Pre-modern technologies and marvels that would seem magical or incomprehensible to other pre-modern civilizations

Jan 2016
1,141
Victoria, Canada
One example I might put forward are the Gothic churches of the high-late medieval period, as shown to a Roman of the 1st century, or anyone before. To someone coming from a time before flying buttresses or glass windows they would give off a truly magical impression, enormous walls of wafer-thin crystal standing seemingly unsupported, encompassing a huge space:

 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,258
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Also contemporary entities: imagine if an organized expedition of 5 Roman legions were able to reach Northern America. The Natives would have had no hopes to stop the expansion of the Roman Eagles.

Romans had not only horses [Natives didn't use horses, Spaniards introduced them as war animals], but armored heavy infantry. I can only feel mercy for the Natives attacking the Roman testudo.
 
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Mar 2019
1,996
Kansas
ACC is only correct if one believes in the principle of magic surely? Many people don’t understand how say nuclear weapons or MRI scanners work but they don’t think they’re magic. Even things like clocks, people can understand the idea of a pendulum and if they get to see behind the dial they can see how the movement of the pendulum is converted to the movement of the hands, even if like me they can’t work out what every cog and ratchet does. Perhaps I’m not fanciful enough ....
Clarke was referring to technology well ahead of the current state of things. For example understanding how an MRI works when you don't have a concept of what electricity is......becomes a massive jump.
 
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Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
35,382
T'Republic of Yorkshire
Clarke was referring to technology well ahead of the current state of things. For example understanding how an MRI works when you don't have a concept of what electricity is......becomes a massive jump.
If Stargate has taught me anything, it's that humans will take tech that is light years ahead of anything they've ever encountered, stick a USAF sticker on it, and viola, they know how to work it.
 
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GogLais

Ad Honorem
Sep 2013
5,478
Wirral
Clarke was referring to technology well ahead of the current state of things. For example understanding how an MRI works when you don't have a concept of what electricity is......becomes a massive jump.
That’s true. Maybe it’s a lack of imagination on my part but I find it hard to imagine something that is so beyond our current technology that I would think it was magical. It’s one of my pet beliefs that there may be natural forces or processes that we still don’t know about, in the same way that we had no idea about x-rays or radioactivity little more than a century ago. With all due respect to today’s scientists.
 
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Mar 2019
1,996
Kansas
That’s true. Maybe it’s a lack of imagination on my part but I find it hard to imagine something that is so beyond our current technology that I would think it was magical. It’s one of my pet beliefs that there may be natural forces or processes that we still don’t know about, in the same way that we had no idea about x-rays or radioactivity little more than a century ago. With all due respect to today’s scientists.
In the quote Clarke does not define 'who' might think it was magic. So clearly there is wriggle room for people with a more logical bent to their life.

If a person suddenly appeared and was able to turn lead into gold. there would be 3 basic responses.

1. How is he managing the heat and pressure from the transmutation

2. I saw Penn and Teller do that in Vegas

3. Its a miracle

I think Clarke is pitching his quote to group three
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,431
SoCal
The printing press--as well as the very idea of an alphabet and a written language--could have surprised pre-industrial civilizations that didn't even have that.

 
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Sep 2017
772
United States
Also contemporary entities: imagine if an organized expedition of 5 Roman legions were able to reach Northern America. The Natives would have had no hopes to stop the expansion of the Roman Eagles.

Romans had not only horses [Natives didn't use horses, Spaniards introduced them as war animals], but armored heavy infantry. I can only feel mercy for the Natives attacking the Roman testudo.
This would derail the forum but I don’t think it would be that simple unfortunately.
 
Sep 2017
772
United States
Greek Fire.
It must’ve been to those on the receiving end, maybe even to some of the Byzantines who weren’t operators.

It still puzzles us to this day, so I’m sure an Arab warrior seeing it spew out must’ve thought it wasn’t pretty crazy.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,252
Sydney
all the above are missing the point of magic
savages are quite capable of making the difference between inexplicable , clever human artifact and magic
either it is of this world or not

Papuans from the highlands were puzzled by white people with Thomson machine guns until they spied them having a ****
obviously they were human and could be killled , they tried some ,failed then started negotiating man to man

an Herero chief was told by a German general that he would see white man magic and showed him a plane flying overhead
the chief shrug his shoulders , he could guess it was only a machine no matter how inexplicably strange

for something truly magic that would be radio ,
to talk with someone , abolishing distance and space , that was real neat magic