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38 votes
Accepted

My cows lactate oil instead of milk, how do I stop them from igniting?

Cow oil has a high flash point. Ever tried burning vegetable oil? It burns steadily in a lamp with the right kind of wick, but put a match to a cup of oil and nothing happens. The oil is not ...
Pastychomper thanks Monica's user avatar
28 votes

Are hydrocarbons viable foods for larger organisms?

Yes, But...: Biologically, it's certainly possible for multicellular organisms (either directly or through the actions of symbiotic bacteria) to utilize petroleum as an energy source. Life makes ...
DWKraus's user avatar
  • 63.4k
27 votes

My cows lactate oil instead of milk, how do I stop them from igniting?

The Oil Must Be Refined Olive oil, coconut oil, and whale oil are all flammable. But you cannot simply put a flame to an olive, a coconut or a whale, and expect it to burn. Okay maybe you can set a ...
Daron's user avatar
  • 66k
24 votes

Are steam locomotives more viable than diesel in a post-apocalypse?

Take a trip to your local train museum: To get a good idea about this, go to your local train museum. Here in Minnesota, we have a long history of trains, and I have old train maintenance facilities ...
DWKraus's user avatar
  • 63.4k
19 votes

Are hydrocarbons viable foods for larger organisms?

Yes, but it's unlikely to happen in an oxygen atmosphere. DWKraus's answer does a good job of explaining the major impediment: in an Earthlike environment, petrochemicals are limited in distribution ...
Logan R. Kearsley's user avatar
18 votes
Accepted

Are steam locomotives more viable than diesel in a post-apocalypse?

Depends on how much infrastructure survives: So diesel engines can run on a lot of things: Blue Crude water + electrolysis + CO2 + Fischer-Tropsch process == blue crude. You can run an engine on ...
Ash's user avatar
  • 44.1k
18 votes

My cows lactate oil instead of milk, how do I stop them from igniting?

Natural milk already contain fats, that's how butter is made. As far as I know no mammals has catched fire because of lactation. First of all it's an emulsion with water, and second but not less ...
L.Dutch's user avatar
  • 283k
14 votes

My cows lactate oil instead of milk, how do I stop them from igniting?

You are worried about nothing. cows are not inherently flammable and making a little more oil will not change that. Mammals are already covered in oils, skin and hair are soaked in oils, but cows are ...
John's user avatar
  • 80.7k
10 votes

Are steam locomotives more viable than diesel in a post-apocalypse?

The apocalyptic event in question physically destroyed a large number of cities, and killed most of the human population. If most of the humans are dead, the economics, the society and effort for ...
Anshul Goyal's user avatar
  • 1,826
10 votes

What might happen to plastic after millions of years of geological activity?

We are already seeing some fungi capable of consuming plastics, especially in landfills - https://www.colorado.edu/ecenter/2021/11/04/plastic-eating-mushrooms If we imagine large reservoirs of ...
Bluejoy's user avatar
  • 1,436
8 votes
Accepted

Could plastic have been made in the medieval period?

What's "plastic?" Plastic is a word that originally meant “pliable and easily shaped.” It only recently became a name for a category of materials called polymers. The word polymer means “of ...
JBH's user avatar
  • 120k
8 votes

What environmental conditions would result in Crude oil being far easier to access than coal?

Petroleum has an important property that coal does not: it's a liquid. And when it's kilometers underground, it's under tremendous pressure. If there's pressure from below (as for instance due to ...
Zeiss Ikon's user avatar
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8 votes

What might happen to plastic after millions of years of geological activity?

Plastic is hydrocarbons so technically decomposes and degrades just like organic matter. The main difference is that there aren't that many microrganisms that can break it down...yet. Like cellulose/...
DKNguyen's user avatar
  • 11k
7 votes

Can some countries regress and other advance when petrol will not be available anymore?

It is not as straightforward as it seems. Some third world countries use so little energy that they do not have much to lose from an oil crisis. Then there are countries like Brazil that will suffer ...
FluidCode's user avatar
  • 3,651
7 votes

What might happen to plastic after millions of years of geological activity?

some of it will breakdown some of it will work its ay into the mineral cycle. We already see this, some plastic gets broken down by chemical or bacterial action, forming hydrocarbons or biomass. But ...
John's user avatar
  • 80.7k
6 votes
Accepted

What environmental conditions would result in Crude oil being far easier to access than coal?

The answer is a little more than just geology. Consider these (Earth) maps: The first map depicts worldwide coal deposits; the second, worldwide oil deposits; the third, the spread of ...
elemtilas's user avatar
  • 39.7k
6 votes

What environmental conditions would result in Crude oil being far easier to access than coal?

Higher sea levels historically Most coal comes from land life forms, most oil comes from sea life forms. As summarised by this helpful graph: That link goes into a short discussion of exactly how ...
Ash's user avatar
  • 44.1k
6 votes

My cows lactate oil instead of milk, how do I stop them from igniting?

The Cows First and foremost, unless your oil cows only have sloth-like mobility, they will likely have survived fires (natural and synthetic) by simply running away. To further jump on the "...
claypooj's user avatar
  • 161
6 votes

Would it be the end of modern civilisation if there wasn't any oil?

Short answer: Yes. Longer answer: It depends. So, you correctly pointed out that oil has a multitude of uses. From simple lubrication, to making plastics and other materials, to being used as fuel. In ...
TheDemonLord's user avatar
  • 22.1k
5 votes

Are hydrocarbons viable foods for larger organisms?

Yes, with the appropriate enzymes, there's no reason they couldn't. But you need to solve a larger problem before that - the continuous (and renewable) availability of hydrocarbons. You can't do that ...
LSerni's user avatar
  • 55.1k
4 votes

Are steam locomotives more viable than diesel in a post-apocalypse?

As they rebuild their industrial capacity, steam will come before diesel. Yes, steam requires a significant industrial base to build and maintain, but diesels require even more. So even if they were ...
Tristan Klassen's user avatar
4 votes

Are steam locomotives more viable than diesel in a post-apocalypse?

A resounding "Yes." Steam locomotives came about before Diesel for three reasons. They're easier to make. The thing most people don't realize is that diesel engines aren't just "a gas ...
In Hoc Signo's user avatar
4 votes

Could plastic have been made in the medieval period?

Easy peasy (slightly cheaty). All they need is a cow, a supply of lemons or white vinegar if you're somewhere cold, and a fire. A cool experiment to do with kids is to make plastic from milk; you just ...
Whelkaholism's user avatar
  • 2,756
4 votes

Are hydrocarbons viable foods for larger organisms?

Symbiosis between a large organism and petroleum metabolizing bacteria Living things operate in water and oil and water don't mix, so it is very difficult for living things to use pure hydrocarbons. ...
WaterMolecule's user avatar
3 votes

Can some countries regress and other advance when petrol will not be available anymore?

The divide between advanced and not-so-advanced countries has been a constant in our history: countries which could work metal and countries which could not, countries which could build cities and ...
L.Dutch's user avatar
  • 283k
3 votes

Are steam locomotives more viable than diesel in a post-apocalypse?

You can build a steam engine with a blacksmith, a foundry, and a lathe. And many did. You can build a foundry furnace and a blacksmith forge out of rocks and clay. A blacksmith can build a workable ...
Autobus Prime's user avatar
3 votes

What environmental conditions would result in Crude oil being far easier to access than coal?

A lot of natural coal was produced during the Carboniferous era: The Carboniferous (/ˌkɑːr.bəˈnɪf.ər.əs/ KAHR-bə-NIF-ər-əs) is a geologic period and system that spans 60 million years from the end of ...
The Square-Cube Law's user avatar
2 votes

Are steam locomotives more viable than diesel in a post-apocalypse?

It depends on their technology. Diesel is much more efficient and versatile, but require a much more sophisticated level of metallurgy and fabrication capability than steam does. Mind you, this is ...
PcMan's user avatar
  • 26.3k
2 votes

Are steam locomotives more viable than diesel in a post-apocalypse?

You forgot one thing: steam engines can burn wood. Wood-burning is a very inefficient method of energy production, but in a post-apocalyptic period, how much trade and travel is there actually going ...
Panzer Fuhere's user avatar

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