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EDIT:

Calculations were incorrect, the earth in my comic is not 5.8x larger, it is 2.4x larger. Its surface area is 5.8x larger but the diameter is 2.4x larger.

Anyway

I'm working on a comic that is set in an alternate earth that is 2.4x larger than the real world in an effort to incorporate numerous fictional locations that could not fit on a real-world map due to their sizes.

I am wondering if earth that is 2.4x larger would slow down human progress to a significant degree due to the fact that travel times would be extended, thus slowing trade, immigration, and colonialism.

This comic aims to be set in a modern world albeit on a larger Earth. The USA still exists but it's a much larger country. New Jersey, for example, is now the size of England. Likewise, the repercussions of this larger earth may inhibit the USA from ever coming into existence.

If the answers result in any conflict with the goals of the comic, I may just resort to pure fantasy but it will be fun to learn how this stuff works regardless.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Mar 18 at 4:06

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Yes and no, and possibly "it depends on what you mean by "civilization".

As L. Dutch already noted, technological development is more a function of available resources and population density.

On the one hand, it's quite believable that population density could increase at least as quickly as on our Earth, and indeed, perhaps faster given how much more real estate is available.

On the other hand, it's not entirely unreasonable to believe that people would tend to spread out more given the available space, which could lead to less socializing in general, towns and cities being slower to develop, etc. Also, even if this doesn't happen on a global scale, it's possible that globalization will be slower, that you'll have e.g. Europe with the technology level of today while Asia still doesn't have electricity.

In particular, note that your oceans are 5.8x as big, which makes them significantly harder to cross. There is a very real chance that Columbus did not "discover" the New World and South America was never exposed to Europeans. It's even possible that Vikings never found it either. (We'll probably still get there, though, but across either the Bering Strait or the island chain between Russia and Alaska.)

By the era of steam ships, "the West" should be accessible, but that's a big ocean to fly across. If you think trans-Atlantic flights are brutal in our world, flying from Europe to America takes days. Days. And you have to stop multiple times to refuel. Iceland and possibly Greenland are huge transportation hubs. That, or no one even tries to cross the Atlantic ocean. (To put this in perspective, crossing the Atlantic in your world is on par with circumnavigating the entire planet in our world. Keep in mind there is nowhere to stop while you're doing this; you have to carry all your food/water/fuel with you. Crossing the Pacific? Australia to South America? Circumnavigating our world twice. Prior to the Space Age, there's a very real chance that the Pacific is still labeled "here be dragons"... and if dragons are dinosaurs, that label might even be correct.)

Hawaii is of particular note. It's pretty remote already, and shipping stuff there isn't cheap. In your world, it's quite possible that, if it's inhabited at all, they have to make do almost entirely off their own resources.


Clearer points out that humanity is believed to have started in the vicinity of what is now Kenya, an area not historically known for civil or technological development. It is, however, in the more hospitable part of Africa, from which one would expect humans to at least find Lake Victoria. Having accomplished as much, Lake Edward / Lake Albert are only (in your world) another 200-300 miles away, at which point you're on the upper bits of the Nile and can expect people to find Egypt and the Mediterranean... which are known for developing the earliest civilizations. Accordingly, you might be looking at a longer period before the start of civilization, but once those regions are settled, all the other information / answers apply.

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    $\begingroup$ So, because of the increased size of the Earth. European colonialism would not start to take off until the industrial age? Damn. $\endgroup$ – JordanTheCynic Mar 12 at 17:10
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    $\begingroup$ @JordanTheCynic, that... seems likely. It's fairly hard, largely due to the length of the journey, to cross the Atlantic in a sailing ship. If your Atlantic is 5.8x wider, it takes 5.8x longer to cross. Realistically, you probably can't cross the Atlantic with anything short of a modern cargo/cruise liner (which will still take about 6x as long). Pre-steam, I think your options are via Iceland and Greenland (and possible the Faroe Islands) or crossing east from Russia to Alaska. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Mar 12 at 17:41
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    $\begingroup$ could all of this end up creating an Earth where Europe is kinda like Wakanda but the rest of the world is lagging behind tremendously? $\endgroup$ – JordanTheCynic Mar 12 at 18:29
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    $\begingroup$ Note also that the space age would come later because of deeper gravity well of the planet (even if the surface gravity is the same due to lower density). $\endgroup$ – Anixx Mar 13 at 8:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Clearer, based on a pre-edit comment by the OP, I was assuming that climate problems (as well as, ahem, gravity) are out of scope for the purposes of this question. Anyway, being inland doesn't imply cold; maybe the whole planet is hot, or has a very mild climate for some reason. Also, people do live in Siberia (and Canada). $\endgroup$ – Matthew Mar 13 at 14:54
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Civilization is the inevitable result of agriculture: people needed to band together in a fixed location to protect their crops before and after harvest, and they need written records to track who owns what.

This happened on our Earth about ten thousand years ago in three places roughly simultaneously: Central America (corn), the Middle East (wheat) and the Far East (rice). As those early civilizations grew, they spread north and south in search of more land for their crops—and discovered other crops to farm in the more temperate climates.

Within about four thousand years, most habitable regions of Earth were "civilized". Since there was no more free land, continued population growth (also a result of agriculture) resulted in wars to take existing farmland from others, and empires were born.

(Notice that Creation is usually placed somewhere between those two bounds, depending on when each civilization was founded and thus the start of their historical records.)

On a larger planet, agriculture will likely be discovered at more longitudes, but there will be more latitude for civilization to travel (assuming a similar ratio of land to sea), resulting in a slightly longer spread from each origin. That might be easier, though, since the climate should vary more slowly, and maybe (handwave) that cancels out.

Empires depend on the speed of communication and armies, so at least prior to industrialization, they would probably be similar in absolute size to our historical ones. Once you have mechanized travel and electronic communication, though, all bets are off. OTOH, more people means technology should progress much faster, so they may not have spent as long in the pre-industrial era as we did.

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One big aspect to a bigger world is stronger gravity.

(For the long version: Go read "Dragon's Egg" and "StarQuake" by Robert L Forward. The gravity there is 67 billion times stronger than Earth's, but I think you'd find some of the ideas relevant.)

Biology

Flying birds? Insects? Possibly not. Jumpers (fleas, grasshoppers, frogs)? The impact at the end of that jump will be significantly more dangerous.

Trees will be shorter. Climbing much harder. OTOH, dropping things out of that tree onto whatever is below will be disproportionately effective. Falling out of a tree would be certain death.

Bipeds probably wouldn't be a thing. Falling down in such potent gravity would be Very Bad.

Geology

On the one hand I would expect mountains to be shorter. On the other hand I would expect tectonic forces to be stronger. More/stronger earthquakes, with more fault lines?

More gravity means stronger eruptions when they happen, though the blast wouldn't carry debris as far. Ash clouds would still be a thing... probably?

Waterfalls would hit considerably harder from a given height, though the heights available could be shorter.

Cliffs can't be as tall before collapsing.

Civilization/Technology

Shorter buildings. A "2 story building" might be a modern miracle. Or a roof for that matter.

Mining is that much more dangerous from cave-ins. That means fewer available resources. Strip mining suddenly looks really good.

Flight and space flight won't happen until much further along the tech curve. No satellites (comm, spy, weather, etc) of any sort.

Falling rain could be dangerous. Rain could also be a better/viable power source. Hydroelectric would be more effective.

Combat

Ranged combat will be at much shorter ranges, though I suspect it would still exist. Melee combat will be affected, in that overhead swings will be even more effective, but would require that much more strength to pull off.

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    $\begingroup$ I like your answer, Mark, but, well, Jordan no tag science-based here. A good choose tho, would make a lot of more complicated, like your answer ilustrate. Need 13,8x the actual mass of Earth to giving same density, then this big Earth would have 2.4G. Could work to keep 1G too and need mass of only 5,75 Earths. Density would be less than half of actual, similar with Galilean Moons and the planet for sure no would keep a magnetosphere. $\endgroup$ – Rodolfo Penteado Mar 13 at 8:58
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    $\begingroup$ Space flight would actually be close to impossible due to the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation: space.stackexchange.com/questions/14383/… $\endgroup$ – Michael Borgwardt Mar 13 at 11:13
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Humankind would spread more slowly, more human species could share same epoch and even the Homo Sapiens could split in two ou more different species.

In some point after all those different civilizations would make contact one each other and cause wars, genocidies, and all sort of shameful things, in a process would take thousands of years instead the few five centuries.

Until something like Enlightenment and an industrial revolution appear and be prosperous would take a long time, any tentative still in the barbaric time would be quickly crushed. Demands lots of accumulated knowedge and a strong stable culture.

In a giant planet could the industrial revolution happen multiple times, perhaps in different humans too, with few or none contact between them, like in the past Egypcians, Mayan and Olmecs; or Greece, China and Persia around 2500 years ago. Hard to know what would happen with high developed civilizations, in similar pace, if they would cooperate or compete.

At end, cooperation or competition will be more decisive than the size of world.

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The speed of movement would depend only the means of movement. Larger territories would require more time to be crossed, but won't make travel happen at a slower velocity.

It is true that longer time to travel would be a minus, but as a plus you would have more available resources and more space to expand small civilization.

Don't forget that available space is a big constrain on how big a population can grow.

And all civilizations started on a small scale. Rome and its empire started from a small village of shepherd.

All in all I think there would be no appreciable differences with respect to our own history.

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It depends. Remember that most (all?) historical civilizations developed within fairly limited areas: the Nile Valley, the area around Greece & later Rome, the eastern coast of China, &c. So they could perhaps happily develop their own civilizations on a larger planet, ignoring the rest of the world - as for all practical purposes most historical ones actually did.

Now what could cause a problem is that if you are just scaling up Earth, with all the geology & geography otherwise the same. The problem is that to have a Bronze Age, you need copper and tin in reasonable proximity; likewise, to have an iron age you need iron ore and coal. Are your world's Phoenicians going to be able to sail 5.8 times as far to bring back tin?

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I would imagine a slower pace in the beginning but later it would catch up very quickly and then exceed our current earth by far.

In the initial stone age, more available land to keep surviving with a hunter / gatherer lifestyle means less incentive to develop agriculture.

Later as agriculture is discovered, more available land means longer time until sufficient population density is reached to have large cities.

Once you reach the Renaissance era, the pace would still be slower because the larger oceans are harder / impossible to travel.

However eventually they would reach the industrial age, possibly much later but I see no reason why they wouldn't eventually get there as conflicts / trade drive knowledge forward.

I d say that once that giant earth reaches the industrial age, growth would be much faster.

They would zip past the current age much faster, with way more intense globalization and sheer higher number of researchers boosting research to levels way above ours.

Imagine where we would be if earth population was 40 billion instead 10B. We d already have cured cancer, mastered cold fusion, travelled to Mars etc.. with 5.8x ressources poured into R&D

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  • $\begingroup$ Agriculture begets cities. More land means more cities, not less. Population density will be about the same. $\endgroup$ – StephenS Mar 13 at 17:40
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I always wonder why people ended up in Australia 50,000 years ago, when the world was almost empty. If Australia had been 5.8 times further away from the cradle in North Africa I'm sure humankind would have ended up there all the same. Not because scarcity dictated it but because they could.

Sedentarism was not driven by the first agriculturers being crowded out of the hunter-gatherer civilization. European states colonized because they could, not because they needed to.

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    $\begingroup$ And if they couldn't, they wouldn't. The voyages as they were assumed a 50% death rate among the crew. Make them 5.8x longer and ask whether there would be enough surviving crew to man the ship? $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Mar 13 at 9:57
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A lot depends on how you want to define progress. Most answers seem to assume it is driven by population. But actually a lot of tech is driven by war.

In realistic terms conflict would take a lot longer to arise as humans populate the Earth before being dense enough to get into real conflict. Personally I think it's quite possible we may go extinct at one of the ancient population bottlenecks and Neandertals may still be around.

It's too broad a question to go into detail, but you could basically build several totally different stories from that same beginning.

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Even if the density of that planet is smaller than that of Earth, so that the surface gravity is the same, the gravitational well is deeper. This means space travel is much more difficult. Crewed spaceflight possibly would not be achieved at this technological level and the number of automatic satellites is much smaller. Putting just a tiny can in the orbit is a huge endeavor.

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Even if the question is marked as answered I think that the main point is missing. The world population boomed when the use of tools and eventually the industry multiplied the capacity to transport and produce food and goods beyond what is possible with human and animal muscles. To transport and produce people need energy and if the weight is stronger people would need a lot more energy, however the fuels we know in a heavier world would have the same energy density. So to keep the same level of development we had in the last 200 yeard the population would need an amount of energy resource bigger by one or two order of magnitudes. Furthermore some tasks could even become impossible because they would require fuel with a very high energy density.

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