60

Make it really, really smart Literally seeing the future is, from a perspective of modern science, impossible. Even theories that may allow some degree of time travel through relativity run up against problems when trying to resolve predestination paradoxes and the like. Most modern science fiction stories tend to prefer branching timelines to linear ones ...


29

Polycephaly is a medical condition, in which an animal has multiple heads. This is a special type of conjoined twin. 2 is the most common form, but there is at least 1 case of 3 heads documented (a turtle). In many cases, each head is capable of sleeping independently of the other, allowing your Biological Creature to function without turpor. In some ...


22

Just use an alien. If it has a large brain you can't get around sleep, every organism we know of with a brain that is enlarged (complex at all) sleeps and will die if denied it long enough. There is just no escaping sleep. As long as you use earth life you have no options. All life on earth with brains share a common ancestor, so sleep is likely due to ...


13

The same way humans can do base 12 on our hands, use the bones of the fingers, excluding thumbs (or using thumbs to keep track of sets completed). So, take human physiology and either add a joint to each finger (16 bones on each hand) or remove a joint (8 bones on each hand, for 16 total).


12

That is to say, a large reason why humans use a base 10 numbering system is because we have 10 fingers, not that we have 10 fingers because we use a base 10 numbering system. Ask any anthropologist, physiology does not constrain counting base. We like to think that base 10 is natural because we have ten fingers, and it is common, but that's not the only way ...


10

Heinlein described a pretty neat way to conceive our existence in time (which is not unlike the one shown in Donnie Darko) : Someone outside of time could perceive us as some sort of continuous sausage (or worm), a superposition of all our states at each instant, from the moment we are born to the moment we are dead. In the novel he describes a machine that ...


9

Just go with those four-fingered-hand aliens. Let me remind you, despite having 10 fingers, for quite some time, base 12 was very popular parallel system and there were even attempts to discard base 10 in favour of base 12. It still survived alongside base 60 in time measurement, and word "dozen" is used till this day. It doesn't need to develop very ...


9

Short boring answer: nope. Even a really, really dense gas (tungsten hexafluoride, 12.4g/l at room temperature... actual tungsten gas might be denser, but it would be at a hazardous 6203K) is much less dense than the lightest solids (solid hydrogen, 86g/l, at a chilly 14K or lithium, 534g/l at room temperature). You could cheat by using carefully ...


9

While multi-brain and multi-hemisphere answers have been posed, they all result in some loose of function while one part of the cognitive system is down. This seems against what the OP is looking for since he does not want dolphin style torpor. However, computer scientists have already devised a number of systems called RAID controllers to be used by ...


8

There is an excellent answer to that question, written by J.B.S.Haldane as long ago as 1926 in his essay "On Being the Right Size". The Wikipedia entry has link to the full text of the essay. It is an interesting read, I highly recommend it. He does not deal with limitations found in different sze brain (except in a short remark), but he does show that body ...


7

Ionize, no; synthesize, yes. Noble gases are perfect. In chemistry terms, they have enough protons to draw electrons to form the perfect valence shell. The way ions are formed is by atoms dumping or drawing electrons to form perfect valence shells. But, since Noble Gases already have perfect shells, they do not form stable ions. Chlorine, which requires one ...


7

You can use aerogels to imitate a cloud. Aerogel is a synthetic porous ultralight material derived from a gel, in which the liquid component for the gel has been replaced with a gas. The result is a solid with extremely low density and extremely low thermal conductivity. Being extremely low dense, aerogel can be easily lifted to look like it is floating, ...


6

Mix the diethylzinc with oil. Oil (think whale oil, or spermaceti) can be produced using biology with no problem. A hydrophobic light oil would also tend to exclude oxygen. The oil reservoir would be a safe place to store your diethylzinc igniter molecules. A stream of viscous oil would be an easy thing to use as a breath weapon. Mixing the diethylzinc ...


6

They need the ability to warp space-time As evident from the sources in your question, seeing the future is impossible for mere mortals as we are restricted to viewing things in three dimension (i.e. length, width, height) and time is the fourth dimension. Our axis on time is such that we travel through it linearly, and thus we can only see whatever ...


6

Probably not quite what you were aiming at here, but... In a more 'humanist' way, you might be able to "see" the future if you're really good at predicting what people will do given a certain situation. That is, if you can "read" people sufficiently accurately, you might be able to predict what that one individual will do when faced with a specific ...


6

If you had used science-fiction, or omitted science-based, things could be holywoodian as you describe. Given science-based, though, most likely the disease would probably cause as much panic and less deaths than bird flu, or flash eating bacteria. This disease you describe can be prevented by wearing a simple mask. As soon as the disease is found out, the ...


6

You don't need new organs you just need a few tweaks to the way the brain operates & Dolphins have already solved this one for you, obviously they sink if they stop swimming & if they sink they drown so they can't sleep, well they do, but they sleep one hemisphere of their brain at a time. There's some evidence that dolphins can display slightly ...


6

Brain with three hemispheres The state in dolphins and some birds that could keep some functions while sleeping is achieved by working with only one of the hemispheres of their brains while in "sleep state" the other part is resting. If you add an extra hemisphere that would support the "awake" part with their normal functions you could cycle between them ...


5

Your aliens are smart. So they use the four fingers they have on one hand to represent all their 16 digits by using a different combination for each: 0 = closed fist 1 = only thumb stretched out 2 = only index finger stretched out 3 = index + thumb 4 = only ring finger (there is no middle finger!) 5 = ring + thumb 6 = ring + index 7 = ring + index + thumb 8 ...


5

The most generic answer? Lots of food, and proton pumps. There are Earthling extremophile organisms that can thrive in highly acidic environments. Generally, they do it by carefully excluding the acids from their intracellular spaces--how acidic the external environment is then doesn't matter. Some of this can be accomplished with purely chemical means, by ...


5

Spread speed An airborne/waterborne virus that can infect literally everything biological can spread pretty fast. The only limiting factor is what's carrying it. Winds would spread it over vast terrains, it'd cross a forest like wildfire, and hop rides on boats, cars, and airplanes, even, depending on the incubation period. Within hours, it'd cover hundreds ...


5

Whilst I don't necessarily agree with all of Willk's conclusions in his answer, it does raise an important point: one does not need a whole load of bone to use as a calcium and phosphorous reservoir to still make hefty use of calcium and phosphorous in ones biochemistry. This may actually be an example of exaptation in non-cartilaginous vertebrates. You ...


4

Give them prehensile feet 4 fingers on each of two hands. 4 toes on each of two feet. The feet don't even have to be fully prehensile. Just usable enough that they'd think to count them. After their civilization creates their math system, their culture can also move to one that wears shoes and so forth. The feet don't have to be highly visible today. ...


4

Pretty much like any other plant. Until you look really closely. Some relevant considerations are as follows: A silicone-based tree will require both a carbon source and a silicon source--however, because carbon plays such a reduced biochemical role (have been replaced in many functions by silicone polymers), the carbon source need not be as accessible. ...


4

The plant has small elements in its leaves. When the wind moves the leaves, the elements are strained. This strain, as consequence of the piezoelectric effect, produces a small charge that is then used to accumulate chemical energy. Piezoelectricity is the electric charge that accumulates in certain solid materials (such as crystals, certain ceramics, ...


4

Clouds have a charge. Normally, the top part of the cloud has excessive positive charge, while the bottom accumulate a negative charge. Lightning is produced when the two balance out temporarily. So, what you can try doing is Establish some clouds / physical conditions which have charge accumulation in such a manner (top surface positively charged) Build ...


4

First, you need to understand why we need to sleep. Sleep is to pay a debt with interests Let's put it in this way: Imagine that exists a creature just like us, but does not requires to sleep (later we see this). The body and mind will have some features, like move X kg/hr, and to solve Y problems each hour. That will be limited by available energy, matter, ...


4

I've seen people saying that vertebrates need sleep. Well, not only them. Cephalopods also experience brain activity similar to REM sleep. Insects sleep also. For example, fruit flies have been found to take rests at certain periods in their circadian rhythms, staying still for 2 hours or something, exhibit very poor or near zero response to stimuli. This ...


3

In particular, what are plants doing, given that CO2 is abundant, methane reasonably common in the air, and animals are pumping out tons of other simple organics along with the methane? If one thing is sure, you can't have plants in such ecosystem. Plant as we know them expel oxygen as byproduct of photosynthesis, and as you state oxygenic ...


3

The base in which numbers are represented doesn't change, ease, or inform mathematics. All it changes is arithmetic. The number of digits, arms, feet, eyes, knuckles, gill slits, or kinks in their prehensile tails won't change the brilliance, insight, and utility of the math your species develops.


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