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claymore | 11:19 Thu 03rd Jan 2008 | Science
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If you had to nominate mankind`s five greatest inventions what would you choose?

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The Wheel
Electricity
The Aerofoil
Penicillin
Monster Munch pickled onion flavour
Laser.
Liquid Crystal Display
Scanning Tunnelling Electron Microscope
Photocell
Carbon Nanotube
Avatar,

electricity and penicillin are more discoveries than they are inventions.
the phone
if electricity is a discovery then we'll have the national grid in its place.
I agree with penacillin and antibiotics
sorry folks but the televison


ermmmm..... the internet (for which we need computers, I know) or maybe the pill or my gaggia coffee machine for the fifth,
Real Ale,
Fire,
The house brick,
C.E.E's telephone number,
her underwear

Fire ( technology for creating and controling) - beginingings of civilisation

Agriculture - by definition civilisation

Writing - Information and knowlege can be passed down generations en mass

Printing - Information can be spread en mass

Glass - microscopes, telescopes began the revolution in how we understand the world, and particularly our own bodies - without which we'd have never understood what an anti-biotic was


The wheel would be my number 6 but you said 5
Democracy . Music. The oil refinery . The engine and the road.
beso

what.,a Nanotube
beso

what,s a Nanotube
the wheel
the television (but only with dvds too..)
printing
binary code
Basset's Fruit allsorts.
Fire (to keep warm with, to cook food with and to scare hairy monsters away with)

The Wheel (to transport folk around and meet lots of other people and hopefully have lots of meaningful relationships and so increase the population of the human race and end up taking over the world - no I did not say that was necessarily a good thing)

Sharp stone and metal work (to assist in the hunting down of edible hairy monsters and killing of other species on the planet, ditto)

Pottery (for the storage of foodstuffs in times of scarcity, keeping them safe from hairy monsters and the like)

The printing press (to let the rest of humanity know all about the previous 4)
Although in the strict sense it's not really an invention, it never ceases to amaze me that magnetism hardly ever comes up in lists of this sort.

Look through the list above again and see how important magnets are to each of the suggestions one by one. Just as examples, without our ability to harness the power of magnetism, we'd be unable to generate electricity, we'd have no motive power as motors rely upon it, the machines to make monster munch snacks wouldn't work, neither would telephones, computers, electron microscopes and virtually all technology invented over the last few centuries in one way or another.

Without magnets, we'd still be in the dark ages. Even that most profound invention, the wheel, isn't much use without a motor that contains magnets.
The reason, the prof is that, as you say, magnetism isn't an invention, so why should it come up in such lists?

The electric motor, dynamo, alternator, solenoid, transformer, compass and all those things you list use magnetism but they are human inventions. Magnetism would exist if man had never been heard of, but his inventions wouldn't.
But prof, in that light shouldn't the first choice be the invention of a method to extract iron ore from the Earth without which we wouldn't have magnets etc etc.

The only worthwhile invention for me was Chocolate.




chakka35, I accept that magnetism would exist regardless of whether or not man would have heard of it. Nevertheless, the point I was making was regarding man's ability to harness the power of magnetism and like it or not, without that ability we'd be in a right mess.

As for it not being an invention, we'd already gone beyond those boundaries with this question once someone mentioned penicillin and electricity as nightmare pointed out..

Wildwood, the realisation that magnetism existed apparently with the chinese when they were aware that an iron needle was attracted to magnetite (not necessarily mined) ironically from which the needle itself was made. This soon led to experiments along the lines of those seen in school labs all over the country where a magnetised needle placed on a piece of cork floating in a water tank, constantly aligns itself in a N-S direction. The rest is history as they say.

Besides, is it really conceivable that man would ultimately invent a method of extracting iron ore from the earth without machinery that use motors that in turn use magnets? What's the logic behind mining a substance that's already incorporated in the equipment that they mine it with?
I'd offer:

The lever
The inclined plane
Brass (as opposed to softer Copper)
Iron
Animal husbandry (which pre-dated agriculture and without which we would not have the ubiquitous dog)
Well pardon me for being misguided prof. but how then was the iron made to make the needle for the compass. Surely some bright spark who still had his knuckles dragging on the ground had to think of a method to extract the ore and smelt it to make the iron in the first place.
1. The number 'zero'. Mathematics and science could not have developed without it. (Many scientists, and nearly all mathematicians, regard the invention of a symbol to represent zero as the greatest invention of all time).

2. Radio. Much of the development of society, throughout the 20th of century, depended upon rapid communications. ('Radio' in this sense, embraces all forms of radio communication, including television and satellite technologies).

3. The transistor. (The electronic component, not a portable radio set!). The development of the transistor led to rapid advances in solid state electronics. Without it, we'd have no computers, no internet, no cash machines, no digital TV or radio, no CD or DVD players, no equipment for recording TV programmes, no modern aircraft, no digital cameras, no mobile phones, no answering machines, no MP3 players, . . . etc).

4. The symbolic representation of the square root of minus one. Without it, mathematical modelling would have been greatly hindered. Many developments in science, technology and engineering, which we take for granted, could not have happened.

5. The 'waiter's friend' corkscrew, for obvious reasons (hic!). OK, if you want me to stay serious, I'll replace that with the sewage treatment plant. Without proper sewage treatment, we'd all be up to our necks in the brown stuff ;-)

Further ideas here:
http://encarta.msn.com/column_10greatestinvent ions_tamimhome/The_10_Greatest_Inventions.html

Chris
I think most of us are being a bit too modern.

I'd elect, in no particular order...

Flint tools
Bow and arrow
Making fire
Sewing needle
Boats

We didn't get where we are today without these.
My bed
pluming so I can have a hot shower
my house to shelter me
my fire to keep me warm
the toilet for obvious reasons

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