Get to know the world again

Steven Johnson is a popular American science writer who has created many influential websites and is a producer for PBS and BBC.

The book is a zoomed-history list of six inventions that have had a huge impact on our world. Glass, ice, sound, cleaning, time and light.

How We Got to Now
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This book can enhance our insight. And once you're up, you can't go down, which means that reading this book will change the way you see the world.

1. Glass

Glass was first used as an ornament and utensil, but later it was discovered that it could be used as a mirror, allowing people to see their faces clearly for the first time and allowing painters to create better 3D portraits.

The mirror was followed by the discovery of the magnifying glass, eyeglasses, and the microscope and telescope with two lenses superimposed, thus beginning the rapid development of chemistry, astronomy, genetics and other disciplines.

In modern times, computers, cars, airplanes, space ships, tall buildings, all kinds of instruments, are inseparable from glass, modern society can be said to be built on glass.

2. Cold

Ice was first transported from cold places to the tropics, kept warm by wood, and later used to refrigerate meat for sale further afield.

After a period of development, someone invented the refrigerator, and then opened the era of artificial refrigeration, and then came to the 20th century, someone found that the speed of freezing will determine the freshness of food, so the invention of quick-freezing to store a variety of ingredients.

Later, someone came up with a device to cool houses, and with the advent of air conditioning, people from cold regions began to migrate to the tropics, resulting in one of the largest human migrations in human history, and even profound political consequences.

Now, Cold technology has led to cryopreservation, which can be used to preserve human eggs and sperm.

Cold was first studied to drink cold drinks and cool rooms, but its potential has far exceeded human imagination, transforming human settlements and bringing millions of babies into the world.

3. Sound

Around 30,000 years ago, primitive people used echoes and reverbs from caves to perform shamanic rituals.

In the 19th century, the first sound recorder, the first phonograph and the first telephone appeared to record, play back and transmit sound, but for the time being they were not particularly valuable.

The invention of the radio, loudspeaker and microphone in the 20th century was of great help to political figures, such as Hitler, who used these devices to address more than 100,000 followers.

In modern times, sonar devices have helped ships spot enemy submarines, helped humans explore the undersea, and ultrasound devices have helped babies and their mothers avoid birth complications that can kill them.

4 Clean

In the mid-19th century, with the rapid development of railway and shipping in Chicago, 100,000 new residents were added to the city. They excreted a lot of feces every day, but because the city was located in the plain and could not discharge them, various epidemics occurred from time to time, among which cholera killed 60 people every day. Because the technology was limited at that time, digging sewers underground was expensive, so someone came up with the idea of lifting the city up with jacks, digging holes under the foundation of the building, installing supporting materials, installing sewers, and thus solving the problem that the city could not drain.

In the early 20th century, water pollution led to the first use of chlorine to disinfect water, resulting in a 43 percent reduction in overall urban mortality and 74 percent reduction in infant and child mortality in the United States.

In modern times, chip paths and transistors are as small as one-tenth of a micron (100 microns the width of a human hair). In order to make chips, one has to wear clothes made of sterile materials in a special clean room. Even soap cannot be used because aroma is a pollutant.

5. Time

In the mid-16th century, during the Great Age of navigation, ships at sea needed a way to determine their longitude so as not to get lost. The Spanish and English governments offered huge rewards for the method, which prompted Galileo to develop the pendulum clock, thus greatly reducing the risk to the global shipping network and providing industry with an endless supply of raw materials.

The advent of the pocket watch gave people a sense of time, so that industrialists could better unify the actions of hundreds of people.

At the end of the 19th century, before that, people calibrated the time by observing the position of the sun locally, so the local time would be different every few kilometers (observing the position of the sun changed). Due to the rapid transmission and movement of telegraph and train, people had the need to unify the time, so they divided several time zones according to the region, which is still in use today.