An artefact (also spelled artifact) is an object produced or shaped by an intellegent agency, especially a tool, weapon, or ornament of archaeological or historical interest. The term is also used, often with capitalization or some other special distinction, for particularly important or potent devices left by Terragen transapients or by xenosophonts transapient or otherwise, particularly if such items are still functioning but their purpose and mode of operation are not well understood.
Artefacts and Civilization
The development of civilization requires the acquisition of complex cognitive processes. For instance on Old Earth the evolution of artefacts for counting and accounting in early civilizations (for instance the development of clay tokens and writing on clay tablets in Sumer, about 3300-3100 b.c.e.) enabled users to process relatively large amounts of information with greater abstraction. This fostered long distance trade and critical industries such as metallurgy, which in turn revolutionized crafts. For example, metal saws could cut wooden planks into circular shapes, allowing such inventions as the wheel. Metal weapons transformed warfare, leading to conquests far and near that could be administered with tokens and economic tablets. Finally, tokens and writing fostered new cognitive skills and thereby transformed the way people thought. Similar patterns (albeit differing radically in detail) have been found in the archaeology and history of xenosophont races such as the To'ul'hs, Limners. Those civilizations that reached high levels of technology eventually produced artifacts that were themselves animate, and might in some cases match or exceed the complexity of their inventors, as happened during the Information Age on Old Earth. Typically this rarer event leads eventually to the items termed Artefacts.
The discovery of alien artefacts (beginning with the great stone icons on The World of Meditating Idols) not only revolutionized the science of xenology but also had a deep effect on Terragen culture. No longer was Terragen sapience considered alone in the galaxy. However it was to be many centuries before the first actual aliens were contacted (the To'ul'hs, during the late Empires age). The discovery of alien artefacts from lost races and civilizations is especially rare, and there is a thriving black market trade which organizations like the Eden Institute of Xenology, the Hamilton Institute of Exopaleontology, the Ozymandias Institute, and the Central Alliance Galactic Customs and Contraband Agency, try valiantly to prevent, whether the objects in question are shards of pottery or entire megastructures. A few xenosophont artefacts are in fact transcendogenic artefacts; some of these have defences of their own against archaeologists and profiteers alike.
Without the relics and artefacts left by the transapient ascends and transcends, galactic civilization would be a very different place. Much of the interstellar economy rests on the artistic, memetic, and technological value of these precious objects. Often some of a society's essential functions are dependent solely on a supply of artefacts from the Ascended and Transcended powers and Archai.
Baryos - Text by Anders Sandberg Baryos is an unique planet, if that is the right term. It was first discovered by Ylli Farscapes, a NoCoZo remote exploration corp in 7522. They believed, led by stellar motion observations, that the system consisted of a silent black hole orbiting with a sun-like star. What they discovered was much stranger: where the black hole should be a terrestrial planet orbited, with an apparent mass equivalent to 3 sun masses.
Beelzebub - Text by Grant Thomas Harsh world known for the presence of the clarketech artifact MellaUx 137.
Carnot Engine - Text by Eric Lo Popular myth of an impossible device. The Carnot engine is a hypothetical perfect piston engine that recycles the heat within its combustion chamber to repeat the same adiabatic combustion process and thus the Carnot engine never needs to refuel or expel waste. This equation was made by the Napoleonic era (Old Earth) French physicist Sadi Carnot who realized this engine worked only mathematically but not in reality because it violated the Law of Entropy (entropy increases in a closed system).
Coagulator - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Rare clarketech device that disrupts molecular bonds at a distance (generally not more than 20 meters, although range varies). This involves unusual quantum effects; some have suggested a quantum resonance field that synchronizes the phase of electrons in a way that a common chemical bond (like carbon - carbon) breaks, but this is debatable. In any case, the broken bonds re-connect but generally in the wrong way, creating a massive chemical rather than physical shock.
Conway's World - Text by Xaonon Megastructure of unknown terragen origin that replicates and displays a simple cellular automation cycle.
Enhancer - Text by Todd Drashner and Anders Sandberg Also known as a matter enhancer or an enhancer device. A semi-mythological clarketech artefact that is very popular in pop-culture dramas.
Finity Box - Text by Todd Drashner High level clarketech device. Basically a box from 0.5 to 1 meter on a side that is larger on the inside than on the outside. May employ a basement universe or space-time folding (no S-level below the creating intelligence knows for sure). A Finity Box may be as much as five times larger on the inside than on the outside and no amount of mass put inside it causes any perceptible change to the mass or inertia of the box itself.
Hedrile, The - Text by Loopquanta A presumably artificial wormhole of unknown design, origin and destination; it has not yet been traversed successfully.
Hollerith Anomaly Object - Text by Håkan Andersson A nebula in the Chronos Cluster that contains a nanecology, some semi-sentient entities, and a number of odd phenomena. It is believed to have been left behind by a xenosophont civilization, now no longer evident and assumed by some to have transcended.
Peregrinate, The - Text by Anders Sandberg Distributed pseudo-polity of unknown origin, consisting of individuals claiming allegiance to the Peregrinate and being under the protection of the Peregrin, an unknown AI god protecting them through adornments similar to the Solarian pilgrimage jewelery.
Pseudoclarketech - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Technology that in all ways pretends to be, or appears to be, clarketech, but, although advanced, still shows itself to be amenable to study and reverse engineering.
Quantum Entanglement Device, QED - Text by M. Alan Kazlev with note by Anders Sandberg Mythological godtech or clarketech communications device that supposedly employs quantum entanglement for limited "ftl" communicate at interstellar distances. Said to be in the hands of powers and archailects. It is commonly believed or supposed in cheap virchfiction that a few have over the centuries fallen into the hands of nearbaselines, who have however been able to use them to their useful potential. The reality is that no QED has ever existed; as with FTL it is a myth that is believed by the gullible. It has been known ever since the Atomic and Information ages of Old Earth that actual quantum entanglement cannot be used to send useful information.
Rock, The - Text by M. Alan Kazlev The Rock is said to be based on a real granite boulder in the STC or the Keter Dominion which had been modified by advanced godtech so as to become a 2nd (in some variants of the story, a 4th or 5th) singularity intelligence.