HALL: Times are changing | Notice
Michael Collins, 1930-2021, NASA astronaut and command module pilot for the Apollo 11 moon mission, said: “There is only one Earth, tiny and fragile, and it takes move away 100,000 kilometers to fully appreciate his good fortune living on it. “
Consider everything that happened during Collins’ lifetime. The Great Depression ended with World War II. In 1933, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Act created a public corporation “to improve … navigability and provide for … flood control.” TVA also supplies electricity to 153 local power companies serving 10 million people. Jets and radars have been developed. The rockets were improved beyond the fireworks that had been invented by Chinese centuries before. Space exploration has begun. Transistors were invented. Nations no longer declared war, but fought nonetheless, as the conflicts in Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan show. The weather forecast has been greatly improved. Atomic energy has become practical, nuclear waste and global warming have been recognized as problems. The internet has changed communication and the rumor has become more powerful than the truth.
We have lived in a time of great rapid change and great confusion. What made it all?
Part of it may be because there is a large population of people who have the time to work on inventing, refining, and developing things. Call it the freedom of time. A lower percentage of his time is needed for basic survival.
As has been said, we stand on the shoulders of giants. Previous technological development has become the basis for more refined development. Humans can learn from their predecessors and don’t have to start all over again.
Electricity is available to millions of people. The paper and pencil calculation was supplemented by slide rules, calculators and computers. Relatively slow electrical relays have often been replaced by faster vacuum tubes, transistors and integrated circuits.
In 1965, an engineer, Gordon Moore, observed that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles about every two years. This trend has continued, but is not considered scientific law. However, computers are getting much more powerful and cheaper.
It’s a bit like the ancients collecting wood to cook their food before developing axes, saws, chainsaws and eventually natural gas and electricity for cooking. It takes less personal time to achieve the same goal. The land provided the resources.
The agricultural fields are managed with huge plows in groups behind a single tractor.
Progress makes things cheaper and more convenient. From candles to LED bulbs to high brightness LEDs. Notice flashlights now use very small batteries?
After World War II, some German rocket scientists fled to the United States and some to Russia. They have played a crucial role in the development of our rocket science and that of Russia. They had been inspired by Robert Goddard, an American whose country felt he was just playing with toys, and therefore ignored him. There is a book, “Rockets Jets, Guided Missiles and Space Ships,” written for teenagers and published around 1951, which talks about the first rockets invented by the Chinese, the first liquid-fueled rocket by Dr. Goddard, and the war. German world. Rockets II, as well as other developments. It’s always inspiring.
What is holding back the progress of humanity? We haven’t changed the tendency of people to believe just about anything. There is a story from an “expert” at the patent office saying that everything that can be invented has already been invented. Apparently, this is fiction, and its origin dates back to an 1899 joke in the humorous Punch magazine. But it is often presented as a fact.
A major development in human progress is that we are beginning to realize the shortcomings of some of our technologies. Nuclear waste, plastic waste and global climate change must be addressed. A nameplate on a 1927 car proudly shows a factory spewing smoke as a sign of progress. Science is starting to tackle the negative effects of technology. Have you heard of the 1930s dust bowl?
So much development has taken place in a man’s life. But, as knowledge increases, fewer people want to make the effort to understand existing science. Instead, most of us think cars will start, planes will fly, and electric service will always be available. We don’t take the time to worry about why or how things work, or what the science says.
Human indifference may well be the limiting factor of progress.