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580 votes
19 answers
86k views

How can Santa keep his lists when the GDPR is around?

For my non-European readers, here is an excerpt of what the GDPR means: (emphasis mine) The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for all ...
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382 votes
25 answers
44k views

How would Facebook Sysadmins prevent the summoning of Cthulhu?

So, I've got this idea for a short story. Some researchers find a forgotten manuscript hidden locked away in an ancient tomb. While they are working on it one of them pastes part of the text into a ...
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  • 76k
314 votes
25 answers
29k views

Tomorrow is Groundhog Day... For everyone. How does society respond? [closed]

You wake up tomorrow, and it's Wednesday again. Everybody remembers it, but whatever was physically done today is undone. Your favorite mug, which the dog knocked over, is un-broken. The kid down ...
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  • 5,558
304 votes
42 answers
66k views

How do you prove you're from the future?

Let's say a time traveler from the year 2100 comes back to the year 2015. He has a very important message: [horrible thing] is about to happen soon, and he wants to warn us so we can avoid/prevent it....
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266 votes
22 answers
52k views

What's the smallest change to physics required to allow magic?

Yesterday my 7-year-old daughter asked me: Why can't I do magic for real? I answered: because of the law of conservation of energy! And I briefly explained this law. Thus she grumbled, "a ...
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243 votes
24 answers
68k views

How to safely check if you are immortal?

My hero lived his ordinary life until recently, when he realized that Magic actually exists. So far, he has been granted levitation for a short period, and invisibility for several hours. Both worked ...
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222 votes
13 answers
34k views

Is there a single historic event which could be changed to cause the USA to use SI units?

I am time traveller with aim to make world better. Last time I went to the past, all I heard was: "Kill Hitler!" So I went to the past and I must tell you, April 1945 was pretty loud in Berlin! ...
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213 votes
19 answers
19k views

What's the most reasonable way to fit Monsters in your Pocket?

Say you have a hollow sphere, about the size of a (small) grapefruit, comprised of a (let's say red) top half and a (let's say white) bottom half. There's an articulated lid, and an LED on the front. ...
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212 votes
23 answers
21k views

How can a Horror from Beyond Reason reliably communicate with mortals?

Jimmy is an Eldritch Monstrosity. Jimmy has a Red Ball. Jimmy wants someone to play with him and his Red Ball. All of Jimmy's friends are busy trying to Overturn the Cosmic Order and bring Chaos ...
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  • 65.3k
204 votes
29 answers
32k views

I'm stranded on an alien planet. How do I measure an earth year without a clock?

I just got shoved through a stargate onto a planet I don't know. I was told the gate would open again in exactly one Earth year. I wasn't carrying anything; I don't even have my watch. How do I know ...
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193 votes
23 answers
24k views

How might modern humans leave a message for 50,000 years?

I recently played my way through the Mass Effect game series, and one of the ideas I found most intriguing was the emphasis placed on "time capsules" sent from one cycle to the next: not only did ...
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  • 3,428
193 votes
18 answers
79k views

How could dragons be explained without magic?

Dragons are a grand classic of fantasy. For this question, let's assume we're talking about the following stereotype: hatches from an ostrich-sized egg and can grow to mountain size if nothing limits ...
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  • 12.1k
189 votes
41 answers
30k views

How do I protect my shop from teleporters?

I live in a world where magic is common. Most people have enough magic to do simple tasks like lighting a candle or healing minor injuries. Higher magic is very rare, and those individuals mostly ...
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  • 5,365
185 votes
23 answers
42k views

If everyone in the world disappeared except 35 random people, how long would it take for one of them to realize they're not alone?

Everyone suddenly disappears from earth except 35 people randomly scattered wherever they were before everyone disappeared. How long would it take on average for 2 or more people to meet? What other ...
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  • 1,519
181 votes
14 answers
24k views

Humans are Gone: Do the Chickens Make It?

Some hundreds of years ago, all humanity was removed from the Americas. In fact, most humans are gone from the world altogether. In the intervening time, nature has overrun the formerly human ...
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  • 84.2k
180 votes
19 answers
32k views

Russian Dolls - How do they reproduce?

Warning picture showing dissected Russian Doll My theory I believe that Russian Dolls reproduce asexually. They are born pregnant. At the time of birth, the outer doll dies. What is now the outer ...
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180 votes
32 answers
24k views

What is the least "world changing" reason why the government would pay for you to keep a llama during your 44th year of life? [closed]

I want to make a short story about an Earth just like ours, except it's commonly accepted that at the age of 43, the government allows people to have a llama in their house. The government pays for ...
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179 votes
35 answers
38k views

You are an advanced AI that controls a smart house. How do you kill your master? [closed]

Disclaimer: I have edited this question quite heavily to clear up the initial confusion about its scope and intent. Sometime in the near future, there have been some innovative inventions in the ...
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  • 2,075
176 votes
11 answers
19k views

Why fill a dungeon with puzzles?

While exploring a dwarven/dwemer ruin in Skyrim, it occurred to me that the puzzle I was solving made no sense: a series of levers accessible from the direction of the entrance that each caused a wall ...
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  • 24.9k
166 votes
8 answers
17k views

Anatomically Correct Strange Women In Ponds Distributing Swords

Chaos plagues the land. In the West, the King in Orange blusters and bloviates endlessly in barely comprehensible gibberish. Perhaps he is attempting to call forth the Elder Gods? In the East, the ...
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  • 8,549
165 votes
26 answers
33k views

Can a substance be more lethal in smaller doses?

Yes, I realize this question is a bit ridiculous, and there are no cases of it in reality (that I can find), but with a bit of truth twisting, could it theoretically be possible? In my fantasy world ...
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159 votes
14 answers
20k views

How to best upgrade your Towel for military combat? [closed]

Often your Towel is something which is very useful to carry around with you, especially in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where you are taught to upgrade your Towel by, say, reinforcing the ...
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156 votes
17 answers
36k views

Would a bear cavalry be feasible?

Over the course of history humanity rode several kinds of animals to war: horses, camels and elephants being the most common. However, bears are not amongst them. So I was wondering, if they could be ...
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155 votes
41 answers
52k views

If time travel is possible in the future, no matter how distant, why haven't they come back to tell us?

In a world where time travel is possible, but has not been invented yet, would travelers from the future come back to prove it exists? Surely, they would bring that technology back in time to let the ...
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  • 5,315
153 votes
34 answers
18k views

The AI that fails to be evil

A recurring theme is how an artificial intelligence built with completely reasonable and positive goals instead does great harm to the world. However, I'm now thinking about the reverse: A ...
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  • 30.9k
152 votes
20 answers
106k views

What is the minimum human population necessary for a sustainable colony?

How many humans are needed in order to sustain and grow a steady population in a habitable area? Assume resources are adequate and the environment is favorable. To further refine this question, let'...
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  • 2,672
151 votes
39 answers
37k views

What single change would have given the best chance for the Axis to win World War 2?

A common topic in alternate history fiction works is what would have happened if a major war had been won by the other side. These usually focus on the events after the war, and the change itself is ...
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  • 10.1k
151 votes
23 answers
17k views

How to take down the internet?

The internet is a mesh or "net" of computers, all constantly establishing and re-establishing connections with each other. For this reason, only temporarily do servers go down, before they are back up ...
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  • 3,277
150 votes
25 answers
64k views

Santa is Satan, but why?

Santa is Satan, after all the clue is right there in the name. But why? What reason would the font of all evil and the generally unpleasant one have to pretend to be a jolly fat man and give away ...
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  • 76k
149 votes
34 answers
74k views

You can control a Demon by knowing its True Name, but why?

The power of True Names over demons is unbelievable: A Lamashtu demon can drain you of your blood in under 5 seconds, blend into shadows, and travel at the speed of darkness. Yet it will crumple like ...
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146 votes
17 answers
14k views

A Most Subtle Magic

Rynn is not flashy at all. In fact, you would be forgiven to think she's a bit of an introvert. Sure, the people in the town are strangely reluctant to talk to you about her, but you are a newcomer, ...
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143 votes
12 answers
17k views

How do Glass Ants create their tunnels?

***** Xenobiology expedition 'Profundity': Log entry 504 ***** Glass Ants are a fascinating species. We discovered them on an arid desert world last visited by humanity aeons ago. They seem to have ...
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  • 65.3k
141 votes
22 answers
19k views

Why are there no toilets on the starship 'Exciting Undertaking'?

DISCLAIMER: Any resemblance to other starships (living or dead) is purely coincidental. The starship 'Exciting Undertaking' is a brand new ship about to set off on a five and a bit year mission to ...
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  • 65.3k
139 votes
10 answers
27k views

Everything alive in the world dies this instant. Without bacteria to decompose anything, what happens to the remains? What does this look like?

So when I say everything, I mean everything. Humans, animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, all dead. If the bacteria and other detritovores and decomposers can't decompose anything since they themselves ...
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135 votes
35 answers
30k views

Why would giant mechs use melee weapons?

Mechs are really just giant usually bipedal walking tin cans with their human pilot inside. I mean, shoot the legs and they can't move much anymore. Not really realistic. Regardless, in a futuristic ...
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  • 9,958
135 votes
11 answers
8k views

How can I break down the task of creating a world into manageable chunks?

Creating an entire world is a daunting prospect, though something I've thought about often. Ideas about different regions, religions, people, history and relationships all blending into a cohesive ...
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  • 3,315
133 votes
23 answers
27k views

What could people notice about someone who is two times as dense as a regular person?

I've got a group of magical people living mostly incognito in an ancient society. They look and act exactly the same as regular people, but they are really magicians, and a side effect of having those ...
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  • 13.1k
133 votes
13 answers
17k views

Everyone believes everything Joe says. How can he get around it?

Joe is an average bloke, who has a passive superpower that he's lived with all his life. People believe everything he says. Implicitly, unquestioningly and absolutely. If he says that black is ...
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  • 65.3k
130 votes
11 answers
24k views

How would I know if I were a 1 mm tall robot?

In the 1955 science fiction short story, The Tunnel under the World How would I know if my consciousness had been uploaded into a miniature robot living in a replica town? What would be the most ...
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  • 1,403
129 votes
33 answers
27k views

What cheap modern items can I use to bribe medieval people? [closed]

Inspired by this question about a time traveller. So, I've travelled to the medieval age. Think 12th / 13th century Europe. Unlike the time traveller in the other question, I did bring batteries for ...
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  • 3,069
128 votes
33 answers
31k views

What vehicle would be the best one to start a >1000 km travel in a post apocalyptic zombie situation?

In order to define the best vehicle these inputs have to be taken into account: The zombies are the classical ones, "the walking dead" ones are a perfect example (definitely killed only by headshot, ...
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  • 2,386
126 votes
14 answers
19k views

How can I ensure my Evil Tower is always stormy?

It's been a good year for me as an Evil Overlord. Lots of princess kidnapping turned into sizable ransoms, several of my Doomsday Devices were sold for high prices at auction, and my Minions have been ...
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  • 12k
126 votes
16 answers
15k views

How can a banker successfully (and safely) lend money to an autocrat?

I'm the owner of a large bank in Europe, with vast resources at my disposal. I would like to increase my wealth by lending it out at interest. The ruler of the country I'm based in has his own wishes:...
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  • 1,183
125 votes
9 answers
37k views

Releasing a T-Rex into a modern ecosystem wouldn't be that bad, right?

T-Rex Forever LLC has a mating pair of Tyrannosaurus rex. They're a bit shady on how they got them, time travel, cloning...they won't say. Third-party biologists and paleontologists have examined ...
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  • 52.1k
125 votes
15 answers
11k views

Why would characters spend time answering imaginary questions to fictional hypotheticals?

I'm developing a simulation where characters, "users", are interacting over a virtual communication network. "Users" have the option to engage in any activity they want at any time, as long as the ...
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  • 893
125 votes
19 answers
40k views

Could a planet made completely of water exist?

In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Thirty Days", there was a planet made completely out of water, which is the inspiration for this question. However, that planet was held together by an artificial ...
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  • 30.9k
124 votes
21 answers
20k views

My carrier pigeons have been replaced by spoons: how can I send messages? [closed]

Yup. All my pigeons are now spoons. I knew my court alchemist was a sore loser, but I still think it's inappropriate to do that for a chess game. He vanished and I no longer have any means to ...
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  • 1,667
124 votes
23 answers
20k views

How can a Dragon keep humanity in check?

I am a Dragon and I have an infestation problem in my world. Currently, I am the single one of my kind and your representation of a dragon in movie Desolation of Smaug is fairly accurate only there's ...
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  • 1,666
122 votes
20 answers
10k views

In space, do "shipping lanes" make sense?

In settings with space travel we often see stories that rely on ships encountering each other, such as space piracy (which means you need to know where to wait in ambush), or distress signals that ...
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121 votes
16 answers
16k views

How does Santa protect himself from IP lawsuits?

As is well known, all of Santa's presents are manufactured by elves at the North Pole. However, a lot of presents are protected by various IP rights. Be it Adidas clothing, a DVD of the newest ...
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