Thursday, November 16, 2006

From Scratch

I am an engineer and yet I work on the shoulders of so many (giants and minor players too) that I could not do what I do now from scratch.

That gets under my skin a little bit. So I too find myself pondering how I would survive - not on an island - but if I, like the Conn. Yankee, were suddenly transported back in time. Though I confess I was pondering this long before I read that book. I wondered what I could do to be worthy of the gift in my chosen capcity of tinkerer. What could I do to advance technology if I were to land in the year (?)??? B.C./A.D.

In Conn. Yankee Hank is just close enough to the non-industrial past to know a lot of things from the ground up. He can take things that you would find in Arthur's world and recognize them for what the industrial world would make them into - wires, lightning rods and blasting powder to mention one scene. We will say nothing more about his motives or the great wit with which it is written.

But that, in essence, is what I would like to be able to do. I would like to return the favor by advancing man's struggle with nature. Alas, I cannot do it using a PLC and a good computer - they are too far from the earth. The blasting powder is a bit of chemistry I don't understand. But I think I could probably do some good work with motors, solenoids and switches. I even think I could recognize both copper ore and magnetite. Oh, and chocolate cake is now more within reach!! And I think that I am carrying a few ideas around in my head (thanks to some giants) that could be useful regarding science, math, religion and politics.

(On second thought I probably couldn't add too much to religion after about 1400 A.D. - there is some amazingly advanced thought found in some pretty ancient archives of the Catholic Church!)

I would not spend time worrying about the the "grandfather paradox". If I was sent back I would know that it must have a reason.

In addition to the very essence of practicality in this endeavor I like to think it makes me appreciate my current world a little more. For example, I thank heaven I was born after these few advances: indoor plumbing (esp. the commode), the light bulb, the automobile, natural gas heating and readily available sweetened chocolate... No emperor of any age save our own had such luxury!

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