What The Hell Is Jinx?

Republibot 3.0
Republibot 3.0's picture

As everyone who reads Larry Niven knows, “Jinx” is a human colony world in his Known Space universe, and another in his long line of only-marginally-habitable locations that humans live in. For starters, it’s not even a planet: It’s a moon of a Jovian world called “Primary.” (In some stories, in others it’s called “Binary.”)  Jinx - so named because they evidently lost several colony ships en rout, and found the place fairly uncomfortable when they got there, so they suspected the place was bad luck - is physically larger than earth, and quite a bit denser, with around six times the mass of our own world, and a surface gravity of 1.78 Gs.  (For those not adept in such things, that means that if you’re a 100 lb girl on earth, you’d weigh 178 pounds on Jinx, and if you’re a 200 lb guy, you’d weigh in at a chart-topping 356 pounds. Yikes!)


As with every moon we actually know of, Jinx is tidally locked to Primary. That means that it’s period of rotation around it’s axis is the same as it’s period of rotation around the planet. Hence, just like our own moon, it keeps one hemisphere always pointed at the planet, and another pointed perpetually off in to deep space. But what really makes Jinx unique is it’s shape:


It’s not round, it’s shaped like a football.


Gravity, naturally pulls everything towards the center, so this means that the extreme ends of the football are actually extending out of the atmosphere and in to space.  Both poles are literally in hard vacuum,  so of course nothing can grow on ‘em. Picture them looking like the moon - grey and rocky. Let’s start from the North pole and head south* - after the grey moonscape of the pole, we come to a ‘temperate’ zone where there’s water, air, plants, and everything you need for human and animal life, and it’s similar to earth, though of course gravity is much higher. South of there we come to the tropics, which are as uninhabitable as the poles, though for the opposite reason: Air and water tend to pool up here in completely toxic levels, it’s super hot, uncomfortable, swampy, and awful. In addition, it’s populated with giant, occasionally crotchety Bandersnatchii, giant genetically engineered monocellular life forms who’d already been stuck on this moon for God knows how long before the humans came. At the equator is a vast toroidal  ocean. The other hemisphere is a mirror image of the north, so as we continue to work our way to the other pole we encounter nasty toxic swamps, a temperate, habitable region, and, of course, the other uninhabitable pole.  Consequently Niven describes it as “Looking like God’s own Easter egg,”


“How did such a thing come to be,” you ask? Good question!


We’re told that back when the Sirius system was forming, Jinx coalesced too close to Primary, and was stretched in to an oblate spheroid shape by tidal forces from the planet it orbited. Its orbit must be very close to the Roche’s limit of Primary. For our purposes, that’s the point at which tidal stresses are stronger than the strength of rock itself, and a solid object will quickly disintegrate and form a ring. When the moon cooled, it was locked in to this shape forever, six hundred miles ‘out of round‘. I’ve long wondered if Jinx is sort of Niven’s homage to Hal Clement’s planet “Mesklin” from “Mission of Gravity,” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesklin ),  a somewhat similarly oddball non-ball-shaped world by really the only other SF writer out there who was known for off-brand non-standardized planets. That’s not to say Mesklin and Jinx are the same, of course - Mesklin is shaped like a lens and Jinx is, as noted, a football, but from a topological viewpoint, a football can be considered the opposite of a lens.


The bottom line here, though, is that Jinx is super-cool and a very neat and unusual location in my own personal favorite fictional universe, and one that turns up again and again, worked through the woof and warp of the entire thing, and intrinsic and indispensable part of the structure of Known Space itself. I love the place.


It won’t work, though.


If we look at it closely, it doesn’t make a lick of sense. Such a thing simply can not exist within the confines of the physical laws by which the real universe works. And while Niven has done end runs around a few of those laws in clever fashion, the existence of Jinx violates laws he hasn‘t futzed with. He doesn’t screw around with universal gravitation, for instance. Every thing about Jinx was obviously intended to be plausible - if odd - when he first cooked it up back in 1965.


There’s several reasons why it won’t work. A couple of these are simply natural rules, others are plot-based things that require a bit more explanation, but, if you tough it through my rambling essay you’ll be rewarded with one possible way all this can make sense.


Firstly, we’re told that Jinx retained it’s weird shape because it had a solid core, which gave the moon some permanent rigidity. This is extremely unlikely for a number of reasons.


1) Rigid or no, be it a metal core, a rock core, or an alloy of the two, there is simply no way it would have the strength to retain that kind of shape with the massive amount of weight bearing down on both ends. It simply couldn’t happen, and if it *did* happen, it wouldn’t be able to retain the shape for very long. Gravity pulls things in to a stable shape eventually, and presently, even a solid metallic core shaped like a jellybean will eventually become yet another boring ol’ “Ball World.” The only way around this is if the core is made of some kind of unobtanium or similar doubletalk element, and there’s no indication that it is in any of the stories.



2) It’s extremely unlikely that Jinx could have a solid core anyway. Granted, there’s a lot we don’t know about the fluid dynamics of planet-sized liquid-core planets, but all the evidence seems opposed to it, particularly in the case of a liquid core body in a close relationship to a substantial gravity well. Take, for instance, the earth, which barely seems to be cooling off at all. Our planet is four and a half billion years old, give or take, and according to some accounts our core appears to have cooled off only by about 100 degrees in the last billion years. Or take Io: it has the same abnormally close gravitational relationship with Jupiter that Jinx does with Primary, and as a consequence it is the most freakin’ volcanic place in the known universe! Tidal stresses on Io *keep* the core liquid and a-bublin’ out through vents in the surface. Bottom line: Odds are that Primary would keep Jinx’s core from ever cooling off, but if it didn’t for some reason, it would still take 10 billion years or so for the core to solidify under normal conditions.


3) When it comes to the Sirius system, we just don’t have that much time to play around in. All stars are not created equally. Our star is a “G” class, Sirius is an “A” spectral class, and there’s a whole bunch of different kinds of stars you can have. I don’t want to get too technical here, so let’s just work by allegory. If we’re to compare stars in the sky to musicians, G-class stars like our own sun  are like Johnny Cash and Frank Sinatra in that they have very long, distinguished careers and keep crankin’ out the hits for generations. At the opposite end of the spectrum, you’d have the live-fast-die-young types, like Kurt Cobain and Janice Joplin, right? Well, Spectral Class A stars such as Sirius have life spans that are so amazingly short, they aren’t even up to that level. They’re more like Baltimora** - one odball hit, and then they’re gone.***  Sirius has a life expectancy of about a billion years, total, and although it’s obviously used up a lot of that already, it’s clearly not a billion years old.  So we really don’t have time for planets to form in the normal manner, and we certainly don’t have time for something as big and funky as Jinx to cool off and go rock-hard through and through.


So those are our physical limitations to explain why Jinx won’t work. This gives rise to some conflicts within the fictional parameters of Known Space that also don’t make sense:


In Known Space, there was a race called the “Thrint” or “Slavers” who ruled the galaxy long, long ago. Their numbers were so huge that they seeded entire planets with yeast, which grew on oceans yards thick, covering whole worlds, and then harvested the stuff just to feed their massive population.  About 1.5 billion years ago, the Slavers were caught on the loosing end of a revolution, and being really sore losers they used a super-powerful experimental mind control helmet to cause everything in the galaxy to commit suicide. Literally everything with a brain died, and the long, long road of evolution started over again almost from scratch.**** Fortunately, however, they’d seeded a bajillion worlds with yeast, which eventually evolved in to us on earth, the Kzin elsewhere, the Puppeteers on Hearth, and the Pak on Pak, and so forth, and presumably it evolved in to the indigenous plant and animal life on Jinx.


Except, of course, that the star Sirius wasn’t yet born a billion-and-a-half years ago, when the Slavers died out, and it’s a foregone conclusion then that neither did Primary nor Jinx.


The Bandersnatchii were genetically engineered to be impervious to Slaver telepathic powers, so they alone survived the apocalypse. The obvious intention is that they were imported to Jinx to feed on the yeast, and grow fat and ultimately be eaten, but, of course this makes no sense if neither the moon nor the star existed during the Slaver empire.


Bottom line: Jinx can not exist because (A) it violates physical laws, (B) it lacks the required time to form naturally and (C) it violates the internal continuity of Known Space.


The question, then, is “What the hell is Jinx?”


A lot of solutions have been suggested: Maybe it’s a great big Slaver ark inside a stasis bubble? Nope, won’t work. Standard technology in known space would have recognized that in an instant on literally any scan of a planet or moon. Perhaps it’s some kind of super-strong unobtanium? Nope, won’t work: The stories tell us specifically that it’s just a solid core. Period, end of sentence, and that’s clearly what it’s intended to be. Maybe it’s an artifact? Slaver sculpture or yet another Big Dumb Object? Nope, won’t work: I’d accept that if it was a little hillbilly settlement way out on the fringes with a population of a few hundred people, but no, this is Jinx, the second largest colony world, and home of the Jinx Institute of Knowledge, *THE* most advanced and prestigious seat of higher learning in human space. If there was anything unduly wonky about their home, they’d have noticed it. Added to which, Known Space already seems more-than replete with Big Dumb Objects already, thank you very much. We’ve got Ringworld and the Fleet of Worlds, yet another one would seem a bit of a stretch.


I should point out, by the way, that even though these problems are objectively insurmountable, subjectively, from the context of the stories, they’re utterly trivial. They’re a dawdle, nothing at all, certainly not a deal breaker. The fact that Jinx doesn’t make scientific sense is in no way a condemnation of Known Space, which I love, and it in no way detracts from the richness of the universe as a whole. It’s barely even a ‘squint and try not to see it’ issue for most people. 


But, you know, one of the great things about Known Space is the way things that won’t work get retconed in to things that will. Take the Ringworld itself: a brilliant idea, but inherently unstable. Some engineers pointed this out to Mr. Niven, who wrote “The Ringworld Engineers” in order to incorporate a solution to his design flaw, and build a story around it. Or take the Fleet of Worlds - they’re running from the Core Explosion, yes? Traveling at high sublight velocities? But at that speed they’d be creating Gamma Radiation much harder than what they’re running away from, which means it makes no sense for them to be running at all. So what are they doing? The brilliant solution to this problem can be found in Niven’s fixup novel/anthology “Crashlander.”


Jinx has looooooooooooooong been one of those things crying out for a retcon to explain it, but Mr. Niven has left it alone, and probably will continue to do so. I presume simply because Jinx is so integral to the history of Known Space that any attempt to ‘fix’ it would result in way the hell too much tugging on the other threads of the story, screwing up continuity elsewhere, and it’s just too much effort to waste on a problem that most people don’t notice in the first place. I assume. I don’t know.


However, or esteemed host Lensman asked me to take a stab at coming up with an explanation for it, so here’s what I’ve come up with. I think you‘ll like it. I think you‘ll like the hell out of it, actually:


We have basically three very broad options -
1) Jinx is not natural
2) Jinx is natural
3) Jinx is something else.


We can discount the “Artificial” option right away. In order for it to be a construct masquerading as a moon with life forms on the surface who have no knowledge it’s a fake, and for that to happen within the well-less-than-a-billion-years we’ve got to play in, it just can’t happen. It’s not a Slaver construct, obviously, it’s too young. That leaves one of the older, hyper-tech races such as the Puppeteers, the Pak, or the Outsiders, or some similar species that we’ve never seen nor suspected existed until now. The Puppeteers simply wouldn’t do it. The Pak clearly didn’t since a map of Jinx is on the Ringworld, and thereby Jinx is at least more than a million years old. I know the Outsiders built “Cathouse,” but that’s a Man/Kzin Wars story, and I think we all have occasional problems with the canonicity of some of those. Added to which: Why? What profit is there in it for them - or anyone - to build a big, goofy-looking planet-sized non-planet in the middle of nowhere, then making it *look* like an old Slaver yeast plantation, and stocking it with Bandersnatch who have somehow not noticed they got shooed along to another world at some point in their history? Clearly there is none. No profit could justify such an insane undertaking.


No, to argue that it’s a construct is to argue that there’s a vast alien conspiracy screwing around for millennia behind the scenes right in the middle of Known Space, either using Aliens we know or - worse - ones we’ve never heard of. It makes less than no sense whatsoever. Can you make negative sense? If so, “Jinx as Artifact” fits in to that.


The next, and probably most likely option is that Jinx is natural. It can’t be. Flat out. Firstly, we’re expressly told that the moon lacks radioactive elements, which is weird and more-or-less unfathomable based on what we know of the natural formation of such large objects. Secondly, let’s assume you used your Starfleet Genesis Mark II Device (“85% Less Protomatter!“) right now and created Jinx right now, it would instantly start collapsing itself in to a ball shape. Initially I thought this collapse might take a million years or so, and that Jinx could exist as-written for a very breif period of time, but Lensman pointed out that on the scale of a planet, rock has the shear strength of water. Realistically, we'd expect Jinx to collapse down to where the material could support its own weight *very* fast.  On Earth, for instance, they say that a mine shaft cannot be sunk more than about seven miles; deeper than that, the sides start becoming unstable. Lensman points out that this seems to go along with the height of the highest mountains; I think about seven miles is the limit on Earth.  On Jinx, with its heavier gravity, the limit would be much, much lower.


Which brings us to the “Something Else” option:


Jinx is an animal!


No, really, think about it: What else could it be?


I’ll take you through my thought processes on this: My initial stab was ‘It looks like an egg, so maybe it actually is one?’ But I quickly realized that was ludicrous for a whole bunch of reasons. Firstly, it would posit the existence of a creature that’s at *least* superjovian size, and probably larger, which works fine in a pulp short story from the 30s, but it just doesn’t fit in Niven’s universe. Secondly, there’s just no logical way the Jinx Institute of Knowledge could be living on an egg and not know about it.  And if such a creature exists, why aren’t there other eggs around? Why is Jinx unique?


Ok, so it’s not an egg, but it has to be alive in some way. So it’s an animal, or a plant. We have precedent in Known Space: The Starseeds. Stage trees too, at one point in their life cycle. Outsiders can exist comfortably in the vacuum of space. Presumably there’s a whole bunch of other entirely or partially space Bourne species as well. Perhaps it’s tied to the Starseeds themselves? Perhaps a starseed is a larval form of…hm….need a name for this behemoth. What do we call it? “Jinxian” is already well-established as a citizen of Jinx, so that’s out. How about “Jinxoid?” Ok. So maybe a starseed is a larval form of a Jinxoid? Let’s run with that: Why aren’t there more of them? Why is Jinx unique? And why is it locked in orbit around a planet, not flying free in space?


Maybe it’s like a barnacle or a Grog? Maybe it’s sessile in it’s adult form? No, that’s boring. Keep going. Maybe the one orbiting Jinx is injured in some way, or brain damaged? It lives on, but it’s in a vegetative state. That’s more interesting. It’s stuck there because it’s paralyzed, or in a coma, or dead.


So what’s it’s life cycle like? And why do the Outsiders follow them? And what does it eat? And how does it live? And why is it six hundred miles out of round? And what’s it’s function in the great big entirely-theoretical galactic ecology. How do they get around?  Let’s assume - for sake of argument - that they’re massive living ramscoops, and stick a pin in that one to come back to it later.


If we assume Jinx itself is brain damaged, that implies it had a brain. What if these things were common in Slaver times, and they all killed themselves on The Last Day, in response to the Great Big Slave Mind Control Helmet? But - as is semi-common in Known Space - the larval stage *wasn’t* sentient at all. Or perhaps some of them were simply out of range? we know that the starseeds  migrate out from the core of the galaxy in to intergalactic space, then come back again. If some were beyond the confines of the galaxy, the helmet might not have affected them. So a few survived, and presumably matured, but since Jinx is unique, it seems likely that there’s only a very small remnant population, possibly inbred. They’re not thriving.


So: Either Jinx is really old, or it’s grown up *since* the day of death, and then got injured/trapped in the Sirius system.


So what do these things do? What’s their function? And why isn’t it round?


At this point I need to make a sizeable digression: As we all know, the Milky Way Galaxy is exploding. Stars in the core were packed in too closely, a quarter-light-year apart on average, or less. So close that their emissions tended to affect each other. Ultimately, if one of them goes nova, it’s shockwave sets off the nearby stars, and their aggregate shockwaves set off stars near them, and so on and so on. The entire core explodes, sending a massive shockwave, not to mention a wall of super-hard gamma radiation flying out through the arms of the galaxy. Beowulf Schaefer discovered this in 1965 or so.  Clearly, the galaxy had an inherent and massive design flaw. Clearly every galaxy does.


My question has always been “Why now?” Why not a million years ago? Or a billion? It’s not like the galaxy has changed substantially in the last couple billion years, so the design flaw has always been there. Why is it blowing up now, and not a long long time ago? What kept it from going blooey back then, and what changed thereby allowing it to go blooey now?


Imagine an interstellar ecology in the core - you’ve got Jinxoids flying around between these tightly-packed stars, fusing the massive amounts of hydrogen that must have been wafting around, generating massive electromagnetic fields to suck it all in. This would explain the density of the  one Jinxoid we know - it’s core must be a massive magnet, probably not a monopole since I‘m sure the JIK would have recognized that, but perhaps it’s just something else. To propel itself, it would need a huge field, vastly bigger than anything we’ve seen before - maybe a light year or two across, right? Or maybe it’s some other kind of field entirely. There’s millions of these beasties, tens of millions. They spawn, their larva ride the solar winds out from the core, mature, and come back in.


Now these hypothetical magnetic fields they generate, they’d be big enough to completely enfold several stars at a time, as the Jinxoids swam through, right? And let’s say that as their field passed through a star, it had the effect of dampening the stars’ nuclear reactions. The star cools off for a bit, re-regulates during the day or week or however long it takes the Jinxoid’s field to pass. Because this happens to pretty much all the stars in the core several times during the course of their life spans, the stars tend not to explode, despite how densely they’re clustered.


In essence, the Jinxoids are living control rods for a nuclear reactor, only reversed. In a reactor, the more of a control rod that’s exposed, the hotter the nuclear pile burns. In this case, the more Jinxoids are around, the cooler the core burns! For untold billions of years, these things kept the galaxy from blowing up.


Then the slavers came, they told everything to die, and everything did, excepting the Bandersnatch, the yeast, and maybe some non-carbon-based life, and such Jinxoid Larvae as were lucky enough to be out of town when the bad stuff went down. Some of these survive, they grow up, they’re fruitful, they multiply, but obviously the system is out of balance, their numbers are never quite what they were back before the Day of Death. The Core is running a bit hot and unstable. Perhaps so few Jinxoids survived to reproduce that they’re loosing genetic viability?


The Outsiders evolve, and they eventually figure out all that I’ve told you here, so they take it upon themselves to organize a “Save the frighteningly huge space whales” campaign, where they track and follow starseeds, to give them a better chance of survival, to rebuild the numbers of the species, to save the galaxy and the world, to save all the worlds.


It’s a tough job, and obviously they lost. At some point in the last 30,000 years the numbers of Jinxoids fell low enough that they could no longer stabilize the core and it blew up. In another 35,000 years, the shockwave from the explosion will eat earth. In another 30,000 years after that, it’ll have reached the outermost edges of the galaxy. Still the outsiders continue their thankless task, their lost cause. Or is it lost? Perhaps they’re hoping to herd enough Jinxoids to a set location to establish a firebreak of sorts, that will prevent whatever unexploded core stars remain? Perhaps they can save a portion? Perhaps they’re simply running like hell and they’ll deal with the fallout later. Who knows? The point is that the Slavers not only killed all life, they tried to kill the galaxy itself! Talk about sore losers!


But it all makes a degree of theoretical sense, and it explains a lot of otherwise inscrutable stuff. Not that I’m implying for a moment that this is what Mr. Niven had in mind. No, no, no, this is all my doing, crazy ol’ Republibot 3.0: The father of The Mother Of All Retcons.


Which brings us back to Jinx itself: How did it pick up life?


Well, first assume that any Jinxoid cruising through the void would pick up a mantle of dust and crap as it flies through nebulae and such. They don’t mind or care. They might even like it, it’s how you tell young from old.  Assume it has a ‘safe patch’ at the center of it’s magnetic field, just like Moscow Motor’s Ramscoop ships did. Assume the Tnuctipun knew this, as they certainly would have. Assume they’re using Bandersnatchi to pass messages and coordinate the revolution, as we know for a fact they were. Given that, it would make a degree of sense to put some bandersnatch in hidden enclaves the Slavers wouldn’t think to look at - like riding the back of a Jinxoid. Coat it in Slaver Yeast, and put a few giant sunlamps in orbit, and who would ever notice these things as they slink slowly ‘twixt the stars? Certainly not the rather dim slavers, who hyperspace jump around impatiently. Better still, anyone approaching too closely would be killed by the magnetic field of one of these beasties, so any Slaver who did see one would know well enough to stay the hell away. The Tnuctipun could get in and out using a magnetic dampening field, however.


Jinx itself was one of the last of these, intended to function as something of a hidden base in the revolution. Something went wrong - a ship crashed in to it, or it hit a big rock, or was accidentally poisoned by Bandersnatch turds, whatever - rendering it brain damaged. It couldn’t respond to the death order, so it just continued to wander - crippled - through the stars, it’s sunlamps still blazing away. Traveling at near-light speeds, time passed subjectively very slowly for it. Eventually, it ground to a halt after orbiting the galaxy several times, and then it was captured by the gravity well of Sirius, eventually stumbling in to orbit around Primary, where it waited for a hundred million years or so, until we came. Or, it eventually came in to orbit around Sirius, and it’s own gravitational perturbations caused Primary to form, since it’s unlikely such a short-lived star would have planets under normal circumstances. There’s plenty of dust there, but it ain’t gonna’ coalesce unless something causes it to bunch up. Something like a big planet-sized Jinxoid wandering around.


Finally we come to the question of ‘why is Jinx shaped like it is?’ Well, at root Jinx is shaped like a football because that’s natural for its species. All Jinxoids look like footballs. But of course that asks the question of why?


Well, if we imagine this thing is a living ramjet, then it must have some method of generating a magnetic field - it’s core - and artificially extending it. While we’re presupposing a ‘liveable area’ it just makes sense for evolution to put the brain as far away from the potentially brain-frying parts as possible. So the core of the core generates the magnetic field, and the brain is at one end or the other. Whichever pole the brain is, the actual fusion engine would be at the opposite one, a massive volcano spewing plasma. Again, you’d want the exhaust as far away from the actual magnetic field-generating part of the creature as possible, because otherwise you’d risk trapping some of your own exhaust, which would probably be bad. Firing more-or-less constantly for thousands of years at a time would generate an awful lot of internal stress within the creature, and this presupposes some kind of skeleton. Otherwise, the ‘engine’ would simply push through the body. Therefore there has to be some kind of integument to keep the engine - the anus, if you will - as far away from the mouth and brain as possible, and to keep both of them as far away from the magnetic field generator as is practical. Hence, we’ve got to have some kind of  tube running from the mouth-end to the not-mouth-end. One end collects the hydrogen and passes it down. In the core of the planet it’s compressed, fused, and shot out the backside. To pass through the whole planet, it would have to be super-hard, so let’s assume it’s made of scrith, or something like it. This spine-esophagus thing would then have semicircular ‘bones’ of scrith coming out towards the front end, arcing along under the surface, and re-connecting to the spine towards the back end of the body. These don’t actually have to be Scrith, mind you, but some kind of biologically produced equivalent thereof. While the Jinxians believe their world to be rock all the way down, there’s no evidence that they’ve dug to check it out physically, and if this integument *looks* like rock in their scans, they’ll just assume it *is* wrong and not look any further unless they’re given specific reason to suspect otherwise.


And there you have it. And it all makes sense, after a fashion. Well, if not actually ‘sense,’ at least it’s a theory/retcon that accounts for a whole bunch of observable facts, ties up a lot of loose ends.  Granted, at it’s very root it’s super-nuts, but it’s the kind of crazy that eventually makes for a kind of backhanded reasonability. It works for me, but your mileage may vary.


I’m not a fanfic writer, and even if I was I wouldn’t write fanfic in Known Space simply out of my enormous respect for Mr. Niven himself, the man who shaped altogether too many of my dreams. This is just a logical exercise, nothing more. I welcome any feedback from anyone interested in commenting, and Mr. Niven, if you’re reading this (And I can’t imagine why you would be), I’d love love love to hear your thoughts on my crazy little scheme. 


Special thanks to our esteemed host, Lensman, who put me up to writing this.


* - In fact, these bands are arranged from an east-to-west orientation, and the moon rotates on two axes - an East/West pole and a North/South one, but I’m trying to keep this as simple as possible for newbies and people who have trouble with orbital mechanics. Bear with me here.
** - He had that song “Tarzan Boy” in the mid-80s, remember that?
***- And if we follow this line of comparison out, we can identify the other spectral classes with other types of singers. For instance, Luther Vandross would be a Cepheid Variable Star, but that’s an article for another day…
**** - In fact, Niven never specifically *Says* that everything with a brain died, but it seems that’s what he was implying to me, and it would explain why there were no great big imperial races who emerged in the enormous amount of time between the Slavers and the K’zin: Sentient life had to re-evolve from scratch again.

On Thursday, November 10th, 2011, Larry Niven himself (!) contacted me with the following comments about the article you just read:

Hey Republibot:

Your take on Jinx was fascinating.
No, I still don't believe it.
First, I don't remember claiming a solid core. Oops? I was depending on a solid shell (as opposed to Earth's floating continents.)

Second, check the numbers for a sense of proportion. 600 miles out of say 10,000. Jinx is far more like a sphere than a football. The idea is that the pretty solid surface shrinks and wrinkles as Jinx moves outward. Becomes more spherical, but leaves Mons-olympus-like mountains at east and west poles. (Olympus does indeed stick out of Mars' atmosphere.)

Third, I was expecting Primary to be scooping atmosphere away from Jinx, so it would have to be heavy to keep enough air to breath. (We thought Earth/Moon was like that, as compared to Venus.) That's dead wrong; check Titan/ Saturn. Air molecules wind up in orbit around Saturn, until they return to Titan.

So it still doesn't work.
For a better world building project, see MEDEA: HARLAN'S WORLD.
But that's a collaboration.