Following up on my Martian canals theme from this question and assuming the canals can be constructed, I would now like to ask what level of technology is required to do that.

The basic problem
The Martians need very long and very large canals. Ideally 2000m wide, 100m deep and several thousand km long. Some leakage is to be expected but this should be minimised.

The real problem
What level of technology is required to do this? I need to know by rough technological age or by specific technological innovation if it’s important. Ideally I would like an ancient civilization to do this but I realize that this may be beyond their means.

Although I entioned Martians above, for simplicity you can assume an earth like world but with much less water suffering from increasing amounts of what little water there is being increasingly locked up at the poles, hence the need for the canals. Assume a whole world construction effort can be marshalled for this project. The project can be completed in stages and may take many decades, or even a few centuries if necessary.

What I’m trying to do is to make a realistic back story. My real story takes place on the canal network later after the original civilization of builders has disappeared or degenerated. I have borrowed a lot of this from Frank Chadwick's imaginary world of Space 1889 (although I’m not building a steam punk world).

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ This isn't an issue of technology. This is an issue of scale. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Oct 10 '17 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ Canals can be built with ancient Egypt level of technology. However, a sophisticated system of locks might be needed to keep these canals filled. Water locks are associated with late medieval technology. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Oct 10 '17 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ To put it slightly differently then. What level of technology would allow construction on this scale to be competed in th etime frame specified? $\endgroup$ – Slarty Oct 10 '17 at 18:56
  • $\begingroup$ Good point about locks. I think we must assume that the project is of such a scale that mountain ranges can be built around. If locks can't be avaoided then late medieval technology will be required. $\endgroup$ – Slarty Oct 10 '17 at 18:58
  • $\begingroup$ 100m deep canals are somewhat implausible for any civilization that doesn't know how to properly remove bedrock. We can remove Minecraft-level tech, I suppose. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar Oct 10 '17 at 19:03

Stone age tech and lots of time could do it as long as everything is downhill. The higher the tech, the less time it would take.

The tech of Ancient Greece would allow water to be transported uphill through screw lifts or through siphoning. That level of tech might be enough for good locks if you need to transport goods instead of just water.

If the canal has to be a straight canal like you see in fiction, then the planet either needs to be reshaped so the poles are a higher elevation than the equator or you need to induce water flow (without any visible surface equipment) to push it up hill. We could do that with our tech by lining the canal sides and bottom with water jets to push the water uphill but the energy costs would be enormous. To feasibly implement either suggestion would require higher tech than we have.

  • $\begingroup$ As a base case I'm assuming a roughly level surface, although if it needs a bit of a helping hand there can be a very gentle slope. It needs to be completed within 2 centuries. $\endgroup$ – Slarty Oct 10 '17 at 19:09
  • $\begingroup$ I do not understand. Why you say water will need to be pushed uphill? Perfectly flat channels can run for many hundred kilometers, just with the "slope" given by filling one end. $\endgroup$ – ZioByte Oct 10 '17 at 19:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Slarty you need to specify that as a requirement $\endgroup$ – anon Oct 10 '17 at 20:16
  • $\begingroup$ @ZioByte OP seems to want to get water from melted ice caps to get around. That's only possible if ice caps are higher, or with pumps. Simple as that. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Oct 10 '17 at 20:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Slarty it is considered rude to change requirements after you got the answer. Especially if your new requirements are caused by the answer and are there to invalidate it. " few centuries if necessary" seems longer than "up to two centuries", and you did not mention anything about slopes, so requiring it now, in the same question, would be a bad thing to do. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Oct 10 '17 at 20:38

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.