Protoculture

The single most important discovery made from the alien space ship was Protoculture, which would become the key to Robotechnology. At the heart of ASS-1 was the vessel's unique power source, the Protoculture Matrix. Scientists examining the Matrix were able to determine that the Protoculture was a strange form of organic matter held in stasis. Somehow the process of keeping the material in stasis caused it to radiate large amounts of energy, making it an incredibly efficient power source. Eventually the scientists discovered a means to siphon off varying amounts of Protoculture from the Matrix, which allowed them to make it the central power source for the newly developed Robotech spacecraft and mecha. Shortly after the first Protoculture-powered mecha prototypes were developed, Robotech scientists made a shocking discovery. Due to some strange side effect of its organic nature when Protoculture was used to power a mecha, the vehicle would form a symbiotic link with its pilot. This link resulted in the pilot getting a greater agility and responsiveness from the mecha than with more conventionally powered systems. Efforts to duplicate this link artificialy have so far failed, and the effect seems to be limited to single pilot mecha and vehicles.In Robotech, the 1985 American-edited adaptation of three unrelated anime sci-fi series (1, 2, 3), the term Protoculture was used to describe a powerful energy source,[11] a catalyst in genetic engineering, a hallucinatory substance, and the described "lifeblood" of two different races. As the "foodstuff" and the by-product of the Flower of Life, it is used by one race, the Invid, in "finding the ultimate lifeform through the ritualistic eating." The Robotech Masters also call it "the lifeblood of our existence," and say their "foremost goal is to control this life force by conquering Earth."

In Robotech: Genesis, a six-part comic book mini-series published by Eternity Comics in the early 1990s, the origin and use of Protoculture is explained. Zor, a young scientist from the moon of the planet Fantoma, Tirol, is part of a major interplanetary scientific expedition. On one leg of the survey, Zor lands on the planet Optera, which is home to the insect-like Invid. Zor finds himself in telepathic communication with the central intelligence of the Invid, and through their meeting an exchange of information between the two races is achieved. The Invid consciousness learns of Tirolian science and engineering, and Zor learns of the innermost secrets of the Flower of Life, a flower that dominates the landscape of the planet (as well as the diet of the Invid).

By processing the Flowers of Life, the energy source, known as Protoculture, was created.[12] Due to the greed and growing thirst for power of the Tirolian government, the planet of Optera is almost completely devastated due to Tirolian harvesting of the Flowers of Life. This callous defoliation inspires the Invid to create their immense war machine and attack the Tirolians, aka the Robotech Masters. After the Emperor orders Zor's father killed, Zor decides to destroy the Masters' Protoculture factories. He then escapes the Masters, along with the only remaining Protoculture Matrix, inside the experimental SDF-1 Zentraedi Monitor. After being mortally wounded during an Invid ambush, Zor sends the space fortress on a random space fold, and passes away. The ship soon crashes on Earth and sets the stage for the whole Robotech saga.[13]

The Jack McKinney novels expanded on the metaphysical aspects of protoculture, notably that protoculture was a form of sentience in itself. Dr. Emil Lang, Earth's chief Robotechnician, frequently referred to a cosmic force that he called The Shapings, a cycle of events and occurrences that ultimately lead to a greater event in the nature of the universe; perhaps the ultimate evolution of life itself to a next stage.

Dr. Lang believes that The Shapings started well before Zor's discovery of protoculture, and have influenced the progress of the Robotech Wars, including the SDF-3's failure to appear in Earthspace at the end of the TV series. He and Exedore also suspected that the mythology of the enigmatic planet Haydon, that they have been researching, may yet have an ultimate part to play in the way that The Shapings play out. Dr. Lang and Exedore's predictions as well as the nature of the Shapings and Haydon are explored in the eighteenth Robotech novel, "End of the Circle".

By Harmony Gold's current stance, the Jack McKinney novels and the Robotech: The Legend of Zor comic series is secondary canon: subject to critical review with respect to the primary canon (the TV series) but not necessarily ruled out. The Haydonites, however, did appear in the 2006 animated Robotech sequel Shadow Chronicles, although their depiction here is far more sinister. According to the Invid princess, Ariel, the Haydonites wish to destroy all races that use protoculture, because "they fear its awesome power…"It was the unique mechanism the seed used to shatter its husk that intrigued Zor Derelda upon his discovery of the plant, and made him decide to harness this energy for practical use. Indeed, the Tiresian terms for 'Protoculture' (zorrlev're) and 'Robotechnology' (zorrlev'dri) mean, literally, 'Zor's discovery' and 'Zor's science'. The Invid name, opredti, simply means 'power'. The English term derives from a direct translation of the Tiresian term for an unprocessed crop of seeds of the Flower of Life, one of the chief prizes stored in the bowels of the SDF-1.
Flowers of Life Seeds

Protoculture is process by which energy is derived from the seeds of the Invid Flower of Life, when prevented by pressure from germinating. The energy is produced by a process of cold fusion of trace elements contained in a lithium- and deuterium-rich solution which permeates the seeds and their environs. In nature the strength of this reaction is limited by the natural abundances of the necessary isotopes, but in man-made situations, the solutions can be made far richer, depending upon the required rate of energy generation. A long and specialized protein chain (known as the fusor sequence) within specialized organelles in the seed's cells binds to the necessary reactants, and twists into a tight bundle which squeezes the lithium-6 and deuterium atoms into very close proximity. Being bosons (particles whose spins are an integer multiple of Planck's constant), the resultant atoms - compressed together - are not affected by the effective repulsion from the Pauli principle. Only the electrostatic barriers to fusion - the repulsion of the two positively-charged nuclei - need be overcome.

This solution, which also includes several seed-beneficent nutrients, is known as the Protoculture Matrix, but is often simply misnamed "Protoculture" - leading to the common and erroneous belief that Protoculture, in reality a process, is actually a substance that fuels mecha and generators. The Protoculture Matrix can be tailored to fit the intended application of the energy released in the "organic fusion" process. Maintained in bio-stasis, the seeds gradually surrender their stores of energy; the richer the lithium-deuterium solution, the quicker the depletion. For sustained energy, a moderately dilute solution and moderate pressure are needed. This is the basis for most civil and ship-board Protoculture generators. Ideally, because of the seed's enormous capacity for self-repair, this output could be maintained indefinitely so long as the needed reactants and nutrients in the solution are replenished. However, as the solution begins to accrue carbon and other waste elements from the fusion process, these waste materials bond together to form simple organic molecules, which build up in the seed itself and cannot be filtered out, allowing the seeds to receive nutrition sufficient to crack the slowly-weakened seed-husk and germinate. Thus, the sprouting sporofers of the Flower end up consuming the Matrix. The Masters actually considered the sporofers and the Flower parasitic - by consuming the Matrix, and without the Invid as pollinators to help fertilize the new growths that sprout in the containment vessels (or in the Masters' case, the ignorance of the need for the special pheromones to permit fertilization), the next generation of plants are effectively useless for the generation of energy.

On the other hand, some applications require a large amount of energy to be delivered in a short period of time. For this, an extremely rich solution of Matrix is required, and the seed must be held under extreme pressure. This approach is the basis of the Protoculture cell. This process is very effective for applications where the smallest possible generator is needed, though the cells only last a very short amount of time. Unlike the conditions in the more moderate generators, the furious pace of energy production by seeds in the rich Matrix and extreme pressure of a cell results in an inability for those self-same seeds to germinate. By the time most of the Matrix has been depleted, the seeds contained in the cell are dead.

In both cases, the energy of fusion is released in the form of energetic particles which are absorbed by the seed itself, causing the generation of heat. Useful energy is derived from these seeds by strong and efficient conduction of the heat from the seed to thermocouples, which convert the heat into electrical potentials and energy. Waste heat is shunted out of the generator and is virtually the only undesirable by-product of the Protoculture process. This is minimized because Tirolian materials technology was able to develop a thermocouple that operated at very close to the thermodynamical limit of efficiency - and this technology was adopted in full by every race that has ever used the seeds for energy, including the Invid themselves.

For the slow process of energy release by the generator method, the Matrix must be occasionally decanted and filtered of waste materials, and must be replenished by additional reactants for the fusion process. By careful filtering and replenishment of lithium and heavy water into the mix, the generator can last for many decades, until the seed cracks of its own accord and the sporofer begins to grow. As the seed inside a cell is expected to be killed by the energy-generation process, the Matrix inside a cell is made sufficiently rich in reactants that the cell's Matrix is almost depleted when the seed dies.

One other aspect of the Protoculture process requires mention at this point. The nature of fusion, and the energetic particles it releases, is such that it is very damaging to the structures of the cell in which it occurs. To combat this, and to preserve the seed's viability, the Flower of Life has evolved numerous self-repair mechanisms for the seed stage that compensate for the damage. Most important of these, at least for artificial applications, is a family of enzymes the Tirolians named "zhailoni" (designated on Earth "zylonases"). These enzymes are capable of dramatically increasing the rates of construction of proteins, accelerating the repair of damaged cells to such a degree that the cell will survive what would otherwise be lethal damage. However, extreme conditions (such as those in a power cell) can and will eventually cause damage that out-paces the seed's ability to repair itself, killing the seed.

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