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Dune, would humans really be able to survive on planet Arrakis?

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Planet Arrakis is the main setting for ‘Dune’ – Photo: Warner Bros

Frank Herbert, the author of the ‘Dune’ cycle of novels, described it in great detail the desert planet of Arrakis, which was beautifully brought to the big screen in Denis Villeneuve’s recently released theatrical film. But if such a planet existed, what would it really be like? AND would humans be able to survive? Out of pure passion, researchers from the universities of Bristol and Sheffield have reconstructed a climate model of Arrakis (which you can see here) and have found that yes, the world imagined by Herbert is plausible and even habitable, albeit extremely inhospitable.

What would the planet Arrakis from ‘Dune’ look like if it were real

First they recovered geographic and climatic data (from the distribution of the mountains to the composition of the atmosphere) present in the novels of the saga and in the ‘Dune Encyclopedia’. They then put them into a model that is used for weather forecasting on Earth, while maintaining the fundamental physical laws that govern the weather on our planet. After that, all the information was given fed to a supercomputer, because the elaboration of these simulated models requires a gigantic computing power and a lot of time (in this case it took three weeks).

In the novels and films, Arrakis is a hot, desert planet, with more tolerable temperatures in the mid-latitudes (where the cities of Arrakeen and Carthag are located) and the poles covered with ice. However, the simulated model shows a different picture: the habitable zone would rather be that of the tropics, where temperatures in the hot months reach 45 ° C and in the cold months they do not drop below 15 ° C. The mid-latitudes and the poles would instead have the most extreme temperatures: 70 ° C on the ground in summer, and respectively -40 ° C and -75 ° C in winter. Conditions that make survival almost impossible.

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Herbert did a good job

There would be no ice caps, because they would melt in the summer and there would not be enough snow to replenish them in the winter. Unlike the fantasy Arrakis where it never rains, a modest amount of precipitation it would occur in higher latitudes in summer and autumn, limited to the mountains and plateaus.

And yet, net of these differences, Herbert has created a world that it is still consistent and credible today with current knowledge, although he wrote ‘Dune’ in 1965, two years before the first climate model was developed and obviously without the aid of a computer. The article was published in The Conversation.

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