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121 votes

Why would a civilization develop a taboo against a highly nutritious food that grows well in its climate?

There are many examples of this in the real world, including the religious bans on pork and shellfish, the historical avoidance of tomatoes, and counter-examples such as the laborious process to ...
arp's user avatar
  • 3,138
107 votes
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Time Warp: Modern chemist as court alchemist

Why struggling for gold, which any king and even merchant of the medieval world has, when you can go for Aluminum, which no king yet has? Aluminum is shiny, like gold. Aluminum is malleable in thin ...
L.Dutch's user avatar
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103 votes

Time Warp: Modern chemist as court alchemist

Gold is one of the densest metals in existence. Only a few metals and alloys are heavier, but they are not much easier to obtain, like iridium, osmium, neptunium and plutonium (!). If you use any ...
Milo Bem's user avatar
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89 votes
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Being reborn with your memories - Knowledge is power, but how much?

Knowledge is also experience. So the art of war, running a business, politics, law, medicine, many artistic skills, acting, etc. Even if a specific tidbit of historical data isn't really relevant, the ...
Jason K's user avatar
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89 votes

What's a possible justification for orcs not taking over the world?

You say to avoid political factors but realistically it is ALL about politics. Specifically Orcs cannot sustain political authority or more precisely loyalty. Orcs are loyal to the most charismatic (...
Ville Niemi's user avatar
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81 votes
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What is the most befitting place to drop 'H'itler bomb to score decisive victory in 1945?

Take Berlin Hostage. This wouldn't win the war, but it's a more interesting answer than "nowhere", and in line with Hitler's belief that he was fighting the Götterdämmerung. 1 April 1945: Germany ...
Schwern's user avatar
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80 votes

What would be the best way to get clean, drinkable water in a medieval city?

While distilling leaves you with absolutely clean water, it is very costly. The constant need of burning material is a real problem if a bigger amount of water is required. But fortunately, there is ...
T3 H40's user avatar
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73 votes
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How recently could a god be born?

The existence and history of Scientology would seem to suggest that there's no upper bound on when a new god might be created and accepted. While Scientology does not per se include a deity, consider ...
HopelessN00b's user avatar
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73 votes
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At what point in European history could a government build a printing press given a basic description?

The printing press is not what Gutenberg invented. The printing press itself was known in Europe since the High Middle Ages at least, and in China even earlier. He did not invent movable type, which ...
AlexP's user avatar
  • 90.5k
70 votes

How could a lost time traveller quickly and quietly determine they've arrived in 500 BC France?

ouf, hard one. There are MANY ways to obtain this detail, but all of them require in-depth and specialist knowledge by the traveler. There is a well-established local population, though very sparse by ...
PcMan's user avatar
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69 votes

This dungeon/ruin has been known to locals for ages. Why would it still have undiscovered portions ripe for looting?

Real history example The ruins of Troy had been know to the locals for ages. Of course they didn't know they were ruins of Troy, because they had no idea about ancient Troy. They were Turks, and rural ...
AlexP's user avatar
  • 90.5k
66 votes
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Most useful knowledge from the 30's to understand current state of computers & networking?

The best starting point would be knowing about Turing Machines. Alan Turing thought these up in 1936, so your human-vampire hybrid could have learned about these shortly before entering hybernation. ...
Rob Watts's user avatar
  • 19.9k
66 votes

Are there examples of rowers who also fought?

Vikings! If the Vikings had to row, everyone on the longship took their turn at an oar (though they sailed any time they could, because who wouldn't?) -- and when they went ashore to fight, everyone ...
Zeiss Ikon's user avatar
  • 45.9k
65 votes

Is it plausible that a country developed steam engines before gunpowder?

Yes You're in luck, the first steam engine was actually invented in the 1st Century AD a good 1000 years ahead of gunpowder. The Aeolipile is technically a steam engine, what's required is for the ...
Separatrix's user avatar
  • 118k
62 votes
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At what point in time would humans notice a 21st century satellite observing them?

Artificial satellites orbiting around Earth are pretty easy to spot, since they appear as bright fast moving objects across the night sky. This even in a light polluted environment like a modern city. ...
L.Dutch's user avatar
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58 votes
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Would descendants of Earth people stranded on another planet eventually forget about Earth?

There's a reason we use archaeology to reconstruct what happened in the past. Written records are powerful when they exist, but they're also fragile. It takes relatively little damage for a document ...
Werrf's user avatar
  • 15k
55 votes
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I travel back in time: how could I know when I landed?

It's hard to come with a single method that both works when you have 5 minutes in a dense forest, and 5 days in a city. But here are some ideas: Find out who the current pope is. Locate a graveyard (...
Abigail's user avatar
  • 2,489
54 votes

Building a phone charger 500 years ago

You could emulate Volta's pile if you could find some zinc and copper metal, and some acid, however the purity of such items might be pretty questionable. Which means you might get more voltage than ...
Spehro Pefhany's user avatar
53 votes
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This dungeon/ruin has been known to locals for ages. Why would it still have undiscovered portions ripe for looting?

The explorers find a small vertical shaft that seems to go down a long way. The locals have dismissed this as a well or garderobe and so it has not been explored but it was actually a ventilation ...
GrumpyYoungMan's user avatar
51 votes

Most useful knowledge from the 30's to understand current state of computers & networking?

Math. It's the basis for computer languages and would give a good starting place to learning modern languages. The first low level programming languages where created in the 40's, and high level ...
AndyD273's user avatar
  • 34.7k
49 votes
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When countries combine, how do they pick a new name?

Sometimes, they do merge their names; for example, Tan-ganyika + Zan-zibar $\rightarrow$ Tanzania. Italy was a place before it was a country. It is pretty natural for a country which occupies the ...
AlexP's user avatar
  • 90.5k
48 votes

Would descendants of Earth people stranded on another planet eventually forget about Earth?

It's possible, but it requires a trip through illiterate barbarity lasting centuries. This means that they cannot forget only about Earth: they need to forget everything, writing, math, engineering, ...
AlexP's user avatar
  • 90.5k
43 votes
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Can there be a space age without petroleum (crude oil)?

Yes...probably What was really important to our development of technology was not oil, but coal. Access to large deposits of high-quality coal largely fueled the industrial revolution, and it was the ...
Werrf's user avatar
  • 15k
42 votes

Why would a civilization develop a taboo against a highly nutritious food that grows well in its climate?

Something else eats the plant, and that thing is revered. For example, suppose the people revered a giant bird because it eats rats and thus keeps away plague. If that bird also devours large ...
SRM's user avatar
  • 25.5k
42 votes

How long would it take us to detect that the earth had been enclosed in a shell 1 light year in radius?

The answer depends entirely on the sophistication of the simulation. The answer by AlexP suggests that the screen could be discovered in the 1600s or 1700s by parallax, but that's only true if the ...
benrg's user avatar
  • 1,417
41 votes

Most useful knowledge from the 30's to understand current state of computers & networking?

My great-grandfather headed an Electrical Engineering department from 1946-1956, just as the important transitions into electronic processing were being made and WWII computing technology became ...
kingledion's user avatar
  • 85.4k
40 votes
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An Undercover Army

Russia has one of the most liberal immigration policies in the world (a measure Putin's government implemented to counteract its plummeting population due to demographics), but a half-million people ...
Keith Morrison's user avatar
39 votes
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What's the ideal era for harvesting resources by an advanced society?

The thing is the massive amount of energy. Sure you could go back and collect iron, coal, oil, etc but is it worth the expense? Raw materials can be collected from space by asteroid harvesting and ...
Thorne's user avatar
  • 46.9k
38 votes

At what point in time would humans notice a 21st century satellite observing them?

As many other comments have suggested, orbit altitude is a key parameter in determining how visible the recon satellite would be. However, orbital altitude also determines how long the object will ...
Robert Quattlebaum's user avatar
38 votes

Ideas for a human convenient, long term date system spanning many trillions of years

Frame challenge: no such dating system is practicable What is the use of a dating system? Obviously, the use of a dating system is to tell when an event took place, or to tell when an event will take ...
AlexP's user avatar
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