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In ancient times it was believed that the four elements that made up the universe were Earth, fire, air, and water. I was thinking of a universe where there are four basic elements that are similar to what we would think of as Earth, Fire, Air, and Water. What would be the implications of a world if it really was only made up of something like Earth, Fire, Air, and Water?

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closed as too broad by a CVn, J_F_B_M, Pavel Janicek, MichaelS, bilbo_pingouin Feb 24 '16 at 11:01

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ "What would be the implications of a world?" based on some specific, far-reaching change like this is really quite broad. Is there any way you can narrow this down to ask about some more specific aspect of the world? $\endgroup$ – a CVn Feb 24 '16 at 8:44
  • $\begingroup$ Well, in a certain sense, our universe consist of four element ary boson s: photon, gluon, weak boson and graviton, and at that scale you can call them whatever you like, so... $\endgroup$ – mg30rg Feb 24 '16 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ I'd say stuff is made from fermions, not bosons. The bosons quantize interactions, not things. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Feb 24 '16 at 19:16
  • $\begingroup$ There is in a sense a "right answer" to this question, but it's enormous. I'd have to explain Aristotelian physics to you. Can you please specify what aspects of the world you want to understand? And then I suggest going to Wikipedia or something and reading about Aristotelian physics. The 4-element theory is in no sense "simple," the way some others seem to think. But "element" does not mean anything like what it does in modern chemistry, so it entails a total rethinking of basic facts of the world. $\endgroup$ – CAgrippa Feb 27 '16 at 0:11
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I'm building a rpg world based partially on the same idea, so I gave it a lot of though. It really depend on how those elements can be manipulated and what level of civilisation your world has. If it is just scientific, then imagine a simpler model than ours, if it is really useful.

The overall situation could be quite similar to our, with everything being a mix of the elements.
On the other hand you could have everything attuned to one element in particular, with difficulties to relate to the other... or completely antagonistic to another element, if you go with the classical oppositions.

The detail would be quite different, whatever your choice : energy and matter could behave quite differently. The air we breath and through which we send radio waves to communicate would not just be a mix of gases, but a single thing. Or several huge air-being (I'll use this one, I think) waging wars as the storms rage or being tickled as you make a phone call. Or whatever. And that's just a basic component of the world... Don't explain things that don't have to be explained : you don't need to know about atoms to understand breathing.

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It would not be very complex. Chemistry, and especially organic chemistry, relies on a variety of atoms with different properties and different ways of bonding. If you only had "earth" how do you form different chemicals from different ratios of those 4 things? And then make those basic chemicals stay what they are while undergoing a higher level of mixing, rather than every reaction turning into a uniform mix of the 4 primaries?

We actually do have a hierarchy in our universe: chemical elements retain their identities and the underlying protons+neutrons don't just mix together. So we consider the "elements" to be elements and don't think about the lower level when doing chemistry.

So if there were a working hierarchy where different chemicals retained their identity when doing chemistry, we would call those the elements, and the fact that they are themselves made of 4 more fundamental things would not be considered and would not be apparent at that level.

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    $\begingroup$ terminally-incoherent.com/blog/2013/12/23/… - this book builds a working world out of 4 elements (and 5th, aether, found outside of Earth), looking at your user name you might be able to read and enjoy it despite no English edition available $\endgroup$ – jacek_wi Feb 24 '16 at 11:10
  • $\begingroup$ @jacek_wi the only Polish I know is familial monikers and food. If you're familiar with the story, elaborating on it a little deeper than the blog post would make for an excellent Answer. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Feb 24 '16 at 19:11
  • $\begingroup$ I planned to do so as I read that book several times, but the question got put on hold in the meantime so I could not do it. $\endgroup$ – jacek_wi Feb 25 '16 at 9:25
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    $\begingroup$ Might be worth editing the question to make it "good", rather than waiting for the OP to do so. Or at least keep your notes and make a new question and self-answer or lets discuss in Meta. Rather than "what are the implications", improve the wording of that. Especially if you have good info, I'd like to have it posted! $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Feb 25 '16 at 10:13
  • $\begingroup$ Yes @jacek_wi, if you can improve the question to the point of being reopen-worthy while staying true to the OP's intent then by all means propose an edit. Otherwise, post a question of your own that you feel meets our standards; see What topics can I ask about here? for specific guidance. We've had questions before that were closed as too broad, but a narrowed-down variant focusing on only one portion of that same question making a very well-received question. Or use the sandbox. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Feb 25 '16 at 10:28

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