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Avatar - Could the Na'vi species breath Earth Air?

Sheilawisz

Queen of Titania
Moderator
To start, I want to say that this thread is about the Avatar film by director James Cameron and not about the animated series that is called Avatar as well.

In the movie, there is this huge, Earth-size moon called Pandora that orbits a Gas Giant planet. Pandora was discovered by Earth's first Interstellar mission in the early 22nd Century, and it has fascinated humanity because it is a very surprising and wonderful world.

The only problem with Pandora is that humans cannot survive more than a few minutes there, because the atmosphere contains 18% of Carbon Dioxide. That kills Earth lifeforms in a few minutes even though there is enough Oxygen, because it interferes with our blood chemistry and respiration system fatally.

Now, I wonder... What would happen to the Na'vi species (and other Pandoran lifeforms as well) if they traveled to Earth and were exposed to our atmosphere, which contains only traces of Carbon Dioxide?

Would they survive?

My theory is that the Na'vi in Earth would suffer dramatic changes in their blood chemistry because of the lack of all that Carbon Dioxide, and they would soon die in our atmosphere just like humans die in Pandora.

What do you think?
 

CupofJoe

Myth Weaver
I'm sure it will be addressed in Avatar 2, 3 or 4 but my guess is that they need the CO2 to survive on earth so any Na'vi would need to top-up their CO2. Maybe they wouldn't die as fast as humans on Pandora but our air would probably be too "sweet" for them... sort of like a deep sea creature suddenly finding itself near the surface and decompressing...
 

Penpilot

Staff
Article Team
It depends on their biology. Not an expert but air is a mixture of 21% oxygen, 78% nitrogen, and approximately 1% of other gases. From my limited research divers breath a mixture of Oxygen, Helium, and Nitrogen. The reason divers breath a gas mixture instead of pure oxygen is that Oxygen and Nitrogen can be toxic when breathed under pressure. The Helium helps balance the amount of Oxygen and Nitrogen being inhaled. The Oxygen is the only thing of real value to the body's metabolism. Nitrogen and Helium under normal circumstances are pretty much harmless. So as long as you're getting enough Oxygen with each breath, breathing in other inert gasses like Nitrogen and Helium won't harm you.

So what's my point? My point is if on the Na'vi metabolism treats CO2 like human's treat Nitrogen, then it's absence is meaningless. We can survive breathing 100% Oxygen. And of course this is assuming their metabolism operates with Oxygen like humans. But evolution is a crazy thing. Maybe their metabolism uses the CO2 in some critical way. Maybe it's CO2 that the Na'vi breath and the other 82% of their atmospheric gases are useless to them. This of course means that Earth's atmosphere would suffocate them like depriving humans of Oxygen.
 
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Sheilawisz

Queen of Titania
Moderator
I would really like to watch the rest of the planned Avatar movies, CupofJoe, but I doubt they will ever be produced. They could explain a lot of questions that fans are asking themselves like the one that we are discussing, and they say that the other Moons would be explored as well.

Something worth of mentioning is that, in the movie, when Jake and Norm use their avatars for the first time the avatars wake up in a laboratory that is full of Pandoran air. This special room was separated from the rest of the scientific base by a glass wall, and the scientists attending the avatars were wearing exo packs...

In case that the avatars could breath Earth air then there would be no need to take such precautions, so I believe that Earth air would kill the avatars or the Na'vi.

@Penpilot: Pandoran air contains enough Oxygen for humans to survive, because all that they need are the exo packs to filter the excess of Carbon Dioxide. The Na'vi blood is red, which means that it works by carrying Oxygen... I believe that their blood would be rather acidic because of the huge concentration of CO2 in their air, so if you take that away, their blood would change a lot.

Nitrogen is one of the inert gases but Carbon Dioxide has the capability to influence blood and respiration systems, so... I am not sure what exactly would happen to a Na'vi in Earth, but I still believe that the final result would be death.
 

Steerpike

Felis amatus
Moderator
They're made up, so the creators can do what they want with it. Could go either way. If the CO2 isn't needed by the Na'vi, then maybe they have a biochemical mechanism that allows them to render it harmless. That biochemistry wouldn't come into play on earth, but since they don't need the CO2 anyway, it wouldn't matter. You could say they'd survive just fine.

On the other hand, if they need the CO2 to live, in addition to the O2 carried in their blood, then they wouldn't survive on earth.
 

Sheilawisz

Queen of Titania
Moderator
Hello Steerpike, long time no see, it's great to see you around once again =)

I don't think that the Na'vi have evolved to render a concentration of 18% CO2 harmless. My opinion is that they (and all other Pandoran species as well) have evolved to tolerate the CO2 instead, to function despite its presence. We can develop a resistance to CO2 to levels up to 3 and even 4% for a week or more, so if we had the time to evolve, perhaps humans could eventually resist the 18%.

Their blood chemistry is designed to function despite all that CO2, so if you take it away... What would happen to the PH levels of their blood? What would happen to the function of their cells?

I would predict the Na'vi carrying their own tank of Pandoran air to walk around in Earth, or else, there would be dead Na'vi all over the place.
 

Sheilawisz

Queen of Titania
Moderator
After researching a little more into blood chemistry and respiration systems, I have reached a scientific conclusion about what would really happen to the Na'vi if they were brought to Earth.

In the case of Earth people in Pandora, the excess Carbon Dioxide causes the phenomenon called Hypercapnia. This results in the muscle twitches, panic, unconsciousness and eventual death that are seen in the movie, because there is too much CO2 in the blood and we simply cannot tolerate it.

Earth's air lacks all of that excess Carbon Dioxide, so my reasoning is that it would cause in the Na'vi exactly the opposite of the effect that Panoran air has on Earth people: Hypocapnia, a state where very reduced levels of CO2 are found in the blood and causes what we commonly know as Hyperventilation.

This would cause them at first dizziness, anxiety and visual disturbances, but then the Na'vi blood would become very alkaline and muscle cramps would follow soon after that. They would loss consciousness and progress to convulsions and death, so in certain way Earth air would be more deadly for them than Pandoran air is for us.

The lack of 18% CO2 could not be countered by filters in a mask, which means that the Na'vi would need to carry around tanks of Pandoran air if they wanted to survive in Earth.
 

lucas88979

New Member
I came here due to the fact I wanted to know what they breath because fire can still thrive in the movie, but it needs oxygen to exist. they couldn’t breath the air so I wanted to know if there was oxygen because I would have pointed out the fire comment
 

pmmg

Myth Weaver
I dont think this was answered in Movie 2, but apparently they can hold their breath underwater for a very very long time.
 

BearBear

Archmage
I would guess, since CO2 is a waste product for us and so deadly at high concentration that their body has adapted to a specific range of CO2 and if it became rareified they might have an oxygen oversaturation in their blood/tissues leading to hyperoxia or oxygen toxicity. However, humans can happily live in zero CO2 atmosphere hence scuba divers can use exotic mixtures not just air, in fact we don't need nitrogen either for respiration.

So it depends strongly on how their body handles CO2, is it just extra steps to force it out in their lungs or are they simply able to stand it with little to no functional differences. If the latter, then they'd be fine.

There are other physiological affects of higher CO2, we get dumber, we have higher gastric acid, among others. I'd have to think they might have opposit and possibly many detrimental affects especially after long term exposure. So it would be worth studying the effects of CO2 to humans and other animals and reverse that for them and consider what else they'd go through then just do it mentally, simulate it in writing a short story or scene, and see what happens. (See what's believable and makes sense.)
 

Sheilawisz

Queen of Titania
Moderator
Hello everyone!

I came here due to the fact I wanted to know what they breath because fire can still thrive in the movie, but it needs oxygen to exist. they couldn’t breath the air so I wanted to know if there was oxygen because I would have pointed out the fire comment
Pandora's air is mostly nitrogen and oxygen, like Earth air. However it contains around 18% of carbon dioxide, and that's why this alien, rarefied mixture is quickly fatal to Earth lifeforms.

I dont think this was answered in Movie 2, but apparently they can hold their breath underwater for a very very long time.
Yes, it was answered.

We see Kiri inside of the lab, and Lo'ak too, at least I think that was him. They can be just fine in Earth air, as long as they take regular breaths from a little respirator mask that they carry around.

It surely provides them with Pandoran air in order to keep their blood CO2 levels normal, so when it starts to drop and they feel funny, a few breaths of their stuff easily keeps them going.

The fact that they carry the respirator around, means that Earth air makes them dizzy or even sick very fast, so they need constant assistance. Spider mentions that they can survive in our air for hours, but that time would consist of a slow and painful hypocapnia with collapse and death at the end.

This opens an interesting possibility: Captured Na'vi could be tortured and even slowly executed with Earth air.

However, humans can happily live in zero CO2 atmosphere hence scuba divers can use exotic mixtures not just air, in fact we don't need nitrogen either for respiration.
Indeed, but we live in something like 400ppm CO2 so if that is taken away, it means really nothing to us.

In the other hand, Na'vi live in 180000ppm so it's a big deal for them.

Oh, and Avatar 2 The Way of the Whales totally sucks! Yeah, unpopular opinion, I know.
 

pmmg

Myth Weaver
Oh, and Avatar 2 The Way of the Whales totally sucks! Yeah, unpopular opinion, I know.

I wrote a review of it somewhere. I am not sure how far on the suck scale I will go, but it had me asking too many questions to give two thumbs up to.

It was the next thread down...

Uhhh...where to start. I fear this film is going to be one that sinks for me the longer I think on it. I love Cameron's films, I think he is the best there is. And this film is certainly better than many others...if only it did not have Avatar 1 to be compared against :(

Avatar was an experience, and Avatar 2 just could not top it. I think the main beef ppl have with Avatar is that it is kind of a weak and predictable story...Well, Avatar 2 is more of the same. Only...the novelty of the 3d and bioluminescence has already been played.

I think it is clear Mr. Cameron loves the ocean, and underwater scenes in this are spectacular. I'd say just awesome 3d, but I have actually seen similar 3d at an aquarium near me in the past--maybe many others have not.

I also think Mr. Cameron takes very heartedly his role in empowering women on film and wanted more of it with this. I don't think that worked. The Na'vi are alien and all, but it felt forced and unlikely to me.

I'd would like to say I loved this, but it has already settled for a day, and I am starting to drift.

For me, the biggest miss in this movie is the message.

Jake Sully says more than once, as if that it the theme, that 'a father protects'. But he has not protected, he has made bad decisions, and he has not understood the world he is a part of (which, fair enough, he is an outsider, but I did not get that his 'not getting it' is subtlely the theme). A father protects matters where individual life matters, but in Eywa, the whole planet is a being, and all on it are more like ants than meaningful beings. They can be expended to protect the whole. So the message does not resonate in the film, and even though the story tries to put a lot of value on individual life, its apparent the planet can, and ought, to expend some--its survival is at stake. I also hate to say, but I think Eywa would lose in this invasion.

I find also a question I am not supposed to ask but do is....the planet is really big. What does it matter what Jake Sully does? You can settle anywhere and he cant stop it. (And, I am not sure if it was an oversight, but Jake Sully is not he MC anymore, he was pushed aside by his second youngest son. Not sure if I am supposed to think that. But Jake Sully can die off and the movie is the same.)

So for me, the conflict is not being understood by the protagonists and poorly addressed. The conflict is Eywa vs man, not blue people vs man.

A lot of this movie had me asking questions, which is never good:

Why build a massive water ship and then make it fly? Why not just make it fly in the first place?
How long can someone really hold their breath...that was a bit glossed over, but people should be drowning as long as they were under.
How could Jake really expect that Earth types would not return? He must have known that would happen.
Why bring back the character you killed in the last one? There just are not any other evil soldier types to take his place?

My list is pretty long...


And...the best reason to see it, the 3D, was great in some places and not in others. I was a little surprised at it. Maybe I have 3d acclimation, cause that was not what I thought of the first one. (and I may have to watch the first one again, I felt the Na'vi drifted a little more towards uncanny valley in this one. I don't remember Neytiri having such a long disproportionate neck before...but I may be remembering wrong.)

Somehow Disney got hold of this film and I am not happy about that, but I don't think they had much influence over it. The film was not full of 'the message' and was really one that was meant to win you over with general coolness. I think this is a one thumbs up movie.

My experience:

First 3rd: Boring and ham-fisted.
Second 3rd: Ah... There's the cool 3d.
Third 3rd: Yeah, Whatever... The blue people would lose.

Actually, ham-fisted all the way through.

Still love you Cameron, and all... I don't think this will make my own list. Sorry.
 
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pmmg

Myth Weaver
We see Kiri inside of the lab, and Lo'ak too, at least I think that was him. They can be just fine in Earth air, as long as they take regular breaths from a little respirator mask that they carry around.

Oh...and did they? I dont even remember that scene. I'll take your word for it.

I am sure the earth types can figure out ways to torture them. Part of the premise of the movie is that Earth is dying, so maybe our air is going with it.
 

Queshire

Auror
Honestly the first Avatar movie didn't impress me. All the fancy graphics in the world mean nothing if the story is meh.
 

Aleshe

Troubadour
I loved loved loved Avatar when I was a child so I hope Avatar 2 lives up to it. I had no idea that their carbon dioxide levels are so high, but I don't get why their body would need it, and low carbon dioxide level in blood is a thing? Because as Bear pointed out, deep divers don't breath CO2, so their body makes all it needs, to require CO2 from the atmosphere sounds wrong to me.

So after looking it up, I guess it messes with a lot of things and the body uses CO2 levels to regulate breathing so if there's a lack of CO2 then the body suppresses breathing. So for whatever reason their body can't maintain enough CO2 concentration on its own. But if they just take hits of CO2 I don't see how that would help unless their body actively takes CO2 in from the lungs, which sounds really wrong to me.
 

Sheilawisz

Queen of Titania
Moderator
Hey there.

I had no idea that their carbon dioxide levels are so high, but I don't get why their body would need it, and low carbon dioxide level in blood is a thing?
The official Avatar site features the Pandorapedia, since the times of the first Avatar. It's really nice, and yet the Fandom wiki also contains a lot of official information that was not included in the original film.

Avatar is already a pretty cool universe, with a lot of detail. For example, you can learn exactly how the interstellar ships work, why unobtanium is so important, curiosities about Na'vi culture, the approximate size of Pandora and plenty of other nerdy things like that.

It's not really that the Na'vi need the super high concentration of carbon dioxide in their atmosphere. They evolved there, taking all of that CO2 into their lungs and blood with every breath, so their system works according to their environment.

The sudden lack of all that carbon dioxide in the air would cause a variety of problems and nasty symptoms, ending in death, though it would be a lot slower than a human's death when overwhelmed by this toxic Pandoran air.

In other words, they would hyperventilate like crazy in Earth.

Anyway, as far as I know, it's not likely that complex lifeforms could evolve in a moon or a planet with an atmosphere like that. It would make the blood far too acidic to actually sustain life.
 

Aleshe

Troubadour
In other words, they would hyperventilate like crazy in Earth.

Oh, that totally makes sense.

Anyway, as far as I know, it's not likely that complex lifeforms could evolve in a moon or a planet with an atmosphere like that. It would make the blood far too acidic to actually sustain life.

What if they ate a low acid diet? Though probably plants would be affected too and they might be extra acidic too. Well, it's fantasy.
 

BearBear

Archmage
I remember on some discovery animal planet something that Elephants ate clay at the bottom of ponds and other soils in part to replace sodium but this is also likely alkaline. So maybe there is something they eat to help balance the acid content.
 

Sheilawisz

Queen of Titania
Moderator
Hi there!

There are other physiological affects of higher CO2, we get dumber, we have higher gastric acid, among others. I'd have to think they might have opposit and possibly many detrimental affects especially after long term exposure. So it would be worth studying the effects of CO2 to humans and other animals and reverse that for them and consider what else they'd go through then just do it mentally, simulate it in writing a short story or scene, and see what happens. (See what's believable and makes sense.)
Well, it turns out you were right... Very right!

I have been researching about this curious subject, and I have found plenty of very interesting and even alarming information. There are many sites that talk about it, yet this one here explains the problem quite nice and clear.

Carbon Dioxide Indoor Threat!

So, how about that?

From teenagers getting dumber in classrooms, soldiers getting dumber in barracks to drivers getting dumber in cars, this explains a lot about why our world is so messed up.

The worst news... We keep filling our atmosphere with this stuff.

Good luck everyone!
 

IsaiahF

Dreamer
Jake Sully says more than once, as if that it the theme, that 'a father protects'. But he has not protected, he has made bad decisions, and he has not understood the world he is a part of (which, fair enough, he is an outsider, but I did not get that his 'not getting it' is subtlely the theme). A father protects matters where individual life matters, but in Eywa, the whole planet is a being, and all on it are more like ants than meaningful beings. They can be expended to protect the whole. So the message does not resonate in the film, and even though the story tries to put a lot of value on individual life, its apparent the planet can, and ought, to expend some--its survival is at stake. I also hate to say, but I think Eywa would lose in this invasion.
Hey pmmg, there's this great Youtube video essayist whose thoughts on the film seem much in line with yours. He argues, admitting that he may well be reading into it, that Jake's instinct to be a 'father protects' is actually him falling back into his human individuality and that this was therefore meant by Cameron to be a criticism of that more egocentric attitude in society of protecting our loved ones in times of crisis rather than protecting others, or protecting the planet. At least, that's one interpretation :giggle: If you're interested you can find him here, he's got some great stuff on his channel -
 
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