Sunday, July 5, 2009

Basic Science Makes Things Amazing, But Won't Make You Happy

From comedian Louie C.K.:

All of the technology he mentions exist today because of basic science research at some point. We have wireless phones because of Faraday's and Maxwell's work on electromagnetism. We have planes because of work by Rayleigh, Navier, and Stokes in fluid dynamics.

So the bottom line is that life today is amazing because of basic science research fifty to a hundred years ago. Why nobody is happy is a question for comedians and philosophers.


  1. Yes, I read a book about how anthropologists are convinced that people running around without any technology at all in places like the Solomon Islands are just as happy as people here in the US.

    Nevertheless, I personally feel that technology is very important and we are much better off as a society for it. And yes it's true, incredible technology today is the direct result of basic science research that many people viewed as unpractical decades ago.

  2. For some even more recent examples of this, look at you everyday household laser. They were viewed as a nice academic curiosity back in the 60's, but today just about every American owns a laser of some sort. (Just think CD, DVD, barcode scanners, etc.) (If nothing else, we notice that "laser" is no longer "L.A.S.E.R." or even "LASER".) Similar examples include Wi-Fi, cell phones, and other spread-spectrum technology. The ISM band of the EM spectrum was de-regulated by the government because it was viewed as a useless "no-man's land" (as I understand it). It's right in a water absorption band, so no potential for long-range communication here. They turned it over to the academics (ISM stands for "industrial, scientific and medical") saying in effect "this area is completely full of interference, but if you can make use of it, have fun." It has since become one of the most useful areas of the EM spectrum. (This is where all wireless, cell phone, wi-fi, etc communication is sent.) So, anyways, basic research and a little creativity can go a long way technologically.

  3. Also, related to the guy's original intent, I also think that simplifying life a little would be healthy. We so quickly feel "entitled" to the latest and greatest technology can come up with. We should feel constant awe and gratitude for all the amazing things that life has today. Everything really is amazing.

  4. My favorite part is when he talks about people on airplanes. Right after I first saw this my wife and I flew from Denver to Portland, Oregon. Our boarding was delayed for almost exactly 20 minutes and then we waited on the runway for almost exactly 40 minutes. Every time one of us would start to think about complaining, we would remind ourselves that we were about to partake in the miracle of human flight and travel a thousand miles in about 90 minutes. We were going to be sitting in chairs in the sky. So sitting on the runway for 40 minutes really wasn't too bad of a deal.


To add a link to text:
<a href="URL">Text</a>