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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 need to heat milk with acid until the casein turns into polymers, then dry it. This is a chemistry experiment working with polymers. Polymers are molecules ...


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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 many parts,” and polymers are made of long chains of molecules. Polymers abound in nature. Cellulose, the material that makes up the cell walls of plants, is a ...


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For power purposes, @MolbOrg's comment hits on it -- you can compensate for lower conductivity by just imagining very thick conductors. This isn't as bad as it sounds since the 'material' of the conductor is just the seawater you're living in (so no cost). The cost would be the insulator around the seawater. You can imagine that within buildings there are ...


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Sea water is already a pretty good conductor -- good enough that you need to keep it out of even low voltage electrical equipment to prevent shorting out. The linked article suggests that the lowest the conductivity gets is about 3 S/m (3 Seimens is 1/3 ohm). That level of conductivity is a little low for high current, but you won't improve it much by ...


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Either the Mongol Invasion is stopped before it gets off the ground, or it's taken a much more serious toll by the time it reaches Baghdad. Without this major disruptive event, the Islamic Golden Age could continue and the unification of knowledge into a single lingua franca (though you'd no longer call it that), could spark it as early as the 11th century. ...


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Very unsophisticated Without the ability of the common people to track financial transactions, a society cannot progress beyond simple barter. Without numeracy it is impossible to even tax the peasants effectively - if they cannot record how much they have produced, how can they provide 1/10 or 1/5 of their output to their local lord? Even if the scribe ...


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To a certain degree, our society is like this. Have you ever tried reading academic papers in an area you are not familiar with? They may be written in your native language (or the language you are fluent in) but despite that, you will have a very hard time understanding them. The reason is field-specific terminology and patterns of presentation. In our ...


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In the past Actually this describes many ancient civilizations. Obviously the early middle ages but there are many other examples like the magi in ancient Babylon. Size matters Could a state advance and still keep this system possible depends on how large there priest/education class is a modern society requires a lot of highly educated specialists. So it ...


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A Cult or Administrative Group Can Not Completely Suppress Literacy While the early-to-high medieval period saw a lot less technological advancement than you saw in the classical period, they also did not really see a whole lot of technological regression either. Some knowledge was suppressed or lost while other knowledge was gained. The thing is that even ...


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Little chance it will be viable Sophistication in terms of technical achievements: probably not, unless there is a stack of hidden knowledge in the religious books, that can be explored. Slowly. In general, religions don't provide methods to approach exploration. Development and new knowledge are really needed for engineering. In a cultural sense, little ...


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Well, if you have read Eco's "The name of the rose", the Abbey had precisely that role: copying the knowledge and trying to prevent unworthy eyes from reading it, where the worthy eyes were only those fully indoctrinated. On a more realistic side, for centuries even the simple knowledge passed along the religious books of the Catholic religion was ...


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Keep Rome Alive Speculate that Rome never fell, and you still have that caste of people who are both obscenely rich and obsessed with some field of science, be it chemistry, physics, mathematics, or just writing an encyclopedia. More importantly, that caste could draw the wealth of a much larger area than what was possible in medieval times, financing much ...


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Plague. Better termed an epidemic or pandemic. Bubonic plague was the reason the industrial revolution happened in Europe but not in Africa and the Americas. The Black Plague did affect Asia, so I'm not sure how that compares with Europe. Gunpowder was known but firearms were much inferior weapons to archery. When there is plenty of labor, scribes provide ...


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Move the Renaissance Forward The Roman Empire already had elements of the industrial revolution when it fell. It had water powered mills that could automate the mass production of flour, it had corporations that used production lines to increase productivity, they had mechanical clocks, they had cranes for lifting bulk loads cargo, and all sorts of other ...


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Branko Milanovic has blogged about why the industrial revolution didn't happen in Byzantium; the short answer is that, like most of the states in the High Middle Ages, it's feudal economic order wasn't exactly conducive to development. If you want to tell a story that's got some academic backing, maybe you could say the Venetians or Portuguese "discover&...


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Let's face it, the Industrial Revolution, like all great moments in history, was honking complex. Deconstructing it and then trying to reconstruct all those myriads of threads is unreasonable! Let's instead look at two of the pivotal discoveries that changed the world and see what can be done with them. Gunpowder China is believed to have invented it about A....


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There is another aspect to this. The Protestant Reformation broke the monopoly on "truth". Throughout the 1200-1500's, the Roman church tied political control to its control of "truth". Gutenberg enabled the Reformation by breaking the monopoly on books. The combination was a political challenge to the Holy Roman Empire (which is why ...


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