Novogenesis:Areas of study

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There are a near-infinite number of areas of study to consider

Physical Sciences

Materials Science

  • Consider the sequences:
    wood ashpotash → lye → sodium hydroxide
    dead vegetationcompostammoniasaltpeternitric acid.
    These show a progression from naturally occurring materials through increasing levels of processing, bond energy, and purifying to modern industrial materials. Measuring and recording this process could shed light on not just the history of these processes, but on practical methods of extending modern technological boundaries.
  • Given a limited selection of elements (< 40) is it possible to produce a modern standard of living

Thermodynamic Anthropology

  • The energy budget for making a glass kiln (fired brick, anhydrous mortar, iron fixtures) is huge compared to its daily consumption to produce glass. How long does it take for the glass to repay the expenditure? Did the absence of glass prohibit something, or does glass "merely" improve the efficiency of some other operations?
  • Bronze is not strictly a chemical or technological precursor to iron. Should we start with iron or copper and tin? Bronze is a useful substance, but given that the reduction of iron is well understood and can be produced with similar tools for only slightly more energy, is it worth recreating a "bronze age" or not? It'll be easier and more efficient to make bronze and brass once iron is available.
  • Would you make aspirin if it were chemically easier and energetically cheaper to produce acetominophen?

Tools and Machines

Closely related to the nines problem, how do you get from branches to dowels, from carved holes to bushings to bearings?

Physiology and Medicine

  • Calories in and calories out.
  • Adaptation to changes in sleep, eating, and discomfort levels.
  • Medications available in-situ at any given time. e.g.
    • The practicality and appropriateness of alcohol as a staple social commodity.
    • Tea as a food, medicine, social convention
  • Changes in individuals' hormone levels as a result of physical and social constraints
  • Changes in preferred diet

Social Sciences


  • Labor availability
    Recent empirical data (See Naked and Afraid and I, Caveman') show that up to 40% of the hypothetical labor is unavailable at any given time due to emotional restrictions. Sometimes this trades off on a day to day or week to week basis as moods among the participants change. Sometimes it appears to be completely suppressed until the need reaches some threshhold. Social interaction patterns over time seems to be remarkably consistent in some of these experiments: independent action with occasional cooperation, resentment, strong need, accommodation, etc.
  • How are independent and common goals assessed and addressed?
  • Social expectations based on visible data
    In a less sophisticated environment, the differences in individual contribution that are strictly physical (or mental, or emotional) may be quite different than in a modern environment. How does this affect social interaction? Is there a genuine legitimacy to "might makes right" that isn't recognized in our modern perspective?


Includes much of the above, but also

  • Adaptation to the imposition of new norms
  • Celebration of situation-specific victories
  • Appreciation of the contributions of "others" that might go unnoticed in other situations
  • Longer-term changes in the participants afterwards. (e.g. The Colony, Season 1, "Aftermath")

Organizational Topologies

  • Shuttling between completely independent action, coopting helpers, autocracy, socialism, democracy.
  • Segmenting the group intentionally or unintentionally.

Practical Mathematics and Geometry

  • It might be possible to assess the degree to mathematics is required to operate a system as opposed to moving it forward. Could the level of mathematics involved to produce an electric light (late 19th century tech) be far far behind the calculus that was available in the 17th century?
  • At the same time, perhaps needing to use a compass and straight edge to produce everyday things (measure out a square parcel of land, assure a level surface on the top of a wall) will drive this knowledge into broader circulation.
  • The relevance of Discrete vs Real mathematics in an environment that is changing far more rapidly than it ever did historically.

Broad Questions

Chicken and egg

There are a lot of chicken-and-egg problems: How do you mine the metal to get the iron ore for a hammer when you don't already have an iron hammer and chisel? Current interpretations of history posit convenient ramps (start with a copper or bronze hammer) but the practicality of these ideas is seldom tested.

Improving accuracy

A.K.A the "nines" problem.

  • How many iterations of "three spinning disks" does it take to go from crudely cut stone disks to flat-ish stone disks to flat-er iron disks to flatter-still steel disks to very very flat silicon carbide disks? Today our world spins atop billions of rotations of the three disks, but the vast majority of them are superfluous. How many are actually required?
  • How do you get from 90% purity in one material to 99% in the next to 99.9% in the next? What is the value in doing it? What is the labor, energy, social cost of providing it?


  • How do units arise in a completely unit-free environment? (Hammurabi)

See Also