Alternate histories

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Highway
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Re: Alternate histories

Post by Highway » 07 Apr 2012, 16:15

It seems to me that many worlds is another philosophical thought experiment, much like the 'free will' discussions we've had (i.e. "much sound and fury signifying nothing"). Unless and until there is actually a mechanism for displacement and transfer between any two multi-verse 'streams', it really doesn't *matter* one whit whether there are infinite universes or not. It's a fun "Well it could be like this in another universe!" conjecture, but at best, or better described as worst, the only thing that will spawn is guilt or regret by yourself here if you believe that 'other' you made some terrible decision.
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Re: Alternate histories

Post by Jennifer » 07 Apr 2012, 19:43

Warren wrote:I'm not sure what you're going on about Jennifer. The whole 'all possibilities multiverse' thing isn't really about how the it affects people.
??? I didn't say it was; I'm just trying to grasp the mind-boggling enormity of it all. I'm just one of seven billion people currently alive on this planet, I alone made dozens of incredibly mundane decisions, so did the other seven billion people, and many of those seven billion even made Point Of Divergence-type decisions: Will I ask her to marry me, yes or no? Will I accept his marriage proposal or not? Do I risk quitting my day job to cut a record, or not? And every time any one of us makes any decision, an alternate universe is created?
Highway wrote:It seems to me that many worlds is another philosophical thought experiment, much like the 'free will' discussions we've had (i.e. "much sound and fury signifying nothing"). Unless and until there is actually a mechanism for displacement and transfer between any two multi-verse 'streams', it really doesn't *matter* one whit whether there are infinite universes or not.
Even though it doesn't matter, it would still be great to learn as much as we could about it, assuming there's any "there" there. For my personal everyday purposes it doesn't even matter if earth is round or flat -- any course I plan to drive maps perfectly well in two directions.
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Re: Alternate histories

Post by Warren » 07 Apr 2012, 20:21

Jennifer wrote:I'm just trying to grasp the mind-boggling enormity of it all. I'm just one of seven billion people currently alive on this planet, I alone made dozens of incredibly mundane decisions, so did the other seven billion people, and many of those seven billion even made Point Of Divergence-type decisions.
Well that's what I'm saying, you're not even getting anywhere near how enormously confounded the many worlds theory is. It isn't about "choices" as in "should I go downtown or take the bypass". It's more "this electron might absorb a photon or it might not". So in every instant of time, every quantum object (like an electron) "fractures" into every possible event it might have done. And in every one of those universes everything in it fractures into countless more universes, and on and on. The bizzillions upon bizzillions of possibilities all taking place in separated spacetimes. So there isn't a universe where you went down the baking aisle and a universe where you didn't. There is a separate universe for every possible interplay of matter and energy in each of those scenarios. And as DAR points out, this theory yields absolutely nothing in the way of increasing our understanding.
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Re: Alternate histories

Post by Highway » 07 Apr 2012, 20:26

Jennifer wrote:
Highway wrote:It seems to me that many worlds is another philosophical thought experiment, much like the 'free will' discussions we've had (i.e. "much sound and fury signifying nothing"). Unless and until there is actually a mechanism for displacement and transfer between any two multi-verse 'streams', it really doesn't *matter* one whit whether there are infinite universes or not.
Even though it doesn't matter, it would still be great to learn as much as we could about it, assuming there's any "there" there. For my personal everyday purposes it doesn't even matter if earth is round or flat -- any course I plan to drive maps perfectly well in two directions.
If there was any way to actually learn about it, then that would be a mechanism for transfer between streams, and it would be relevant to every day discussion. And things like the shape of the world *do* matter for your every day life, using that example: There are many many things you *could not have* if the world were not a sphere - like GPS navigation for one.
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Re: Alternate histories

Post by Kolohe » 07 Apr 2012, 20:31

I never thought of Alt-history as way of studying Science!, I've always thought of it as a way of studying History!.

On the inevitability of ideas, we almost literally are the billions of monkeys slapping away at typewriters for millennia; it's hard to see how any particular idea would never come up as long as there is Homo Sapiens (and as long as they are the dominant species on the planet). The particular ideas you mention Jennifer, do not even strike me as being particularly 'out there', but to be sure that could be my cultural upbringing talking.
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Re: Alternate histories

Post by Eric the .5b » 07 Apr 2012, 23:54

Something I've disliked in alternate history discussions lately (not here, just ones I've run into a lot online) is that there's a dull sort of historical determinism backlash against the very idea. Trends rule everything, and no individual actually matters. Christopher Columbus doesn't finance his trip, so someone else crosses the Atlantic a couple years later.

While Great Man adulation is a tiresome sort of necro-fellatio, history is a chain of decisions, accidents, and interactions. Columbus, for instance, was a charismatic crackpot who wildly underestimated the size of the Earth and got funding for a sea trip that, without the Americas in the way, would have ended up in failure and likely loss of all three ships. There's no particular reason to think anyone else would have tried going straight West without 1) a good reason to think there wasn't just open ocean between Europe and Asia or 2) the ability to make such a long voyage.

Now, there are other possibilities. Someone could have taken a northern route and rediscovered Greenland and modern Canada, then other explorers could have worked their way south, for instance. Or as they did in our history, Russian explorers trying to survey the extent of Siberia could have come over the Bering Strait. Of course, the Americas would eventually be discovered some way. But without Columbus, it might have been decades or even a couple of centuries later, and not merely with different leaders, but different European empires in a position to take advantage of the New World (and a different situation there, as well). The entire geopolitics of the 1500s and thus later centuries could have gone very, very differently.

Or just watch or read any of the stuff James Burke's written on the history of science. Or the history of business, or just history. I think too much that happens is the result of people capitalizing on - or failing to adapt to - some circumstance to just shrug and say trends, trends, trends.
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Re: Alternate histories

Post by Jennifer » 08 Apr 2012, 01:37

Kolohe wrote:I never thought of Alt-history as way of studying Science!, I've always thought of it as a way of studying History!.
Me too. I should've clarified that.
On the inevitability of ideas, we almost literally are the billions of monkeys slapping away at typewriters for millennia; it's hard to see how any particular idea would never come up as long as there is Homo Sapiens (and as long as they are the dominant species on the planet). The particular ideas you mention Jennifer, do not even strike me as being particularly 'out there', but to be sure that could be my cultural upbringing talking.
But it's not merely a matter of whether ideas come up, but how much traction they gain. Hitler probably still would've had his ideas about Jews and state power even in an alternate Germany where things never got bad enough for him to amount to anything.

I think the ideas I mentioned are pretty out there, historically speaking. Individuals have rights which society cannot take away? Religion is your own business? Those ideas aren't even dominant among world populations today, and in the countries where they do (at least on theory) hold sway, there's always people who disagree.
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Re: Alternate histories

Post by Jennifer » 08 Apr 2012, 01:58

Eric the .5b wrote:Or just watch or read any of the stuff James Burke's written on the history of science. Or the history of business, or just history. I think too much that happens is the result of people capitalizing on - or failing to adapt to - some circumstance to just shrug and say trends, trends, trends.
I think some of it's trends and some of it's "that individual changed history, and without him nothing like that ever would have happened." Of course, the problem is figuring out which is which.

I know Turtledove has often mentioned China in various alt-history books -- for a long time it was far advanced of any other civilization, but then it turned inward and stagnated. Had the outside world not rudely intervened, how long would that stagnation (well, extremely slow rate of change/improvement) have continued? Had European history been different --, say, the Romans never fell, and eventually made a China-like decision to turn inward and stagnate -- maybe we would still be stuck at a medieval level of technology, even 100 years from now.

More importantly, especially regarding James Burke's Connections (note to self: I oughtta re-watch that): if these are all empires without patents or copyrights, a world where everyone must therefore jealously guard their "trade secrets," that system of one innovation or discovery building on another breaks down. (That idea, I lifted from a recent Turtledove book where pretty much that exact thing happened.)

Turtledove posited a world where the Black Death hit Europe much, much harder than it did; I'd be interested in what happens in a world where the Black Death never happened.
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Re: Alternate histories

Post by Jadagul » 08 Apr 2012, 03:41

D.A. Ridgely wrote:
Jadagul wrote:On infinite numbers of infinities: Jennifer, remind me to explain Cantor diagonalization at some point.
Then we can discuss whether treating infinite sets like finite sets is even comprehensible, let alone sufficiently self evident to qualify as an axiom. (Wittgenstein's position, unsurprisingly, is that the answer is ultimately arbitrary. I'd just be interested in Jadagul's take.)
Well, I'm as far as I can tell fairly Wittgensteinian about such things. I'm what mathematicians call a formalist: mathematical concepts don't correspond to real objects, they only correspond to, roughly, their own formal definitions. So we clearly can talk about infinity, because when I say "infinity" I'm talking about whatever "infinity" refers to and infinity isn't anything other than "whatever I mean when I say 'infinity'". So we can talk about infinite sets however our arbitrary formal language lets us talk about infinite sets. And in the language of Zermelo-Frankel set theory we can totally talk about infinite sets the way we talk about finite sets. Classes, however, are a completely different thing (and a really weird formal kludge I don't fully understand, designed to deal with Russel's Paradox in a way I also don't understand).

But on infinite infinities, this is basically the thing that made Cantor's reputation. He was studying infinite sets and wanted to figure out when they were the same size as each other. For instance, the set of "integers greater than zero" and "integers greater than one" are the "same size"; this is the reason people say that infinity plus one is exactly the same as infinity. Cantor generalized this to "two sets are the same size if there's a bijection between them," which basically means that you can pair up the elements one-to-one. In particular, a set is "countable" if you can pair it up with the positive integers, and so say, "this is the first element, this is the second element, etc."

So Cantor then proved two surprising things. The first is that the rational numbers (the set of all fractions) is the same size as the set of all positive integers. Which seems weird, because if you start counting "1, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, .." you never get to the end and so never get to, say, 2/3 ever. But Cantor pointed out that there's a different order you can go in: "1, 1/2, 2, 1/3, 2/2, 3, 1/4, 2/3, 3/2, 4, 1/5, ..." and you get to everything. So there are exactly as many fractions as there are integers.

Now people said, "oh, well, if that's true, clearly all infinities must be the same size." But Cantor whipped out a weirder thing: the real numbers between 0 and 1. Which for our purposes we're going to treat as the set of possibly infinite and non-repeated decimal expansions. So Cantor says, suppose you can put them all in order. Then you get a list that looks like this:

.0978096807...
.4123612397...
.1433197869...
.1938476913...

And so on. Now, we're assuming this list contains every possible such decimal. But consider the following number: it has a "1" in the first spot unless there's a "1" in the first spot of the first number, in which case it has a "2". It has a "1" in the second slot, unless there's a "1" in the second slot of the second number, in which case it has a "2". And so on. So for our list above we get .1122...... And the trick is, if you think about it, this decimal can't possibly be any of the decimals on our list, because it differs from each of them in at least one place. So clearly our list wasn't complete, and so it's impossible to have a complete list of the real numbers. So the integers and the rationals are the same size, but the reals are bigger.

Apparently the mathematicians in the 1800s considered committing Cantor to an asylum before admitting he was right.

Jadagul wrote:On many worlds in general--I have many thoughts. I'm also running late. This post is a placeholder. But the short version is that I find many worlds most sensible as an alternative to Copenhagen.
Because you balk intuitively at the notion that the best description of sub-atomic behavior is probabilistic? I just don't see what the many worlds hypothesis adds to our understanding of physical reality. Seems to me, it's just a warm fuzzy.[/quote]


Oddly enough, Warren basically has it. This belief is more or less on a religious level, because it by its nature generates no testable predictions. But basically, one of the issues of "what quantum really means" is to ask what entanglement means, and what wave collapse means. Like, the math says an electron is in a superposition of two states; but what does the actual electron look like? And I find it more comfortable to think that the math is the real thing, and there is no actual electron, and the wave collapse just refers to our brains becoming entangled with one chunk of the phase space. So there's really only one continuous world, which encompasses the full state vectors of everything, but our brains are entangled with one particular subspace of state space and so we "perceive" that. And some other subspace of our brains' state vector is entangled with some other subspace of state space and perceives that state space. But it's just an infinite-dimensioned (or possibly very high finite dimensioned, depending on whether you quantize) complex dimensional vector space.

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Re: Alternate histories

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 08 Apr 2012, 10:43

FYI, Jadagul, I'm well aware of Cantor's diagonal argument. It's pretty much standard fare along with, e.g., Turing machines, Godel's theorems, Russell's paradox as it affects the first order predicate calculus and his (I think woefully inadequate) Theory of Types to fudge the problem, etc., and such in any philosophy of logic survey. And, indeed, W's take is roughly that you can treat infinity like a finite number but you shouldn't be surprised if it behaves differently in a set theoretic understanding of mathematics from finite sets. In an informal context, infinity just means something like, "and you can go on as long as you like."

My point is that the many worlds hypothesis doesn't add anything to the science. Of course an electron is at some level simply a formal construct in a mathematical model that, at least at present and quite possibly forever, is our best representation of physical reality. But positing that instead of wave collapse the 'particle' is in fact (whatever that means in this context) in every possible state in an infinite number of alternate worlds from the one in which we measured it doesn't resolve any apparent paradoxes. It just says "Oh, well, since the standard model is counter-intuitive, here's a picture you'll find less disquieting." BFD

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Re: Alternate histories

Post by GinSlinger » 08 Apr 2012, 10:55

Eric the .5b wrote:While Great Man adulation is a tiresome sort of necro-fellatio, history is a chain of decisions, accidents, and interactions. Columbus, for instance, was a charismatic crackpot who wildly underestimated the size of the Earth and got funding for a sea trip that, without the Americas in the way, would have ended up in failure and likely loss of all three ships. There's no particular reason to think anyone else would have tried going straight West without 1) a good reason to think there wasn't just open ocean between Europe and Asia or 2) the ability to make such a long voyage.
While I'm mostly sympathetic to your general point--and I indeed think that there is some room for the "great man" theory of history (See Napoleon)--this specific example I don't think fits. The records are spotty, as it appears there was a lot of jealous secrecy around what Henry VII was doing, but there's a fair to even chance that the reason England didn't sponsor Columbus' voyage was that they were already working on something similar--and they were the late comers to long-distance ocean sailing.
In June 1497, the historical expedition from Great Britain led by John Cabot on the ship "Matthew" approached the waters of North America, off the Newfoundland coast, and discovered abundant resources of cod.
. . . .
The first fishing expeditions after the John Cabot discovery of North America were started in the 1490s. Historic records show England (the "West Country"), France, Portugal and Spain were fishing cod in 1502–03.
http://www.nafo.int/about/frames/history.html ('cause I get tired of linking to Wikipedia, but am too lazy to type anything out of a book)

This voyage is the one we have definite records for Cabot making it to the Americas, but there was at least one earlier voyage we know of from a single, very cryptic letter. One school of thought on Cabot holds that he received his 1496 letter of patent before undertaking his first voyage out of Bristol. Another (that I'm rather fond of if only be to contradictory) holds that he applied for a patent after knowing he would in fact find a land mass (i.e. North America). Add into that the difficulty of determining exactly when and how word of Columbus' first voyage spread (the so-called "second letter" is the one most likely to have reached points outside Spain and Rome and has been dated to 1497), and it's very possible Cabot made his voyage without prior knowledge of Columbus' discovery. Finally, there is the possibility that Bristol fishers had actually made it to North America in the 1480s during their search for the island of Brasil (though this is extremely speculative, but Pedro de Ayala's and John Day's letters suggests this possibility).

Then there are the more hypothetical voyages: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-Columb ... e_theories

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Re: Alternate histories

Post by Jadagul » 08 Apr 2012, 15:38

D.A. Ridgely wrote:FYI, Jadagul, I'm well aware of Cantor's diagonal argument. It's pretty much standard fare along with, e.g., Turing machines, Godel's theorems, Russell's paradox as it affects the first order predicate calculus and his (I think woefully inadequate) Theory of Types to fudge the problem, etc., and such in any philosophy of logic survey. And, indeed, W's take is roughly that you can treat infinity like a finite number but you shouldn't be surprised if it behaves differently in a set theoretic understanding of mathematics from finite sets. In an informal context, infinity just means something like, "and you can go on as long as you like."

My point is that the many worlds hypothesis doesn't add anything to the science. Of course an electron is at some level simply a formal construct in a mathematical model that, at least at present and quite possibly forever, is our best representation of physical reality. But positing that instead of wave collapse the 'particle' is in fact (whatever that means in this context) in every possible state in an infinite number of alternate worlds from the one in which we measured it doesn't resolve any apparent paradoxes. It just says "Oh, well, since the standard model is counter-intuitive, here's a picture you'll find less disquieting." BFD
Well, yeah. I brought up Cantor because the quote you were responding to included the comment "by the way, Jennifer, remind me to explain Cantor at some point."

And your second paragraph I completely agree with. I did say it wasn't a scientific belief but a religious one, no?

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Re: Alternate histories

Post by thoreau » 08 Apr 2012, 18:41

Regarding the role of individuals:

I don't doubt that a lot of things would have happened regardless. History is full of people who nearly beat somebody else to the punch. But, let's take WWII: I don't doubt that Germany was going to enter a very ugly phase after WWI no matter what, I agree that that ugly phase would have involved aggression against neighbors, Japan obviously wanted to dominate Asia and the Pacific, and the Soviet Union probably also would have tried to conquer neighbors no matter what. But I can see one obvious way, tied to physics, that a few different individuals could have drastically altered history:

WWII happened right at the start of the nuclear age. Say that a slightly different cast of characters appears in Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union, so that WWII happens a few years later, and that Germany doesn't scare away all of the brightest minds in physics. (Or suppose that a few physicists have some "lucky" breaks sooner and nukes are developed in the 1930's.) Now we have WWII starting with nukes already in existence. That has to change something, either for much worse (obvious scenario) or better (they recognize the logic of MAD and don't cross certain lines) or bad-but-different (they recognize the logic of MAD and so they fight a more limited but far more protracted war on the peripheries of their domains).

This could have substantially altered the course of the 20th century.
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Re: Alternate histories

Post by thoreau » 08 Apr 2012, 18:42

Regarding many worlds: I don't follow developments in the interpretation of quantum mechanics very closely, but I have yet to figure out what use the interpretation has. My sympathies lie with De Broglie-Bohm. I don't know that they make any different predictions either, but at least they enable you to think clearly as you make your predictions. Their approach also has one obvious piece that, if you wanted, you could tweak to make testable predictions that differ from standard quantum mechanics. Very few people have gone there, because at the moment there's absolutely zero experimental evidence to motivate such a step, but it is still worth noting.

EDIT TO CHANGE ONE WORD
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Re: Alternate histories

Post by thoreau » 08 Apr 2012, 19:00

Finally, another note on alternative history and butterfly effects:

So, somebody in a different timeline goes to the store. He buys a bunch of stuff and has a problem with his credit card and there's a price check. So George Zimmerman, standing behind him, is delayed by a few minutes. Then he manages to catch every red light on his way home. So he never sees Trayvon Martin. We don't know what the media would be focusing on instead, and we don't know which cops or prosecutors might have different (for better or worse) careers as a result. We don't know what those cops and prosecutors will or won't do in the future.

Even in 2012, the local political fallout will probably affect the careers of some ground-level political operatives for both parties, as both parties are extra-cautious about whoever they put on the ground in that locale. Somebody that none of us have heard of has put his or her foot in his or her mouth and has been crossed off the list for a fundraising spot in the Florida branch of one campaign or the other. We don't know what that person would have done (either to help a campaign or unwittingly sabotage it, perhaps in a very behind-the-scenes way in either case) had they been put on the campaign. And if Florida is a key state, that butterfly effect might determine the outcome of the Presidential race.

None of this is to say that I blame the Trayvon Martin case for what happens in November, because there are a million other things that could affect it. In some alternate timeline, and airplane mechanic shows up to work drunk and a candidate's plane falls out of the sky as a result, and in the aftermath the nation unites around his grieving widow. In another timeline, a hurricane doesn't get diverted and there's a botched FEMA effort and the President's campaign is irretrievably sunk.
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Re: Alternate histories

Post by Eric the .5b » 08 Apr 2012, 22:32

GinSlinger wrote:While I'm mostly sympathetic to your general point--and I indeed think that there is some room for the "great man" theory of history (See Napoleon)--this specific example I don't think fits. The records are spotty, as it appears there was a lot of jealous secrecy around what Henry VII was doing, but there's a fair to even chance that the reason England didn't sponsor Columbus' voyage was that they were already working on something similar--and they were the late comers to long-distance ocean sailing.
Ehn. Aside from the Norse settlements in Newfoundland and Greenland, the pre-Columbian claims of European contact with the Americas are dubious at best - the sort of thing where I expect to hear people mentioning Templars. ;) There isn't any hard evidence that Cabot was interested in going West before hearing about "the Indies". News was slow back then, but he left years later.
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Re: Alternate histories

Post by GinSlinger » 09 Apr 2012, 08:37

Eric the .5b wrote:
GinSlinger wrote:While I'm mostly sympathetic to your general point--and I indeed think that there is some room for the "great man" theory of history (See Napoleon)--this specific example I don't think fits. The records are spotty, as it appears there was a lot of jealous secrecy around what Henry VII was doing, but there's a fair to even chance that the reason England didn't sponsor Columbus' voyage was that they were already working on something similar--and they were the late comers to long-distance ocean sailing.
Ehn. Aside from the Norse settlements in Newfoundland and Greenland, the pre-Columbian claims of European contact with the Americas are dubious at best - the sort of thing where I expect to hear people mentioning Templars. ;) There isn't any hard evidence that Cabot was interested in going West before hearing about "the Indies". News was slow back then, but he left years later.
David B. Quinn is no fringe Templar promoter.

Regardless, there were at least a score of navigators seeking funding for westward voyages contemporaneous to Columbus. I still don't think one has to have Columbus to have the discover of the Western Hemisphere in the late-fifteenth/early-sixteenth centuries. I don't have chapter-by-chapter notes for this book, but I believe Chapter 8 provides the context: http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/toc/583.html (it's a really good, if at times dense book). One doesn't have to accept the Bristol "secret fishery" or any other half-evidenced claims to recognize that Columbus wasn't the only European advocating sailing west to get east.

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Re: Alternate histories

Post by Jasper » 09 Apr 2012, 09:43

Jadagul wrote: So we clearly can talk about infinity, because when I say "infinity" I'm talking about whatever "infinity" refers to and infinity isn't anything other than "whatever I mean when I say 'infinity'".
I read this in Wallace Shawn's voice.
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Re: Alternate histories

Post by Sandy » 10 Apr 2012, 23:43

Eric the .5b wrote:But without Columbus, it might have been decades or even a couple of centuries later, and not merely with different leaders, but different European empires in a position to take advantage of the New World (and a different situation there, as well). The entire geopolitics of the 1500s and thus later centuries could have gone very, very differently.
Dammit, you made me remember having read Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus. Now I'm gonna be pissy all night.
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Re: Alternate histories

Post by Eric the .5b » 11 Apr 2012, 01:37

The Supreme Court of Colorado held that I am blameless for anything related to an Orson Scott Card novel, from his good period or not.
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Re: Alternate histories

Post by Jennifer » 09 Aug 2015, 13:10

Caught a bit of an old documentary on the "Siberian Apocalypse" (Tunguska blast) which, fortunately, is not known to have killed a single human being because it exploded in the remote wilderness where nobody lived. But had it come by just a few hours later, it would've vaporized St. Petersburg, or London, or other densely populated areas in that northern latitude. I wonder how radically different an alternate timeline would be with that point of divergence from our own?
"Myself, despite what they say about libertarians, I think we're actually allowed to pursue options beyond futility or sucking the dicks of the powerful." -- Eric the .5b

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thoreau
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Re: Alternate histories

Post by thoreau » 09 Aug 2015, 13:33

Jennifer wrote:Caught a bit of an old documentary on the "Siberian Apocalypse" (Tunguska blast) which, fortunately, is not known to have killed a single human being because it exploded in the remote wilderness where nobody lived. But had it come by just a few hours later, it would've vaporized St. Petersburg, or London, or other densely populated areas in that northern latitude. I wonder how radically different an alternate timeline would be with that point of divergence from our own?
I have to assume that such a timeline would include some sort of new religious movement or schism.
"ike Wile E. Coyote salivating over a "4000 Ways To Prepare Roadrunner" cookbook without watching his surroundings, the Road Runner of Societal Inertia snuck up on them both and beepbeeped them off the mesa."
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Re: Alternate histories

Post by Mo » 09 Aug 2015, 14:17

Or nuclear launch codes
his voice is so soothing, but why do conspiracy nuts always sound like Batman and Robin solving one of Riddler's puzzles out loud? - fod

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Re: Alternate histories

Post by Jennifer » 09 Aug 2015, 14:23

thoreau wrote:
Jennifer wrote:Caught a bit of an old documentary on the "Siberian Apocalypse" (Tunguska blast) which, fortunately, is not known to have killed a single human being because it exploded in the remote wilderness where nobody lived. But had it come by just a few hours later, it would've vaporized St. Petersburg, or London, or other densely populated areas in that northern latitude. I wonder how radically different an alternate timeline would be with that point of divergence from our own?
I have to assume that such a timeline would include some sort of new religious movement or schism.
Documentary shows about historic or possible-future asteroid and comet strikes will always mention the concern that in our modern era, such a strike might be initially mistaken for an enemy attack, thus setting off a major war. (IIRC, there was a close call during some tense India-Pakistan* moments, when a smallish space rock hit the atmosphere without causing any actual damage, yet still hard enough to set off various missile-explosion detectors or something.) But that, at least, wouldn't have been an issue in 1908; humanity still lacked the ability to make an explosion remotely that devastating.

Had it struck St. Petersburg, that's where the Russian royal family lived most of the time, along with most of the government. Ditto for London -- actually, given what percentage of England such a strike would've destroyed, it's possible the majority of the country's population would be killed. So in addition to whatever religious fanaticism that would inspire, there's also the more immediate issue of a major country which just had its entire government, possibly the majority of its population, wiped out.

A post-Tunguska England would probably be easy pickings for any fairly strong circa-1908 military that wanted to invade and occupy it.

*EDIT: That very documentary is airing on H2 now, an old episode of "The Universe." The meteor strike wasn't in India, but in Bolivia, near the border during tense times. They still thought it was a military action.
Last edited by Jennifer on 09 Aug 2015, 14:52, edited 1 time in total.
"Myself, despite what they say about libertarians, I think we're actually allowed to pursue options beyond futility or sucking the dicks of the powerful." -- Eric the .5b

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Alternate histories

Post by Randroid 2.0 » 09 Aug 2015, 14:25

In the early 1900s? :)

Edit: lightly ribbing Mo here.

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