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Thread: Fiction writer with mineral / human development question

  1. #1 Fiction writer with mineral / human development question 
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    I'm writing a book and I need to know if the absence of Iron, copper, or other minerals would hold the human civilization back in terms of industry, weapons, machinery and electricity.

    What I have in mind is more of a fantastical setting, where humans are far more spread out over a much larger planet, if you will. I need for hundreds, maybe thousands of years to go by without the "ability" for mankind to be able to make so much as a light bulb.

    The thing is, humans are persistant and resourceful and can make just about anything work given enough thought and enginuity. So, I'm wondering how effective the lack of certain minerals would be in keeping humans from being able to harness electricity and build machines or any of that, given such a length of existence.


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  3. #2 Re: Fiction writer with mineral / human development question 
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    Quote Originally Posted by walrusman
    I'm writing a book and I need to know if the absence of Iron, copper, or other minerals would hold the human civilization back in terms of industry, weapons, machinery and electricity.
    As far as our current civilisation is concerned, yes we would be dis-advantaged if you removed these metals. However, if these minerals we absent during the development of our civilisation then substitues and alternate technologies might have been found and developed. Also consider that our economy and polital environment would be radically altered. Copper might be considered a precious metal if it was in really low abundance and whoever owned the resource would probably be quite wealthy. Consider the current global environment regarding oil, gold etc.

    Perhaps they would be significantly more advanced... who knows?


    ~TaO!
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    Walrus,
    The extensive use of minerals was a late development for the human civilization. Stone, plants and animals provided the most useful tools for the development of our early civilization.
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    Interesting project! Would be cool to see it when it's done :wink:

    What if horses would have evolved differently, to become unusable animals? That would've been a severe blow to human civilization.

    About copper, I think it's not the only good conductor for electricity. Gold could be an alternative :wink: But yea, if we had no copper it would probably be more difficult to make electricity available to the masses. Would be something of a luxury (unless gold or another conductor becomes relatively abundant).

    And iron, well do we have alternatives for that? Something simple as a doornail would allready be difficult to make (and more costly), and how about cannons? I even doubt we could've made steam engines without iron/steel, can't think of any other material that's strong and heat-resistant enough.
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    Thanks Pendragon, I'd be happy to give you a free copy if it ever gets that far. :wink:

    Well, I've received some interesting answers from other posts as well and have a follow up question....

    Ok, so for 200,000 years or more we, humans, remained wood, bone, rock specialists with not much advancement in technology over that time before we somehow discovered iron and copper and leaped into the future.

    Have I got that right?

    Ok, so my question is...did we stay idle for 200,000 years because of our lack of intelligence and inquisitive nature necessary for the discovery of such minerals? Or...?
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by walrusman
    Ok, so for 200,000 years or more we, humans, remained wood, bone, rock specialists with not much advancement in technology over that time before we somehow discovered iron and copper and leaped into the future.
    Well, not completely There have been many revolutions before the industrial one. Agriculture has been changed enormously by windmills, canals and reliable roads (all of them possible without copper and iron). Besides such practical matters we had many institutional innovations: the centralised state, bureaucracy, the corporation, organised science. But many of those may have been triggered by industrialisation and modern weaponry (it's hard to maintain a large centralised state without gunpowder technology). Everything is interdependent, so yes interesting project indeed :wink:
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  8. #7  
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    not only gold can be used as a conductor, also ionised water, some polymers, and loads of other metals... though gold is one of the best..

    the biggest invention of all, is FIRE. without that we'r doomed
    Growing up, i marveled at star-trek's science, and ignored the perfect society. Now, i try to ignore their science, and marvel at the society.

    Imagine, being able to create matter out of thin air, and not coming up with using drones for boarding hostile ships. Or using drones to defend your own ship. Heck, using drones to block energy attacks, counterattack or for surveillance. Unless, of course, they are nano-machines in your blood, which is a billion times more complex..
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