I am fully aware a similar question exists (link below) but this is not a duplicate question and provides different parameters

Are ghosts made entirely of gas possible?


-The subject is synthetic

-The gas can take up any area

-The gas cannot reproduce

-There is no need for chemicals as the brain only uses electrical impulses


I am writing a story about a deep space scientific expedition in a nebula. During the expedition the crew gets lost and tries using an escape pod to leave but they eventually all die , leaving the last member of their crew , a humanoid robot that was designed to take control when nobody was around. nobody returns and the robot is left alone for many years, and eventually a malfunction tore a small hole in the hull, allowing the nebulas gas inside. Eventually a rescue crew finds the ship 20 years later to find no android to be found and strange activity that they described as supernatural such as

  • Temperature dropping significantly
  • Whispering
  • The feeling of being touched
  • Objects moving without being touched
  • Blurry figures moving in the darkness

Additional activity recorded but not described as paranormal was

-Technological malfunctions such as doors opening without anyone being present in the area

-Screens turning on and off, sometimes displaying text without inputs attached

-Lights flickering

Question/possible explanation

In the story, my explanation for the paranormal events came to be a sci-fi explanation for a "synthetic ghost". My explanation involves that the nebula's gas being conductive and through enough exposure to the gas, the robots electrical currents traveled into the gas and it was a sort of "ghost" which used the electrical conductivity of the gas to become a floating brain creating a strong magnetic field which held the gas together also allowing for it to manipulate objects and create vibrations which could produce sound.

Is such a gas possible?

If so, could the situation described happen?

If not, why isn't such a gas possible?

Additional information

  • If a reference is needed for a humanoid robot, imagine David from Prometheus

    • this is not an example of sentience, it could be defined as a literal cloud computer
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ I think you may have trouble with the hard-science tag. Sentience is something that hard-science has trouble quantifying, much less explaining. Sentience/consciousness also has a long standing tradition of taking situations that we thought were impossible by the laws of physics and applying just enough order to make it plausible. If you came up with your particular definition for sentience for this question, and it was sufficiently exacting, there may be a hard-science answer. It may be easier to just remove hard-science. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Oct 5 '16 at 16:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Not a gas per se, but you could have something like the android was loaded with nanites to facilitate repairs. The android seeing that it could no longer exist in physical form downloaded itself into the nanites to operate as a gaseous consciousness... $\endgroup$ – Durakken Oct 5 '16 at 20:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Regarding the hole in the hull - in order for the nebula gas to enter the ship, the hole would need to be into an pressurized area, so either the gas collects in a non-crew-living space of the ship or the living space would need to fully depressurize through the hole before the nebula gas could enter. I think you said "small hole" to justify why the repair robot didn't notice it, but if the entire atmosphere must evacuate to make this plot work, the robot will certainly go looking for the hole. $\endgroup$ – Jim Oct 6 '16 at 4:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Regarding the gas...since the nebula gas will not be able to enter the presurized ship (see comment above), the robot must encounter it in the depressurized ship or a non-pressurized section of the ship. In this area, the gas will be at the same density it is outside the vessel (in the nebula itself). That is going to be extremely rarefied. Think 1000 particles per cubic centimeter - 10,000 tops. That's 15 orders of magnitude less than you are used to here on Earth. Just not much to work with in order to build a gaseous computer. Sorry, but I think the nanite idea is best bet so far. $\endgroup$ – Jim Oct 6 '16 at 4:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Edit timer ran out - "an pressurized area" in comment two above should have read "a non pressurized area". $\endgroup$ – Jim Oct 6 '16 at 4:34

Unfortunately I don't think such a gas is possible.

Gasses make extremely poor electrical conductors because they don;t have any free electrons to exchange with neighboring atoms. The molecules in gas also tend to be very far away from each other, further complicating electrical conduction.

However, when gasses become ionized and turn into plasma, they become capable of conducting electricity. However, even if a robot's circuitry was somehow "Imprinted" onto this gas (Plasma), the gas won't have any way to preserve the paths of current that created the robot's logic. The gas won't be able to "Hold the shape" of the robot's circuits.

There are some kind of cool handwave explanations though:

-Some type of silicon/carbon gas that could form circuits

-A gel-like cloud (sort of like an aerogel) of silicon or another semiconductor.

For more info on gasses and conductivity check out this great post on Physics stackexchange:



Gas, by definition, is a form of matter without a fixed structure. Its particles are constantly in chaotic motion. As such, it makes a poor material for storing any kind of long-term information. You can maybe have nanobots flying around in the gas and storing information, but the nanobots themselves are solid. Also, in space, there isn't really anything holding them together over long periods (nebulae are extremely diffuse), so they would either run out of energy and drift apart, or already be condensed into a solid ball and no longer be gas-like.

If you want to keep this story idea, perhaps you can forget about the magical space cloud entirely and make it an accidental function of the vanished android itself: maybe it produces nanobots that are supposed to help it interface with the human mind to serve people better, but it went crazy over the years in isolation and disassembled its entire body into nanobots which now infest the ship and mess with people's brains.


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