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HUSP: The Flameless Humanity

 
D. Logan
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Paul has written in the past regarding HUSP and among the ideas he had was that there would be one group focused on super tight rules that included even a limitation of not using fire. I have no way to know if that was just off the top of his head or something he had put a long period of thought to, but at the time I read it, I dismissed it entirely as impossible.

Impossible at least outside of a specific band of the earth where heating would never be needed among other things and those living this way could never have more than sticks and stones to live by. Having worked on improving my survival and primitive skills for many years, I do know this is possible and even comfortable in the right situations, but certainly doesn't allow for much progress past hunter/gatherer living.

So on I went with my life for the last year or so until I started thinking about certain other things. Elaborate stonework predates agriculture. Incredibly elaborate computing devices existed thanks to the Greeks before things got ruined by the Romans. I suspect that if the Greeks had continued on the path they were on, the world might have seen it's first analog computer long ago. And with technology we understand as primitive.

So the more I think about it, the more I have to wonder how the amazing ability of humanity to overcome any difficulty might bypass this huge hurdle and advance technology. I think, at the very least, it would take some serious genius thinking to overcome the lack of fire in meaningful ways that more than one or two 'wild eyed' folks would want to live. For this thought experiment, assume that we can't use any materials found outside of the loop of those following the same no-fire principles. Assume that A) it can be done and B) that with enough time and effort, it can catch up to other forms of modern living within reason.

The obvious place to start are the primary needs of life: Food, Water and Shelter

Food
Without fire, raw diets are the vast majority of what you can hope to enjoy. Food storage gets a touch trickier too. Drying comes immediately to mind offering jerky and dehydrated veggies as long as you can find something to store them in that won't allow for water to pass through. Salting as well springs forth, but might be a little unpleasant without the ability to boil water. Lastly is fermentation. Can we think of any other ways to extend the eating options?

Water
Filtering might be a bit less safe without the ability to create charcoal. Purification through boiling isn't an option unless there is some way we can think of to create a reflective oven that doesn't use fire somewhere in it's creation (like melting metal for the walls). UV purification is harder as well when glass containers to do it in would also require some sort of melting method to create. Evaporation as a means of purification seems to be the most likely means in this case.

Shelter
This at least is simple enough. All sorts of shelters can be created to protect us from the elements, but any design created will have to take into account the cooling effects of the area. I am thinking that the colder an area gets, the smaller the home has to be so that body heat is reflected and contained more effectively. Without the ability to use fire, how do you heat a home in a place where the weather gets down to -20 or more regularly?

If/when we can resolve these, the next thing is to figure out how to either make sticks and stones way more effective or else how to finds non-fire ways to create things like glass, metal, pottery, etc. I don't know if we can do it, but I do think that it can be done. As I said before, it is going to take a bit of genius. I really look forward to seeing what people's minds can come up with in this regard.
 
tel jetson
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D. Logan wrote:Food

ceviche. et cetera, if you must, but seriously: ceviche. a lot of cooking is just for the purpose of denaturing a thing. there are often other ways to do it.


D. Logan wrote:Water

slow sand filters work pretty gd well. combined with reed beds, I would say they would do the trick in most instances. if water is really scarce, adding living machine sorts of things to the system ought to make even sewage a reasonable source of water.

D. Logan wrote:Shelter

seems like a matter of tuning insulation and thermal mass. not exactly a simple matter, but not terribly complicated, either.

over human history (not to mention the rest of the Animalia), there have been a great number of solutions to climate control all over the world. qanats and massive earth structures in climates with wide seasonal variations like in Iran. livestock under the humans for heat in the winter in the Alps. igloos. lots of blankets. fermentation, mushrooms, composting, and several other natural processes also create heat without fire.
 
D. Logan
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tel jetson wrote:
D. Logan wrote:Food

ceviche. et cetera, if you must, but seriously: ceviche. a lot of cooking is just for the purpose of denaturing a thing. there are often other ways to do it.


I had thought of this when I was pondering things, but forgot it when I was writing things up. I know the acids do the same job as the heat would be doing in the case of ceviche. My concerns with meat were mostly just ensuring there wasn't any pathogen able to survive. Some food items also benefit from fire/cooking directly (such as unlocking a lot of the nutrients in carrots during the cooking process) or indirectly (such as processing corn with lye to break down many of the structures into something we can digest rather than pass). Eating without fire is entirely doable. Storage without fire is as well, though sometimes containers might be a bit tricky. On that count I thought that replacing jars with gourds corked and wax sealed might work well. Obviously you couldn't process them like canned goods, but it would certainly keep shelf stable items dry and readily movable.

tel jetson wrote:
D. Logan wrote:Water

slow sand filters work pretty gd well. combined with reed beds, I would say they would do the trick in most instances. if water is really scarce, adding living machine sorts of things to the system ought to make even sewage a reasonable source of water.


Slow filtering through the natural system is indeed one method. My brain was somewhat focused on how you could handle water in an immediate sense if the need arose. I don't really have an answer for that aside from using a longer filter to compensate for the loss of the charcoal component.

tel jetson wrote:
D. Logan wrote:Shelter

seems like a matter of tuning insulation and thermal mass. not exactly a simple matter, but not terribly complicated, either.

over human history (not to mention the rest of the Animalia), there have been a great number of solutions to climate control all over the world. qanats and massive earth structures in climates with wide seasonal variations like in Iran. livestock under the humans for heat in the winter in the Alps. igloos. lots of blankets. fermentation, mushrooms, composting, and several other natural processes also create heat without fire.


Igloos fit under the small to hold in body heat category to me. I know pioneers sometimes kept livestock in a special section of the house to generate extra heat, but hadn't read on the under-you version used in the alps and will have to go researching that! Mentioning composting touches on something I had been pondering, but hadn't fully formed yet. A sort of building with a composting bin made of a thermal mass material at the center of the building. Radiates heat into the house. Another idea I was pondering was a way to create a glass-less trombe wall.

Thank you for mentioning all of these things. It shows well how some people in history have already overcome the basic layers of these challenges. It might take testing to see how they hold up in areas unlike where they were developed, but most seem like they should work regardless. So I suppose that moves on to tools.

Obsidian is already one of the finest cutting tools on the planet, limited only by the fragile nature of it. I know they have made some surgical tools with obsidian just to gain the advantages it offers. Wood can be cared carefully and with skill to do many of the things that metal can (hinges, connecting joints without nails, etc) and metal is chosen only because it is either stronger or quicker in construction. Gourds, bladders and other things can serve as containers. Flint arrows are every bit as effective as metal, but are more time consuming to make. A great many tools are every bit as good in natural materials as they are in metal, but they do have one disadvantage. Metal is generally able to hold shape with less material and retains a higher durability. Some things seem more impractical without the use of metal so maybe explore the idea of how those might work? My brain is currently picturing an analog computer (Difference Engine woot) made out of stones and using wooden cards!

Another hurdle to me is how to possibly make glass or something that works like it. There are huge advantages to glass as a usable material. Windows can be made with greased paper, but they only let in light and can't be seen through. Lenses are hugely useful and I am not sure of natural crystals could be effectively used there. Certainly crystals seem unlikely on anything larger than the span of your hand. Would a lens that small focus enough light to convert sand into glass? I know I could light fires with it, but since burning is what we are avoiding here, I wonder if it is strong enough to directly melt glass. When I have time, I may look up the exact temperature at the focus point of a lens that size and the melting point of sand into glass.
 
Dan Boone
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Smaller windows can be made from thin sheets of mica, sometimes called isenglass: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mica#Isinglass
 
Ben Stallings
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Could someone explain what benefit is hoped for from not using fire?

Also, where do you draw the line between "fire" and getting things really really hot? For example, to make a solar cooker you need either glass or metal. If you already have a big parabolic reflector, you could conceivably get raw materials hot enough to make a small amount of glass or metal. Would that be excluded as too fire-like, or does it have to actually oxidize something to qualify as fire?
 
D. Logan
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Ben Stallings wrote:Could someone explain what benefit is hoped for from not using fire?

Also, where do you draw the line between "fire" and getting things really really hot? For example, to make a solar cooker you need either glass or metal. If you already have a big parabolic reflector, you could conceivably get raw materials hot enough to make a small amount of glass or metal. Would that be excluded as too fire-like, or does it have to actually oxidize something to qualify as fire?


In the Husp Model, I think the idea was that those choosing to go this route were avoiding undue carbon of any sort getting added to the air. That would mean something could get as hot as you liked as long as it wasn't burning a combustible material. My own take is to keep fire, especially given how few emissions come from things like RMH systems, but I thought the exploration of the idea could be really interesting and lead to some really innovative designs. You'd need to speak with Paul to find out what his thoughts were when he originally outlined the idea of HUSP.

Outside of carbon, I suppose another reason one might need to work without fire would be if one lived in a place where combustibles were exceptionally rare.
 
David Livingston
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D Logan
Check out a "Bastle" a traditional form of building from the North Pennines / english scottish borders . Two story ground flooor animals top floor humans
a) for defence
b) heat from animals helped keep upstairs warmer .

David

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bastle_house
 
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