24 JAN 2015 by ideonexus

 Pure Understanding of Nature is the Primary Aim of Science

Pupin believed with passionate intensity that the primary aim of science is the pure understanding of nature, and that useful applications must be considered of secondary importance. The prestige and influence which he derived from his inventions he used in an unceasing campaign to improve the standing of fundamental science in America. In this way the paradoxical situation arose, that it was Pupin the practical inventor who did more than any other man of his time to convince the American pub...
  1  notes

From the preface.

16 MAR 2014 by ideonexus

 Simultaneous Invention

Thomas Edison invented the light bulb in 1879. What if he had never been born, Would we still have light bulbs? And would they still have been invented in 1879? It turns out that this is not just a philosophical question and the answer is yes, the light bulb would have been invented at roughly the same time. We know this because at least 23 other people built prototype light bulbs before Edison1, including two groups who filed patents and fought legal battles with him over the rights (Sawyer ...
Folksonomies: invention synchronicity
Folksonomies: invention synchronicity
  1  notes

Inventions being discovered simultaneously is not just coincidence, it's a regular phenomenon.

29 DEC 2013 by ideonexus

 Douglas Engelbart's Idea of Small Changes

I'm reminded of Douglas Engelbart's classic paper "Augmenting Human itellect,"2 on his belief in the power of computers. He wrote this in 1962, way before the PC, and argued that it's better to improve and facilitate the tiny things we do every day than it is to attempt to replace entire human jobs with monolithic machines. A novel-writing machine, if one were invented, just automates the process of writing novels, and it's limited to novels. But making a small improvement to a pencil, for ex...
Folksonomies: invention change
Folksonomies: invention change
  1  notes

Make a change to novel-writing and you've affected a small, specific domain, but improve the pencil, and you've impacted a wide range of domains.

13 OCT 2013 by ideonexus

 Galileo and the Altar Lamp Pendulum

IN 1583 Galileo Galilei (1564–1642), a youth of nineteen attending prayers in the baptistery of the Cathedral of Pisa, was, according to tradition, distracted by the swinging of the altar lamp. No matter how wide the swing of the lamp, it seemed that the time it took the lamp to move from one end to the other was the same. Of course Galileo had no watch, but he checked the intervals of the swing by his own pulse. This curious everyday puzzle, he said, enticed him away from the study of medi...
Folksonomies: history invention
Folksonomies: history invention
  1  notes

The puzzle and the pendulum time piece.

13 OCT 2013 by ideonexus

 The Hourglass

Not the flowing waters of time but the falling sands of time have given modern poets their favorite metaphor for the passing hours. In England, sandglasses were frequently placed in coffins as a symbol that life's time had run out. "The sands of time are sinking," went the hymn. "The dawn of heaven breaks." But the hourglass, measuring time by dripping sand, comes late in our story. Sand was, of course, less fluid than water, and hence less adapted to the subtle calibration required by the v...
Folksonomies: engineering invention
Folksonomies: engineering invention
  1  notes

Sand vs water, the evolving art and ingenuity involved in crafting this timepiece.

19 JUL 2013 by ideonexus

 Hand Axes as an Extended Phenotype

Two and a half million years ago, our small-brained ancestors evolved the ability to knock flakes from rocks to use as cutting edges. By doing so, they could also make the rocks themselves useful as choppers. This basic tool kit of flakes and choppers served the needs of hunting and gathering for a million years. Then, around 1.6 million years ago, a medium-brained African hominid (Homo erectus) evolved the ability to produce an extraordinary object that archeologists call a handaxe. A handax...
  1  notes

If, as the author assumes, handaxes were genetically-informed because they did not change for hundreds of thousands of years, then why do we not still have the instinct for hand axes?

13 APR 2013 by ideonexus

 Today's Problems Are Too Complex for Individuals to Solve

The human race has had a long and romantic tradition of crediting great breakthroughs to the tribulations of single individuals: Einstein, Archimedes, Benjamin Franklin, Van Gogh, da Vinci—the list is lon^g. Interestingly, every story about an epiphany is similar: An eclectic individual attempts to solve a complex problem that has stumped humankind for centuries, when suddenly he stumbles on an "aha!" moment. At first his revelation is rebuked by everyone, and then, over time, the inventor ...
Folksonomies: history invention
Folksonomies: history invention
  1  notes

History is filled with the names of inventors who made great discoveries, but it took teams to invent the Internet, Cell Phone, and Semi-Conductor.

21 JUN 2012 by ideonexus

 Humans Give Life to Iron

It is by the aid of iron that we construct houses, cleave rocks, and perform so many other useful offices of life. But it is with iron also that wars, murders, and robberies are effected, and this, not only hand to hand, but from a distance even, by the aid of missiles and winged weapons, now launched from engines, now hurled by the human arm, and now furnished with feathery wings. This last I regard as the most criminal artifice that has been devised by the human mind; for, as if to bring de...
Folksonomies: nature invention iron
Folksonomies: nature invention iron
  1  notes

Pliny the Elder discusses the good and bad uses for iron and the poetic fact that nature rusts it away from us.

07 JUN 2012 by ideonexus

 Inventors Know How to Fail

An inventor is simply a fellow who doesn't take his education too seriously. You see, from the time a person is six years old until he graduates form college he has to take three or four examinations a year. If he flunks once, he is out. But an inventor is almost always failing. He tries and fails maybe a thousand times. It he succeeds once then he's in. These two things are diametrically opposite. We often say that the biggest job we have is to teach a newly hired employee how to fail intell...
Folksonomies: education invention success
Folksonomies: education invention success
   notes

In this way they are different from students, who only know success. Quote from Charles F. Kettering.

17 MAY 2012 by ideonexus

 A Mechanic Should Sit Down Among His Tools

As the component parts of all new machines may be said to be old[,] it is a nice discriminating judgment, which discovers that a particular arrangement will produce a new and desired effect. ... Therefore, the mechanic should sit down among levers, screws, wedges, wheels, etc. like a poet among the letters of the alphabet, considering them as the exhibition of his thoughts; in which a new arrangement transmits a new idea to the world.
Folksonomies: invention
Folksonomies: invention
  1  notes

And consider them the way a poet considers the letters of the alphabet.