Simple discoveries that would radically change ancient times or middle ages?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by SeaCambrian, Oct 5, 2018.

  1. SeaCambrian Well-Known Member

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    What are some simple scientific or technological discoveries that, if they were invented in ancient times or middle ages, would have led to drastic changes?
     
  2. Albert.Nik Transhumanist,Aspiring Metaphysicist Banned

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    Steam Engine, Geothermal energy, Hydroelectric power are the three I can think of instantly.
     
  3. Mr_Fanboy Well-Known Member

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    Hygiene?
     
  4. Albert.Nik Transhumanist,Aspiring Metaphysicist Banned

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    Yes,sure. But Hygiene wouldn't need energy to maintain?
     
  5. ennobee Well-Known Member

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    I am kind-of on the edge about air travel. On the one hand, a hot air balloon is so simple that any medieval army should have their observation balloons to scout out the enemy's movement. The same goes for gliders. just the realisation that an aircraft can do without flapping wings as long as it has a tail for stability is so deceptively simple that one wonders why people only found out about it in the 1850's. Surely someone like Leonardo Da Vinci could have found out in 1500 already. Surely some ancient Greek or Egyptian could have built the first model glider way before there was a Parthenon to launch it from.

    Then again, both gliders and balloons require massive amounts of extremely light woven fabric. And with medieval fabric production still literally being a cottage industry, even a simple balloon would probably only be in reach of a wealthy royal court, not something one would see in an army train or on a battle ship.
     
  6. Philip One L only

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    Germ theory
     
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  7. FillyofDelphi Banned

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    In terms of something that could be practically discovered and implemented, pasteurized is a good bet. Increasing the shelf life if your food and drinks would be helpful in improving the health of sailors and practical range of voyages, reducing the expenses of shipping (the best way to do bulk transport). Increased trade, better economics, all produces a virtuous cycle that speeds up developments elsewhere
     
  8. Xenophonte Quod natura non dat, Salmantica non præstat.

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    The Compass, the Printing press, the gunpowder and perhaps some kind of multi-spindle spinning frame (as the spinning jenny).
     
  9. CtrlAltHistory bleeding heart

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    earlier crop rotation is another cool idea
     
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  10. Krishna123 Well-Known Member

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    Uses of and production of Fertiliser, coking process, the frigate/clipper ship designs
     
  11. LSCatilina Vassican Labosiotos Vergagnatos

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    You had a form of crop rotation, bi-annual, practiced in Roman agriculture and that remained in place roughly until the agricultural revolution of the XVIIIth-XIXth centuries in southern Europe (in its larger sense). As with other medieval agricultural devellopment (such as the heavy plough), it really had an impact (and a really important one) in Northern Europe.

    Keeping in mind the idea of simple discoveries, devellopment of wheelbarrow in Antiquity (Roman or pre-Roman) would be a very important devellopment in not only agriculture but as well all kind of important works.

    Similarily, the devellopment of an early railway in Antiquity could have long lasting impact; altough I don't expect having iron railway appearing first but on the model of the diolkos of Corinth, either in limestone or wood.

    Eventually, and I'm surprised nobody mentioned it already : you could have a Roman use of trip hammer, or if we consider they did used it, a much larger use than IOTL. We're talking important structural advance in mining and mettalurgy there.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2018
  12. Mr.Wigglemunch Well-Known Member

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    Penicillin/willow bark.

    If the Romans embraced some ship designs used by some Gauls/Britons which were more or less proto Cogs.
     
  13. Albert.Nik Transhumanist,Aspiring Metaphysicist Banned

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    Did nobody think about rational philosophy? It would have helped them immensely and would have unlocked a lot of Science and given them immense capabilities when the population of the World was still low. 99% of the people in the Mediaeval ages were fundamentalists.
     
  14. LSCatilina Vassican Labosiotos Vergagnatos

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  15. clem attlee Well-Known Member

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    What would you call Greek philosophy but rational.
     
  16. clem attlee Well-Known Member

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    You beat me to it. Even just boiling water and daily washing would do wonders.
     
  17. Albert.Nik Transhumanist,Aspiring Metaphysicist Banned

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    Yes. Just revive that.
     
  18. Mr.Wigglemunch Well-Known Member

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    I was thinking of the ships of the Veneti and such which were far more acclimatised to Atlantic waters. I'll have to give your link a thorough read.
     
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  19. clem attlee Well-Known Member

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    You might want to read The Greeks and the Irrational by E.R. Dodds. It wasn't all roses and wine. Also, everyone was fundamentalist religiously until Darwin, never mind the Middle Ages. But remember that it was usually quite casual, not like the concentrated, angry reactions against modernity and social liberalism that make so many of us antipathetic to fundamentalism. But then it didn't need a siege mentality.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2018
  20. Pkmatrix Godzilla Fanboy Monthly Donor

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    The Steam Engine seems like an obvious one, as the principles and the basic idea were known going back to Rome.

    Another, though less obvious, one is Photography. Cameras were invented WAY before Photographs, and it's not unbelievable that a Medieval monk or alchemist could become interested in silver salts' ability to darken in light (something known going back to like the 1200s, I think) and follow the same path that led to the discovery of the silver chloride/ammonia combination that led to the first photographs in the early 1800s.