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Let's say a tech company has figured out a way to travel back in time, but for reasons involving the programming of their machine, they can only go back about a 100 million years into the past, to the late Cretaceous period. Now that the company is here, they might as well try and make use of it by exploiting the natural resources and maybe see how they can get bigger and more powerful.

What can they find in terms of natural resources that would give them a huge leap ahead of their competitors? I would guess that there's copious amounts of coal and natural gas in the Cretaceous, all untouched and unused? Anything else other than that?

EDIT: Just for clarification, let's go with the branching model of time travel, where going back takes you to an alternate version of our Earth in that time period instead of "our" past, just to avoid any paradoxes and butterfly effects

EDIT 2: Forgot to add this that this takes place in the future a few decades from now where we've exhausted most of our natural resources

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    $\begingroup$ We have copious amounts of coal and natural gas in the present, no time travel required. Both are very very cheap at the source. The problem is transporting them to the point where they are needed; it all comes down to the relative cost of a trans-temporal pipeline compared to a pipeline from Russia. (And the Russians are perfectly willing to share the cost of the pipeline, whereas the dinosaurs not so much.) (And we are in no danger of exhausting readily available coal and natural gas in the foreseeable future. In particular, we have much more coal than we know what to do with.) $\endgroup$ – AlexP Apr 27 at 20:46
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    $\begingroup$ Are they able to send resources back to their original timeline? $\endgroup$ – Rekamanon Apr 27 at 20:46
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    $\begingroup$ Do we really need to go 100 million years back and start with prospecting, or rather go to 1960s and buy whatever we need very cheap? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Apr 27 at 20:58
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    $\begingroup$ Bringing back live samples or even intact fossils would sell for a lot on the black market. $\endgroup$ – user69935 Apr 27 at 21:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Henrique Ruining other people's stuff because it doesn't affect you isn't unique to capitalism. You could easily have a communist country decide they need to "seize the resources" of another Earth for the good of their Earth's populace. The fact that it leaves another Earth destitute is not their problem because it's not their populace. The only difference is who makes the decision to decides to seize resources. Look at a lot of the stuff the USSR and China did/are doing. Especially in Africa now. That's basically the same as this question but with fewer dinosaurs. $\endgroup$ – user2352714 Apr 28 at 18:37

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Getting the same thing over and over

Since you're in the branching model, you really only need to find something once. For instance, say you find a diamond, or a large gold nugget, or anything else easily picked up and valuable to you. Take it home with you, then go back in time 1 day prior to when you found it the first time, and pick it up again, then rinse and repeat, each time going one day further in the past than you did the time before, now you have that many duplicates of what you want.

You don't even need to find something valuable to begin with, you can go back the full 100 million years, put something very valuable in the alternate universe, then go back 99 million years and pick it back up (or a little more if it doesn't last 1 million years), then repeat the process of going back a day earlier and a day earlier until you have as many copies as you like. [Edit] This method assumes that the time machine can travel to the same branched off timeline, which seems reasonable, and OP doesn't address this.

* "You Get An Iphone! You Get An Iphone! You Get An Iphone! You Get An Iphone!" *

Note: This only works because the OP lets us "avoid" any paradoxes, as an artifact of the time travel model.

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    $\begingroup$ Of course, you also annoy the snot out of the timelines that no longer have that diamond. (Recommended reading: The Gordian Protocol.) $\endgroup$ – Matthew Apr 28 at 1:42
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    $\begingroup$ I was planning to answer extending your leave something valuable into an organized resource duplication, but I realize it doesn't work. You leave something behind when you come back for it it's not there, it's in the branched-off timeline. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Apr 28 at 5:12
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    $\begingroup$ It sounds a bit cynical but you could just as well put some (very) bare commodities and use it as a prison. $\endgroup$ – ChatterOne Apr 28 at 5:12
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    $\begingroup$ Doesn't OP specify "Can only go back 100 Million Years"? I don't think you can use this exploit, because you only have one point of entry on the timeline. $\endgroup$ – Zibbobz Apr 28 at 12:54
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    $\begingroup$ @ChatterOne underated comment, as an Australian I have a soft spot for stories about prison colonies and the fact it's full of lush greenery and Dinosaurs would be a pleasant twist. $\endgroup$ – hamsolo474 - Reinstate Monica Apr 28 at 14:20
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Dumping waste

One of the biggest problems facing modern society is a lack of places to dump waste. This not only applies to traditional waste such as plastics, but also nuclear waste from nuclear power plants and even carbon dioxide from internal combustion engines (which is “waste” of a sort). If you had a magic time portal to the Cretaceous Period, even if it was to a hole thousands of meters beneath the Earth’s surface, one of the best things you can use it for is to get rid of all this waste. Plastic gets crushed back into oil due to all the heat and pressure beneath the Earth’s surface, nuclear waste has millions of years to decay and no longer become radioactive, and most importantly of all you get this all out of modern Earth’s biosphere.

Of course eventually you’re going to run into problems due to converting all the organic compounds of your home Earth into trash and shipping them into the late Cretaceous, but then you have an entire biosphere’s worth of organic matter that is easily exploitable. Just mulch the dinosaurs and turn them into plastic Coke bottles. Yes, the whole thing is horribly irresponsible, enables extremely unsustainable modes of life (and is basically no different from modern “dump everything into the ocean” lines of thought), and ends up destroying an entire unique biosphere just to get the plastic to make the latest iPod, but it’s theoretically feasible.

Other commonly used reasons for going into the Cretaceous are difficult to justify. The flora and fauna will be of very little use to the present day beyond biomedical research. Bringing any species back to home Earth to repopulate the ecosystem will likely result in invasive species at best (darn tyrannosaurs, get out of my garbage!) or the introduction will fail due to lack of supporting elements (e.g., gut microbes, pollinators [which did exist during the Cretaceous], symbionts, etc.). Farming will be very difficult. It’s hard to say if modern crops will do well in the Cretaceous, but given the fact that most crop plants are angiosperms and therefore dependent on pollinators is unlikely they will do well. What pollinators do exist would probably not recognize them as viable.

At the same time, the only native life that would be able to be easily harvested is meat. Exactly what the plant life looks like is heavily dependent on when you go in the Cretaceous. Early Cretaceous floras were dominated by gymnosperms (i.e., conifers, cycads) and looked very Jurassic, but by the Campanian (84-72 Ma), if not a little earlier, forests were primarily angiosperm dominated and looked essentially modern. However, even by the Campanian most the plants that were present were not those that coevolved with vertebrates to produce easily edible fruits (which may have been driven by things like the evolution of primates much later) and so you wouldn't have fruit-bearing trees or most edible grains. The closest you get in the modern day is the sago cycad, which is very labor-intensive to process (specifically, removing toxins). So it’s unlikely that you could farm native plants. By contrast you could harvest meat pretty easily, and the edibility of meat has remained constant across the years. Stripping the seas of fish to feed people back in Home Earth is a possibility (aided by the fact that sea levels were at their highest during this time and much of the ocean area was shallow and good for fish productivity), though at the same time the late Cretaceous is known for having so many large predators in the oceans it has been referred to as “Hell’s Aquarium”. Large predators would make fishing difficult. Especially if you have to process the catch on land, which would draw in carnivores for kilometers.

Setting up settlements in the Cretaceous would be very cost inefficient beyond a last-ditch Hail Mary effort. You have all the problems outlined above, except now you also have to take care of people on site instead of shipping everything back to home Earth. You have to deal with diseases, parasites, and bacteria you have no immunity to. Cross species diseases might be rare since the largest wildlife are not mammalian, but then again avian-to-human transition is known. It’s unclear how well you could survive without doing something like New Zealand and destroying the entire native ecosystem and replace it with an artificial Europe-Asia-North America based one. Australia and New Zealand are good examples of what you might encounter, their ecosystems are distinctly Gondwanan, and so when European farmers and ranchers settled there they encountered huge problems due to the lack of ungulates or dung beetles that ate the poop of large placental ungulates. And of course you have to deal with the local wildlife, herbivores that bring all the problems people in Africa have to deal with megafauna (e.g., elephants eating crops), and of course the carnivores, who on the one hand probably wouldn’t recognize humans and their livestock as prey but on the other hand wouldn’t be afraid to walk straight into town and start making trouble.

As @AlexP mentioned, fossil fuels are going to be very expensive to remove the Cretaceous and bring back to home Earth. Most of the oil reservoirs should be there, the most prominent oil deposits known today are from the Cretaceous but depending on when you go in the Cretaceous the oil has already had millions of years to form. The difference in time between a 66 million year old late Cretaceous ecosystem with Tyrannosaurus and a 125 million year old one with Utahraptor and Iguanodon is the same time gap as between Tyrannosaurus and the present day. The time gap between Tyranosaurus and Styracosaurus is the same kind of time gap between Homo sapiens and Australopithecus. Additionally, very few petroleum workers are going to want to work in an environment that has large theropods prowling around on land and mosasaurs in the water.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 Wow, the creataceous fishing colony sounds like the basis for an awesome story. A fish processing plant that has to defend against fight hungry Tyrannosaurs and fight 15 ton Mosasaurs for their catches at sea. It sounds like it could be Avatar without the colonisation narrative. $\endgroup$ – hamsolo474 - Reinstate Monica Apr 28 at 9:40
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    $\begingroup$ I'd read/watch the hell out of a story about cretaceous fishing colonies and big-game hunters. It's not actually an original idea, there are a few stories around the idea of big-game dinosaur hunting, but an original spin of an actual colony rather than an expedition would be pretty cool $\endgroup$ – Ruadhan Apr 28 at 11:14
  • $\begingroup$ @hamsolo474-ReinstateMonica Deadliest Catch: Western Interior Seaway Edition $\endgroup$ – user2352714 Apr 28 at 22:21
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    $\begingroup$ Hell's Aquarium - sounds like you've got a source for a lot of reality TV $\endgroup$ – Gary Myers Apr 29 at 0:29
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    $\begingroup$ "Just mulch the dinosaurs and turn them into plastic Coke bottles." And that, my son, is the story of how the dinosaurs went extinct $\endgroup$ – frarugi87 Apr 30 at 9:41
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The Time Traveller's Gourmet Club

Epicurean experiences unrivalled in our time.

You have certainly never tasted fillet of stegosaur, or spicy archaeopteryx wings, or the delicate seafood delights of ammonite or the Jurassic era oysters, nearly a foot across, of what is now the Isle of Skye.

Hugh Miller in his 1846 "The Old Red Sandstone" (3rd edition) describes a lobster, four feet long. But he can't tell of the delicate flavour of its tail meat, nor how the fillet of the exoskeletal Diplacanthus firms up in the frying pan, yet flakes so delicately to the fork.

All this and more can be yours, for a modest subscription to the Time Travellers Gourmet Club. Events include transport from our exclusive London premises, catering by the best French chefs, and return travel to approximately the month of departure.

Cutlery provided - but bring personal protection when dining in Tyrannosaur territory (see appendix). A memorial will be held on Sunday next for poor Harrington-Smythe, whose duelling pistols proved totally inadequate to the task on our recent expedition to Northern Colorado.

Wines not included, though our sommelier will be happy to make recommendations from our extensive - and uncommonly well aged - cellars.

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    $\begingroup$ Sounds like "Restaurant at the (Other) End of the Universe" $\endgroup$ – AndyDan Apr 30 at 18:15
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Raptor King

When you consider how many idiots own tigers and keep them on their properties, can you imagine the market for Exotic Saurian fauna?

I reckon you could charge millions per animal, tens of millions for the bigger tyrannosaurs, just don't bring back a breeding pair.

Otherwise what could possibly go wrong?

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    $\begingroup$ You don't need a breeding pair. Life... finds a way. $\endgroup$ – Asteroids With Wings Apr 28 at 14:42
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    $\begingroup$ So Raptor King on Netflix? That fucking bitch John Hammond! $\endgroup$ – Space_Cadet Apr 28 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ Why do so many people think that a breeding pair of Tyrannosaurus would mean them taking over the planet in short order? They wouldn't be all that successful, and would be outcompeted by modern animals. They take a lot of time to mature, are very vulnerable when young, and even if by some miracle they could reach adulthood, they would likely starve. $\endgroup$ – vsz Apr 29 at 4:38
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    $\begingroup$ Ah, good old Maxim 14: "'Mad science' means never stopping to ask 'what's the worst thing that could happen?'" 😃 (Not quite literally "what could possibly go wrong?", but in the same spirit!) $\endgroup$ – Matthew Apr 29 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ @vsz My concern with selling a breeding pair would be creating my own competitor! If I go to the trouble & expense of developing actual time travel, I want a monopoly :) $\endgroup$ – CodeMonkey Apr 30 at 15:04
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Prehistoric safari

You could organize guided trips to the prehistoric era.

Od course you could do it for benefit of science and general public (think dino zoo).

But of course that is not where the money is. The real deal is hunting expeditions! Rich people around the world would not miss an opportunity to have a stuffed T-Rex head above the fireplace.

Full disclaimer, the idea about hunting expeditions is from book Predators by Miroslav Žamboch (in Czech).

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    $\begingroup$ Tourism will always be a possible money maker. The question is whether the cost of running a time machine is less than what the market will bear for time travel back to the Late Cretaceous Period. $\endgroup$ – llywrch Apr 28 at 21:01
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Science!

Step 1: travel back to the latest (most recent) point you can, and strip-mine all of the resources that you can.

Step 2: Use these resources to create Interstellar Space Probes, designed to travel to distant stars, record loads of data, then transmit it back to us, ready to arrive about 6 months after you crack time-travel.

Step 3: Travel back as far as you can, then launch the probes.

Step 4: Build receiving units in the present, to capture the transmitted photographs of other planets and solar systems (As a bonus, equip the probes with Time Travel devices, so that the data received is "real-time")

Step 5: ???

Step 6: Profit!


Gambling!

1: Agree with an associate to each later bury an incorruptible record of sporting events for the next 20 years in a specific pair of locations, and not to contact each other again until then

2: You dig in one location now, and bury at the other location in the past in 20 years time, and vice versa. Once you go back, this creates a timeline in which the initial digging found the records

3: ???

4: Profit!


Religion!

1: Agree with an associate to each later bury an incorruptible record of Catastrophes, Cataclysms and Natural Disasters for the next 20 years in a specific pair of locations, and not to contact each other again until then

2: You dig in one location now, and bury at the other location in the past in 20 years time, and vice versa. Once you go back, this creates a timeline in which the initial digging found the records

3: ???

4: Prophet!

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think the odd's on games 20 years after the Cretaceous period paid well. $\endgroup$ – hamsolo474 - Reinstate Monica Apr 28 at 14:02
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Uranium mining

Not much of improvement, but still - say, 0.8% instead of modern 0.7% U-235 will save a lot of enrichment.

Going back some more (1-1.5 bn years) will be better, if possible - one could get reactor-grade or even weapon-grade natural uranium.

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You have discovered the ultimate natural resource: land!

Always a good investment because "they ain't making it any more"

Holiday ranches can be built on tens of thousands of square miles of pristine, untouched land, with no planning regulations or zoning laws. Charge whatever the market for billionaires competing for the top prestige sites. Then move on to millionaires and on down until you're putting up concrete blocks for population overspill storage, prisons, etc.

Herds of free-roaming dinosaurs an optional extra.

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    $\begingroup$ Theres a lot of untouched land in Africa, but most people don't want to go there because 1. It's far from all the things and infrastructure they care about, 2. The security costs make the "cheap" land considerably more expensive, 3. People consider the land unstable due to political circumstances, the Cretaceous period might not have political issues but they certainly had a very high oxygen content meaning that catastrophic fires are a massive risk unless managed very carefully. I don't know if it's suitable for holiday homes or officies. $\endgroup$ – hamsolo474 - Reinstate Monica Apr 28 at 14:12
  • $\begingroup$ You mean we can sell them insurance too? $\endgroup$ – David Hambling Apr 28 at 14:19
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps but I'd hate to see the premiums, these fires were on the scale of countries, one theory states that the ice age wasn't just caused by the meteor throwing up dust but also starting a few forest fires which helped the process along significantly. $\endgroup$ – hamsolo474 - Reinstate Monica Apr 28 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ @hamsolo474 The ice age was 64 million years after the meteor strike. The two had nothing to do with each other. In fact it actually got warmer than the Cretaceous 55 million years ago during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. $\endgroup$ – user2352714 Apr 28 at 18:40
  • $\begingroup$ It's kind of an interesting idea, but I can't imagine construction workers building all sort of things with free-roaming dinosaurs all around them. And you want to put at least some decent plumbing there, toilets are not to be underestimated as a commodity. Also, no internet? $\endgroup$ – ChatterOne Apr 29 at 5:06
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There was a science fiction story from the 1950's set in a resource depleted future Earth with a toxic polluted atmosphere. The scene opens in the hermetically sealed house of an inventor demonstrating a time machine that had been launched back into prehistoric time (a prototype of a machine for extracting mineral resources). The inventor explains to his colleague that despite this remarkable technical achievement, it had turned out that it would never be possible to time-transport anything larger than simple molecules. The colleague sympathises that this must be a great disappointment. The inventor draws his colleagues attention to the breeze coming from the machine. "What?", "That's the sweet air of the Cretataceous." Not the solution they'd been looking for, but the one they needed. Sadly I don't have my books with me anymore and I can't tell you who the author was.

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The only things unique to the time, the organisms.

  1. Zoos pay a million dollar per year just to rent a giant panda to have in their zoo and that does not include the actual upkeep costs, but the zoos easily recover that cost from attendance fees. Image how much a living T-rex or Triceratops would be worth, or one of the giant Titanosaurs. What would Seaworld pay for a Mosasaur or a Plesiosaur. Or how about the dinosaurs we have never found fossils for. Heck the London zoo paid millions for robotic dinosaurs, what would they pay for the real thing.

If you found a species that was domesticatable for food or house pets you could practically print money.

  1. Then you have all the research value, even a dead t-rex would probably be worth millions. Everything that lived would have research value, even just a tissue sample would have value for genetic research, and who knows what kinds of drugs or spices you could find, the whole foundation of modern genetic research (PCR) is founded on bacteria found in Italian hot springs what might be found in the cretaceous. Then there are simple things like calibrating astronomic or climate research.

  2. Then there is incidental profits, sauropods steaks, ornithipod leather, manoraptorian "fur". How much will a rich Chinese business man pay for powdered t-rex bone or scale considering what is paid for rhino horns and elephant tusks.

  3. Now consider how much a wealthy hunters pay to hunt lions and tigers, how much will they pay to hunt a t-rex or titanosaur.

  4. Even the trees you cut down to build a base could be sent back for profit, as rare unique woods.

  5. someone else mentioned fishing so I won't steal their thunder, but you also have simple things like shellfish. Humans have done a huge number on shellfish in our time. You used to be able to buy clams the size of dinner plates on the street in NY as street food, now a clam or lobster that size is auctioned off as rare prize. You have a whole new ocean to plunder, plus it is full of shallow seas so it should be even more productive than modern oceans.

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