Some people look at the tech explosion of the 20th century and think that aliens must have helped us with it. Or maybe we “reverse engineered” it from crashed alien space ships at Area 51 or something. And I’ll have to admit that it can look magical to someone who isn’t a techie.
Quote Arthur C. Clarke’s law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
And look up the reference.
Of course, people who think this do so because they don’t understand how it works.
But, in reality, everything about the tech revolution is very well understood, very well documented, and very human. Here, we will trace, step-by-step, the evolution of some sample lines of technological development and how they work.
The point of this article is that to think that “it must have been aliens” is not only insulting to humanity, it’s just downright lazy. Such a claim requires an inexcusable lack of understanding of how our technology works and how it was developed. Yes, we have amazing things in our modern society. But it is because humans have an amazing potential. And it’s not that difficult to have a basic understanding of how it all works and how it came about.
THIS IS A STUB ARTICLE WHICH WILL EXPAND ON THE FOLLOWING TOPICS:
At the moment this is just written off the top of my head with no research. Obviously I need to add some details and there are a few things I need to look up.
Benjamin Franklin didn’t discover electricity. But he did prove that lightning is electricity.
Michael Faraday played with batteries, electricity flowing through wires, moving them, and inducing a current in one wire from another wire. This is the basis of both an electric motor and an electric generator and it works through magnetism.
James Maxwell came up with a description of what Faraday discovered in terms of Maxwell’s electromagnetic field equations. Together, they thus proved that the electrical force is the same as the magnetic force.
Albert Einstein didn’t get his Nobel Prize for his theories of Relativity. He got his Nobel Prize for his theory of the photoelectric effect, which is the basis of quantum mechanics. (He proved conclusively that light is a particle at the same time that other physicists proved conclusively that light is not a particle but is a wave. The rest of quantum mechanics deals with the fact that they were both right.)
Also, someone somewhere along in there discovered that light is the same as electromagnetism is the same as radio waves is the same as x-rays is the same as gamma rays, etc.
One branch of this set of discoveries resulted in invention of the laser:
Once quantum mechanics was discovered / invented, they proposed the effect of “stimulated emission of radiation” from electrons jumping between shells in atoms with discrete quanta of energy (single photons.)
A guy named Charles Townes played around with this effect in the 1950s and invented:
- Microwave Amplification through Stimulated Emission of Radiation (the MASER);
- and Light Amplification through Stimulated Emission of Radiation (the LASER)
And a Scientific American article came out in the 1960s that I read described how a hobbyist could make one of these things themselves. The parts cost about $100 in 1968 dollars and I couldn’t understand why my mom & dad wouldn’t get me the parts to build my own ray gun. (More recently I read some reviews written by people who followed these instructions and they said it didn’t work very well and usually quit working (probably because the vacuum tube leaked) after a few hours.)
Another couple branches of these discoveries resulted in (1) the radio and (2) the computer:
First need to describe how a vacuum tube works as a variable gate to control the flow of electrons by varying the charge on a metal screen between two poles.
Next need to describe how a transistor works basically the same way except with by lacing a silicon conductor with some germanium or other impurity.
The first application of this stuff was analog in amplifiers. Combined with other combined effects of electricity and magnetism gives you a radio.
A later application of this stuff was digital, which is the basis for computers.
Computers aren’t magic. Need to describe here something of how a logic circuit works using a transistor. And how you build a processor by cycling through binary logic circuits with a clock. (We learned about this in Computer Science class in college. But I already knew some of the basics from playing with stuff when I was a kid. We both also tested out of the requirement for the basic logic class.)
Anyway – You don’t need aliens to develop all of that.