18
$\begingroup$

Let me explain what I mean.

Let's say an Alien civilization left a lot of devices on a planet or moon (in our solar system or wherever). They had a colony, want/wanted to Terraform (or "Xenoform") a world, or just their ship crashed on the surface. Those extraterrestrial beings would be much more advanced than humankind, so they would have better propulsion systems in their starships, better weapons (lasers or whatever), etc. The biggest space agencies on Earth would start a space race and excavate those Alien ruins (some artifacts would be damaged or under the ground). Everyone wants a share of this wonderful Alien technology to advance their respective countries.

And now for the question: What kind of resources (that are rare on Earth) could advance the human race?

I know that antimatter is very difficult and expensive to create on our planet. So if ET's stored a big quantity of antimatter (in special containers that would not react with ordinary matter) it would certainly benefit humanity to build antimatter propulsion systems or weapons, for example. But what are other possibilities?

EDIT: Let me clarify what I mean by "could advance the human race" part:

  1. We want to have the best weapons on Earth. Yes, I know that this is a double-edged sword and some of you will say "humanity will probably kill themselves, not advance" but remember that certain weapons can work as a deterrence (nuclear bombs currently have this role) and they can be used to defend against potential enemies from other Star systems. Or asteroids, for example.
  2. New propulsion systems. We want to become a spacefaring civilization. The fastest something goes, the better.
  3. Energy. The more energy can we take from the universe (sun, antimatter, whatever)and use it for our purposes (cheap electricity, for example)the better.
  4. Exotic sci-fi technologies "enabled"! To sum it up: holograms, artificial gravity, flying cars, energy fields, better astronaut suits or battle armor. In this scenario, all those things are considered "good" and will advance humanity to the next level.

The best answer will tell me the kind of isotope, element, particle or some other thing that will get us to number 1, 2, and 3. No 4. is optional, consider that a bonus.

Some of you have replied that the best resource would be knowledge. I agree, in my story humanity will observe Alien devices/artifacts and conduct experiments on them. They will learn a lot of things, but many things will be so advanced that humanity will never learn (during the course of the story) their true purpose and utility. My imagination can take care of that.

However, some technology we could use even today requires things that we don't have. There are certain elements, isotopes and particles that are extremely rare on Earth, such as Hel-3. It can be something theoretical as well. And if we found (on The Moon, for example) those things it would certainly help humanity. So despite knowledge, there are plenty of things we could find and use to get further with our research. Keep that in mind.

$\endgroup$
5
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jun 24 at 19:06
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ My vote is for the Elerium-powered Transwarp Flux Capacitor with Dilithium rhinestone decorations (for that arty glitz) $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Jun 25 at 13:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Can I suggest "Saturn Run" by John Standford & Ctein? Very similar idea. $\endgroup$
    – Rmano
    Jun 25 at 15:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Rmano Yep, just read a review and it sounds very interesting. Can't get enough of hard science fiction. The idea is indeed similar. $\endgroup$
    – Mishima
    Jun 25 at 19:44
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ There is always an option of finding element zero technology in some Prothean ruins on Mars $\endgroup$ Jun 25 at 19:54

14 Answers 14

3
$\begingroup$

Isotopes

The problem with novel isotopes are that we basically know all of the ones stable enough to potentially use in technology. And if there were one that were extremely rare, but useful, there is the question of whether a colony ship would contain enough of it to be useful for the entire human civilization. For instance, tritium is essential to the D-T fusion reaction, and very expensive for us to obtain. And while the fuel is very energy-dense, an ideal D-T fusion reactor could only get about 10 MW of power from 1 kg of DT fuel for one year. A 1 GW power plant would need about 100 kg of DT just to run for one year (not taking into account generation losses, inefficiencies, etc.). How many kg of tritium can you fit on a colony ship? Knowing about tritium isn't the problem. We can synthesize it from scratch if we really have to. Getting at economical reserves is the challenge.

The same problem applies to virtually every other raw material: if it's rare, then the amount on a colony ship would probably not go very far. Fundamental particles are even less useful, because we know pretty much all fundamental particles which can occur below absurdly high energies (on the order of TeV).

Molecules

Where aliens could really launch us forward is by introducing novel molecules. These may indeed teach us a new use for an isotope we already know about. High-temperature superconductors are the most obvious civilization-advancing example, but low-loss fiber optics for quantum internet, high-power magnets for electric motors, or new battery charge carriers could all lead to dramatic improvements in human technology. The advances would not come from knowing that strontium-88 is useful, or finding a few hundred kg on a colony ship. The advance would come from seeing it in a compound, using X-ray diffraction/crystallography, mass spectrometry, etc.

At this point, I hope you notice a theme: the most valuable resource is knowledge. In this case, the knowledge is obtained by reverse-engineering. It's more difficult, prone to error, and may fail or take a long time. But at the end of the day, knowledge is really the only thing that causes society to advance. Limiting the knowledge to an isotope is useless, because we already know all the isotopes (and their masses, reactivity, half-lives, relative abundance on earth, etc.). At the very least, open it up to molecules, and the world's your oyster.

Propulsion

A particularly useful molecule would be a catalyst/enzyme which enables a hydrocarbon battery. That is, having a way to oxidize hydrocarbons which converts all of the bond energy into moving electrons would make it possible to have electric airliners. They would be as fast/powerful as jet airliners, but would go twice as far and half as loud. All vehicles could be made hydrocarbon-electric (which still emits CO2, mind you, but none of the nitrous oxides and other combustion byproducts).

Energy

The most popular fusion technology is magnetic confinement (thermal) fusion, which is limited mainly by the difficulty of maintaining chaotic plasmas in a magnetic field. At best, a very powerful magnetic material would help advance the field, but we already know how to build very powerful magnets.

Where materials may help energy generation more would probably be on the fission side. There is currently a lot of work on molten salt reactors, and interest in thorium breeder reactors. Knowing which exact compounds form the best fission fuel and coolant could leapfrog our fission power generation capabilities, and thorium + nuclear waste is very abundant on earth. There is also the problem of radioactive embrittlement of containment structures (pipes, pumps, shielding, etc.) where new materials could make plants safer, longer lived, etc.

Weapons

The problem with weapons is that it covers a broad scale from individual combat up to interplanetary combat. The weapons at the ends of the scale have absolutely nothing in common, except for the need to concentrate sufficient energy on the target to overcome its defenses. A single material is not going to be useful across that range. Most likely, a colony ship is not going to be loaded with infantry weapons (they would send in marines for that). Nor should we expect it to be loaded with weapons you would find in their space navy (torpedoes or bombs). At best, it might have something equivalent to Star Trek's "navigational deflector", which is basically a space laser for shooting junk in your flight path. A colony ship is most likely not going to carry a store of hard ammunition for such a device, because that would be absurdly expensive. They must have access to very high energy power systems, so it would almost certainly be a laser of some sort.

Optically pumped lasers just run on electricity, so whatever advances occur there would most likely be in power production, wiring (superconductors), and cooling. The National Ignition Facility has some pretty big lasers, so there are no obvious impediments for future humans to build lasers as big as they like (besides cost and demand, of course). Chemical lasers, on the other hand, depend on certain chemical reactions to operate, and I'm sure we have not exhausted the space of potential chemicals.

Biology

Where aliens could bring the most radical changes to society would most likely be in nano-engineering. The problem is that reverse-engineering nano-scale structures is extremely difficult, and ones designed by aliens may be well beyond our abilities.

However, if the aliens have carbon-based biology, and we were able to decode this biology, then they likely also have a massive catalog of organic molecules which do all sorts of useful things (like the catalysts mentioned above). If their biology is at all like ours (cellular, encoding information in a biomolecule like DNA), then it should be possible for us to essentially "read" their technology by sequencing whatever biosamples they have on board. This is another way for humans to acquire technology without being given a handbook. The potential applications span the entire breadth of your question, easily.

Specificity

The question as posed is unanswerable, because it presumes that one of the users of WB are themselves an alien species as described. We can't name an isotope whose discovery would advance the human race because then we would have already exploited it! And if you are asking for a hypothetical such element, then any handwavium would do. I would suggest thinking of directions you want humanity to go in, and focus on those applications, rather than trying to invent alien technologies that we haven't seen yet.

$\endgroup$
64
$\begingroup$

If We are talking Strictly Materials

There are a ton of options, it just depends on what you are trying to do:

Of the kinds of advanced fuels humans could figure out how to exploit today, anti-matter is probably it. Fusion fuels are already very easy for humans to produce in adequate quantities to power the whole world, but we do not know how to get a positive gain out of it. However getting energy out of anti-matter is super easy. Keeping it from releasing energy when you don't want it to, not so much, but hopefully the aliens figured that part out for you in whatever containment vessel is already holding it. Quarkium is a fuel that is theoretically better than antimatter. Since the binding strength of quarks goes up as you separate them, it may be theoretically possible to separate them enough to produce virtually limitless potential energy... but manipulating this kind of fuel would probably be well beyond human understanding; so, you could possibly find a Quarkium powered alien device, but not be able to to develop your own tech around it. Beyond that you have a few varieties of theoretical perpetual power sources that exploit persistent forces like gravity, magnetism, bonding resistance, etc: but these devices do not use fuel at all; so, in in this case your "material" could be a substance that violates our current understanding of conservation of mass and energy to produce power forever as long as it is being acted on by the force it exploits.

As for structural materials, humanity is still about an order of magnitude away from producing theoretically perfect crystalline structures in terms of how strong we can make our materials. So, it would be possible to find perfected versions of steel or carbon fibre that are about 10x stronger than what we have today. Because their quality comes from how it is manufactured much more so than what it is manufactured out of, you can not just melt these materials down to use however you want without ruining their crystal structure, but you could install them as is. So, if you find a stack of I-beams you have super I-beams, if you find a roll of wire, you have super wire, but if you turn super wire into I-beams, you get normal I-beams.

Another possibility would be to introduce things like nano-goo to make programmable materials. While a nanobot goo may not be able to make itself stronger than steel, you could use it for all sorts of stuff we just can't do yet. You could make guns that adjust their calibre with each shot based on the target you are firing at, or better yet, fire blobs of nano-goo designed to disassemble whatever it hits at the molecular scale so that a single bullet could (given enough time) destroy an entire tank. Or you could make "doors" that instead of opening just become amorphous as authorised people walk through them eliminating the possibility of unwanted things getting through. Or, you could make self-healing armor which may not stop a bullet as well as normal armor, but applied to something like a naval ship, it would mean a destroyer could get penetrated by torpedo after torpedo and not sink because each hole just seals right up. The list goes on.

But Materials are not the best things you can find

The best discoveries are actually anything that we are already close to discovering ourselves. Most of what you find in an alien wreck will likely be so advanced that we do not even have the tools and/or foundational sciences to figure out how they work. So, if you scrounge up an antimatter drive for example, well... you have ONE antimatter drive and no clue how to safely install it on a ship of your own design to even get it doing something useful. It does not tell you how to manufacture your own anti-matter or how to make the exotic materials that go into the containment mechanism. In other words, it's not going to make a huge impact on your society unless you can find a lot of them.

To put this into terms that are easier to grasp, let pretend an F-22 were to crash land in Ancient Rome. They would find a bunch of really interesting fuel and explosives that they would have no clue how to replicate (if they even figure out what they do). They may find a first-aid kit full of modern medicines, but they will try to explain how they work according to the theory of the 4 humors; so, they might see what it does and be outright wrong about how it does it - making any attempt to replicate it futile (until they discover chemistry and microscopes, that is). The computers and electronics would be completely indecipherable as to what they are even there for. Lastly, many of the most advanced technologies like radar absorbing paint would be so far past their level of understanding that they would not even know they are looking at something technologically significant.

So what would the Romans learn from an F-22...? Well, a lot actually. The Romans were very scientifically minded people despite thier lack of knowledge base that we have today. They could replicate the suspension in the landing gears to make better wagons. They understood air pressure fairly well; so, they might be able to figure out how to generate lift based on the shape of the wings giving them hang-glider technology. They may even be able to figure out how to make an air gun based on the design of the fighter's 20mm autocannon. In other words, the most valuable things on the plane to a technologically inferior people are actually its lowest tech parts that most resemble what they already have.

Likewise your people will benefit most from the most basic components of the alien ship. We might find a valve somewhere on it that increases the efficiency of common industrial practices. Or we might discover a new structural pattern that helps us make stronger, lighter objects. Or we might find a material we already know about being used for something we did not realize it could be used for. So, at least in the short term, it would be the least significant technologies that would advance us the most because they are the ones we can replicate and make ubiquitous within our civilization.

The Exception to the Rule

One possible technology that would completely undermine my entire answer and transform human civilization more than any other possible single technology or material would be a colony seed replicator. To clarify, a colony seed replicator is not exactly the same as a Star Trek style replicator. It is a device that contains in it all of the technology needed to spread a civilization to a new world, and has the ability to assemble all of the things you need to do this from what you could find on a virgin planet. Basically, think Von Neumann Probe cranked up to 11. With such a device, you barely need to understand the alien technology at all because you would have an entire template library of alien technologies you can just print off at the press of a button... including more replicators.

Within a very short time, you could have enough replicators to replace the entire industrial needs of the planet, we could have our entire electrical grid replaced with the hand-wave energy generators of your choice to power them, we could have all the machines we need for processing the aliens' advanced fuels and materials, our enormous swaths of farmland could all be allowed to go back to nature as we could now produce the food we need from said energy sources, and our cities could be replaced with high-rise megastructures giving each person alive all the living space and luxuries they could desire. Jobs would become an unnecessary thing of the past as our society is abruptly shoved into post scarcity. And just in case anyone wants to leave the overnight utopia (distopia?) we create for ourselves, we could start making our own FTL ships to explore and colonize the universe.

Unlike other options that would involve long and tedious hours of learning how alien technology works, eventually maybe leading to new discoveries, a colony seed replicator would put all of those technologies in our hands now, and allows science to catch up to understanding how it all works in its own time.

Since you mentioned in comments wanting alien tech to have a religious significance, I would not actually put one in your setting or all alien tech would quickly become mundane, but if you put the IDEA of a colony seed replicator into your story, it would easily become the holy grail of your new religion.

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jun 26 at 3:50
15
$\begingroup$

There is an excellent book "Roadside Picniс" about aliens visited Earth, and they created areas with artefacts and anomalous entities present (like areas with dramatically increased gravity, that could squish careless visitor). People called Stalkers visited these areas to gather artefacts.

As far as I remember this book, useful artefacts were:

1. Forever working battery, that could power a car called Etag 2. Bracelet, that could boost and stimulate regenerative functions of an organism. 3. Big Golden sphere, that could fulfil one wish. Probably, these artefacts were used differently by Aliens, but people used them this way.

In general, I think the most beneficial devices for humanity will be jump gates, FTL communication system, nanofabricators (that could generate anything from dust), free power generators, etc... But it's quite boring, a lot of similar alien devices was already described in many books.

Furthermore, even if we find a nearly destroyed alien spaceship crashed into the Moon surface, it will give us insights, that we are not alone in the universe. It can boost interest in space exploration.

$\endgroup$
2
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Otkin Great, I read this masterpiece by Strugacki brothers long time ago,i remember there were some artifacts but forgot most of them. Yes, this kind of "godlike"or nearly "magical" artifacts are very cool and I plan on using similar plot device. Other than that, i will use more conventional tech as well,to make it little more realistic. $\endgroup$
    – Mishima
    Jun 23 at 21:28
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ By the way, Roadside Picnic inspired the movie Stalker, by the great cineast Andrei Tarkovsky. It's rumored the filming of this movie contributed to his untimely death by cancer, due to filming locations at contaminated sites near old chemical plants. Stalker, along with several films from soviet studio Mosfilm were put on public domain, and are freely available on youtube. See youtube.com/watch?v=TGRDYpCmMcM $\endgroup$
    – ksousa
    Jun 25 at 15:37
14
$\begingroup$

I agree with Nosajimiki’s answer, but a few concrete examples of technology we might discover or which at least allow us a breakthrough:

  • “high temperature” superconductors
  • Fusion reactors
  • Super strong materials for building a space elevator or other projects which require high-strength materials (assuming we can replicate them)
  • Quantum computers
$\endgroup$
2
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Thank you for this. Working fusion was my very first thought. $\endgroup$
    – CGCampbell
    Jun 23 at 13:59
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ +1 For high temp superconductors. Just one working example of a "room temperature, standard pressure" superconductor to reverse-engineer would be a massive boon to research, and a myriad of practical applications are already just waiting for one to be discovered. The material doesn't have to even be entirely alien, like maybe the secret is some isotope readily available on Earth that had never been tested because the expense of enrichment (of the previously "uninteresting" isotope) meant that no researchers ever got around to testing materials based on it due to cost alone. $\endgroup$ Jun 24 at 20:02
11
$\begingroup$

This is very subjective and you can use creative license to do almost anything with it

Nosajimiki has probably given the best possible practical answer.

I would like to broaden the possibilities a little by adding that if the alien ship were designed to build and support a new colony then it would need to contain all of the resources necessary to nurture and teach an alien child about it's own race.

So notwithstanding our own inability to understand the tech, if the ship is a colony ship then it should also carry the means to understand the tech it carries via educational material, texts, cartoons, toys, and so forth - as one would expect to find in any school or nursery. As to how accessible this tech is, it would depend on whether or not the aliens decided to secure it somehow (ie some kind of security system which only works with alien DNA, etc) but if it isn't secured then we could find ourselves playing with alien preschool toys to learn about 5-dimensional space folding, and learning their language via the alien equivalent of BBC Bitesize.

If we can understand their language and gain access to their books then it would just be a matter of time before we can understand their civilisation. It might be the same as if that F-22 raptor had crashed in ancient Rome carrying 2,000 science books in it's bomb bays - it would take time but the Romans would figure out how to read them (yes they would have a head start vs us trying to understand aliens because they would be able to recognise the language as a variation of their own).

The point is that even if the tech were far beyond their current means, with the language in hand they would still be able to advance their knowledge very rapidly. They could even set up a school and invite scholars from all over the world to learn the language and study the books.

As to what tech, specifically, would completely revolutionise humanity? FTL, far and wide. More valuable than anything else even remotely imaginable. It would grant us the ability to open up an endless frontier, to i̶n̶f̶e̶s̶t̶ explore the boundless universe and exploit virtually unlimited resources.

$\endgroup$
3
  • $\begingroup$ I think we would have a headstart as well - as we have more expirience of decipher things so as way better means to do so. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Jun 23 at 5:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ we wouldn't need to invent FTL to start using the solar systems resources. A space-elevator would be a fine start and that is already possible to build. But if humans do not bother to build such a "simple" technology, I`m afraid, they wouldn't build anything great they might find in those "books" either if it is too much work/too costly $\endgroup$
    – rubo77
    Jun 23 at 14:36
  • $\begingroup$ We don't have any materials capable of building a space tether RN. Plus it's the equivalent of building like ten great walls of china, would be a hell of an undertaking - new propulsion tech would get built sooner. $\endgroup$ Jun 24 at 14:38
8
$\begingroup$

The reason to go to another planet

While the technology we need to go to the Moon/Mars/moons of the gas giants is not available today. I would argue that it would not take much of a concerted effort to develop the last bits we need. We mostly just need the reason to go. If we saw that there was a crashed alien spacecraft on another planet then that would be a pretty big reason and would drive a lot of development in space technology, even if it turned out there was nothing useful in the alien spacecraft.

Also once we know that FTL is possible I expect a lot of very smart people will start working on the problem. It would be quite hard/impossible to get funding to research FTL travel today. But if we knew aliens existed and they could travel FTL, well I expect governments will throw money at the problem. Even if we had no idea how they did it (or only some tiny piece of information recovered from the alien spacecraft).

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ Indeed, just having proof of intelligent alien life (that we might be able to actually contact) could lead to immense investment in space technology. This will in turn enable us to travel, live in, and get resources from space. Which will in turn reshape our earth centered economy into an interplanetary economy. It may change just about everything in the long run. $\endgroup$
    – user4574
    Jun 24 at 5:15
5
$\begingroup$

Written educational material.

Written educational material would be the artifact that would advance the human race the most.

The same thing that teaches the most about societies of the past, written material. With, in this case, the ultimate being texts that were specifically meant to educate. Alternatively digital record on a computer or digital library etc. That are actually readable/accessible.

Texts of how some of their equipment was made, principles behind it, will have more larger long term impact then just the tools themselves. Technologies do not have a big impact on societies until they are democratized.

Two people with a cell phone doesn't change the society. 90%+ with cell phones changes many things. A single ultra battery will not be as impactful as knowing the principles behind the the ultra battery.

limitations of finding devices

Many devices if found will be useless.

  • Does the device still have power?
  • Can we decode the interface?
  • Does it have the equivalent of DRM or other tech to prevent duplication?
  • How do you avoid cargo cult? That is, a wheel suspension could be build that looks alien's device's wheel suspension. But do we have the right metallurgy for it to work? Was the it active suspension and we are missing the firmware controlled actuator?
  • Components that we know the composition, but how it was made is the secret sauce.
$\endgroup$
4
$\begingroup$

Religious artifacts

The artifacts found provide clear evidence of higher powers and some ability to contact and commune with these higher powers. The result: a new religion. This not only unifies humanity but offers principles that organize and order human culture in a more enlightened way.

$\endgroup$
4
  • 17
    $\begingroup$ 'unifies humanity' ? um. I mean... have you met humans? :-) $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Jun 23 at 9:02
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @Burki Well... at first it will divide humanity, but once the alien cult burns enough heretics, eventually it could lead to unity. Just not necessarily the good kind. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Jun 23 at 13:53
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Willik you hit a bullseye, my friend.My story's main theme is religion, and an astronaut (someone who will touch several of those "religious artifacts")will create a new religion.There will be other new major religions as well,but this "belief in advanced alien civilisation" (I dont want to spoil a real name used in my story)will eventually become the biggest religion on Earth. Even non believers will be thankful for the aliens because they will give us a lot of technology.Of course,not everything will end well...but that will remain a surprise :D $\endgroup$
    – Mishima
    Jun 23 at 21:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Mishima en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult <- Worth looking into $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Jun 24 at 20:42
3
$\begingroup$

Information!

  • A map of where powerful and hostile alien races live, to be avoided.
  • A record of the future - not a cultural history, but a stellar history of which stars would explode, black holes form, or when and other dangerous macro events to avoid (or profit from) will occur
  • Map of last known location and trajectory of lost spaceships that have not been found yet, useful for salvage operations
  • Comprehensive toxicology reports for many worlds
  • Economic analyses of what goods and services are prized by different worlds, for the purpose of trade
  • Protocols (and passwords) for tapping into Galactinet, a hyperspatial information system

Biology:

  • The mind transfer process: how to clone an alien life and move your consciousness into it. Great for espionage or colonizing planets that your species can't live on.
  • The Galactic Endangered Species Act submission form. Get listed or risk Xenocide!

Math/Compsci:

  • Solution to the NP Complete and Halting Problems
$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ Didn't think about a Galactic map and future history.....but it would actually fit quite well in my story, as it would be really useful for humanity. The rest of your suggestions are also good. $\endgroup$
    – Mishima
    Jun 25 at 20:17
2
$\begingroup$
  1. Self-charging battery.
  2. Weather manipulator.
  3. Saltwater as fuel.
  4. Eye-blink to energy generator.
  5. Teleporter.
$\endgroup$
2
  • $\begingroup$ There are more, of course! $\endgroup$
    – user86525
    Jul 8 at 1:14
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, that's true. $\endgroup$
    – user86525
    Jul 8 at 1:20
1
$\begingroup$

Two Things are Infinite: The Universe and Human Stupidity; and I am Not Sure about the Universe. (A. Einstein).

Intelligence is the most scarce resource on this planet, so what about an alien machine that can improve (permanently) the intelligence of people to the limit of human capabilities?

I mean, you connect to the machine, receive a treatment and voilà, IQ=250 (you get the gist).

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Another idea for a "material" that would be incredibly useful would be (insert hand-waving here) "quantum entangled" matter. In other words, pieces of material that could be split into two or more chunks, where each chunk's state is a direct mirror of the other. That could be temperature, or voltage applied across it, or piezoelectric current, or some other measurable state - basically, whatever is done to one piece will be measurable in the other instantaneously. This would allow instantaneous (e.g. not limited to the speed of light) information transfer. Assuming you could change the state of a given piece fast enough, you could transmit digital signals for things like emails, phone calls, video, etc.

The ability to transmit data instantaneously would be hugely important to early space-faring groups. Think about things like remote-piloting unmanned explorer craft in real-time, or even being able to coordinate diplomatic efforts on the other side of the solar system in a timely manner. Even just a live-stream of the Giant Red Spot would be worth money. (And of course, remotely-controlled and instantaneously-coordinated space weapons would also be a thing....)

(For reference, this is quite similar to the idea of the black crystals in the Crystal Singer series by Anne McCaffrey.)

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Metallic hydrogen

This substance is believed to form under the extreme pressures and temperatures inside gas giants like Jupiter, and so far we are unable to produce large amounts of it here on Earth. But it's speculated it may be metastable at low temperatures and pressures(2)(4), so the disruption of gas giants in planetary collisions can even produce metallic hydrogen asteroids(1) that could be mined, even if nobody knows how to produce it artificially, not unlike ancient bronze-age cultures were able to use whatever meteoritic iron-nickel alloy they could put their hands on. It is also predicted to have extremely useful properties(3)(5).

(1). “Observational Signatures of the Giant Planets Collisions”. Planetary and Space Science, vol. 78, abril de 2013, p. 64–68. www.sciencedirect.com, doi:10.1016/j.pss.2013.01.007.

(2). Nellis, W. J. “Metastable solid metallic hydrogen”. Philosophical Magazine B, vol. 79, no 4, abril de 1999, p. 655–61. Taylor and Francis+NEJM, doi:10.1080/13642819908205741.

(3). Silvera, Isaac F., e John W. Cole. “Metallic hydrogen: The most powerful rocket fuel yet to exist”. Journal of Physics: Conference Series, vol. 215, março de 2010, p. 012194. DOI.org (Crossref), doi:10.1088/1742-6596/215/1/012194.

(4). Tenney, Craig M., et al. “On the possibility of metastable metallic hydrogen”. arXiv:1705.04900 [cond-mat, physics:physics], maio de 2017. arXiv.org, http://arxiv.org/abs/1705.04900.

(5). McMahon, Jeffrey M., e David M. Ceperley. “High-temperature superconductivity in atomic metallic hydrogen”. Physical Review B, vol. 84, no 14, outubro de 2011, p. 144515. APS, doi:10.1103/PhysRevB.84.144515.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

A simple one, but hugely impactful would be a really good supercapacitor. And instructions on how to make it.

Chemical batteries instantly obsolete. Huge energy storage in a very small volume.

$\endgroup$

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.