Steam power and analogies/metaphores, autos and so on

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Steam power and analogies/metaphores, autos and so on

Post by Zixinus on Tue Sep 23, 2014 10:00 am

So Eman asks how can Mansionlanders have autos but not know about pressure valves. I hereby propose the following explanations:


  1. They have steam engines but it isn't common knowledge. Learned people might have heard about it but it is still in its infancy as technology and thus have limited use. The technology is worked on by a specialist few as well as being guarded. Remember that it may potentially military applications so its engineers aren't talking to non-engineers much and thus things like pressure valves are a secret or obscure.  
  2. They do not know about steam or is still researched. Previously, autos and other machinery used solid-motors that are spun by magic. No pistons or anything required, or are used in certain small parts.
  3. Steam is known about and used but the metaphor of a pressure valve simply hasn't spread yet.
  4. Just to exhaust possible options: steam-engines is not known about or used.


Last edited by Zixinus on Fri Sep 26, 2014 3:09 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Steam power and analogies/metaphores, autos and so on

Post by Geoduck on Tue Sep 23, 2014 4:03 pm

This is another example of a subject which has not been that important to date in plot-terms, and so I freely admit I haven't given it huge amounts of thought. That said..

(SPOILERS)

1

2

3

It is sort of a mixture of 1, 2, and 3.
Before the Crash, like pretty much everything in the Human society, cars (and boats and airships) were electric and indeed powered by magic, which was tapped off laylines and re-broadcast. Trams were flung through the air along an invisible magical tube. In this strip, that's what all those black antennas are doing, including the one mounted on the car. Humanity did not come up with the basic concept on its own, but cribbed it/developed it from recovered Ettin records.

As for steam.. yes, learned Humans at least are aware that steam can be used as a power-source. Again, the Ettins definitely knew, and mentioned it in their records, but Human society lurched and stumbled its way straight to magic-use as it was so much more easy and efficient; it came pouring out of the Pole in a massive and apparently endless stream.

This might change if the plot calls for it, but right now, specifically.. the Weirdo does know about steam, but is used to dealing with a bunch of yokels who don't, and so uses the sluice-gate metaphor. Rosemary, having received a smattering of formal education (which is still more than a lot of people), is aware of the vague outlines of the technology; one or the other of Edwird's books at least mentioned it. Sylvester certainly knows, and has seen actual (if only experimental) steam-engines in operation at the University/Capital.

As for why more people aren't using it now.. Omega the Oracle may have been an extreme case, but following the Crash, distrust of (new) technology remains a common thread in Human society; only as the Crash survivors have aged and died off has there been a growing interest in and development of alternate technologies. In "Mansionland", the province of Wirtwam is leading this charge, with development of lots of water-powered industry along the banks of the major river which flows through the province. (In this strip, for example, Sylvester notes the Wirtwamites have (re)invented typewriters, but the devices have yet to reach Audravania.)

So, yes, some people in some places are fiddling more and more with steam engines. Unfortunately, along with anti-tech sentiment and, as noted by Zixinus, governmental secret-keeping, another big problem they face is that the Known World does not have vast amounts of coal or oil, limiting potential fuel sources. Still, before too much longer, some nation somewhere will at least be launching steam-powered warships...
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Re: Steam power and analogies/metaphores, autos and so on

Post by Zixinus on Wed Sep 24, 2014 1:43 pm

Noi oil or coal pretty much limits them to charcoal. That requires a lot of wood, especially as you need high heat to make charcoal. I have heard you can use excrement too but they may not have the technology base to turn that to fuel.

You can use wood and other fuel, sure, but they don't have as much energy-density. Lower energy dense fuel means less intense heat which means less powerful steam engines.

No wonder these guys are back to using sails and bows.

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Re: Steam power and analogies/metaphores, autos and so on

Post by whitehound on Thu Sep 25, 2014 2:15 am

You've also got to consider that their means of working metal would probably also have been partly magical. It's not jsut a matte rof making steam-engines, post-crash: they also have to work out how to smelt and work metal in industrial amounts without any magical assistance and will certainly have to substantially alter existing factories, or even rebuild them from scratch. It would be a while before they could produce any large steam-driven objects in industrial quantities and they might consider, at least initially, that it wasn't worth the effort.

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Re: Steam power and analogies/metaphores, autos and so on

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