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Make research more hands-on
Currently, most patents just require chronos, some materials, and time.  This is boring.  The need to go out and manually mine new ores before we can research how to mine them properly is pretty cool, though.  Very hands-on.  We need more of this.

So for example, let's consider the wormhole drive patents.  Researching the P drive should require us to fly up next to at least one positive wormhole and "gather data" for a bit.  Perhaps we'd even need to visit the specific negative wormhole it's connected to and gather data on that end as well, requiring us to deadhead to another system at least once before we can build wormhole drives of any sort.  Then once we have the P drive and start wanting the PN version, we'd need to go collect more data on wormholes, this time by traveling through them, so that we'd have an incentive to actually use the damn thing instead of just spending the next 48 hours screwing around in the ship designer while our grad students slave away to invent the PN drive without us lifting a finger.  The PNN, of course, would similarly require actually visiting a neutral wormhole to gather more data, maybe this time launching some kind of sacrificial probe through it.

Unlocking the submarine should require spending a certain amount of time sailing around on boats and diving sufficiently deep underwater (perhaps while carrying some sort of sensor device), and submersible ship hulls should require gathering data from deeper yet by using the submarine.

Aircraft should require gathering data from high altitudes, whether by flying with your own wings, climbing a mountain, or building and ascending a tower.  Environment suits would require data from even higher altitudes.

Plastic explosives should require some experience with dynamite.

Obviously not everything will make sense to have a hands-on component, but I think enough things do that it's worth adding where appropriate.

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