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Technology

A Library For Survival Knowledge 272

TheRealHocusLocus writes: The Survivor Library is gathering essential knowledge that would be necessary to jump-start modern civilization, should it fail past the point where a simple 'reboot' is possible (video). Much of it (but not all) dates to the late 1800s and early 1900s: quaint, but we know these things work because they did work. In 1978, James Burke said our modern world has become a trap (video), and whether it springs shut or not, all survival starts with the plow. Could you make one, use one? Sure, even a steam engine to pull it. I rescued my copy of Henley's Formulas from a dumpster outside a library.

Think of the Survivor Library as a trove of survival skills, a "100-year civilization checkpoint backup" that fits on a hard drive. If one individual from every family becomes a Librarian, gathering precious things with the means to read them, there may be many candles in the darkness. Browse at will, but if acquisition is the goal, someone has kindly made a torrent snapshot as of 14-Oct-2014 available.
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A Library For Survival Knowledge

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  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @02:27AM (#48248563)

    That makes zero sense.

    Publish the books hard-bound on acid-free paper and then you've got something useful!!

    • by itzly ( 3699663 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @02:43AM (#48248629)
      This. Acid free paper also makes great fuel in winter. How are you going to keep yourself warm with a pdf ?
    • Publish the books hard-bound on acid-free paper and then you've got something useful!!

      This reminded me how I'd printed out some copies of my resume on premium acid-free paper. Talk about a waste - Resumes are more temporary than just about anything else you print out. When it's likely going to be looked at for 10 minutes then discarded, and even at best it'll be worthless in 3 months, why worry about acid free?

      Honestly though, I'd settle for 3 ring binder with the acid-free paper. It's a lot cheaper than a bound book, and pages can be separated out if necessary, such as pages on printing

    • by korgitser ( 1809018 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @04:19AM (#48248853)

      Actually, no.
      The current world will not end in a bang like some 2012 maya pipe dream, killing computers overnight. What we have at hands right now is the ongoing process of choosing by inaction not to create enough ways to harvest renewable energy. As the fossils run out, we will see a gradual shift away from our current global industrial world.
      Cheap mass shipping to the other side of the world will be among the first luxuries to go, meaning we will need to start to produce most of our goods locally again, starting from the basics and working up to more complicated ones. Which is where the library kicks in. If we reasonably manage our inheritance from the industrial era, we will have quite a stretch of time available while which we can rig up a some power to a computer to read and transcribe the library. I mean, many a slashdotter will be able to rip apart that electric car into some wind generators, batteries included.
      Now we can plot a simple graph with two lines - one of us exhausting and repurposing our current goods and infrastructure until we run out, the other line being us rebuilding our civilization on renewable and sustainable production and goods. What is still undecided is how low the valley will go, and whether we hit such a critical low of development that we will never come back up again.
      How well this will go depends on a few factors. First, practicing any technology needs a society able to feed specialists. This ability will decline sharply everywhere, because our current agriculture is 100% about converting oil into food - there is a real possibility that billions will die of hunger. Second, some countries like the USA and GB will have to start pretty much from the beginning, having destroyed their industrial base through corporate looting and offshoring. Contrast that with China or Germany with their massive industrial base which only needs to get the power back on. Third is of course the availability of raw materials, on which point do also note the lack of plastics in a post-oil world.
      And if this was too easy, expect mass migrations caused by sea level rises, thirst and hunger and wars of every size and reason to complicate matters further. Only a state with can comfortably secure it's territory, food and resources with a reasonable surplus will have a chance to actually think about a rebound. At this point we can only hope there will be one.
      Or we could get off our collective arses and actually do something about the future. I seriously doubt we will see an actual global push into renewable and sustainable, though. This would require effort, resilience and actual change, all of which are in a very short supply on this scale; furthermore, it would mean replacing our power structures, ideologies and economical systems, all of which are and will fight tooth and nail to survive. So it remains that the next best thing is for us to compile some kind of a library of survival knowledge...

      • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @05:16AM (#48249019)

        Cheap mass shipping to the other side of the world will be among the first luxuries to go, meaning we will need to start to produce most of our goods locally again, starting from the basics and working up to more complicated ones.

        I disagree with some of this from sheer opportunity cost. Mass shipping often uses heavy fuel, the type that we have in abundance (tar sands, etc.) And this can be supplemented with wind. It's not infeasible that a future generation of shipping will return to some type of clipper ship or even kite design to help alleviate fuel.

        And refridgeration is electric heavy, something we will have in abundance still besides fuel, so shipping food will still be feasible.

        And trains and trucks are still more efficient than hundreds of individual cars.

        If such a thing were to pass, one of the first things to go will be suburbias. A luxury of land and wastes of driving far more than distribution shipping. Since we are talking in point of the last and most wasteful step of distribution anyway, from store to home.

        Such a future may come or not, not sure. Just my way of thinking.

        Now, endpoint to endpoint consumer shipping from Amazon... that may be a different story. Unless quadrocopters are involved.

        • by bwcbwc ( 601780 )

          A lot of assumptions in both of these models. And climate change is only one failure mode of civilization that could be applicable here.
          1) Global Thermonuclear War
          2) Global Pandemic
          3) extinction event (meteor/volcanic eruption)
          4) mass civil uprisings from the 99%

          This type of device _would_ be viable for specific locations where survival becomes an issue - say refugee camps or other civilian groups in war zones/famine zones, etc.

        • by swb ( 14022 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @07:48AM (#48249513)

          I think a lot of your assumptions come with assumptions.

          For example, refrigeration is electric heavy and we have a ton of coal to keep existing coal plants running, but do those steam turbines ever need replacement and where will the replacement turbines come from?

          Existing refrigerators will wear out, where will you get refrigerant? Motors? The high-tech polymers used in seals and insulation? Maybe a very clever chemist and mechanical engineer could cobble together a kind of Road Warrior-style ammonia refrigerator from spare parts if they could figure out how to synthesize ammonia in quantity.

          The book isn't that great, but "A World Made By Hand" by James Howard Kunstler paints a compelling idea of what a post-technological world might look like. Pretty much everything is grown and made locally. A key subgroup runs the old landfill like a mine, painstakingly digging and sorting its content for trade -- they even disassemble houses down to the nails for materials. One group takes over an old school and digs up the asphalt parking lot and melts it to harvest the tars to fix the roof.

          Everybody farms at some scale, either large-ish with animal and big human labor or with large vegetable gardens at homes. Refrigeration means ice boxes and ice houses, harvesting winter ice ala 1800s. Everybody grows a small patch of poppies which the doctor uses to make laudanum, the only anesthesia for any kind of serious medical situation.

          "Trade" involves small-scale river traffic of agricultural goods and is a serious gamble as one of the narratives involves the boats and their cargo being basically pirated. Another narrative device is the lack of wheat bread, a rust infection keeps any serious wheat crop from being raised, leaving them eating corn or flaxseed bread. Metals are in short supply in a narrative gimmick based on the last major war recycling anything available, so there's almost no junked cars for scrap metal.

          The book itself is so-so, but the ideas involved in a world basically only missing fossil fuels is pretty interesting.

          • A key subgroup runs the old landfill like a mine, painstakingly digging and sorting its content for trade -- they even disassemble houses down to the nails for materials.

            These things already happen. Mining landfills may not be common in the US (except for gathering methane), but it happens elsewhere. Carefully deconstructing houses to gather "reclaimed" building materials happens even here. (Hipsters will pay big bucks for old wood, you know.) In fact, even houses that aren't carefully deconstructed still g

            • by tibit ( 1762298 )

              You don't have to be a hipster to appreciate old wood. It's simply more dimensionally stable than new wood. Same goes for most other materials - they age those piano frames for the same reason. If you need dimensionally stable wood (as much as a given wood species can be), you need old wood, pure and simple.

          • I really enjoyed A World Made By Hand. I'm not sure if you are aware, but there are two more books in the series at this point. The Witch of Hebron came out a over a year ago. "A History of the Future" was released very recently.

            If you are into this sort of literature (I might be overplaying the word there, but they are books...), Patriots is a pretty good yarn. It's also very applicable to this article on survival knowledge, it's a fictional story combined very directly with extreme preparation and sur

            • Patriots was a horrible book. Stories like One Second After, Lights Out, and Lucifer's Hammer (slow story, but well thought out) were much better.

        • Cheap mass shipping to the other side of the world will be among the first luxuries to go, meaning we will need to start to produce most of our goods locally again, starting from the basics and working up to more complicated ones.

          I disagree with some of this from sheer opportunity cost. Mass shipping often uses heavy fuel, the type that we have in abundance (tar sands, etc.) And this can be supplemented with wind. It's not infeasible that a future generation of shipping will return to some type of clipper ship or even kite design to help alleviate fuel.

          And refridgeration is electric heavy, something we will have in abundance still besides fuel, so shipping food will still be feasible.

          And trains and trucks are still more efficient than hundreds of individual cars.

          If such a thing were to pass, one of the first things to go will be suburbias. A luxury of land and wastes of driving far more than distribution shipping. Since we are talking in point of the last and most wasteful step of distribution anyway, from store to home.

          Such a future may come or not, not sure. Just my way of thinking.

          Now, endpoint to endpoint consumer shipping from Amazon... that may be a different story. Unless quadrocopters are involved.

          We'll adopt civilian nuclear reactors on massive sea transports first. We have the existing technology to build massive ocean transports powered by uranium, that need refuelling 2-3 times per CENTURY. We just need to decide to build them. If the need arises and we do, they'll even drastically REDUCE the cost of international ocean shipping.

      • Cheap mass shipping to the other side of the world will be among the first luxuries to go, meaning we will need to start to produce most of our goods locally again, starting from the basics and working up to more complicated ones.

        We don't need to "start" producing goods locally "again," because we never stopped. Some local industries may be a lot smaller, but they still exist. In my city, you can even buy locally-made shoes (if you're willing to pay the exorbitant price).

      • Apparently one of the books in your library is An Essay on the Principle of Population [wikipedia.org]. Somehow people manage to come up with alternatives to starvation.
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

        Container ships won't go away, they will just grow enormous sails and take a bit longer to arrive.

        • by plopez ( 54068 )

          How do you load and unload them without heavy cranes? Or distribute the goods without energy intense transporttion? Is there enough draft animals in the world to keep it going? What about fodder and vet services for the animals, etc?

      • The current world will not end in a bang like some 2012 maya pipe dream, killing computers overnight.

        is it actually impossible for some kind of solar activity to fry "all" (more or less) of the fine-process semiconductors? serious question.

        • The processors themselves? Unlikely. The power grid and everything plugged into it? Very possible. For all intents and purposes, that would take civilization down in quite the bang.

      • by njnnja ( 2833511 )

        some countries like the USA and GB will have to start pretty much from the beginning, having destroyed their industrial base through corporate looting and offshoring

        I can't speak for GB but the USA is the world's second largest manufacturer [wikipedia.org]. Or does it only count as industry if it looks like Pittsburgh in 1950 [wikipedia.org] instead of California in 2014 [wikipedia.org]?

      • What we have at hands right now is the ongoing process of choosing by inaction not to create enough ways to harvest renewable energy. As the fossils run out, we will see a gradual shift away from our current global industrial world.

        No.

        We have enough oil to maintain the status quo usage for another 30+ years. Tesla motors though makes it clear that gas guzzling cars will be replaced by electrics in less than 30 years. Not for the sake of renewable energy or environmental conscience, but because they are cheaper, faster and all around superior. More over, I firmly believe that the next 30 years will see the advancement of some form of fusion power. Lockheed Martin has even been willing to claim, publicly, that it will have a fusion reac

        • by smaddox ( 928261 )

          Violence against one another is about the only threat to our future, we have technology of such a state that we are otherwise pretty well situated for centuries of continued growth.

          Continued growth at the current rate is not possible with any energy source for more than about 2 centuries. In 275 years, we would have to collect 20% of all the sunlight falling on earth [ucsd.edu]. If we used local fusion reactors, we would very rapidly heat the earth beyond habitability. If we want to survive as a species, we'll have to transition to a steady state society in relatively short order.

    • 100 year old survival knowledge in PDF files??? That makes zero sense.

      Publish the books hard-bound on acid-free paper and then you've got something useful!!

      How about publishing it to a free archive in a number of formats so thousands of people around the world can download and copy or print it to whatever medium they choose or find useful? Does that make sense?

    • That makes zero sense.

      Publish the books hard-bound on acid-free paper and then you've got something useful!!

      Printer here: Let's not muck around. To be of more use than a club, it needs to be oral tradition.

    • by AC-x ( 735297 )

      Wouldn't something like this [rosettaproject.org] (microscopically etched / electroformed solid nickel) be even better? You could include instructions for creating a microscope to read it in large print on the other side...

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      And I would LOVE to see you carry them. Stupidity is not taking advantage of modern tech. I disagree with PDF, I think Epub or Mobi a format that works on epaper devices that can run off of small solar panels that are 5W in size.

      If cared for a kindle DX can last 100 years. Unless you made the books properly by hand binding with thread and leather on very high end paper, they will not make it 100 years in use. I know this for a fact, I have several 100 year old books and they are all falling apar

    • by bwcbwc ( 601780 )

      In other words, you're advocating to restore the original works...

    • Still makes no sense, because of this quote:

      In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.

      (Carl Sagan)

    • Don't worry, I've bookmarked the page on my smartphone. Shoot me an email if the apocalypse happens!

    • And the first few chapters should detail how to build and operate a printing press.
  • Used to be you could get a plow attachment for your jeep.
  • The Knowledge (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mr 44 ( 180750 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @02:31AM (#48248583)

    Various people have been mulling this idea around before, summary could do a better job of giving credit to previous works. Primarily, Lewis Dartnell's recent book, The Knowedge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch [amazon.com] covers exactly this topic quite well.

    Human knowledge is collective, distributed across the population. It has built on itself for centuries, becoming vast and increasingly specialized. Most of us are ignorant about the fundamental principles of the civilization that supports us, happily utilizing the latestâ"or even the most basicâ"technology without having the slightest idea of why it works or how it came to be. If you had to go back to absolute basics, like some sort of postcataclysmic Robinson Crusoe, would you know how to re-create an internal combustion engine, put together a microscope, get metals out of rock, accurately tell time, weave fibers into clothing, or even how to produce food for yourself?

      Regarded as one of the brightest young scientists of his generation, Lewis Dartnell proposes that the key to preserving civilization in an apocalyptic scenario is to provide a quickstart guide, adapted to cataclysmic circumstances. The Knowledge describes many of the modern technologies we employ, but first it explains the fundamentals upon which they are built. Every piece of technology rests on an enormous support network of other technologies, all interlinked and mutually dependent. You canâ(TM)t hope to build a radio, for example, without understanding how to acquire the raw materials it requires, as well as generate the electricity needed to run it. But Dartnell doesnâ(TM)t just provide specific information for starting over; he also reveals the greatest invention of them allâ"the phenomenal knowledge-generating machine that is the scientific method itself.

    • by Jesrad ( 716567 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @05:57AM (#48249173) Journal

      The Long Now Foundation [longnow.org] has been covering this issue pretty well, too, with its 'Manual for Civilisation project'. They actually built a place with airtight shelves and started stockpiling actual books, which beats piling PDF files in a webserver anyday in long-term storage and techno-breakup resilience. They even store spores and seeds of all kinds of useful plants, and have a project for preserving animal DNA & eggs too.

    • You canâ(TM)t hope to build a radio, for example, without understanding how to acquire the raw materials it requires, as well as generate the electricity

      Interesting example of where you can seriously jumpstart things. People were drawing wire back in ancient times, and regardless of what they actually were, we know that even batteries were being built back then. The old "cat whisker" style receiver required only a coil of wire, a galena (semiconductor) crystal, and some sort of earphone, which is basically another coil of wire and a thin ferromagnetic metal plate.

      Transmitters are harder, since you need oscillating circuits, not to mention more power (especi

      • Transmitters are harder, since you need oscillating circuits, not to mention more power (especially if the receiver is un-amplified). However, the technology required to create evacuated glass vacuum tubes was pretty much all there since about the mid-late 1700s. What we lacked at the time was knowing how to put it all together.

        Remember Morse code and CW transmission? Generating loads of RF is easy -- you need a big stack of batteries, a spark gap, and an antenna. In fact, a spinning sulfur ball and a silk brush could probably generate enough current at high voltage to do the trick. I'm thinking you can even do AM voice without a conventional "amplifying" device, if you aren't concerned about pleasing audiophiles.

        I'm almost all in on continued technological progress -- I'm not sure I'd want to live in a collapsed, post-tech civili

        • In fact, a spinning sulfur ball and a silk brush could probably generate enough current at high voltage to do the trick.

          You're hired!

          Actually, current doesn't matter as much as voltage, but if crude spark technology is all you want, I'd say you've got it down.

          I had a "radio set" that consisted of an unplugged transistor amplifier, a speaker, and the wire running from the speaker to the amp. Because I lived across the street from a 5KW AM radio transmitter, it would whisper eerily in the dark. The final-stage transistors replaced the galena rectifier/demodulator, the speaker wire served as antenna and the speaker served as...

  • by Tom ( 822 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @02:37AM (#48248605) Homepage Journal

    I wonder what "embalming" does in a survivor handbook, but maybe that's just me being a semantics nazi.

    The idea is cute. The format is wrong. This absolutely must be a printed book or it will not serve its purpose. Because if any scenario that requires it happens, then two things will follow within a reasonably short frame of time: a) power will fail, both mains and whatever battery or generators you have and b) it is highly unlikely that you'll have an opportunity to print it all before that happens.

    It also needs to be edited, which is why "you can print it out yourself" is not a proper answer to my remark above. When I'm fighting for survival, I won't have time to search through a huge volume of information to figure out what I need right now. Some things I'll know to look for, of course, but much information will be of the "you only know it's important if you already know about it" kind.

    Also, it completely lacks sections on psychology, sociology and politics. While as sciences, these are fairly young and just beginning to deliver applicable results, there is a lot in there that can help small groups under pressure to perform better and manage their social dynamics as well as mental health.

    Finally, it lacks a section of advanced technology. Yes, if civilization crashes, we'll be back to horses and plowing the fields for one or two generations, but why should we have to re-invent everything about computers, networks, planes, rockets, medicine and so on? Some of this stuff took decades and lives lost to figure out.

    • by itzly ( 3699663 )

      why should we have to re-invent everything about computers...

      No, we will be dead. Somebody else gets the opportunity to invent them for the first time.

    • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

      That is an interesting long view. I have always held the premise if society collapses it goes without saying it will be because some event triggers a massive depopulation. War/famine/plague etc. We are simple to dependent on technology to just let our high tech world go. The last think the powers that be will give up on is keeping the lights burning, and semi-trailers rolling. Without those things THEY HAVE NO POWER.

      Nobody is going to listen to the current body of politicians without the the military to

    • by c ( 8461 )

      I wonder what "embalming" does in a survivor handbook, but maybe that's just me being a semantics nazi.

      I was kinda curious about who decided "A Manual of Gothic Moldings" would be of substantial value for survivor knowledge.

      It's an interesting idea, but it really needs to be curated better to separate out the "needs" and "wants".

  • survival? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the_Bionic_lemming ( 446569 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @02:47AM (#48248645)

    I think if you can garden, know how to can foods, Understand how to preserve meat, have a good understanding of what a root cellar actually does, have knowledge on how to actually catch, skin and clean food - you'd find the preceding article quite amusing.

    Think about it. We're worrying here on how to quickly pass on survival information to start from scratch while totally ignoring the fact that there is shit tons of ready made knives, metal to sharpen, museums full of ready to work stuff and more to keep from actually having to wait a hundred years to reboot.

    • by Sique ( 173459 )
      Maybe you know how to can food, if you have cans and food available. But do you know how to get the metal in exactly the right tin form to make cans in the first place? Do you know which types of tin you can use for food and which ones to avoid? How do you deal with the corrosion of iron, with poisonous ions from copper, lead and zinc?
      • by eam ( 192101 )

        When everyone else is running through the stores looting all the twinkies, he'll head over to the section where the mason jars are stacked. It's not like he'll need that many: when you empty one, you wash it and use it again.

  • by itsme1234 ( 199680 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @02:49AM (#48248653)

    "FARNHAM'S FREEHOLD: TRADING POST & RESTAURANT BAR

    American Vodka, Corn Liquor, Applejack, Pure Spring Water, Grade "A" Milk, Corned Beef & Potatoes, Steak & Fried Potatoes, Butter & some days Bread, Smoked Bear Meat, Jerked Quisling (by the neck), Crepes Suzettes to order. !!!

    Any BOOK Accepted as Cash!!!!
    DAY NURSERY !!
    FREE KITTENS!!
    Blacksmithing, Machine Shop, Sheet Metal Work-You Supply the Metal.
    FARNHAM SCHOOL OF CONTRACT BRIDGE Lessons by Arrangement. Social Evening Every Wednesday.

    WARNING!!!

    Ring bell. Wait. Advance with your Hands Up. Stay on path, avoid mines. We lost three customers last week. We can't afford to lose YOU.

    No sales tax.

    â"Hugh & Barbara Farnham & Family, Freeholders"

  • Christmas!?!?!? (Score:4, Informative)

    by itsme1234 ( 199680 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @02:57AM (#48248673)

    WTF, 100-200 titles on f* Christmas!?!?!??

    Including "A Christmas Carol-Charles Dickens-Audio (mp3)" ?

    That would help for sure... and somebody complained about pdf's...

  • by Required Snark ( 1702878 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @03:17AM (#48248709)
    There's a big problem with raw materials. All the resources that are easy to get are gone. No more near surface iron, copper, zinc, tin, lead, etc. No forests of tall hardwoods to cut down. No coal that isn't deep under mountains.

    Then there is land fertility and changing climate. And where do you get seeds that are not adapted to modern agriculture practice? What farm animal breeds will be available? Also, there is a lot less game to hunt, so there goes that source of protein.

    Even if you bootstrap to 1900 or so, the mineral problem is not going to get any easier.

    You can only scavenge for so long. What then?

    So the whole project has a whiff of impractical thinking. The libertarian/Randian showing that all it takes is individual initiative without that pesky government screwing everything up.

    No Junior Woodchucks Guidebook [wikipedia.org] is going to save civilization.

    • There are plenty of old mines load with raw materials that are easy to get to. The reason no one currently cares about them is that the amount of money and time it would take to extract can be invested into places that would yield a higher return.
      Switch the situation around and if you are back to hand tools and older style explosives and those mines are of use again.
      Looking at current problems with wild boars and deer, hunting would not be a problem, it might harder for the first couple of years (there
    • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @04:16AM (#48248845) Homepage

      It all depends on scale. If you're expecting us to be up and running with a populous of 7bn within a year, maybe you're right.

      But if there's only 100,000 left, spread out over the globe, with the rich pickings of a former civilisation to kickstart from, then we don't actually need a lot of raw materials as you suggest.

      You know what you'd need long before coal, iron, copper, zinc? Food. And though the initial pickings may be easy, before long you'll turn any old bit of scrap into a plough (not plow, fecking Americans) so you can ensure some future longevity.

      It's this stuff we're talking about - getting from "damn, the food has run out and scavenging is useless" to "comfortable farm life" for those with some foresight and backbone.

      Natural wood isn't hard to come by, even in cities like London. It has one of the country's oldest forests. Coal isn't a necessary - we did without it for many millennia. Land fertility will always be an issue but only if you want to intensively farm like we do today, to feed the entire countries from a handful of fields. For personal and small community use, even a carrot the size of a pencil is viable if you work at it (and they used to be exactly that size). And humans have dealt with changing climate for millions of years - we came through the last ice age with nothing but a flint axe and an animal skin.

      Seeds, also, happen to grow naturally. We just don't collect them. And they aren't viable in intensive modern farming but there's absolutely nothing wrong with them for the uses we need them for. Farm animals are the same - we wouldn't have the huge, bloated cows. But you know what? My girlfriend's family keep two miniature goats, and she's looking at doing the same in our little suburban house in London. Grass and scrap food to milk (butter, cheese, yoghurt), meat and as many other goats as you can keep. There's a reason that the desert tribes have goats, even in the damn desert where there is no grass.

      Minerals are the last thing to worry about. Sure, they make the return to full civilisation easier but, by then, you're looking at a collective of hundreds of thousands who are self-sustaining before they go" Right, we should open up a mine". And, to be honest, even today in some countries some people live their entire lives with nothing more than a bit of scrap metal to live under and an old T-shirt.

      It's not a waste of time. But to see that, you have to have some concept of survival priorities. Worry about your food first. By the time you're cursing the lack of zinc, you won't have much else to worry about anyway.

      • by itzly ( 3699663 )
        One thing you'd need to worry about is phosphate to grow the food. Unlike metals like copper that you can get by salvaging old pipes and wires, the phosphate will readily dissolve in water and wash to the ocean. Of course, you can still grow food without phosphate fertilizer, but the yield will be a lot lower.
      • by u38cg ( 607297 )
        You must be careful when slagging Americanisms. Many simply reflect the original usage. Plough is Old English - ploh - and 'plow' was equally common until the 18th century.
    • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

      Why wouldn't the livestock supplies still at least be proportional to the surviving population? You seem to be making a lot of assumptions with nothing to back them up.

  • Foxfire Books (Score:5, Informative)

    by coaxial ( 28297 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @03:50AM (#48248775) Homepage

    Foxfire [wikipedia.org] has been doing this the mid 1960s. How to raise and slaughter animals. How to grow crops. How to bootstrap iron working, including gunsmithing. Everything you need, and with all the mammy-pamby crap from "urban homesteaders" and preppers. Practical knowledge from people that were doing it daily.

  • by Whiternoise ( 1408981 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @03:53AM (#48248779)

    If you're downloding ~100GB of files that you can only read using a computer, it makes sense to grab a dump of Wikipedia (10GB compressed). It's public domain and has lots of (varying) quality information on a wide variety of topics. If you want images that'll run you around 0.5TB, but hey it's a fairly complete representation of humanity.

    Could you survive on Wikipedia alone? Probably not, but it would really really help if you wanted cross-referenced information quickly.

    Another point, no sarcasm, I'd trust Wikipedia for medical information slightly more than a 1900s era textbook.

  • by slashdot_commentator ( 444053 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @03:56AM (#48248795) Journal

    It's an effort headed by an aid worker in Africa (Alex Weir). Basically, he wanted to produce a compendium of useful information which could be applied by developing nations; topics like agriculture, engineering, construction, sanitation, medicine, etc. . Much of the source material comes from UN publications, so its more current and applicable than "turn of the century" techniques. Among the interesting items, it includes an html, hypertext expert system for medical diagnostics. You go to the start page, click relevant symptoms, and eventually it leads you to a guestimate of what's ailing you. Its not remotely as competent as an actual doctor, but its better than nothing when you're stuck "in the Bush".

    Besides the information being indexed and organized, Weir had a vision of burning the collection on DVDs and distributing them to the third world. (At one point, it appeared he was reorganizing the material as pdf pages which could be viewed by a DVD player, using DVD menus. That would remove the need for a conventional computer or tablet to access the material. I don't know if it ever got finished.) About a year or two ago, he decided to reorganize the collection in a hybrid wiki form, which he calls "microdownloads". Its now updated more frequently, and the DVD collection will probably not be revised.

    Unfortunately, it looks like the Facebook page hasn't been updated since 4/11/14, and Google has a link hinting that the site was "hacked". Finally, going to the website pops up a login window. I'm not sure if that's a new development in response to the hacking, or that the hacker still "controls" the site. Perhaps Mr. Weir is still in Africa and can't address the situation until he's returned to civilization. Its pretty unusable in its current state, but there's probably a way to find a previous working mirror of the site.

    In any case, I'll leave links for people who wish to investigate the issue further, and more important, a magnet link to pickup the 2012 cd3wd 6 DVD collection by torrent.

    facebook [facebook.com]

    cd3wd site [cd3wd.com]

    magnet:?xt=urn:btih:7AEE811F0E802B29C1F2E4C785CE866F94AA2084&dn=cd3wd%202012%206%20dvds&tr=udp%3a%2f%2ftracker.ccc.de%3a80&tr=http%3a%2f%2f64.244.102.71%2fannounce&tr=udp%3a%2f%2ftracker.openbittorrent.com%3a80&tr=udp%3a%2f%2ftracker.istole.it%3a80&tr=udp%3a%2f%2ftracker.openbittorrent.com%3a80%2fannounce&tr=udp%3a%2f%2ftracker.publicbt.com%3a80%2fannounce

  • The phrase you're looking for is treasure trove.

  • A plow is important if you need to either produce food for many people, or if you plan on producing enough food to sell to others. If you are living alone you can likely subsist on a much smaller garden that would not necessitate a plow.
  • All hard skills? (Score:2, Insightful)

    How to build a plow... how to grow wheat... how to build a house... blacksmith...

    I have texts older than Jesus that tell me how to turn regular people into geniuses. I have access to information I intend to use to fix the school systems by improving the learning process at the level of base theory. I have looked at fast mental math and mathematics teaching curricula which provide people an automatic mental math skill. I've studied philosophy and project management, both with large usefulness and implica

    • I've always been interested in math history, and when I was a kid always wondered how the hell people calculated things like cube roots before calculators. I was so excited in calculus when I learned linear approximation or the Newton-Raphson method. But even then you couldn't really do any of that until the invention of calculus. Did nobody before Newton and Liebniz know how to find a cube root (that wasn't obvious)?

      • You have to memorize all the perfect squares and perfect cubes of single-digit numbers. After that, you can find either [mathforum.org].

        Given that I know the decimal place is arbitrary (thanks to the soroban) and that the method follows a pattern (x^(1/n) find the largest perfect nth root of n digits), I can generalize this in many ways. By memorizing 8 numbers--the perfect exponents of 2 through 9--and operating on sets of n digits, you can compute the nth root of any number. For 4, it would be 4 digits, and all perf

    • by u38cg ( 607297 )
      Rubbish. You can derive modern technology from scratch in a few hundred years: all you need is a society that can support thinkers, printing to distribute ideas, and free trade to generate the wealth to make it happen.
  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @08:46AM (#48249785)

    All the technical solutions will either remain known or are easily re-discovered. There are two big problems with rebooting society:

    First, you need LOTS of people. Most of the stuff we have today relies on a certain minimum population density. That is especially true of transportation systems and without them, it would not be possible to move the raw materials around. So medical knowledge and knowing how to keep young children from dying will be paramount.

    The second problem will be producing an effective counter-argument to all the superstitions, ignorance and religions that are bound to appear if "civilisation" dies off. That is what held back our scientific and technological development: From Aristotle to the Industrial Revolution there was 2,000 years of very little progress and what there was, was usually achieved DESPITE religion, not with its encouragement.

    The technology will come of its own accord, but speeding it up will need manual for social survival, not designs for steam engines

    • The second problem will be producing an effective counter-argument to all the superstitions, ignorance and religions that are bound to appear if "civilisation" dies off.

      That's why you've got to get there first. We already know the playbook.

      "The LORD thy GOD commands that thou shalt study integral calculus! Also, the High Mathematicians get all the hot chicks. GOD COMMANDS IT!"

  • by Koyaanisqatsi ( 581196 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @08:50AM (#48249807)

    This is all nice and good, but someone ought to start working on the second, more secret library, to be located in the other end of the planet ...

    Only psychology and psychohistory books allowed there ...

  • Why don't they just call it the Encyclopedia Galactica like Asimov?
  • by Irate Engineer ( 2814313 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @10:05AM (#48250415)
    Read A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Canticle_for_Leibowitz [wikipedia.org] If our technology is the root cause for the apocalypse, the survivors may not want that technology anymore. If you have one of these Ipads/books, you better keep it out of sight for a while else the mob might get you.
  • If you're willing to accept digital then this has already been done ad absurdum on tens of thousands of blogs and wikis.

    If you're expecting digital to go the way of the dinosaur, good likelihood, then this has already been done ad absurdum in tens of thousands of books.

    The key is maintaining accessibility which fundamentally comes down to being able to read. The knowledge has already been gathered many times over.

  • a) It's already done, and is called "wikipedia". The problem of accessing wikipedia after the solar flare in a few days wipes out human technological civilization is left as an exercise for the reader.

    b) OK, so it's not really done, and is going to be even less done as paper books more or less disappear from the world and people stop learning how to read because their personal digital implant delivers content directly into your cortex in full sensory mode, all of which goes away when a nuclear war followed

  • ... in wax cylinder format?

Uncertain fortune is thoroughly mastered by the equity of the calculation. - Blaise Pascal

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