The Science of Desert Planets

By Alex Acks

I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy almost as long as I’ve been able to read, and I’m normally very good at suspending my disbelief. Unfortunately, seven years of university schooling and two degrees have now placed some suspension limits on certain areas—namely geology, landforms, and maps. I tend to notice little things like mountain ranges having ninety degree corners or rivers that flow uphill or maps that don’t have a scale bar.

So I want to talk about some things, which on-a-geological-scale are very small details that make me tilt my head like a dog hearing a high-pitched noise. Not because I hate, but because there is no more honorable nerd past-time than dismantling something we love into its finest details, ruminating endlessly on the bark of a single tree while there’s an entire forest planet surrounding us.

Which is what I’d like to talk about today, incidentally. Single-environment planets. The other stuff, including scale bars, will come later.

I like desert planets, and it’s the combined fault of Dune and a semester of examining lithified sand dunes that are now absolutely gorgeous rock formations.

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