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Inventions that could have been ahead of their time

  1. Aug 23, 2009 #1
    What device might have been most prescient? Could a diode have been created in the Islamic middle ages? A telescope in Mesopotamia? A working steam engine in classical Greece? Give your example.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 23, 2009 #2

    Danger

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    I'm not sure what you mean by a 'working' steam engine. In my opinion, Hero's design was one. However weak it might have been, some sort of work could have been extracted from it.
    There is also evidence that the Mesopotamians might have had batteries. In fact, that very subject was on Mythbusters today. Following the original design, as discovered by archaeologists, they managed to produce somewhere around 0.3 volts. Ganging a few of them in series was enough to electroplate a piece of metal.
     
  4. Aug 23, 2009 #3
  5. Aug 23, 2009 #4
    What about the first patent for a Field Effect Transistor in 1926?

    http://www.electro.patent-invent.com/electricity/inventions/fet.html [Broken]
     
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  6. Aug 23, 2009 #5

    turbo

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    Heddy Lamar and a collaborator invented spread-spectrum radio communications before the technology was mature enough to allow its application.
     
  7. Aug 23, 2009 #6
    Predator technology? :tongue2:

    You know, they attained a sort of 'technological stability'...i.e no new development of 1000s of years....
     
  8. Aug 23, 2009 #7

    Danger

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    That was for a torpedo guidance system, wasn't it? Haven't heard about it for a while.
     
  9. Aug 24, 2009 #8

    MATLABdude

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    The Ark of the Covenant may have been a Leyden Jar, or large capacitor, or some such coupled to either an arc discharge or a Jacob's ladder. Despite the fact that these are used to amuse children and demonstrate electricity today, that must've been quite the shock (hardy har har) back in the day.
     
  10. Aug 24, 2009 #9

    Danger

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    This harkens back to 'The Chariots of the Gods' that Von Daniken wrote back in the 70's. It was utter crap, of course, but did raise a couple of points that I'm not sure have been resolved. The Ark (if it ever existed) was described in a manner that suggested a capacitance capability. Mythbusters tried that one as well, in their ancient battery segment, but they subbed in an electric fence generator before getting Adam to touch it. OUCH! The problem with the capacitor scenario is that they didn't seem to have enough generating ability to charge one up to any significant potential.
    There was, however, something else that might or might not have been a primitive battery aside from the Mesopotamian one. I'm pretty sure that it was totally debunked decades ago.
     
  11. Aug 24, 2009 #10

    turbo

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    Yep! They designed a channel-hopping system to make radio-guided torpedoes harder to detect and jam. The technology during WWII was not sufficiently mature to make the scheme practical, but it was used during the Cuban blockade to scramble communications to and from US ships.
     
  12. Aug 24, 2009 #11

    mgb_phys

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    I think it was channel hopping rather than spread spectrum

    There's also the invention of the telescope C1000 - see this thread https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=331644
    I don't think there is any evidence for the telescope but Alhazen invented most of the optics in an undergrad course - it would have been difficult to fail to invent the telescope even by accident.
     
  13. Aug 30, 2009 #12
    It is an interesting thought that if you take the invention of a practical steam engine (1712) as the starting point of a technological society, we have got from zero to here and now in about 300 years. As far as I can see there was nothing in Newcomen's engine that would have been beyond the capabilities of Greek or Roman engineers. So if a first centuary Roman had needed to drain a deep mine and hadn't had a large supply of slaves to do it might we have had the internet by 500 AD?
     
  14. Sep 6, 2009 #13

    Danger

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    I doubt it, but it's a cool thought. At least it would mean that it was before Bill Gate's birth, so we'd all be on Macs. :biggrin:
     
  15. Sep 7, 2009 #14
    But that would be pre Jobs and Wozniak, somebody might have come up with a worse system then Windows, if that's possible.
     
  16. Sep 7, 2009 #15

    Danger

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    It isn't possible, so there's no point to dwelling upon it. :biggrin:
     
  17. Sep 8, 2009 #16
    Never really thought about slavery like that before - really was bad for everyone in the end...
    Wonder if we'd have some sort of general purpose, rapid manufaturing machine in every home by now if it wasn't for the sweat shops in distant lands?
    Need a new pair of running shoes? just buy a design from Nike iShoes and have your GPRMM knock them out? (of course everyone would point and laugh if you went for Open Source Sandals...)
     
  18. Sep 8, 2009 #17
    And the nice thing is that you only need to build one GPRMM
     
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