Dehydration in 3 Body Problem, Explained

Every living thing evolves according to its environment. They adapt to their surroundings, changing themselves to stay alive even in the harshest of conditions. It is this ability to change and adapt that decides the survival of a species. This is where the survival of the fittest comes from. If you cannot change according to your surroundings, if you can’t learn to live with the fluctuations in your environment, then there is a good chance that you won’t survive. The San-Ti in Netflix’s ‘3 Body Problem’ know this, too, and their bodies have adapted to their environment accordingly. Dehydration is an important part of it. As weird as it may sound and look, it does make one curious about how it works and what it means for the aliens. SPOILERS AHEAD

Dehydration is a Part of San-Ti’s Survival

The world of the San-Ti is very different from the Earth. Humans live in a solar system with just one sun. With only the Sun and Earth in the equation, it is much easier to figure out the pattern of the two-body system. How their gravities affect their movements and the distance between them, as well as how these factors affect the climate and the seasons, allows humans to find specific patterns and predict the changes. We know when the summers will be scorching, when the rains will pour down incessantly, and when the winters will be chilly enough to kill you. This information gives humans an advantage: they can prepare for the changes beforehand, ensuring their survival for every season. Over the years, our bodies have adapted to these changes. Our physiology has evolved to keep us up to date with our environment, easing things even more.


For the San-Ti, the situation is much different and rather bleak. Instead of one sun, they have three. The three suns, with their massive gravitational forces, are constantly pushing and pulling at each other, in addition to the planet the San-Ti call home. The movement of the three suns is defined by this push and pull of their gravities, and just like humans studied the movement of the Sun and the Earth to predict their seasons, the San-Ti tried to do the same with their suns. But no matter what they did, no matter how much they tried, no matter how much they evolved, they could never correctly predict the movement of the three suns.

This lack of predictability kept them from creating external things to support their survival. They never knew when their world would be plunged into a Chaotic Era or how long it would take for the next Stable Era to arrive. Or worse, when the next syzygy would happen. Even if they had created buildings that could sustain themselves during the Chaotic Eras, they didn’t have enough resources to keep the entire civilization alive during the Chaotic Eras. Only a handful, like the king and some of his soldiers, would be operational during that time. What about the rest? Would they have to die during the Chaotic Eras?

The thing about evolution is it works differently for everyone, and for the San-Ti, it came in the form of dehydration. In times of Chaotic Eras, the suns would come so close to the planet that prolonged exposure to sunlight would kill a person. Similarly, they could also die in the extreme cold when the suns would go so far away that they would appear like stars in the sky. Evolution allowed the San-Ti the ability to completely lose water from their bodies, dehydrating themselves to such an extent that they become so thin that they can be rolled like paper and carried around. It is equivalent to hibernation in some animals, where they sleep for months without needing food or water and can slow their heartbeats to the extent that it doesn’t ask for much energy for them to stay alive.

In San-Ti, dehydration allows them to hibernate for the entirety of Chaotic Eras. They don’t have to die; they just have to sleep it off. When the Stable Era arrives, on the order of their ruler at the time, they will be “rehydrated.” Once their bodies touch water, they return to normal and are able to live normally again. This is the only way that they can survive the long, harsh, and unpredictable Chaotic Eras unless, of course, they find something better.

Read More: Syzygy in Netflix’s 3 Body Problem, Explained