Short version kindly provided by Innovine
How do elves bootstrap their first metals and electricity production? Without burning easy stuff humans had for their initialization. If it is not possible then say so and why it is that way.
Fire or Flame as such is not prohibited, it is allowed they can electrolyze water get hydrogen and use it as a flame or use hydrogen as a reduction agent etc. What is unwanted is taking some firewood and burning it - as it would be too easy. There is no magic of unknown and different ways.
They can, if you provide instruction how, to concentrate solar radiation.
Knowledge is not limited - You can imagine our tech tree, they may have a complete copy of it. The question is - how do they make a first step on that path, having certain limitations.
typed by OP himself, handly crafter for your enjoyment and reading
- ed note: for what it means "easy" fire, it is in the section Heating and fire in general and some other points
- ed note: it is a very narrow problem, you do not have to think about whole technological development(how it can be, which stages it may have after the first step) or anything beyond the first step.
- ed note: knowledge is not restricted, whatever top tech we have, knowledge about it can be used. it just about can you make it as the first step on that technological ladder within the scope restrictions
Spirit of the question, why the question
It is quite a regular motive in settings like how my SeaX creatures get in space from underwater or I would like to grow my tech tree not like the others for my special StrangeCreatures.
Like here in the question Highest technological level one can reach without fire? cats won't use fire because of fear. Okay, it's their business.
Electricity can be one of the replacements for fire in all those settings. Our today's technologies are a clear example of that for those who are not sure about it.
There are questions on the subject of how to build an electric generator from sticks and pines laying around, for your typical time traveler who got in the past not prepared and needs to charge his time machine. How hard is it to build a generator if you've jumped to the distant past?
- in each category, there is more than one question, which was made as an example
Chicken vs egg
In both categories, it seems that a problem of chicken and eggs emerges. At least as a notion in comments, in answers for this or another reason.
There are at least 2 types of chicken and eggs here - having magnets for electricity generation or have metals for conductors, in case of no fire.
Is it really a chicken-egg problem?
Electrostatic generator is a type of machine which produces electricity without magnets, and still in use until those days in form of Van de Graaff generator as a convenient source of high voltage currents - so that's your electricity without magnets.
Carbon can be obtained as charcoal as an example and pressed in different shapes and used as a nonmetallic conductor. Gold found in nature, as pieces of gold - can be turned in wires relatively easily as well. Linon fiber, wool, oil, sap, latex - naturally occurring substances that can be used as isolators.
In some cases, there can be bottlenecks, like limited life span, absence of knowledge, not sufficient manpower, not sufficient reach for resources, author made things even harder and forbade more things to make his specific handwavium shine.
So we need to define a setting
So as a god you forbade your elves to use easy open fire they could get from firewood, coal, oil - as not sustainable and dirty and as it is burning remnants of life and they have to engrain the respect for life before they will be capable to distinguish bad form evil and burn oil, but you would like them eventually to reach fusion and space and maybe soften your positions a little bit in the future about oil burning as it is trapped carbon removed from the cycle of life. So their future reach of energy isn't a concern.
Because of your desire for them to achieve space and meet their creator, instead of your typical testament, you write them some essential pieces of knowledge to help them to overcome the initial problems you have created.
They have enough manpower, fruit trees everywhere, and nothing to do except fulfilling your wish and procreate, so as they have extended reach for resources on the planet - whatever can be found on earth is available to them a well, in similar places and similar problems, and they can get there on foot or just have people there living. All animals, plants present on earth you can think of are all present in that place as well. Rocks and stuff - the same. So striking those magical food sources and those creatures which have nothing to do, besides procreation - it would be your typical earth planet.
As available tools - you can handwave some starting position, for it to not get in the way of expressing the essence of the answer, but it is a slippery slope - so assuming hands and rocks is fine and well, domesticated animals as transporting means, wooden tools, wooden planks(giving life a second life, no problems) etc. But your typical metal tools are more like a nono, as we focusing on bootstrapping problem, but not let it get in the way of your answer, focus on what needs to be done mentality.
How shall they start their journey in their bright technological future?
How do they bootstrap their first metals and electricity production? Without burning easy stuff humans had for their initialization.
No-answer is also an answer - so if it is not possible then say so and why it is that way.
Everything above this line is sufficient to provide a good answer. Everything below this line does not change the question, but an attempt help someone to provide a better answer, for those who may need it, reading is not required.
As a suggestion, if possible
- before you answer, do research on what is possible. It is not a siggestion to list that information in an answer.
Try to investigate which ways of electricity generation were used in history, if the only electricity source known for you is an alternator.
Take a look at which electricity sources can be found in nature.
Meaning, while thinking do not limit yourself just to one type of particular electricity generator we use today in every car, there is more of them available, this as an example: Fundamental Studies On Development Of MHD (Magnetohydrodynamic) Generator Implement On Wave Energy Harvesting
If there are some concerns about how do they get their iron without tools to dig mineshafts - look at the composition of basalt as an example.
The efficiency of initial bootstrapping isn't a concern - they have time and manpower on their side. The only criteria are something really possible or not. If your way needs a hundred years to get 1kg of metal you need with let's say 1 million people doing it - it is a pass. So as fishing for polymetallic nodules could be a pass too, but let's try to think of some faster ways, and more on making things happen with technological means.
@Anyone feel free to edit the Q in any way shape or form for grammar or nailing the essence of bootstrap problem or clarity.
P.S. If there is concern about what are the criteria for the win - closer to reality, least effort, faster, pleases technogods.
Overall there is a number of freedoms in this question: manpower, knowledge, reach for resources. So each solution can be represented as a vector in 3d space - (creature hours placed in a solution, the knowledge required difficulty of solutions, how scattered are the resources required)
- No need for the chicken, the eggs are naturally available. Native copper exists, native (meteoric) iron exists, natural magnets exist. (The word magnet comes in the end from the name of the city Magnesia (modern Manisa) in Lydia (modern western Anatolia) around which in the Antiquity there were deposits of naturally magnetized lodestones.) - AlexP
True, all components are available and obtainable, and what needs to be done is your regular typical stuff - let's call it a trivial solution, technological difficulty zero. As a vector in solution space, it is - (minimal, basic/minimal, maximum), and basically, it is a current answer from @Zeiss Ikon
Yes, it is absolutely legit way and a solution. But it is easy to understand that it is not the only way. As an example, a substantial static generator can make magnets out of magnetic compounds, or replace a starting inductor, so it does not require to go and find a specific resource, the problem can be solved with a little amount of less specific materials.
It is good to have a trivial solution but clearly, you understand that it can't satisfy any perverse cravings of a random author, who wishes to be not like the other.
As a more substantial example, maybe, I come to the question because I argued that mirrors can be a legit way to bootstrap things. And in the past, I had an extensive discussion about how underwater creatures can start their thing. So sometimes there is a need for more general solutions which are less resource-specific.
- Are you trying to get a million cats to do anything together? – NomadMaker
They do or don't. If they do not - there is no story to tell and nobody cares. We are interested in one case out of Centillion of Centillions cases - when they do. So it is not about cats, it just about random creatures which have a chance, cat's are some other guy's concerns. And it is about technology, it is not important who implements them.
- Why do you assume that elves will follow the human technological progression path despite initial differences in conditions? Or is it something that you, God, want them to do? It seems that it would be much more logical for the elves to develop organic technologies than inorganic ones. – Otkin
I do not, more than that, I embrace the difference, just get me metals extraction and electricity as they are somewhat irreplaceable in the only tech tree we know. You like bacterias mollusks trees which bear metallic fruits - sure why not, if there is some reality for that.
Bacterias can be used, seen some proposals, they can work with metals - in solution space, this vector could be - (max, max, min) - a lot of selection, a lot of waiting, applicable almost anywhere. The least creature-specific approach - is the only good part about it, as it seems at the moment.
Elves are just a placeholder name for any creature with Hands and Brains, only because we know that at least one of such designs succeeded.
Heating and fire in general and some other points
- Two consecutive answers regard heating as a big problem and so much so that lava considered a potential solution.
Fire or Flame as such is not prohibited, it is allowed (fixed the title as well)- they can electrolyze water get hydrogen and use it as a flame or use hydrogen as a reduction agent etc. What is somewhat prohibited or unwanted is taking some firewood and burn it - as it would be too easy and we know how it ended - Joke: global warming and nuclear bombs we like our Elves do better. Using "easy" fire is how it was done historically. There is no magic of unknown and different ways, you just need to read historical books and repeat. Yes, it can be not trivial, as details go, those who tried can confirm, but as concept and ideas, nothing special.
If you have the ability to split water, you can make hydrogen flame happen everywhere - on land or underwater. If you need it, you have to create conditions for it, instead of just taking a log and burn it. It is not a strict definition of a problem and it has gray areas and loopholes - you can have rotting plant materials and get methane from it due to microbiological activity, and then burn it - what is the difference then. In that case, you rely on a set of conditions to exists - microbiological life and free oxygen in required quantities. By electrolyzing, you produce fuel and an oxidizer by reliable laws of physics which exists everywhere - it is a universal way to convert your energy/electricity into a flame.
But flame for heating purposes can be replaced with friction, to quite a high degree - after all it how we did ignite the fire for quite a long time, but it capable of more.
And if u have electricity heating elements can be made in all sorts of ways. So as the sun provides you with some and you can concentrate it.
But if need fire then do make it.
There is no need to stick for crude means forever or on a great scale, more than it is necessary to start the process going. Make your first 1000 meters of copper wire, few magnets, and a typical electric generator (or whatever setup you like) and throw all that bootstrapping setup to trash aka recycling bin.
They can, if you provide instruction how, to concentrate solar radiation. Naturally occurring Rock crystals include quite transparent specimens and a million elves can grind and cut quite a lot of optical elements - not necessarily of perfect quality but overtake the problems with quantity - things do not have to be perfect from the start - they will resort to better means and ways later, they just need an initial kick.
Take look at how the Wimshurst machine works, as an example, here on the wiki, on youtube this video makes a good job animating and voice-over explaining how it works, and here is adult version of it. And you can do a lot with it, including nitrogen spark gap lasers, you do not need to stick to low level knowledge, knowledge is not restricted.
- And keep in mind that the power is not limited here, as you can make series of such machines, a million, or how much you may need, guys rotating crankshafts, or animals, or water wheels or windmills. With 10-100kW you can do a loooot, and replace that stuff with better solutions quite fast.
- it uses very little metal - foil amounts, so little amounts of gold you can find will suffice to make a lot of those.
- output voltage of such machines, with which you work at the business end, does not have to be high, it can be few volts as an example - discharge it in a bigger capacitor on regular basis, etc
- metals are not the only conductive materials, charcoal can be conductive, and even if it looks like gray area due to the restrictions there are naturally occurring fires, in forests, which also are part of life and are important processes of ecology and you can get charcoal there.
There is another machine Kelvin water dropper, it on the wiki and on youtube - and probably every part of it suitable to be replaced to not metals (like some wood with saline water in it something like that, just as an idea) basically making solid electrolyte, almost like your typical LiPo
Static electrictiy is not the only source of electrictiy which can be available - those are examples, you can use them or find other ways to solve the problem.
Knowledge is not limited - it is part of handwavium, as we do not care do they figure things in a million or 10 million years or are they provided with it by aliens, gods, uploaded to the brains in a simulation, or they have a copy of a wiki(and some better libraries) establishing colony on another planet from scratch, or else. You can imagine our tech tree, they may have a complete copy of it. The question is - how do they make a first step on that path, having certain limitations.
Another example, side note
if you have hydrogen then reduction of metals can be quite trivial this as an example Hydrogen reduction of iron oxide - grind things in powder and heat a little, no extreme heat, Joke: no dust no pollution, and it somewhat less demanding than conditions required to successfully make Bloomeries to work, curios people may look at youtube there were different projects of recreation of those.
Friction - friction welding is a thing, in different ways and forms, so is it a possibility to convert mechanical energy to very high temperatures, sufficient to melt the materials which are under the friction. So one does not need to jump to lava to get some heat even if there is nothing to burn, make your own lava if you need it.
Efficiency - a million good feed humans have the potential to produce 500MW for about an hour, and if 1% of it is not enough for you to kickstart the process, then probably it is time to think about gravity accumulators - water reservoirs and Co. In reality 10kW is sufficient to kickstart things.