Editor's Note

Editor's Note

Russ Pitts | 23 Feb 2010 12:31
Editor's Note - RSS 2.0

Science is everywhere. Take a look around. Chances are everything you see and touch has been shaped, in some way, by science.

Let's start with the computer or cell phone on which you are reading this note. Its history is short, originating only a half a century or so ago when sand was first fused into silicon and imprinted with integrated circuits by two gentlemen who had the same idea simultaneously, Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments and Robert Noyce of Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation. Kilby went on to invent the first portable calculator. Noyce went on to found Intel, whose logo is emblazoned on more than three quarters of the computers sold in North America. Chances are that includes yours.

Let's say you're viewing this web page on a cell phone. That's fine. If you want to go right to the very beginning, you could say you have Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla to thank for that marvel of technology. They were the geniuses who, at almost the same time in the late 19th century, discovered that electricity could not only be harnessed, but transmitted and stored. Tesla and a gentleman named Michael Faraday then began experimenting with ways to transmit electricity through the air. Faraday succeeded, and his innovations led to the invention of radio and, among other things, cell phone signals. Dr. Martin Cooper, working at Motorola in the 1970s, took those advances and from them created the world's first cellular phone.

What about the internet? You can thank the United States government for that. The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) needed a way to help researchers around the country collaborate on top-secret projects by sharing classified files and information at near light speeds, so it tapped a few brilliant minds at MIT to solve the problems of packet switching and data transmission over telephone lines (building on the scientific achievements of Mr. Alexander Graham Bell). Further advancements by folks like Ray Tomlinson, Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf led to more modern conventions like email and recognizable internet addresses, but the real breakthrough belongs to Tim Berners-Lee, one of the creators of what we now know as the World Wide Web.

Ok. That's fine, you may say. But when I'm not playing with my computer or the internet, I don't really care about science. Who needs it?

Good question. Why not go read a book? Maybe you can find one that describes the science of paper-making, a process that began as early as 100 B.C. in China and has been refined by scientists nearly every century since. (Did you know that acid-free paper, the kind used to preserve documents for extremely long periods of time, was invented by paper scientists in 1950?)

Maybe reading isn't your thing. Fair enough. Why not grab a coffee drink and relax by the pool? While you're resting, ponder the origins of coffee, a drink first devised by the science-minded brewmasters of Arabia about 1,000 years ago, the secrets of which were subsequently stolen by Dutch scientists working for the Dutch East India Corporation in the 18th century. Or you could ruminate on the origins of the swimming pool (dating back to approximately 3,000 B.C.) and the highly complex chemical mixture it requires to remain clear and safe for human habitation. Without science, your pool would be deadly.

If you think I'm being pedantic, I apologize, but believe me, I've only gotten started. Science is everywhere. It's more than a class at school; it's a way of looking at the world. Without science, we'd be huddling in caves, begging for warmth, starving for lack of a way to hunt and kill saber tooth tigers. Science drives us every day to make sense of the world around us and improve it. To paraphrase a popular rebuttal of science: If science has all the answers, how does one rationalize unexplained phenomena? The answer: We don't yet have all the science.

For this week's issue of The Escapist, Issue 242, "Science!!", we're blinding you with just that. And you know we're serious by the number of exclamation points. Christopher Davies takes a look at the correlation between scientific advancements in weaponry and the depictions of weapons in videogames; Jacob Aron examines how videogames themselves have contributed to the advancement of science; John Szczepaniak delves into the world of Exile, a marvel of scientific accuracy in games; and The Escapist's own Lauren Admire explores the boundaries of the known world with a look at four things we know nothing about.

We hope you enjoy, and please remember to ask Ms. Sakamoto to stay away from your tubes and wires.


Russ Pitts

Comments on