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[Note for sandbox: I asked this question already on the main site, but I got some premise challenges right away. One thing that stood out is the need to give a technology level of both sides, as they may have technology that could detect it in other ways. Also, lasers may not be the best idea in general, but I would like to stick with that, so my new question will most likely need to focus on how to make it work, rather than if it could. Below in italics is my original question, and below that will be my new proposed question]

Can a Laser be used to tunnel silently under the enemy

I was reading about tunneling in WW1 and how noise often gave them away. So my wonder is whether a sufficiently powerful laser could be used to form a tunnel. I assume significant issues would include the gasses needing to escape, the noise of the laser generator (not sure of the term for it), the dust making the laser ineffective, and the need to still enter the tunnel between bursts to add supports to prevent cave-ins (which would probably be noise in itself).

So, to sum up, is it realistic to use a laser to tunnel when the goal is silence?


How could I use a laser near-silently tunnel under an enemy?

Considering a technology level equal to what we have today, how could you use a laser to tunnel as silently as possible under an enemy? Some issues I have to consider are that a powerful enough laser would have "deleterious effects" to my side, expansion as the laser dumps heat into the surrounding earth, needing to allow gas to escape to prevent explosions, dust scattering the laser making it ineffective, and the need to enter the tunnel to add supports.

So, to sum up, how can I make this idea realistic, considering these significant issues?

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    $\begingroup$ @JBH Hey, I thought you'd be interested in this. Thanks again for your help, and sorry again for my perhaps too quick reaction! (No hard feelings from me, I was just preoccupied at the time). I basically just changed the premise from "could it work" to "how can I force this to work" $\endgroup$ – Aethenosity Apr 13 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ (a) does the enemy know to look? Is it SOP to listen for tunneling? If yes, what devices would they be using? If no, continue. (b) Are we looking to tunnel without it being noticeable by noise or vibration above ground? People don't see their glasses of water dancing and can't feel it in their feet? (aka, what's the "failure" critera?) (c) How big must the tunnel be? (d) do you know what kind of rock/soil we're working with? Or, what location on Earth would reflect the soil type you're looking for? Given all that, asking what laser tech can be brought to bear is a good question. $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 21 at 20:40

Using an All-Knowing Oracle for Science

My world has an All-Knowing Oracle. She is confined in the basement of a grand temple, open to the public. Several rulers have attempted to limit access to the Oracle, but Bad Things tend to happen when they try.

People come from all over the world to visit the Oracle. They step into the basement, approach the Oracle and ask her a question.

These are the Oracle's rules:

  • You may only ask one question per month per person1
  • You may ask about anything of the present or past, but not of the future.
  • She will always only answer with a number2
  • She will take the question from you mind, not your words3

Example questions may include "How many of the 4 mythical blades are in the city of Argblargh?" or "How many liters of water have I consumed in my life?" or "How many men has John's wife slept with since they got married?"

Would a resource like this Oracle allow for quicker advancements in the sciences of the time? Being able to run a formula through the Oracle once a month per scientist ("What would the Gravitational Force be of these two planetary bodies on each other given these inputs...?"), is it reasonable to assume that physicists of the time could discover the works of Kepler/Newton/Galileo hundreds of years sooner? Could medieval physicists even pass up our current understanding of things like String Theory?

Assume that the science of the times is around where we were in the 1300-1400's.

1. To query for an answer, the Oracle draws on your life energies. More than once a month and you'll start to feel some adverse side-effects
2. Questions should be phrased with this in mind. ie: instead of "Is there an assassin trying to murder me?" try "How many assassins are trying to murder me?" and expect 1 or 0.
3. This prevents misunderstandings and also prevents others from asking questions for you without a complete understanding of what and why they're asking. You can't simply go into the slums and pay a ha'penny to every kid to ask a different more pointed quesiton for you.

  • $\begingroup$ You're using the reality-check tag, but asking a non reality-check question. reality-check's purpose is to present a situation and ask if that situation is feasible or practical. If you removed the entire question paragraph, you'd have a reality-check question. If you remove the tag and leave the paragraph, you have a primarily opinion-based question. You could rephrase the question to be ultra-specific (preferred anyway), "Could the gravitational constant be discovered earlier than Newton using the Oracle?" $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 3 at 16:44
  • $\begingroup$ Keep in mind that, ideally, your post has a single question (meaning, one sentence ending with a question mark). If your title also has a question, it's the same question found in the body. One question, period. You're asking at least 3 (too broad). Finally, how capable is the Oracle of pulling "what you meant" from a person's head? Can you get the atomic weight of gold from the question, "how much does gold weigh?" Or must the questioner already have enough data in his/her head to find the answer themselves? (*continued*) $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 3 at 16:48
  • $\begingroup$ The reason I ask that is this: if a person knows enough about what they need to ask the question, they probably already have enough knowledge to answer the question themselves. The total history-of-Earth benefit to science wouldn't add up to a year because people in the 1600s (Kepler) wouldn't know what to ask or how to ask it to come up with a number for the universal gravitational constant. Or, worse, the Oracle figured out that's what they were looking for and gave them the number - which means nothing at all to them and they spend lifetimes (200 years) developing the science to understand. $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 3 at 16:52
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    $\begingroup$ Finally, finally, note that some on this site may consider this question too story-based. This is because the answer easily depends on what user Elemtilas calls "narrative necessity." You're inventing the rules, and those rules can always permit what you need. Thus, if you're asking, "is it realistic that I advance science 200 years using the Oracle" (using the reality-check tag) you'll get useful answers. If you ask, "Can I use the Oracle to advance science 200 years?" the answer is always "yes," because it's your story. $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 3 at 16:56
  • $\begingroup$ How accurate are the responses of the Oracle? (Or, what is a number?) Continuing your example about planetary motions, they were observed and predicted since the deep antiquity; Ptolemy's heliocentric system worked just fine given the available accuracy. Kepler deduced the elliptical orbits because Tycho Brache spent a lifetime making exceedingly accurate observations. Einstein's theories were tested using even more accurate observations (of Mercury). $\endgroup$ – AlexP Apr 9 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ Hello Scohe001, is this question still active? $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 21 at 20:46

Electrokinesis, direct, and based on technology

Superhumans in my setting works based on advanced technology (but not clarketech; no violations of physical laws, no FTL); my question is, how can a superhuman direct electricity? From my understanding of electricity, it moves in the easiest path it can take; air, for instance, retards the motion of electricity until the energy level reaches lightning level. But I need electrokinetics to be able to move electricity at their command. No psychic powers exist, but nanotech and neurological modification are two paths I can see possibilities in.

  • $\begingroup$ What tags would you use for this? Also, I would check out this electricity magic question - its not a direct dupe but would be good to reference it with a line like "My question is similar to the electric mage question but I am looking for answers with more scientific basis/evidence" $\endgroup$ – JGreenwell Mar 30 at 2:23
  • $\begingroup$ @JGreenwell I'd probably use science-based, superpowers, and reality-check $\endgroup$ – Ushumgallu Mar 30 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ Please add those tags to your post. Never assume people will read through comments to find clarifications. Use this markup: `science-based'. I would recommend specifying how the electricity will be manipulated. "Anything they want" means you don't have a science-based answer. Create the (short) list of exactly what you expect them to do in your story and add that as a bullet list. The shorter, the more likely we can give you an answer. Note that what the superpower does (the answers you get) may have little to do with electricity. They may be manipulating magnetism, for example. $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 3 at 17:05
  • $\begingroup$ Do you mean add tags to this sandbox post, or when I ask in in the main worldbuilding? $\endgroup$ – Ushumgallu Apr 3 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ Yes. Please list the tags in the sandbox so those, too, can be discussed. I note that my attempt to show you the markup failed. Let's try this: [tag:science-based] There we go, that worked. $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 6 at 1:06
  • $\begingroup$ "Electricity" (by which I suppose that you mean electric current) moves through all the paths it can take. All of them. If a path through which current can flow exists, then current will flow thru it. How much current flows thru each path depends on the impendance of the path and of all the available paths. This is how it is and it cannot be otherwise. (If it helps you, you can visualize electric current as a flow of water; water flows thru all the available downhill paths.) Therefore, if you want to direct current flow you must create a suitable low-impedance path. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Apr 9 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP the question thus becomes, how is that done? $\endgroup$ – Ushumgallu Apr 10 at 23:26
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP makes a very good point. If you have a wire in water, grounded on one side and you electrify the other, you'll have electricity in both the water and the wire. How much depends on the resistance difference between the two paths, but you'll have some in both. Having said that, it seems you're asking for behavior like a Van de Graaff generator with your "superpower" being able to (a) source the electricity from somewhere and (b) identify a target. Is this what you're looking for? $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 21 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH you are correct, that is what I am looking for; how to make the electricity strike the intended target. $\endgroup$ – Ushumgallu Apr 22 at 19:42
  • $\begingroup$ OK. Please make that clear in your question. Note that "advanced tech" and "clark tech" are the same thing, especially since you're asking to do something that only lightning can do naturally. I'm an EE, and off the top of my head I can't think of how to answer your question. It takes a sizable voltage difference to force electricity to go where it doesn't want to go. $\endgroup$ – JBH 2 days ago
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, rereading they do seem similar, though I meant one as technology within the laws of physics, and the other that violates of physical laws. $\endgroup$ – Ushumgallu 2 days ago

Humans separated by two close terran planets one 0.8g, other 1.4g, over 10k+ years, questions

I'm writing the lore for a mod I am making, and want to make an interesting background history for a trio of planets that orbit possibly a binary-star. The first two main planets rotate very closely to each other that "primitive" space-ships like solar sails and chemical engines can escape rapidly theirs and enter the next planet when they come into close orbit. I don't know anything about planetary rotations. I'm not going for great realism but plausible realities.

The novel idea is that long ago and recordings lost, inter-planetary civilization collapsed so bad, that one of the planets that could gravitationally distort time and space nearby disappeared, and with massive warfare, sent both planets receding to the bronze age in the societal crash. That special planet in its absence made space travel between both homeworlds temporarily almost instantaneous when few conditions were met periodically without the need for 20th century equipment, which is no longer the case after several millenniums. Which immediately afterwards many people exploited, maintaining limited but extraordinary space-flight regardless with what was left to exploit that gravitational phenomenon. These vehicles sustaining upwards thousands of settlers or ten-of-thousands of raiders for numerous two-way trips, greatly affecting the developments on both planets.

The 0.8g planet is an arid planet with oceans and signature flat savanna's with some tropical regions naturally about. This planet frequently sent aggressive war parties to the other in recent history before the advent of industrial warfare and melee was mainstay, being historically more centralized.

The 1.4g planet was originally going to be a sea-less world with high elevations. Now, to broaden its depth, it consists of small seas and great lakes, with "continents" being entire valleys, grand canyons, massive Nile-esque rivers, and endless hilly Virginian terrain, often isolating tribal states and civilizations like China and Britannia was.

Most people on both planets have completely acclimatized to their native gravity, perhaps even genetically, to the point births on the 1.4g world are 2/3rd's lesser but their people are shorter and much more stronger and reflexive, whereas the 0.8g human's are naturally taller and weaker. Is that correct, plausible, good?

The third planet to appear is a barely colonized 1g planet basically like Earth's conditions. How would Human's almost genetically adapted to 0.8 fair invading a 1.4g planet, and vice versa, and dwelling on a new 1.0g planet? And the third planet doesn't have its gravity affect the rest of the solar system, implausible?

The military lore at present, is mostly musketry, bolt-action rifles and limited melee, thus would ballistic weapons develop and behave different manufactured at low and high gravity, and then subsequently used on the next radically different environment? Would capital-ships and transports produced and used in the opposing atmospheres/gravity have great difficulties?

Lastly, the 1.4g planet has an unusual development of four-legged-mechs like Ring-Of-Reds due to its terrain demands,Ring of Red, grouped into platoons complementing brigade-sized units. Would they fair well in a high-gravity world that often resembles the transition from Virginian hills, Korean mountains, to Tibetan Plateaus frequently? Or is the regular development of armored vehicles the better solution?

I know I am asking many questions, but just curious of what everything I've said is an issue, contradictory, or actually different than what would occur scientifically? Really appreciate it for any answers, great website by the way.

I gotta find a way to break this down better, wish it could all be answered at once, alas not.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You're right, too many questions. SE's model is one-specific-question/one-best-answer. The problem with too many questions (making the post too broad) is that #1 may have an excellent answer but #2-#7 may not. Another respondent may give you a great #2, but #1,#3-#7 are bad. So, how do you choose the one best answer? Therefore, you need to choose what you want answered first. It's OK to ask multiple questions here, though we suggest one at a time as the answer to one may impact others. $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 8 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ Hi Naga, is this question still active? How can I better assist you with it? $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 21 at 20:41

How can I build a school around a particular form of magic?

Orgone is the measure of a person's connection with the cosmos. It is the conduit through which the power of the cosmos flows, focused through a sorcerer's will. Ritual practicioners must draw on this reserve of power in their souls to make a magic spell work. Spells require a constant infusion of Orgone through rituals that are performed inside a transmutation circle. These rituals require a number of ingredients and can last anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours depending on the spell. There are five schools of magic that spells revolve around and are taught at universities:

Enchantment Spells – These are spells designed to capture cosmic power within a crafted item, so that its power can be called upon in times of need.

Protection Spells – These are spells designed to ward a user, object, or location against a variety of possible harms

Transmogrifcation Spells – These are spells designed to fundamentally alter or control another being

Transmutation Spells - Changing the makeup of different materials or combining them with others to make new forms of matter.

Scrying Spells – These are spells designed to allow a user to perceive in ways that go beyond his fve senses. An example of this would be a seer or oracle, individuals who can see into the future or the past.

The idea is to turn these schools of magic into fields, which in turn are broken down into sub-fields, creating many different branches around these forms of magic. I am looking for at least 12 sub-branches from the five schools that I just mentioned. The problem is I am having difficulty ascribing what kind of magic fits into these parameters, as well as how to break them down into various practices. How can I solve this?

  • $\begingroup$ @JBH what I mean by scrying revolves around divination, with 12 subranches of specializations. There are 5 kinds of magic. Do they need to be included? $\endgroup$ – Incognito Apr 21 at 19:12
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH okay I have edited the question so let me know if it is good enough. $\endgroup$ – Incognito Apr 21 at 21:13
  • $\begingroup$ Don't forget to clean up this question. Cheers! $\endgroup$ – JBH yesterday

** Naga Speech Ability **


In my world there are snake people (aka Naga). They have a snake body and head with their humanoid characteristic being arms. (Side note, this is a quick post from phone. I'll be doing some research later to see if there's a specific type of snale head I want to use. I'm guessing I'll go for something like a cobra's. Either that or closer to python as my snake people are non-venomous.)

Would these snake people be able to effectively speak human language? (My guess is this is too broad, so specific language would be English.)

Are there any other things I meed to consider to make this a good question?

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mVitus is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You might be asking the question from the wrong point of view. As written, the answer is "no" because no snake mouth/throat can make all the sounds humans make (or they would be taught to talk like parrots). Among other tags, you will be using creature-design and what I suspect you're asking is, "what would I need to do to a creature with a head like X to allow it to vocalize like a human?" Please be sure you search this site, too, to avoid closure as a duplicate (this sounds familiar). $\endgroup$ – JBH yesterday

Why would non-kinetic weapons be used for orbital bombardment?

At the moment this is more a stub I'm working on than a fully formed question.

Most space invasions face the need to destroy some, or all, ground based infrastructure in order to take over a world.

Kinetics are, potentially, highly accurate and can easily have "dialable" damage output.

Assuming that you want the planet you've gone to the trouble of invading largely intact, so no cobalt bombs or other long-term area-denial weapons.


  • $\begingroup$ Please ping me with a comment when the question is ready for review. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – JBH 2 hours ago

What resources can't a village get from a river that has a constant stream of floating flotsam and jetsam?

On a flat, seemingly-infinite wasteland with no vegetation is a medieval styled village sized about 0.1 km^2. The village is surrounded by a dense mist that always covers the wasteland further than anyone has ever travelled.

The village has several anachronistic elements to it including the ability to build houses multiple stories upwards without sacrificing structural integrity that would have occurred during the engineering available at the time.

As far as any written or oral record indicates, no-one has ever encountered any other civilisation other than that of this town (with a population of about 2600).

The town receives its resources from crates and debris of flotsam and jetsam that drift continually down a river that cuts through the village. The river's source cannot be traced.

Things that are available in the river would include crates of food, wooden planks, poles, boxes of steel crafting tools, tin utensils and cloths et al.

If anyone strays far from the village for too long, clusters of unknown creatures begin tracking the people with the intent to devour (always with success).

The creatures also prevent expansion of the village but can be avoided for long enough to conceivably collect any resource relevant to the question of the final paragraph.

The economy of the village revolves around the scavenging of food and materials from the river and processing or selling it.

Are there any resources that the village can't feasibly get from the river (assuming that everything that can be gotten from the river, appears as often as is needed to be sustainable) to keep it a functional village with a generally positive lifestyle quality?

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Lord Ratte is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding.SE! We're glad you could join us! When you have a moment, please click here to learn more about our culture and take our tour. We appreciate your use of the Sandbox. Note that simple things like superscripts can be done with HTML <sup></sup>, but if you need more complex equations, we have access to MathJax. $\endgroup$ – JBH 2 hours ago
  • $\begingroup$ The economy of the village revolves around the scavenging of food and materials from the river and processing or selling it. Selling it to whom? To one another? Perhaps more importantly, is this relevant to your question? (People sometimes get caught on issues of the backstory.) $\endgroup$ – JBH 2 hours ago
  • $\begingroup$ If I understand the intent of your question, it is: is there any resource a Medieval town (what year? The Medieval period was 500+ years long with a substantial change in technology) that won't float in a crate? If so, what's the maximum buoyancy of a crate? $\endgroup$ – JBH 2 hours ago
  • $\begingroup$ @JHB thanks for your welcome replies! The selling happens to one another. This is to illustrate context, in that: there is no external demand for any products of any sort. Resources are only things that the villagers need or want. $\endgroup$ – Lord Ratte 1 hour ago
  • $\begingroup$ @JHB I actually want to leave the specifics of the exact architecture and nature of the floating items open ended because I feel that the flexibility can be used in answering the question. As far as I could tell from the rules that can apply to some extent — although, perhaps you can suggest some tips for narrowing it down. $\endgroup$ – Lord Ratte 1 hour ago
  • $\begingroup$ Open-ended questions are a bad fit for us because SE is not a discussion forum. The SE model is one-specific-question/one-best-answer. The more vague your question, the more likely it will be closed. You appear to have a specific issue in mind, and the more detail you give us the better our answers can be. That goes for organizing questions, too. Keep backstory, conditions/requirements/expectations, and the question very separate. $\endgroup$ – JBH 1 hour ago
  • $\begingroup$ As written the question is vague because whomever/whatever is sending the material downstream can use all the buoyancy they want so long as the depth of the river is accommodated (also undefined). They could send a modern crane. One of the issues you want to avoid is creating a question that's primarily opinion-based, meaning you have no way of clearly judging a best answer (and note that our definition differs from SE's default definition, which wouldn't permit asking questions about magic). $\endgroup$ – JBH 1 hour ago
  • $\begingroup$ If you are interested in brainstorming ideas rather than solving specific problems, the best place to do that is in Worldbuilding Chat, specifically The Factory Floor. There, you can ask anything you want. Like any chatroom, it's a bit like the Old West and there may be multiple conversations going on simultaneously. If no one's there when you visit, leave your question and you'll be notified when someone responds to it. $\endgroup$ – JBH 1 hour ago
  • $\begingroup$ Finally, don't be afraid to provide the specifics of a question. You'll be amazed by the answers you get. (You're not actually helping improve the breadth of answers by injecting ambiguity.) Especially from user WillK. His mind works... differently... in a fabulous way. $\endgroup$ – JBH 1 hour ago

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