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My world is almost like a fantasy steam/solar-punk set up and my main character has a metal left limb. I guess I shouldn't try to worry too much, but it always bothers me that I'm not sure if I have a truly logical explanation for how his limb functions.

I do have an idea for how it works and it's probably the best I'll be able to manage but I just want to make sure that there are no other solutions out there.

The set up I have so far is he has a metal plate in his shoulder that connects his nervous system to the "wires" in his limb that function as artificial nerves and connect to joints in his arm and hand that allow him to move his limb.

So I guess my question is: Is there anyway to make my set up more believable or are there other solutions to make this believable?

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    $\begingroup$ What technology is and isn't present in your steam/solar-punk world? $\endgroup$ – ckersch Feb 23 '15 at 19:14
  • $\begingroup$ What level of functionality does it need/have? $\endgroup$ – apaul Feb 24 '15 at 23:27
  • $\begingroup$ That's pretty much the setup for "automail" in the Full Metal Alchemist universe. The author doesn't really bother to go into how the prosthetics are powered, it's just a really cool-looking, almost fully-functional steel prosthetic. Solar-charged batteries would be as good an explanation as any. $\endgroup$ – KeithS Oct 22 '15 at 22:10
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That's similar to how things are done in the real world, with the exception being that the sensors for detecting nervous system activity are place on the skin. This is the technique used by DARPA to connect the mechanical limb seen here to the guy using it. These electrodes (the sensors on the skin) don't actually pick up the nerve activity. Rather, they pick up electrical activity from skeletal muscle remnants around the base of where the arm was and transmit that data.

The issue with such things in a steam-punk world is transforming the signals back into action. Most of the time, steam-punk means no computers, which are, by far, the best way of doing this. It maybe possible with the right analog components, but analog will, of course, be bulkier.

Of course, if your setting contains computers, you can just give him an arm controlled by those. It worked for DARPA, right?

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  • $\begingroup$ use compressed air! imagine the puffs of air shooting out of the joints. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Feb 24 '15 at 2:46
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You should take a look at shape memory alloys with a bit of hand waving for the electrical current and joule heating requirements. The arm could generate locomotion by shape memory metal acting as tendons and muscles. Gears could be actuated with shape memory coil springs that allow for joints to rotate.

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Perhaps this doesn't apply as much to steam punk world like yours, but artificial limbs could be biological instead of technological. Some sort of creature or symbiot that they intentionally connect to the severed end.

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