Thursday, August 20, 2009

I Need Science!

It's been fun "debating" Gabriel, but I need some uplifting fluffy stuff to get over the frustration of trying to teach a guy that science doesn't come from DNA. It comes from knowledge and hard work. Before the Wright Brothers could build an airplane, they needed to live in a society that had knowledge of woodworking and specialized members devoted to the task. The same for textiles, the creation of combustion engines, Otto Lilenthal to work out some of the early stuff for them, and so on and so on and so on. On top of that, the division of labor required knowledge of agriculture and a stock of plants able to efficiently produce nourishment that could be processed by the human digestive tract in a manner more efficient than nomadic hunting and gathering, and also be amendable to breeding to survive in a large collection of environments.

So, now that I've listed off all that stuff, the topic for the thread is this: List underrated or seemingly irrelevant discoveries/ideas/practices that were prerequisites for today's technologies that we take for granted. The human pyramid of scientific progress wouldn't have gotten far without some of those giants and even little people at the base. They deserve their kudos.

One of the great beginning technologies I'll start off with is a primal idea that helped kickstart the whole "civilization" thing: Division of labor. "Hey, I'll hunt, you gather, and you over there, see if you can figure out if any of these plants can be useful in unexpected ways."


St.B said...

Yay, we’re going to play “way back machine”. I’m going to hit you with who ever discovered the abilities of yeast. Of course they didn’t get it’s science based workings, but they knew it accomplished some really cool things with food products. Nice poofy breads and other bakery goods, and of course some nice alcoholic beverages. When you look at “sour dough” starter it’s positively grotesque. Some families I know have passed on a continuing line of it for a few generations.

You said you wanted fluffy, so how’s that?

Ohh uber fluffy, marshmallow plants. Althaea officinalis…

djfav said...

The Phonoautograph. My favorite is the one Bell made using an ear from a human cadaver.

Is fluffy enough for you?

James K said...

I have to agree with Division of Labour (but I'm an economist so I would say that wouldn't I?). Division of Labour is civilisation.

As for my pick: The people who invented bureaucracy. Bureaucracies aren't exactly the model of efficiency, but they are much better than the patronage-based systems they replaced. So thanks to you long-forgotten mandarins who created the first bureaucracy, I'll go and fill out the forms necessary to sing your praises.

Dunc said...

Decimal numbers. Can you imagine trying to do numerical integration with Roman numerals?

Berlzebub said...

Considering my career, I'm going with Archimedes. He was (possibly arguably) the first to figure out buoyancy, and his screw pump was further developed into the fasterners that are used to hold together a large number of things that we use today.

He came up with a couple of ideas that have been expanded but are still in use over 2200 years later.

Dweller in Darkness said...

Wax moulding. Probably the first kind of moulding that resulted in semi-permanent objects and eventually led to the ability to make exact duplicates of machine parts, without which technology would be impossible.

In fact, since we're talking about wax, we might as well go with a wholesale kudos to the people who domesticated bees.

Anonymous said...

I think this counts. I used a lot as we approached Y2k:

The Sumerians built early chariots to fit men and horses. They learned that all wheels had to be the same distance apart or axles would break in the ruts of solidified mud after rain or flooding.

Cart and wagon makers adopted this same technology and built their cart wheels the same distance apart, so they wouldn't break axles either.

When the first locomotives were built in Great Britain, the British cartmakers were asked to construct the coaches, so the rail-width was the same as the coaches before them.

So, railroad tracks are 'that far' apart becasue a horses ass is about this wide.

(yes, I know that American tracks are not the same, narrow guage vs. standard, etc. I also know that some or all of this may be apocryphal or folk etymology. But you asked for fluffy...)

MWchase said...

That story usually ends with rocket engines being about the width of a horse's ass.

Anonymous said...

So, railroad tracks are 'that far' apart becasue a horses ass is about this wide.

Both Russians and Americans have a different track width compared to Western Europeans... Just a point :)

Now when does white fellows where mentioned, lets see, Computers, modern Medicine, Space Rockets, mmm... Yes, you got these tribes in Africa that have this dance and chanting to remove the evil spirit, very advanced stuff....

Cellphones? McDonalds? Microsoft? We all take it for granted, do we not? Cars? Electricity? Two white boys if counting Tesla.

Ah the glory of White man, but yet so evil, right? And Bad... Just bad.]]]]]

Bronze Dog said...

You do realize that without genetic evidence to prove the existence of a link between being arbitrarily called "white" and being able to perform experiments, you might as well be talking about the wonders Coca-Cola drinkers have brought us versus those of Pepsi-Drinkers.

Oh, and you do realize there are plenty of white people who reject all that science and medical stuff, anyway: Homeopaths, chiropractors, Creationists, Secretards, etcetera. How do you explain the inability of their "whiteness" to counteract that?

Let me guess: Magic!

Anonymous said...

You are the ones speaking about genetic superiority]/inferior(ness), I start to speak about Z you start claiming X, been going on for a long time.

You need to make up your mind, meme or genetics? Your jumping back and forth and then claim I made claims which I never even spoke of, panic in the delusions of Dog? The truth is starting to break down that wall?

Bronze Dog said...

Reading comprehension fail. Take an English class. Genes went so far up until the recent geologic blink of an eye just before civilization started. Then memes took over when our tools and practices got sophisticated enough to substitute for raw gray matter. There is no genetic evidence to suggest there is a difference among groups of modern humans in terms of neurological development.

Success in the scientific world depends entirely on memes and the good fortune to be able to acquire good ones at a school. That often depends on geography of your birth and social status. Memes and circumstances.

Also, I'm not seeing how you explain away all the "white" idiots and psuedosciences. I can easily explain this as the result of poor education, lack of exposure to relevant evidence, and circulation of anti-science memes. About all I can imagine you doing to explain it is claiming that all these "white" pseudoscientists are corrupted by unspecified magical genes, since you're chronically afraid of talking about genetic evidence.

Jimmy Blue said...

Racist troll:

Can you prove that white men only are behind the science and technology that gave those things you mention.

How do you define 'white people'?

And the gauge of rail tracks is an urban myth.

Bronze Dog said...

Here's a fundamental thing that all those modern inventions would be possible without: Zero. Mathematics wouldn't be the same if we didn't have zero.

The Babylonians got the early idea started. The Greeks did a lot of head scratching over zero, doing some masturbation over alleged paradoxes of labeling a "nothing" as nothing. Then India got the concept down pat.

Jimmy Blue said...

I was thinking about making a list of all the black, Islamic, Jewish and Asian scientists that make everything we have now possible and are still contributing to human knowledge.

But he'd ignore it or change his position yet again so why bother.

Valhar2000 said...

Stop feeding the troll!