The most obvious gap between the two is the difference between observed and theoretical models. By definition, our science is mostly driven by guesswork followed by experimentation followed by observation followed by conclusions. Their development is mostly driven by observation first, with little room for theory save to explain the observed.
As an example, in our world we have the Large Hadron Collider, which has corroborated or disproven countless theories, some of which have existed since the 1950s without ever being able to do anything with them.
In the Price setting, they have only begun to experiment with particle accelerators in the 1990s (our first being 20 years earlier), instead they use the Icarus Project for many of their models on particle behavior. Started in 1982, the first Icarus probes were put in orbit around the sun in 1984. The earliest probes had to remain in roughly the same orbit as Mercury, but some models have sat within 150,000 km of the sun (less than half the distance between the earth and moon, and almost 400 times closer than Mercury) for years.
Their greatest achievement thus far was sinking a probe into the sun, where it survived six months and reached almost ten miles beneath the surface before it stopped sending data back to Earth. This provides different sorts of information than we have, in the form of richer but less controlled data to analyze.
The Icarus Project has been expanded many times since its early days, and they’ve had probes landed and in orbit of every major body in our solar system since the mid 90s, most of which are still actively sending information back with far better resolution than any probe our world’s ever built. They expect their first in-orbit video of Alpha Centauri at some point during October 2019. The probe has better sensor technology on it than anything our world has ever put in space.
Hundreds of other endeavors across the Price setting have produced similar, if less grandiose, miracles. They have managed to successfully freeze lightning strikes and tornadoes in time, giving them hours to gather hard data on phenomena which we mainly understand from extrapolation. They have gathered thousands of times more literature on the chemical properties of the moon than our combined knowledge of the entire solar system outside of Earth.
The Price world also has a much greater understanding of metallergy and chemical properties on our own planet. Imbued have allowed humanity to exploit their environment for centuries in ways that we still cannot. An Esper capable of sensing iron deposits, as an example, could break ancient nations. Similarly, the ability to control plants and animals that otherwise could not be domesticated allowed for superior food supplies, and ancient cultures discovered a great deal more about their environment by simple trial and error than our own world could.
Also, more of those ancient secrets were recorded in ways that survived to the modern era. Their version of Corinthiacum (an alloy of bronze and gold) is a prime example of this. In our world, it’s an unknown recipe theorized to be bronze and gold. In their world, it was discovered to have a unique property of shielding people against electricity wielders. Essentially, it was a bronze age lightning rod you could carry in a world where Zeus and Thor were based off real people.
In the modern Price world, they use it (or superior alloys based on it) as wiring. Because it’s as expensive as copper, while being vastly superior in terms of heat and corrosion resistance, and electrical conductivity. Thus, the power grid and electronics in Price are significantly better than our own. If nothing else, they spend less on cooling systems for their electronics and don’t expend as much energy keeping their power grid charged.
They also have access to numerous clean(er) energy sources using Gadgeteers or even directly relying upon Imbued powers. While these Imbued resources are unable to be replicated, they’re coupled with the more efficient electrical grid to lower demand for fossil fuels. Vanishingly few places in the world using natural gas as a heating source. Electricity is the only energy utility seen in most homes.
The USA has the Clear Skies Program, which boasts most of the weather manipulators in the Western Hemisphere as well as a handful of Espers. While no individual weather manipulator can control much more than a few miles, strategic positioning, precognition, and prepwork can allow a few dozen minor changes to have massive effects on weather patterns.
They use their resources to prevent floods and droughts, hold tornadoes in place well away from human habitation, and prevent billions of dollars in hurricane damage every year. While their weather manipulation can’t quite prevent a hurricane, they are capable of spreading its force over a wide area. While this results in storms the size of a small continent, they’re no more destructive in any given area than a minor thunderstorm. Preferable by far to the devastation a hurricane can cause.
That this also grants the USA a convenient excuse to water half its countryside while saving money on FEMA or humanitarian aid to countries like Haiti does not go unnoticed by those paying attention to world events.
Other powerful nations and coalitions (Russia, China, and the EU) have similar communal weather controllers to protect themselves.
Healers in Price are also fairly common (powers are built from the inner nature of the Imbued, and few things run deeper in the human psyche than injury and illness), which allows most modern hospitals to save people who cannot be saved in our world. Most healers are fairly weak, with most being capable of minor healing that would only serve to prevent scars or cure viral infections. Fewer are capable of healing that would defeat bacteria or other living parasites, or perform healing that would otherwise require surgery. In growing rarity, there those who can restore lost limbs, defeat cancer, fix genetic disorders, or undo major neurological damage (spinal paralysis and addiction included). To date, no healer has been able to prove they can undo aging, other than to make patients more comfortable. Many a con artist has claimed otherwise, some believe them.
What this does mean is the Price setting sees far fewer crippling or fatal ailments (at least, outside old age) and has never experience an HIV epidemic. At least, not in the developed world. Much like cholera, mumps, and typhus, it still ravages third world nations who lack the resources to stamp it out when it surfaces.
One could be forgiven for assuming Price would be more advanced than our world, given this information, but it doesn’t quite work out that way.
Military and police spending in Price ranges from three to ten times what it is in our world, depending on which type of spending and where in the world you’re at. The Imbued arms race further disenfranchises the poorest nations, as their potential powerhouses are recruited by wealthier nations.
While some poorer nations have a strong enough national pride to retain members on the grounds of patriotism or familial loyalty, most often this results in countries being left with only the weakest or most uncontrollably dangerous Imbued remaining. Coupled with the older cultures seeing Imbued as gods or demons conflicting with modern Western view of treating them as a poorly understood natural phenomena, this has resulted in even wider culture gaps and hostilities between the developed and underdeveloped countries.
Tensions between Thassans and western cultures share a similar story, made worse by the Price setting being less concerned about conservation efforts than our world. Their oceans are in better shape than ours, however, since careless pollution and overfishing tend to result in ships exploding. Even modern nations occasionally hold proxy-wars by providing mines to Thassans with a grudge. Little different than funding terrorism proxy wars in our world.
Scientific development in Price is woefully underfunded compared to our own, save for some industries which are funded entirely by competition in mass production markets (vehicles and consumer electronics, mainly). In the setting, there is a term known as “Miraclite”, for any mass-producible technology or material which can accomplish a critical scientific landmark without using Imbued. As the word implies, it is oft dreamed of and rarely seen.
While the Price universe had military spy satellites in orbit during World War One, and lunar bases as of World War Two, it wasn’t until 1981 that they got a satellite to stay in orbit without any Imbued resources being involved, despite them having far more experience with space exploration by then than we have today. To date, they have never seen a Miraclite moon landing or space station.
This is a major concern for many industries, who are aware that the lifespan of many of their projects end when a single individual either dies or moves on to another project unless they get lucky enough to find another Imbued with an equivalent power. Such a glaring vulnerability hangs over all of Price’s most significant accomplishments.
Their theoretical science culture is also far different than our own. As an example: the countless debates and models which we built around the Higgs Boson (theorized 1960s, observed 2013) never happened in Price. They discovered it in 1971, and no one even guessed it might exist before then. In similar fashion, much of what we suspect about our universe in terms of dark matter, “echoes” of the big bang, and other theory models are rarely dreamed of in the Price setting. They don’t guess what the inside of Jupiter looks like, because they dropped a probe into it. They dismiss theory as “imaginary science”, because they’re accustomed to observable data, and this cultural difference between our worlds informs itself in their sciences.
Their engineering and other technologies are all generally behind ours. The superior metallurgy and chemistry allows them to keep up with us, more or less. Their ability to produce microcircuits or efficient radio transmissions is well behind our own, but thanks to better metals and better portable batteries, their cell phones have roughly the same abilities as ours, to the point that an observer lacking technical knowledge wouldn’t recognize any differences save brand names and user interfaces. An attempt by them to build the same cell phone using just copper and gold in their electronics would result in their cells bursting into flames after about ten minutes of use. Same with almost all their computer technologies.
If Price had access to our sciences and engineering techniques, or we had access to their raw knowledge of the observable universe, it would propel either universe forward roughly one to two hundred years in terms of technological accomplishment. Depending on the industry in question.
For the most part, education is still advancing in the same direction as our own, it’s just less aggressive about it than we are. They had their Renaissance as we did, and that scientific and exploratory spirit still resonates through their Western culture as it does our own, but their focus is different.
The simplest way to explain it is that more emphasis is placed on the exploratory aspect, and scientists chase the dream of being the first to witness the unknown, rather than trying to guess what the unknown looks like. Fewer people attend colleges in Price, while far more go into trade schools. Medical doctors are something of an exception, but ultimately doctors in Price see more emphasis on the “vocational” aspect of the career, and less on the “scientific”.
There is also a running debate whether or not Newton was an Imbued. Much like in our world, his theories and ideas seemingly spawned out of nowhere, and were equally as brilliant there as here. Difference being: we don’t have magic superpowers in the real world.
An exception to that general trend of “inferior creative skill, superior practical knowledge” lies in medical sciences. Their health care is vastly superior to our own in many ways, with most diseases easily stamped out to the point of being unheard of. Residents of Price’s first world nations go through their lives with no fear of HIV, herpes, Ebola, or plague-bearing mosquitoes. When an antibiotic immune bacteria pops up, a couple million dollars is all it takes to scour the genome from the planet.
The thing is… all these hideous diseases in our world? They propel medical science forward by leaps and bounds. The Mother of Invention, and all that. Our world has second year college textbooks with more knowledge of how the human immune system functions than everything the Price setting knows combined.
Their Black Plague was not nearly as destructive as our own, since they had psychics who could predict how the plague spread, and caution people to on how to avoid many infections. Their version of Miasma theory was much more advanced than the version of our world, with the general concept being understood that it was a liquid that would carry through air like a mist, as well as spread through water and especially the blood and spittle of the diseased.
This delayed Germ Theory until the early 1900s, because their Miasma was successful in predicting disease behavior so well that it took far longer for people to start questioning its accuracy.
They have yet to successfully create a vaccine which can beat rabies, and are unable to produce flu vaccines because they don’t have the technology to mass produce and distribute them faster than a strain of flu will spread and burn out.
They have not driven smallpox into extinction, so children still receive that vaccine. And those antibiotic resistant diseases? Made more common because Price has only developed the penicillin and sulfonamide antibiotic classes, and even in those areas they have fewer options than we do. They don’t need more, so there’s no funding to produce more.
Their chemotherapy methods are much the same as ours were in the 1980s, save that they use healers and Gadget drugs to counter most of the side effects and improve success rates, so in the end far fewer people in their world die of cancer compared to ours. Cancer research is still one of their most funded medical subjects, because much like our world it’s one of the most deadly illnesses not related to aging.
Price does generally have higher populations in most parts of the world than our world, with the USA at almost 400 million, rather than almost 320 million people. For the most part, populations are around 20% greater. This population tends to be more sprawling, however, with lower population density in the large cities, and many more suburban and rural communities.
The weather manipulating programs such as Clear Skies are attacked by environmentalists as causing more damage to the environment in the long term than it solves in the short, while many poorer nations cry that their wealthy neighbors are destroying their ecosystems. In the Americas, Mexico claims the USA’s program has caused a decades long drought which is destroying their country, while America says Mexico’s politicians are blaming others for their own incompetent mismanagement.
In Europe, Norway and Switzerland say the EU is using its program to punish them for rejecting membership. Afghanistan and most nations in the Middle East blame Russia (and the USA through Israel) for all of their problems, while the Ukraine is at odds with both Russia and the EU. Meanwhile, China’s relationship with South Korea, Japan, India, and all of Southeast Asia is worse in Price than our own world.
The lives and money saved in terms of fewer natural disasters and superior health care compared to our world don’t help as much as one might expect to counter the negatives, as there are constant skirmishes between Imbued throughout the world. Perhaps a hurricane won’t cause a billion dollars of damage, but in a nation like the USA with over a hundred thousand Imbued, it’s not unlikely they can cause a similar amount of destruction. If nothing else, the costs saved on emergency relief fund the police.
The nature of powers target those who are both disenfranchised and fiercely independent, but of those two independence is the far more critical quality. Imbued prefer to have power rather than serve those in power, and almost all would chose death over slavery. Especially if they can take the would-be slavers with them, and they usually can.
Behavioral Psychology is one region where the Price setting is far and above more advanced than our own. In our world, a sort of wishy-washy culture of moral relativism and emotional belief systems color the social sciences, while in Price they have the looming reality of superhuman violence to keep them honest. Price psychologists and sociologists take their jobs quite seriously, applying about as much politics to their science as R&D defense contractors do in our world.
The analogy is quite apt: in Price, psychologists are defense contractors, the first line in identifying and harnessing newly Manifested superhumans. The amount of resources devoted to this science is as outlandish to our world as our world’s funding of theoretical sciences would be to them.
This scientific push for behavioral models has allowed them to reach a great many of the same mathematical models we have in terms of prediction and calculation. Their understanding of finance and economic theory is also in many ways superior to our own, but started from psychology and moved into math, rather than starting in math and moving into psychology.
Trying to control Imbued takes up a huge portion of any nation’s budget, at the expense of not helping their people in other areas. Emphasis on education is generally lower throughout the Price universe, and significantly fewer people pursue it beyond High School. Education budgets include training on identifying risk factors for Manifestation, and psychological training toward dealing with those who do have powers (70% of Imbued are between 15 and 17 when gaining powers, the numbers go up to 95% at ages 13 to 19). This has had the pleasant side effect of identifying a lot of abused children who would have slipped through the cracks in our world, and the unfortunate side effect of more people being falsely accused of abuse.
Within the United States, gun (and other weapon) laws tend to be more lax, and every state has much more comprehensive “stand your ground” and “right to privacy” laws compared to our world. As a whole, Imbued are treated almost as if a separate nation within other nations, with heavy emphasis on letting them have their independence if they don’t push their luck. So long as those with powers don’t attack civilians, they can almost literally get away with murder.
Often times, Imbued law enforcement will get into fights with Imbued suspects, and after the fact the suspect won’t even receive an additional resisting arrest charge, nor will the officer be questioned for a particularly brutal beatdown. Civilians who resist an Imbued tend to get away with murder even more literally, as an Imbued is considered armed by default according to the law.
People in Price are more accustomed to violence and dealing with emergency situations than ours. They tend to be more independent and willing to act for their own defense rather than wait for others to come along to protect them. The existence of Imbued heroes push that behavior, as Imbued take positions that in our world are often held by celebrities such as actors and musicians.
As with actors and musicians, there is certainly a sliding scale of fame, and the vast majority of Imbued (like the vast majority of celebrities) are limited to the local level, while only a rare few become known even at a state, let alone national, level. Much like fame in our world isn’t always connected to such things as talent, fame in Price isn’t always connected to power. Some very powerful abilities (precogs, especially) aren’t photogenic, and rather weak powers can get quite the following if they look cool enough.
In addition, a lot of high powered Imbued prefer to avoid the public and focus on getting rich, instead.
While the connection between power and fame is unstable, the connection between power and wealth is predictably linear, save for the fact that the most absolutely powerful also tend to be least emotionally stable and most likely to self destruct. Yet another way they resemble celebrities in our world.
In the end, the counterbalances between our worlds tend to take us to the same places, but by different means. Where our world relies on guesswork, theirs has personal experience, and where ours uses creativity and ingenuity, they have superior resources to work with. Two different paths leading to the same ultimate results.