Assuming experiments in the 1770s had proven phlogiston theory correct instead of invalidating it, what would the implications be for the development of science and technology from then on? What kind of world would be created using phlogiston and technologies derived from it? How would phlogiston physics/chemistry operate, and how would it affect other areas of scientific study?

I feel like phlogiston rayguns and other popular cliches are a bit over the top, but perhaps we would see revolutions in phlogiston as an abundant source of fuel or a potent lifting medium (given some later additions to the theory claiming that phlogiston had “negative mass” or imparted some ethereal quality of “lightness” to objects)? Could steampunk-style phlogiston airships become commonplace and start the Aviation Age, complete with its devastating wars and irrevocably altered shipping industry, a hundred or so years early?

closed as too broad by Andon, JohnWDailey, StephenG, AlexP, dot_Sp0T Dec 8 at 9:32

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  • Am I reading the theory right in that a phlogiston-filled airship would burn even better than a hydrogen-filled one? And I am not sure how you would make a ray gun. – Bald Bear Dec 8 at 4:13
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    I’m not quite sure myself. That’s kind of what I’m trying to figure out. Also you wouldn’t, really, but that specific example was a reference to TF2. – Z.Schroeder Dec 8 at 4:20
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    Is anyone familiar with the magic smoke theory of electronics? – nzaman Dec 8 at 6:28
  • The question doesn't really make sense because the answer is anything you like. "Science" is incredibly complicated. When we are dealing with basically chemistry in this case, we cannot really make meaningful predictions but for the simpliest systems and that only after burning 2-3 Ph.D. students on a topic for 3-5 yerars each. If you fundamentally change the rules of science into something you have not defined, it's not answerable anymore. It could be that nothing would be different macroscopically because it was just an explanation for reality or it could be anything else you can imagine – Raditz_35 Dec 8 at 6:29
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    You are asking essentially for the changes induced if (1) all the chemistry we know is wrong, (2) there are no atoms, and therefore (3) the laws of gasses are wrong, (5) statistical mechanics does not apply and hermodynamics is wrong, and (6) all quantum mechanics is wrong. This is the definitive too broad question. – AlexP Dec 8 at 7:16