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A site providing public information on how to engineer things in natural environment from scratch
  (+46, -6)(+46, -6)(+46, -6)
(+46, -6)
  [vote for,

Humans were able to create cars, planes, computers, rockets, sattelites etc. By doing so, they proved that all these things and more CAN be made only using human power, without any special instruments at the beginning. This suggests an idea that with sufficient amount of time, it would be possible to create all these things using "bare hands" of a human beings. However many of the beings nowadays wouldn't have an idea how to engineer, for example, a computer, if they were asked to do it in the natural environment.

The idea is to create a website, perhaps somewhat similar to one of those howstuffworks.com, which provided such information in a form of exact and defined steps (where to go, what to do, what to search for, where you may find it, etc.).

It could be used for students ;), as a practise material. I believe anyone can do it if he or she knows how. Our physical capabilities do not differ so much.

Also, I believe these could become good stories for children as well (instead of some useless tales).

And might be applied for a TV show: I loved to see a group of fellow humans trying to produce a computer, or a clone of a sheep in natural environment.

It would also be useful as a repository of survival information. [Ling]

Inyuki, Jan 22 2005

Rough Science http://www.open2.net/roughscience/
Scientists on an uninhabited island... [prufrax, Jan 23 2005]

Don't forget to backup In-organic_20post-a...ce_20data_20archive
[sophocles, Jan 24 2005]

How To Engineer It Wiki http://howto.wikia.com
Wiki encyclopedic design perfectly fits it, if there will be analogous thing somewhere else, it'll will be possible to merge the information. [outcome] [Inyuki, Jan 28 2005, last modified Sep 27 2012]

Start with someting simple. http://www.econlib....Essays/rdPncl1.html
I, Pencil [angel, Jun 29 2005]

Step By Step Lathe Instructions http://www.instruct...143E7E506/?ALLSTEPS
[tcarson, Jun 26 2006]

Lindsay's Books http://www.lindsaybks.com/
plenty old-school tech here [afinehowdoyoudo, Mar 25 2008]

H0w2.info http://howto.mindey.com
The historical to-do lists that worked. [outcome] [Inyuki, Jan 31 2011, last modified Feb 11 2015]

Building a Telegraph http://www.boingboi...ng-a-telegraph.html
Using only stone-age materials. [thejehosephat, Feb 05 2011]

Civilization Building Kit http://gizmodo.com/...zation+building-kit
[MisterQED, Feb 07 2011]

OpenFarmTech.org http://openfarmtech.org
Open Source Ecology [Inyuki, Feb 21 2011]

The Toaster Project http://www.amazon.c...d=1321385930&sr=1-1
[DIYMatt, Nov 15 2011]

Primitive Technology: Forge Blower https://www.youtube...watch?v=VVV4xeWBIxE
How you make a bit of metal from a situation like that. [Inyuki, Aug 04 2016]

The Knowledge by Lewis Dartnell http://the-knowledge.org/en-gb/
Mentioned in my anno. Book, taking the bottom-up approach to this [notexactly, Aug 05 2016]

A related idea with similarly extensive discussion Guide to Rebuilding Society
[notexactly, Aug 05 2016]


       So for the computer, one would start with things like mining copper ore? These marvels are possible because of the cumulative efforts of generations and the resulting industrial infrastructure.
bungston, Jan 23 2005

       Step 5: Chip away for a few more hours and you have now got a simple STONE TOOL.   

       Step 735: Now affix the HANDLE onto the SPADE   

       Step 3,279: Following that, assemble a few more MACHINEs as dictated in steps 3112 to 3278.   

       Step 67,003: Start it up, now you have begun to mine OIL.   

       Step 1,573,388: Affix the screen to the computer, and then begin construction of a power plant. Step1,573,389: Using your SPADE, begin digging for some more METALS.
Cats Whiskers, Jan 23 2005

       Ok so you'd need raw materials available, that said I can see a metal lathe as being one of the first things you'd need. +
I'd like to try making a light bulb from scratch...or a laser.

       For every product {
Disassemble it.
For every part {
Ask, what tools were used to create this part.
A. For every tool {
B. Disassemble it.
C. For every part {
D. Ask, what tools were used to create this part.
(repeat A, B, C, D until tools=STONE TOOL)
} //-- end of for every product.
Inyuki, Jan 23 2005

       Sounds like a comprehensive encyclopedia of technology. Would it also include blueprints/schematics/specs for every product and building ever built?
robinism, Jan 23 2005

       tv-show-wise, it sounds like the program they did on bbc 2 as part of the open university stuff where they had a selection of scientists from various disciplines on an uninhabited island and challenged them to make various items (e.g. a radio, a compass, medicines etc) from whatever they could find.
prufrax, Jan 23 2005

       In the States, that would be "MacGyver meets Survivor"
robinism, Jan 23 2005

       // for every product and building ever built //   

       No. No one would share such information about the latest technological advancements. I guess some of people wouldn't even want such 'encyclopaedia' for products that were created long time ago, as - yes, indeed - this information could be used for malicious purposes. :-(. Ah we stupid human beings :-(.
Inyuki, Jan 23 2005

       I think the examples are a little complicated. Some interesting, but more simple examples might be a battery, a lightbulb, gunpowder, knife, cloth, rope and so on. Maybe it could be a repository of survival information (but not on the web!).
Ling, Jan 23 2005

       Why not ?   

       I would expect that if one were in "Survival mode", then a PC, power supply and ISP wouldn't necessarily be available. Yes, the information could be downloaded in advance, I suppose.
Ling, Jan 23 2005

       [Cats Whiskers]' anno is my fave. Made me laugh.
bristolz, Jan 23 2005

       Yeah, really, I liked it too.
Inyuki, Jan 23 2005

       Makes you realise how much goes in to a simple thing like a lightbulb. If we get hit by an asteroid /start a nuclear war / experience a supervolcano eruption or some such global catastrophe, I want this website to be with me. Though not as a website obviously, a book would probably be more useful by that point.   

       A big book.
wagster, Jan 23 2005

       Ah, [wagster] just pointed out the irony of the website: it is most useful in times where no such internet access is available. It's almost as sickening as a catch-22 until you realize that the curiosity of it alone is enough to spark someone's interest in a little self-education. Indeed, following the trail of links from 'How Can I Make This Part?' to 'How Can I Make This Tool?' to 'How Can I Make This Tool?' sounds like the most fascinating adventure in web surfing I can ever imagine.   

       As [Inyuki] pointed out, however, there would be a good deal of restrictions on what is and is not explained. Hopefully, though, there will still always be an available trail one can follow back to understand a possible method of construction, for most items.   

       Now to be realistic, shall we consider how this would be established? Perhaps as an ever-growing community of engineers and their contributions, linked together... like Wikipedia I guess, but with more restricted editors, and organized with a more specific purpose.
Albino Fox, Jan 24 2005

       Just creating the taxonomical framework against which such how-to articles would be written and organized would be a big job and full of debate.
bristolz, Jan 24 2005

       I'm thinking that maybe we should store this information in some material form that would last through a cataclysm, then stick place markers on top so the survivors can find them, like enormous pyramids or giant heads or stone circles. Um, wait a minute...
DrCurry, Jan 24 2005

       Ok Doc, I'll get the shovels you bring the sledge for the henge.
cuckoointherye, Jan 24 2005

       As for taxonomical framework, I think tools themselves would show the hierarchy, and many tools perhaps could be overriden for sepcific products.
Inyuki, Jan 24 2005

       Inyuki, you seem to like ideas that involve categorising and storing information about things.   

       I like the idea about the tools providing the heirarchy - but think it would become a huge sprawling project very quickly.   

       There are just so many things to describe.   

       Out of interest, where would you start? From the bottom up, or from the top down? Or would you use some other method?
zen_tom, Jan 24 2005

       Top-down? Bottom-up?   

       For exact steps to make exact product, I think needs Top-down method. That is, choose an exact product and go on. Also, it is more likely to be successful as you have an algorythm. What's bad about Top-down method is that could be possible to show the schemes without need to explain how people came up with them. So, one could create the devices, but wouldn't know how they work. They only followed the schemes. But for that there could always created a hyperlink to article about the "mental" tools, which were necessary to think of a such design. Algorythms, calculation methods, etc... If we examined what tools are necessary to engineer a factory of CPUs, I think that the parts of this factory will already be made using other computers and computer aided designing, however, using less powerful or less complex processors. We could continue to these then... Till we reached the drawing-board technologies... and so on. An advantage of Top-down method would be that one could later create a product quicker (the schemes would already be designed for the convenience, i.e., we USED the knowledge).   

       Bottom-up scenario could also be possible, and probably it would be more interesting, as it would require to make all those discoveries and solve puzzles by ourself again. It would be more like we didn't use our knowledge, but used our brain to reacquire it. A disadvantage would be that it would require a lot of time and work to develop the schemes (i.e., we needed to CREATE the knowledge, which is much more time-consuming).   

       Else? Maybe different groups of people could be working from opposite sides. The people who want more to explore modern world, would go for Top-down method, and those who want to create knowledge would go for Bottom-up method. Both would be very interesting and challenging activities.
Inyuki, Jan 24 2005

       + I've often thought it would be nice to have such information available. I never got around to it, but I remember thinking about writing to howstuffworks.com and suggesting that they do some articles on basics such as how various metals are refined, etc.   

       I'd say there is no catch 22 to making it a web site. Sure, the web site won't be accesible after a civilization destroying disaster, but publishing it as a web site now makes it available to as many people as possible. Some of the more paranoid among them might choose to print it out. Personally I think the main use would be to satisfy personal curiosity.
scad mientist, Jan 24 2005

       I could care less whether there's a catch-22 situation at all. I think it rocks.   

       If you need me, I'll be printing out pages 1-4,582,978 of "Creating a successful relationship."
shapu, Jan 24 2005

       has someone mentioned harri seldon's enyclopedia galactica yet? Would there also be an entry in this encyclopedia of technology on how to build an encyclopedia of technology? And what happens when you get to the part of the instructions on how to build and encyclopedia of technology when you have to provide instructions to include the encyclopedia of technology? --- theres blood coming out of my ear.
cuckoointherye, Jan 24 2005

       (nit-picking note pointing out that this doesn't describe how to engineer anything, only how to construct it)
Worldgineer, Jan 24 2005

       When I was at school about the age of ten, we had a brilliant geography teacher who took us for a long walk one afternoon where there were lots of brown rocks, rich in iron. We all carried the rocks back to the school and built a huge bonfire over them, covering the bonfire with turf when it was at it's hottest. In the morning the rocks were sufficiently weakened for us to be able smash them into powder with other rocks and extract the iron with magnets in the form of iron filings. I wish I had been taught more stuff like that.
wagster, Jan 24 2005

       And I bet teachers like that wished there weren't child labour laws.
cuckoointherye, Jan 24 2005

       One exact product may need a lot of time/people to travel reversely back through this FOR cycle. For example, we decided to create these simple steps for a specific computer model. If we disassembled it, we found thousands of little parts. Every part may be manufactured with different tools, which may be in different places and belong to different companies. We would need to identify these tools and disassemble them, so we'll need to contact the companies in various ways. If it was a mission of a single person, that person would have to travel a lot... So, we would perhaps have to share the work. For example, if I live near some place where part X is manufactured, I'll go and get to know the tools, so I'll be able to complete the list of tools for X. If it is a single tool, we'll search where the tool is manufactured, and will send people to check it out and get the another list of tools. So, quite quickly we woul be in a lot of parts and a lot of tools. Every of them is a mission for at least one person. So, there should be thousands if not millions of people in this mission (to get those lists).   

       By the way, as in every physics practise work, then we would already have list of tools. Next to each list of tools, there should be instructions, what exactly we should do with the tools to produce the part (in a rarer case, a tool).
Inyuki, Jan 25 2005

       I could use this...
EvilPickels, Jan 26 2005

       // Would there also be an entry in this encyclopedia of technology on how to build an encyclopedia of technology? And what happens when you get to the part of the instructions on how to build and encyclopedia of technology when you have to provide instructions to include the encyclopedia of technology? //   

       [cuckoointherye], Sure there could. :) However, the list of tools won't be so large, as you will already be able to mention modern products (tools/parts), which will already have the technologies of as how to make them described. There will not be necessary much repetition on the procedures that are somewhere already mentioned in detail.
Inyuki, Jan 26 2005

       // Now to be realistic, shall we consider how this would be established? Perhaps as an ever-growing community of engineers and their contributions, linked together... like Wikipedia I guess, but with more restricted editors, and organized with a more specific purpose. //   

       I thought of a Wikipedia-style encyclopedia of technology. Not necessarily should it be with more restricted editors. It is possible to lock a page in Wikipedia, so, it is possible to lock a page, which - as tested - explains how to complete a part/tool. That is, there is definite condition when it can be locked.
Inyuki, Jan 26 2005

       [see link]
Inyuki, Jan 28 2005

       //Just creating the taxonomical framework against which such how-to articles would be written and organized would be a big job and full of debate.//   

       Maybe. Either way, it's certainly on the top of the site's things-to-do list. Then again, it'd share the top with a couple of other things: searching the web thoroughly for other related sites and projects, and finding people who know a thing or two about building tools. Oh, and as [Worldgineer] noted, you should definitely consider a good discussion on re-naming the site. (HowToBuildIt? HowToMakeIt?)   

       Now speaking of tools, I somehow doubt that -everything- leads down to stones. (Particularly Shapu's "successful relationship" :).) Still I must admit, some stones can have quite useful shapes.   

       //[see link] -Inyuki//   

       So you're feeling pretty serious about this, aren't you? It sounds like a good, harmless experiment to see what becomes of it. (After all, "The mighty oak was once a tiny seed that stood its ground.") I just hope the participants manage to focus on the priorities first.   

       I myself seem quite interested in helping a bit, though all I know I can offer is my image of what layout the place should develop. Above all, remember that this should be streamlined for the purposes of quickly understanding what _resources_ and _pre-built tools_ are needed for everything (probably listing them at the beginning), and it should proceed to explain construction as simply as possible. In many cases there will be multiple methods of construction, but many outdated, less efficient methods will be either unmentioned or attached as a side article. Methods using simpler tools, however, don't count as outdated, and are in fact preferred as the 'simplest' method of construction.   

       NOTE: I'm just a 17-year-old who is clueless as to Inyuki's or anyone else's age, but loves a nice intellectual discussion with anyone about anything.
Albino Fox, Jan 28 2005

       Okay, now there is a list for further discussion on taxonomical, naming and other problems related to it. (see link)   

       [Albino Fox], yes, but I think I'm just curious. Indeed, it is very important to "focus on the priorities first."   

       // remember that this should be streamlined for the purposes of quickly understanding what _resources_ and _pre-built tools_ are needed for everything (probably listing them at the beginning), and it should proceed to explain construction as simply as possible. In many cases there will be multiple methods of construction, but many outdated, less efficient methods will be either unmentioned or attached as a side article. Methods using simpler tools, however, don't count as outdated, and are in fact preferred as the 'simplest' method of construction //   

       I'm aware of that, and your notes are very good indeed.
Inyuki, Jan 30 2005

       I love this idea! Howstuffworks is a mainstay. Let's take it to a whole new level! Do it!!!!
fity, Jan 30 2005

       If someone let me into the natural env., an encyclopedia of chemistry would perhaps be the most useful at first.
Inyuki, Feb 01 2005

       Ok. I think finally the solution of how to create such a resource, has been found.   

       Look at the http://en.howto.wikicities.com
Inyuki, Jan 09 2006

       I bet NASA has that already. I couldn't imagine NASA not having that. And if they don't have it when they read this post I bet they'll turn back time so that they have it by the time they read it. oh, and in case they don't have a time machine, there's always future NASA that already has a time machine ready for shipping so that they can have the time machine all the time.
sweet, Jun 26 2006

       [sweet], NASA isn't all powerful. it's underfunded, and might not even exist in the future, plus, you know, bad science with the time machine.
tcarson, Jun 26 2006

       I thought [sweet] meant NSA.
methinksnot, Jun 26 2006

       i wouldn't trust them. they're the NSA after all. big brother isn't known for looking out for the interests of the people.
tcarson, Jun 26 2006

       Whatsa matter, dontcha trust us?
We haven't lied to you yet.
methinksnot, Jun 26 2006

       or have you? love is hate, war is peace.
tcarson, Jun 26 2006

       I was cynical at first - but having had to do something similar (albeit within a much more specific remit) I found some approaches more useful than others.   

       The most interesting, I discovered after learning about the work of a chap called Christopher Alexander, who wrote a pair of books, "The Timeless Way of Building" and "A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction" which describe generic architectural forms (entranceways, passageways, rooms, bridges, connections etc) with a few suggestions and examples of how these have been made in the past.   

       The same technique was utilised by the 'gang of four' who published "Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software" which explored the concept of design patterns in the realms of software design.   

       This technique should be scalable to adapt to work within almost any realm of technological design, construction or engineering, and a wiki is the ideal way to put such a thing together.
zen_tom, Oct 09 2006

       [zen_tom], I also was a little bit sceptical at first, but now I am starting to use the Wiki more.   

       I find many algorythms in Wikipedia already described, and sometimes it may look that Wikipedia is too universal, and Howto Wiki might fail.   

       Yet I find it very good for putting the real-life examples of application of the already-explained-in-Wikipedia algorythms, and rewriting them from mathematical language to procedural code. See, for example, "Gradient descent", as one example of a method.   

       Also, I think it will let me myself to acquire the education, necessary to do the work I wish to. For instance, to become a researcher of a particular field. Because usually everything you need is skills, knowledge, and some works to prove that. I think converting Wikipedia's theory to Howto practise works well for learning.   

       At the same time, just by providing examples, one is gradually contributing the main goal of explaining the creation of a number of things.   

       Certainly, it would take even more time until we could get something like steps, or generate how to get something from something, like Google Maps generate how to go from one place to another...
Inyuki, Nov 10 2006

       I think that if the apocalypse were to happen, I would choose to engineer the world a bit differently than our current state of affairs.   

       The first large barrier you will to overcome is the transferrence of the basic language needed, which is likely to be too advanced for a post-apocalyptic community to comprehend. You'd have to start with abstract basic math, which does little to keep the cave warm or the tigers away.
RayfordSteele, Oct 01 2007

       [RayfordSteele], perhaps it's not late to think of some ideas of how to redesign it. ;-) Yes, I definitely agree with your suggestion to start from basic mathematical concepts. As for the language, there are some interesting attempts, such as (see link: EarthLanguage)
Inyuki, Oct 16 2007

Voice, Oct 17 2007

       I think it is a great idea and knowledge that needs to be learned. I think you have to start from the bottom up, show the progression of ideas and the choices that were made along the way. Many ideas stand on the shoulders of the earlier ones and many times they don't but people think they do. Choices that were made may or may not have been correct for the circumstances of the time and many should change later with changing circumstances. As for it viability as a website useful in times or hardship the answer is build it as a website and then download it into people's thoughts for storage (or a solar powered ebook reader). So when Katrina-like events occur people understand the choices that were made that brought us to these circumstances or better correct those choices so that mass tragedies don't occur. As for a start, math is nice but you are still starting in the middle. Start from the start, survival: shelter, food, water and health then move onto weapons and society.
MisterQED, Oct 17 2007

       If this was completely and thoroughly cross referenced, it would not be that complex.   

       For instance, an awful lot of modern products have the step "create glass of dimension X, use the following additives" A single glass making description would cover all this, with sub articles for various forming techniques.   

       Especially if obsolete techniques are neglected (only the most up to date or effecient included), then the total volume of data required isn't going to be absurdly large.
MechE, Jan 31 2011

       well yes if most of the steps are "Call ACME and order a ...".
FlyingToaster, Jan 31 2011

       Not so much. Between two books I have on my shelves, almost everything in the mechanical fabrication and calculation categories is covered (with a fair amount of duplication). Similar books exist for electrical and chemical work.
MechE, Jan 31 2011

       Such a thing would only succeed if it was accompanied by "how to sell it" I think.
quantum_flux, Jan 31 2011

       [MechE] Just what I was thinking. The books that tell you how to do something practical are a pretty small percentage of any library.   


       I wonder if you wouldn't run into some patent infringement problems in getting from pointed stick to LHC?
nomocrow, Feb 02 2011

       // No. No one would share such information about the latest technological advancements //   

       But this was the key motivation for forming the patent system: by offering a time-limited monopoly to an inventor, they are encouraged to publish the minute details of their inventions. They are rewarded with 20 years of potential profit, but eventually society inherits the idea.   

       Indeed, an inventor who tries to keep their ideas secret in this day and age is taking a great risk; if someone finds out their idea and patents it before them, or if someone else independently comes up with the idea, they will lose the legal right to profit from their work.
idris83, Feb 02 2011

       There was a man who created a telegraph out of what he could find in nature. I'll try and find the link.
thejehosephat, Feb 05 2011

       Bloopers version: "howtoengineerit:FAIL" with really awesome pictures of things blowing up, falling down, tipping over, and what not. With investigation notes and annotated blueprints.
lurch, Feb 07 2011

       [MisterQED], thanks for the link to Civilization Building Kit, it is amazing!
Inyuki, Feb 21 2011

       This idea deserves a bump! I was just watching the Colbert Report and the guest wrote a book [link] about his personal quest to build a toaster from scratch. Except he used a microwave. And it didn't work. But I applaud the initiative!
DIYMatt, Nov 15 2011

       This idea seems to have the goal of enabling people to rebuild modern society from nothing, by following the exact same steps in our history of technological advancement that we used the first time.   

       Like [MechE], I think it would be greatly preferable, now that we know much more than we did when we first developed many technologies (e.g. that there's oil in the ground that can be used as fuel), and now that our available resources are very different (e.g. refined metals all over the place, instead of ores in the ground), to skip those that are no longer needed and go directly to those that are most useful or efficient, depending on the available resources and unique requirements of different locations and groups of people.   

       And that thing about available resources and unique requirements strongly suggests a bottom-up approach to me. It is said that if all of human civilization's refined metals disappeared, we would never be able to recover, because all of the easily minable metal has been mined, and all that remains in the ground cannot be mined without already having metal mining equipment. Depending on the nature of the disaster, different approaches to rebuilding civilization would be necessary.   

       As well, the first time we built civilization, we were not recovering from a disaster, which means it was likely easier in every resource-related way than any disaster- recovery rebuild would be. All of this further suggests that bottom-up is the way to go.   

       Also, you would likely be interested in the book The Knowledge by Lewis Dartnell, which takes a bottom-up approach. [link]
notexactly, Aug 05 2016

       Oh, and regarding your howto.wikia.com, it's now how- to.wikia.com, and it now seems to be something trying to be wikiHow.
notexactly, Aug 05 2016

       We're not finished with this project, just starting. But, I have some progress.
Inyuki, Feb 19 2017

       The thing is by the time a person starts his twentieth doctorate degree out of the 5000 needed, he'll already be too old.
Voice, Feb 20 2017

       I like this idea, but it faces great challenges. First, who would be the intended audience?   

       - Is it AI who would inhale this knowledge and autonomously settle other worlds?   

       - Is it high school educated individuals from 2017?   

       - Is it for children?   

       - Is it a bootstrap that's meant to be left for unsupervised newborns to latch onto and slowly build themselves up from 0 to now?   

       All of these are potential audiences, but each demands a very different language and organization. For example, is it sufficient to say something like "mix water with mud" if the "agent" reading it doesn't know what the word mix means?   

       Once we crack this problem, we will also solve many challenges with AI, knowledge representation and education. In that sense it's very much a moonshot. It's debatable how useful getting this will be, and whether we will even make it, but the amount we will have learned along the way will be amazing.
ixnaum, Feb 21 2017

       A simple description and history of the scientific method and logic, and some of the miss-steps that led to it would fit in a single volume and would push society forward in leaps and bounds if it were taken seriously, regardless what the starting point and available resources were.
Voice, Feb 21 2017


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