Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Dies the Fire

I picked up a book called "Dies the Fire" by S.M. Sterling.

I'm not very far into it, but it's well written and interesting.

The book starts with "the Change." All of a sudden, modern technology stops working. Explosives don't explode, electrical conductors don't conduct, that sort of thing.

Don't overthink it. I did. I still am.

As a plot device, the Change serves to reduce people to their most basic natures. What would you do if civilization effectively vanished, and you had to find a way to survive? Start a farming community? Become a warlord?

The author seems to think that many people would revert to medieval attitudes, if not even more primitive ones. Seems like a pretty low opinion of humanity. I kind of agree.

But I am still stuck on the Change.

Is there still lightning? If so, then static charge and discharge still happens. Time to repeat the experiments of Franklin, Ohm, Faraday, etc. and work out the new laws of electricity. Biological electrochemical process still work just fine (otherwise there'd be no story). Electricity can't be gone, the rules have just changed.

The same goes for explosives. Nitroglycerin, nitrocellulose (smokeless powder) and presumably other nitric acid based explosives don't explode. They still combust, just at a much slower rate. Black powder hasn't been mentioned, but I suspect that it will also turn out to burn more slowly. I see experiment potential here. The ratio of carbon to sullfur to potassium nitrate determines black powder's efficiency as an explosive. So start by varying the ratio. Again, biological processes still work. So the rules of chemistry can't have changed too much.

Like I said: overthinking the story.


1 person has spouted off:

phil said...

You're, uh, overthinking the story there.

Though I would do the same. It's a good idea though. I also agree with the author's opinion of humanity.