New answers tagged

0

Diamonds in this world would be dirt-cheap, that's one thing. For practical uses, advance of cutting and grinding tools would happen much earlier than in rel world. People would be able to supply even the crudest saws and drills with diamond edges, which should boost productivity throughout the history and allow for faster technological development. For ...


0

The tallest mostly wooden structure ever built in pre modern times was probably the legendary Yongning Pagoda at Luoyang, capital of the Northern Wei dynasty in northern China. The Yongning Pagoda was described in Record of the Buddhist Monasteries in Loyang to be 90 Zhang high and 100 Zhang with the spire, or 330 meters (1082.68 feet), but in the ...


3

For state-of-the-art in timber buildings, you can see that a lot of people are talking about (and even planning) plyscrapers that are over 300m tall. The super-tall wooden building industry isn't exactly in its infancy, but there isn't a huge amount of experience out there, and it seems like things can only improve from there. For a very handwavey maximum, ...


7

I did some search for the world's largest wooden structures. Some sources point at the Kondo, a.k.a. Great Buddha Hall as the largest one. It's about 18.5 meters tall, and 15.2 meters wide. Technology made it possible to build bigger wood structures. The Superior Dome in Michigan is 44 meters tall (143 ft) and 163 meters wide (536 ft). A company named ...


1

Gallium is completely liquid above 85°F, and once it's below about 75°F, it's about as hard as "cold candle wax" (according to one guy who's played with it a while). While this wouldn't be hard enough for a spike or a bolt, it could be used to make some keys and locks, gears, or bowls/plates/cups (just avoid hot soup!).


0

A sharp edge could be formed by first producing a round-shaped blob of an epoxy-like substance and then, once it has solidified, shattering it into pieces. Some of the pieces can have blade-like edges, so they can be used like a knife or a dagger. An abrupt change in temperature could help to break a blob of solid substance that is otherwise hard to break. E....


0

As John's answer points out: There are many issues with resin epoxies as most other answers suggest. They are very hard to shape and biologically reabsorb, this makes for major recyclability and production issues. While shaping the thing could probably be overcome, it takes a lot of calories to create a resin tool compared to picking up a sharp rock or a ...


1

Apart from epoxy resin, that is already mentioned there's another option. Photo sensitive resin This is a thing that is used in experimental 3D printing (google it, it's cool). If your creature can excrete tool-shaped blob, this blob can easily solidify in sunlight. Advantage is that you only need one component, but the solidification may take longer and ...


0

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-Newtonian_fluid What you may be looking for is a non-newtonian fluid. Most famous examples are things that go from more fluid to less fluid when under pressure as they work well as armour. They do however go in the other direction - with the ability to become more fluid under pressure; and also can work with time. This ...


1

The resin that dentists use for "white" fillings might be regarded as a proof of concept. For the dentist's convenience, this resin remains soft until setting is catalyzed by blue laser light. It is also anti-catalyzed by oxygen, so a thin surface film of a few molecules always remains un-set. This is so another layer of resin can be placed on top (thereby ...


2

This is like an answer and like a comment on all the other answers. I specifically want to address the shaping challenge. The creature’s ability to naturally spit resin is probably an offensive talent, meant to spit in the face of opponents and prey. That likely means that the carapace has evolved to be non-stick to the same resin. Or the carapace can ...


5

Spider Silk + Resins Many different tree resins will polymerize upon drying and are used to make adhesives and varnishes. Combine something like that with a large number of spider-like spinnerets and you have the makings of a biological equivalent of carbon-fiber. Not necessarily the best if you want to make a hammer, but you could always incorporate a ...


1

For a number of reasons described in the other answers, I think you'll have a hard time coming up with a solely biological process that accomplishes this. If you expand the requirements a bit, though, you'll have a lot more options. Instead of placing the onus on the creature's biological systems, incorporate the environment as well. For instance, the ...


7

Spider silk might be useful. Although usually associated with thread structures there is no reason why it should not be wound or otherwise deposited into other shapes. Spider silk comes in a wide variety of types with various properties It can be sticky or not and some silk has exceptional strength. But whatever organism produced it would have to have the ...


3

There isn't one, the problem is you are not just looking for a fast phase change, but a fast phase change in a controlled manner. There are a lot of ways to make a material quickly there are far fewer ways to shape said material. No matter what you use you are still limited by how fast the material can be produced and moved, a biological system cannot ...


14

I expect a two-component epoxy resin will work best, like two-component glue that hardens quickly when mixed, or the material used to make light boats float when capsized. When kept separate, both components are liquid, but once mixed, they quickly harden. Thiols react quickly with epoxides at room temperature and might be the answer you are looking for, ...


1

Epoxy resins and glues often start to polymerize when exposed to outside moisture, while they stay liquid as long as they are in their tube protected from water molecules. Yes, their reaction is exothermal, else it won't spontaneously happen. If you ever left a glue tube open, you know that they turn pretty quickly into a solid. The reaction rate can be ...


4

The key issue is what property of iron makes it dangerous. Is it magnetism? Is it a chemical effect like rusting? Is it something specifically to do with its density? Or is it atomic? Depending on what causes the problem, there are a vast number of alloys that could give you trouble-free iron. For example, if the magnetism is an issue you might want a non-...


-1

I'm not sure anyone has formulated an equation for the decay rate of material from a neutron star. However, there is an equation for the decay rate of a black hole. I've used this equation in the past for a lower bound (completely an assumption on my part) for how quickly the material will decay. The results are a little surprising, so I'll share : The ...


1

The thing that prevents degenerate matter from forming in normal circumstances is the electric charge repulsion between electrons and protons. If a way could be found to neutralise the electromagnetic force in a small localised area then it would be easy to create degenerate matter. Simply feed matter into this area and it would degenerate into a soup of ...


0

What is Degenerate Matter like neutronium? Per definition, neutronium is a whole bunch of neutrons clustered together without any protons or electrons in the mix. How is neutronium created in nature? By huge amounts of gravity. Gravity is so strong that first it overwhelms the electric force (that keeps atoms atoms with a nucleus and electrons) - the star ...


4

If you have the means to harvest neutronium from a neutron star (or indeed any sort of degenerate matter from a natural source), then storing the stuff afterwards seems like it should be childs play because the original task is so unfeasible that you will have already achieved weakly godlike status is order to achieve it. Similarly, whatever mechanism you ...


4

I would use Niobium. It is not a major component in the main iron ores (though its main ore itself contains some iron). Producing a casting-suitable iron-niobium mix requires The ore, naturally obtainable Potassium carbonate, obtainable through potash (which has been used since ~500 CE) Hydroflouric acid, first produced in 1771 (18th century) Aluminum, ...


1

You have several pretty good options that can all be done with fairly primitive technology. The forests are basically pure mud and wood. If you form the mud into blocks, then fire them with the wood in a kiln, the blocks will slightly melt together and then harden forming some pretty sturdy ceramic bricks which will not dissolve in water and be pretty hard ...


3

Monuments are impressive because they are difficult / expensive to build, so using easily available local materials is not appropriate. Mighty rivers like the Amazon and Congo exist because of topography. The headwaters in higher elevations get exposed and worn down into clay, which is washed downstream and then deposited to fill in the river bed and expand ...


1

Biological products You already hinted out the best answer, biological products. Nature has created solutions and materials we would never have dreamed of. Synthesising wood would be incredibly difficult cost prohibitivly expensive process, but plants on earth make it for free from water and sunlight. If the biology of your aliens is significantly different ...


1

It should be noted that we can't frequently know what exact conditions would lead to formation of something that we (basically) don't know about. Your point in case, we know of diamond rains on Jupiter, but we don't necessarily know what else might be there - say, some unobtainium which we don't even have on Earth or maybe don't know it exists. Nevertheless,...


3

A planet with a little chlorine in it's atmosphere may boast trees of plastic (Idea courtesy of and sourced by Artifexian on YouTube)! A planet rich in ozone may yield explosive ozonides and peroxides! Not to mention how oxygen is unstable and reactive but is present almost solely due to life! Lifeforms on another world may generate high explosives, ...


1

What you need is an excuse as why a certain good is WAY CHEAPER in System A than in System B, because with that tech level it's certain that goods can be reverse engineered and synthesised. The only thing stopping that is economics, so a FTL trip to another star system to deliver Good A is more viable than making a factory right on the spot


1

Helium-3 is much more abundant on the Moon than on Earth. The main reason is that the Moon does not have a magnetic field and Helium-3 is deposited from the solar wind. The magnetic field present on Earth prevents solar wind to hit Earth.


0

Chemistry works the same wherever you go: given the same reagents and the same conditions, you get the same products. what environmental conditions would allow for the formation of materials and compounds that don't naturally form on Earth, or form only in very trace quantities, while still allowing for these materials to be brought back to Earth without ...


5

I seriously doubt that you can beat compressed hydrogen to get excess protons. If you can't live with compressed hydrogen, but require a solid it will be difficult and the material will be radioactive. There are isotopes with more protons than neutrons. This talk has several slides about proton-rich nuclei. You will note that the proton-rich isotopes ...


5

Monel or its naturally occurring counterpart Cupronickel is probably your best bet. They are nickel-copper alloys that melts at 1300–1385C (hotter than bronze, but doable by your standard medieval blacksmith) and it's highly resistant to corrosion from acids, salt water, and high oxygen environments; so, it should be at least on par with antimony for ...


3

How about using silver? It has a similar melting point and would be subject to a degree of corrosion from sulphurous compounds as bronze is. Might need to be a little thicker as silver is not particularly strong but then again bronze isn't that strong itslef and at least silver is a very good conductor of heat.


1

Yes, but it comes with more problems than it solves and you don't need it. Stronger and lighter materials enable you to build larger structures, more effecient engines and power transmission etc etc so bigger robots. Infinitely strong materials start to break physics. Don't go there But you really only need a robot as large as the alien monster right? and ...


-2

Many problems. First, something that is infinitely (or nearly so) incompressible will be desastrous towards non-soft materials it comes in contact with, and desastrous when receiving an impulse from somewhere (alien punching the mecha?). Remember that your mecha isn't just "hull". There is something inside, too. Either a human, or a computer, or something ...


Top 50 recent answers are included