136

The native Americans DID form their own nation states in south america. The Maya, the Inca, the Aztec, the Pueblo. The idea that the North American natives were all a bunch of stone age subsistence hunter-gatherers exists because something like 90% of them died out from the diseases that swept the continents after the Europeans made their first brief ...


119

This demands a full chemical industry developed. (Let's guess they can get at iron ore and coal somehow, and suitable material to make ovens, and you swiped a few axes, saws and shovels to start with. I cannot guess how long it might take to bootstrap those.) Factories they need to build in chronological order. bricks, cement & construction supplies ...


100

Depressing, realistic version: John Doe has major problems: His modern skills are of little use in a medieval English village. The peasants don't care about numeracy or crazy ideas, they want somebody who can slaughter a pig or plough a field. He has great difficulty communicating with the locals. Have a look at Shakespeare or Chaucer's English, and ...


96

We think we are advanced but still barely able to send devices within the gravitational influence of our star. We managed to send living samples of our species on our satellite, but just for few days and then we discarded the blueprints. Now an alien race is visiting us, showing that they are able to mass travel trhough space. I would say that the mere fact ...


93

Killing "offenders" prevents them from learning from their mistakes. Responding instead with a painful or embarrassing curse/disease that lasts for a short time will cause humans to quickly figure out the cause/effect relation here. After a few short months, the only people still asking the Gods for help will be either desperate, drunk or teenagers. The ...


86

There's practically no correlation between the complexity of a given language and the complexity of the writing system used to represent it. Japanese and Korean are both very complex languages, able to convey a wide range of meaning and context. Yet, Japanese uses thousands of characters to represent it in writing, and Korean uses 24. Also, when talking ...


84

No, this won't solve national conflict Why? Because it doesn't solve the main reasons FOR national conflict. Consider some of the main reasons to actually invade or go to war with another country: You want their resources You want their landmass You want to colonize them To better your own economy/destroy another country's economy To protect yourself from ...


83

Instead of electronics they could develop fluidics: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluidics We've built fluidics logic circuits to control ICBM's and rockets and nuclear reactors - basically environments that are harsh/destructive to electronics. But we sort of stopped developing fluidics further as hardening process and redundancy algorithms improved to the ...


83

Germany isn't the richest and strongest country in the world, but many would consider it rich and strong, and it has 80 Million citizens, not 320 Million, but still ... And yet, we're completely unable to build a new airport in our capital. In our army, only 42 of 109 Eurofighters are in working condition, 4 of 22 Sea Lynx helicopters, 3 of 21 Sea Kings (...


79

TL;DR: In order to interstellar travel you have to have the best technology possible Space is hard and evil Not necessarily evil towards you but just ... simply evil to anything and anyone. Even the smallest imperfection on a space ship traveling for a decade can cause huge problems. You must have technology good enough to build a ship that can carry life ...


76

As a Transylvanian native with a strong affinity to dark offices, I believe I can shed some light on your question. Since I'm typing this on a computer, it should be obvious that at least some of us are up to date in technology, so have kept up with the times. If I were to engage in introspection, I'd say that my memories of the distant past recede as a ...


75

Space Generation ships are huge, but they aren't designed for experiments; they're built to move from point A to point B. Just like airlines don't have a dedicated science lab, your ships may not have a research facility. Only minor advances that could be made in a cramped personal apartment would even be possible. Need Necessity is the mother of ...


75

Yes, the notion that democracies are inferior is completely wrong Autocracies might be better at a short-term scientific blitz (i.e. you know exactly what you need, and you can concentrate all resources on this task). But that's about it. In the long-ish run (decade+) a democracy will prevail. There are a bunch of reasons: In a democracy, every man ...


75

Surely we could make anything that the aliens described even if we didn't understand how it worked. Or can we imagine something that we can't possibly make, given modern technology and manufacturing knowledge? Yes, we can. Some things that come to mind: it requires some really exotic material (say, heavy transuranics or dark matter). The aliens also have ...


68

It all begins in a craft brewery in Central Florida. A single batch of yeast mutates, becoming extremely resilient and prolific. It survives the fermentation process, the bottling process and even its own consumption by thirsty humans throughout the state. Swimming unharmed in the acidic stomach juices of contented beer connoisseurs, the super yeast ...


67

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 was also known. As for the "mechanization skills" needed -- printing was the last of the basic industries to be mechanized. Printing remained extremely labor-...


66

Youngsters. The first computers read and wrote punched cards or punched paper tape; they did not have any kind of user interface where being blind or sighted mattered. It was perceived as major revolution when some smart technician adapted a typewriter to be able to print computer output; electric teletypewriters were then adapted so that operators could ...


62

I haven't read through all the answers in detail, but there is one obvious possibility that I don't see anyone else having really mentioned so far: peak oil. Or more generally, peak available resources. First a bit of background. "Peak oil" refers to the moment in time when oil production (or extraction, rather) reaches its maximum rate, or "peak". This can ...


59

The answer is so obvious it hurts: culture. America succeeded in becoming one of the most powerful nations to have ever existed (if not the most powerful) not only because they had a large amount of resources available, but because of their elusive American Spirit. Essentially, the American people were survivors, entrepreneurs, and idealists. This shaped ...


57

Your best bet would be to manually set off a series of smaller, "controlled" eruptions to bleed off the energy and pressure of the caldera. You'd use underground mapping to identify weak points near the edge, then drill and set off explosives. Something small, like an atomic bomb. This will cause an eruption, and it will be nasty, but it's not the entire ...


56

It has already happened! In 322 BCE, Aristotle died. He may be considered one of the last people in the world who knew everything about everything at the time. Since then, advances have been made but very few people span more than one discipline (chemistry, physics, biology); nowadays, it is remarkable when a person spans more than a single sub discipline. ...


56

If my neighbors' grandkids are any guide, they'll play with the boxes and wrapping paper that all the fancy presents came in.


56

I have no real alien technology schematics at hand. The closest thing I can think of is the schematics of something it is not manufactured in the factory of my employer. Let's say it is the latest smartphone of a top notch brand. On those schematics I would see which parts I need and how to assemble them. Good so far. However, if I don't have access to ...


51

This really should be a comment to Pavel's excellent answer, but I'm afraid I don't have the reputation to add a comment. Given the sad story of Ignaz Semmelweis, it's pretty unlikely anybody would even listen to your newfangled ideas about the importance of hygiene. His flash of insight was quite literally that it would be advisable for doctors to wash ...


51

can a number of letters in alphabet suggest how advance the civilization is? There is no correlation between the technological advancement of a civilization and the number of symbols in its alphabet. Do you want some counterexamples? The Roman Empire (and the shepherd founding it) used the same alphabet we use today, yet we are way more advanced then them ...


50

Background In a fantastic article about machine learning, we find that a genetic algorithm was used to program an electronic element to differentiate between two tones. When one tone was input, it set one output high. When the other tone was input, it set the output low. So this simple, programmable device (FPGA with only 100 logic blocks and no clock) ...


50

No limits*, but go with kites. You can read more on Wikipedia. Long story short, kite sails are already used on ships of various sizes, especially big ones. Sure, not as the only propulsion system, but not due the lack of power. Problem is in wind unpredictability, but that's not true in your world. Current kites supplement up to 20% of power to a ...


50

Stone Age Progression This is all well and good , but their is one major flaw in choosing an insect hive mind - they can't lift 10 ounce stones apply the repeated , focused force necessary to fashion them into blades and hammers ; nor can they twist sticks with the speed and force to make embers , and even if they could , would they be able to utilize ...


47

Awesome! I can talk about what I think is one of the coolest inventions of all time: the analog computer. An analog (more properly, a mechanical) computer was actually the world's first "computer" - the Antikythera Mechanism. It was an ancient Greek device that predicted the motions of the planets and other astronomical objects. Only parts of it have been ...


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