Science & Tech

'Dune's' desert planet would be possible, according to scientists

'Dune's' desert planet would be possible, according to scientists
Dune: Part Two
IVA - Movie Trailers / VideoElephant

By now you may have seen or are very aware of the Dune movies, based on the novels by Frank Herbert, the second of which was released in cinemas on March 1st. What you might not be aware of is that the planet at the centre of the movie, Arrakis, is scientifically possible, according to experts.

If you are not clued up on Arrakis it is a desert planet that is home to a valuable mineral in the Dune universe called 'spice' which is mined using giant harvesters. As you can imagine being a desert planet isn't a desirable place to be and to make it worse, water is such a scarce commodity that people have to wear suits that will harness the body's water so it can be replenished and drank.

If that wasn't bad enough, there are also gigantic sandworms that roam the deserts of Arrakis, which to put it bluntly, you just don't want to encounter.

Now this might sound like far-flung ideas of a sci-fi writer but Herbert's creation was based on some form of scientific study and according to new research would be a plausible planet if it existed.

Alexander Farnsworth, a climate modeller at the University of Bristol in England and colleagues developed a climate simulation for Arrakis in 2021, suggesting that despite challenges, human habitation could be feasible partially because Arrakis is drawn from “some sort of semi-science of looking at dune systems on the Earth itself.”

“Arrakis would certainly have a much warmer atmosphere, even though it has less CO2 than Earth today,” Farnsworth adds.

Arrakis' climate differs from Earth's, with less carbon dioxide but significantly more ozone, making the atmosphere warmer and potentially toxic for humans. While ozone could shield the planet from harmful radiation, extreme heat and lack of precipitation render polar regions uninhabitable.

Tropical latitudes offer more hospitable conditions, though hurricane-force winds pose challenges. Despite these hurdles, human settlement could be viable with advanced technology and off-world support for resources. However, relocating cities closer to the equator would be advisable due to extreme temperatures at the poles.

However, the feasibility of giant sandworms is questionable. Patrick Lewis, a vertebrate palaeontologist, doubts the plausibility of giant sandworms, citing biological limitations and the harsh climate.

Speaking to Science News, Lewis highlights the oxygen limitation for invertebrates of such scale and the physical constraints of vertebrates due to gravity. "The worm body plan is really common. It has evolved many times over the last 600 million years,” Lewis says. “But none of them have ever been very big.”

Even with hypothetical adaptations, colossal worms would face challenges regulating heat and mobility in Arrakis' climate.

In summary, while human life on Arrakis seems plausible with the right technology, the existence of giant sandworms remains doubtful. For Dune enthusiasts, the harsh yet survivable conditions on the planet offer an intriguing possibility, albeit without the threat of being devoured by mythical creatures.

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