These humans would be 10x smaller than us, around 16-18cm tall, just divide by ten on our current heights. If we're small, that would mean animals are 10x bigger than normal.

Keep in mind that puddles would seem like floods for them and a normal flood would be a tsunami. As an example, a housecat would seem like its 5 metres tall standing on both legs. Small humans are stronger relative to body size so let's say there are no limitations on their form and style of architecture right now.

I just need some ideas! Thank you

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ We need to have some idea of the STRENGTH of these humans. How has their strength scaled down? For instance, bone thickness does not scale down linearly, jeb.biologists.org/content/207/9/1577 and since I am assuming these habitations are constructed, something would have to be known about the weight these beings could manage. Likewise, what loading would these habitations need to withstand? Normal 2x4's also do not scale down linearly for the same loading. And things like glass thickness can not just be scaled down linearly, unless the wind forces have also scaled down. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme the Second Feb 22 at 2:53
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ And things like cooking fires do not scale linearly. Humans of normal size can reasonably carry firewood to make a fire big enough to create enough heat to be self-sustaining, but a fire made from twigs would not produce sufficient heat to do much of anything, let alone keep something warm. These beings are not even the size of small children. Would they even have the body mass to enable them to move firewood heavy enough to burn decently? $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme the Second Feb 22 at 3:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Also, what is the relative tech level your people have achieved? It can be anything from hunter-gatherer up to antigravity. I was guessing medieval (based on predation concerns), but the answers here suggest a near-modern one. $\endgroup$ – DWKraus Feb 22 at 4:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JustinThymetheSecond one nice thing about fire is its self sustaining feature is a function f fuel not scale, a fire made of twigs will still heat a scaled down mean just fine. Remeber food also cooks much faster at smaller scales becasue of the square cube law. $\endgroup$ – John Feb 22 at 6:41
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ keep in mind humans that size is pure fantasy you can't just scale animals, these humans would freeze to death in minutes in even mild weather, the square cube law is a pain. so you need a large suspension of disbelief just to start. These two video should give you an idea of some of the problems. youtube.com/watch?v=f7KSfjv4Oq0 $\endgroup$ – John Feb 22 at 6:45


Tunnels are a great way for small mammals to not get eaten. Our primate cousins who are the sizes you describe live in trees but I must say it seems like a lot of things eat them. I would pick tunnels over trees.

There are some animals that can come down tunnels to eat whatever is in there - I am thinking mostly snakes. The thing about tunnels made by humans is that humans have invented doors, with holes to look thru. If you look thru and it is a snake, don't let it in. Poke it with poison spears thru holes in the wall.

Re weather: nothing beats bad weather like going underground. It is always nice down there. Kinda dark, though. You will need creative illumination options.

  • $\begingroup$ What about the tunnels flooding? $\endgroup$ – Daron Feb 22 at 20:16
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Daron: that would be bad. Do not build tunnels in flood plain. Build tunnels on high ground. $\endgroup$ – Willk Feb 22 at 23:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ why not make antlike burrows scaled up to their size? pack together the soil along the walls and use rocks and added soil to bury and hide this. then add some larger flood tanks for water to run to in case of rain, may set these up to run into your gardens. $\endgroup$ – zackit Feb 23 at 14:12
  • $\begingroup$ @zackit - I like that because it diverges from hobbit houses and also offers a chance to show human behavioral traits in an alien setting.. Rodents are too small to be worth the hassle for big humans to domesticate but prairie dog-type rodents would be a great match for these little humans: live in colonies, friendly, great diggers, sharp senses. Ally that with human intelligence and you have a serious team. $\endgroup$ – Willk Feb 23 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Willk i actually think ants could make good companions, due to their ability to learn, adapt, gather resources, and they're quite smart. get their help instead of making them rivals and you have a surefire defense system and a good way to keep resources moving around the colony $\endgroup$ – zackit Feb 23 at 16:25

Burrows. Small humans would benefit from the square-cube law in so many ways -- they can lift (or dig) more relative to body weight, the chambers they produce are much less likely to collapse, and collapsed material falls a much shorter distance. Seams of desirable material for burrows are relatively larger.

A woodchuck can make a good living this way, but these are not woodchucks ... they can still manufacture rail systems to move debris out of tunnels, engineer ventilation and escape shafts, and study the local hydrology to ensure their tunnels are safe from any flood. They can cap residential neighborhoods on the outside with strong clay or pottery roofing to prevent even the worst storms from taking a toll. Though trees might seem a challenge, Orcs of all species have little trouble chopping redwoods, so I think your Dwarves could modify most local landscapes with ease.

If warm blooded, their nutritional needs would be more than the 1/1000 of human that you would expect by size, due to greater atmospheric cooling. Their heart rate and metabolism would run a bit faster. Still, kittens weigh 2 pounds and may need 162 kcal/day - that is still bigger than your Dwarves, and kittens need to grow! So Dwarves could do all the intellectual work, research, philosophy, invention of at least dozens of humans for the same caloric intake. This suggests very well planned building projects.

Tree dwellings. Dwarves would have much more trouble approaching a forge, since they have a thousandth the heat capacity of humans. It would take a great deal of ingenuity to reach the level of technology for industrial projects and hence metal buildings outdoors. However, all the arboreal developments of fiction would be available to them - essentially, burrowing in trees. While they would need to fear falling off in the wind, they are also small enough to glide like flying squirrels. Some relatively easy textile technology might have them gliding in no time. They don't have the wing muscles of birds, so they could not fly that way for long, but they would be clever enough to find places where they could catch updrafts and hang glide far more effectively than any human.

Animal dwellings. Courageous nomads might see merit in building colonies aloft some types of grazing animals, since they can still domesticate them with the usual expedients of food and gentle correction. Zebras and even elephants might give too much excitement, but a Galapagos tortoise might make a fine mobile dwelling. A little army of tame turtles, rewarded for their efforts by sustainable agriculture at scattered farming and gathering sites, could keep the Dwarves comfortably mobile for a long time.

  • $\begingroup$ I find borrowing in trees the most interesting in there; especially with upward looking entrances. Burrows are nice, but prone to flooding, and when you're 20cm tall, a flood can happen even on high ground -- a simple impromptu stream of water running on the ground will look like a flood to you and block your tunnels. Burrowing into trees however, keeps you off the ground. It doesn't have to be that high, and you can have an entrance at ground level followed by an internal staircase to keep out of the wind. $\endgroup$ – Matthieu M. Feb 23 at 11:48
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, but with animal-mounted dwellings you have A) a cool aesthetic, B) mobility, and C) the ability to control where you are. Think of how you steer a pig in Minecraft, and you should have a general idea. Granted, turtles are still slow.... $\endgroup$ – Alendyias Feb 23 at 23:27

Pretty minor changes - humanity could still thrive with essentially current city design.

So there are a few ways to answer this all with subtle differences - did humans start this small? Did everything else start this big? Did everyone wake up one day and the world was suddenly 10 times as large? The first 2 possibilities "Tunnels" are the answer (with square cube law giving differences between the two). I'm going to answer the last one - everything that is a human or part of human society suddenly got 10 times smaller overnight.

"Honey - I shrunk the city!"

So starting with the current world; assuming:

  • All animals are suddenly 10 times taller relative to humans
  • All weather events are 10 times more intense. Instead of 25mm of rain overnight, it's 250mm of rain. Tornados and hurricanes have 10 times more power. (Not nesc 10 times faster wind speed).

Our existing architecture and city building styles should be able to handle this passably well. Cats and Dogs are tiger sized, and tigers don't defeat cities, and we can control them when they attack. Mosquitos are bird sized, and we can handle birds. Ants are the size of rats and we can handle rats. Rats will be the size of cats and we can handle them. A spider that comes up to your knees will be terrifying, but manageable.

There will be some damage from large pets destroying the neighbourhood around them, but I'd suspect we can manage it with our existing weapons. Especially in parts of the USA with strong 2nd-amendment culture and everyone's carrying assault rifles, and especially as most of those animals are former pets which were tame before.

Cows will be an issue, but they'll starve to death without us looking after them. I suspect we'll be able to scale up our meetworks to handle a 10m cow within a few months and learn to redomesticate them again.

Large animals like elephants and tigers will basically become absurdly large. These will need basically military campaigns to defeat if they choose to attack. However I don't think this will come up that often - I can't see an elephant stomping the suburbs godzilla style for the same reason I don't stomp on lego houses barefoot.

Some subtle changes will be needed:

  • Storm drains will be larger, as your basically building for a worse peak rainfall environment. Gutters will be larger, downpipes will be larger.
    • My city once got 11mm in 2 minutes, and we need to design buildings to accommodate that, now it's going to have to survive 110mm in 2 minutes.
  • We'd adjust building codes for stronger relative winds - hurricane straps in the roof, roofs anchored to walls stronger, walls anchored to foundations stronger, those sort of things.
    • Tornado shelters would be more common, and used more often as winds strong enough to risk a building would occur more frequently.
  • The biggest animal threat will probably actually be birds. They won't be able to swoop us away pterodactyl style but could do some damage in hand-to-claw combat. Human weapons will kill them, a handgun should be suitable defense.
    • Eventually we'd probably set up netting to keep streets bird-free.
  • Stray cats would also be a problem and quickly rack up a kill count, but if we can handle tigers when they escape from a zoo, we can handle stray cats. A handgun may not have enough stopping power to save you from injury but could definitely give fatal injuries.
  • Walls (and floors and roofs) of new buildings would be thicker than what you'd expect from a simple resize. Essentially square cube law at work. All new homes would need to be double bricked or equiverlant.
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ How big do you think tigers are? Little dogs and puppies may be comparable to tigers but average dog will be elephant sized at least. $\endgroup$ – KhanElmork Feb 22 at 5:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ scaled up a housecat would be about 7-8ft tall. twice the size of a tiger, and more than a foot taller than the largest polar bear. $\endgroup$ – John Feb 22 at 6:36
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Also hurricane straps won't do anything, material strengths scale differently, this also makes guns useless, a scaled down gun won't even pierce a mouse's skin because the kinetic energy is so low. $\endgroup$ – John Feb 22 at 6:51
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ A bullet with 1/1000th the mass has 1/1000th the energy, even more drastic than downsizing from a .50 caliber round to a single pellet of birdshot. Handheld weapons are way less effective when scaled down. There's a reason you hunt elephants with an elephant gun and not a pistol! $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Hoagie Feb 22 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ I would expect sharp spikes on roofs to feature prominently, to prevent trampling (intentional or inadvertent) by larger animals. You claim birds wouldn't be able to swoop down and carry people away... you do realize birds of prey (hawks, eagles, falcons, etc) can pick up adult cats, and other large rodents/small animals right? These mini humans would weigh <10lb and most certainly be within the swoop-up capacity of birds. Solution? All light poles/etc would be taller and have sharp spikes; birds would quickly learn to not dive on human pathways! $\endgroup$ – Doktor J Feb 23 at 17:53

There is a great children's book by Wil Huygen called Gnomes. It explains the answers to your question with rustic-looking technology. Basically, brains beat brawn even at this scale.


Density, greenhouses, and rocket launchers:

Assuming a very small but highly intelligent mammal (we'll call them people, but they might not look exactly right), your people will favor warm climates where temperatures will be warm. Colder temps will be doable, but more challenging. Small size and the danger of predation suggest that they might tend towards small, dense, multistory dwellings (likely single buildings), as building material will compensate better for the relatively small size, height, and load-bearing requirements of small people. Multistory structures surrounded by walls like fortified cities would also be easier to defend from kaiju like bears, lions, and tigers. Your people might very well be agoraphobic, with open spaces representing threats, and enclosed spaces representing safety.

As they increasingly moved into cold climates, structures would likely be even denser, with thermal properties integrated into town/building designs. If I were tiny people, I'd gradually wall in and fence EVERYTHING, including netting and screens to keep out killer bugs and the like (a bee sting or spider bite could be lethal). Agriculture might very well be all in greenhouses or netted-in enclosures to make open spaces safe (eagles and other birds would be very real threats). Entire "cities" might be enclosed in huge greenhouses to extend the growing season, provide physical protection, insulate the community with an outer structure, etc. Tents could also provide a similar function, and a "city"-sized tent is not unreasonable on this small scale.

Unfortunately, I suspect that your people might have a rather un-environmental view of other life forms. Even non-predators will likely be huge and terrifying. As soon as they have the tech to do so, they will likely try to eliminate these threats from the environment. Given the suggested tech level and enhanced structural strength of a lot of materials, I envision dirigibles (possibly quite large and city-like to compensate for winds - how 1920's Futurist!) and airplanes bombing and strafing animals (think King Kong). Armored vehicles (like small tanks) could have guns mounted on them and fire quite satisfying projectiles at anything threatening. Functionally, guns would be more like cannons, possibly fired from bunkers and concealment. Your tiny people could be quite fearsome hunters in their own way, and each kill would provide mountains of meat (to be hauled away by tiny trucks or huge pack animals). Any animal of sufficient strength and stability to carry a cannon and allow one to be fired from it's back would be extremely valuable (bison? Low heads to not interfere with firing arc).

A good faithful hound might be a valuable animal for your people. Big enough to ride, fight, and haul goods (including cannons), yet loyal and docile enough to be trusted. If your people WERE hunters, then the ready supply of meat would assure food for dogs as well. A kennel would be an essential part of every community, even as vehicles increasingly gain traction (pun intended). You might even be able to design a gun or mortar that could be mounted on a dog and fired like a cannon, and you could certainly haul a "hand" grenade that could be dropped like a huge bomb.

Rockets were invented by the ancient Chinese, and these would be significant force multipliers. Gyrojet projectiles (once invented, and the pressure to do so would be large) could take up the functions of guns, but it would look more like people carrying RPG's than rifles. No recoil, though, as they are basically miniature missile launchers. Small vehicles with guns on them could work as well, like tiny tanks. They wouldn't need to be terribly well armored if they mostly dealt with animals. Various kinds of shaped explosives could fire flechettes or blast like a shotgun shell fired from a tiny mortar.

Warriors & hunters in this society would be armored. The lower force of most attacks, need to defend themselves from animals, and higher capacity to support weight per unit volume would mean armor would be much more effective for longer against more modern weapons. I envision the armored knight with a force-multiplying lance riding a nimble war dog would last well into the era you are talking about (in the same way cavalry was enduring into the 20th century despite increasing challenges).


Depends on your tech level.

Paleolithic Humans would take advantage of natural caves and holes in the ground for shelter.

Neolithic Humans would primarily dig warrens, and maybe build nests in trees. A lot of macrofauna such as saber-toothed tigers and giant sloths will have avoided extinction at the hands of humanity. Most will probably start avoiding human settlements, since it'd take them a lot of effort for a small amount of food. Our true predators would include snakes/ferrets, which could infiltrate our tunnels, badgers/bears, which will destroy our homes, and birds of prey, which will opportunistically grab any human in the open.

Bronze Age is where the really interesting stuff begins... Bronze-making requires trade networks stretching thousands of miles, since Tin is very rare. I can imagine ships that are practically floating cities in their own right. On land, imagine if the Pyramids were basically giant termite mounds... Civilizations would clear the best farmland of natural predators with traps and "siege" weapons, and by killing them young, but the more hostile biomes would remain "monster"-infested. (Not to say that humans wouldn't still live in such places, but they'd be considered savages by "civilized" people.)

Iron Age/Industrial will probably blur together, since even prototype steam engines/clockwork will be more powerful than slave labor and easier to manage than beasts of burden. I can imagine "landships" that are basically just self-propelled all-terrain wagons, which use thick wood for armor and possess miniature cannon. Such trade would be lucrative, but run the risk of encountering massive beasts and ambushes from brigands.

Modern buildings will basically be scaled-down Arcologies; skyscrapers would have thousands of stories and could effectively be cities unto themselves. Public transportation will be more popular than miniature cars, although miniature helicopters for transport between buildings will be common. Battery power will be much more prevalent than fossil fuels. Large predators will be exterminated by people in airplanes/airships unless conservation measures are taken. Unfortunately, it'll take us much longer to develop personal computers and spaceflight.

Future is an unknown; however, it'll at least be easier for us to make a humungous (by comparison) mecha.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.