Building from this question, and both of this answer by John_H, and this by Samuel, I'm going to compose a new question quite related yet not quite similar.


So we have a world described similar to questions and answers linked on Disclaimer, and the world manages to evolve humanoid life (simply assume that the world is sufficiently earth-like). Those humanoid life advances in a path quite similar to those two answers mentioned above. We could say that the population would grow to be quite large (say around one billion in the whole planet, spreads across the land, with land-to-sea ratio around 2/5, quite similar to earth), and their cities evenly spreads across the globe.

Assume their technology would be quite similar to 1700s-1800s and they spreads mainly from the seas (like Netherlands, Spains, Portugals), and they had colonized most of the continents.

Suddenly a meteorite (or meteorites) with large quantity of siderophiles hits one of the continents, and wipe out 2/3 of their population, especially higher ratio of death on the impact zone.

The remaining nations (especially on the other side of globe) would have to struggle through the effect of impact(s). Assume they could, and now the world is now in early new ice ages (and assume it had been years or decades, long enough for ejected dusts on the atmospheres had been dissipated). As in their early exploration (mainly ships) after the event took place (driven by curiosity and awe), they found large amounts of new materials, and heavy elements.

The Question

Building from the backgrounds:

How long would it take for them to learn about those new substances and utilize it to advance their technology up to modern-day human?

Edit 1: world population halved to make the setting to be more realistic. (As mentioned in the comment that based on our world population, around 1800s is about a billion. Also changing "1700s" to "1700-1800s", as this is a rough estimation of their tech level, not an exact equivalent (as their tech level might progress differently).

  • $\begingroup$ How heavy is heavy? This isn't to mess with you. It is very important for my answer. $\endgroup$
    – Jimmy360
    Jun 6, 2015 at 8:57
  • $\begingroup$ Ehm, please consider to read the linked answers I put on the disclaimer. Perhaps anything heavier than silicon would be rarer than on earth surface. @Jimmy360 $\endgroup$ Jun 6, 2015 at 9:38
  • $\begingroup$ Just FYI, our own world's population didn't manage to hit 2 billion people until about 90 years ago, between 1920 and 1930, and only hit 1B around 1800. You need some basic germ theory, early industrialization, and agricultural advances before a world can stave off famines and plagues and keep infant mortality down enough to really get a big population going. $\endgroup$ Jun 6, 2015 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, yoi're right, I'll edit my question soon. So, world population at my world should be around 1B, acceptable? $\endgroup$ Jun 6, 2015 at 16:09

1 Answer 1


Building off the list that PipperChip posted in the linked thread, I'm going to assume that even without heavy metals they'd have a good handful of technology.

What they'd probably have:

  • Fire
  • Fired clay
  • Ceramic/obsidian/aluminum knives
  • Wooden wheels & abacus
  • Sundial
  • Glass from silica
  • Camera obscura
  • Wooden printing press
  • Nautical navigation
  • Obsidian/leather/aluminum/bone tools
  • Gunpowder.

What they would probably NOT have:

  • Steam engine
  • Electricity
  • Light bulbs
  • Computers
  • Semiconductors.

Based on the above, most people would probably be living similar to those in our own world at that time - mostly in small, rural communities where their daily existences revolved around farming, malnourishment and disease were common, and wealth was scarce. People would likely produce the bulk of their own food, clothing, furniture and tools without the benefit of manufacturing or standardization.

Since we're talking about the 1700-1800s, and I would argue that the industrial revolution began around 1733 with the invention of the flying shuttle in Great Britain used for rapid textile manufacturing, I think the real question you're asking is: how long would an industrial revolution be delayed without prior knowledge of heavy metals, 2/3 the population gone, and an impending ice age?

There's no way to determine this exactly, but I'm going to guess about... 100 years until a delayed revolution since they'd need to extract the metals, recognize their value, learn their properties, and then find useful ways to reshape them. Plus, the remaining 300 or so years would take a longer amount of time than it did for us, proportional to the missing population: 300 * 1.66 = about 500 years. This all assumes that the ice age has minimal impact on research speeds, so very optimistically, my best guess is that they'd reach our level of technology around the year 1700+100+500 = 2300 AD. Or, to better answer your question, it would take about 600 years.

You might also want to think about how suddenly discovering these metals would lead to fighting over who has access to them, possibly triggering some more rapid technology advances. Also, the ice age would push people to look for new ways of staying warm and might lead to rapid discovery of combustion. Or, it might cripple research efforts depending on how severe it is.

  • $\begingroup$ I would praise you for your edible answer :). Yes I did consider their technological advancement would be slower. I wonder, how if their population were not gone? I mean, how if their population remains 1 billion at their current time? Would their tech progresses faster? $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2015 at 16:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Yes, they would definitely research much faster if their population was not affected, although you'd still have about a 100 year delay during which they'd need to extract and study heavy metals. My guess is based on the idea that technological advancement is roughly proportional to population size - people will always be inclined to learn under just about any circumstances. $\endgroup$
    – Mir
    Jun 9, 2015 at 18:40

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .