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Old 01-15-2011, 11:53 AM
 
Location: Somewhere in northern Alabama
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dane_in_LA View Post
I think you may be underestimating the difficulty of getting sulphur and saltpetre, to say nothing of the metallurgy involved in making cannon. 11th century, that's the Norman invasion or thereabouts - end of the Viking Age. Iron was still expensive enough that shipwrights kept count of individual nails.

Unless you're a skilled blacksmith in the 21st century already, that's a tough call.

5th century would have been easy: Stirrups.
Sulfur would be easily found around volcanic vents. Saltpeter can be derived from horse stable waste, IIRC.
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Old 01-15-2011, 12:29 PM
 
Location: On the "Left Coast", somewhere in "the Land of Fruits & Nuts"
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dane_in_LA View Post
I think you may be underestimating the difficulty of getting sulphur and saltpetre, to say nothing of the metallurgy involved in making cannon. 11th century, that's the Norman invasion or thereabouts - end of the Viking Age. Iron was still expensive enough that shipwrights kept count of individual nails.

Unless you're a skilled blacksmith in the 21st century already, that's a tough call.
Maybe, but it didn't seem to stop the Chinese from arming the Great Wall with over 3,000 cannons cast of bronze and iron (which was even more plentiful in Europe than bronze).
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Old 01-15-2011, 01:05 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by harry chickpea View Post
Sulfur would be easily found around volcanic vents.
And how far is it to the nearest volcano? How do you get there? In 11th century Europe, it's pack horse or ship - unless you're lucky enough to live by an old Roman road, then a cart is feasible.

Stuff just can't be moved around as easily.
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Old 01-15-2011, 01:11 PM
 
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Originally Posted by mateo45 View Post
Maybe, but it didn't seem to stop the Chinese from arming the Great Wall with over 3,000 cannons cast of bronze and iron (which was even more plentiful in Europe than bronze).
The thing is, does our 21st century time traveler have enough knowledge to make a cannon with 11th century materials? Chinese blacksmiths and bronze workers were skilled artisans knowing the limitations of their technology. Even with modern materials and hand tools, I'd be very hard pressed to make an iron cannon that I'd trust.
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Old 01-15-2011, 02:13 PM
 
Location: Somewhere in northern Alabama
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dane_in_LA View Post
And how far is it to the nearest volcano? How do you get there? In 11th century Europe, it's pack horse or ship - unless you're lucky enough to live by an old Roman road, then a cart is feasible.

Stuff just can't be moved around as easily.
Italy. Vesuvius. Italy is in Europe. Were you thinking Germany?

If so a rather involved answer to the OP question is here:
1632 by Eric Flint - Baen Books (http://www.baen.com/library/0671319728/0671319728.htm - broken link)
Wrong century, similar concept. It is a pretty good read.
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Old 01-15-2011, 02:21 PM
 
Location: On the "Left Coast", somewhere in "the Land of Fruits & Nuts"
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dane_in_LA View Post
The thing is, does our 21st century time traveler have enough knowledge to make a cannon with 11th century materials? Chinese blacksmiths and bronze workers were skilled artisans knowing the limitations of their technology. Even with modern materials and hand tools, I'd be very hard pressed to make an iron cannon that I'd trust.
Well, Europe started producing cannons less than two centuries after learning about gunpowder, so it obviously wasn't that hard to figure out how to put the 2 together ("21st century safety" or no). Also I'm kinda thinkin' you might not have been the type to "experiment" with cherry bombs and various "containers" as a kid. But heck, even "McGyver" wasn't always about "safe".
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Old 01-15-2011, 02:39 PM
 
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Originally Posted by harry chickpea View Post
Italy. Vesuvius. Italy is in Europe. Were you thinking Germany?
There are more places in Europe far away from a convenient volcano than there are close to one.
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Old 01-15-2011, 02:40 PM
 
Location: Victoria TX
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dane_in_LA View Post

Math, perhaps. How many people could do long division, multiply large numbers, that kind of thing? Sure, the peasants wouldn't need it, but perhaps the local lord or king?
The level of math that I could pop off the top of my head was well known by the Chinese, Babylonians and Greeks before the Christian era, but if I took the trouble to memorize the quadratic formula before getting into the time machine, I could wow them with that. That wasn't formulated for all values until the 16th century.

Generally, the world's mathematicians had pretty well mastered high school algebra and geometry 2,000 years ago.

Actually, I posed this question to a high school girl a few years ago, and the quadratic formula was the first thing that came to her mind. But I'm not sure that would have made a significant impact on culture or industry.
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Old 01-15-2011, 05:04 PM
 
Location: On the "Left Coast", somewhere in "the Land of Fruits & Nuts"
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Originally Posted by harry chickpea View Post
Your question is deceptively simple. It is difficult to introduce any idea that changes a system. The system has a way of pushing back. It could be being burnt as a witch, being otherwise executed, or just ignored.
That really is the biggest obstacle, pulling off any revolutionary invention in the Middle Ages without threatening the rigid social order, which by now has changed at least as much as the technology.

A similar idea is asking who would have the most difficulty adjusting.... a visitor from say, 1500 AD, suddenly transported 400 years later (to 1900 AD), or one from 1900 visiting only 100 years later (to 2000 AD)? While both periods experienced enormous technological change, arguably the the past 100 years or so have experienced the most (disorienting) amount of social changes... in attitudes re: marriage, sexuality, gender, race, class, economic opportunity, patriotism, health, the environment, etc.. Heck, there are a lot of folks even today who still haven't adjusted!
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Old 01-16-2011, 07:50 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
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Keep in mind the proviso addended to the OP: Even assuming that they are open to accept your ideas and don't burn you as a heretic.

Take again, the example of a battery and a simple armature motor. All components could be fashioned by a worker using existing craftsmanship in the year 1000, and made from available materials. The question is, could you show them how?

If you were hanging out at a jobsite, do you think you would ever be able to say "Here's a better way to do that"?

Actually, I even had such an experience. In Africa, I saw a truck driver trying to change a tire. He had a lug socket with a transverse hole, through which to insert a long bar for torque. He was trying to turn it by putting the bar half way through, and twisting with one hand on each end. I showed him how to put just one end into the hole, and step on the other end with his body weight, and it came loose easily. This is obviously a mechanical principle that was widely known, but not yet universal nor intuitive, and this particular driver simply did not know it.

Interestingly, sometimes it works in reverse. 19-th century explorers, armed with muskets, were astonished to learn from jungle tribes that they could deliver effective muzzle velocity through blowguns, using only their own lungs for power, through a simple tool they could find lying on the ground ready for use.
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