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 10 Greatest Inventions of all time

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nordmann
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PostSubject: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Sat 07 Jan 2012, 12:29

A Massachussetts Institute of Technology study - which basically was a poll of their students and staff - ended up with these ten inventions as the ones which have had, are having or will have the greatest impact on the human race.

I've rearranged them in no particular order so that members here can participate in our own little poll and see if we concur with the MIT people.

Is there something they missed which should have been on the list?


Last edited by nordmann on Sat 07 Jan 2012, 13:29; edited 1 time in total
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normanhurst
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Sat 07 Jan 2012, 13:20

any reason to have the steam engine entered twice...
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Sat 07 Jan 2012, 13:29

Fixed
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Sat 07 Jan 2012, 14:12

If it's to find the greatest invention of all time, then surely it should be the hand axe being the precursor of all technology and the basis of humanities' ability to transform its world?

Just as intriguing is, which of those cited will be seen to be the greatest in, say, a hundred or a thousand years time? Probably none, who could have predicted the impact of mobile phones when they were just bricks carried only by red braces wearing dealers?
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Sat 07 Jan 2012, 14:42

The ability to make fire?

T
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normanhurst
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Sat 07 Jan 2012, 15:12

Excellent choice and would have been mine but it ‘aint’ on the list.
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Sat 07 Jan 2012, 15:34

I suppose if you want to be precise, controlled use of fire goes back 300-400 thousand years and so, like the hand axe, predates AMH. The question is a bit vague in that respect but I'd argue that these did have critical impacts on human development even if those who first used them were not human in the Homo Sapiens Sapiens sense. The problem is that, if you use that criterium, you must also include language and symbolic thought.


Last edited by ferval on Sat 07 Jan 2012, 16:32; edited 1 time in total
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Sat 07 Jan 2012, 16:27

In the "Written World" (or is it "Written Word"?) series he's been running, Melvyn Bragg claims this distinction for writing.

I have to say I agree with him - and for many of those cited, it's FAAAR too soon to tell.
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normanhurst
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Sat 07 Jan 2012, 17:55

I think as there are three basic headings there, i.e. have had, are having, and will have, the poll can only really be assessed under those separate criteria, with possibly an overall winner. As gil says it’s far too early to assess the impact of some.
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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Sat 07 Jan 2012, 18:20

I think there are also differences between inventions and discoveries. The ability to light a fire, for example, would be a discovery wouldn't it? Early man merely realised that creating friction between two objects would produce that all important initial spark.

Anyway I'm going for the printing press as the most important invention on the list. Without the ability to mass produce people's thoughts and ideas in book form, thus allowing knowledge to spread and be available to all, none of the other inventions on the list would have been possible.


Last edited by Islanddawn on Sun 08 Jan 2012, 03:52; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : spelling)
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normanhurst
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Sun 08 Jan 2012, 06:00

Even at the very beginning of this poll there’s plenty of reason to put more emphasis on the "have had" heading with fervals hand axe and trikes fire… I certainly remember the first time I made fire with a bow and a stick, I was so chuffed, but ID raises the question of ‘discovery’ or ‘invention’. My view of a ‘discovery’ is something which you happen upon by chance; whereas ‘invention’ is something you seek with a purpose to achieve a certain task.

That said it seems there are plenty of examples of ‘inventors’ seeking to make a new tool, machine or a method to achieve a specific goal, but ‘discovering’ other ideas for further/future development in the process.

I’m thinking of farming, the time when we changed from being hunter gatherers living a nomadic lifestyle, following the annual migration of the bison or reindeer/caribou. To domesticating animals and setting up permanent camps that developed into villages and becoming farmers with land of their own.

You can’t say farming was invented, but it was discovered that farming was a step in the right direction, and developed new ideas i.e. crop rotation and animal husbandry on the way, with inventions such as the plough, the seed drill etc. to make even more advancement.

I think farming would be a major invention/discovery/development call it what you will and should be at the very top of the poll as I feel sure without it we would still be back in the Stone Age…

I’m thinking of the aboriginal peoples of Australia as an example, or is than not pc. Even so the poll takes no account of the past, only the current and the future.

Shall I go now.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Sun 08 Jan 2012, 12:23

I think the clue to the specific collection of choices lies in who was it that was asked to provide them - the alumni of MIT. Perhaps a better way to phrase the question would have been "which of these technological advances in recent centuries have had or will have most impact ... etc?"

But there you go - we can have another poll another time with the more fundamental discoveries listed.
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Caro
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Mon 09 Jan 2012, 23:03

I have voted for the printing press for the reasons ID mentioned. But different inventions have or may have different and very important results. Modern mobility derives in part at least from the invention of the steam engine, and aeroplanes have opened up the world to people, allowing them to live differently from in the past. The car perhaps even more so.

The contraceptive pill has led to change for many women, and with it expectations on them. It isn't that long ago that it was considered a disgrace for a man to have his wife working outside the home; now our government is talking of the waste of productivity when women are not enough career-oriented.

Will the internet's ability to link people from everywhere eventually change governmental systems to a more universal one?

If the world ceases to exist because of changes in climate due to manmade causes, then the importance of anything oil based will have its impact on that, and if genetic modification leads to new species who knows what that could do to the world?
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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Tue 10 Jan 2012, 10:40

@Caro wrote:
I have voted for the printing press for the reasons ID mentioned. But different inventions have or may have different and very important results. Modern mobility derives in part at least from the invention of the steam engine, and aeroplanes have opened up the world to people, allowing them to live differently from in the past. The car perhaps even more so?

It is quite difficult to grasp where one invention begins and another ends, or is it vise versa? The printing press (for example) would not have been possible either without the invention of the written word first, so Urn is possibly correct in his comment that it was the most important invention of all.

One invention inevitably derives from another (or a few others) until there seems to be a continual chain of evolutionary cause and effect, stretching back to the beginning.
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Tue 10 Jan 2012, 10:53

One interesting facet is the way that the most impactful effects of so many inventions is, in the longer term, so different from that envisaged by the inventor or developer. Many of them, introduced for a specific and fairly limited function, have taken on a life of their own and been exploited in fields far removed from that. The wheel, basically the ability to rotate a round shape on an axle, is an example. From a means of moving loads more easily, it has gone on to be the fundamental part of more devices and processes than you can shake a stick at. Pottery, cogs and gears, water wheels, the list is endless.
It seems to me that it not always the basic invention that is so profoundly influential, it's the ingenuity of humanity to apply that in different ways and fields that has the greatest effect.
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Hugh_Mosby_Joaquin
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PostSubject: The greatest invention?    Tue 10 Jan 2012, 17:36

I voted for the printing press, but what I was actually voting for was 'communication'. In a sense the computer will quite likely overtake the printed book as the first tool of communication, but it's a bit early to say.
I'll vote again in another 100 years...
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brenogler
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Fri 20 Jan 2012, 20:07

I voted for the printing press before I'd seen it was favourite.

I suppose communication and writing could be considered but I would say that the printing press took communication out of the hands of the elite and that www is merely a new-fangled version. Writing was always controlled by an elite whereas printing and www is free - though SOPA and PIPA might gag us all soon.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9h2dF-IsH0I

I hope that video doesn't put you off, Nordmann, if you hadn't already seen it.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Sat 21 Jan 2012, 00:18

Here, in reverse order, is what the MIT people reckoned:

10. TV
9. Printing press
8. Laser
7. Automobile
6. Internet
5. Aeroplane
4. DNA/Genetic manipulation
3. Steam engine
2. Contraceptive pill
and at 1 ...

... the computer!

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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Sat 21 Jan 2012, 03:06

No surprises there then, what is surprising is the complete lack of thought by students and staff.
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normanhurst
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Sat 21 Jan 2012, 06:39

Well it was an American poll... maybe not so suprising then?
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Sat 21 Jan 2012, 09:33

I suppose if it were mostly students, and technology ones at that, who responded then it makes sense, they have opted for the inventions that they feel have had the most impact on their own lives and which they value the most. There also seems to be an emphasis on looking forward rather than back but that's the young for you! A group of Arts students I'd bet would have prioritised them very differently.
I am surprised that mobile technology doesn't figure though.
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Vizzer
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Sat 29 Aug 2015, 17:46

@nordmann wrote:
I think the clue to the specific collection of choices lies in who was it that was asked to provide them - the alumni of MIT. Perhaps a better way to phrase the question would have been "which of these technological advances in recent centuries have had or will have most impact ... etc?"

But there you go - we can have another poll another time with the more fundamental discoveries listed.

That makes sense otherwise any MIT alumnus was likely to come across a being the proverbial brilliant nuclear physicist who, nevertheless, doesn't know how to boil an egg. On the second question of fundamental inventions then its difficult to top ferval's suggestion of the axe - or any other blade or cutting tool for that matter.

I was contemplating this very issue last weekend while refurbishing a garage. Basically the whole space (which had become nothing more than a dumping ground for old-junk-which-might-one-day-come-in-useful-but really-never-will) was emptied for repointing, replastering and repainting. The spiders, woodlice and snails etc who had exercised squatters’ rights there for several insect/invertebrate generations were simply appalled by the unfolding horror of human business and building maintenance and fled in outrage, while Mrs Vizzer took great pleasure in ferrying box-loads of (mainly Vizzer’s) stuff down to the council tip/recycling centre. She took even greater pleasure in managing the project workforce (i.e. yours truly) in dismantling old shelving, replacing and rewiring the lighting and redecorating aforementioned garage, ceiling, walls and floor. (Have you ever painted a garage floor with garage floor paint? Thank goodness that’s a job that only needs done every 20 years or so.)

But it was worth the effort. The previously dark, dingy, dusty, musty, crowded garage is now bright and airy and gleaming with white walls and a shiny, non-stick, battleship-grey floor. And cars can actually be parked in there now.

During the job, however, I noticed how dependent we were on the age-old and simplest tools in the toolbox; axe, saw, hammer, screwdriver, spanner, pliers and wire cutters - the invention of each and any one of which must have just been seismic in the story of human progress. And that’s not to mention the other basic tools to be found in work sheds such as spades, shovels, trowels, forks, adzes, rakes, hoes, scythes, sickles, drills, screws, nuts, bolts, nails and washers etc. What struck me, however, was that the tools which were used the most during the whole process were not to be found among those technological colossi listed in the toolbox or even among the other metallurgical masterpieces listed above. No. The most used tools were simply the dust-brush and, above all, the broom.

So (and second to ferval's axe) I’ll nominate the humble broom as an indispensable must which has been with us since virtually as long as the axe and which has been used (both domestically and industrially) by perhaps more humans than any other non-metallic tool.
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Sat 29 Aug 2015, 20:17

I'll agree with the importance of the broom/brush, and add in there the shovel/dust-pan, as an important advance on the simple pot/bucket. But in advance of the axe/mattock/adze I think the simple blade needs recognition, either as a worked flint, chipped lump of quartzite, or indeed even as a cunningly split bit of bamboo ... but after the simple hammer and lever of course.

Screws and screwdrivers are way more advanced technologically, since to make a screw one has to be able to cut a helical goove, which already supposes some understanding of mathematics and their application in constructing a mechanical contrivance ... and unless one can accurately repeat the action of screw-cutting many times, a nail/pin driven in by a hammer is a much simpler solution.  Where does the tensioned bow come I wonder in the hierarchy of tools, whether it's for use as a projectile-launching spring, a means to tension a thin saw blade, or as a belt-drive to accelerate a rotating fire stick or hole-boring drill?
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Sun 30 Aug 2015, 14:13

@Hugh_Mosby_Joaquin wrote:
I voted  for the printing press, but what I was actually voting for was 'communication'. In a sense the computer will quite likely overtake the printed book as the first tool of communication, but it's a bit early to say.
I'll vote again in another 100 years...



The pen was quite a good idea. I don't think it's been mentioned. I was surprised that the quill pen wasn't "invented" until around 600 A.D.

http://www.ringpen.com/history.html

Around 4000 BC

Man scratches the surface of moist clay tablet with a bronze or bone tool.
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Sun 30 Aug 2015, 16:09

I'd add pottery - not just because of the utility of water and (quite) heatproof containers and the ability to make inscribable clay tablets but because it was the first truly transformative process whereby one material was, by the application of a process, turned into something entirely different. Just about every other technological advance then followed from the realisation that this metamorphosis was possible.
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Sun 30 Aug 2015, 16:21

Not sure the sickle and the ard shouldn't be up there too - both definite inventions IMO, to solve existing problems. How about the mould-board plough, too?
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Wed 02 Sep 2015, 11:00

Thinking of origins and 'breakthroughs,' I suggest the dawning understanding of making a point - not verbal as here - but realising its usefulness at the end of a stick - or using teeth, bone shards and antlers and so on as tools, weapons and  for foraging and hunting. We are familiar now with films of apes using sticks for foraging, possibly selecting but not making  a pointed stick, which is a bigger mental leap. Have I got the point of this thread, anyway, I now ask myself?
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Wed 02 Sep 2015, 11:17

P, have you seen this? It's astonishing but possibly underlines the difference between the great apes and humans - not the ability to learn but the ability to innovate.

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Wed 02 Sep 2015, 11:30

Over 99% the same DNA? It shows:

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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: 10 Greatest Inventions of all time   Thu 03 Sep 2015, 11:18

I like ferv's point about the ability to innovate - tho nature adaption to circumstances seems to come into that in a long and slow process.  Is there a list of our suggestions for the 10 greatest inventions? The earliest  ones seem to impress us the most. Of the later ones I hazard, bearings as a suggestion. To be truthful, I was greatly taken by the notion when I first learned of assorted bearings and their use.
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