Recently I came across an S. M. Stirling series of science fiction called “The Enderverse”. In this series of novels explosives, steam power, internal combustion engines, electricity, etc, no longer work.
Excuse me while I puke on the scientific foundation for such an occurrence.
Okay, projectile vomiting completed. We can continue the discussion. I had the same problem with the television series “Revolution”.
First, the concept of “pressure” created by incendary chemicals, where a chemical compound, such as gasoline or gunpowder is burned in an enclosed space creating a gas where previously there was a solid or a liquid. This heated gas, and that is gas as in one of the four states of matter, expands. Since the space is enclosed and the gas cannot expand more than the volume of the space the gas works at the weakest area of the enclosure, typically the piston or the bullet. Sometimes chambers explode because the bullet or the piston is restricted from moving, but, generally the piston or bullet begins to move and continues to accelerate as long as the gas is expanding.
Now this is basic physics, explosions, internal combustion engines, steam engines, all work on pressure. Apparently we have eliminated pressure from the physics of the television show “Revolution” and the books in S. M. Stirling's series, “The Enderverse”.
So there are no longer ocean currents, rain, plants, volcanoes, animals (whose circulatory systems work on blood pressure), and just about everything else I can think of. Earth quakes. Is there anything that exists that does not use pressure in some way? Nope, can't think of one.
Pressure is force applied to an area. In theory force can exist without pressure, but, in theory points have no width, height or thickness. In practical application everything has an area and so every force is converted into pressure. Quite a lot of the pressure we deal with on a daily basis, air pressure, etc, is the force of gravity exerted on an area of mass. Oxygen molecules (O2), our bodies. With no pressure people can't breathe because we are in a vacuum.
The steam cycle is based on exactly the same physics which cause rain. If rain exists, steam power exists. If rain does not exist then salt water is not being distilled into fresh water and pretty soon anything living that depends on fresh water dies. Okay, “pretty soon” is a subjective term, you can figure out how long people can exist on the fresh water supplies currently in storage before everyone dies and then call that time period anything you want.
Sometimes I really hate being educated, even if I am primarily self educated, because I can't watch a movie or television show or read a book or work on a research and development project where I don't find glaring and idiotic errors. Of course, being human, people occasionally catch glaring errors of mine. The problem is, these glaring errors generally ruin fiction and your typically falsified research papers. This issue of rain and steam is one glaring error.
When the tv series Revolution came out I posted a question on their facebook page, “what about steam” and they replied, “The laws of physics changed, steam doesn't work.” “But it rains,” I wrote back, “The physics that drive rain are exactly the same as the physics that drive steam.”
I like the movie “Die Hard”. I remember the first time I watched it and the terrorists were whining about their “detonators”. There are a couple kinds of detonators. Electrical and chemical. An electrical detonator is a switch and a power source. Those boxes with the plunger handle are actually little generators which create an electrical current which causes a chemical explosion in a blasting cap. Chemical detonators are even easier, those are usually some kind of fuse. Instantaneous fuse like det cord or time fuse like on fire crackers. You get the idea, in either case I, and any person who has an inkling of education on explosives, can fabricate a detonator out of almost anything including a flashlight. Like the flashlight Hans was carrying around while he whined about his detonators.
Before some smart ass talks about electric blasting caps I can make them out of matches and bag ties as well as a dozen other things like lightbulbs, nailpolish remover, etc.
So...yeah, we have to suspend belief to watch movies or television shows or read books. The fewer mistakes the easier that is.
The problem with people writing about stuff like changing laws of physics is that they typically don't understand that the physics which are used to create things like steam are also used in a myriad of other environmental processes on which our lives depend. Sweating. The evaporation cycle where water is converted from a liquid to a gas not only provides us with steam and rain, it provides our bodies with a way to control over heating. No steam, no sweat, everyone dies. Imagine sweating and the sweat never evaporated, it just stayed a liquid. No air conditioning, literally. No phase change to absorb heat energy.
Thinking about it, fire could not burn because the phase change from solid to gas that takes place requires that the gas expand so it rises from the fire. Since the gas does not expand, it does not rise and it displaces the oxygen around the fire, so making a fire actually kills the fire. I could do this all day, come up with physics issues related to each other, like expanding gases and fires.
It would take a super duper computer programmed with infinite knowledge to tell us all the things that would happen if we eliminated the expansion of gases or pressure or the ability to convert a liquid into a gas. No, we don't know if different physics could result in some of the same practical applications, but, we can say that if gases don't expand then there is no pressure differential and so they don't rise. A fire would need to create its own oxygen, and that is possible, but not with the stuff we typically use and the temperatures we are typically working with.
Yeah, so me and, I am sure, a bunch of other people recognize these glaring stupidities every time we read or watch fiction (and a lot of supposedly factual stuff, like research papers).
The issue here, I think, is that people figure we don't know everything so anything is possible. There is truth to that. There are things that are impossible from a practical viewpoint. Breathing in a vacuum without some form of respirator is an example of impossible from a practical viewpoint. I believe it is possible, but, only if we eliminate the laws of physics in the region around the one breathing. Eliminate, not just change. In other words, what we call “magic” would have to exist.
If someone could come up with a reasonable scientific explanation for how gases can expand in some situations, evaporation cycles and fire for example, yet, fail to convert the energy absorbed by expansion into pressure within an enclosed space without magic, “once in an enclosed space the energy disappears and cannot be used”, maybe. But there isn't any kind of explanation where mass absorbs energy during a phase change, yet, harnessing the energy of the material phase change becomes impossible. Not difficult, not dangerous, not time consuming. Impossible.
I'm a pretty fart smeller. I can't think of a reasonable explanation why gas would expand everywhere but in an enclosed space. Maybe one, enclosing any space creates micro-worm holes which eliminate the ability of an enclosed space to hold pressure.
Wait a sec though, what is the definition of “an enclosed space” because a piston in a cylinder is not enclosed. There is a gap in the piston rings, typically around a few thousandths of an inch...Is that enclosed? What happens when we close the doors and windows of our homes and walk through these micro worm holes? What happens when reality becomes a sieve? To where? Does pressure have to increase above 20 psi before the worm holes open?
Then the story either becomes about fixing the worm holes, or how stupid the people are because they never discovered them.