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Thread: Trivial or non-trivial technology that amazes you.

  1. #31
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    I'm still kind of amazed that I can talk to people from around the world like it's nothing.
    Solfe

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  3. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck View Post
    Automatic transmission for bicycles. Is there anyone who's willing to pedal a bicycle but is too lazy to shift gears?
    I think all bicycles are pretty impressive, the earliest modern ones caused some subtle but important societal changes in the Victorian Era (encouraging road paving and infrastructure improvements and giving women a way to travel independently), and over the past century and a half they have gotten so much lighter, capable of going to more places, and added innovations like automatic transmission and electric boost. I wonder how our world would be different if the invention of the bicycle had preceded the automobile by a century or more instead of only a few decades. (Such as if the urban legend that da Vinci had sketched out a design for one was actually true.)
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  4. #33
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    General anaesthesia. I never ceased to be amazed by it, despite administering it every day. There's really no good a priori reason that our brains can safely be turned off and on like that.
    I used to induce anaesthesia, turn to the medical students and say, "Isn't that amazing?" And they'd generally shrug and go, "Whatevs."

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  5. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    I do remember learning when we were in Maine that a century ago lobster was considered garbage food only fit for poor people. They even fed lobster to prisoners.
    Stephen King said his mom kept a pot of lobster stew on the stove at all times and hid it when the minister came to visit.
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  6. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by PetersCreek View Post
    I don't know how prevalent it is elsewhere but there's a definite (but arguable) pecking order to salmon up here:
    1. Chinook (kings)
    2. Coho (silvers)
    3. Sockeye (reds)
    4. Pink (humpies)
    5. Chum (dog salmon)

    The order of the first three can be, is, and will be argued in perpetuity where preferences differ. I like kings and silvers (a lot) but I greatly prefer reds, especially Copper River reds, and most especially when smoked. Pinks are commonly canned at home up here and commercially, nationwide. Chums aren't well regarded on the plate but they're second in size only to kings and real fighters on the line.
    Salmon snobs around here would agree with your assessment and add farmed Atlantic Salmon at the bottom of the list.

    Back on topic, how about Covid-19 vaccine? Less than a year for something that is safe and effective.
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

  7. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    Salmon snobs around here would agree with your assessment and add farmed Atlantic Salmon at the bottom of the list.

    Back on topic, how about Covid-19 vaccine? Less than a year for something that is safe and effective.
    Not just that, but also the underlying mRNA vaccine technology. Deliver globules containing mRNA directly to immune system dendritic cells that instruct them to manufacture proteins identifying the target of the vaccine and present them to T and B cells. It's practically a security patch for the immune system.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    Back to the topic at hand: shipping and logistics.
    Spiritual successor of the Stone Age trade routes, that often spanned continents. Copper, seashells, flint, all traded over vast distances carried by people with no beasts of burden. Pretty amazing stuff.

    In fact invention itself amazes me. To come up with an idea that nobody's had before. "Hey, this round log rolls down the hill pretty well. Let's put heavy stuff on top of it!"
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  9. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    General anaesthesia. I never ceased to be amazed by it, despite administering it every day. There's really no good a priori reason that our brains can safely be turned off and on like that.
    I used to induce anaesthesia, turn to the medical students and say, "Isn't that amazing?" And they'd generally shrug and go, "Whatevs."

    Grant Hutchison
    My knowledge about the subject is about 1% of yours, but I read that even sleeping already is an amazing bodily function. I can't remember the details, but apparently it's not trivial to do what a body does when falling asleep, and being able to return from that state too without any damage (in fact, even better than before!).

    Another question about anaestesia: I had my wisdom teeth pulled with local anaesthesia. It certainly amazes me that we can localy turn off the pain function of our body so completely. However my body still went into shock towards the end of the (very difficult) extraction. Not because I was consciously too nervous or scared, because while I certainly wasn't 100% calm, I wasn't scaring myself into fainting. The doctor told me something -which I can't quite remember because of the state I was in- that while your body doesn't feel the pain with (local?) anaestesia, your body still feels the stress of what's being done to it and reacts to it separately from how calm you mentally are.
    With sufficient thrust, water towers fly just fine.

  10. #39
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    The last few major dental procedures I had I asked for Nitrous Oxide. It helped a lot with the stress.
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

  11. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Spiritual successor of the Stone Age trade routes,

    In fact invention itself amazes me. To come up with an idea that nobody's had before. "Hey, this round log rolls down the hill pretty well. Let's put heavy stuff on top of it!"
    I am amazed by hand axes. The tool and weapon for at least 60000 years until the invention and technology to add handles was worked out. That needed hemp and birch tar. Plus modified flint shape. Invention can take such a long time. Pockets for example.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
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  12. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    The last few major dental procedures I had I asked for Nitrous Oxide. It helped a lot with the stress.
    I once had to persuade an oral surgeon that I very much didn't want nitrous oxide or IV sedation, and that I really did know what I was getting into.
    I think that slightly increased her stress level for the first few minutes of the hour-long procedure, but then she relaxed into it.

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  13. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    I am amazed by hand axes. The tool and weapon for at least 60000 years until the invention and technology to add handles was worked out. That needed hemp and birch tar. Plus modified flint shape. Invention can take such a long time. Pockets for example.
    And the first chipped stone tools were most likely invented by brains not much more capable than a modern chimp's. Probably they noticed a natural edge and somehow figured out how to reproduce that. That's the intuitive leap that boggles my mind. Knapping flint requires practice and skill; no doubt the first attempts were imperfect, but that unknown ancestor kept going until they mastered a difficult task, and then taught others how to do it as well. So major kudos to them.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  14. #43
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    And in the same vein, fire starting. Somehow, again, "we" learned to imitate a useful natural occurrence using a complex and difficult method that must have taken long practice to develop.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  15. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    And the first chipped stone tools were most likely invented by brains not much more capable than a modern chimp's. Probably they noticed a natural edge and somehow figured out how to reproduce that. That's the intuitive leap that boggles my mind. Knapping flint requires practice and skill; no doubt the first attempts were imperfect, but that unknown ancestor kept going until they mastered a difficult task, and then taught others how to do it as well. So major kudos to them.
    No, I think their brains were not unlike ours at all, but their knowledge, language and beliefs are mysteries to us. The power of the oral tradition and absence of written records or wide communication limited their rate of progress. Also the flint hand axe did the job, I guess, and poor attempts to add a handle just proved dangerous and ineffective. I feel the question of the pocket played a big part too. You had to carry your hand axe, well, in your hand.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

  16. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    No, I think their brains were not unlike ours at all, but their knowledge, language and beliefs are mysteries to us.
    Right there is the core of the "I don't understand how they did it so it must have been Aliens, God(s), Spirits, etc." hypotheses so often seen among the woo or anti-science community. "I don't know how the Egyptians moved blocks of stones so it must have been aliens", etc.
    If I recall correctly, we once had a poster here who declared that since the Montparnasse derailment occurred before the development of oxy-acetylene cutting torches, it would have been impossible to clear it away. Except they did. In fact, they lowered the loco to the ground, got it onto some existing streetcar tracks, rolled it away, repaired it, and put it back in service. And had they not, it wouldn't have been that hard to break it up by cutting off rivet heads with chisels.
    Meanwhile, I just watched an Adam Savage video about scissors, so, scissors. They've been around for 3000 or 4000 years and I have trouble conceiving of how they came up with idea and managed to fabricate them. But they did.
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  17. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    And in the same vein, fire starting. Somehow, again, "we" learned to imitate a useful natural occurrence using a complex and difficult method that must have taken long practice to develop.
    I am completely unable to light a fire without proper modern tools. I've tried a bow, I've tried a bunch of different rub methods and can't get any of them to work. The 8 year standing next me has a bonfire going and I'm just tired.
    Solfe

  18. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    I am completely unable to light a fire without proper modern tools. I've tried a bow, I've tried a bunch of different rub methods and can't get any of them to work. The 8 year standing next me has a bonfire going and I'm just tired.
    I, on the other hand, am unable to start a fire even with the aid of modern tools. I might be able to light gasoline.
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

  19. #48
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    xkcd's Time is incredible, even though it's basically a flip book. We have all this technology and I can't decide if capitalizing an uncapitalized letter in a title is appropriate.
    Solfe

  20. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    No, I think their brains were not unlike ours at all, but their knowledge, language and beliefs are mysteries to us.
    The first chipped stone tools were over three million years ago, humanity did not even exist then. Inside the heads of Australopithecus:

    The A. afarensis brain was likely organised like non-human ape brains, with no evidence for humanlike brain configuration.
    So they only had as much language as an ape, too.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  21. #50
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    There is a difference from millions to 60000 years. First fire evidence maybe one million, but I am talking about the last ice age kind of time.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

  22. #51
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    There is a difference from millions to 60000 years. First fire evidence maybe one million, but I am talking about the last ice age kind of time.
    I was talking about the first invention of the tools, which was not 60,000 years ago.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  23. #52
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    The ability to invent things is -in certain individuals- almost unlimited. One example: the supercharger was invented before the first internal combustion engine was built. So somebody looked at the patent drawings for the internal combustion engine, understood them, believed that such an engine would indeed work, analysed the thermodynamics, found that pushing more air into the same combustion chamber would allow him to increase the output without increasing the engine size or weight, and invented a tool that would do so.

    The jet engine was invented and that design was improved upon, but still never built, until a sufficiently capable compressor could be made.

    So while part of invention is "accidental invention" (like Post-Its being the product of a particularly badly failed attempt at making a really strong glue) a lot of it is very directed thinking. I don't know how it went with stone tools, but likely it started from naturally formed stones, over "randomly" breaking them and hoping for useful pieces, towards learning how to break them in a directed way, combined with thinking of which shape one would ideally create for a task.
    With sufficient thrust, water towers fly just fine.

  24. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    I was talking about the first invention of the tools, which was not 60,000 years ago.
    You are talking about hammer stones etc and I never said there was a start date. Hand axes of flint were ubiquitous for what you could call recent history with humans and they took ages to work out how to add handles, and pockets. That point is about why invention can take a long time and the reasons, which can be illuminating for understanding what we call progress.

    The figure sixty thousand is not of course an exact figure it is an illustration of a particular hand axe design and the necessity of technologies like making hemp string and birch tar. Metals provide a similar example in the bronze age, you need to travel a long way to find tin to make bronze and that travel has many technologies coming together. Bronze took over from flint and that tells us about design and knowledge processes and the organisation of societies.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

  25. #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    You are talking about hammer stones etc and I never said there was a start date. Hand axes of flint were ubiquitous for what you could call recent history with humans and they took ages to work out how to add handles, and pockets. That point is about why invention can take a long time and the reasons, which can be illuminating for understanding what we call progress.

    The figure sixty thousand is not of course an exact figure it is an illustration of a particular hand axe design and the necessity of technologies like making hemp string and birch tar. Metals provide a similar example in the bronze age, you need to travel a long way to find tin to make bronze and that travel has many technologies coming together. Bronze took over from flint and that tells us about design and knowledge processes and the organisation of societies.
    So we're not talking about the same brains at all. Your "no" was misdirected.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  26. #55
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicolas View Post
    The ability to invent things is -in certain individuals- almost unlimited. One example: the supercharger was invented before the first internal combustion engine was built. So somebody looked at the patent drawings for the internal combustion engine, understood them, believed that such an engine would indeed work, analysed the thermodynamics, found that pushing more air into the same combustion chamber would allow him to increase the output without increasing the engine size or weight, and invented a tool that would do so.

    The jet engine was invented and that design was improved upon, but still never built, until a sufficiently capable compressor could be made.

    So while part of invention is "accidental invention" (like Post-Its being the product of a particularly badly failed attempt at making a really strong glue) a lot of it is very directed thinking. I don't know how it went with stone tools, but likely it started from naturally formed stones, over "randomly" breaking them and hoping for useful pieces, towards learning how to break them in a directed way, combined with thinking of which shape one would ideally create for a task.
    Yes indeed, design can be defined as intentional making, and it is a step beyond discovery. You have to have an idea about the future plus some skills developed by practice plus material that you can work. The flint hand axe became a perfect tool at the time and is found all over the place. But it stayed that way such a long time.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    A relatively simple technology, I think, and a few years ago I would have scoffed at having it in my house, but then I inherited one: an electronic mosquito swatter. It looks like a miniature tennis racket. I'm in and out of the house a lot with a project I'm currently working on, so the mosquitoes that are out in droves are finding their way in every time I open a door.

    I was happy to vacuum the floor to clean up the day's carnage.

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    I went to my cardiologist for a followup for the first time in over a year, and they hooked me up to a pulse oxygen meter, but this time instead of just showing a number, there was a graphic of a chest with green lungs. That’s a quick way of showing the lungs are getting sufficient oxygen, Apparently it is quicker for medical staff to see green (or other colors, which would be bad) lung graphics and understand it then having to pick out a number on a display and think through what it represents in an emergency. I’m guessing they got use out of the new fangled graphics meters during the last year. I get a kick out of how advanced the med tech is getting to look.

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  29. #58
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    The pulse oximeter amazes me, regardless of the user interface. I purchased one early in the pandemic in case anyone in the household contracted COVID-19.
    Of course, I had to find out how it works. It’s truly an ingenious solution to the problem, and amazing that it can be produced at its price point.
    I may have many faults, but being wrong ain't one of them. - Jimmy Hoffa

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    My car has a GPS navigation that can eg tell me where the nearest gas station or restaurant is. Neat. But surpassed already. Waze knows beforehand there are roadworks at a certain crossroad and how to drive around the block to still get to your destination, without any "recalculating..." And if the traffic situation would change tomorrow, Waze will know.
    With sufficient thrust, water towers fly just fine.

  31. #60
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicolas View Post
    My car has a GPS navigation that can eg tell me where the nearest gas station or restaurant is. Neat. But surpassed already. Waze knows beforehand there are roadworks at a certain crossroad and how to drive around the block to still get to your destination, without any "recalculating..." And if the traffic situation would change tomorrow, Waze will know.
    And yet…clever as Waze is, it is often poor at route planning. While TomTom, for example, might take you down a farm track, Waze seems to ignore small roads. Both have trouble keeping up with speed limits when they change. Still, it is impressive that GPS just works. I like “what three words” but that is being criticised as too easily confused with plurals and speech accents. A fourth word would solve that by adding redundancy.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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