73

Hmm. Let's try to understand what we actually see. "Deep space telescopes notice as an object appears out near the orbit of Jupiter": That's either one biggg object, or at least a veeery luminous object. The chances of any reasonably sized spacecraft being detected near the orbit of Jupiter are between zero and infinitesimally small. Anyway, and wherever ...


44

I've got what I think is a nice easy answer - you NEED the rails. Yes, you need the fire, you need the water to create the steam, but unless you are running on the enchanted rails, you aren't going anywhere! Perhaps the rails provide the magical "oomph" to turn a normal fire into something that can provide a high enough steam pressure, perhaps managing ...


37

Obviously exciting things: FTL is possible without the need for chunks of exotic matter than weigh more than the visible universe. Interstellar travel appears to be possible and practical. There exist intelligent beings capable of building such a device. Possibly interesting things: It probably isn't made of antimatter, or we'd see lots of gamma rays ...


34

The effort to make a magic-engine doesn't have to scale linearly, so to make a small magic-engine still takes a long time to do. You could justify this in many ways. For instance that every engine require certain base enchantments to support the main power generating "burner" and these base enchants aren't affected by size because they're simply the magical ...


32

I've read a book series before which had a technologically advanced feudal society in a very believable way. While the reasons for feudalism's developement were complicated, one very large reason was the difficulty of direct control. After the breakdown of the Roman Empire, and with it both its military might and its intricate postal system, it became ...


28

I think you are on the right track and this is a really fun question. I think the issues you mentioned with things like generating heat are much larger obstacles than doing chemistry in a fluid medium would be. For an aquatic-native race, anyway. I'm going to focus mostly on the last part of your question, "What would their developmental path look like?" ...


26

That's what happened in 19th century. As soon as there were steam engines, steam buses started to appear. But they were heavy and amount of damage that car does to road is proportional to 4th power of its weight. It quickly become evident that those buses profits were based on unpaid externality - broken roads so they were shut down.


24

The main feature of a feudal monarchy is the "vassalic contract". It means that one vassal serves it's liege while the liege provide protection. It can be on a small scale : organizing a local police force to protect from day to day violence, or it can be on a huge scale... organizing intergalactic diplomacy to prevent war between the carebear monarchy and ...


22

No assembly lines for magic It sounds like you've already solved the problem without realizing it. You said that magic requires individual enchanters building the object. You can also make it that the entire enchantment must be done by the same person or group of people - you cannot have one person create one part and another person create another part. ...


21

The first thing that scientists will learn, is that there is a severely blueshifted object near Jupiter. This will be extremely bright for the same reason that a sonic boom is loud. This "luminal boom" will not be noticed by most people on Earth, though. The blueshift will be far outside of the visible range, well past X-rays, and into Gamma rays. The ...


15

The International Association of Horse Breeders and Carters is very politically powerful. They object to paving roads because of the extra wear on horses' hooves. The rather heavy steam cars get stuck in the ruts in the unpaved roads, and have to be pulled out by teams of horses, for a not-so-small fee.


12

FTL can be achieved! This is no pipe dream and providing resources to the investigation of Faster than light travel is now humanity's top priority. All observatories pointing over it means a full spectre of radiation was recorded. From gravitational sensors, microwaves, even the shift on the lunar regolith can hold clues. Fermi Paradox got an answer, we ...


12

"Could a society exist with the technological advancement we have today, but not the social or political advancement": a few examples of modern(-ish) societies which cannot be called democracies, and most certainly are not similar to "western" polities: National-Socialist Germany, also known as the Third Realm, 1933-1945. The Empire of Japan, 1868-1945. The ...


11

Make it so that an engine requires a magic person to be there to steer it. Perhaps a priest is needed at all times to refill the water. Perhaps a magic person is needed to maintain the enchantments, or they need to make minute to minute changes? Perhaps in the future they can innovate this need away, but right now every engine needs a skeleton crew of '...


11

During my PhD years I had to work with some materials which were quite reactive: as soon as they were exposed to oxygen or water they reacted very vigorously with them, leaving the poor student with a damaged sample or, even worse, with a sample which spontaneously took fire. A solution for handling these materials and keep the students alive was to use ...


9

They could absolutely get to space. "Rocket science" isn't a complex field of science: it's just ballistics and some straightforward chemistry. What's fiendishly complex is the precision engineering and manufacturing required to go, not just into space, but where you mean to go with very little margin for error. What this means is that initially your ...


9

What historical events or trends would have to be altered? It is hard to point at a single instant in time and say that yes, that was the turning point, but by way of an example I'd look to the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The Ottoman army used some exceptionally large cannon that took hundreds of men to manoeuver and operate, and (to grossly ...


8

The rails are the key. Magic requires the flow of the energies from the air to the earth. Iron rails, and the iron wheels that ride on them, and the safe conduit for that flow. Many times before, people had build engines atop wooden or rubber wheels. They even tried iron tyres around wooden wheels. In every case the energies were blocked, resulting in ...


8

This is not only possible, but it is even postulated by serious science as a reason that we haven't met other advanced civilisations yet. The debate all comes down to a concept called the technology ceiling; just how complex is the universe and how much is there to know about it? Ultimately, if the universe is complex and has a high technology ceiling, ...


7

The most obvious thing that will be discovered from the passage of the FTL spacecraft from Jupiter orbit to close to the Earth will be that the spacecraft travelled that distance at an average velocity of around half-lightspeed. This indicates an acceleration of the order of approximately 9,000 gee. Similarly, it will accelerate away from the Earth at the ...


6

Sheer Size. Steam engines simply do not work at a small scale. You can get big, beefy engines that pull heavy loads, but if you try to shrink them down too small, you get the this bit of the magic too close to the that bit of the magic and the warding scheme can't hold and the entire thing explodes.


6

There are no rubber trees in your world. Tires are metal or wood. Nothing else is possible with the materials on hand. Metal wheels must stay on reinforced tracks. Taking metal wheels on cobblestones or dirt roads tears up the roads and renders them unusable. Metal wheels have a difficult time stopping on wet or frosty cobblestones. Therefore, metal wheels ...


6

The most obvious alternative history difference with these two types of lignin-reduced woods would be: It would replace fiberglass. Especially the "nanowood" as insulation, and as a resin-filled shock resistant building material. Since wood can not be poured, extruded, moulded, drawn, blown, welded, or cast, it would have a disadvantage to materials that ...


6

Who controls the money controls the power The rise of the middle class broke the aristocracy, the problem being that the aristocracy were obsessed with land because that's where all the money had been up until the industrial revolution. In practice it mostly remained in the land for a considerable transition period as well. However if you get an ...


5

Conceptually, batteries have been around for a very long time, some of the earliest forms that we would recognise coming into existence around 1749 but that would certainly not be a battery in the kilowatt storage range, and that is unlikely to be developed because electrical storage was not the limiting factor; it was electrical generation. In 1861, the ...


5

The most obvious difference between OTL and the "woodpunk" world would be the importance of forestry and the handling of forests. In the 19th and early 20th century, forestry was more akin to strip mining, with enormous lots clearcut and then left to regrow on their own, often with little or no attention paid to the process by the loggers. This was somewhat ...


5

Before the early 1800s, pretty much every discovery in the field of Chemistry was a mistake or total trial and error. If the Chinese didn't screw up some life-lengthening elixir experiments around 850 AD, then they would have never invented gunpowder, and we may not have had guns for quite some time. It is important to note that Gunpowder was not one of ...


4

OK, slightly left field answer to this one. Assuming you are in an equivalent ocean to Earth's, you're never going to need to do your chemistry purely underwater. You have a water surface, you have underwater vents, fish have swim bladders etc. If you are careful you can "harvest" these, with anything waterproof (intestines, etc). You may even be able to ...


4

The ease with which information could be obtained would depend on the details of the environment and might be seriously limited. The “easiest” situation would be a civilization based in a shallow sea with access to the materials of the coast and access to the surface. Harder would be a civilization based in a deep sea far from land. And the hardest would be ...


4

Many existing scientific theories would need to be revisited. Any sort of FTL travel would be so fundamentally at odds with known physics; many of its theories (or even laws) would need to be revisited and rethought. There would be an enormous flurry of activity in the academic world due to this one discovery. The ship's pattern of movement would open lines ...


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