The Power of Death and Resurrection with Electricity in the 19th Century

In the 19th century, electricity held life in the balance, with the power to execute – or reanimate. By Ruth Garde / 04.20.2017 Curator, Creative Producer, Writer The devastating power of electricity gave good cause for the unease and fear it evoked. And yet the risk of lethal injury was what made it so fascinating and its[…]

Charged Bodies: Experiments with Electricity and the Human Body in the 18th Century

Electrified humans brought education and performance together with a spark in the 18th century. By Ruth Garde / 04.12.2017 Curator, Creative Producer, Writer Eels had become unwitting performers in demonstrations of natural electricity after the 1770s, but the human body had been an indispensable element in public displays of artificial electricity since the 1730s. Enthusiasm for such[…]

Technologies of Medieval Towns and Trade

Medieval townsfolk needed very different sorts of technologies than did rural farmers, and they eagerly adopted tools of all sorts when they became available. By Dr. Hans Peter Broedel Graduate Director, Associate Professor of History University of North Dakota Together with generally good weather and the rapid clearing of arable land, the new modes of[…]

The History of Computing: Both Evolution and Revolution

CSIRAC was originally built in Sydney by the CSIRO before being transferred to Melbourne University. Melbourne University, Author provided Looking at the changes that have been made in computing and other areas in the past 60 years. By Justin Zobel / 05.31.2016 Head, Department of Computing and Information Systems University of Melbourne It is a[…]

The Triumphs and Failures of Ancient Technology

Noria Waterwheel / Wikimedia Commons The fundamental processes of agriculture, pottery making, and cloth making, plus language, fire making, tools, and the wheel, all came out of the Stone Ages, before recorded history began.   By Frances and Joseph Gies Medieval Historians NEARLY EVERYTHING THAT SIXTH-CENTURY Europe knew about technology came to it from Rome.[…]

Technological Progress from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution

Waterwheel, Darley Mill Centre / Wikimedia Commons Exploring the idea that we must think of technology in much broader terms than just material culture. By Brian Dickens Introduction Everyone has heard the terms “Stone Age,” “Bronze Age”, and “Iron Age”; associated with particular periods of history. For most people, these terms conjure up an entire image[…]

Energy in Ancient Times

Water wheel at Molino de la Albolafia, Córdoba / Photo by Elliott Brown, Wikimedia Commons We may assume too readily that the Romans, lacking the fuels which power the modern world and the sophisticated technologies which have harnessed water, had only a feeble command of energy, but we would be mistaken. Archaeology and historical research have[…]

Why Nuclear Fusion is Gaining Steam – Again

The coils winding facility building in France, where a global effort to build the ITER fusion energy reactor is underway. Rob Crandall/Shutterstock.com As fusion becomes more technically viable, it’s time to assess whether it’s worth the money because breakthroughs in the lab don’t guarantee success in the marketplace. By Dr. Scott L. Montgomery / 04.09.2018 Lecturer, Jackson School[…]

Why Does Culture Sometimes Evolve via Sudden Bursts of Innovation

A particularly fruitful moment for technological innovation? Viktor M Vasnetsov Not all technologies are created equal. Researchers devised a new model to explain why, after eons of nothing much new, we sometimes see an explosion of innovation in the archaeological record.    By Dr. Nicole Creanza and Dr. Oren Kolodny / 11.24.2015 Creanza: Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University Kolodny: Postdoctoral Research Fellow in[…]

Using Physics to Read Scrolls from Herculaneum

Teeming with secrets… edella/Shutterstock European scientists had pioneered a technique for reading papyrus scrolls from Herculaneum without unrolling them. By Dr. Joanna Paul / 01.29.2015 Lecturer in Classical Studies The Open University The [2014] announcement that European scientists had pioneered a technique for reading papyrus scrolls from Herculaneum without unrolling them attracted widespread attention. At first glance, this[…]

A Brief History of Telling Time

Ben Birchall/PA Wire From sundials to atomic clocks, a journey through the way humans have measured time. By Dr. Kenneth Grattan / 05.15.2016 George Daniels Professor of Scientific Instrumentation University of London We live in a world where time is all important. Nanoseconds mark the difference between success or failure to make an electronic transaction and where we are[…]

Technology in Early Modern Europe

By Dr. Marcus Popplow / 07.06.2017 Professor of the History of Technical-Scientific Civilization Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) Die Forschungsuniversität in der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft Introduction In debates surrounding Europe’s shared history, the role of technology is hardly addressed. As a contributing factor, it appears too far removed from political or cultural processes of integration. At the same[…]

The Rise of the Automobile

By Dr. David Blanke Joe B. Frantz Associate Professor of History Texas A&M University-Corpus Christie U.S. history textbooks typically relate early automobile use from the perspective of three distinct narratives. One focuses on Henry Ford, the inventor of the Model T and founder of Ford Motor Company. Ford was a hands-on mechanic who enjoyed tinkering with[…]

MIT and New Company Seek Working Fusion Plant Pilot in 15 Years

Visualization of the proposed SPARC tokamak experiment. Using high-field magnets built with newly available high-temperature superconductors, this experiment would be the first controlled fusion plasma to produce net energy output. / Visualization by Ken Filar, PSFC research affiliate By David Chandler / 03.09.2018 Progress toward the long-sought dream of fusion power — potentially an inexhaustible and[…]

Embroidering Electronics: The Next Generation of ‘Smart’ Fabrics

Is this machine adding an antenna to the fabric? Hindrik Johannes de Groot/Shutterstock.com By Dr. Asimina Kiourti / 03.12.2018 Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering The Ohio State University Archaeology reveals that humans started wearing clothes some 170,000 years ago, very close to the second-to-last ice age. Even now, though, most modern humans wear clothes that are[…]

Computer Technology Can Only Help – Not Hurt – Art Historians

Frederic Bazille’s Studio 9 Rue de la Condamine (left) and Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barber Shop (right). The computer was able to detect similarities in the composition of both paintings. Yellow circles indicate similar objects, red lines indicate composition, and the blue square represents similar structural elements. Author provided By Dr. Ahmed Elgammal / 12.04.2014 Professor of[…]

Science, History, and Ideology in Gramsci’s ‘Prison Notebooks’

Antonio Gramsci, Creative Commons By Dr. Francesca Antonini Postdoctoral Researcher Luigi Einaudi Foundation Abstract Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937) made his notes on science within his Quaderni del carcere (Prison Notebooks) written between 1929 and 1935, while imprisoned by the Italian fascist regime. This overview focuses mainly on three themes: 1) the Gramscian criticism of the idealist (Croce) and materialist (Bukharin)[…]

What Can Local Circulation of Knowledge Explain? The Case of Helmholtz’s Frog-Drawing-Machine in Berlin

Hermann Von Helmoltz By Dr. M. Norton Wise Professor Emeritus of History University of California, Los Angeles “Circulation” seems to have replaced “travel” as a favored concept in history and social studies of science and to have taken on new significance. Formerly, circulation refered primarily to diffusion or spread, such as the diffusion of knowledge[…]

The Emergence of the Early Modern Commons: Technology, Heritage, and Enlightenment

A photograph of the War Scroll, found in Qumran Cave 1, photographed by Eric Matson of the Matson photo service / Wikimedia Commons    By Dr. Antonio Lafuente García and Dr. Nuria Valverde Pérez Researchers Centro de Ciencas Humanas y Sociales Instituto de Historia (CSIC)   Introduction Our age is rediscovering the importance of commons. Every day we[…]

The Enduring Power of Print for Learning in a Digital World

   By Dr. Patricia A. Alexander and Lauren M. Singer Trakhman / 10.03.2017 Alexander: Professor of Psychology Trakhman: PhD Candidate in Educational Psychology University of Maryland Today’s students see themselves as digital natives, the first generation to grow up surrounded by technology like smartphones, tablets and e-readers. Teachers, parents and policymakers certainly acknowledge the growing influence[…]

Will Artificial Intelligence Become Conscious? What is Consciousness?

What’s the link between technology and consciousness? AlexLMX/Shutterstock.com By Dr. Subhash Kak / 12.07.2017 Regents Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Oklahoma State University Forget about today’s modest incremental advances in artificial intelligence, such as the increasing abilities of cars to drive themselves. Waiting in the wings might be a groundbreaking development: a machine that is aware of itself and[…]

The Challenge of Authenticating Real Humans in a Digital World

Is this the future of human identity? Luke James Ritchie/Shutterstock.com By Dr. Jungwoo Ryoo / 11.08.2017 Professor of Information Sciences and Technology Pennsylvania State University Proving identity is a routine part of modern daily life. Many people must show a driver’s license to buy alcohol at a store, flash an ID card to security guards at work, enter[…]

The Age of Disruption

TV control room in Toronto / Photo by Loozrboy, Wikimedia Commons Technology is changing society at breakneck speed but considerations of human impacts lag far behind. Dinyar Godrej sketches out some of the key political battles ahead. By Dinyar Godrej / 11.01.2017 We are always at the threshold of the future. But whereas in the past, the path[…]

Should You Feel Sad about the Demise of the Handwritten Letter?

‘You spoke of Hope surpassing Home, I thought that Hope was Home – a misapprehension of architecture.’ Emily Dickinson letter to Otis Phillips Lord. / Amhurst College Library By Dr. Siobhan Phillips / 04.12.2017 Professor of English Dickinson College A lot of people love personal letters now that very few people write them. We have publishing initiatives such[…]

Can You Be Hacked By the World Around You?

Could scanning a QR code be an invitation to malware? Zapp2Photo/Shutterstock.com By Dr. Jeremy Straub / 10.11.2017 Assistant Professor of Computer Science North Dakota State University You’ve probably been told it’s dangerous to open unexpected attachment files in your email – just like you shouldn’t open suspicious packages in your mailbox. But have you been warned[…]

Innovation is an Evolving Process of Trial and Error

Out of all these ideas, will one rise to the top? KlingSup/Shutterstock.com    By Dr. Edward Wasserman and Dr. Eric Scerri / 06.22.2017 Wasserman: Professor of Experimental Psychology, University of Iowa Scerri: Science Author and Chemistry Lecturer, University of California, Los Angeles Scientific discovery is popularly believed to result from the sheer genius of intellectual stars[…]

The ‘Internet of Things’ is Sending Us Back to the Middle Ages

Is this our relationship to tech companies now? Queen Mary Master By Joshua A.T. Fairfield, J.D. / 09.05.2017 Professor of Law Washington and Lee University Internet-enabled devices are so common, and so vulnerable, that hackers recently broke into a casino through its fish tank. The tank had internet-connected sensors measuring its temperature and cleanliness. The hackers got[…]

Storing Data in DNA Brings Nature to the Digital Universe

The next frontier of data storage: DNA. ymgerman/Shutterstock    By Dr. Luis Ceze and Dr. Karin Strauss / 07.27.2017 Ceze: Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Strauss: Affiliate Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering University of Washington Humanity is producing data at an unimaginable rate, to the point that storage technologies can’t keep up.[…]