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Creating technology from primitive conditions

  1. Aug 14, 2016 #1
    So this is kind of a speculative question but it is something I have long wondered about. I know that if I were to suddenly find myself transported backward in time, say 5000 years, or transported to a primitive earth like planet, chances are that I would probably die in no time at all.

    I possess no amount of wilderness survival skills, serious science training or much of anything useful at all. Basically I am entirely dependant on the life support system that modern civilization creates. But, what i am wondering is, what about you, or any significantly informed person? Would you or they be able from a beginning of nothing but rocks and wood and all the basic elements of the earth be able to rapidly recreate some semblance of modern technology?.

    Lets say you had a whole team even. Could you figure out how to obtain and smelt bronze? iron? steel? Could you build that beginning up to where you could create plastics and silicon. Build a radio? a generator? a computer? Plumping? roofing materials? Plaster? nails? tools? explosives? an atomic bomb?

    Would sufficient knowledge be enough to recreate all this starting from nothing or would you also be hamstrung and lost without the modern world to supply materials and components and tools for you to work with?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 30, 2016
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  3. Aug 14, 2016 #2

    Fervent Freyja

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    Freyja is wild and can live with very little. The earth provides us with what we need. As long as I have two hands and two feet and can keep my family away from others...

    All those things you listed would be impossible for one person to recreate. There isn't enough time in the day to do that and try to survive.
     
  4. Aug 14, 2016 #3

    Evo

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    True, it would require an established society with access to the necessary ores, skills, implements, etc... to be able to create even basic metals. The most you could do at first is hope to learn enough about what is available to you in your environment that you can take advantage of to live as comfortably as possible, and that might not be too comfortable, depending where you are. Then, hopefully, your offspring can build upon that.

    You are talking about mining, bringing together ores that might be from hundreds or thousands of miles apart. These things happened over very long time periods. Even if you had a knowledge of what was needed, and how to make the metals, you most likely would not have the ability to gather the materials, nor the knowledge of where they were.

    You would start out like our ancestors, trying to fashion sharp edges from stones you find.
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2016
  5. Aug 15, 2016 #4

    Fervent Freyja

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    I know! Imagine having to dig a well with no tools!
     
  6. Aug 15, 2016 #5

    Evo

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    Exactly, and you wouldn't even know where to dig the well!
     
  7. Aug 15, 2016 #6

    Fervent Freyja

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    A group of strong-arms would be useful in this case. We could scout the area looking for a group of male homo sapiens to do it for us... J/K :biggrin:
     
  8. Aug 15, 2016 #7
    Hilarious. Let us suppose that survival wasn't an issue. Plenty of food and shelter available. And you had one hundred people each with varying expertise. and no predators or hostile anything to worry about. Part of the reason i am curious about this question is that I am so aware of my own lack of useful knowledge. For instance, how to build a water treatment plant. I think about things like that because I see how in the world today many places do not have such things, and I realize that as an artist I am essentially useless. I am not even a successful artist, but even if I was my whole thing does not work with out people who have walls that need something hung on them. Compassion without practical knowledge that can be implemented is merely useless well wishing.
    I still don't get how any metal is smelted. You always see it in those big pots, but what are those made of and how were they made?
    You would think that there would be someone around who can recreate the way bronze age and iron age man did their thing. I would love to see a video on that.
     
  9. Aug 15, 2016 #8
    If I had plenty of food and water,shelter and clothing, I could get some woodworking technology going pretty quickly. You can work wood with stone tools, and a primitive lathe and drill are as easy to make as bows and arrows. I could make fire with a fire drill, and it's fairly easy to render wood into charcoal. With charcoal you can make a very hot furnace, and if you found some iron ore (which is actually pretty plentiful) you could smelt it. If you found some good clay deposits (which are also really plentiful) you could also make ceramics. I don't think it would be unrealistic to suppose I could get 100 people from nothing to Roman Empire technology in a lifetime.
     
  10. Aug 15, 2016 #9
    Roam era? Well that would be pretty good. But no electronics then? Refrigeration? Electric guitars? Recording technology? Television? I think gunpowder is fairly easy to make, at least according to that one star trek episode. This would make a good reality TV show. Science survivor.
     
  11. Aug 15, 2016 #10
    Electrical things would depend on whether or not you found copper, or, I suppose, a lot of gold and silver, a suitable material for lots and lots of wire. Proper gunpowder would depend on finding sulfur, but you could make a mix of ground charcoal and saltpeter anywhere because saltpeter can be derived from dried animal droppings. That makes a kind of slower burning mix. Useful for something, I suppose.

    If you only had 100 people it wouldn't be time well spent to try and create things like an electrical grid, television, cars, etc. People would be working non-stop with little reward. A lot of modern inventions are only possible with masses and masses of people specializing in one thing. I would think I'd done awfully well if I got 100 people to the point where they could erect a large wooden structure made with steel hand tools (like the Amish can do, for example). I mentioned the Romans mostly because it would be wonderful to have their indoor plumbing (I think they had a sewer system, didn't they?)
     
  12. Aug 15, 2016 #11

    Ryan_m_b

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    I doubt I'd get much further than very, very basic bushcraft and stone tools. My knowledge of virtually all technologies is simply too dependent on complex supply chains that only exist in an advanced, specialised economy. It would be a huge challenge just to locate ores, let alone smelt and work them (electronics would be a total pipe dream). Even with a large group of people unless a majority were educated in stone/iron age living (to keep the group alive) and the rest specialised for different stages of development you're not likely to see much progress.

    This guy however, this guy would probably be ok:

     
  13. Aug 15, 2016 #12
    That's an awesome video!

    In fact, the way the first guys did the same thing was to dig a hole in the ground, start a fire in it, add the charcoal, then the ore, and a whole bunch of them stood around blowing through reeds into the charcoal. This guy has the advantage of the concept of a modern blower to emulate, and that allows him to do the job by himself.

    I'm not 100% sure, but I think that lump of ore he smelted was yellow ochre:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ochre

    That's extremely common as are many oxides of iron. And, if I'm not mistaken, what he ended up with was irregular lumps of high carbon steel. From that to a tool is what the blacksmith does: heat it again till it's red hot, and slowly pound it into the shape you want. Not sure how easy that would be without a steel hammer and anvil, but I suppose it would be possible to make your first hammer head using a big rock as the anvil and a smaller one as the hammer. Wooden tongs to get the hot metal from the forge to the anvil would be disposable.
     
  14. Aug 15, 2016 #13

    Fervent Freyja

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    As long as I had my Aspie with me, he would take care of many things that I couldn't (as long as I did what he said). He's very talented and invents things all the time. I'd rather depend on him than 100 people any day! I hear him seeking solutions in his sleep, he'd figure much out all by himself without input from others.
     
  15. Aug 15, 2016 #14
    What is an Aspie?
     
  16. Aug 15, 2016 #15

    russ_watters

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    One of my favorite books:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mysterious_Island
     
  17. Aug 15, 2016 #16

    Evo

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  18. Aug 15, 2016 #17

    JBA

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    I find it interesting that you would even be concerned about having electronics or tel[phone type connection if you the only person or one of a 100 individuals what would be the point when you can simply walk over to someone if you need to communicate with them. The things you are most concerned with have very little to surviving or even living a reasonably comfortable life. The very basics needed are food, water and shelter and if they are available people to share your time with, everything else is simply toys.
    In the 1960's I went to Nigeria to work on a construction project and even in the city of Lagos with a reasonably large population the telephone service was so unreliable that if you wanted to visit some one you simply went to their house and knocked on the door, if they weren't there then you just came back later and tried again. At the same time, our construction site was on the Nigerian coast 250 miles from the nearest city or town so we worked, slept, ate talked and entertained ourselves. In fact, for me, it was a relief to be away from all of the BS that has to be dealt with in our "modern" society. In that area there was a native village where everyone lived in grass huts without electricity, fished and harvested cassava for food and in general they were a lot happier with their lives than many of the people in our consumption driven society that I see every day on the streets without even acknowledging the people they pass or intentionally avoiding any type of contact.
     
  19. Aug 16, 2016 #18
    I'm reasonably sure that basic smelting processes existed 5000 years ago, and copper deposits can be found reasonably close to the surface. If you're lucky enough to find some magnetite, you might be able to get as far as inventing a primitive electrical grid given a few years, since then you'd be able to put together things like steam generators. If not, then you can at least apply a basic knowledge of mechanics to the design of simple labor-saving machines.

    Since the technology to produce bread also existed around that time, you might also be able to isolate penicillin.

    So with not much more than a knowledge of basic science, you'd actually be able to reasonably approximate a modern standard of living.

    The language barrier might be a problem, though, especially since things like writing and schools hadn't been invented yet.
     
  20. Aug 16, 2016 #19
    You are completely correct of course. as Roger Waters said in the song Me or Him
    You wake up in the morning, get something for the pot
    Wonder why the sun makes the rocks feel hot
    Draw on the walls, eat, get laid
    Back in the good old days

    Then some damn fool invents the wheel
    Listen to the whitewalls squeal
    You spend all day looking for a parking spot
    Nothing for the heart, nothing for the pot

    But,, I am not asking the question in terms of creating skills in order to survive. I am really just more interested in it as an academic thought exercise kind of thing. Like wondering about the general capabilities of any of use modern humans, especially those who are possessed of great amounts of knowledge about, geology, engineering, chemistry etc, to be able to do this if they were in a situation like that and wanted to. Though to be honest, I would be lost without AC, at least living here in Saint Louis, Mo, where it is so dang humid. And I do also really appreciate the vast amounts of flowing from the tap potable water. and I might go slightly mad if I didnl't have materials to make art from or a musical instrument to play badly. But that is neither here nor there.
     
  21. Aug 16, 2016 #20
    well language barrier assumes the back in time version where there are Hittites and whatnot running around. But the alien Earth like planet has no such problem, if it is uninhabited. I suppose we could change the scenario. Lets say that a team of scientists has crash landed on an primitive alien earth like planet, and they are motivated to recreate as much modern tech as possible from the ground up scratch, because they want to build a new ship and get back home to earth, because you know, Tevo and stuff like that. What collection of scientists with what range of expertise would you need to pull that off, and could they do it?
     
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