It is 1970. Planet Earth is uninhabitable - the Cold War got very hot. The Earth's entire population is floating through space in giant transport ships.

They've found another habitable(ish) world. Unfortunately, it's got 5 times Earth's gravity.

Now, I'm going to handwave away several things - we're ignoring how they got everyone into space or onto the planet, we're ignoring the fact that biological humans likely wouldn't survive on a planet with such gravity, and we're ignoring how they get hold of building materials on the planet.

Given this planet, and resources like Earth's, does a 1970's society have the knowledge to build buildings similar to those we have here? If not, at what year are humans technologically advanced enough in materials science, etc, to do so? Assume the people have the required materials and 1970's technology at their disposal without having to make or acquire it; further assume that they don't have to worry about their survival (food, etc.).

An ideal answer here will combine some materials science, some history, and some social dynamics to come up with a solution.

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    $\begingroup$ So, if I get this right, you've transported the Earth's population to a new Earth in 1970, and can they build structures with 5x the Earth's gravity? $\endgroup$ – Mikey Oct 14 '15 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Mikey and given Earth's current materials, yes. My gut says yes, but I don't actually know. $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode Oct 14 '15 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ I saw a question not too long ago (which I now cannot find) about humans surviving in higher gravities, and it basically comes down to "sort of." I doubt 5gs would be survivable, as 3gs were barely workable. The limitations on your people are the people surviving the gravity, not the structures, and that's going to be predominantly based on the ability of the heart to pump blood. 5gs is the limit on the average person passing out and that's under sustained, but brief periods (i.e. measured in seconds to minutes). $\endgroup$ – Draco18s Dec 17 '15 at 17:20

No and Yes

Some structures, like homes even with roofs could be built using structurally stronger materials (steel instead of wood frame to support the roof). The social impact this would have would be smaller living and working living spaces for people, because materials to build would be cost-prohibitive. This impacts the poor even more, when they have to use more material for their shanty houses.

The towers we have today would not look as they do, if they existed at all. The weight of a tower here could include 200,000 tons of steel and 425,000 tons of cement1. The weight of this multiplied by five would be unfeasible with '70s technology. You'd have short, squat buildings throughout. This means that cities will generally have to sprawl more.

Tent-like and dome-like structures will be more popular, as they have lighter "roof" loads.

Bridges would likely be non-existent, except very small ones. This means geographical constraints to travel, although crossing a river could happen with a (modified) ferry. Communication and travel would be impacted.

Activities that are done inside that could be done outside, would, and you have to hope for good weather.

Warehousing would likely involve tarps covering materials.


First, there will be famine. They don't have the infrastructure for industrial farming or the skills for pre-industrial farming. As the population shrinks and the farmed areas grow, food production catches up with the remaining population.

If everyone was along, odds are that there are survivors who can find deposits of iron ore and coal, and others who can produce charcoal. The transplanted civilization progresses quickly to the iron age. There will be others who are carpenters, potters, etc.

It will take time to build up infrastructure to enter a new renaissance. Even if somebody knows how to make cast or wrought iron from ore and coal, but that doesn't give the society an ample supply of nails. First, the blacksmith has to figure out how to make decent tools. Then the miners need picks to get more ore. And so on.

Meanwhile, others might be building wind and water mills. If there is a suitable grain, or if they remembered to bring seeds and those grew. Doing that will be difficult due to the gravity. Expect lots of accidents until they get the keystone arch right.

After a couple of decades, there might be enough infrastructure so that people can think about steam engines or telegraph. There are probably still some survivors who know the theory, and others might have written down what they remember before they died. (Was there a priority on inventing movable type to safeguard information?)

  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps I should have made it clearer: I'm solely interested in the building. The people don't need to worry about their survival or getting the materials, that's all dealt with. $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode Oct 14 '15 at 18:48
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    $\begingroup$ No high-rise buildings, then. There would be a big incentive to stay on the ground floor, with very light roofs merely as a weather protection. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Oct 14 '15 at 18:52

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