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What if a modern physics textbook found itself back in time

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

Okay guys, I’ve been wondering how different would the world be if something as simple as my calculus based physics textbook found itself back in time around 300 years ago. For the sake of the argument assume some rift opened up and swallowed my book sending it back to the year 1720. Let’s assume there is no paradox due to time travel. My textbook is approximately 1000 pages covering topics from mechanics, relativity, optics, electromagnetism, nuclear physics, and circuits. Assuming the book found itself on the desk of a world class scientist of the time that didn’t conceal the knowledge from his fellow scientists, engineers, and other scholars.

With that said how different would the world now be if just a single textbook that I described found it’s way in the past?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
pinball1970
Gold Member
684
652
Okay guys, I’ve been wondering how different would the world be if something as simple as my calculus based physics textbook found itself back in time around 300 years ago. For the sake of the argument assume some rift opened up and swallowed my book sending it back to the year 1720. Let’s assume there is no paradox due to time travel. My textbook is approximately 1000 pages covering topics from mechanics, relativity, optics, electromagnetism, nuclear physics, and circuits. Assuming the book found itself on the desk of a world class scientist of the time that didn’t conceal the knowledge from his fellow scientists, engineers, and other scholars.

With that said how different would the world now be if just a single textbook that I described found it’s way in the past?


Sounds like a plot to a sci-fi film.
It would be difficult to test and verify some of those theories using 18th century technology – how would they test / experiment for all the subatomic particles? Relativity? They had no particle accelerators or atomic clocks. Fibre optics, Deep space telescopes or spectrophotometers.
I think you would have to send an engineering/Chemistry book and materials science book back too. Probably some maths/ statistical analysis.
Imagine getting a book from 300 years into the future? Complete quantum gravity equations? Dark matter particle demonstrated? Dark Energy? Just after they falsified string theory? All you need is that lithium crystal particle accelerator around the solar system they built just after the megasuperlargedark matter particle collider was decommissioned in 2272.
 
  • #3
Ryan_m_b
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
5,841
711
There would be some uses but a textbook written in 2018 assumes a context that would not be true (for the most part) in previous centuries. When it mentions specific equipment it doesn't include details on how all these machines work and, more importantly, the manufacturing processes on how to build it (nor the plethora of industry and science needed for all of that). Plenty of things will be left unexplained because it can be reasonably assumed that a student in a 2018 classroom will know what these terms mean, e.g. references to computer modelling.
 
  • #4
<edit: remove junk post in quotes>

OP here and Idk how your post got deleted but after reading it, it has nothing to do with what I posted and I agree that it should have been deleted. Btw this post is allowed on this forum as it was posted in the sci-fi section.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #5
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1720 they had calculus but not the Lagrange- or Hamilton formalism (Lagrange was born 1736, Hamilton 1805). They might appreciate that. It would also give the book some credibility for parts that are harder to verify.

A primitive steam engine was invented around that time, a more powerful one was built by Watt in 1781. The ideal gas law is from 1834, combining a few special cases to a single law - knowing it earlier should help with the steam engines.

The Maxwell equations should help soon. The first proper electric motor was built in 1821 but with the theory behind it I would expect more serious development earlier. Knowing that all this stuff can have applications helps a lot.

Perhaps the most valuable lesson from the book would be how much there is to learn. Imagine we get a book today that describes some sort of superluminal travel, a way to convert matter to antimatter (->energy source via annihilation) and has an astronomy section where results from a 1 million kilometer telescope are discussed. We don't understand most of the descriptions and we cannot build any of the necessary tools - but it tells us we can work towards that goal.
 

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