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This question reminded me of a Nanowrimo attempt of mine a few years ago.

Main Character is bicycling in modern day (2013 at the time), and creates a time-portal, finds herself in 1963 near Xavier's School for the Gifted. She's genre-savvy, realizes she's probably a mutant, so goes there. She's a self-insert, so lacks combat skills, and is killed quickly to make another character (probably Angel grow emotionally.

But the Bike is left behind. Not an enchanted motorcycle, not even a super fancy racing one, just something perfectly normal (though slightly higher-end to be lighter) for commutes in a small town, and a helmet. And of course bikes have existed for almost a century before the X-Men (1886 = bikes looking pretty modern), so the concept isn't new.

But materials from 50 years in the future? Wikipedia states:

Historically, materials used in bicycles have followed a similar pattern as in aircraft, the goal being high strength and low weight.

So perhaps her bike was a Titanium Alloy? In other words, biomedical-standard materials or aeroengineering materials appearing first via the bike, not the other way around?

Other things that I figure she would have (and bring back in time)

  • LED flashlight (1960s LEDs could only function in red frequencies -- it took until the 1990s for "white" LEDs to exist;
  • a helmet (pre-1970s they were mostly leather, modern ones have polystyrene, polycarbonate, new manufacturing methods for that microshell with forming things
  • Under-Armour type performance wear (synthetic fabrics of course existed back then, but I'm sure 2010s ones are different

The Question: How much would technology change if such materials from 2013 were available in 1963?

Feel free to ignore the Professor X & Mutants angle.... the main point is 2013 --> 1963. The modern person (who doesn't especially know materials science) is gone, so she can't explain things, but there are intelligent people around to examine and understand the materials to the best of their 1960s abilities.

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  • $\begingroup$ Bycicle or motorbike? $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Oct 30 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch the question says "bicycling". $\endgroup$ – Erik Oct 30 at 14:55
  • $\begingroup$ The materials were available in 1963; they were just very expensive and possibly classified. Hint: in order for a material to become cheap enough to be used in ordinary bicycles, it must first be discovered by scientists, then some engineers need to invent a process to make it in non-trivial quantities, then the military or aerospace industries must be willing to design devices using it no matter the cost, then commercial aviation adopts it, and only afterwards will the material become usable in mundane applications. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Oct 30 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Erik the same text also says enchanted motorcycles $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Oct 30 at 15:38
  • $\begingroup$ nitpick, sort of. Aluminum would be better for a bike frame as it is lighter than titanium and orders of magnitude cheaper. Carbon Fiber might confuse and surprise material scientists though. Titanium components are a different story. $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Oct 30 at 15:49
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Likely not much, if at all.

It's not like you could look at a piece of metal from the future and figure out how it was made. If you took an iPhone back to 1995, they would probably be able to figure out what it was doing, but the ability to manufacture a processing chip that small would still require a decade before the first iPhone and two before modern iPhones. Point being, having a thing doesn't help to know how the thing was made. You would need the manufacturing equipment for that. In fact, the world is full of ancient artifacts we still don't know how to make nowadays - such as damascus steel (which has carbon nanotubes in it!).

So having a bike, or an LED flashlight, that's not necessarily helpful. It may give rather intelligent scientists ideas, and may motivate them to find solutions faster than it would otherwise have ocured, but in general creating that technology requires other technology. That is, having the bike may be a motivating force, but then you need the machine that made the bike. And the machine that made the machine that made the bike. And the trade route to get the materials for the machine that made the machine that made the bike. And the government treaty to allow the trade route so you can get the materials for the machine that made the machine that made the bike. ... and so on.

There's also the issue of practicality. A helmet is cool, and they can probably see it's better, but they already have helmets, and those helmets are good enough for that time. They have bigger issues (like Magneto or the Cold War) to focus on. Sure the future bike is lighter, faster, stronger... but they have bike fast enough. I know a lady who still rides the bike she got as kid in the 1970s. It's good enough for what she wants; she is no enthusiast.

1963 had helmets, bikes, flashlights. What would make this common stuff so interesting that it's worth changing the course of history? Imagine receiving a future flashlight that's smaller, brighter, and doesn't require batteries. Super cool! But you don't need it, and it's going to be invented anyway.

So between manufacturing technology, geopolitcal issues, and practical necessities, it's unlikely that any "common" technology from 2013 going into 1963 would change much, if anything. It would be a novelty.

That said, if you could choose what to bring into the past, then you could choose specific manufacturing or technology insights. In other words, what the time traveler knows about scientific breakthroughs would be more useful than anything; letting scientists know they don't need to waste decades searching, you already have the answer - that would be powerful. Of course you'd need "top scientists" to all (a) believe you, and (b) be willing to forsake their current projects and egos to take on what you tell them.

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  • $\begingroup$ "and doesn't require batteries." wait, you think being given a magical energy source is merely "cool"? $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Oct 30 at 15:44
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    $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime lol... bad phrasing on my part. I meant that as you never have to change the batteries; like a lifetime-lithium battery that charges fast enough on ambient light or heat, and is sustained long enough so that you'll never have to swap out the battery. Would be amazing... to nerdy old me. But I don't think the "average joe" would quit his desk job to find a way to build a second one. $\endgroup$ – cegfault Oct 30 at 15:51
  • $\begingroup$ very good answer $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Oct 30 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ Or the flashlight that charges using body heat. That is outright sorcery. Slap some solar panels on that bad boy and a single flashlight can be of great value for scientists. $\endgroup$ – Gustavo Oct 31 at 21:38

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