Here’s a composite of all the tools together, a sort of metal age electrician’s alphabet.
Some people have viewed this project through the lens of sustainability. While self-sufficiency and locally sourced material would certainly seem to be sustainable, my methods fail quite spectacularly in environmental analysis. For one, I used an estimated 20 kg of charcoal to produce perhaps 20 g of metal. Much of this was wasted in the learning curve, but it was used just the same. This is a fuel to metal ratio of 1000:1. The worst modern metal process I am aware of, the Pidgeon process operating in China to produce magnesium with coal, has a ratio of 25:1, 4000% more efficient than my process. Sourcing charcoal from forest fire trees uses carbon that would probably end up in the air anyway, but this resource would run out so quickly if used on any scale. Moreover, I had zero emissions control. While roasting my copper ores, I directly vented all the gases being produced. The noxious sulphur dioxide, chief precursor to acid rain, gagged me when I got too close. Moreover, I got sick twice after this phase of the process. At first I assumed this was from the sulphur, but after further reading, my symptoms more closely resembled mild arsenic poisoning. Arsenic is a heavy metal usually found in ores of copper that sublimates away during the roasting process. So I have to issue a “don’t try this at home” warning. The only way I can see this process being described as sustainable is that I was distracted from more effective activities of consumption for 6 weeks. But this is easily canceled out by the 3 round-trip cross-continental voyages taken to complete the project.
Copper production on the island of Cyprus probably ended because of complete, and permanent, deforestation to make charcoal. In other words, more primitive or Earthy processes are not necessarily more sustainable. My project is about the origin of technologies- the ability for them to emerge out of context- but not their ability to sustain themselves. A sustainable society is not really the most natural option; humans began as a nomads exhausting the resources of places and then moving on. Maybe people in the future will look back on us just as we can look back on our predecessors, and see the answer to a lasting society lying on the ground all around us, just waiting to be put together with the right information.
Here you can see the voltage generated when the switch is closed, outputing to a voltmeter. .36 volts isn’t much, but it proves the concept. I was getting .7 earlier, but it drops as the potato slices dry out. To get a more useful voltage I would simply need to rinse, lather, and repeat, so to speak. Smelt more copper, forge more iron, and make the pile taller. Of course, at some point I would come to a crucial understanding: one person cannot build an electronic communication network by themselves, because you need at least two people to communicate. I have a switch, but no one to receive a signal, no cooperation to build a wire network to connect them, no one to learn a system of signals with. Even if one paleolithic person was bestowed with the knowledge I gathered over the past months, they would need to convince a group to participate. I suspect this is as great a barrier as anything. Even Morse’s telegraph in 1850 was mocked in congress as a conjuring trick.
I’ll be posting the video of the second session’s activities sometime this week, as well as some more documentation and musings. I’ll be thinking of what to do with my alternate industrial legacy, hopefully I can show it somehow. Thanks to everyone who followed and offered support along the way. Thanks especially to Elizabeth Wanda Filardi for coming out on the first session, creating all the video and media and calming down my inner caveman. Big thanks to Eyebeam for supporting the project through their honorary residency, and the Johnson Creek Ranch for hosting it and feeding me good, non-paleolithic food.