There is a world, similar to ours, but not entirely.

In this world, there is a species of bacteria that eats stone. Actually, in our world, there are such bacteria also. It is called bioweathering and there are even some paywalled papers about this process. They eat stones that are carbon-rich, iron-rich, or copper-rich. As carbon is a building block for its cells and iron and copper are must-have things to live. However, they are not fast at eating.

Even more, most rocks that humans use for their construction are not interesting to our bacteria, because these rocks are mostly made from silicon dioxide.

In the other world, there might be bacteria that use silicon dioxide the same way ours uses carbon oxides. This is not very realistic, so let's not think about how to make such a bacteria plausible. Let's just say that the process in terms of speed, is similar to rusting. If untreated it is kind of fast, but if one uses oil every day it can be prevented almost entirely. Some coatings can be applied to reduce the effect nearly completely, but they are discovered somewhere near penicillin.

The other thing about it, apart from the ability to damage concrete, is that it functions as a ground for other organisms making their life easier and human life worse.

For example, if there is a prison with stone walls and it is anti-sanitary, then in a short period it is likely that some very bad disease starts to spread, killing some prisoners, some guards, and all villagers nearby. Those who live in wooden houses do not have immunity for many things that come out of sone-walled prison.

How the architecture of human cities in this world will be different from ours? Not just in their present, but in the past also. Will there be pyramids? Will stone castles be viable? Will stone houses be viable? Will concrete fortifications of WWI be possible?

The civilization of this world is on a level similar to ours in the 1950s.

P.S. Let's pretend that such bacteria will not eat some mountains, sand beaches, and many other big things over time.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ VTC: This violates the help center Book Rule (too broad). The architecture of the entire world? This question would be too broad if it asked only about New York City. Worse, it implies that there would be substantial differences in architecture due to the loss of stone. Bacteria are trivially killed with ammonia or bleach, so what might change is how frequently walls are washed. The question is an off-topic high concept question. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Oct 1, 2022 at 2:52

1 Answer 1


Why would bacteria eat bricks and other structural silicate material, but not sand or rock ridges? If you can answer that question you might have some interesting drama here.

Maybe it can only eat the bricks because of some step in the process of making bricks. There are chemcials added for various purposes. Depending on the purpose of the brick and the desired size, colour, and texture, different combinations are added. Possibly only certain types of brick are edible, depending on the content of these extra chemicals. So maybe the bricks need to be tinted blue to keep them from being eaten.

Ceramics often get a glaze. This can be for the purpose of preventing water from penetrating, as for example when a brick should not allow water to penetrate and then freeze. Possibly only certain types of glaze are edible. Maybe only the correct glaze will be safe.

Bricks are usually not solid, but are quite porous. This means they are lighter than solid clay. The porosity might provide access for the bacteria. The bacteria may need surface area to function. So bricks would need to be manufactured with no more than some level of porosity so that the bacteria could not get in. Again, glaze might be hepful but only certain types.

Bricks are usually not pure clay. The problem with pure clay is that, as the brick is heated and the water is driven out, the clay may change size quite drastically. This can cause the brick to crack. A careful balance of materials is required so that the brick can be fired and not crack. Possibly only certain types of extra chemical will be edible.

Maybe the bacteria don't actually eat the brick, but some common material used in the manufacture of bricks. Depending on the era your story takes place, it could be some fairly mundane material in mundane conditions. So bricks without straw could become all the rage. The bacteria might be eating the remnant of straw in the bricks.


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