Tag Archives: flying polyps

Guest Article: Bioengineering the Alien by David Hambling

Before we continue with the discussion on “In the Walls of Eryx” I am posting the first of a series of guest articles here on Lovecraftian Science. This first article is by David Hambling and is about the Flying Polyps. David provides a fascinating alternative hypothesis to mine on these entities. Also, David’s latest book is “The Dulwich Horror & Others” available in hard copy and Kindle. The next article will be a discussion on the fauna on Lovecraft’s Venus. Thank you – Fred.


Flying Polyp by Eclectixx (www.deviantart.com)

Bioengineering the Alien

Many of H.P. Lovecraft’s creatures could be understood in human terms – Deep Ones, Elder Things and Yithians are people too – but one alien race shows no spark of empathy. The “elder race of half-polypous, utterly alien entities” introduced in The Shadow Out of Time are terrifying and incomprehensible. Lovecraft was deliberately vague about these creatures, generally known as Flying Polyps (hereafter FPs), but provides many intriguing details. Enough, in fact, to recreate them.

Lovecraft was a great enthusiast for the latest science, but in his day scientific knowledge was not adequate to the task of providing a solid basis for his imagined aliens.  However, the last century has filled the science-fiction toybox with shiny new concepts, and in my story “The Monsters in the Park” (included in the collection The Dulwich Horror and Others) I set out to reconstruct the FP.  You can’t fit much scientific detail into a story – not without inconveniencing readers — so this essay is a brief guide on the science of FPs.

(All quotes in italics are from The Shadow Out of Time – full text here http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/sot.aspx)

Electrical Aliens

The basic physiology of FPs  is provided by a series of hints. They came here from space hundreds of millions of years ago:

  • Once there was a curious, intrusive flash of half-sight—a faint, diffuse suspicion of bluish radiance far overhead
  • They were only partly material—as we understand matter
  • Certain forms of electrical energy could wholly destroy them.

What we have is a being which is largely electrical in nature. The FP is largely composed of plasma, ionized gas; the solid part is in a sense its skeleton. The plasma cloud around it acts as a sensory web, nervous system and a means of manipulating its environment.  Known as the fourth state of matter, plasma is rare on Earth, seen mainly in lightning and neon bulbs, so the description of it being only partly material as we understand matter is accurate. However, it should be noted that while rare on Earth plasma is fairly abundant throughout the universe, primarily found in stars.

Cold plasma which exists at room temperature is rare in nature, but can be produced with silent discharge by semiconductors. The technology of cold plasma is still in its infancy, but it is already being used in some electronic devices, and in modifying aerodynamics: I recently wrote about a team using plasma panels to reduce the drag on trucks (https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22730314-600-plasma-makes-lorries-hit-purple-patch-of-fuel-efficiency/)

The FP’s basic structure is a form of carbon known as graphene, which is immensely strong and has useful semiconductor properties. The FP stores energy as charge in graphene ultra-capacitors, rather than in chemical form like terrestrial creatures.   The bluish-white radiance is a characteristic sign of ionization in the air.

In space, the FPs is not troubled by vacuum, and would propel itself by a kind of plasma drive (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasma_propulsion_engine) much as a squid propels itself under water.

On Earth, the FP is mainly a creature of the upper atmosphere. With a little titanium oxide, graphene can act as a solar cell, turning sunlight into electricity (http://www.gizmag.com/graphene-solar-cell-record-efficiency/30466/). Thus, FPs spend most of their time in the ionosphere, “feeding” on solar radiation in a radically different form of photosynthesis.

In their conflict with the Yithians, the FPs were driven into underground caverns. This would not have necessarily bothered them. If they are able to absorb infra-red radiation, the continuous heat from geothermal sources would be as nourishing as sunshine.  They would only emerge when some particular need drove them: a spawning urge say, or a periodic exodus like flying ants leaving a nest to found new ones.

Flight of the Polyp

An important feature of FPs is of course that they fly, and can generally manipulate the air for their own purposes:

               –              They had the power of aërial motion despite the absence of wings or any other visible means of levitation.

               –              Other fragmentary whispers referred to their control and military use of great winds. Singular whistling noises … seemed also to be associated with them.

This is where plasma really comes into its own. Plasma can affect airflow over a surface, increasing or reducing drag as needed. However, since plasma is electrically charged it can be manipulated with an electromagnetic field, an area of study known as magnetohydrodynamics.

Prof Jamey Jacob of Oklahoma State University has worked with tiny plasma actuators in the control of airflow. His initial aim is to build a small drone which can steer with no flaps, rudders or other control surfaces – everything would be done by solid state electronics with no moving parts ( http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/a5820/scientists-control-plasma-for-practical-applications/ ).  Looking further ahead, the ultimate end is a more powerful actuator to propel the drone, so there is no need for a propeller or a conventional engine: the motive force would come from tiny actuators embedded in the drone’s skin. It would be able to levitate with no visible means of support, with just the suggestion of a plasma glow; exactly what the FP can do.

The “military use of great winds” can also be achieved with magnetohydordynamics. Normal wind is pretty limited as a weapon, but a vortex ring is something else. Also known as a toroidal vortex or ring vortex, it’s what you get when you take the two ends of a tornado or a whirlpool and bend them around until they meet. You could think of it as a self-contained tornado, a twister twisted into a ring.  Alternatively, you could just think of it as a smoke ring without the smoke.

Vortex rings have an unusual degree of stability – a smoke ring endures while a puff of smoke disperses — and can even survive an impact with a solid object, bouncing off it like a rubber ball.  The airflow around a ring makes it effectively frictionless. A vortex ring glides along with very little resistance even at high speed and so can be projected with considerable speed and force.

Since World War II, defence scientists have been looking at vortex rings as potential weapons. During WWII Zippermeyer, an Austrian scientist invented a device known as the ‘wind cannon’ to shoot down Allied bombers. Exhaust gases from an explosion in a combustion changer were shaped into vortex ring by a special nozzle. The combustion chamber was ten meters long, but it worked: Zippermeyer could break inch-thick wooden planks at a range of two hundred meters.  Which is impressive until you remember that a cannon the same size can do much more damage at longer ranges.

More recently there have been various efforts to develop ‘nonlethal’ weapons using vortex rings to knock down rioters. The apparatus is still too cumbersome to be practical (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vortex_ring_gun) but vortex rings still appear on science programs (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyAyd4WnvhU)

The FP generates vortex rings via magnetohydrodynamic forces, and can direct them at will, destroying structures or knocking opponents or vehicles aside like toys.


Flying Polyp (www.shadowking-shadowkings.blogspot.com)

See Right Through You

               – their senses did not include that of sight; their mental world being a strange, non-visual pattern of impressions

               – their senses could penetrate all material barriers

Lovecraft knew all about X-rays and seeing through walls, but this is something different. We now have such technology with ultra-wide-band (UWB) radar. Some radio wavelengths are blocked by brick walls, others can pass right through.  UWB throws out a whole jumble of radio waves at all different wavelengths, so some waves will always be able to travel through an obstacle of any given thickness; the challenge is making sense of the assorted reflections you get back.

The secret, as I discovered is having the right algorithms and plenty of processing power. (http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21128225.200-chaos-radar-uses-messy-signals-to-see-through-walls.html#.Us8HTRVFC1I )

The FP possesses its own built-in version of UWB radar and can see through walls and hunt down its prey.  Neatly enough, UWB waves can be produced by electric sparking, and the FPs plasma mantle can be tuned to act as a broadband antenna – a technique being developed to produce high-speed wifi  (https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20827904-600-wireless-at-the-speed-of-plasma/ ).

Ultimate Stealth

            -“There were veiled suggestions of a monstrous plasticity, and of temporary lapses of visibility”

Graphene is extremely flexible; since the FP is composed of many thin sheets, it is decidedly plastic. It might be more like a floating jellyfish than any of the more rigid forms of sea life.

Lapses of visibility are something else that modern science can help explain. Metamaterials are synthetically created substances that can make an object invisible. As suggested above, plasmas can be modified so they absorb and emit electromagnetic radiation, including visible wavelengths. Researchers have recently shown that a structured plasma can act as an optical metamaterial, including behaving like a photonic crystal. ( http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/0963-0252/21/1/013001/meta;jsessionid=2F68C963E0AFA6B8BFA07E23339CBEFB.c1)

Plasma has the advantage over solid metamaterials of being infinitely adaptable. To cloak an object of a given shape requires a particular metamaterial structure; it is less of an invisibility cloak and more of a rigid shell. A plasma metamaterial could be adjusted from millisecond to millisecond to match the conformation of what it was cloaking – an extremely demanding task, both in terms of plasma manipulation and computation, but given a few million years the FPs have cracked it.

The main function of this invisibility may not be concealment. In their environment, FPs may find themselves overheating, overcharging, or exposed to harmful forms of radiation; being able to shift their mantle so rays pass right through them would be a useful adaptation.

Whether this is from evolution or from design, or a combination of the two is impossible to say. The other key fact about the FPs is that “Their minds were of such texture that no exchange with them could be affected by the Great Race.” This might indicate that the FPs are, like the coral polyps of our own planet, collective entities each made up of smaller units which may have a decentralised intelligence. Or it might be that the FPs are in fact ultra-advanced robots, self-replicating Von Neumann probes sent across the universe by unknown forebears for unknown reasons.

This scheme gives us the basic structure of the FP which may be of use in deducing its broad capabilities, limitations and vulnerabilities. But there is still so much which we do not know…and perhaps for our own good, should never know.


Flying Polyp by Jackrezz (www.deviantart.com)

David Hambling’s Shadows from Norwood project (https://www.facebook.com/ShadowsFromNorwood ) so far comprises to two Mythos novellas, “The Elder Ice”( http://www.amazon.com/Elder-Ice-Harry-Stubbs-Adventure-ebook/dp/B00M7CHN18/)  and “Broken Meats”( http://www.amazon.com/Broken-Meats-Harry-Stubbs-Adventure-ebook/dp/B00ZI5OQWU), and the new collection from PS Publishing “The Dulwich Horror and others.” (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0153VNF02 )



The Shadow Out of Time – Part 4, Additional Notes on the Flying Polyps

Since placing the last article up on the Flying Polyps, I have had more time to think about these strange beings.  In addition, I have received a number of excellent comments on them.  Thus, this article provides some additional notes on this mysterious species.

Flying Polyp by Michael Bukowski (yog-blogsoth.blogspot.com)

As I previously mentioned, the Flying Polyps appear to be “partially” composed of the matter in our Universe.  Thus, they are not composed entirely of the same matter as humans, Elder Things, Shoggoths, Deep Ones or the Great Race.  In contrast, the Flying Polyps are not completely composed of matter from outside of our Universe like the Mi-Go or spawn of Cthulhu.  The Flying Polyps are, as I previously mentioned, “in-between” Universes; partially made of our matter and partially made of “other” matter.  Thus, in a way they are more of an enigma than something utterly alien from the outside such as the Mi-Go.

As previously mentioned, the senses of the Flying Polyps can penetrate all kinds of materials in our Universe but their bodies can only pass through certain materials.  In addition, they would frequently fly and could make whistling noises.  In contrast, there was some sort of limiting connection between them and the Earth.  In spite of frequently living and moving in the air, when on the ground the Polyps made large footprints that were composed of five circular toe marks.  In addition, the Polyps could only be imprisoned deep in the Earth.

Flying Polyp by Tryryche

While the Flying Polyps were originally predators of the Cone-Shaped Beings (CSBs), once the Yithians occupied their bodies and became the Great Race, the tables were quickly turned.  The Great Race produced technology that allowed them to subdue the Flying Polyps.  Specifically, the Great Race weapons of electrical energy would wholly destroy the Flying Polyps.  This high level of susceptibility and complete annihilation of the Polyp body due to electrical energy may provide some clues as to the make-up of their matter.

In humans and most Terran life a strong discharge of electrical energy, currents greater than 1 amp, results in permanent damage through burns and cellular damage.  Additionally, even lower currents, between 70 and 70 mA, can cause death but by triggering a fibrillation in the heart.  While such electrocution will cause death they do not “annihilate” the body as it does for the Flying Polyps.

In particle physics, the term annihilation is used to describe the result of when a subatomic particle meets or collides with its respective antiparticle.  When the particle (matter) and antiparticle (antimatter) meet, they mutually annihilate these other, typically in a flash of radiation such as a photon of light (Particle Physics:  A Very Short Introduction; Frank Close; 2004).  Given how the body of the Flying Polyp is completely destroyed and annihilated when hit with electric energy, is it possible that they are composed of an unusual semi-stable arrangement of matter and antimatter?

 Flying Polyp (by Infernalengines)

Living cells continue to live and reproduce by taking in energy, which in turn keeps cellular activities going so the cell constituents do not breakdown and decompose. A similar arrangement may be in existing for the Flying Polyps but instead of obtaining energy from a biochemical perspective, it may be from a subatomic perspective. Is it possible that Flying Polyps are a conscious or sentient form of electromagnetic fields and forces that utilize matter / antimatter repulsion to generate the energy they need to keep their quasi-cellular activities going? Maybe they extract antimatter from where they originate and need to feed on organic life, such as the CSBs, to provide “matter” fuel. In turn, this allows them to keep the matter / antimatter mix equal and thus exist. If this is the case, then the electrical discharge weapons of the Great Race may abruptly disrupt this balance between matter and antimatter, resulting in the observed annihilation of the Flying Polyps.

Yithian Hero (by Cryptdidical; Spore)

Obviously the experiments required to test such a hypothesis could be highly dangerous. However, placing a Flying Polyps into the Hadron Collider and bombarding them with various subatomic particles and anti-particles may be a relative “safe” means of testing this hypothesis. The real trick would be to get a Flying Polyp into the Collider.

In the next article the discussion will be how the Yithian move their consciousness through space and time.  Thank you – Fred.

The Shadow Out of Time – Part 3, Flying Polyps

Of all of the Lovecraftian species, the Flying Polyps may be the most “alien”, second only to the Colour Out of Space.  Very little is know about this species but what is known ominous to say the least. Flying Polyp by Paul Carrick

HPL never officially called these beings Flying Polyps; instead he loosely described them as “a horrible elder race of half-polypous, utterly alien entities.”  Frequently in The Shadow Out of Time he referred to them as “elder things.”  These beings came to our solar system about 600 million years ago to reside on Earth and three other planets (my hypothesis is that these other three planets are Mercury, Venus and Mars). While the Mi-Go and the spawn of Cthulhu were said to come from “outside” of our Universe and not be made of the same matters as we are, the Flying Polyps were said to be only partly material (as we understand matter).  Thus, it may be that the Flying Polyps are not completely from the outside but instead are from the “in-between.”

Flying Polyp by Ruud Dirven

While their senses do not include sight, they mentally perceive reality through non-visual patterns of impressions.  Thus, these senses can penetrate all material barriers but their corporal forms can not.  Basically, I think this means that they can perceive a substantially large portion of the Universe than we can with our five senses.  Additionally, the Flying Polyps can fly but do not have wings.  However, while they may sound like ghosts, they are not.  It is the strange quasi-matter of the Flying Polyps that make them susceptible to the electrical weapons of the Great Race.

When the Flying Polyps came to Earth about 600 million years ago they built large basalt cities, composed of windowless towers.  They preyed on the cone-shaped beings (CSBs) for approximately 100 million years.  However, when the Yithian minds came to Earth and inhabited the CSB bodies approximately 500 million years ago this must have been quite a shock to the Flying Polyps.  The CSBs must have been like cattle or bison to the predatory Polyps prior to the arrival of the Yithians.  Then suddenly (from a geological point of view) the CSBs now had the ability to create devastating weapons.  As HPL describes, once the CSBs became the Great Race, they used their weapons to drive the Flying Polyps into the inner Earth and were subsequently sealed and inprisoned.

The Yithian Wars (by Simiankolya)

While the Flying Polyps were defeated and imprisoned deep in the Earth, over the millennia there were concerns by the Great Race that they Flying Polyps were growing strong and increasing in numbers.  This had a strong impact on the psyche and culture of the Great Race.  Isolated incidences of escape in the outskirts of the ancient, abandoned basalt cities and mental projections into the future  led the Yithian to plan for another hyperspace jump of their species-wide consciousness.  Essentially, there was a growing fear that the Flying Polyps would eventually break free of their inner Earth prisons and overrun the Great Race via their increased numbers.

Flying Polyp from Steve Maschuck

There were two reasons why the Great Race were so fearful of the Flying Polyps.  First,  it sounds like the Great Race may have attempted to communicate with the Flying Polyps in some manner but to no avail.  However, the consciousness and perception of reality of the Flying Polyps was so different than any terrestrial organism that communication with them was impossible.  Second, the Yithian bodies were the prey of the Flying Polyps in the past.  The Great Race did not want to be back on the Flying Polyp menu and with no means of communicating with them,  the Great Race was obviously fearful that swarms of these creatures emerging from the Earth would be the end of their corporeal bodies.  Thus, the Yithians planned to collectively “jump” to another species in the future.  One thing is for sure, the Yithians appeared capable of handling the Elder Things, the Mi-Go, the spawn of Cthulhu and the serpent people.  However, they were truly terrified of the Flying Polyps.

How the Yithians make this consciousness leap from one species to another will be the topic of discussion for the next article.  Thank you.  Fred

Flying Polyp by Andreask87

Technology of the Great Race

As previously mentioned, the cone-shaped beings (CSBs)are native residents of Earth and have been identified in the fossil record for at least a billion years.  About 500 million years ago the Yithians came to Earth in a non-corporeal form, being minds of pure energy (more on this in a subsequent article), and inhabited the bodies of the CSBs.

Immature Yithian (by Paul Carrick)

It is hypothesized that prior to the Yithians taking over the bodies of the CSBs, these Terran creatures used little to no technology.  However, it should be emphasized that this does not mean the CSBs had low intelligence.  In fact, more than likely they were quite intelligent, which is one of the reasons they were chosen for “occupation” by the non-corporal Yithians.  The CSBs were probably like the whales or dolphins of today; very intelligent beings that utilized no technology.  However, once the Yithians possessed the CSBs, the Great Race was born and this resulted in a dramatic evolutionary jump, a sort of “punctuated equilibrium in technology.”

The Yithians had to use the resources available in both our Universe and our world.  The Great Race started to build Cities with huge libraries, as well as various vehicles used to transport them over great distances.  As HPL describes, the Great Race created “huge boatlike atomic-engine vehicles” as well as many decked boats, titan, projectile-like airships and gigantic submarines.

Possible rendition of a large, multiple-decked Yithian airship (forum.nationstates.net)

Most of the Yithian technology produced on Earth was powered through electrical repulsion.  Essentially matter in our Universe can be electrically charged, which means it has an excess (negative charge) or shortage (positive charge) of electrons.  Similarly charged material repel each other, while oppositely charged material attract each other.  There is a relationship between an electric force (which can be defined as an influence that changes the motion of an object [hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu]) acting on a point charge due to the presence of a second point charge; this relations is mathematically described as Coulomb’s Law.  Thus, the electric force between two charges can be calculated using Coulomb’s Law ([hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu).

Coulomb’s Law (from hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu)

If two similar charges were concentrated at two distinct points in space, say 1 meter apart, they would move away from each other under an incredible amount of force, which would have the potential to generate an enormous amount of energy.  As we understand our Universe, a Coulomb of charge is never collected at one point.  For example, as electricity moves through a wire, there is never a large deviation from electrical neutrality over the entire wire.  Thus, we do not see or generate such large amounts of energy through electrical repulsion.  However, maybe the Yithian’s knew how to concentrate the charge into a discrete point in space, thus generating large amounts of energy.  Using this technology in the bodies of the CSBs they would have the ability to build the large airships, vehicles and submarines that HPL identified in The Shadow Out of Time.

In addition to modes of transportation and Great Cities, the Great Race also used their technology to build other devices such as their ” apparatus like mind projection machines” and strange electrical weapons.  I will discuss the mind projection machines in an upcoming article, however, I will briefly discuss the weaponry here.

The Great Race did occasionally get into altercations with other species on Earth such as “reptilian or octopodic invaders, or against the winged, star-headed Old Ones who centered in the Antarctic.”  However, these incidences were fairly infrequent.  To defend themselves, the Great Race had a large army, whose primary weapon was a camera-like device that produced “tremendous electrical effects.”  Again, it appears that most, if not all, of Great Race technology was based on harvesting the incredible amounts of energy generated by focusing electrical repulsion in small discrete points in space.

Is this fossilized artifact of the ancient technology of the Great Race? (from http://www.yog-sothoth.com)

In spite of the altercations with other residents on Earth, the majority of the Great Race’s military concern and focus was on guarding and defending themselves against the “things” imprisoned in the great sealed trap-doors in the lowest subterranean levels of the dark, windowless and abandoned elder ruins.  Next time the discussion will focus on these imprisoned “things” – known as Flying Polyps.  Thank you – Fred.

Yithians defending themselves against Flying Polyps.  Called “Yithian Hero” (from Spore by Cryptdidical)