Thread: Grubs
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Old Jul 19 2008, 12:35 PM   #14
ElectricDragon
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Default Re: Grubs

I've been following this discussion and I suspect we've got some misconceptions of how Thread functions.

If Thread hits an animal/human which is probably 90% water, it's going to consume that animal/human pretty quickly because in the final reflection there really isn't all that much there to eat. And you're generally not talking about a single strand of Thread hitting that animal/human, you're talking about a clump. So yes, that creature will be consumed rather rapidly as you watch. This will probably seem to take place much faster than it does. You're not exactly holding a stop-watch on the event, especially if you're treading water with a horse under a ledge in lake. Given that animals/humans seem to have plenty of time to writhe, squeal and scream, and possibly experience an emergency amputation in a desperate effort to save them in the event of a limb hit, the consumption obviously is not instantaneous. In all probability it takes several minutes to totally consume a creature, with that period being modified by the size of the creature and just how big of a clump hit it.

So I think we can dispense with the Star Trek death ray effect of the animal/human disappearing totally in a prolonged flash.

Plants are generally a bit more fibrous and less water-impregnated organisms than animals/humans. Thread hitting a plant may or may not be stopped by the plant. In fact, hitting leaves and limbs, the Thread will probably burn through propelled by gravity and eventually hit the ground, unless it smacks right down on the trunk/stem of the plant. A big enough plant, such as a tree or large bush, might arrest Thread falling through, and have the Thread "take root" within its own structure until the Thread destroys it. This plant will probably be consumed in minutes. Then the Thread is on the ground and burrowing.

The rest of the Thread falls through the canopy vegetation (burning a number of leaves and limbs along the way, but Thread is not anti-gravity capable, so unless there is enough dense mass there, it's going through or falling off--it writhes, but is never said to grip) and smacks into the ground. Once Thread is in the ground, it begins to consume all surrounding organic matter, ingesting roots and nearby ground-cover. Destruction of roots is going to cause wilting. As the Thread spreads and grows underground and along ground-cover it begins consuming surrounding plants and continues outward in a ring pattern until it has consumed everything, or encounters a water or rock obstacle it cannot cross, or until it "burns itself out." This spread is not exactly lightning fast, as demonstrated by what took place at the burrow in Nerat where Fandarel tested his HNO3 projector.

This "burn out" aspect of Thread is one that I think most people forget about, and it explains the "crop circle" effect. At some point, even in the presence of organic matter, this organism just dies. Why? We don't know. It's obviously not native to Pern. Maybe it eventually suffocates, or accumulates enough toxins alien to its system but native to Pern and dies. Maybe it becomes so grossly obese by its own biological standards that it suffers its equivalent of a heart attack or other systemic failure and dies. Who knows, but it does. We know that HNO3 isn't healthy for it and presumably there could be other fatal compounds. This goes a long way toward explaining why Pern is never completely denuded by Thread.

Again, no one is holding stop-watches on these burrows, and to the poor dirt farmers of Pern who toiled for years to make those fields productive, seeing them destroyed in minutes, hours or even days is pretty damned fast. To their perception, it spreads like wildfire, but even wild fires can take days to destroy an entire valley unless driven by strong winds. There is no equivalent of the wind to move Thread along once it's down.

Once Thread is in the ground, a Thread-resistant organism (and here again there must be some compounds that resist Thread even if organic) that is present would be able to attack and consume the Thread. Enter the grubs. Obviously, Tuberman engineered them with some sort of biological countermeasure/compound that lets them resist Thread's effects and consume it in turn. What compound? Couldn't tell you--I don't have his notes. But one might suspect that said compound is found in the bark of the skybroom trees since they are also Thread-resistant.

So that explains the grubs, but what about the plants healing themselves and being more verdant? They might be more verdant for a couple of reasons. One, it may have nothing to do with the grubs and may just be the environment. We are talking about lush, equatorial Southern; you'd expect bigger, healthier plants. But that doesn't explain the effect in the tubs in Benden Weyr, but again the solution could be simple: the grubs aerate the soil. It's also possible that waste by-products of the grubs provide nutrients which the plants absorb. So there's no recourse to magic here.

But what about the plants healing themselves? I don't recall if F'lar actually sees visible healing taking place as he watches. I do know that he saw old marks of Thread-score that healed over, which would allow for healing over time. But if he did see healing in real-time, what would be the explanation? Probably adaptation. We're talking about plants that have been getting rained on by Thread regularly for a couple of thousand years. We may be looking at the plants that have best adapted to survive and perhaps it is by a fast-acting biological mechanism. A growth promoting sap? It seals (scabs) the would similar to drying blood in a human, and then the adapted plant begins to rapidly regrow in the damaged area? Something simple and delicate like a leaf or frond may recover pretty rapidly, although I'd expect limbs and trunks to take longer and maybe wind up scarred.

Nothing I recall reading implied that the plants in any way poisoned the Thread, and if I recall correctly, F'lar was making his observations in an area that was predominantly brush (numbweed?) and may not have observed long-term damage on something like trees, or a tree being taken down due to a direct hit by a clump that consumed it due to being arrested in its fall to the ground.

Of course, no one ever said the grubs couldn't climb, and they may go up a tree under attack and eat Thread even as the Thread is consuming the tree. Like many other things in Pern, these events have not been written about in exhaustive detail. And that's appropriate enough given that for much of their history the Pernese simply lack the equipment and knowledge to make the necessary observations to figure out the puzzle.

--

As for observations about Lessa's display of mild telepathy and possibly some vague telekinesis (although this is dubious), it's not really a great leap if we're assuming the existence of telepathic, telekinetic, teleporting dragons. Obviously, if it's possible in their species it is possible a human might develop such capabilities. Apparently Lessa has. This isn't an inconsistent recourse to magic, but consistent with the foregoing assumptions.

Now, as we understand the science at this time, these things are impossible and magical.

Of course, less than a thousand years ago the world was flat, the sun orbited the earth, lodestones were the work of the Devil, and much of the technology we take for granted today would seem the work of sorcery.

Last edited by ElectricDragon; Jul 19 2008 at 08:25 PM. Reason: typos
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