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What would be the most significant impacts on bronze-age technology if the basic principles behind homeopathy worked?

Let's say, that during the bronze age, some crafty philosopher discovered, that the following laws apply to the world:

  • Like cures like: Any material can negate a property in a similiar material. This effect only aplies if the two materials are clearly distinctive entities. (e.g. A single piece of wood burns, a pile of wood blocks doesn't burn because the wood negates its own flameability, a single massive cube of wood burns because it's only one entity). Curiously, distinctiveness seems to be defined in a way that is congruent with human perception (e.g. a pile of sand is one entity, a plant is one entity, ...).

  • Effects become stronger through dilution: When any material is diluted (but kept distinct) in another base, it effects become stronger, including those effects that are part of these laws. Limits: It only works as long as something of the original substance remains in the dilution. The growth in effectivenes drops off (halving the concentration doubles the effect, quartering the concentration leads to 2.5 times the effectivenes...).

  • Materials keep a memory: Through proximity (idealy submersion), materials take on attributes of each other. This effect works in both direction. (e.g. covering a block of iron in cloth makes the cloth harder, and the iron softer). (Breathable) Air doesn't keep a memory, and there are probably other "insulators" (gold?). The memory can only be passed on from a primary to a secondary source (Iron can harden cloth, hardened cloth can't harden a second bale of cloth). Any entity can only hold one memory, if it is exposed to a new source, the new memory will gradualy erode, and then override the old memory. The strength of a memory is dependent on the time of exposure.

Additional Rule: Anything that is "part of the earth" isn't affected by these laws, as long as it remains part of the earth (e.g. ore doesn't take on rock memories).

It can be assumed that the underlying structure for these rules to be possible exists (e.g. there are probably elements as ancient philosophers understood them), but real world physics still apply if not in direct contradiction with these laws.

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    $\begingroup$ beer will be interesting. "Darling, stop sipping those small quantities, you are ruining your life and your family! Please, for the sake of all of us, have at least four more pints!" $\endgroup$ – Burki Aug 12 '16 at 10:23
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    $\begingroup$ SOME principles of homoeopathy work. A diluted amount of a poison or a weakened pathogen can and does improve immunity against it. The rest is true on a quantum level, so existing homoeopathic practice is effectively the result of a medieval physician and a theoretical physicist getting drunk and writing a book together. Seriously though, the problem with being a Renaissance man starts when you don't separate your notes. $\endgroup$ – nzaman Aug 12 '16 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ If a pile of wood doesn't burn, humans are never going to reach the Bronze Age, since making camp fires, making charcoal for metal smelting etc won't happen. $\endgroup$ – DrBob Aug 31 '16 at 12:36
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You eliminate disease, and change societal development

The further technological implications of "Like Cures Like" are very hard to predict, because this magic is very fuzzy about the edges. You do not have something that operates by laws of physics but by laws of what we human associate as being related to each other. So the effect on technological development is a complete coin-toss, because we do not know how this magic works.

But the effects on society and human are interresting to explore. As professor Hans Rosling concludes: previously, because of disease, people procreated profusely because of the very high rate of attrition. People did not live in harmony with nature, they died in harmony with nature.

If homeopathy works, this means you eliminate the threat of illness and disease from human history. This means that procreation and population increase/decrease will be altered. A society where you normally get 6 children because you expect 4 to die before maturity is different from one where you get 2 children because you expect 2 to achieve maturity, especially if the effects of war and starvation remains unchanged.

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Every sample of water would be contaminated by all the toxins, polutants, minerals, and other substances it ever came into contact with. Think about what all is in a pond! you can never purify it from these influences; any attempt just makes it worse!

Life would be impossible, as any intentional chemestry (or magic, on this world) would be drowed out by powerful random effects from the ambient background.


In order to have a familiar world to place the story in, the magic needs to be intentional and selective. It doesn’t happen everywhere all the time, but is a specific spell or magic technology used to create an infusion of the material’s essence.

And, it needs to be contained, affecting only the specific water of the sample, or diffusing in effect or being time limited once introduced into the body. If it doesn’t diminish but rather grows in power once further diluted by the body's own substance, you would get a runaway chain reaction. Could make for interesting stories on the backstory and development of such spells!

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Will life be even possible in this setting?

Our body is pretty fragile construct that relies on many chemical processes.

For example (first of many) - will red blood cells transfer oxygen? "Pile" of RBCs shouldn't work.. So crafty philosopher suffocates without spreading his ideas?

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