1. Tangerino

    Tangerino New Member

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    Electricity following an asteroid collision

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Tangerino, Jan 31, 2017.

    Hello
    Does anyone know what would happen to electricity following an asteroid hit (I'm thinking dinosaur extinction size)?
    Would power be knocked out forever? Assuming electricity is recoverable, what would be needed to do so and how long do you think it would take?
    I have people in bunkers for the collision and for the years afterwards but am imagining some sort of industrial revolution taking place after they emerge. Am struggling to find information on how it would all happen so any thoughts would be much appreciated, as would any suggestions of where to go to find detailed information.
     
  2. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Assuming you have people surviving as you mention, in bunkers, where information and knowledge can also be saved, they can certainly rebuild. They aren't starting from scratch, knowledge-wise, so to speak. I doubt very much that they would be able to make use of any prior infrastructure. What wasn't completely destroyed will have fallen into disrepair and corrosion long before they are anywhere near the point of being able to look at getting things back to that level of technology. You've got some basic living concerns to take care of first. Remember that electricity isn't just magically created at power plants. There's an entire chain of events prior that will have fallen apart as well. Coal mining, oil industry, shipping, etc. Unless your power is coming from nuclear, solar or hydro, electricity in the modern world starts with combustibles. Getting at those combustibles is labor intensive and reliant on whole other subsets of modern technology. Even if you have the knowledge for how to make all this happen again, where is the manpower to mine coal or to drill oil and refine it into gasoline? Who can be spared from the subsistence farming needed to keep communities from starving in the now wildly erratic winters?

    tl;dr

    If you are going for realism, I don't think there will be any sort of industrial revolution for a few centuries. You simply don't have enough people after such an E.L.E., even if the knowledge is still there, kept safe.
     
  3. NigeTheHat

    NigeTheHat Contributor Contributor

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    It's possible there won't be one at all - we've stripped off most of the easy-access fuel that made the first one possible with the tech level available at the time.

    You might have some more luck with solar, hydro power etc that was on the other side of the world to the strike. I'm not sure how far away you'd need to be for there to be a decent chance the equipment would make it through the blast unscathed, either by the impact or by the ensuing earthquakes.
     
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  4. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Good point. The ragtag survivors may have a leg-up in knowledge, but they'll be behind the eight ball as regards getting at what's left. The days of poking a stick in the ground and striking oil are a century in the past. I really doubt solar will be an option. The technology is physically fragile and very high-tech; thus, it falls prey to the same problem of being dependent on a long chain of other industries that will also be in ruin. Hydro-electric, though, sounds like a more promising option.
     
  5. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    Hydro and wind would be among the most restorable, using old-style wooden waterwheels, windmills and a salvaged generator, with gears. Probably would be used with salvaged motors to provide some basic power, pumping water from a well for example. Direct use, also, wind-powered pumps. water-powered flour mills, saw mills etc. Solar would be out of the question. Where would you get the solar cells? Salvaged, perhaps a few, but being able to restore production? You would have to already have a vast amount of electricity and interconnected infrastructure to do that. Yes, one of things that makes a greatly connected society such as ours vulnerable is the fact that a great gulf separates us from the things that make the things that make the things we need. Also the knowledge of how to make something. Cars laying around are a great source of metal, but who today knows how to set a black smith and forge from scratch? Back to my immediate sentence, who would know how to make a waterwheel that would produce useful power? Who knows how to take a lump of wool shorn from a sheep and turn it into thread, and thread into a shirt?
     
  6. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    The easiest fictional cop out would be a salvaged home generator they hook up to a waterwheel to turn the motor. It ain't going to power much, but you might slide on the technical details. In a dinosaur sized extinction, I'd be more worried about food and exposure... you might not see the sun for a century.
     
  7. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I want to come back and stress that my answer, and the answers thus far that are pretty much all in agreement, are clearly geared toward a more real-world engagement of your question. Your story doesn't have to necessarily be this concerned with real-world dynamics to be an enjoyable read. Most of the dystopian stuff that has been well received has some major logic flaws as regards the world in which they live. In both the Divergent series and in the Maze Runner series - given the setting elements in play in those two franchises - there is ZERO chance of there being a breathable atmosphere left on Earth. No chance at all. The ecosphere has been obliterated in both stories and the writer fails to take into account that without some kind of mechanism to release free oxygen back into the atmosphere (in our case, plants and algae) oxygen quickly binds out of its free state, leaving nothing but nitrogen and some trace gases.
     
  8. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I thought that "nuclear winter" was one of the effects of a dinosaur killer, which would rule out both solar and possibly even hydroelectric, if the impact winter (googling quickly) was long enough. I think the biggest problem, though, is what @NigeTheHat mentioned; most all of the easily accessible combustibles (except for wood) are gone. On the positive side, however, you're going to have bucketloads of refined copper, aluminum, steel, etc just laying around in the corpses of the cities, which frees you of much of the expense of mining and processing them.
     
  9. Tangerino

    Tangerino New Member

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    This is very true. I'm trying to get enough information to be vaguely plausible (how do they turn on lights? How does fire work? Why haven't they built cars? What are houses made of? Etc etc), largely because the draft that a couple of people have read for me generated lots of questions about this sort of thing! Am hoping if I have some information then I can make some assumptions that sound reasonable but Google is just giving me information about surviving an impact, not the longer term possibilities.
    I really appreciate your replies.
     
  10. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    Yeah, good point. You're shooting for believability here, not realism. This is one of those plot holes you probably don't want to explain much. The more you point to it, the more likely we are to notice it. If you write something like, "We salvaged a few generators, stripped the motors, and refashioned the axles to one of Dr. Spiffy's waterwheels at the bottom of the chasm," and NEVER mention anything technical about them again, we'll likely forget about them later and accept that your underground habitat has power. However, if you painstakingly explain how the generators work and why contrary logic isn't contrary (I call this defensive writing), you're likely to get a few "Get the fuck out here" responses. Don't. Point. At. The. Plot. Holes.
     
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  11. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    Yeah, that'll happen, haha. Your best bet is to "ignore" all these by writing in a way that makes them plausible to the characters, thereby cutting the reader out of the equation. If the reader is invested in your characters they will be more likely to believe what they believe and ignore their own logical prejudices. I hate to use movies as an example but they're easier to digest and more likely to have been watched by a greater number of people. Take Chris Nolan films like Inception and Interstellar for example. These movies are riddled with plot holes. More holes than a team of PhDs could unravel in a three month symposium. The thing is you probably didn't notice them until later. You enjoyed the film, but once you thought about it a bit you were probably thinking Wait a minute. What the hell was that? How the hell did that happen? That doesn't make any sense at all! This is fine. This is a great way to manage plot holes and unbelievably dense justifications. It's the ones you notice in middle of movie that will halt to story and sometimes make you leave the theater.
     
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  12. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    I don't think they will be turning on many electric lights. You to be at the level of 19th century technology to make a light bulb, though maybe an arclight would be possible. However that would require some high voltages. Candles and fires are going to be much more practical. Beeswax or pig fat and some string.
     
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  13. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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  14. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    You also have to remember that information is more important than anything. A dam is a useless object without someone who knows how to run and maintain it. Technology breaks, it has to be maintained. In a world that's all about survival, remember how to follow electrical diagrams would not be very useful and likely be forgotten.
     
  15. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    While agree with this if the only source of information is what's stored in the brains of the survivors, I would think that in the scenario the OP presents, since preparations have been made to survive, they would also take the measures needed to keep the data for these kinds of things stored as well. But yeah, if it's a last minute thing and all you've got is human memory, then yes.
     
  16. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Also even if they didnt some books/manual etc would survive - if you think of John Wyndhams Day of the Triffids one of the things the survivors are collecting up to take with therm out of the city is books with info pertnent to their survival
     
  17. Dnaiel

    Dnaiel Senior Member

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    Another issue to contend with is the weather. The asteroid that knocked the breath out of our dinosaurs put the planet into a long impact winter, and that kind of weather would be really hard on an electrical grid recreation. This will also impact food supplies and, depending on how long it lasted, result in some malnutrition from lack of sunlight (as in vitamin D). They'll need to store up on that, among many other things. Also, human waste management will be tricky. We humans make lots of poop, and the impact could rupture or break lines and even combust over long distances away. The heat pulse from the impact would be around 1000 degrees F. I don't know how deep into the earth that would go and how far out, but flaming poop spraying out of the ground is the scariest thing I can think of.

    I went to look for impact winter articles. Looks like some estimates put it at around 3 years to 12 years long. Some links from Reddit users:

    https://www.pik-potsdam.de/news/press-releases/how-the-darkness-and-the-cold-killed-the-dinosaurs
    http://m.pnas.org/content/95/19/11028.full
     
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  18. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    Yoink. I'm stealing this for later! Thanks!
     
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  19. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    Here's how the planet would react: we can know this because of geological evidence. The impactor that killed the dinosaurs was very recent (in geological time) so we know a good deal about it. A lot of it is also simple physics: calculations of energy available and what it does.

    In the first few seconds, everything within a hundred miles of the impact site would be vaporized. The crust would melt, the atmosphere would boil, and the shockwave would spread out in the ground and air. Those shockwaves would cause the entire crust of the Earth to rattle and fault lines would rupture everywhere. Tsunamis would decimate coastal regions between one and ten hours after the impact.

    The entire atmosphere would heat up considerably, as most of the energy of the impact would turn to heat. The atmosphere would glow, midnight would look like the brightest noon. Heat would both come from the impact itself, which would easily burn anything within a thousand miles, but also the rain of ejecta that would return to the planet from suborbit. The heat would be intense and last for about twelve hours. It'd light the majority of the planet on fire. Some of the ejecta was huge rocks, but most of it was rock vapor, which floats above the atmosphere until it cools, then rains down in giant drops of glass.

    The ash and soot in the air blacks out the sun and after about twenty four hours after the impact, the planet decents into a dark freeze for about a year. Most of the plants on the ground would have been burned away, but the oceans would have been fine until this point. The winter both reduces the sunlight that the algae can use, but also acidifies the water, causing the ecosystem to collapse. The energy currents in the oceans would likely cease and reroute, redirecting what little heat there is. This stage would last about thirty years, and in this stage three quarters of all life on Earth dies (75% is not that much compared to other extinction events.)

    What happens then depends on exactly what life forms evolve to rebound in the new niches. With the photosynthesizes deeply reduced, the planet would likely freeze over into a series of glaciers for the next hundred thousand years or so before stabilizing.
     
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  20. Dnaiel

    Dnaiel Senior Member

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    Of that, I think it's mostly the larger organisms that stand the worst chances of surviving. I recall a paleontologist saying that no animal over 50 pounds survived. I assume due to food needs.
     
  21. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    Partially. The small stuff dies first because they're more sensitive to things like acid rain and lack of sunlight. Then the smaller herbivores die, then the big carnivores. Specialization is as big an issue though. Evolution causes creatures to become perfectly adapted to their environment, so they get used to eating a few things. Generalists that can eat anything fare better. For example: sharks didn't go anywhere or even change as a result of the dinosaur killer, some individuals may have starved to death, but as a species they didn't even really slow down.
     
  22. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    In "A Canticle for Leibowitz," a post-nuclear apocalypse, the some of the survivors spent several centuries collecting and recopying books, diagrams, any written material that survived, even though they no longer understood what they meant. Rather like monks copying and recopying material during the dark ages. Others were trying to destroy all such material as human vanity and attempts to be like God obviously had caused their current misery. After several centuries, when things settled down and some education returned, this stock of preserved material was used to make the first simple steps toward technological recovery.
     
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  23. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    That happened in real life too. Christian monks preserved many ancient texts from the classical civilization.
     
  24. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Read Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven. The knowledge to make electricity will probably survive, and it will be a matter of time and effort to restore it locally More time and effort to build up a distribution grid and restore the large power plants.

    Hydroelectric and wind turbines will probably be the easiset to restore. Coal or oil powered plants next, possibly with other combustible fuels, perhaps geothermal. Nuclear is the hardest. Solar panels are difficult without a techno;ogy industry in place.
     
  25. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Its possible to make a portable ellectrical generator that works on air convection - its basically a big tube with a fan turning a dynamo - you put one end in a fire and voila electricity 9although not masses of it admittedly)
     

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