Hot answers tagged

95

Sure. Gems such as diamonds, corundums (ruby and sapphire) come from igneous sources. It's possible that one could have a diamondiferous kimberlite blast through a gold or silver ore-bearing formation, or an intrusive dyke that produces rubies or sapphires to penetrate into a similar formation. It's unlikely, given the relative rarity of the two different ...


86

Moving away from a pure element (covered by other answers) to a material, something that has a special property. Consider something that is made rare by the very presence of your intergalactic society. Let's suppose your warp drives give off low-levels of some kind of radiation, so any alloys destined for sensitive equipment need to be space-smelted in ...


40

Organic Your mineral could have been deposited millions of years ago by a specific type of organism, class of organisms, or type of biome. For instance, you might have a forest that produces lots of some interesting organic compound, which when put under intense pressure and heat, forms some mineral with useful properties. Because the relative scarcity of "...


36

Why Things Are Valuable Basic economic theory says that a thing will have a higher cost as its demand outpaces its supply. Note that this doesn't actually take rarity into account at all. Rare things are expensive because they have an inherently small supply, but you can also have a relatively common thing be expensive just by increasing the demand for it ...


33

Diving Mining bells suspended from ships Your merchants have access to ships, and probably more so than the other castes. The ships themselves may not be able to go under the floating level, but as the continents themselves show, they should be able to carry quite a load suspended underneath. A mining operation starts with one ship floating near the edge. ...


32

Handmade items made by a famous artisan from a famous planet. These items could be decorative (paintings, vases), utilitarian (glassware, pottery, handbag, shoes), or functional (instrument, book (signed and numbered). Basically anything that takes personal effort to make will cost more simply because someone will have to put forth the effort rather than ...


31

There are several obvious options, and I think three of them follow a roughly chronological progression. Dumping: The earliest option available. Rubbish heaps are the obvious choice for what to do with waste stone. In the absence of local buyers interested in the stuff, it's unlikely to go anywhere, so will just end up littering the lands around a Dwarf ...


28

Terraforming is going to be a far greater investment than strip-mining. However, the cost will still vary wildly based on what the planet is like. Planets which are close to the target for terraforming will cost less to terraform, but will be in short supply. So the logic will likely go: Are we really low on a particular resource this planet has? Strip mine ...


27

This Answer by TechZen gives a lot of insight into the technology of an underwater civilization. Specific to your question: Tools underwater would be much different than we think of them. For example, swinging a lever like an hammer or axe, is not efficient under water because water resistance robs all the energy. Plus, rapid high energy motions stir up ...


25

One thing to consider is the difficulty of retooling. This is, oddly, a point in the favour of asteroids. Simply put: when moving your operations from one planet to another you have to consider differing atmospheric conditions, gravities and temperature constraints. You might have to completely redesign your operations to cope with anything from crushing ...


24

What benefits would be gained by using human laborers instead of drones in deep sea mining? tl;dr: None. Long answer: First let's address several assumptions in your question. demand for resources only rises due to both a ever growing population Not necessarily. The precious metals platinum and palladium are commonly used in catalytic converters in cars. ...


23

Depending on what you're using the minerals for, this might not only be worth it, but it might be the only possible way to access minerals in any quantity. Let's start by taking a look at Apollo 11. The Command / Service modules of the Apollo 11 mission came in at nearly 29 metric tonnes and carried a fuel load (combined kerosine and liquid O2) of around 2....


22

The water pH in water that accumulates in some former quarries can be affected by the chemicals used in the mining process and reactions with the exposed rock faces in the quarry. For example Middlepeak quarry, a former limestone quarry in Derbyshire in England, has a pH level of 11.3; due to its attractive blue colour people would be lured in attempting to ...


22

Avoidance; or, don't build your house on a thermal vent The Earth has tectonic activity: both earthquakes and "thermal vents" that spew fiery rocks out (i.e. volcanos). How do you know you aren't in danger of being volcano-ed into the stratosphere as you sit at your desk typing questions on Worldbuilding? The answer to that question is that tectonic ...


21

All in all it depends on what materials they use the most of. If the galactic strip miners use more carbon than they produce then you can bet it will become expensive in very short order! However, if they’re pulling apart the galaxy as fast as I think they are: there’s one thing that I think would be of interest: Lithium Lithium is incredibly useful. It is ...


21

Two reasons Cost - it's not going to be cheaper to mine water in space. There's a massive energy cost to get something into space against Earth's gravity well, and if you're going to mine something like water, there are cheaper ways of getting it - like purifying salt water. Especially because asteroids only come in one size - bulk. If you've got need for ...


20

Physically hold your miners over the side. Send them down on ropes, or set up scaffolds and other works that anchor into the rockface beside/above them. This would be a complex undertaking, but compared to construction scaffolding, or the elaborate works that were used for mining in the real world, they're not out of scope with what you can do with basic ...


19

The only reason we would mine the rings is to bring water to solar system parts without water. That would NOT be Earth. We might go there for Mars or the Moon or fueling space colonies, but not for Earth. Earth has an abundance of fresh water. And we have continuously improving tech for filtration and desalination. It isn’t worth the space trip. Isaac ...


18

I'd like to point out that the age of steam and the study of thermodynamics was a result of the task of keeping water out of mines. So maybe they won't develop mecanical technology in the same way. But, using air pockets to facilitate mining might be their approach. A pocket of air just enough to swing an axe in, keeping is “head” back away from that; ...


18

As you mentioned, there doesn't appear to be a lot of information about this online, but it does seem some gemstones are associated with different metal ores. Quartz is associated with gold and a few other types of veins, and forms a variety of gemstones (amethyst, citrine, rose quartz, etc.), but I don't know if quartz veins actually contain any useful ...


17

No, there's no such element that would justify this sort of attempt. We have data on the composition of the Sun's photosphere, one of its outermost layers. By mass, the solar photosphere is 98.3% hydrogen and helium. Oxygen and carbon compose another 1%, followed by even smaller quantities of iron, neon, nitrogen, silicon, magnesium, and sulfur - all ...


16

Leaching, stagnation You ask... What are the implications of using a quarry as a water storage? The problems are... Leaching Stagnation At quarries and mines they have broken up and crushed the bedrock to reach mineral deposits. This creates lots of free and mobile substances that will be washed along with the water and pool in the quarry. This is a ...


16

Whatever costs the most to deliver to a client in the promised condition Using a Nuclear Reactor or Particle Accelerator, it should be possible to synthetically create any element. Given that any element can be made, we can then assume that there is (almost) zero difference in cost when it comes to making and acquiring materials. Most of an item's cost ...


14

Since you mentioned trade with humans in the middle ages; that adds a likely answer. They build roads with it that link human trade routes to their centers of trade. And if the roads are finely enough graded, then stone wheels, axles and carts would also be a possibility. A horse pack might be able to carry a lot more castle bricks in a single trip after ...


14

Legally-regulated or illicit substances Unless you count exotic phases of matter (e.g. quark-gluon condensate) to be "materials", then the most realistic expensive material would be one which the most powerful organizations of your galactic society actively attempt to prevent the proliferation of. This could include illicit substances such as drugs ...


14

The mining companies are being subsidized Drones would have been better value for money, but the government subsidizes human labor. This is done to keep the population (especially the men) occupied and also safely locked away, not giving them a chance to sit around talking rebellion. This is also the reason space mining is not favored: there are too many ...


14

If it is a planet, terraform. Sure, hollow habitats are neat, but if you have the tech and energy budget that there is a genuine choice to strip-mine a planet, you are rich enough to afford the luxury of a planetary habitat. Wind and sun in your face, hiking the hills and sailing the seas, that just doesn't feel the same in an artificial habitat. People are ...


13

Similar question but with a moon made up of antimatter. Is it realistic to have a moon made of antimatter? My proposition there: Cut some chunks off. You can do this using a laser. In the linked moon scenario you would have to blast stuff up and away from the moon because it would be too dangerous to approach. Your smaller chunk is more tractable in ...


13

The process of mining stars in science fiction is often referred to as Star Lifting The biggest concern here is that most stars don't make anything higher on the periodic table than iron. In other words, all you will be finding in most cases is a bunch of really common elements. The good news is that you will be finding A LOT of really common elements. ...


12

Gas giants are cheaper and require less handwaving Stars are made of plasma. If you harvest the material from the outer layers of a star - or even from ejected matter - you will need a way to cool it down. Space is devoid of the gases needed to move this heat elsewhere, so it will require enormous space radiators. This is very, very inefficient. Meanwhile, ...


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