60.8°F (16°C) so it would definitely be solid in your world... and turn into liquid in your lungs

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

You might use bacteria which are... well, they should not die in cold conditions (extremophile?) and be able to get blown away by wind. Hell, they could even dwell at these dust-particles and hop onto stuff their chute lands at (like.... humans in environment suits).

For bonus, give them a taste for carbon-hydrogen products (like... environment hazard suits), so a gas mask is definitely not enough to move around and feeling safe about it. To be honest, anything that does not have a metal or ceramic surface is likely to get eaten by them.

Sadly... these bacterias don't make much sense, because why should they carve for carbon-hydrogen on a world where no such stuff is available at all? But you could add a taste for something else that might be available on or inside humans, that yields energy when eaten. Something, that may appear at such a barren world and could considered as food for your parachuting-bacteria...

But that... is a topic for its own.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.