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by Chris Wayan, 2002-2010

Planetocopia is a group of model worlds supporting intelligent life. They fall into four series: Tilt! (Earth with different poles), Futures (set 1000 years from now), the Biosphere Variations (diverse experiments in planetology), and Caprices (whimsically altered Earths). Behind-the-scenes pages include the new Planetocopia interview, Carpentry Tips for World-Builders (how I make 'em), The Heart Hath Its Reasons (why I make 'em), Tech Corner (a chart comparing 'em), World-Builders (influences: others who make 'em). Here's a group snapshot of the Planetocopia family, all to scale. Click for tours!

Photomontage by Wayan of 19 hypothetical planets and moons from space, ranging from 5000 to 30,000 km across.
Set 1: TILT!

Alternate Earths that evolved with our geography, only tilted. Shift the axis, and you shift climates, sea levels... and evolution.
a warm, flooded world
a steady-state ice age
the world on its head
a world testing the theories in Jared
Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel

Set 2: Futures

Three worlds on the same day 1000 years from now--all of them profoundly transformed:
Earth has doubled CO2,
thawed poles, flooded coasts
Terraformed, but
emphatically not Terra
the ugly duckling
becomes a swan

Set 3: The Biosphere Variations

Inhabited worlds so unEarthlike that most exobiologists would write them off--prematurely. Not all are even planets--the second row are moons.

Cross Earth with Mars--
How low can you go?
Not a hot Jupiter, but...
a tepid Neptune?
Earthlike by the numbers
but Australian bad luck!
orbital photo of Serrana orbital photo of Lyr orbital photo of Kakalea

a huge Earthlike moon
of a hot gas giant
a living Marslike moon
with just 0.2% of Earth's water
a giant Europa
walking on thin ice
orbital photo of Pegasia orbital photo of Tharn orbital photo of Oisin

Biosphere Variations under construction:

Set 4: Caprices

This new set of worlds in progress is a ragbag of whims: poor old Earth with just a few tiny changes...
Earth with most of the ocean siphoned
off, leaving just shallow seas on the
abyssal plains 4-5 km below our coasts.
It's a wild, steamy topography down there,
while the old continents turn alpine...
85% complete--short on portraits & scenery
Up is down and down is up!
Land is sea, sea land;
trenches are peaks, peaks trenches,
islands and reefs are lakes,
lakes are reefs and islands...
25% complete--first tour!: Arctica
start with Inversia's inside-out geology--
now pour on as much water as Earth has.
Miles-deep seas, with tiny continents
where our abysses and trenches lay.
Unrecognizable, yet weirdly familiar...
Completed 2017


In 2016 I finished Kakalea, in 2017 Abyssia. Thanks to GEBCO (the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans) Inversia's on the front burner again! It'll be slow--even at a million square km a day, it'll take many months, for Inversia has more land to map than my other worlds. But you can test the first tour, of Arctica--an easy region! I'm going slow partly because my dreams have warned me to take my time on this one.

Inversia's companion-world, Siphonia, is much farther along. Its premise is simpler but equally drastic: drop a hose 5 km down (16,000') in the northern Pacific, and suck the oceans up til the hose runs dry. Nine-tenths of our water, gone. Now wait 100,000 years and see how life's adjusted! The new sea level varies around the world--the Sea of Japan, being nearly landlocked, dropped very little, while the Mediterranean and Caribbean dropped 1-2 km (3-7000'), the Atlantic and Indian Oceans are now a chain of seas 4 km (13,000') down, and the North and South Pacific (now two separate seas) are 5 km down (16,000'). The old continents are generally alpine or Tibetan; most of the livable land is now in the abyss. And those lands are rugged, spectacular, and bizarre--the secret face of Earth. Siphonia's regions all have maps now, but ground-level sketches and descriptions of scenes, critters and cultures are still thin.

I'm slowly, spottily adding regional tours to Capsica. Maddening to have half a world tourable and the other half not. It's just difficult to design tours for some regions that don't bake or steam you to death. Things will speed up once I decide how the natives look.

I need to rethink Libratia in light of the last few years of fuss about its fundamentals. Probably I should enlarge the whole system, move the planet farther out, halve the tidal effects. Still, that won't satisy some readers sure it'll be a volcanic hellhole (I dunno; people overestimate the effect, very strong on Earth because it spins relative to its primary, maximizing tidal warming; tidelocked, merely nodding worlds are massaged much less). Other readers swear by the new atmospheric studies suggesting not all close-in worlds will be tidelocked at all--hot dayside air is less dense, and it works out that the atmosphere actually protects a planet's spin. So would Libratia slowly spin like Venus or Mercury, not nod? Other readers complain Libratia's orbital eccentricity would decay to circularity--killing libration. That'd take the fun out of it! But the moon has equally big tidal stresses on it, yet it nods every which way (and isn't erupting this week). We'll see.

Maybe all those helpful critics will be distracted by the discovery of our (hold your breath) NINTH PLANET! I think the odds look decent by 2025. Can we name it Planet Ix? What a great retro sound! Not just for the Roman numeral, plus the pun on X... it's already a place name! L. Frank Baum wrote "Queen Zixi of Ix" a century ago. If we can use Shakespearean names on Uranian moons and Tolkien placenames on Pluto, why not Oz out in the Kuiper Belt?

More planetology, climatology and terraforming: A relief model of Io, Jupiter's volcanic moon

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