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

Discussion in 'Film & Television' started by Sheilawisz, Apr 23, 2014.

  1. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

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    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?
     
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    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...
     
  3. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2014
  4. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

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    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.
     
  5. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    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.
     
  6. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

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    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.
     
  7. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

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    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.
     

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