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Author: Subject: Is there a book describing how to obtain modern technologies from scratch?
XZVTTwNtpeu9swCk
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[*] posted on 23-6-2011 at 22:31
Is there a book describing how to obtain modern technologies from scratch?


Nowadays, industrialised humans use the products of prior inventions to easily implement modern technologies. My question is, is there a book that describes how to create all the modern technologies from scratch, starting out with nothing but bare hands as tools.

What I'm looking for is something that captures all the scientific advances of modern day and explains how to achieve them from nothing; something that analyses the relationship between different technologies, the minimum necessary resources, labour, time, etc. While one could simply follow the historical path, this book would instead optimise this path.

For example, given the goal of a computer, we'd analyse the components (chips, data storage units, case, fans, etc.), see what processes are involved in making them, and optimise the path to being able to replicate those processes given our specific goal of a computer. This book, however, would consider not just the case of the computer, but all of the modern technologies (building a house, building a nuclear reactor, making a plasma screen, making a kevlar suit), would analyse their interrelationships and discuss how the most desirable pathway may be produced in general, or towards a specific product. Furthermore, it would consider how available resources (how many workers, what tools are available) affect time requirements and other factors.
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Intergalactic_Captain
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[*] posted on 24-6-2011 at 00:37


Are you looking to write such a book, or to purchase it? If it's the latter, I can think of only two reasonable paths;

1 - Build a time machine, travel to a future where the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is available, and bring it back.

2 - Find an old COMPLETE Encyclopedia America or Brittanica set. When I was 14 or so, my high school library was in the process of replacing some outdated stuff and I was able to take home the complete 1954 Encyclopedia Americana set for free - End to end, it's about 9 linear feet of the knowledge of the day. A bit outdated, but between that, a few Merck indexes, a couple of CRC manuals, and a shitload of other books, I can generally pull up more and better information on any given subject faster than I can via the internet...

One unreasonable example, one completely possible - The key to a good book collection is just to keep adding to it. Mine is a bit ecclectic and random, but whenever I find something that I think I might use some day, I pick it up - Used books are a dime a dozen and you'd be amazed how much society has simply forgot.




If you see me running, try to keep up.
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Neil
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[*] posted on 25-6-2011 at 17:42



To make an apple pie from scratch...

You could lay down possible routes from no tools to present day but the data on the actual routes does not exist for the most important and basic technologies such as language, religion, thought, agriculture...

If you try to lay down all the technology that went into any one item you have at your disposal, you'd spend a life time writing it all down.

Intergalactic_Captain has it right.
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franklyn
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[*] posted on 26-6-2011 at 18:19


The only one which comes to mind is the companion text to the television series "Connections".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connections_(TV_series)
Practical how to rather than history is not to be found in one place and is scattered about by topic. Arts
and crafts books tell about pottery , weaving , rope making , soap making , and so on. Chemistry is well
covered in 19th century texts, in greater detail than later publications. There is also a book I believe called
" Caveman Chemistry " dealing with improvisational methods. A television series traces the development
of the science of chemistry http://www.sciencemadness.org/talk/viewthread.php?tid=13916#...
Some books are available that deal with technology say of mines such as De Re Metallica by Georg Bauer
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_re_metallica
There is this publisher of lapsed copyright out of print technical books http://www.lindsaybks.com
Technology devleloped after 1950 or so, is the province of operations research and a complex interplay
of industrial engineering that is not self inclusive and dependent on much that is produced or practiced
apart. For example manufacturing depends so much on machine tooling that makes it possible for those
products to be made at all.

Having written on innovation and the progress of technology since antiquity , I can cite for you the result
of my library meta research ( before the internet ) the following sources _

A History of Technology Vol II edited by
Charles Singer, E.J.Holmyard, A.R. Hall, Trevor I. Williams

Technical Arts and Sciences of the Ancients
AlbertNeuburger - Translated by Henry L. Brose

Greek and Roman Technology
K.D. White

Engineering in the Ancient World
J.G. Landels

Islamic Technology
Almad T.al-Hassan, Donald R. Hill

A History of Engineering in Classical and Medieval Times
Donald Hill

The Medieval machine
Jean Gimpel

Connections
James Burke

The Ascent of Man
Jacob Bronowski

Perpetual Motion
Arthur W.J.G. Ord- Hume

How to Build a Flying Saucer
T.B. Pawlicki

A History of World Societies 2nd Edition
John P. McKay, Bennett D. Hill, John Buckler

The Chemistry of Powder and Explosives
Tenney L. Davis

De Re Metallica
(Agricola) Georg Bauer, Translated by Herbert Hoover

A History of Western Technology
Friedrich Klem, Translated by Dorothea Singer

Technology in Western Civilization Vol I
M. Krantzberg, Carroll W. Pursell Jr.

Medieval Technology and Social Change
Lynn T. White

A Short History of Technology
T.K. Derry, Trevor I. Williams

A Short History of Technology
Harold Gardiner Bowen, Charles F. Kettering

Scientific Technology and Social Change
Gene I. Rochlin

History of American Technology
John Williams Oliver

A History of Technology and Invention Vol II
Maurice Daumas, Translated by Eileen Hennessey

Mechanical Engineering in the Medieval Near East
Donald R. Hill , Scientific American May 1991

A history of Mechanical Inventions
Abbot Payson Usher

French Inventions of the Eighteenth Century
Shelby Thomas McCloy

The Progress of Invention in the 19th Century
Edward W. Byrn

Great Inventors and their Inventions
Frank P. Bachman Ph.D.

Works of Man
Ronals William Clark

Nuts and Bolts of the Past
David Freeman Hawke

The BP Book of Industrial Archaeology
Neil Cossons

The Maze of Ingenuity
Arnold Pacey

Backgrounds of Power
Roger Burlingame

Industrial Evolution
Norman S.B. Gras

Highlights of American Mass production
Roy T. Bramson

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watson.fawkes
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[*] posted on 27-6-2011 at 08:43


Quote: Originally posted by XZVTTwNtpeu9swCk  
What I'm looking for is something that captures all the scientific advances of modern day and explains how to achieve them from nothing; something that analyses the relationship between different technologies, the minimum necessary resources, labour, time, etc. While one could simply follow the historical path, this book would instead optimise this path.
You couldn't possibly follow the historical path anyway. The big inflection in technology starts with metal and mining, and that started with the low-hanging fruit of mining: surface and river deposits. That's all long, long gone. So you've got a rather under-specified problem, which what starting assets you've got, both in terms of existing reusable capital (some non-zero amount, I presume) as well as the state of natural resources available. I can also say that there's some not-insignificant minimum population needed to support exploration for mineral resources, because they're not exactly evenly spread out.
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Neil
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[*] posted on 27-6-2011 at 12:01


You can get iron in many places with flowing water. Then you can spend the next year trying to get a decent bloom out of it... in a life time you may even be able to take it from ore through to a usefull shovel.


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[*] posted on 27-6-2011 at 12:01


And of course there is the interesting correlation between the reactivity of the metal and the date of discovery.



I can sell the following:
1) Various high purity non-ferrous metals - Ni, Co, Ta, Zr, Mo, Ti, Nb.
2) Alkex para-aramid Korean Kevlar analogue fabric (about 50% Du Pont's prices)
3) NdFeB magnets
4) High purity technical ceramics
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franklyn
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[*] posted on 28-6-2011 at 06:57


Quote: Originally posted by Neil  
You can get iron in many places with flowing water. Then you can spend the next year trying to get a decent bloom out of it...
in a life time you may even be able to take it from ore through to a usefull shovel.

I recall a National Geographic short movie which showed traditional native african
men smelting brown iron rich ore in an improvised charcoal hearth no bigger than
a campfire using only hand agitated bellows and then hand forge the iron into a
spear point after a few hours of effort. The earliest factories were called " mills "
because their original function prior to industrialization was for processing grain
into flour, and were situated along rivers to be powered by water wheels.
Mechanization then was principally dedicated to textile production.

.
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Gearhead_Shem_Tov
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[*] posted on 28-6-2011 at 22:55


Quote: Originally posted by XZVTTwNtpeu9swCk  
Nowadays, industrialised humans use the products of prior inventions to easily implement modern technologies. My question is, is there a book that describes how to create all the modern technologies from scratch, starting out with nothing but bare hands as tools. ... While one could simply follow the historical path, this book would instead optimise this path. ... This book ... would consider ... all of the modern technologies (building a house, building a nuclear reactor, making a plasma screen, making a kevlar suit), would analyse their interrelationships and discuss how the most desirable pathway may be produced in general, or towards a specific product. Furthermore, it would consider how available resources (how many workers, what tools are available) affect time requirements and other factors.


This is a tall, TALL order. I think you ought to break it down into more manageable scenario chunks, depending on what your goals are. Assuming you have sufficient food, shelter, clothing and access to a good library, these chunks fall out roughly as follows:

If this is purely an academic exercise -- say, you're doing a thesis comparing technological development paths and you're not actually going to make anything -- then you would probably take a primarily historical approach, as exemplified by Burke's Connections (book and TV series). Then your job would be to put together a reading list and read the lot, making notes on dead-ends and shortcuts. Even still, to make this a project lasting less than decades you would still need to limit your scope a bit. Try "Make an efficient DC electric motor" for example; that would cover all the tool-making (many, many layers of tools to make the tools), metallurgy, mineral exploration, mining & refining, chemistry & electrochemistry (you need a battery to power the motor), etc. It would be a very long thesis, and it would take you many years to do it up right.

In fact, you'd need to pare it down much more if you were actually going to make something: "Make an electromagnet" might just be doable in a year or two if you start with nothing but your bare hands, a pile of books, and an exceptionally rich bit of land on which to fossick for the animals, minerals, and vegetables you'd need to pull it off. The minimum you'd need to make the device itself would be smeltible iron and copper ores (along with coal or charcoal to smelt them), but you'd also need ways to dig the ores where they are and carry them where you need them to be, so reckon on learning how to weave baskets and shape digging implements from wood, bone, or antler (probably the best choice). Unless you could chance upon a freshly killed deer, you'd have to learn to hunt large game to get that antler, so now we're talking stone knapping to make the projectile points, scrapers, knives, etc. you need to process the kill. You'll also find it advantageous to learn to make cordage, from both animal and plant sources, especially should your scratchings in the earth go deeper than a metre or so.

Once you've got your ores and fuel you'll need clay to make a tube furnace (animal skin will come in handy for making bellows). Your first few smeltings will be quite disappointing, even if you do everything according to the book. It takes experience to take iron-bearing ore through to a workable bloom, and you might want to recruit a few mates to hammer at the bloom while you hold it with tongs on the anvil.

What? Oh, right, no hammers, no anvil, no tongs. So, you'll just have to use green sticks for tongs, hard river cobbles for hammers, and a bigger rock for an anvil. Be very, very sure your hammer cobbles and anvil stone are all bone dry before you try this. Roasting them in a sheltered, very low fire for a week or two ought to do it; while you're at it, roast your copper ore to help get rid of the unwanted stone. Eventually you'll get iron enough for all the blacksmithing paraphernalia you'll need.

Oh, but wait, now you must find more stuff to make a battery; put potassium nitrate, lead, and sulfur on your foraging list so you can make some sulfuric acid using the lead chamber process. Sulfuric acid is so useful for so many other things that it really should be a whole chunk on its own ("Make 1 litre of 98% H2SO4"...). Next you might want antimony, tin, zinc ...

If this were about actually getting through the whole project in a year, you would likely want to take a few significant shortcuts. First of all, you'll buy in your mineral ores. Go ahead and learn to hunt, knap stone, and make cordage to prove to yourself you could do it, and maybe join a local geology club to get some prospecting under your belt, but concentrate on the metallurgy and tool making -- they are quite challenging enough (hint: making a good metal file by hand is no trivial task; until you have files you'll be forced to use chisels and abrasives for all of your "precision" metal removal).

But there is another approach if this isn't an academic problem and you actually do want to go from bare hands to high tech within one lifetime. In any real-life situation in any populous area of the planet you'll stumble upon an amazing resource, especially in the more "advanced" countries: rubbish. We don't have the low-hanging fruit of easy-to-mine ores that our ancestors enjoyed, but we do have lots and lots of rubbish, much of it very much higher quality "ore" than anything the ancients had to hand.

Rather than prospecting for iron ore, look for rusty nails, steel rebar, broken garden tools and the like. Leaf and coil springs from cars and trucks are good sources of high-carbon tool steel, but rebar will work for many things. While you're wandering around be on the lookout for lumps of steel that could serve as hammers and anvils. Heck, you might even find the odd hammer head lying on the road (I found one thirty years ago; I put a new handle on it, and I'm still using it to this day).

What's more, you'll find things the ancient toolmakers couldn't even dream of: aluminium, glass, plastics, tin cans, screws, bolts, high-strength wire rope, magnets, and countless electronic gadgets. Shucks, folks even throw out perfectly good motors.

If your object is to start with bare hands and book knowledge and in two or three years end up with a lab full of equipment and chemicals or a shop full of tools and artefacts you've thereby made, then the rubbish-as-feedstock is really the only sensible way to go. You'll find books by Dave Gingery at Lindsay Books that will speed you on your way. In fact, I suspect you could duplicate most of industrial civilisation present at the turn of the 20th century with nothing more than books available from Lindsay Books (and the help of folks on this forum, too, of course).

-Bobby
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XZVTTwNtpeu9swCk
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[*] posted on 2-7-2011 at 02:07


Thank you everyone for your replies. You have indeed clued me on to some valuable resources that would be helpful in such an analysis. Regarding the academic/practical goal separation, this book (in my mind) didn't have one. It would consider the interdependencies, and offer council to whomever chose to read it, be it a caveman or a modern person with access to rubbish.
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franklyn
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[*] posted on 18-8-2011 at 11:22


Here for download is a paper I had written on this subject .
http://ifile.it/8eof1z7

It is a pdf file inside of a password protected zip file.
First change the extension - .ize - to .zip

Then when prompted by your zip file utility
copy & paste this password => SciMad

It can be saved that way without need for the password.

.
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Neil
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[*] posted on 19-8-2011 at 11:19


Quote: Originally posted by franklyn  
Quote: Originally posted by Neil  
You can get iron in many places with flowing water. Then you can spend the next year trying to get a decent bloom out of it...
in a life time you may even be able to take it from ore through to a usefull shovel.

I recall a National Geographic short movie which showed traditional native african
men smelting brown iron rich ore in an improvised charcoal hearth no bigger than
a campfire using only hand agitated bellows and then hand forge the iron into a
spear point after a few hours of effort. ...
.



There are some lucky people who have held onto the old knowledge, but trying to re-create it from scratch... :o
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Random
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[*] posted on 13-3-2015 at 14:41


Hard to do because skills necessary for this have been passed generation to generation and thjs is currwntly the result of natural selection which means today tehnology is the best of what it has been. Try to learn how to do something and youll see how much skill some things need. Not just knowledge
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[*] posted on 13-3-2015 at 15:28


Skill IS knowledge. You gotta know what to do and how to do it.

Recreating basic technology is a fascinating topic, it really makes you value those little details. There are historians working on this, gathering knowledge of the earlier ways. Combining their finding with modern theory could be fun indeed. Basically you have to decode the old, experimental methods and analyze them to find the operating conditions. That will require intimate knowledge of both, so start reading ;)




We're not banging rocks together here. We know how to put a man back together.
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[*] posted on 13-3-2015 at 20:03


Caveman Chemistry might be one start.

Here's another:

http://preview.tinyurl.com/o2457wc
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[*] posted on 14-3-2015 at 21:40


Quote: Originally posted by Gearhead_Shem_Tov  
Caveman Chemistry might be one start.

Here's another:

http://preview.tinyurl.com/o2457wc


The tinyurl is for Lewis Dartnell's The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch
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[*] posted on 15-3-2015 at 07:52


Dartnell's book looks interesting, I'll have to get a look at it.

The origins of technology have always interested me - I have a degree in history and took a special interest in the history of technology I have a whole shelf of books on the subject.

Under any scenario where humans on Earth had to rebuild technological civilization that does not involve magic the rebuilding path would be nothing like the historical one.

The vast amount of knowledge about science and technology is not going to disappear from the face of the Earth, and neither are all of the mountains of finished materials which modern civilization is based on.

I would suppose the scenarios would involve global thermonuclear war, a devastating plague (watch the well-made movie and unfortunately plausible movie Contagion), a comet strike (we are already able to track all potential civilization ending impactors in the near earth region), or a super-eruption on Earth. I think the plague and the comet are the most serious risks right now of this magnitude, though the persisting huge US and Russian nuclear arsenals still provide a path to disaster. The knock effects of disruption in food supplies in a world-wide disaster could rapidly reduce the world population by a large factor.

For example no one needs to mine iron or copper ore. The amount of iron metal above ground is in the tens of billions of tons. Instead cupola furnaces to remelt the metal is all that will be needed, though the fuel might need to be wood for awhile.

Similarly there are about as many electrical generators lying around as there are cars. Electricity in small amounts can be obtained by repurposing them with windmills or water wheels (or slaves turning wheels?) or by running existing internal combustion engines on alcohol or other biofuels (coal is still accessible too and can be gasified). Also I expect that some people will succeed in keeping existing oil field equipment running, extracting oil for quite some time. It will look a bit like Mad Max I expect.

Also the immense number of people all over the globe means that it is very unlikely everyone would regress to a pre-Industrial Revolution level, even if many do. All it takes is one pocket to act as a nucleus for a Re-Industrialization Revolution.
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