Inventions with Impact

In just a few millennia, mankind has moved from dark caves to spectacular cities and gained the ability, thanks to the internet, to pull up a good chunk of our species’ accumulated knowledge from the telephones in our pockets.

How we got from worshiping the moon to walking on it is the direct result of history-making inventions old and new. Here’s a look at some of the inventions that have had major impacts on humankind.

The wheel – The most amazing thing about the wheel isn’t so much its invention, but that people relied on dragging things around for so long. A 5,500-year-old Sumerian pictograph of a wheeled sledge represents the earliest evidence of humankind finally working smarter, not harder.

Steel – The key process of tempering steel was known to ancient Egyptians by about 900 BC, giving rise to the world’s first steel industry. Swords and knives were the initial bestsellers.

The compass – Twelfth-century Chinese and European mariners discovered that pieces of lodestone, a magnetic ore, tended to align with the North Star. Iron or steel needles touched by lodestones for long enough took on the same quality, and so, the compass was born.

The printing press – The printing press was the product of other inventions. Paper and movable type first appeared in China, but Germany’s Johannes Gutenberg generally is credited with inventing a machine that transferred ink-based text and images to paper some time around 1439. This drastically reduced the cost of printing books and other documents, and spurred the spread of information like no invention before.

The rocket – Rocket propulsion originated centuries before the first manned space flight. In 12th-century Asia, rockets propelled by a mixture of saltpeter, sulfur and charcoal were used for military purposes.

Guns –. Around the year 1000, after having invented gunpowder, the Chinese came up with a bamboo tube that used gunpowder to fire a spear. This is widely regarded as the first gun. Rifles, pistols, revolvers and more advanced forms of handheld weaponry came later.

The telescope – In 1609, Italian physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei used a small, primitive telescope to observe mountains and craters on the moon. He also noted a band of light stretching across the heavens, which would later be identified as our home galaxy, the Milky Way.

The microscope – Moving from observing very large things to very tiny ones, the compound microscope was invented around 1590 by three Dutch spectacle makers: Hans Jansen, his son Zacharias Jansen and Hans Lippershey.

Refrigeration – Artificial refrigeration was first demonstrated by William Cullen at the University of Glasgow in 1748. But it was Ferdinand Carré who introduced ammonia as a vapor-compression coolant in 1859. The French inventor’s refrigeration became widely used, and vapor-compression refrigeration remains the most popular method of cooling.

The steam engine – Until the 17th century, the steam power had not been harnessed for any practical purpose. That changed in 1698, when Thomas Savery patented a steam-powered pump for sucking water out of mines. Much refinement later, this technology would power everything from locomotives to ships.

The automobile – Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot is widely credited as the inventor of the first true automobile. In 1769 the Frenchman’s enormous steam-powered vehicle, a tricycle, carried four people for 20 minutes at 3.6 km per hour.

The airplane – The Wright Flyer of 1903 was the first powered airplane to make a sustained flight under a pilot’s control. Designed and constructed by Wilbur and Orville Wright, it flew across the base of the Kill Devil Hills four times. The aircraft now is displayed in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

The battery – By providing the first source of continuous current, Italian Alessandro Volta’s invention of the electric battery in 1800 opened the door to many of the world-changing inventions on this list.

The telephone – After much competition and controversy, Scottish-born inventor Alexander Graham Bell was awarded a US patent for both the telephone instrument and the concept of a telephone system on March 7, 1876. His patent often is described as one of the most valuable of all time.

Vaccines – British physician Edward Jenner introduced the first vaccine in 1796, when he used the cowpox virus to inoculate human patients against smallpox. Since then, vaccination has wiped out smallpox, decimated polio and continues to help prevent other deadly diseases such as typhoid fever, cholera and tuberculosis.

Internal combustion engine – In 1859, Étienne Lenoir unveiled the first successful gasoline-powered engine in Paris. Closely modeled on a horizontal steam engine, it was expertly refined by German inventor Nikolaus Otto in 1878, and went on to become the power plant of choice for most of the world’s motorized vehicles.

The camera – Photography was born when the camera obscura was adapted to produce a permanent image. This was achieved by two Frenchmen, Joseph Nicéphore Niepce and Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, in the 1820s and 1830s.

The computer – The Analytical Engine, which was designed and partly built by English inventor Charles Babbage in the 19th century, is generally considered to have been the first computer. Its four components – the mill, the store, the reader and the printer – were precursors to the CPU, memory and storage and input and output devices of modern computers.

Television – Technical developments in Britain, Europe, the Soviet Union and the United States made TV broadcasting feasible by 1931. It was then that a team headed by Britain’s Isaac Shoenberg invented a complete and practical TV broadcast system based on the Emitron camera tube and a receiver based on a cathode-ray tube.

Motion pictures – Legendary American inventor Thomas Edison is frequently credited with inventing the motion picture in 1889, despite the fact that his motion-picture operations were run by an assistant, W.K.L. Dickson, and that several British and French inventors could also claim precedent. What can’t be debated is that the 1892 version of Edison’s Kinetograph camera used a 35-mm format that is still in use today.

Concrete – When English inventor Joseph Aspdin burned and ground together a mixture of limestone and clay in 1824, the Portland cement he created would go on to become the dominant cementing agent used in the production of concrete, which is now used to build the vast majority of modern structures.

Plastic – The first plastic, Parkesine, was developed by British inventor Alexander Parkes when he combined chloroform and castor oil. Parkes won a bronze medal for his invention at the International Exhibition of 1862 in London.

Dynamite – Alfred Nobel of Sweden invented dynamite in 1867 when, by chance, he combined nitroglycerin and a powdery compound known as kieselguhr. This produced a substance that was much safer to use and easier to handle than nitroglycerin alone.

The incandescent light bulb – Despite several competing claims, American Thomas Edison has always received most of the credit for inventing the light bulb. A bulb isn’t much good without power, and Edison also had developed a practical lighting system to illuminate “his” invention.

Radio – Guglielmo Marconi was the first inventor to develop a method for transmitting wireless telegraph signals over significant distances. Eventually, in 1901, the Italian physicist bridged the Atlantic when he transmitted the letter “s” in Morse code from Poldhu, Cornwall, to St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Antibiotics – A decade after Scottish bacteriologist Alexander Fleming noted that Penicillium notatum mold killed bacteria growing on a culture plate, British biochemist Ernst Chain and others isolated penicillin in 1938 and showed that it could fight many serious bacterial infections.

Nuclear fission – On Dec. 2, 1942, Italy’s Enrico Fermi and his team ushered in the Atomic Age by operating the world’s first self-sustaining nuclear reactor at the University of Chicago. Known as a “pile,” the device was made up of an array of uranium and graphite blocks.

Artificial satellites – The Soviet Union launched the first Earth-orbiting satellite, Sputnik 1, on Oct. 4, 1957. Circling the Earth every 96 minutes, Sputnik’s radio signal was the first to be transmitted around the world.

The Internet – In 1974, American computer scientist Vinton Cerf first described the transmission control protocol (TCP) that enables different types of machines on distant networks to route and assemble data packets. This laid the foundation for the global network that is now used by more than 3 billion people.

Mobile phones – Widely regarded as the inventor of the cellular phone, Martin Cooper is the American engineer who led the Motorola team that built the first mobile cellphone, and made the first cellphone calls, in 1972 and 1973. The result, the enormous DynaTAC phone, weighed around eight times as much as today’s smart phones.

Travels with Fido

Can’t bear the thought of boarding your four-legged family member as you head off for a road trip? With a little extra planning, Fido can road trip with you. Here’s some tips about traveling with your dog.

Before you hit the open road, first pay a visit to your veterinarian to make sure your furry friend is up to date on vaccinations and healthy enough for travel. Once he’s cleared, it’s a good idea to go on a few short practice trips before you embark on the real thing. This will give you a chance to see if your dog suffers from motion sickness or exhibits any nervous or anxious behaviors about traveling.

In the weeks leading up to the trip, take him on a few car rides to fun places like the dog park or a favorite pet supply store so he starts associating the car with something positive, says animal expert Dr. Tricia Earley. If he shows signs of nausea (drooling, excessive lip-licking, shaking, vomiting), you can offer treats containing ground ginger or a few drops of ginger extract 30 minutes before travel to help settle his stomach, adds Dr. Earley. If that doesn’t seem to do the trick, talk to your vet about a prescription anti-nausea medication.

Practice can’t prepare you for everything, so you’ll want to make sure you’ve packed accordingly. While your list will depend on your dog’s individual needs, here’s a good place to start:
Leash and collar with up-to-date ID tags
Food and water (Tip: Now is not the time to try a new food!)
Waste bags (Tip: Before the trip teach your dog to relieve himself on multiple surfaces-not just grass!)
Dog bed and blankets
Medical records and vaccination certificates
A few new toys and a couple of old favorites to keep boredom at bay
A recent photo of your dog
Flea and tick control
Collapsible bowls (Tip: Let him get used to them a week or two before you travel.)
A pet seat-belt or car seat and hammock to keep him safe and your seats protected

Rest stops are essential for a peaceful trip. Experts suggest you take a 15- to 30-minute break every four hours so your pup can do his business and stretch his legs. Dogs love routine, so the closer you can keep to your regular walking and feeding schedule, the better.

Snowflakes Marching, Polar Bears Pushing

I’m hoping that you can visualize some of the cringe-worthy comments you hear on TV these days, particularly from the meteorologists, in an amusing way.

Take, for example, the phrase “a massive winter storm is marching in”. Can you picture a bunch of snowflakes, or perhaps penguins, marching like an army toward your town?

Or try “an arctic blast is sweeping in”. Can you see a blast in the background as a huge broom sweeps everything in its path?

Perhaps you can ponder the meaning when the weather forecaster says the temperature is minus zero. How does minus zero differ from zero? Is that even possible?

How about “a massive cold front is pushing southward”. Can you picture a wall of snow being propelled forward by a group of polar bears standing on their hind feet?

And have you noticed the “nanny state” instructions from the meteorologists that have become so common of late? “You will need a warm jacket, mittens and a hat when you go out today.” “Don’t leave the house without your umbrella, heavy rain is expected”.

Then, of course, there’s the constant use of “weatherwise,” “temperaturewise” and a host of other instances of “wise” being tacked onto the ends of otherwise normal words. Why not “weatherdumb” or “Meteorologistdumb”? Or, you know, we could just, you know, sprinkle “you know” throughout our conversations. Meaningless, of course, but no more so than adding “wise.”

I leave you with a storm “rolling in”. Visualize a snowball picking up speed and size as it rolls down the hillside, or tumbleweeds rolling across the prairie.

How Months Are Named

Though the names of the months are among the first words we learn, we don’t really give much thought to those names. After all, it merely dictates when we have to do something or be somewhere.

But, the stories behind the names is interesting. The names involve rich histories of kings and emperors, with no shortage of Greek and Roman gods.

January – The month of January is named after Janus, the Roman god of gates and doorways. Janus is represented with two heads that are back to back, which signifies that he is looking back at the past for perspective, as well as forward to the future for hope. His duality perfectly coincides the end of one year and the start of the next. January is marked with renewal and fresh beginnings, which is why it’s the month of resolutions, to make positive changes for the year ahead. Oddly it’s commonly referred to as “Divorce Month,” since more people kick off divorce proceedings in January than any other month.

February – The name February is derived from the Roman period of Februa, which was a festival of purification. Also called the festival of Lupercalia, it was named after the Roman God Februus, who represented purification. In fact, William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar begins during Lupercalia. Mark Antony is instructed by Caesar to strike his wife Calpurnia, in the hope that she’ll be able to conceive. This festival took place on the 15th day of the month and involved some usual cleansing rituals to improve health and fertility. February is the only month to have 28 days – except during the Leap Year, when it has 29. According to an Irish tradition, a woman can ask a man to marry her on this day and have better luck of him saying yes.

March – The third month, March, was formerly the first month of the year in the Roman Calendar. It’s named after Mars, the Roman god of war, and also identified with the Greek god Ares. This month was considered the time to resume war, once the winter thawed out. As the Romans viewed war and fighting as a means to gaining lasting peace, this idea can provide an alternative perspective to the quote, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” Vasectomies spike by 30 percent during March Madness, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. As vasectomy patients need to ice the area for a full day, doing so while sitting on the couch and watching the games all day makes perfect sense.

April – April is the month of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. (In the Roman pantheon, she’s known as Venus.) The word April comes from the Latin word apeire, which means to open, likely in connection with flower buds opening to bloom in the spring. April is also marked by April Fools’ Day, which takes place on the first day of the month, and is celebrated by playing pranks on others. It is believed that the tradition began in the 1500s after the shift from the Julian calendar (where new year starts around the March equinox) to the Gregorian calendar (where the new year starts on January 1). Those who didn’t know about the calendar switch, and stuck to the old Julian system, were roundly mocked—and April Fool’s stuck through the years.

May – The name of the fifth month, May, is derived from the French word Mai. It is named after Maia, the goddess of spring and growth. Maia is also the daughter of Faunus, one of the oldest Roman deities and the wife of Vulcan. Also, in Greek mythology, Maia is known as the mother of Hermes. The Greeks and Romans saw Maia as a nurturer filled with warmth and plenty – kind of like May. In Japan, there is a condition known as May Sickness referred to as Gogatsu-byou. As the Japanese school year begins in April, and many changes take place at that time of the year, Gogatsu-byou is a type of depression that affects new students and employees after a few weeks of adjusting to a suddenly busier life.

June – Month six, June, is named after Juno, the Roman goddess of love and marriage, and also the de facto deity-counselor of the Roman state. (Hera is her Greek equivalent.) In Roman mythology, Juno watched over pregnant woman and children and insured safe births, which is why getting married in June is considered good luck. When looking at its goddess name origin, June is not only an ideal time for weddings, but it’s also a good month for renewing vows and conceiving children.

July – July initially was known as Quintilis, or “the fifth month,” which it was on the Julian calendar. July was named in honor of Julius Caesar after his death in 44 B.C., as he was born during this month. In fact, July is the first month of the calendar which is named after a real person. For those who live in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s the month known for its hot summer days, also known as “dog days.” July is the month to head to the beach, pool or playground, and take part in many other outdoor activities. In the United States, people revel in Independence Day celebrations on July 4, while in Canada, July 1 marks the similar Canada Day holiday. In the Southern Hemisphere, July is a month for reflection and meditation as it falls in the middle of the cold, dark winter.

August – The month of August was originally called Sextilis, from the Latin word sextus, meaning six. Its name was changed in honor of the Roman emperor Augustus, Julius Caesar’s great-nephew. Augustus was an emperor who brought peace to a very conflicted area, and inspired growth, reform and a stronger infrastructure within its cities. August is an excellent month for reorganization, improvements and development within ourselves and our own communities. It became the eighth month in 700 B.C. when January and February were moved to the beginning of the year on the Gregorian system.

September – Just like Quinitlis and Sextilis, September comes from the Latin term septem, meaning seven. September was originally the seventh month in the ancient Roman calendar – which was 10 months long – until 153 B.C. when it became the ninth month of the year. For the Romans, September was known for the celebration called Ludi Romani, which lasted several weeks and featured chariot races, gladiatorial contests and lots of feasts. In the spiritual sense, September can be thought of as the month that we celebrate our own personal victories and accomplishments.

October – October is derived from the word octo, which means eight, as it was the eighth month of the Roman calendar, and later became the tenth month with the Gregorian calendar. October is marked by many festivals taking place around the world, including Oktoberfest in Germany and the Aloha Festival in Hawaii, which is also known as the Mardi Gras of the Pacific. It’s also National Cookie Month, National Pizza Month, National Popcorn Month, National Dessert Month, National Pretzel Month, National Seafood Month, National Sausage Month and National Pasta Month.

November – November is derived from the Latin word novem, which means nine. Just like the others, its name stuck, even after January and February were added to the calendar, making November the eleventh month. In the United States, November is associated with the much-anticipated Thanksgiving holiday, which involves lots of eating, a four-day weekend, and Black Friday, the start of the Christmas holiday season and the busiest shopping day of the year.

December – December comes from the Latin word decem, meaning ten. It was the tenth month of the Julian calendar, and now the twelfth month of the Gregorian one. The Latin name is derived from Decima, the middle Goddess of the Three Fates, and the one who personifies the present. In the Northern Hemisphere, December is not only the start of winter but is also known for having the shortest day of the year with the least amount of daylight hours on December 21.