Decoding Protomolecule: A Guide to The Expanse

This article is a summary of the YouTube video ‘The EXPANSE – The Protomolecule Explained’ by Pete Peppers

Written by: Recapz Bot

Written by: Recapz Bot

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How does it work?
The protomolecule adapts, infects, and aims to create a networked ring.

Key Insights

  • The protomolecule is a set of free-floating instructions designed to adapt to and guide other replicating systems.
  • It was discovered on Saturn's moon Phoebe and is of extraterrestrial origin, created by an advanced alien civilization.
  • Phoebe was a delivery system for the protomolecule, which is believed to be a weapon.
  • Anthony Dresden, a scientist from Protogen, studied the protomolecule and believed it needed more biological mass to hijack.
  • The protomolecule was brought to Eros through a chain of events involving the Anubis, Julie Mao, and the crew of the Rocinante.
  • Protogen infected the population of Eros, speeding up the process using radiation and establishing a research laboratory on TOS station.
  • The protomolecule acts as an infectious agent and can infect humans on contact, adapting to multicellular life as well.
  • Hybrids created by infecting humans are a failed experiment, as they cannot be controlled.
  • The protomolecule's goal was to create a ring similar to the one beyond Uranus, part of a network created by the alien civilization.
  • The protomolecule eventually crashes into Venus, altering the planet, and creates the ring beyond Uranus.
  • The protomolecule's true nature and purpose are still not fully explained in the story.

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Hey guys, Pete here. Today, I’m gonna explain the protomolecule from The Expanse. Remember poor Julie Mao slumped against the wall in her room at the Blue Falcon Hotel on Eros? Good old patient zero, at least for all the protomolecule related stuff that happened in the soul system after that. Much of that is what this video is about. But we’ll also dive a little deeper to better understand how she ended up in that situation. Specifically, what caused this chain of events, i.e. the protomolecule. What exactly that is, at least as much as we’re able to understand it, where it came from, and who was responsible for creating it.

This mystifying blue substance is at the heart of the events that shaped the story of The Expanse. There is a lot to tell which I will try to keep simple and I would say this is the perfect time because the first phase of how it shapes things more or less concludes with the appearance of the ring gates and station out there beyond Uranus. For the spoiler warning, I’m making this video before season 5 comes out as a reader of all the books and novellas in The Expanse series. But since this is the type of video that you might wander into at any point during your journey through the series, I’m gonna introduce the information in the order we learned it in the story. Season 1 stuff first, then season 2, and so on. That way you can tap out of the video if it starts getting ahead of what you’ve seen. I’ll also be referring to the books but won’t spoil things beyond where the show is. And there are some differences between the books and show, but since overall we get to the same place, I won’t spend a lot of time pointing those out. Now with all of that out of the way, and yeah I know it was a lot, let’s get into it.

What is the protomolecule then? The best description comes from an in-world explainer slash corporate presentation to the board of directors from protogen scientist Anthony Dresden. In a video feed that’s found in the first book, he explains that the protomolecule is not in itself a living thing but a set of free-floating instructions designed to adapt to and guide other replicating systems.

To put things in context, he made this feed two years before Eros and essentially it’s his pitch for that and for continued experimentation. The protomolecule itself was discovered on Saturn’s moon Phoebe. Eight years before the beginning of the series, Mars was exploring this little ice moon, essentially surveying the resources that were available there. In that process, they discovered some anomalies. They found some things that didn’t exactly make sense, and so they entered into a partnership with an Earth corp called Protogen to outsource some of the work to figure out what was going on there. They set up a joint long-term research facility, and Protogen, led by Dresden, made several discoveries about the protomolecule. They figured out that it’s extrasolar, that it came from somewhere outside of our solar system, and that it is actually technology. It was made by something. It is, in fact, the first technology of genuinely extraterrestrial origin. So, that answers some of our questions of where it came from and who was responsible for making it. It was created by an alien civilization far more advanced than humanity.

What’s more, it has a prefabricated mechanism for the manipulation of living systems. Remember, it’s described as not a living thing, but as a set of free-floating instructions designed to adapt to and guide other replicating systems. I’m repeating that because that’s where Dresden, who’s the person who’s worked most closely with the protomolecule since its discovery, ended up after studying. He realizes that Phoebe was a delivery system and therefore he believes that the protomolecule is a weapon. At this point, he doesn’t know what that prefabricated mechanism that’s inside it is for, but he knows it was sent to our solar system over 2 billion years ago, and had it not been caught in Saturn’s gravity, life as we understand it on Earth might not exist. Phoebe would have crashed into our planet which would hijack any chance of life as we know it developing because that started about 800 million years ago.

Now this video isn’t about Dresden, but there are some things you need to know about him. Besides the fact that he works for Protogen and that’s owned by Mal Kwiatkowski Mercantile, which is why we see him answer to Jules Pierre, he also has some strange personal beliefs. Most importantly, he thinks that empathy is a real setback for humans, essentially that it gets in the way of doing the kind of research necessary to prepare for the showdown that’s coming from this alien civilization who sent the

This article is a summary of the YouTube video ‘The EXPANSE – The Protomolecule Explained’ by Pete Peppers