The world I'm thinking of is a large moon of a gas giant. It's fairly Earth-like, perhaps a bit smaller, might be a bit magical, but sits about where we sit around a star very similar to ours, except that this star absolutely loves throwing its corona around.

Suppose this world was struck by an extreme coronal mass ejection as strong as the Carrington Event every few months. What I want to happen is technology stagnates at a late 1700's early 1800's level for centuries. But that sounds unlikely. There's plenty of technological breakthroughs that don't require electricity that occurred in the late 1800's and early 1900's, like the internal combustion engine. But I'm okay with this, to an extent. I want to understand exactly what the consequences of regular devastating (from our perspective) solar storms would do to a civilization.

The biggest effect that I'm aware a powerful CME causes is frying all electronic mechanisms connected to long wires. Are there others I'm not considering?
What level of technology might they rise to, and what exceptions that we associate with the electrical era might they have despite lacking electricity?
Is this even the right mechanism to obtain the technological stagnation I'm seeking?

Most specifically, given that I want technology to stagnate at that level, what is the most "advanced" or "surprising" development they might achieve despite electrical engineering being severely stunted?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It seems like the world would be "stuck in steampunk", knowing of electricity but not being able to implement electrically based stuff (like the telegraph) because of the frequent large CMEs. It's a clever idea for keeping technology at that level. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Sep 27, 2018 at 1:04
  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, your question is way too broad, and doesn't have any real, acceptable answers. worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/help $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Sep 27, 2018 at 1:06
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn I'd accept an answer that says that technology progresses regardless due to xyz, or that technology overall stagnates at year 18XX with exceptions A, B, and C from year 19XX. Or something like that. I agree it might be a little broad, but "way too broad" seems like an overstatement. Regardless, I've narrowed the question(s) a bit. $\endgroup$
    – TomatoCo
    Sep 27, 2018 at 1:20
  • $\begingroup$ The problem is that this is alternative history speculation. We know where it can't go, but where it can go is speculation, and that's off-topic. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Sep 27, 2018 at 1:30
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    $\begingroup$ The commenters who think this civilization will be stuck in the steam age are wrong. The Carrington Event generated electrical currents in long wires & telegraphic wires (this made them self-powered by the CE). Electrical technology will be given a leg up. Electronics only comes long last century. Regular CEs are effectively intermittent solar power. There will be a scientific & engineering gold rush into researching electricity & its applications. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Sep 27, 2018 at 2:07

3 Answers 3


People would have perfected mechanical automatons to a degree that only the most advanced masterpieces on earth have ever been. Have a look at the Peacock Clock in the Heremitage. It's an entirely mechanical clock that moves various parts of the clock in different intervals.

The same level of technology would probably dominate your world. The first automobiles with combustion engines didn't need intricate electrical wirings. The accelerator pedal mechanically increased the amount of fuel burned in the engine and the brake pedal mechanically blocked the movement of the wheels.

And don't forget batteries! The first battery was created long before anyone had the slightest idea of what to do with it. The first electrical toys where glass cylinders with gold flakes in them that moved as if by magic when an electrical current was created nearby. This caught the interest and imagination of people and eventually lead the development of radio communication. The first electrical power sources where hand cranks. The people of your world could develop those as well.

Long distance communication would be very different, though. The telegraph wouldn't work and radio communication would be disrupted by the regular solar storms. But humans have sought solutions for long distance communication long before the age of electronics.

The trusty old carrior pidgeon was used for thousands of years to transfer messages. Years of invention and improvement yielded the Fresnel Lens, which directed the light of lighthouses over very long distances.

The biggest difference would be the lack of computers. The first computers were developed to ... surprise ... compute mathemalical equations. Whithout computer technology, it takes longer to design robust buildings and vehicles and there might be more tragic accidents because of mechanical failures or miscalculated statics. Things might be build in a more robust way in general, just to be sure.

And things would be much more square and angular than todays curved designs, because those where made possible and cheap by computer technology. It's more efficient to produce a flat, square panel than a curved one which then must fit into it's place without any margins for error.

  • $\begingroup$ Computers would actually still be possible. We just couldn't miniaturize them. The smaller the computer, the more prone to ESP they are. $\endgroup$
    – Aron
    Sep 28, 2018 at 9:33

This is one of the best excuses to make a steampunk/dieselpunk-tech world. The desire for progression crippled by a lack of reliable electricity makes the motor king and would require more directly mechanical means for getting anything done efficiently. This means Rube Goldberg machines to communicate or do something across a building or city would be more realistic. Whether your characters wear corsets and gears on their hats is up to you.

There's also the scifi possibility of eventually using the solar flares themselves as a source of power, which would be a huge dynamic shift, especially for a society which learns to utilize all of their resources to streamline daily living.

  • $\begingroup$ Diesel engines still need electric wires to power the initial glow-plug. You could get away with creating big engines that never (or rarely) get turned off, though. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Sep 27, 2018 at 1:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Big Engines that Run Everything (from the people movers to the City Post's little monorail lines (that look curiously like our urban power lines) never rest! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Sep 27, 2018 at 2:10

A Shield

I did a report on the Carrington event. I believe the world would develop but not as fast or as good as ours. If they harnessed the energy, that would give them tremendous power.

One solution to this would to give the world a stronger magnetic field. if you created a some kind of force field/shield and powered it by the solar storm as above, you could possibly stop the storms from getting to you. But the problem would be getting to that level of technology, since this is like a few hundred years in our future.


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