Title says it all but let's be more specific: I'm planning a post-apoc world where our current civilization has been wiped out in a large scale war. The story takes place centuries after the apocalypse and the twist is that the new civilization has almost unlimited access to minerals and such as the remains of cities have been burned into this metal-like layer beneath the surface.

Thing is, is this even possible? And if not, how much would I have to stretch reality to create this scenario?

Some questions I've been struggling with:

  • What kind of weapon could effectively "gooify" entire cities?

  • Is this new goo layer something that could be actually used to work metalworks and create things such as swords and armor etc? What would the "quality" of this layer be, and how would a civilization with near medieval technology utilize this layer?

  • What kind of effect would this weapon have on environment and what would the living conditions of earth and for example vegetation of this "new earth" be where these weapons have seen global usage?

  • $\begingroup$ You're asking a lot of questions, but the long and short of it is that if a city were destroyed, it would not simply form a "metal-like layer beneath the surface". Rubble? Sure. But have you heard about this thing called oxidation? Metal rusts. You wouldn't have anything left after a little while, and especially if a weapon powerful enough to level a city were used. Even with our most powerful nukes, we could destroy a city, but not completely melt it into the ground. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Nov 16 '17 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ 1. Please use list format this site can recognize and render properly. 2. Please ask one question per question. Your first question may be a good start of a series, and follow-ups are appreciated, but answers to second and third question depends a lot on how we will answer first one. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Nov 16 '17 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ You should try reading some of the other apocalyptic event aftermath questions on the site. There are other users who've asked what might be salvageable from a wrecked city a few hundred years after a nuclear war, etc. The answer is typically nothing. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Nov 16 '17 at 15:30
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    $\begingroup$ Some comments in meta re this question: perhaps we can suggest it be split into two, because there are basically 2 different questions. One being, what kind of weaps could cause such damage. The other being, could a low-tech civ profitably mine what's basically a congealed pool of metal. Maybe a third dealing with environmental damage. $\endgroup$ – akaioi Nov 18 '17 at 7:17
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    $\begingroup$ And you might want to explain what "goo" you mentioned, and where is the glass mentioned in the title. $\endgroup$ – Vylix Nov 19 '17 at 15:37

Nanotechnology disassemblers could give the effect you are looking for:

A system of nanomachines able to take an object apart a few atoms at a time, while recording its structure at the molecular level. This could be used for uploading, copying objects (with an assembler), a dissolving agent or a weapon. [K. Eric Drexler, Engines of Creation, 1986]

They might have been deliberately targeted, or gone out of control in a grey goo scenario.

Either way, you could claim they were instructed to disassemble cities, sort metals by type, and store them in convenient lumps underground. Then the medieval descendants would simply have to dig up the metal.

For organic life, the area might be completely safe, immediately lethal, or anywhere in between. It would depend on whether the disassemblers were still active, and what they were programmed to disassemble.


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