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Comments on Thursday 14 October 2004:
If you were suddenly dropped into a low-tech society, let's say medieval England or worse, with only the clothes on your back, how well equipped would you be to set yourself up with a decent life? What would you do?

Many people's first thought in that situation would be "invent gunpowder". It's not a bad idea, but are you sure you could? Do you know what the ingredients are? Do you know what they were called in medieval England? Will you be able to get them or make them in medieval England? And having done so, what are you going to do with it? Gunpowder is pretty crummy for demolition, it's mostly good for launching projectiles, and you don't have a gun. Are you capable of making a rudimentary gun, or explaining to a blacksmith what to do? The original rudimentary guns had a habit of exploding because they were made from inferior metals. In medieval England, all you can get are inferior metals. Is your exploding gun actually going to be better than a crossbow or longbow? The only things that you can really do valuably with gunpowder, assuming you can make gunpowder, is make cannons, which are feasible with inferior metal if you can persuade someone to let you use that much, or impress people with your magical bright flashes and smoke. And are you sure you really know how to make and use cannons?

What else can you do with science that you have in your head? You might be able to make a rudimentary steam engine, if you had something worthwhile to do with it. Maybe use it for a powered battering-ram? Maybe you have enough science in your brain that you could use it to generate electricity - but what would you do with electricity? You could make magnets, I suppose, or separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. With collected hydrogen you could maybe make an extremely vulnerable oilskin zeppelin. Perhaps that would have some value. Assuming you can manage to finagle all the requisite materials.

After some thought, I came up with a much better answer for what I would do in medieval-world (which would also work in significantly lower-tech societies) - glass. I know how one makes glass. It only requires temperatures of around 1000°C, which are relatively feasible. The only ingredients you need are sand, lime and potash. Sand and lime are both readily available; decent potash requires a wee bit of chemistry (okay, I'm cheating slightly in that I didn't know this until I looked it up, but I do know it now). It's little more complicated than burning some wood and boiling some water. None of the ingredients are at all hard to come by.

But what good is glass? Well, for a start it's probably pretty valuable stuff in your low-tech society, so if you can find a buyer you're sorted without having to do anything else. But that's not where I want to be. No, my idea is that with my glass I can easily make mirrors. Once again, with a buyer for those I'd be made, but no, that's still not where I want to stop either. You see, once I have access to mirrors, I can make a solar furnace. The first use of a solar furnace is that I can now get those 1000°C temperatures without having to use any fuel. The even better use is that with a big solar furnace you can easily make temperatures higher than that - high enough that you can melt iron, and thence make steel, largely unavailable at that time because burning things didn't offer sufficient heat. There's also other related options, for example, a couple of thousand individually-aimed one-foot-square mirrors provides enough heat to crack stone or near-instantly ignite wood at a distance of 100 feet, for which I'm sure some military use could be found.

Once I've provided myself with glass, another thing I'm pretty sure I can make with my little flimsy bit of scientific knowledge is a distillery. Like the glass, that's an excellently dual-purpose item. Well, single-purpose - making extremely strong alcohol out of rudimentary materials. The alcohol, though, is dual-purpose - you can get people extremely drunk, for which ability people will likely pay handsomely, and you can (using the alcohol and the glass together) make Molotov cocktails, another lovely weapon with which to endear yourself to the monarch of your choice.

So, back to the original question - if you were suddenly dropped into a low-tech society with nothing but the clothes on your back and the knowledge in your head, what would you do? [20:31]

maxor
make bellow's also I know a fair amount about joining wood which would be useful. I also know how to seperate cude oil into kerosene which in midevil society would be extremely useful both for light heat and miliarily

Nightshade
First, I'd try to learn the language.
Bloody medieval "English"men didn't even speak English. (Not that most high school kids do nowadays, anyhow). But I think the language barrier would be the biggest problem at first. You'd have to learn Olde English (which is close to Friesien - a Dutch dialect) or Olde French (which is closer to modern French, but really not-so-very).
Hm. Or maybe just go south and learn Latin. That hasn't changed too much, as a language. Well, except for dying, and all.

RavenBlack
Mm, my plan on the linguistics was to gesticulate in a manner to indicate vow of silence or inability to speak, and possibly also deafness since I would mostly not understand what they're saying. That might make it tricky to set up for glass, so maybe one of those spiral-pump-thingies would be a better thing to construct first, to get a bit of starting "machine-builder" credit with the locals. I imagine not having to winch a bucket up and down the well would be fairly popular.

Khandi
Don't stop at the vow of silence, go all the way and dress like a monk. People will be less likely to call your fantastic inventions 'black magic'.
With science I have in my head I can make soap (solid and liquid) and thanks to my chemist brother I can make crude napalm as well. I'm sure the napalm would be more popular.

RavenBlack
But I can't dress as a monk because I've just suddenly been dropped there with only the clothes on my back. I can't get monk clothes without first having established myself some credibility in some way.

Anet
I like the still idea. I will immediately build one. If I were suddenly dropped into Medieval England I can predict the need for a stiff drink.

Nameless
develop steel and alloys of steel. Alloying and carbon levels. Start a distillery (using glass.)
Try not to get stoned for commiting ursary. Try really hard not to need a doctor. Invent toilet paper. invent wood-pulp paper. try to remember where the major gold rushes are. Avoid being caught in major military campaigns. Introduce arabic number system. invent nothing (ie zero)

Nameless
oh and introduce plumbing (start with clay tile) especially useful for creating water-empires.

RavenBlack
I would put money on your not being able to develop steel even if you had all the resources of the land at your disposal, let alone as a suspicious stranger with no money.

Digi
Discover, and own America.

Acid
I'm Still With Gunpowder (i mean If you now how to Make Lye You can refine saltpeter) and sulphur and charcoal are easy to get hold of, mix em up 6:1:1 and you got power, wet it to a paste you got meal powder (high Explosive) and who needs a gun you can invent the first european Hand Grenade And you Would'nt Even Need Metal Cos you could pack rocks in a clay pot . Oh And as An aside to the steel issue during the medival period steel tchnolog was already advancing rapidly.

Dageth
Rather than teach, I would learn. There is a surprising amount of knowledge we have lost and had to recreate (with modern brains) that it would be intereasting to know what they do. I would apprentice in blacksmithing, stone masonry, carpentry, and learn swordsmanship.

Clandestine
The simple fact of the matter here is if you wore a modern polyester blended shirt ... pants.. and other such "Modern" textiles you would worse off than being naked.. Besides you forget the simple fact that as a "Modern" human you have understanding of things far beyond the grasp of the people of that time. Like how to treat an injury or what to do if you are sick.

but my question to this blog is this.. where you gonna get the tools to do all this. A blacksmith's forge is a very complicated thing.. as well as the creation of most rudementry tools.
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