The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Whatcha workin' on?

G'mornin', folks. Another day, another post.

Wandering about Google News this fine morning, I came across this:

Three inventions that will change the world.

Reading the article, I find that he was limited to three inventions. Also, it should be "that could change the world", the "will" is unnecessary. Just about all inventions do that... change the world that is. But the article is narrowing that focus, I suspect, and maybe it should be "could change the world for the better."

After all, the invention of the atomic bomb certainly changed the world but was it for the better?

I noticed that he talked about some breakthroughs, not inventions. Rapid sequencing (and more complete) of DNA with the ability to determine which genes are "on" and which are "off", sturdy and reusable rockets (meaning ones that only need routine checkups and repairs between flights and are easily refueled), and viable "cold" fusion. That last is going to take a number of inventions and breakthroughs to accomplish. And, in the process, might destroy us... That would certainly change the world, wouldn't it?

Fusion is what the makes stars (including our sun) burn. Incredible pressure which fuses the nuclei of atoms. The resultant heat is what makes life thrive on this planet because it apparently just happened to be in the right place; the right distance from the sun. The main problem with fusion is containing it. We already know how to create it. That's the breakthrough he was actually talking about.

Maybe we should think about inventions that have already changed the world. The one I think has had the most effect (aside from the wheel) is the transistor. And that was just duplicating an invention we already had in another form. Before transistors, we used vacuum tubes. And those tubes did the same thing that transistors do now.

It's these little things that make the biggest difference. They are often not recognized as breakthroughs except in hindsight.

He then goes on to portray California as the center of the innovation/invention universe. Maybe it is. Or maybe it just has been of late. Another invention, the harnessing of steam, which changed the world happened (as far as we know) around 75 A.D. in Alexandria in Egypt by a Greek. A simple device that performed no apparent useful function but which led to the steam engine which gave birth to the industrial age. It also led to the creation of an artificial vacuum before that.

The truth about inventions is that small ones are really breakthroughs in understandings of concepts that lead to others seeing possible practical applications. And then we call those applications "inventions."

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