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Old 06-19-2022, 06:27 PM   #1
Tom Mazanec
 
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Default 1822 superscience

What 2022 RL technology would be superscience from the viewpoint of an 1822 GURPS, if GURPS existed two hundred years ago?
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Old 06-19-2022, 06:32 PM   #2
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Default Re: 1822 superscience

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What 2022 RL technology would be superscience from the viewpoint of an 1822 GURPS, if GURPS existed two hundred years ago?
Um, it might be easier to list what modern technologies would not be superscience.
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Old 06-19-2022, 06:41 PM   #3
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Default Re: 1822 superscience

One example would be organic chemistry as we now know it. It was believed in 1822 that organic molecules could not be synthesized in the laboratory by technological means, but only by the vital forces within living organisms—hence the name. (This is akin to the use of "organic" for foods produced without synthetic fertilizers.) The first organic synthesis was performed in 1828, of urea.

Conservation of mass was stated by Lomonosov and Lavoisier in the 1700s, and was accepted as a fundamental axiom by 1822. Atomic energy and radioactive decay, which violate conservation of mass, would be classed as superscience, in that they turn mass into energy.

By 1822, physicists had figured out the existence of infrared and ultraviolet, but shorter wavelengths (such as x-rays and gamma rays) and longer ones (radio, microwaves, and millimeter waves) weren't even guessed at until Maxwell formulated the electromagnetic equations, and their experimental proof came much later. That at least went beyond the knowledge of the time.

If you want to consider the social sciences as "science," Keynesian economics is based on a denial of Say's law (which says that general overproduction is impossible).
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Old 06-19-2022, 06:57 PM   #4
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Default Re: 1822 superscience

It depends a bit on how you're defining superscience. If your standard is "We have absolutely no idea how to do X" a huge amount is superscience, but if your standard is "We have reason to believe X is impossible" much less is.
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Old 06-19-2022, 07:26 PM   #5
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One example would be organic chemistry as we now know it. It was believed in 1822 that organic molecules could not be synthesized in the laboratory by technological means, but only by the vital forces within living organisms—hence the name. (This is akin to the use of "organic" for foods produced without synthetic fertilizers.) The first organic synthesis was performed in 1828, of urea..
Colour me sceptical. A development that was only six years away being classed as super science? I don't think so. I suspect that there was controversy, not consensus. Now that would be classed as super science would be anything having to do with nuclear fission.
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Old 06-19-2022, 07:39 PM   #6
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Colour me sceptical. A development that was only six years away being classed as super science? I don't think so. I suspect that there was controversy, not consensus. Now that would be classed as super science would be anything having to do with nuclear fission.
It seems to be the standard historical account.
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Old 06-19-2022, 09:46 PM   #7
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What 2022 RL technology would be superscience from the viewpoint of an 1822 GURPS, if GURPS existed two hundred years ago?
If Gurps 1822 assiged TLs (with or without^)to Mary Shelley's _Frankenstein_ our electrical defibrillation of hearts and organ transplants would put us somewhere on that Frankenstein timeline.
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Old 06-20-2022, 04:48 AM   #8
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Default Re: 1822 superscience

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If Gurps 1822 assiged TLs (with or without^)to Mary Shelley's _Frankenstein_ our electrical defibrillation of hearts and organ transplants would put us somewhere on that Frankenstein timeline.
True. Given what happened to Verne's Paris in the Twentieth Century (written in 1863) even some of the real life stuff in Steampunk and Steamtech would likely fall into the superscience category in 1822. Heck, the first practical electric motor didn't appear until 1835.

But here is something. Remember Classic GURPS didn't have a superscience category - things got a plain TL x. The Victorian age came up with scientific explanation for ghosts as Cambridge Platonist Henry Moore in the 17th century had suggested that souls (and therefore ghosts) are essentially four-dimensional beings, an idea that Johann Karl Friedrich Zöllner promoted in the 19th century.

So would a 1822 GURPS even have a superscience category?
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Old 06-20-2022, 05:49 AM   #9
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By 1822, physicists had figured out the existence of infrared and ultraviolet, but shorter wavelengths (such as x-rays and gamma rays) and longer ones (radio, microwaves, and millimeter waves) weren't even guessed at until Maxwell formulated the electromagnetic equations, and their experimental proof came much later. That at least went beyond the knowledge of the time.
So, X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs would be superscience: the ability to see inside the human body. And add ultrasounds to that list.
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Old 06-20-2022, 06:23 AM   #10
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Default Re: 1822 superscience

While the definition of "superscience" in GURPS is sometimes a little wobbly, there's generally a sense that it isn't just "advanced", it's "using currently unknown scientific principles", which in turn tends to mean "breaks currently known scientific principles".

So I don't think electromagnetic wavelengths beyond IR and UV need to count as "1822 superscience"; once you have the idea of EM radiation as a wave, playing with the idea of very long and very short wavelengths is simply building on what's known. Quantum mechanics, on the other hand, would look like pure woo. (Let's face it, it still does sometimes, even when we know it works.) Which in turn helps push microelectronics into the superscience category; electricity was known in 1822, and one can imagine a speculative writer building on ideas about motors and lighting, but once you start trying to explain how semiconductors work, people's heads will start spinning.

Similarly, genetics would be comprehensible in principle, though the ideas involved hadn't been pulled together at this date, but explaining genetic engineering would be tricky, because you'd have to explain atomic theory in some detail to explain DNA, and while that doesn't violate many fundamental principles, it's just way, way beyond what's understood. I think you'd just have to label it "superscience" or imagine your 1822 SF writer working through two centuries of development in multiple fields, none of it absolutely incomprehensible but all overwhelming by sheer volume.

All of which said, you'd have an amazingly easier job explaining most 2022 technology to a well-read science enthusiast in 1822 than you would have in 1772. The range of basic principles that were established in that half-century is amazing; Lavoisier's model of chemistry, the functional understanding of electricity, reasonably rigorous thermodynamics, and the concept of deep time, between them make TL6 and even 7 largely a matter of engineering.
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