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Fnord
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24 Apr 2024, 5:24 am

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The Discovery of Radio Waves

When the concept of electromagnetic waves was first proposed around 1864, it was met with great skepticism.  As a result, the idea languished for a long time.  This is understandable since the foundations of the theory were complex and the conceptual ideas were at odds with physical thinking.  It took several decades for a handful of dedicated persons -- infatuated with the mysteries of electricity and magnetism -- to finally put the theory on a solid footing.

• • •

According to many science books, James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) is the person most responsible for providing the theoretical foundation for electromagnetic waves.  What the books don’t tell you is that at the time of Maxwell’s death in 1879, his theory -- which bolsters so much of our present technological world -- was not yet on firm footing.

• • •

Most historians agree that developments related to electromagnetic theory began in 1800 when physicist Alessandro Volta (1745-1827) announced the invention of a battery, which allowed experimenters to work with a stable supply of direct current.  Some years later, the first physical evidence of a link between electricity and magnetism was obtained by Hans Christian Oersted (1777-1851) by demonstrating that the needle of a compass would shift when it was moved close to a wire carrying direct current.

Read the Complete and Unedited Article  HERE 


Commentary

It seems significant to me that more than 160 years ago -- before the end of the U.S. Civil War -- the concept of radio communications was practically non-existent.  Perhaps even more significant, the electric battery did not exist more than 224 years ago.

Our "Electrical Age" is only a little more than 200 years old.  This includes the first electro-magnetic motor in 1821 (invented by Michael Faraday), the first incandescent electric lamp in 1840 (invented by Warren de la Rue), and the first spark-gap radio message in 1895 (invented by Guglielmo Marconi).

Where would we be without science?

:D


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naturalplastic
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24 Apr 2024, 8:58 am

I dont think of George Washington, and his contemporaries, of having had any kind of electricity for ready use (should I tell the house slave to pick up Duracells, or Everyreadies at the store, Martha?). Thats why Franklin had to mess around with tying keys to kites...in thunderstorms...to capture a little electricity. Many later investigators died trying to repeat that experiment.

Although Trump seemed to think that the original 13 colonies had "airports". And when the young Mao Tse Tung was a guerilla fighter in the caves of Yunnan he...seemed to have the impression that the British redcoats had electricity, but the American patriot fighters did not (but you won against them anyway- he said when interviewed by Edgar Snow at Mao's guerilla hideout). So some prominent folks can have spotty ideas about history!

Both opposite things can surprise you. I learned that a thousand years ago women in India used "curling irons" (heated in a fire, not elecrtic of course).

But somewhere else I also learned that no one in the English speaking world ever put up a Christmas tree until the 1840s. Its actually a German thing.

The US got a big influx of German immigrants (including most of my ancestors) in that decade, and at that same time Victoria married into the German Royal Family...making it...the modern "British" royal family. So German customs arrived on both sides of the Atlantic Anglosphere at about the same time.

And as early as the 1850s we find letters by Americans saying "this year we will put up a Xmas tree. As is traditional".
In only a decade Americans already thought that it was an old American custom...when it was actually only a new fad!



DuckHairback
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24 Apr 2024, 9:28 am

naturalplastic wrote:
The US got a big influx of German immigrants (including most of my ancestors) in that decade, and at that same time Victoria married into the German Royal Family...making it...the modern "British" royal family. So German customs arrived on both sides of the Atlantic Anglosphere at about the same time.

And as early as the 1850s we find letters by Americans saying "this year we will put up a Xmas tree. As is traditional".
In only a decade Americans already thought that it was an old American custom...when it was actually only a new fad!


I've wondered about that in the past. I knew that trees became fashionable in England thanks to the royal's German roots but I didn't know how it got to the US.

As for science, I find it a little frightening how much the vast, vast majority of humans owe to the tiny number of us who actually understand how stuff really works and have the brains to see how it can be exploited. We think of ourselves as a highly intelligent species but really it's only a tiny number of us and the rest just get to ride on the coattails of their genius.


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Fnord
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24 Apr 2024, 6:23 pm

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Antibiotics have been used for millennia to treat infections, although until the last century or so people did not know the infections were caused by bacteria.  Various molds and plant extracts were used to treat infections by some of the earliest civilizations -- the ancient Egyptians, for example, applied moldy bread to infected wounds.  Nevertheless, until the 20th century, infections that we now consider straightforward to treat -- such as pneumonia and diarrhea -- that are caused by bacteria, were the number one cause of human death in the developed world.

• • •

Alexander Fleming was, it seems, a bit disorderly in his work and accidentally discovered penicillin. Upon returning from a holiday in Suffolk in 1928, he noticed that a fungus, Penicillium notatum, had contaminated a culture plate of Staphylococcus bacteria he had accidentally left uncovered.  The fungus had created bacteria-free zones wherever it grew on the plate. Fleming isolated and grew the mold in pure culture. He found that P. notatum proved extremely effective even at very low concentrations, preventing Staphylococcus growth even when diluted 800 times, and was less toxic than the disinfectants used at the time.

• • •

By D-Day in 1944, penicillin was being widely used to treat troops for infections both in the field and in hospitals throughout Europe.  By the end of World War II, penicillin was nicknamed 'the wonder drug' and had saved many lives.

Scientists in Oxford were instrumental in developing the mass production process, and Howard Florey and Ernst Chain shared the 1945 Nobel Prize in Medicine with Alexander Fleming for their role in creating the first mass-produced antibiotic.

Read the Complete and Unedited Article  HERE 

Even though folk remedies for infections had been used for millennia, Penicillin was discovered less than 100 years ago!  No wonder gangrene was such a threat during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and during World War I.


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ToughDiamond
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01 May 2024, 1:51 pm

We'd certainly be living very differently without science.

It's been plausibly argued that the Neolithic Revolution was the biggest technological mistake we ever made.

But science also has it good side. It gave us BBC Radio 4.

Anyway, there's no turning back. Once you know how to do a thing more easily, then if you don't, you're onto a hiding for nothing. Of course there are those who see a bigger picture and are motivated more towards long-term benefits, but I think it's comparatively rare.