By Larry Oxenham, Publisher
Bet’cha didn’t know ….
This is a really complex world we live in, filled with technological wonders we rarely give thought to. Some, like television – taking electronic waves that comprise pictures, breaking them down and then reassembling them at the receiving end – are accepted ‘miracles’; some, like the first robotic surgery restoring someone’s eyesight, are miracles to the person on the receiving end; and others, like supersonic air travel for passengers, are still in the future.
But there are still lots of things that should amaze you:
ELECTRIC JETS: The move away from fossil fuels has helped some visualize a future when jet engines are driven by electricity instead of fuel. But, it’s still a little ways in the future since Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner holds 233,000 pounds of fuel and it would take 4.5 million pounds of batteries to provide the same power and duration. Probably not in our lifetime ….
DRIVE YOUR CAR? Their is no question the driverless automobile is here. My 15 year old (incredibly good looking and smart) granddaughter showed me an article a few days ago that told by the time she is 25 – that’s just 10 years! – people her age will not need a car; when they want to go somewhere they will go to the app on their phone, request a ride, the driverless car will show up and take them where they want to go. Then the car will go and do other things. When it’s time to come home they will once again visit the app and request a ride! Amazing! Our question? Who buys the gas to keep the driverless car going?
THE WHEEL: If there was ever something we take for granted it is the wheel, and we often think of Fred Flintstone! The oldest wheel found was in Slovenia and dated back to 3100 BC. The wheel made transportation of goods feasible and allowed mobility for populations. Today the wheel is the ‘foundation’ for cars, trains, trucks, airplanes, jets, machines, desk chairs, and just about everything we touch daily.
THE LIGHT BULB: We immediately think of Thomas Edison as the electric light bulb’s inventor, but dozens of people were working on similar ideas in the 1870s, when Edison developed his incandescent bulb. Joseph Swan did similar work in Britain at the time, and eventually the two merged their ideas into a single company, Ediswan. Although many believe the main contribution of the light bulb was allowing people to read at night the real contribution was the infrastructure to provide electricity to every home and business.
ROBOTIC SURGERY TO RESTORE SIGHT: A robot was recently used by a team of surgeons at Oxford, England’s John Radcliffe Hospital to operate inside the eye of a man and restore his sight. The device is so precise it can remove a membrane one hundredth of a millimeter thick. The patient, Reverend Bill Beaver, had lost almost all of his vision from his right eye due to the membrane covering the retina.Oxford University Professor Robert MacLaren, who carried out the procedure, said the operation was more efficient with the robot rather than doing it by hand because even the steadiest hand has a slight tremor. This successful surgery opens the door for delicate surgeries in other parts of the body and hope for patients worldwide.
AIR CONDITIONING: Taken for granted but how many parts of the US would be different without air conditioning? Would people flock to Houston or Miami, would Lake Havasu even be a city, would Phoenix be the sprawling, growing metropolis it is? And how about driving your car without air conditioning in the summer? Or shopping in the mall? Air conditioning is the great unsung hero in the American lifestyle!
MICROWAVE OVENS: No need to sit over the stove for hours to prepare a tasty meal. Everything from bacon to beef can be prepared in just minutes without heating up the house.
CELL PHONES: Really, these are pocket computers with more computing power than our first rocket to the moon! But today’s cell phones are so much more than a vehicle to communicate verbally; e.g., our cell phones give us directions, make bank deposits, let us book and check in for flights and hotels, let us download and play music and so much more. Of course, the ‘negative’ is teens have learned to text and the art of conversation is losing out!
THE BAR CODE: Changed the way stores price products, automated inventory, and fundamentally changed the way we shop.
THE ATM: Removed the ‘human’ from banking and cash transactions! Now allows you to deposit and withdraw, check balances and do everything you want without ever entering a bank. Made it more convenient to obtain cash around the world. And made it easy for banks to add fees to transactions; great for banks, not so great for us.
TELEVISION: Couldn’t leave this off. This is the greatest ‘mind sedative’ ever created and may be may be more responsible for a lack of critical thinking than anything else. And the addition of the remote has to be considered the greatest ‘lazy creator’ ever and might just be a contributing factor to obesity in America today!
CARS AND AIRPLANES AND TRAINS AND BUSES: All used to make us more mobile, made it possible for cities to grow across the country, and lead to more complaining about traffic, uncomfortable seats, late arrivals and every thing else! But imagine the United States without a transportation system …
And, although there are many more, nothing has impacted modern life more than –
THE INTERNET: The internet is rather new but has become a dominant player in modern life. Everything from shopping, personal communication, banking, research and entertainment now come to us at home, in the air, on the sea or anywhere in the world. It is possible today to become ‘addicted’ to the internet, spend hours each day online, and have little human interaction. On the other hand, the internet allows a doctor performing surgery in the Congo to consult with an experienced surgeon in America; the internet allows the pilot of the aircraft to instantly monitor weather and traffic; and allows you and me to find the best sale price on an item we want. So it’s a mixed bag but it is definitely here to stay.
And that’s a look at some life changing inventions ….