marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,
marycatelli
marycatelli

Victorian Age Science In Steampunk

Discussions of how Victorian and steampunk differ.  The women who wear corsets on the outside are like the engines showing all the cogs and gears that a Victorian would have covered with a mahogany  case.  (My own two cents on this was that this was the era of the coal-tar dyes, and so of the brief flare of brilliant color in fashion -- followed by a reaction as color became cheap in both senses, and we, living in the time of reaction still, have steampunk in brown and sepia and gray.)

The massive accumulations of knowledge in this era.  The entire science of thermodynamics -- and just for giggles, they didn't know that there really were atoms of a finite size rather than merely as useful theoretical concepts for substances that could be subdivided forever.  (Einstein didn't win his Nobel for relativity, and the photoelectric effect was mentioned only briefly; what they really cited was his work on Brownian motion that established that there were atoms of finite size.)  This meant the science had to be worked out with intricate differential equations to establish that it would work even without atoms.

The massive empiricism of the time.  They could prove, mathematically, that airplane wings would not work if you neglected viscosity.  And if you didn't, the equations were far too complex to solve.  We do it numerically with massive computing time.  Computers, they didn't have.  (Humm.  It didn't come up, but a steampunk computer for that. . . .)  And I put in my two cents:  this was the era where they laboriously put together the sequence of Shakespeare's plays, before this they didn't even distinguish between his early and his late comedies because they didn't know about the grouping.

Biology was brushed on briefly -- this was, after all, the era that invented scientific racism.

Women.  Most treatments of Victorian women tend to underestimate what was happening -- such as the first colleges for women -- and entirely overlook the grinding amount of effort housework took, which kinda kept you busy.  There were servants, but a middle-class housewife would often be between servants.

Near the end, one panelist had to interject how peeved he was with the description.  Just because Freud did work in this era -- it wasn't a Freudian era.  No concept of the unconscious at all.
Tags: arisia, genre: steampunk, world-building: servants, world-building: technology
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