A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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  1. - Top - End - #241
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    My studies are in biology. How hard is it to make plastic?

  2. - Top - End - #242
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    Quote Originally Posted by Trafalgar View Post
    English is my first language but, if I went back to England 1000 years ago, I would have trouble making myself understood.
    I certainly hope Old English (used here in the technical sense) wouldn't count as English for the purpose of this exercise. That would be a terrible "gotcha"; equivalent to sending someone from Italy back to the Roman Republic and not giving them the ability to speak Classical Latin because they already speak Italian.
    Last edited by Bohandas; 2021-07-09 at 10:58 PM.

  3. - Top - End - #243
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    Quote Originally Posted by Accelerator View Post
    My studies are in biology. How hard is it to make plastic?
    The easiest plastic to make is Galalith, which is made from the milk protein caesin. You just mix milk and formaldehyde. Producing formadlehyde is the tricky part there - it isn't particularly difficult, but most people don't know the process to manufacture it from methanol. Bakelite is similar, replacing the caesin with phenol. This is, of course, much more difficult because you have to make phenol AND formaldehyde. Polystyrene is theoretically simple, because it is just distilled sap from a specific tree, but that tree is only found in a very small portion of the world - it is even rarer than rubber trees. Every other form of plastic requires increasingly exotic chemicals and plastics.


    Fundamentally, to make large quantities of any plastic, you'll need to invent an entire chemical industry.

  4. - Top - End - #244
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gnoman View Post
    The easiest plastic to make is Galalith, which is made from the milk protein caesin. You just mix milk and formaldehyde. Producing formadlehyde is the tricky part there - it isn't particularly difficult, but most people don't know the process to manufacture it from methanol. Bakelite is similar, replacing the caesin with phenol. This is, of course, much more difficult because you have to make phenol AND formaldehyde. Polystyrene is theoretically simple, because it is just distilled sap from a specific tree, but that tree is only found in a very small portion of the world - it is even rarer than rubber trees. Every other form of plastic requires increasingly exotic chemicals and plastics.


    Fundamentally, to make large quantities of any plastic, you'll need to invent an entire chemical industry.
    How unfortunate. It seems that most things would be crippled by the lack of plastic or rubber.

  5. - Top - End - #245
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    Quote Originally Posted by Gnoman View Post
    The easiest plastic to make is Galalith, which is made from the milk protein caesin. You just mix milk and formaldehyde. Producing formadlehyde is the tricky part there
    You can just use vinegar, in place of formaldehyde. Vinegar is pretty low-tech.
    "None of us likes to be hated, none of us likes to be shunned. A natural result of these conditions is, that we consciously or unconsciously pay more attention to tuning our opinions to our neighbor’s pitch and preserving his approval than we do to examining the opinions searchingly and seeing to it that they are right and sound." - Mark Twain

  6. - Top - End - #246
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    That would make things much easier, though every source I can find says formaldihyde.

    Caesin-based plastics are limited, but expand utility a great deal. If you're correct, that would be a perfect idea for this thread.

  7. - Top - End - #247
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    Quote Originally Posted by Gnoman View Post
    That would make things much easier, though every source I can find says formaldihyde.

    Caesin-based plastics are limited, but expand utility a great deal. If you're correct, that would be a perfect idea for this thread.
    There is one problem though: where would you get enough milk that would not be used better for food? Food was scarce, so using it for anything else than eating seems extremely wasteful.
    In a war it doesn't matter who's right, only who's left.

  8. - Top - End - #248
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    Quote Originally Posted by Radar View Post
    There is one problem though: where would you get enough milk that would not be used better for food? Food was scarce, so using it for anything else than eating seems extremely wasteful.
    It's that "enough" in the question that;s the sticking point, because surely you could get some if you stuck to milk that had spoiled or become contaminated

  9. - Top - End - #249
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    I certainly hope Old English (used here in the technical sense) wouldn't count as English for the purpose of this exercise. That would be a terrible "gotcha"; equivalent to sending someone from Italy back to the Roman Republic and not giving them the ability to speak Classical Latin because they already speak Italian.
    A modern scholar of Latin would have trouble making themselves understood during the Roman Republic.
    "Sure, Philosophers can say 'But how do we know the sun will rise tomorrow?' to which the correct response is 'Shut up nerd! Stop playing 3D chess against your own brain and find something real to worry about'."

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  10. - Top - End - #250
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    Diverting some milk for plastics production probably wouldn't be a huge deal in most times. The biggest issue would be the loss of cheese (which is store-able), but a pretty significant portion of a farms output was paid out in taxes or trade at most points in history. Turning some milk into a valuable trade good might even increase the amount of food available, because you'd get more for the caesin products than you would for the milk products.

  11. - Top - End - #251
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    People say "plastic", but even if you can make one type. What are you going to be using it for? Plastics are different, you can't easily change out one type for another, it's just a generic name for complex carbohydrate polymers, one plastic won't revolutionize everything. What Galalith used for today? Buttons. It can't be moulded, one of the key features of plastics, that they can be so versatile in shape. And because they can be made at an industrial scale to easily replace many other materials cheaply.

    And being able to find a bucket of milk and a bottle of formaldehyde will the resulting plastic be practicably useable? It seems like it's bit like horn. Great, the elephants will be relieved their teeth are not used for piano keys anymore.

  12. - Top - End - #252
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    Even if all you can do with it is buttons and other decorative elements, that is huge anywhere.

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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    That's all we do with it now, when it was first made people used it for things as varied as pipes and needles. Pipes alone would probably be game changing in the past, especially compared to lead. My only question is would an 'average' person know how to make galalith?
    Last edited by Thomas Cardew; 2021-07-11 at 12:10 AM.

  14. - Top - End - #254
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    Quote Originally Posted by snowblizz View Post
    Great, the elephants will be relieved their teeth are not used for piano keys anymore.
    Once again, you can make nitrocellulose out of aqua fortis, oil of vitriol, and a sufficiently concentrated cellulose source

  15. - Top - End - #255
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    Once again, you can make nitrocellulose out of aqua fortis, oil of vitriol, and a sufficiently concentrated cellulose source
    Isn't that explosive?

  16. - Top - End - #256
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    Quote Originally Posted by Accelerator View Post
    Isn't that explosive?
    It is, but it can also apparently be used as a substitute for ivory

    EDIT:
    https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart...ing-180962751/
    Last edited by Bohandas; 2021-07-11 at 02:30 AM.

  17. - Top - End - #257
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    It is, but it can also apparently be used as a substitute for ivory

    EDIT:
    https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart...ing-180962751/
    Yes. I've read that article.

    It's explosive and flammable. You'll need to get an alchemist to make it non-explosive. Otherwise you'll never be using it for civilian applications.

    Good for explosives, but not much for buttons and combs.

  18. - Top - End - #258
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    Quote Originally Posted by snowblizz View Post
    What Galalith used for today? Buttons. It can't be moulded, one of the key features of plastics, that they can be so versatile in shape.
    Correction: It can be molded exactly once, when it is made. It can't be re-molded. So, you can't make pellets out of it to store and cast at will. But you can mold it once when it is created from raw ingredients.
    Quote Originally Posted by Harnel View Post
    where is the atropal? and does it have a listed LA?

  19. - Top - End - #259
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    Quote Originally Posted by gomipile View Post
    Correction: It can be molded exactly once, when it is made. It can't be re-molded. So, you can't make pellets out of it to store and cast at will. But you can mold it once when it is created from raw ingredients.
    The wikipedia article I looked at wasn't very specific. It said can't be moulded once set and had to be made in sheets. Most of which didn't quite gel with the example buttons shown.

    My main contention is that plastics are useful, but being able to make one type of plastic doesn't necessarily mean you can take advantage of the usability the label plastics tends to conjure up.

    I'm wondering what problem having it would solve, and whether turning foodstuff into buttons is a net benefit in a historical society.

  20. - Top - End - #260
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    Being able to mould something in pretty much any shape, that's reasonably durable, in a fraction of the time it would take to, say, carve it from wood? There are a million uses for something like that, as our current problems with plastics show!

  21. - Top - End - #261
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    A question. HOw about washing machines?

    I mean, how hard can it be to make it so that you don't need to spend hours and hours trying to wash clothes?

  22. - Top - End - #262
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    See, reading up this thread and contemporary research on hunter-gatherers, the life of pre-agriculture hunter-gatherers was pretty lax, egalitarian and disease-free compared to early agriculture. Early agriculture caused many of the problems that people in this thread would be tempted to solve with time travel; I say, if you have time travel, off the guy who thought it was a good idea to engage in agriculture to begin with.

    This also makes me restate what I said earlier in this thread: send me far enough in time, and I can be the first ape to hit other ape with stick to take its food. War and intra-species violence has not always been the norm for human communities, and I can think you can find a person among the set of "average contemporary people" who has vastly more training in weaponized violence than pre-agriculture hunter-gatherers.

    ---

    Quote Originally Posted by Accelerator View Post
    A question. HOw about washing machines?

    I mean, how hard can it be to make it so that you don't need to spend hours and hours trying to wash clothes?
    Very.

    In absence of ready-made parts and infrastructure, you first have to find a suitable water source to provide you with water and power to run the thing. Then you have to figure out how to make a working mechanism, most likely out of wood, from scratch, since you are unlikely to know or even find instructions for making a functional washing machine in those conditions from our day and age.
    Last edited by Vahnavoi; 2021-07-12 at 07:56 AM.

  23. - Top - End - #263
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    See, reading up this thread and contemporary research on hunter-gatherers, the life of pre-agriculture hunter-gatherers was pretty lax, egalitarian and disease-free compared to early agriculture. Early agriculture caused many of the problems that people in this thread would be tempted to solve with time travel; I say, if you have time travel, off the guy who thought it was a good idea to engage in agriculture to begin with.

    This also makes me restate what I said earlier in this thread: send me far enough in time, and I can be the first ape to hit other ape with stick to take its food. War and intra-species violence has not always been the norm for human communities, and I can think you can find a person among the set of "average contemporary people" who has vastly more training in weaponized violence than pre-agriculture hunter-gatherers.

    ---.
    That's because hunter gatherers live a much more precarious life than most farmers. No surplus. Nothing much to fall back on in case of say, droughts or mass ecological failure. A farmer's village can survive on grain bins. Hunter gatherers can't. Also, they need a lot more land per person to survive.

    Besides, what did you think happened to hunter gatherers who fell to disease?

  24. - Top - End - #264
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    Very.

    In absence of ready-made parts and infrastructure, you first have to find a suitable water source to provide you with water and power to run the thing. Then you have to figure out how to make a working mechanism, most likely out of wood, from scratch, since you are unlikely to know or even find instructions for making a functional washing machine in those conditions from our day and age.
    Actually, first washing machines were designed at the end of XVII century and the later idea of basically a crank operated barrel should be simple enough to recreate much earlier. It even allows for use of hot water for washing cloths. The wiki page on washing machines was quite educational for me.
    In a war it doesn't matter who's right, only who's left.

  25. - Top - End - #265
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    @Accelerator: hunter-gatherers tended to live in areas with natural surplus of food. It was early agriculturists who lead a more precarious life, since settling down meant you could now exhaust local resources. There's a reason why agriculture is a relatively recent invention and started in a very specific place: in most human habitats, early agriculture wasn't competitive or even possible.

    ---

    @Radar: I know. But is that Wikipedia article enough for you to go back significantly prior to XVII century and make the barrel and the crank out of memory, with tools available to you? More, what are you going to be washing with it? Many natural fibers are better washed by hand, even today, and don't even need washing that often; I'd wager the rise of the washing machine was accompanied by several other innovations in the textile industry and the increasing use of cotton, imported by the British from their colonies.

  26. - Top - End - #266
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    Hm. I think if I got a barrelmaker and a waggoner to work together, we could probably mount a Barrel on an axle, with a crank of some kind? Not sure if that would be much of an advantage by itself, though. Or how watertight you could make it.

    I mean, if you need pitch and a some hammers every time you close your washing machine and a crowbar every time you open it, that's not very labour saving.
    Last edited by Eldan; 2021-07-12 at 09:25 AM.
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  27. - Top - End - #267
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    Hm. I think if I got a barrelmaker and a waggoner to work together, we could probably mount a Barrel on an axle, with a crank of some kind? Not sure if that would be much of an advantage by itself, though. Or how watertight you could make it.

    I mean, if you need pitch and a some hammers every time you close your washing machine and a crowbar every time you open it, that's not very labour saving.
    does it really need to be on an axle? Nothing stopping a washing machine from facing upwards and just being rotated. It's not like they made things like spitroasts powered by dogs.

  28. - Top - End - #268
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    I think you'd probably save time by not trying to replicate an existing design, and instead, making a water-permeable drum basket from withe, then attaching that to a small water wheel and sinking the damn thing in a river.

  29. - Top - End - #269
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    Also not a bad idea.
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  30. - Top - End - #270
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    Default Re: What are technologies that a time traveler could easily introduce to ancient time

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    Also not a bad idea.
    Yeah. I'm basically thinking of labor saving devices. Anything. We can't do dishwashers. But hey. Maybe a working sewage system works.

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