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not sure if this goes here: the possibility of a new dark age

mindstalk

Does the math.
Validated User
I wonder if it'd be worth building treadmill vehicles powered by horses or oxen on the treadmill or inside a giant hamster wheel (treadwheel). Sort of a livestock version of bicycles. I'm thinking you get the animal in while the wheel is locked, then let it run, then brake and lock to stop. Tricky.

Alternatively, for a rather wide vehicle, you have a standard horizontal rotating mill or capstan that the animals go around, geared so as to provide forward motion.

Both are complicated but not obviously undoable, and not being limited by walking speed is a huge win if you can pull it off.

Likewise, even if roads decay to the point of making standard bicycles unsafe, you can still have human pedal-powered carts that are better than pulling or pushing a cart on foot.

I view this as an example of how even with massive infrastructure breakdown, the ideas you bring into the 'new dark age' can make it different from past low-tech history.
 

JohnBiles

Registered User
Validated User
Logistics will also be an issue. Without motorized transport and easy refrigeration, the distance food can be transported shrinks incredibly. Animal-drawn freight wagons are about the same speed as a walking human, and a professional might cover 20 miles per day. Going much past 100 miles will require food to be preserved before shipping, and it'll be glacially slow by modern standards. Localized crop failures will have a greater chance of causing famine before supplies can be shipped in from elsewhere, and foodstuffs with limited growing areas (citrus pops to mind because I went to a school with a citrus horticulture program) will be scarce and exotic in locales far from those growing areas; Iowa is unlikely to have oranges or grapefruit commonly available. Luxury crops will largely have to be sacrificed for basic foodstuffs, with calories and nutrients per acre becoming critical factors in crop decisions.

This is also where it's worth noting that potatoes and dairy, while boring, can be survived on for a very long time. Potatoes are also a good crop for areas where raiders might pass through, because they're not obvious and not convenient to harvest like grains are. Anywhere potatoes can be grown, they should be grown.
Potatoes are pretty amazing and already widespread.

Most food would have to be turned into jams, jellies, and the like, and the meat salted or smoked.

One bit of good news for North Americans is that fish runs in the rivers would gradually increase; this continent had a metric goatload of fish back before 1492. Even in the late 1700s, the Potomac was so thick with fish, people reported during the fish run that it looked as if you could walk across it by stepping from fish to fish.




I wonder if it'd be worth building treadmill vehicles powered by horses or oxen on the treadmill or inside a giant hamster wheel (treadwheel). Sort of a livestock version of bicycles. I'm thinking you get the animal in while the wheel is locked, then let it run, then brake and lock to stop. Tricky.

Alternatively, for a rather wide vehicle, you have a standard horizontal rotating mill or capstan that the animals go around, geared so as to provide forward motion.
Horizontal mills were used to grind grain for centuries. I'm not sure if you could get them to do a vertical one, as horses won't let you charge into anything solid. If the floor appears to turn into a wall, they might not go.

That being said, I'm not so sure this would provide more power than them just pulling a wagon.
 
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mindstalk

Does the math.
Validated User
Most food would have to be turned into jams, jellies, and the like, and the meat salted or smoked.
By calories and maybe volume, most food will probably be grains, preserved by drying. Or potatoes, I think long term preservation is challenging unless you can freeze-dry them like the Andes.

I'm not sure if you could get them to do a vertical one, as horses won't let you charge into anything solid. If the floor appears to turn into a wall, they might not go.

That being said, I'm not so sure this would provide more power than them just pulling a wagon.
Belt-style treadmills were a thing, see the horse boat link. And it's less about power than friction. Does a bicyclist have any more power than a runner? Probably not, but she can still go much faster more easily, because she's on wheels. On flat ground I can bike faster than a fast walk while putting in less effort than a slow walk, or I can put in more effort to bike past joggers and even fast runners, and that was on a crappy heavy bike.

A horse on a wheel-mounted treadmill could continue walking at effectively 3 MPH while building up a ground speed rather faster than 3 MPH.
 

Rupert

Active member
Validated User
By calories and maybe volume, most food will probably be grains, preserved by drying. Or potatoes, I think long term preservation is challenging unless you can freeze-dry them like the Andes.
With care, potatoes (and apples) can be stored over winter (keep them in a cool, dark, dry place, and don't let them freeze). However, you can't really store spuds and transport them, as they bruise easily and you have to periodically check them for rot and remove those going bad. Apples are a bit less sensitive and can be stored and transported in barrels.
 

Munindk

Registered User
Validated User
In a war (world war or preemptive strike by aliens?) I think it would be realistic that urban centers would get hit first, as thats where governments (national and local) tend to be. Most industrial production is in or near urban centers too.

Google tells me that 55% of humanity lives in urban areas so (assuming that every little village gets hit) we've already halved humanity. Its probably more realistic that only major urban centers get hit, but that would still account for more than 30% or humanity (my estimate, no factual basis).

If neuclear, chemical and biological weapons were involved its probably closer to 50% casualties.

Famine, epidemics and general chaos will take its toll too, add to that anyone dependent on medicine would die within a short period of time. Lets say that accounts for another 20% within the first year.

We're now at 50-70% casualties within the first year of the event.

I figure that population will decline drastically during the first 2-10 years after the event, as noone has time to take care of the elderly, birth rates will go down, lifespan will go down due to harder living conditions.

Humanity could be reduced to 5-25% within a few years.
 

wheloc

He's trying real hard to be one of the good guys.
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Honest question: how was it racist?
The term "dark ages" was mostly coined by renaissance scholars, who were taking a very narrow look at history through the eyes of Western Europe. Sure, thing got bad in some parts of Europe when the Romans left, but it was hardly the fall of civilization. In particular, the Eastern-Europe and Asia remained civilized, and all sorts of exciting math and science was being done in the Mid-East. The main reason people tend to ignore all that great math and science is that it was done by brown people. Hence racism.

See:

EDIT: I actually think this is an important point--historically dark ages were local-phenomena. We now have more of a global economy (though ancient Rome and China were connected through plenty of trade), but it's still not that global. No recession is going to reduce the whole world to stone-age living. Things could get pretty bad in America or China (for example), but by luck or geography someplace is going to be insulated by whatever catastrophe is destroying the superpowers, and they're going to remember how to bake bread and collect taxes.

That said, yeah it could get pretty bad locally.
 
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