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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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

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 ...


40

Our sun produces something like $3.8 \times 10^{26}$ Watts. That requires something in the neighborhood of 600 million tonnes of Hydrogen per second. Getting a similar power from fusion would require a similar consumption of Hydrogen. Even for a culture that could build a Dyson sphere, that's a lot of Hydrogen to get if you are not using a star to do it. ...


38

Here's a few possibilities you could adapt for your setting: Scientific knowledge reduces the efficiency of wishes. Consider this: a child wishes for a pig to fly, but has no real knowledge of what that would mechanically entail - he simply has faith that their God will handle it. With the innocence and imagination of a child, his connection to this god ...


38

No. An inverse relation is more likely. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs: around 1000 symbols. Modern English: 26 symbols + 10 digits + punctuation. Communication between artificial intelligences: not yet known, but probably will be 2. According to the science of semiotics, signs used in the language are arbitrary. They are only loosely related to their ...


37

It could be one of many things: A combination of sufficiently advanced precision and size. While we have the capability to manipulate individual atoms, arranging a football field worth of atoms is vastly beyond our capabilities. Or make it 3D and try to build a device with the volume of a family house with a precision of a single atom. Just letting the air ...


35

A year isn't going to cut it, you're looking at about a generation at least for any noticeable progress. The problem is the lack of industrial base. Medieval society is a hair's breadth above subsistence farming. Technology is largely driven and supported by population pressures, without that they don't have the need to progress nor to maintain anything you ...


31

The situation you describe is almost exactly (part of) the plot from the book "A Fire Upon the Deep". Which in my opinion presents a very plausible level of success. In fact the specifications you offer (1 year-ish time period, lack of homeworld contact for the high tech people) match the conditions in the book very closely. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...


30

Your question is like asking "why build an oil power plant with all the related hassle, when we can chop wood and light a fire?". The answer is: the order of magnitude of the produced energy. A star emits Petawatts of energy, while a fusion power plant can produce Megawatts, several order of magnitude less. And a star saves the hassle of harvesting all the ...


30

Your question includes the answer: they have prehensile feet. As long as their body plan allows for balancing on one foot and manipulating objects with the other, or sitting and using both feet as we'd use hands, there are few barriers to their ascent to a technological civilization. Carrying objects in their mouths will have to suffice until bags and ...


27

We waste a lot of time repeating things to children without the maturity to care. Most of school maths could be taught in a year by skipping all that repetition. Most of the rules of grammar are slightly pointlessly rigid. A slightly dystopian society would allow early testing of abilities to push people directly into a specialist career rather a more ...


27

Most "ancient artifact" stories come from the "atlantian" theory: a civilization that advanced much farther than we did, but at some point collapsed and dissapeared. Call them Atlants, Elves, Gods, but in general these artifacts tend to be made to much better tolerances and materials than current era artifacts. To put an example. Let's say our current ...


25

You're making the assumption that we could read the schematics I'm an electrical engineer in microelectronic design. When I compare the schematics that I create to those of a 1973 pinball machine my father owns one thing becomes incredibly obvious: Someone only versed in the 1973 schematics would have no idea at all what they were looking at when viewing ...


25

Measurement units have followed a fairly standard pattern. Originally things are compared to something that both parties recognise. It could be a specific thing (the Washington monument) or a general thing (a banana). No one is really measuring anything accurately, so this is good enough. Next people start to measure things against their own standard. ...


23

My money is on Germ Theory. This is a good candidate for a few reasons. 1) Everyone in the modern world has at least some idea about it. Your time-traveler does not need an advanced education to get the idea across and implement it. Keep surgical equipment clean, quarantine sick people, doctors need to wash up between seeing patients, and you're done. 2)...


20

There are currently cases of archaeological findings (which were created by humans on earth hundreds or thousands of years ago) that we currently cannot reproduce (some of those are not very credible, others are). We can scan the artifacts, screen them with X-rays and put them under the best microscopes, but the knowledge how these artifacts were created is ...


19

The number of letters merely indicates the cultural representation of phonemes. Phonemes tell a bit about what sounds can be made, and which of those sounds a listener might find important. But those say nothing about the concepts transmitted by groups of phonemes that we call words, nor the grammar, conjugations, and other shaping tools that provide ...


18

Rapid evolution in a harsh climate and environment They'd have to reach maturity quite early on, and assuming their cognitive abilities are similar to humans (same learning speed, same memory on average), most of those who can specialize in one domain will die long before they can sufficiently advance on that. Let's say maturity is reached at age 5 (...


18

It's a game. Welcome to most glorious event of the year! As you all know, each year we pick a planet and select an area of specimen to defeat. This year we've chosen a fun classic planet near Sol, which they've named 'Earth'. These creatures are about our height and have a weird pale uniform color. They fight using physical energy. They have long metal ...


17

Let me be blunt A microscopic LED is entirely believable. I'd ignore all the explanations of why or why not and roll with the idea. Now the answer LEDs are diodes that emit light when they're in their operational state. Fundamentally, when you ignore the mechanics of miniturization (fabrication), your limitations are three-fold. First, even at magical ...


15

Yes, it's possible to have LED displays with microscopic pixels. 3.74 μm qualifies as microscopic, I think. The JD4704 is currently the world’s first 0.7”, color sequential, 4K2K LCoS microdisplay comprised of over 10 million of the world’s smallest all-digital pixels, with a 3.74 x 3.74 μm pixel size. Order them from this company: https://www....


15

Unpredictability Failing predictably(and iterating from failure) is key to scientific pursuits. If you don't wish for your magic system to be science'd out, you should take away the "predictable" part. Thus, your wish-granting god should uphold a set of loose ethical guidelines rather than rigid rules that people would try and game. For example, if someone ...


15

I think the best way to look at this is by seeing how long it took China to catch up to the USA's technology. 20-30 years ago, the average level of technology in China was 50-100 years outdated by Western Standards, now they have pretty comparable technologies in most areas of life; so, if you are beginning your narrative from any time period before 2000, ...


15

To power nuclear fusion, you need hydrogen. The overwhelmingly largest hydrogen reservoir in any solar system, and conveniently an already working fusion reactor is its star. In other words, there is far more energy to collect from a star than you could ever hope to generate in reactors.


15

You give your own answer! When that size variation was a problem, they could standardize, somewhat, by using the body part of a ruler/monarch/lord/etc. instead of just some random individual. There is some historic individual who has made a big impression on all of these involved races. Measurements reference body parts and famous exploits of this ...


14

A society so full of magic would have several huge bottle necks with their technological progress. Because science is often a matter of incremental improvements, if you can outperform the first several steps toward discovering something with magic, then getting to step #8 where science actually starts to pay-off would be really unlikely. For Example: If ...


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