Sunday, September 8, 2013

An Intro to Lowell Was Right!

I posted parts of this summation before, back in January, but Lowell Was Right! was just getting started back then, and there was less interest. Lowell Was Right! is not steampunk. Ether in the game is science, not Science!. It is set in the present day, just a very strange and different present day.

The original idea for this game came from the fact that what we think of as "Pulp" science fiction of the early 20th Century was based on fairly hard science concepts, concepts the SF authors of the day learned in school, but those concepts were utterly changed before the "Pulp" SF was written.

This game is based on a “What If?” question. “What if the science of the 1880s was basically correct? What kind of world would we live in now?” The name refers to the astronomer Percival Lowell, who reported seeing canals on Mars through his telescope.

Between the 1880s and 1920, the scientific world underwent an astonishing revolution in thought. The basic assumptions of science in the 1880s were entirely replaced by new basic assumptions by 1920, in all the big fields.

If those original assumptions were basically correct, how would things have developed? In developing this game, we took off the board any scientific discoveries made after 1880, unless they could easily be explained - and not contradicted - by those old assumptions.

My co-writer, Albert Bailey, and I spent two years researching the state of science in 1880 before writing a single sentence of this game.

The Science behind Lowell Was Right!

Here's a summation of Scientific thought current in approximately 1880, which is developed further in Lowell Was Right!, which is set in the second decade of the 21st century:

Astronomical Theory: We assume a Nebular theory for the solar system, with a solar system that is only a few tens of thousands of years old. Gravitational collapse is the source of the sun's heat; and the planets are created sequentially, the outer planets being older than the inner planets. Geothermic heat is also caused by planetary gravitational collapse.

As the sun contracted, it threw off planets. Thus the further out the planet, the older it is. As the sun collapsed, it shrank, cooling the outer planets. The newer, inner planets developed later, and became suitable for life in their turn.

Panspermia Theory: Life is spread everywhere by meteors and comets - this theory is called Panspermia, and is a very old theory which has never been disproved - and thus life would develop on each planet or moon large enough to hold an atmosphere, with a similar but different taxonomy. As the inner planets developed, life developed there, each world’s life forms peaking in turn as they developed.

Intelligent life developed in the outer system before the inner system, and gradually died out as those worlds cooled to ice.

Atomic Theory:  Basically, a unified Atom with no sub-atomic particles, which is essentially a knot in the ether. Basically Avogadro's view supplemented by evolved Etheric theory. There is no atomic radiation. Atoms are indivisible, but may be transmuted by Etheric reknotting. Transuranic elements are stable, and can be found in nature - though extremely rare - or created in Ether Vortex Reactors.

Biological Theory: Inheritance is a combination of Lamarkian and Mendelian genetics, with the addition of Vital Force. This means
some acquired characteristics may be inherited - but DNA does not exist. Typical inheritance follows Mendelian form. Vitalism (along with Lamarkism) explains the speed of evolution required with a Nebular theory. Basically, Evolution is very fast. New species arise and disappear constantly, and environmental pressures get an
almost immediate response.

Chemical Theory: Caloric theory, with the addition of friction models, are the basis of chemistry. Since there are no subatomic particles, we also need to presume an electrical fluid. The electrical
fluid also acts as the caloric fluid, following the Wiedmann-Franz law where thermal conductivity is proportional to temperature.

Since we are assuming an etheric atomic theory, we also assume an atomic caloric-electric fluid theory rather than a continuous fluid, though it comes in both forms, new positive and negative pairs of caloric particles being produced by friction. Thermal conductive insulators are explained by the motion of coupled pairs of positive and negative caloric particles.

Electrical Theory: One of the interesting features of Caloric theory is that static electrical charges produced by friction (say rubbing an amber rod with silk cloth) are easily explained: the frictionally produced positive charges produced preferentially collect on one substance and the negative ones on the other. Our own theories of frictional static electricity are forced to invoke some rather complex chemistry.

There is another interesting consequence: vacuum tubes don't work. They rely on the fact that the moving charges are of one polarity, so that a charged screen can block them. With a dual current, a charged screen would repel one polarity but attract the other, giving no change in the net current. This would mean that radio, radar, and electronic computers become impractical for most purposes.

Normally any electrical current would have a positive current in one direction and an equal negative current in the opposite direction. A thermal gradient would have positive and negative currents in the same direction. In combination you could have a current that was primarily positive or negative current.

Geological Theory: Continental Drift, but not Plate Tectonics. There are no crustal plates, but the continents drift on the surface of the earth over time. A unification of Plutonism and Neptunism is made - both theories about equally held in 1880 -on how rocks formed - as neither contradicts the other, except in claims of exclusivity. Catastrophism works much better over the short geological time frames of Lowell Was Right!.

These are all very fundamental differences in how things work. Now we'll see how that changes our world.

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