A while ago I was watching a Nova special on quantum mechanics and one of the physicists commenting said something along the lines of ‘If it weren’t for quantum mechanics we would all be still using steam engines’. That made me think, in an alternate universe, where quantum mechanics didn’t exist, would we be living in a steampunk 2012? Steampunk is notoriously hard to pin down with a satisfying definition but this could be a compelling component to reach one.
I’d need to do a lot more research to figure out the full implications of a no quantum mechanics world but what if Neils Boar was wrong? For one, solid state computers would not work. Diodes and transistors would not work. I don’t know if a vacuum tube would work. I don’t think there’s anything particularly quantum mechanical about an internal combustion engine so we might be in more of a dieselpunk world. Lasers would not exist, nor would LEDs.
I tend to watch out for factoids that match up with ideas and then I chain them together. What I’ll do is continue to look out for implications to a world that does not operate under quantum mechanics. I’ll categorize them under the heading “Quantumless”.
While doing research for skills, I came across an article that explained the reason for the development of Eniac (which I can’t find now), the first electronic computer. I found the story quite compelling and it made me question the central premise behind books like “The Difference Engine”. The reason behind it’s development was that the mechanical calculators (basically difference engines) were too slow to keep up with the demand for firing tables for cannons. The article went on to explain the vast speed and reliability improvement of an electronic computer. So in a quantumless universe, it comes down to whether vacuum tubes would still work. If they do, then the move to electronic computation would still occur. If they don’t, well then the Analytical Engine starts to look more attractive.
So the concept is a compelling one to me. What would happen to technology and therefore society without quantum mechanics?