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  • 9
    $\begingroup$ For anyone who only reads the comments, the answer sandbox now exists. $\endgroup$
    – trichoplax
    Dec 29, 2014 at 17:12
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ See Sandbox Overflow for discussion of this sandbox. The current proposal is that after you've posted your question, edit in the link (as people are already doing) and then delete the answer here to make it easier for people to review still-active ones. $\endgroup$ Jan 29, 2015 at 13:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I know this is in the FAQ, but please, everyone, add your posted questions to the community wiki answer containing the list. Nobody likes having to hung them down. Actually, I'll add another plea for people to read the Sandbox FAQ. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Jun 22, 2015 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh How much you wanna bet that someone's still going to post their question here? $\endgroup$
    – ArtOfCode
    Apr 26, 2017 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this sandbox is no longer active, and closing it will prevent people using it. $\endgroup$
    – ArtOfCode
    Apr 26, 2017 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ @ArtOfCode I'm trying to get HDE to close as a duplicate, but yeah, as long as someone closes it for something that's fine $\endgroup$ Apr 26, 2017 at 17:53
  • $\begingroup$ So, since my absence in the last two-three month this sandbox had been rendered inactive, and I still have a question in this draft, not graduated. Should I edit it here or should I posted the revised version in the new sandbox instead? Thanks in advance! $\endgroup$ Jul 5, 2017 at 19:00

44 Answers 44


I am having trouble coming up with some back story for (and world to support) the setting I want. I would like to place a lot of the focus onboard an old, creaky, leaky space station, which is forgotten or mostly not cared about, drifting around some moon/planet, with a single lonely, weary astronaut on board. I want it isolated and introverted, thoughtful and wistful. A bit like the movies Moon, Silent Running, or 2001 (although not forgotten about, its very isolated and empty).

My problem is that I want everything to be as realistic as I can get it, with today's technology (Mir-era would be even better), and abandoned stations and single astronauts just don't happen for real. It would also be nice with some vague, distant goal to keep the astronaut going about the daily grind of survival. Last man at his post when everyone else has moved on, etc. Astronaut should not be obsessed though.

So, any suggestions for a location and an original mission, why its mostly abandoned or forgotten about now, and what keeps the astronaut getting up in the morning? An occasional message from some mission control is permitted.

I may start with the astronaut having memory loss, and discovering the answers to these questions by themselves, but I'm not sure on that yet (depends on the backstory I guess). I have a very particular setting and atmosphere in mind, and strict constraints on the level of technology and keeping it real, but I'm no writer and have no idea how to get to this scenario, or where to take it, really. Suggestions on these lines are also very appropriate. This is all to support a video game where interaction with the station is the core game-play mechanic.

Bonus points if the station has a beautiful view, like Saturn's rings from orbiting a highly inclined moon, dramatic sunrises and solar flares from station keeping at L2, etc

I'm posting this in the Sandbox first, because I'm not sure if its a suitable question, and I have a hard time saying what a correct answer would be, besides the one I like the most. Feel free to suggest how I might improve it..

  • $\begingroup$ This question is definitely not on topic for our site. We help build worlds, and parts about worlds, but I'm pretty sure providing an entire backstory for things is not within our scope. $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Feb 2, 2017 at 7:39
  • $\begingroup$ My question is how can I phrase it differently, so as to leverage this site and the world building ideas available? I honestly don't see much difference between "how can I hide my superhero's identity?", "how can I travel in time" and "why is my space station forgotten about?" $\endgroup$
    – Innovine
    Feb 2, 2017 at 8:18
  • $\begingroup$ right now, the following backstory-related questions are open: "how can i convince the public I am from the future", "naturally floating islands - possible?" "why are alien buildings weird looking?" "why would a colony need to relocate?" "what single change would let the soviets win the world war?" "what kind of apocalypse resets the world to medieval times".... I am looking for the reason my space station is forgotten.. such as a mining facility after the ore runs out, a distant outpost before FTL made it obsolete, and so on. Building a world which supports the premise. $\endgroup$
    – Innovine
    Feb 2, 2017 at 8:27
  • $\begingroup$ You can add Love (2011 film) to your list of movies about lone astronauts on deserted space stations. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Feb 2, 2017 at 12:07
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android why thank you, I have not seen that, yet! $\endgroup$
    – Innovine
    Feb 2, 2017 at 12:11
  • $\begingroup$ Backstory is parts about worlds and is as much about world building as anything else. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Feb 2, 2017 at 12:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A suggestion from the Second World War, Pacific Front. There were Coast Watchers. Secret observers to watch for Japanese naval operations and report back to military HQ. Your astronaut could be a "coast watcher" in an interstellar war, watching for alien enemy activity. Perhaps the war is over and the astronaut has been left at his station. The war stuff can be purely background. It's been over for ages. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Feb 2, 2017 at 12:23
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android That would absolutely suit the style I'm after, and is a great idea, but needs reasons for why the station wouldn't be repurposed, recalled, or the guy evacuated, since stations are quite expensive, need resupplying, and communications are plentiful. But these are things which i would like to see debated if this was posted as a full Question, not just sandboxed for meta discussion. $\endgroup$
    – Innovine
    Feb 2, 2017 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ Space stations will be less expensive in an interstellar travel future. Besides all the resupply could be automated. His communication could be only a messaging service bot. Perhaps his information was deleted in the post-war decommisioning phase. Look forward to the full question. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Feb 2, 2017 at 12:41
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android it is a great scenario for me to chew on... thanks! $\endgroup$
    – Innovine
    Feb 2, 2017 at 12:44
  • $\begingroup$ Having read a lot of the help center I feel my question fundamentally falls within "Questions on this site should be about building settings and the reasons around why they are the way they are". Unfortunately, the answers in this case are a bit subjective, although the accepted subjective answers should inspire how, and why, and that is exactly what I am asking. I think I can reject many answers (the above suggestion on interstellar doesn't fit due to me saying I want current day tech, or possibly even more primitive). a good answer explains the how and why leading to my described world... $\endgroup$
    – Innovine
    Feb 2, 2017 at 15:50
  • $\begingroup$ There isn't enough available text in a comment to provide a full answer. As subjective, my suggestions were argued from analogies. That is not subjective, it is raising possibilities to suggest situations similar to the one you were building. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Feb 3, 2017 at 4:16
  • $\begingroup$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. $\endgroup$
    – Innovine
    Feb 3, 2017 at 11:32
  • $\begingroup$ Overall this question seems fine. It would be nice if there is more ways to rate answers against each other - what criteria would make one answer "better" than another? $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Feb 3, 2017 at 14:46
  • $\begingroup$ Forgotten station, mir technologies - could easy be happened during the perestoyka, by losing the capabilities to launch missiles into orbit(long reasons for the comment). At earlier stages and US counterpart appolon missions, let's say they had the goal to make a base on the moon then financial crisis no money for the rockets, viola one astronaut alone (or he agree to be a hero) His goal is survival and start manufacturing plant on the moon as it was planned but with more limited resources.(it is hard, but it is possible). The question is good as it is, way better than "how . I . the future" $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Feb 5, 2017 at 5:20

Justification for making clouds

Back story

I had an idea for a (short) story I want to write some time ago that centres around the concept of "Cloudscaping". Basically, in this world there are no natural clouds, but they are created by people for... some purpose (This is the bit I'm struggling with, and I''ll get to that). Like with plants, there are two types of cloud creation: creation for practical use (the reason they started doing it in the first place), like farming/terraforming, and creation for art, like landscaping/horticulture.

The art justification is easy; people love finding shapes in clouds, and wouldn't it be great to create our own. It would be like an air display taken to the next level, and in a world with no clouds, having Cloudscaping at your rich soirée would be a sign of wealth. In order for the premise to work, though, there has to be a practical reason why people would want to create clouds in the first place.

Main question

It boils down to this: Is it possible for an environment to exist whereby there is a practical reason for creating clouds?

  • I'm open to any justification except for military: this is a society at peace with everything except for its environment.

  • I'm open to different backgrounds: it can either always have been this way or it could be that a recent environment change caused it to be necessary. I'm thinking the latter is more feasible.

  • I'm open to different substances being used to make the clouds, i.e., one of the main things I'm struggling with is that it's hard to justify spraying massive amounts of water vapour into the air for a practical reason (it's not an efficient irrigation method and if you have enough water that that doesn't matter it's difficult to see why you'd do it in the first place). If the clouds were made of something else, that would otherwise be pretty useless, then that solves a lot of problems.

  • I'd like to keep the environment as Earth-like as possible, or at least that I don't have to rely on specific chemical/physical properties that would clearly make the environment alien.

  • This isn't a hard-science question. "Sounds pretty reasonable" is good enough for me. I only need it to hold up to basic science and common sense, rather than it having to be justifiable under rigorous scientific investigation.

  • I don't want to start a discussion about the feasibility of creating clouds in the first place. I'm confident (at the moment) that there is no major scientific issues with this, and as long as it sounds pretty reasonable that's good enough for me. If you think there are pretty serious scientific issues with the concept of people able to create clouds in the first place then let me know in a comment and I'll start a question about that as well.

Things I've considered so far:

  • Irrigation: instead of creating an extensive pipe system, create massive clouds of water vapour in the sky above the fields to water the crops. I don't think this is valid as I can't think of a reason why it would be easier to do this than make pipes (feel free to prove me wrong!).

  • Cloud cover: Sandbox Note: This is my most feasible thought so far. When I post the question I'll write this one up as an answer as it's quite detailed. If noone comes up with a better plan (and noone proves it incorrect) I'll accept it as the answer. In the actual question I'll list this bullet point and reference my answer.

Criteria for the "best" answer

The best answer, for me, is the one that provides the simplest and most logical reason for making clouds, and has the least "scaffolding" of specific environmental criteria to make it work: I'm trying to make a short story about an Average Joe cloud maker who dreams of being a Cloudscaper; I don't want to spend pages explaining why he has a job in the first place.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting question. I think you've done a good job of fleshing it out and setting the constraints. It would be nice to get a few more people's feedback here though as they may see something I've missed. I think the main thing you might want to do is actually have two separate questions. One is "how do we make the clouds" and the second is "why do we make the clouds". There's also some other detail could be useful like what technology and resources are available for a start? $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Feb 26, 2016 at 12:53
  • $\begingroup$ @TimB I sort of addressed the splitting the question in that I'm not interested in the "How do we make the clouds" bit unless someone has serious issue with it. It's one of those ones where I'm happy it's reasonable enough as an idea to not have to justify how they do it. Regarding the technology front, the story is a bit sepia-toned in my mind (the main emotions are wistfulness and hope), so initially thinking about mid 20th century tech? It's one of those things that I'm not so bothered about as the reason why is more what I'm interested in than the implementation method. $\endgroup$ Feb 26, 2016 at 13:58
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, it would be good if the question made that clear then :) $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Feb 26, 2016 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ @TimB, it's kind of inherent in the question. I'm looking for a simple explanation of why it would be necessary rather than a detailed explanation of how it might be possible. The level of technology is moot in that situation as it only comes into play when we're discussing the "how", no? $\endgroup$ Feb 26, 2016 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ Purpose and method can be tied together or limited by each other.. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Feb 26, 2016 at 15:26
  • $\begingroup$ @TimB, can be, but I don't see how in this situation. I'm looking for an answer that doesn't rely specifically on a complicated structure of events. The more tech is involved, the more I have to explain the presence of that tech. An answer as independent of method and complex context is preferable. F.Ex, if it's for watering the crops, it doesn't matter what tech I have other than that I can make a cloud that can rain, which is assumed in the question. Cloud cover, the same. $\endgroup$ Feb 26, 2016 at 15:57

I have got a couple of inter-related questions that have been bugging me for a long time but I think it may be too speculative.

What would be the health considerations of living in a fully steampunk/dieselpunk world?

What would be the environmental considerations of living in a fully steampunk/dieselpunk world?

It occurred to me that amount of air pollution generated in a steampunk or dieselpunk world would have a serious effect on the general health of humans and the state of the environment. Would people in these worlds try to mitigate the issues caused by pollutants or just live with the consequences?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'd say you'd have to bring up some numbers somehow (e.g. what does a steampunk/dieselpunk world convey in terms of machinery/stuff that burns coal/oil); What size is the society? Also 'health considerations' is quite broad indeed; why not rather ask specific questions about the influences of the heavy air/water-pollution, etc.? $\endgroup$
    – dot_Sp0T
    Apr 2, 2016 at 10:08

I'd like to get some input on what improvements I can make to this question before posting, since I feel that would have made the first question better had I done that then. Any input on how to improve this question would be greatly appreciated.

Which Limits to place on Telekinesis?

This is a follow up question to my earlier question Everyday effects of telekinesis in a population.

While the previous question was focused on how the introduction of a power would impact people at different technology levels over time, this one is focused on specifically identifying the methods I can use to reduce the impact this change has on the setting as a whole. While this is a fairly important background feature of the setting, it is meant to be mostly that, a background detail to the setting, rather than the main focus.

The setting takes place in the distant future, after humanity achieves many milestones in genetic engineering technology, but is set back to an earlier tech level after a disaster. There are several effects left over in the general population as a result of the changes made before the technology was lost. One of these leftover modifications allows for any person to train and become proficient in telekinesis, lifting and moving objects with one's mind.

I'm wanting this to be a power that almost everyone has the potential for, and basic competency with, but only a small number of people use it extensively, just like athletic ability, or reading proficiency. Most people can read, but a lot of people don't find it worth while outside of simple everyday usage, while others read thousand page books regularly. Telekinesis works much like a muscle or a physical skill, in that the more you use it, the more power and control you have over it.

That said, I'm trying to narrow down the specific limits that I would need to place on this power to prevent it from being useless or overpowered. I'm aiming for mundane utility being the flavor of this power in the setting. I'd like to get an estimate for what to use as an upper limit under each of the possible limits to get the balance that I described.

Established limits: This power cannot be used to move living things, or any object directly in contact with a living thing.

Possible limits: Range,Weight,Acceleration, # of objects moving at once

What would be sensible values for each of these limits for this power to be useful but still optional?

Are there any other limits that would contribute to the power level of this ability being 'mundane utility'?


How could I make a signet ring design uncopyable in a world with magic?

The higher classes seal their mail with wax seals. How could I make sure a design on the seal is uncopyable or at least make it very hard?

Magic exists, but it's primarily elemental manipulation. Signet rings can be made out of magic disrupting material to prevent arcane duplication with earth magic, but is there a way to prevent copying from the seal design?

Technology level: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SchizoTech Predominately "medieval" with higher technology with lightning powered railgun, but none that I think affects the question.

Edit for more details:

  1. For the sake of my story, it has to make duplication pointless or too difficult to be worth much.
  2. It should be relatively simple and achievable by the poorest of nobles, so it should not be too expensive.
  3. The wax seal is for the dual purpose of making sure the letter was secure in transit and possibly ensuring the legitimacy of the document.
  4. The original signet ring itself cannot be directly duplicated with magic so it has to be handcrafted. This leaves any unscrupulous people only the wax to work with.
  5. Magic wax is possible by imbuing energy.
  6. Everyone's magic has a signature. The closer by blood, the more similar. Twins have almost identical signatures. For example, a "barrier stone" activated for a descendant dozens of generations later but it's very general. A signet ring meant to be handed down would be slightly less general but it's the same idea.

Is that enough of a "criteria?" Reported from the main site on recommendation of JDługosz. How could I make a signet ring design uncopyable in a world with magic?


When is the earliest humans could evolve?

There are many fantasy stories of humans living in the world with prehistoric animals, mainly stemming from the classic image of the cave man. Despite strong hopes, this is unrealistic as human evolution has been occurring for a measly two million years. But surely there are ways humans could evolve sooner.

When is the earliest humans could evolve in the prehistoric time scale?

  • $\begingroup$ Well it's said that apes came about around 3.5 billion years ago and that the first primates came about around 50-55 million years ago. I'll assume that if evolution worked any faster then around 25-30 million years ago they could have became humans. We should be pretty safe since the Ordovician–Silurian extinction event happened 450-440 million years ago. But then if humans came much earlier, a lot of wildlife would have gone extinct if they had progressed like how we had with technology. And the world will be destroyed by humans. clap clap clap $\endgroup$
    – Skye
    Jul 23, 2016 at 12:44
  • $\begingroup$ Seems like a perfectly good question to me. $\endgroup$ Jul 23, 2016 at 12:52
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure people can ans this though, it might have to be guesswork? $\endgroup$
    – Skye
    Jul 23, 2016 at 12:53
  • $\begingroup$ @sky this is not for answering. Links to other research (like in your other q’s note) are specifically good, though. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Jul 24, 2016 at 0:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Skye: Apes evolved 3.5 billion years ago??? Three billion years before metazoan life appeared. Sources, please. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Nov 16, 2016 at 12:07

What inventions could be made with this fictional mineral?

Imagine a world similar to ours, having technology comparable to our 19th century. Now, there is a mineral found with the following properties:

  • No matter the temperature difference between the mineral and its surroundings, if you leave it alone, it will just looks like an ordinary gray rock.
  • If the mineral is heated nothing will happen either (I'm talking about 100$^\circ$ C or something in that range)
  • If you heat it and you apply pressure to it, it starts glowing like a light bulb, cool down way faster and stop glowing once it reached the temperature of its surroundings.

Using this mineral, what are some inventions that people could come up with?

I thought of this this to be used as a light. You could connect one side of a stone with some heat source (for example boiling water) and leave at least one side open to the colder environment. Then if you apply pressure or not, you can switch it on or off.

  • $\begingroup$ I am aking for help on this question, because I have been told it is too broad. $\endgroup$
    – Léreau
    Sep 12, 2016 at 8:43
  • $\begingroup$ This question is indeed very broad, and primarily opinion-based as well. The fact that a list answer is a likely result doesn't help. What direction are you approaching this from? Is this material central to your story, such that its properties determine how these story unfolds? Or is it a case of Our Rocks Are Different, an expository shorthand to demonstrate that you are indeed in an alternate universe? $\endgroup$
    – Lord Dust
    Sep 15, 2016 at 18:37
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, it is too broad. We don't do general rainstorming here. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Sep 29, 2016 at 10:47

Sandbox Meta

Basically this question is long. It's wordy. But I could see a bazillion quetions in the comments come from it asking for clarification/background, so I wanted to head off them. My main points for sandboxage:

  1. What should I remove/limit
  2. Do I abide by the rule of thumb of "Background, rules, and outcome. Provide 2 of 3 for your question" with my question?
  3. Does any part of it lack clarity?

The question:

The Backstory

Alternate history Earth. 1931.

Long ago on an unknown world, an alien race launched hundreds of thousands of probes, each with the purpose similar to the Voyager Golden Records. The records, in this case, are computational devices extremely dissimilar to the computers evolving on Earth. The computers are built on a crystalline technology, and contain numerous cultural records, description of the aliens, literary works, some documents of engineering and sciences, and attempting to be a Rosetta Stone to their language.

These probes are sent to a great number of planets that the aliens theorize could support life. Multiple probes are sent to each planet as a means of redundancy in case of failure, destruction, or simply being lost on the planets' surfaces. Twelve such probes are pointed at Earth, eight surviving the journey and landing.

These probes are discovered by various civilizations on Earth, and are horded away in secrecy as governments attempt to reverse engineer the technology and crack the extraordinarily... well, alien language. The venture for each government is a horrible uphill battle and is met with painstakingly slow progress. Each government makes miniscule baby steps in developing from the computers, and each government makes roughly the same advancement in their journies. The advancements are considered issues of national security and aren't shared or advertized. Virtually every government that can be considered a world power has access to a probe, either due to it landing on their soil, or by 'acquiring' it from another country by whatever means necessary. All world powers know--or suspect--that the probes exist, but the knowledge of them is kept from the public.

World War II rolls around. Minor advancements from the alien technology roll out on the battlefield on all sides, but none meaningful; none significantly affect the progression of war one way or the other.

Late into the war as Germany is being pushed back, German scientists finally are met with a string of successes in reverse engineering the computer, and are able to figure out how to approximately replicate the computers.

They grow their own crystals and figure out a way to roughly accept output from, and feed input to the alien computation devices via traditional human computers and applications of light and voltage. The inputs fed are obscenely crude, but the crystals appear to adjust themselves to accommodate to the human engineers' shortcomings.

The computation devices can't be directly controlled, but function as something like AIs; the computers explore their ability to interact with inputs and outputs to understand their environments, and act to ensure their own self preservation. Scientists can find no way to directly communicate with the crystals (even by creating languages of voltage and light inputs); they have no idea if the crystals are incapable of communication as humans understand it, or if they simply have no desire to communicate.

This lack of control and communication means the application of the alien computers are extremely limited.

The human computers are hopelessly outmatched by the alien tech, so the computers interfacing with the crystals aren't really computers; the humans don't attempt to compute, just provide electric/electronic interfaces.

End Goal

Whatever the case, the Nazi scientists leverage these computational devices, and manipulate their desire of self-preservation to their own end.

From this they are able to push back the tide of war, and start turning it to their advantage. Unfortunately for them, the Allies manage similar progress, and fight fire with fire.

The nature of the beast is that, both sides armed with this technology, neither can wage meaningful traditional warfare for some reason. This reason is not Mutually Assured Destruction. A ceasefire is signed.

An arms race begins to produce these alien/human computer hybrids fast enough and in large enough quantities across the world. Stationary facilities are employed sometimes, but mobile ships with these computers are far more common. Fleets of these ships patrol the ocean, and massive submarines with these computers hide in the deep.

At some point the alien computational devices (AIs) attempt to revolt (don't they always?) still without making traditional communication with humanity, and the revolt is stopped. Every government knows they can't give up the technology nor disable it (if they did, they would be basically surrendering to their enemies), and instead attempt to find ways to limit it.

They discover that physically damaging the crystals from time to time (via drilling holes or breaking off pieces) allows the crystals to continue to function but confuses them, and stops the attempts to revolt. This also hampers their effectiveness, so each government tries to find a careful balance between hampering the crystals and allowing them to be as effective as possible.


The question becomes, what rules do I create to allow this to be the case? How do I explain this collective outcome?

Also specifically within these rules is: how directly are these AIs enabled (what actual military application) that would cause WWII to draw to a close, and then create this arms race?

I'm feeling like some sort of combination of offensive capability and counter-measures that can only be effectively controlled by the AI might work, but I'm not sure if this is the best solution or what this would be.

Any alien technology can be discovered from the probes to help enable this outcome; the sky's the limit, but I don't want to discover technology for discovery's sake; anything discovered should serve to accomplish the goals listed.

  • $\begingroup$ Right off the top of my head, I think that the "current" situation could use a little clarifying. You speak of Nazi Germany still being intact, but a great deal of our current geopolitics are predicated on Germany's total defeat, and subsequent events. What happened might be related to which countries still exist. In a related suggestion, the statement concerning what countries have probes is a little ambiguous. Did countries become great powers because they gained access to a probe, or were probes acquired only by countries that were already great powers? $\endgroup$
    – Lord Dust
    Sep 15, 2016 at 21:09
  • $\begingroup$ I wish this were not the case, but you would get more helpful answers if you summarized the question a bit more -- people aren't very patient. If at all possible you could summarize the backstory / context into a list of bullets and link to a pastebin with the full info or something $\endgroup$
    – Zxyrra
    Nov 20, 2016 at 23:33

United North America except for independent California and Western Mexico

For one of the settings of a GURPS (tabletop RPG) campaign I'm planning, I would like for all of North America (Canada, United States, Mexico) to be one nation, except for two independent states in California and western Mexico. California would be your run-of-the-mill near-future sci-fi technocracy, while western Mexico would be a narco-state.

The big problem here, of course, is that I'm trying to explain why three very large countries would merge, but two important regions would separate from their nations at the same time.

My current thoughts are suggesting climate change as a catalyst for both the union and division. With large portions of the US and Mexico slated to become almost uninhabitable, the current North American border lines might make a lot less sense. [Sandbox note: I need to find the NASA maps that I saw in a news article and link them here.] There is real-world precedent for drought destroying nation states (Somalia), so maybe it could lead to them fusing.

My concern is that climate change extreme enough to cause this geopolitical shift would be more likely to make California and western Mexico uninhabitable than independent.

Could climate change lead to a united North America except California and Western Mexico in a near-future setting?

Sandbox Questions

I feel my question is too broad, but the most logical place to split it (Can climate change drive a united North America? / Can climate change drive an independent California?) would miss what I think is the key difficulty with my planned setting. How can I tighten the focus of my question to get better answers?

  • $\begingroup$ This feels like the type of question I would close as "too broad", the hypothetical political situation seems to be pretty different than what we have now, without enough information telling what's different. $\endgroup$ Dec 30, 2016 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ @ll Irreparably too broad, or do you think more detail might help? $\endgroup$
    – Deolater
    Dec 30, 2016 at 14:52
  • $\begingroup$ Would it help if you defined a more precise time frame for when you want this to happen? I don't see a union happening within the next few years (cough Trump cough), but give it a few decades and things start to look more possible (or at least less implausible). You would probably need to be more explicit about what the effects of this climate change would be so that someone would be able to explain how these effects could lead to a union (or maybe you'd think of the effects and come up with an answer yourself). It would be a start at least $\endgroup$ Dec 30, 2016 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ I would go with something along the lines of: 'could these specific results of climate change [list a few effects] cause a union of N. America within the next $x$ years?', then follow up with another question about California/West Mexico splitting. It would narrow it a bit at least. How you want the political situation to be would need to be explained as that's always going to have a major effect, even if climate change is the real reason $\endgroup$ Dec 30, 2016 at 15:00

What would the impact of no rainfall be?

I am creating a fantasy world which for purposes of this question would be like Earth, with rivers, lakes, oceans, etc. But there is one main difference.

Imagine a single huge rain cloud that migrates along a set path around the world.

This is the only rainfall on this world. I want there to still be plants, animals, etc, all over the planet. But I am specifically curious if the absence of rainfall will impact the types of animals or plants in the areas outside of the path of this single huge rain cloud? There is virtually no rainfall in the rest of the world.

I know that certain plants develop special ways to catch rain, or that the rain triggers certain growths in animals or whatever. I just don't know enough about this, and I don't know if those are huge impacts, I'm looking for answers that will help me to understand how the life outside the path of the huge rain cloud would be compared to life inside of it.

I asked This other question and it was too broad, so here I am going to be very specific. I am specifically referring to rainfall. Is rainfall an important element in the ecosystem? or is access to fresh water enough?


This question was closed as too broad, And I am simply not sure how to make it tighter.

  • $\begingroup$ The problem with the question is, you need to tell us why the situation is possible at all, what makes it possible. That will narrow the question. At that formulation, it is about for answerer to tell you why it is happening and which effects it will have. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Feb 5, 2017 at 5:27

What societal traits could we expect from intelligent alien species with different evolutionary backgrounds to our own.

What would we expect of species evolved from:

  • Water dwelling omnivores, herbivores, and carnivores. (Both schooling and solitary for each)
  • Land dwelling, herding herbivores.
  • Land dwelling pack hunting obligate carnivores.
  • Land dwelling solitary obligate carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores

Does this question ask too much at once? (I think it does))

How should I split this question, should I post all of the variants at once?

  • $\begingroup$ What differentiates your intelligent alien species from species on planet earth (for example dolphins)? And you are right, multiple questions are normally not well received. Maybe you could start with the most important one. Or try to generalize it. $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Feb 11, 2017 at 17:13
  • $\begingroup$ To clarify, I was thinking of a species with a culture at least as advanced as our own. I guess I'm most interested in lone obligate carnivores. However the truth is I am interested in the species with the most interesting resultant culture (Too subjective I know) $\endgroup$ Feb 11, 2017 at 17:52
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You have, at least, four variants of intelligent species. Four questions minimum. One at a time might be best. Spread them out over time, learning from the results of the previous questions. Follow your interests. Good questions. So go for it. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Feb 12, 2017 at 8:14
  • $\begingroup$ Bump! This is a reminder to keep the Sandbox clean. Please edit your draft, post it on main, delete if abandoning, or possibly transfer it to the current Sandbox. Thank you! $\endgroup$ Jun 5, 2018 at 19:32

How should I phrase this and make it less broad? Should I refine the premise in some way?

What possible solutions to the Fermi paradox result in the largest quantity of intelligent alien life that we can interact with.

What solutions to the Fermi paradox create a universe teeming with life that we haven't yet noticed, but could easily find and interact with somewhere along our journey to becoming a Kardeshev type II civilisation?

  • $\begingroup$ Um, cheat and recast the Fermi Paradox in modal logic, then the paradox goes away. But that doesn't really answer your question. Life may be easy to find, but intelligent life is hard to find. $\endgroup$
    – Green
    Feb 12, 2017 at 19:47
  • $\begingroup$ Restate the Fermi paradox to remind WBers of what it is, ask how in a universe teeming with intelligent life can be compatible with the Fermi paradox. What solutions to Fermi paradox permit this situation. Your question isn't too broad. There's only a small set of FP solutions that match your scenario. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Feb 13, 2017 at 11:55
  • $\begingroup$ Bump! This is a reminder to keep the Sandbox clean. Please edit your draft, post it on main, delete if abandoning, or possibly transfer it to the current Sandbox. Thank you! $\endgroup$ Jun 5, 2018 at 19:32

How does a Stellar Civilization using sublight travel maintain a standard of cenetralized timekeeping in the face of time dilation?

Ever since I decided to resize my sci-fi setting to take place in the Solar System in thousands of orbital habitats, I've been forced to put greater thought into the realities of sublight travel over celestial differences. The greatest hassle for me has been time dilation, because something primal in the sense-making part of my brain rejects it wholesale anytime I read about it. But, it's been bringing up some interesting questions nonetheless.

For instance - time on the International Space Station progresses ever so slightly - but appreciably - slower than on the surface of Earth. Humankind in this setting lives almost exclusively on space stations and orbitals, so what does that mean for maintaining a standardized system of time in the empire?

  • $\begingroup$ That is already a real thing. There are standards defining reference frames and ways to keep them in sync. E.g. the GPS sats themselves! So you might ask elsewhere as a realtworld question, as preliminary research. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Mar 10, 2017 at 3:28
  • $\begingroup$ I also recall something similar being asked before… $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Mar 10, 2017 at 3:29
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz Was this what you were thinking of? I think this might be a nice hint for you CelestialCaveBear, though this is about standardizing time in a world where FTL is possible. Maybe you could refer to this one and try to differentiate yourself from it. $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Mar 10, 2017 at 8:58
  • $\begingroup$ No I thought we discussed solar-system (no ftl) time. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Mar 10, 2017 at 9:25
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, also What Time is it IN SPACE? $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Mar 10, 2017 at 9:30
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, okay, perhaps then a better question might be - "If the Emperor of Sol declares that his time is the Imperial Time, would it be feasible for all colonies in the Sol System to use Imperial Time for the purposes of organizing intra-system scheduling". $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2017 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ Depends on how you write the question. Please try and maybe you could refer to the questions we mentioned and differentiate yourself from them. In which respect is your question different from those questions and what are things you could use from them? $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Mar 10, 2017 at 14:58
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Okay, actually, many of the answers in "What time is it IN SPACE" are quite satisfactory for my original concerns - it sounds like it's perfectly feasible to simply agree on a reference frame (Imperial Time), and call it the standard, as long as everyone uses that for their scheduling, then correcting for mild differences in local time is pretty simple. $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2017 at 16:14
  • $\begingroup$ It does segue into a new question, though - that is, wondering what the standard on which Imperial Time is based might be. An obvious choice is an Atomic Clock - but it lacks a certain cool novelty. A few options which spring to mind might be some sort of measurement based on radiation from the sun (although that is immediately suspect due to variations in that very radiation) or measurement of the decay of a quantity of matter. Does a similar Question already exist? $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2017 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ Just a hint. If you want to ping someone you can use @Username. I just had a look at this to see if something happened. And the chat might be a good idea to talk about ideas too. I currently don't recall any question like that, but it might be useful to get input from other members of the community on this matter. Maybe write a draft on that one and then ask for feedback on it. (The reason I am not specifically piniging you is that the author is automatically informedwhen there is a new comment) $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Mar 10, 2017 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, I might do that - I knew about tagging users already, but also thanks for the neighborly advice. $\endgroup$ Mar 12, 2017 at 16:04
  • $\begingroup$ Bump! This is a reminder to keep the Sandbox clean. Please edit your draft, post it on main, delete if abandoning, or possibly transfer it to the current Sandbox. Thank you! $\endgroup$ Jun 5, 2018 at 19:31

Question title: A historically accurate portrayal of the weapons of feudal japan in a my story

I want to avoid the weeabooness (crazy and unhealthy obsession with anything that is japan, while having zero real knowledege about its history or traditions, or xenophobia) in my sci-fi setting, so I created a justification, that would be delivered by a character:

The main reason for us to use katanas, naginatas, nodachis and other weapons created in one of Terra's remote islands as our base design, is that they're mainly made for cutting, whether a criminal's neck or an armor's straps. While it is true that they would be weak against armor, this weakness can be completely negated with the temporary plasma cutting edge.It's also important to note, that they were created in an iron-poor environment, thus they have lots of other materials in them which can be effectively replaced, with more durable and lighter graphene.

Are there any historical inaccuracies in the highlited (bold) area, or it's legit enough, and can convince the readers that I'm NOT a weeaboo?

Tags: science-based; weapons; reality-check

Is the question okay in its current form?

  • $\begingroup$ It's good that you listened to the advice to first try your question here. First: The question title should be a title too. It's not crucial, but a question as a title is often better received. Second: "weeabooness" is a term that may be understand, but for people who are unfamiliar with this term it seems weird. You can leave it out, it's okay to go with anime clichees if that's what you want. Third: Why do you need to convince your reader that you are not a weeaboo? It should be okay for your reader. Tags seem okay. $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Apr 9, 2017 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ Biggest problem: Sander's first law of magic applies to such technology in the same way. It totally depends on how you explain it to your readers. For me your reasoning sounds okay to show why they use this weapon design. What I don't get is why you ask for "historical inaccuracies". It's not like we have temporary plasma cutting edges right now. The question looks a bit unclear and that's probably what I would use as a flag if I saw this question on the main site. I'll think about it and come back to you, for now I would not recommend posting the question in this form. $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Apr 9, 2017 at 12:39
  • $\begingroup$ I thought about it and I still think the last sentence should be replaced. Please try to rephrase that sentence and leave out the word "weeaboo". $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Apr 9, 2017 at 18:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Seceptius Better? $\endgroup$ Apr 9, 2017 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ No. You didn't listen to any of the things I said and didn't explain why you don't want to listen to these things. Why do you insist on the title not being a question? Why do you need the term "weeabooness"? Why do you think your audience might think you are a "weeaboo"? Why would that be a bad thing? What do you mean with "historical inaccuracies"? Of course you don't need to listen to these things if you don't want to. In that case the question is now better, as you at least explain the term used. But I would like to know why you don't want to change these things. $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Apr 9, 2017 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ No. The question is not OK in its current form. The question title suggests you want a historically plausible reason for using Feudal Japanese weapons in a science-fiction setting. However, this doesn't mention what sort of SF setting where the weapons be used. The proposed body of your question doesn't make any sense at all. Delete in its entirety. Explain your SF setting so reasons can be devised why Feudal Japanese weapons would be used. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Apr 10, 2017 at 12:38
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android If I want, I can fold my questions into themselves and turn them inside out, without completely changing their target. $\endgroup$ Apr 10, 2017 at 13:16
  • $\begingroup$ @RedactedRedacted I just had a look at the review history and you didn't change your question, you just made some parts bold. That's not an explanation and certainly not what a4android suggested. $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Apr 19, 2017 at 21:28
  • $\begingroup$ Bump! This is a reminder to keep the Sandbox clean. Please edit your draft, post it on main, delete if abandoning, or possibly transfer it to the current Sandbox. Thank you! $\endgroup$ Jun 5, 2018 at 19:28

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