Monday, December 04, 2006

We invite you to visit and contribute to our new Wiki Website.

What are the greatest achievements of the 20th Century? Provide your answers and thoughts about various achievements.

Sightseer's Guide to Human Achievement Get and give recommendations for where you can "see" human achievements.

Friday, October 14, 2005


Welcome to the Human Achievements Blog.

"See How America Grew", Sightseer's Guide to Human Achievements, Eli Whitney, L.L. Bean, David Attenborough, Stew Leonards, Moneyball, Slide Rule by Nevil Shute, Archimedes, Arthroscopic Surgery, 3M, Admiral Rickover, Alcoa, Ancient Greece, Steamboat Museum, ASME, B&O Railroad Museum, Lance Armstrong, Copper Mine, Tennis Academy, Bose Suspension, Candlemakers vs. The Sun, Carnot & Thermodynamics, Roller Coasters, Air Conditioning, Charles Lyell, Cuisinart, Dolby, Dormaid, Airventure Oshkosh, Edwin Land' Poloroid, Engineered Materials, Eternal Vigilance , Evolutionary Synthesis, Firestone Centennial, Gleevec, Goodbye Training Wheels, Google vs. the French, Hans Bethe & the Manhattan Project, Henry Heinz and Staplers . Please visit us often and recommend our posts to your friends by clicking on the envelope icon at the end of the post. The Human Achievements is a daily column in TIA Daily. Please sign up for a free 30-day no-obligation trial by entering your e-mail address in the box to the right.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

iRobot's Battlefield Robots

iRobot, the company best known for its robotic vacuum cleaner, Roomba, has another successful line of robotic products. Our military is using iRobot's PackBots in Afghanistan and Iraq today for operating in dangerous combat areas and disarming bombs. The company is now working on equipping its PackBots with a sniper detection system that can pinpoint the source of sniper fire in seconds.

For the history of iRobot's PackBot robots click here.

"The PackBot was first called to action in Afghanistan. The Army Vice Chief of Staff, General Keane, saw pictures of soldiers clearing caves which grappling hooks. He knew that the military had invested heavily in robotic equipment and did not see why the soldiers were still using techniques used in WWII. Col Jette started the Rapid Equipping Force, and a team that included the PackBot AND the PackBot Program Manager were deployed to Bagram Air Base in the summer of 2002. We were able to gather user feedback and change the robot and controller software to reflect input from the preceding missions, before the mission the next day. This gave the soldier direct input into the design The 82nd Airborne first adopted the PackBot's revolutionary life-saving functions, saying 'Send the robot in first.' These robots are still in theatre and operational today.

"Operation Iraqi Freedom followed soon after, and again PackBot units were called into action. Among its missions were searching the tunnels under the Baghdad airport, remotely looking for enemy soldiers thought to be hiding in the agricultural center building, and remotely examining equipment left on an airfield that was potentially booby trapped."

For a report on PackBot's new sniper detection system click here.

" [It] aims to protect soldiers in places like Iraq by quickly locating snipers so they can either steer clear or fire back. 'These systems are primarily made for gathering and understanding the nature of the threat,' said Thoren, director of Project REDOWL, or Robot Enhanced Detection Outpost with Lasers. But the mobile robot's use of infrared light and lasers to fix on a target also raises the possibility that robots may eventually be armed to use weapons themselves, either autonomously or under human control."

-- Shrikant Rangnekar

Illinois Tool Works

TIA Daily regular contributor Gene Barth writes:

Illinois Tool Works is company whose businesses are literally the nuts and bolts - as well as welders, spray guns, plastic wrap and pallets -- of industrial manufacture. ITW's heart is culture of innovation ruthlessly focused on delivering effective - and then still more effective - manufacturing solutions to its customers. ITW has its own patent society. Founded in 1969, the ITW Patent Society "recognizes the patent contributions of its product design and engineering people from our worldwide business units with a dinner awards ceremony, currently held at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. To date, we have approximately 700 members in the Patent Society, ranging from our CEO to salesmen to engineers and technicians." In 2004, ITW had more than 16,000 unexpired patents and pending patent applications worldwide, including 2,900 U.S. patents and 1,116 pending U.S. applications.

19 of those patents and 18 of the patents pending belong to Kenneth LeVey, a product development director at ITW. According to LeVey, an ITW product development director is a lucky fellow whom ITW pays and then allows the "freedom to sit and ponder".

In the first few years of the twenty-first century, LeVey was pondering "the business end of [a chisel that he had just bought at home depot.] If only he could wrap teensy chisel tips into the threads of a screw, it could chip its way into a tight seat instead of compressing and cracking the concrete. He traveled to ITW factories around the country, asking the wizened experts how it could be done. "I got laughed out the door," LeVey says."

In the September 19th issue of Forbes Magazine, Jonathan Fahey explains in just two pages how LeVey advanced screw design and tooling 70 years in order to put "teensy chisel tips into the threads of a screw".

Before LeVey reinvented screw design and manufacture, all screw threads were simple helical ridges with a triangular cross-section. The only difference between one screw thread and the next was separation between ridges, the height of ridges, and the shape of the triangular cross-section. It would be as though the tire industry made only one simple tread pattern regardless of the surface that the tire would be rolling over. Or as though the athletic shoe industry stuck to one tread for city walking, basketball courts, trail running, and mountain hiking.

LeVey succeeded in replacing the helical ridge of a screw with a helical TREAD, a tread matched to the material that the screw must first cut into and then hold fast. A tire or a pair of shoes costs many tens of dollars. LeVey succeeded in putting a tread on items that sell for pennies, nickels, and dimes. In doing so, he lifted ITW's screws out of the commodity market and into the market of specialty items. Ten years ago, a lower cost competitor underbid ITW for General Motors' threaded fastener business.

Recently, GM placed a 60 million-unit order with GM for its BosScrew - a uniquely TREADED fastener for plastic.

Read the full story here.

-- Gene Barth (

Google and the Empire

D.J. Roedger writes on TIA Forum:

"I read this article about Google's ambitious project to digitize several libraries and the European response to it. I think it speaks volumes about the differences between our cultures. America puts books online because a private corporation figured this is a service people want, and it would be a good way to make a profit. European heads of state decide to make this a giant public works project, and they do it because they don't want an 'Anglo-American'-centric online library which offers the literature people desire. I like how the article mentions French cinema as if it is a success story about how government intervention can save the arts. Which project do you think will succeed?"

Europeans to Counter Google Print Project

"The world according to Google? Europeans have long bemoaned the influence of Hollywood movies on their culture. Now plans by Google Inc. to create a massive digital library have triggered such strong fears in Europe about Anglo-American cultural dominance that one critic is warning of a 'unilateral command of the thought of the world.' "

Thursday, September 15, 2005

HMS Dreadnought

TIA Daily reader Jay Palmer writes:

Launched in 1906 by the British Navy, HMS Dreadnought was a breakthrough in battleship design for two reasons: first, with her ten 12-inch guns, she was the first "all-big-gun" battleship and second, she used steam turbines for propulsion, which were faster and more reliable. HMS Dreadnought was such a
revolutionary ship that after her, new battleships were often referred to as "dreadnoughts", whereas the older ones were called "pre-dreadnoughts".

To see the descriptions and photos of HMS Dreadnought visit the US Navy and British Navy sites.

"Dreadnought was the idea of Admiral Sir John Fisher who became First Sea Lord in 1904. Fisher wanted to replace battleships with fast all-big-gun armoured cruisers, called battlecruisers, which could deal with both battleships and cruisers. Armour was not as important as big guns that could
penetrate any armour at long range. Fisher’s colleagues at the Admiralty were not so revolutionary, so Fisher gave in and built an all-big-gun battleship, Dreadnought, instead."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Slide Rule by Nevil Shute

A book review by Gene Barth

"Slide Rule"

The Entrepreneur Versus the State

Novelist Nevil Shute spent the first two decades of his adult life “messing about with aeroplanes”. Slide Rule is Shute’s account of his years in the young British aviation industry. Starting in 1920 as an unpaid college intern on the skeletal staff of a “start-up” that eventually became De Havillands Aircraft Company, Shute left aviation in 1938 as managing director of his own company, Airspeed, Limited.

Unfortunately, Nevil Shute’s career in aviation coincided with the rise of socialism in Great Britain. Shute’s particular nemesis was the Air Ministry, an entity as destructive of innovation in aviation as our own FCC is in the business of telecommunications. In both of Shute’s major successes the establishment of Airspeed, Ltd. and, earlier, his capable involvement in the successful development of an intercontinental airship, the R100 -- the Air Ministry ultimately destroyed the business value of his efforts.

Unlike most victims of statism, Nevil Shute, a successful author, had his own public voice and the will to use it. In Slide Rule, he relates in compelling detail the “competition” between the company for whom he worked on the R100 as chief calculator, the Airship Guarantee Company (ACG), and “a staff of government officials attached to the Air Ministry” at Cardigen.

Shute knew that the last airship made by the Cardigen group, the R38, had split in half during a test flight, killing forty-four aboard the craft. Reading up on the state of the art in airship stress calculations, Shute happened to read the report on the accident inquiry into the R38 disaster.

“I had come from the hard commercial school of de Havillands where competence was the key to survival and a disaster might have meant the end of the company and unemployment for everyone concerned with it. It was inexpressibly shocking to me to find that before building the vast and costly structure of the R38 the civil servants concerned had made no attempt to calculate the aerodynamic forces acting on the ship, and I remember going to one of my chiefs with the report in my hand to ask him if this could possibly be true. Not only did he confirm it but he pointed out that no one had been sacked over it, nor even suffered any censure. Indeed, he said, the same team of men had been entrusted with the construction of another airship, the R101, which was to be built by the Air Ministry in competition with our own ship, the R100.”

Shute quickly got over his shock. In five years, ACG brought the R100** in on schedule and under budget, and exceeded performance specifications. At 81 mph, she was the fastest airship of her day. By now, Shute was chief engineer and he presided over 8,000 miles of largely trouble free test flights capped with a transatlantic flight to Canada and back.

By contrast, the Air Ministry ship, the R101, was dangerously overweight and underpowered as a result of poor engineering, including dedicated motors for reverse rather than gearboxes! Goaded by the success of the R100 and the political demands of their boss, Lord Thomson, the Cardigen men increasingly operated in an atmosphere of evasion and despair, unwilling to acknowledge the R101’s flaws, much less fix them.

Forgoing a rigorous program of test flight flights, the R101 set out on her maiden voyage on October 4th, 1930, bound for India. She got no further than Beauvois France, about 220 miles from Cardigen, before hitting the ground in bad weather and bursting into flames. Every ship’s officer and every government official aboard died in the fire, including Lord Thomson, who had staked the prestige of “State enterprise”, and his life, on the R101’s maiden voyage.

With consecutive Air Ministry disasters, civil airship transport died in Britain, and with it the business prospects of ACG. Remarkably, Shute responded to this blow by setting out to found his own airplane company.

In the course of showing the reader how he succeeded in founding Airspeed, Ltd., Shute delivers intriguing insights from the world of engineering and the world of commerce. He explains how a prosperous city generates risk capital for its own start-ups through real estate appreciation at the margins of the city. How inherited wealth enables aggressive, entrepreneurial management in start-up enterprises. And, of course, how he managed to start Airspeed Ltd and move it forward in the midst of a depression by shrewdly assessing the direction of the industry and its burgeoning capital requirements, and then innovating ahead of much larger companies to generate investor support and sales.

Ultimately, however, Airspeed Ltd. also came to grief at the hands of the Air Ministry. This time Airspeed was not the victim of a bizarre “competition” between “State enterprise” and private endeavor. Instead it was only one of many victims as the Air Ministry, emboldened by the prospect of war, effectively nationalized the entire British aviation industry.

Upon receiving a cost plus contract from the Air Ministry for far more planes than it had ever before sold at one time, the bottom fell out of Airspeed’s stock price. Investors understood that although Airspeed’s factories would be operating at capacity for years to come, Airspeed was no longer manufacturing planes at profit for customers: it was now making planes on demand and at cost for a master.

Airspeed is a remarkable document on the character, psychology, and mind of an entrepreneur, an innovator. It is also clear proof that such men are doomed in a culture of socialism.

**To see interior photos and plans from R100 please click here.

The photos evoke the elegance of 1930s luxury travel. It is clear why these great vessels were called airSHIPS. Nevil Shute is the man poised on the dining room stairs in the 2nd photo from top.

Gene Barth works in a research lab at the University of Chicago Medical Center and is a regular contributor to TIA Daily.


A Book review by Gene Barth

Moneyball: the Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis

Don’t be put off by the title. Michael Lewis tells a fascinating story. In 1995, Ken Hofmann and Steve Schott bought the Oakland Athletics for 85 million dollars. Unlike many major league baseball owners, they did not expect to turn the management of the As over to old baseball hands, relax their business acumen, and quietly subsidize the A’s as an expensive hobby capping successful business careers. Instead, they expected to achieve another business success by fielding a winning team on one of the lowest budgets in baseball.

Oakland’s new general manager, Billy Beane, believed that this goal was possible. While major league owners snoozed in the torpor of a perpetual July afternoon, baseball writer Bill James and a growing cadre of capable amateurs had worked a scientific revolution in the analysis of baseball, displacing the scout’s eye and the manager’s hunch with ruthlessly objective valuation of players, tactics, and strategy.

Uniquely, baseball is a sequence of individual contests masquerading as a team sport: Pitcher Versus Batter; Hitter Versus Fielder. In major league baseball, observers score each of these individual contests, recording them for posterity on official scorecards. Yet, other than calculating an occasional mean or tally --a player’s batting average, or a pitcher’s win/loss record-- scouts and managers left mostly undisturbed the vast trove of objective performance data contained in the scorecards.

Even when major league baseball used performance statistics, it often misused them. “In 1979, in the third, now annual, Baseball Abstract, [Bill] James wrote, ‘… I find it remarkable that, in listing offenses, the league will list first --meaning best—not the team which scored the most runs, but the team with the highest batting average. It should be obvious that the purpose of an offense is not to compile a high batting average.’ Because it was not obvious, at least to the people who ran baseball, James smelled a huge opportunity. How did runs score? … He set out to build a model to predict how many runs a team would score, given its number of walks, hits, stolen bases, etc.”

Billy Beane was a disciple of Bill James. And unlike virtually every other follower of Bill James, Beane was a thoroughbred major leaguer. The New York Mets drafted Beane out of high school. After his career as a baseball player, he moved into the Oakland front office as a scout. Beane was a fiery and intelligent insider who could not be locked out of the clubhouse.

As his number one talent scout, Beane hired a bright Harvard graduate, Paul DePodesta … and his laptop. Rather than hitting the road to scout talent, DePodesta logged on to the Web. Applying James’ sabermetric (Society of American Baseball Research + metric) methodology to online player statistics, DePodesta identified a succession of radically undervalued players: a pitcher with an unconventional “submarine” delivery; another pitcher whose wind-up suggested the onset of a seizure; a catcher with superb control of the strike zone, but less control of his appetite for pizza.

Having won over ninety games in the last four seasons, and over one hundred games in both 2001 and 2002, Oakland can literally capitalize on their own success. Lacking the As’ grasp of what really matters in winning baseball games, other teams are unable to disentangle the As success from the success of individual players. The As can then sell their stars, and even their 1996-2002 manager --figure head Art Howe-- at inflated prices in order to finance the purchase of another round of undervalued talent.

“Moneyball” is a infield box seat on a scientific revolution come to American baseball. Read “Moneyball” now and enjoy this revolution as it unfolds in the years ahead.

Gene Barth works in a research lab at the University of Chicago Medical Center and is a regular contributor to TIA Daily.

Staplers & other Paper Fastners

From Office Museum website:

"Until circa 1860, the types of documents that today are stapled together were fastened in a number of ways that did not require the use of mechanical devices. Some documents were held together by stitches made with needles and thread. Others were secured by strings, tapes or ribbons that were inserted through holes made with a sharp instrument or though parallel incisions made with penknives... Expansion in the volume of papers generated and stored in offices during the second half of the nineteenth century created a demand for efficient ways to fasten papers together

"The conventional magazine stapler gained an important edge over competing technologies with the development of cohered or frozen wire staples--as wire staples that were glued together were called... A second development favoring conventional magazine staplers was the invention of top (or open channel) loading magazines in 1938... Yet another reason for the eventual dominance of magazine staplers may have been the greater success in adding electric power to magazine staplers than to machines using competing technologies."

Thanks to TIA Daily reader Ron Richards for recommending the idea of covering "little things that make a big difference" in the Human Achievements column.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Henry Heinz

This is a story of a pioneer who brought the fruits of the agricultural revolution to everyone's dinner table.

"As biographer Robert C. Alberts has observed, Henry Heinz had hit on two of what he called the Important Ideas that were to shape his business from that day on: 1) That most people are willing to let someone else take over a share of their kitchen operations; and 2) That a pure article of superior quality will find a ready market through its intrinsic value — if properly packaged and promoted. Conventional wisdom now, these were bold conceptions in their day, foreshadowing what have since become the bedrock assumptions of modern quality control and consumer marketing."

Hans Bethe & the Manhattan Project

The Manhattan Project Heritage Preservation Association presents a lengthy tribute to Hans Bethe's contribution to the Manhattan Project--full of fascinating details and a few easily discardable flaws.

"As theory chief, Bethe had to oversee and coordinate the work of the various theory groups, who had plenty to work on. They had to come up with a model for the immensely complicated problem of how neutrons diffuse through a critical mass. They had to figure out how to calculate the effects of different kinds of tampers on neutron reflection and absorption. They had to figure out how to calculate the efficiency of nuclear explosions. They had to determine critical masses and - perhaps more importantly - the limits of sub-critical ones. They had to understand how liquids and gases behaved in fractions of micro-seconds, under pressures and temperatures greater than at the center of the sun. They had to design an initiator. They had to determine the behavior of plutonium when they had hardly any plutonium to work with. And on and on.

"Once, when a friend, physicist Victor Weisskopf, asked him how long a certain calculation would take, Bethe answered cheerfully, 'It would take three days for me and it will take three weeks for you!' This was not boasting, merely clear-sightedness. (Weisskopf reports that the calculation, indeed, took him three weeks.)

"Years after Los Alamos, the physicist Richard Feynman, himself famous for his ability to perform calculations in his head, would say that he learned it from Bethe, who was 'absolutely topnotch. He was nearly always able to get the answer to any problem within a percent.'

" 'No one any longer pays attention to--if I may call it--the spirit of physics, the idea of discovery, the idea of understanding. I think it's difficult to make clear to the non-physicist the beauty of how it fits together, of how you can build a world picture, and the beauty that the laws of physics are immutable.' --Hans Bethe"

-- Shrikant Rangnekar

Google vs. the French

TIA Daily reader D.J. Roedger writes:

"I read this article about Google’s ambitious project to digitize several libraries and the European response to it. I think it speaks volumes about the differences between our cultures. America puts books online because a private corporation figured this is a service people want, and it would be a good way to make a profit. European heads of state decide to make this a giant public work project, and they do it because they don’t want an 'Anglo-American' centric online library which offers the literature people desire. I like how the article mentions French cinema as if it is a success story about how government intervention can save the arts. Which project do you think will succeed?"

Europeans to Counter Google Print Project

"The world according to Google? Europeans have long bemoaned the influence of Hollywood movies on their culture. Now plans by Google Inc. to create a massive digital library have triggered such strong fears in Europe about Anglo-American cultural dominance that one critic is warning of a 'unilateral command of the thought of the world.' "

Goodbye Training Wheels

"Three Purdue University industrial designers who tapped into memories of their own childhood cycling misadventures have built a bike that ditches the training wheels but keeps rookies stable."

"Called SHIFT, it slowly transforms from a tricycle to bicycle configuration as the rider pedals faster, then returns to trike formation as the rider slows down.

"Lead designer Scott Shim hopes the design, which won top honors recently at an international bicycle design competition, can help children slowly gain the skill and courage to pedal off on their own.

"The design features a single front wheel and two slim rear wheels that are initially splayed outward to stabilize and prevent the rider from toppling over. As the rider accelerates and leans forward, the rear wheels shift inward, narrowing into a single wheel surface that essentially makes it a two-wheel venture."


Gleevec, a successful drug for curing a rare type of cancer called Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML), is the harbinger of a new kind of drugs. These drugs are developed by precisely identifying a genetic defect that causes a certain disease and then designing molecules to inhibit the effects of the genetic defect at a molecular level. While Gleevec is based on a genetic discovery made in 1960, now--with the human genome fully mapped--we can expect an acceleration in the development of this kind of drugs over the next decade.(Gleevec was approved by FDA in 2003)

Here is an excellent article on the history of Gleevec:

"When Brian Druker was a medical student, he envisioned destroying cancer without devastating the patient. 'My most vivid memory was when we learned about chemotherapy. I thought, 'My God, this stuff works but it's horrible.' ' Nearly 20 years later, Druker the physician has helped a better way materialize in the form of STI-571, a drug that selectively targets chronic myelogenous leukemia cells without any of the traditional chemotherapy side effects...

"This is called 'specificity' in drug development, where academics and industry are devoted to understanding, at the most basic molecular level, differences between cancer cells and non-cancer cells. This understanding, which National Cancer Institute director Richard Klausner, M.D., describes as 'molecular credentialing,' is offering scores of new targets to which drug developers can tailor--sometimes atom by atom--cancer-specific drugs."

-- Shrikant Rangnekar

Firestone Centennial

Firestone celebrates its illustrious history with this exceptional website.

"As the new century arrived, Firestone was convinced automobiles were the future. In 1900, he moved to Akron, Ohio, which was soon to become the rubber capital of the world, and began manufacturing his own tires in a small old foundry. In just six years, sales of Firestone tires surpassed $1

"As the demand for tires grew, Firestone set the pace with innovations that included the pneumatic tire, an improvement over the difficult-to-mount clinchers then in use; the demountable rim, which for the first time made it easy for drivers to change their own tires; the first angular non-skid
tread, which made automobiles easier to control; the gum-dipping process, which guarded against heat build-up; and the first successful set of low-pressure balloon tires that allowed cars to travel at faster speeds with greater safety and comfort."

Evolutionary Synthesis

The Three Pioneers

One of the greatest scientific achievements of the last century was the integration of Darwin's theory of evolution with Mendel's theory of heredity to form what is known as the "Modern Synthesis" of evolutionary theory or "Evolutionary Synthesis" which is now the backbone of all biological thought.

Ernst Mayr, one of the principal architects of the Evolutionary Synthesis, wrote a superb retrospective on how this achievement came about in his "80 Years of Watching Evolutionary Scenery"--on his 100th birthday, few months before he died.

"Having reached the rare age of 100 years, I find myself in a unique position: I'm the last survivor of the golden age of the Evolutionary Synthesis. That status encourages me to present a personal account of what I experienced in the years (1920s to the 1950s) that were so crucial in the history of evolutionary biology.

"Evolutionary biology in its first 90 years (1859 to the 1940s) consisted of two widely divergent fields: evolutionary change in populations and biodiversity, the domains of geneticists and naturalists (systematicists), respectively...

"Fortunately, there was one evolutionist who had the background to be able to resolve the conflict between the geneticists and the naturalists. It was Theodosius Dobzhansky. He had grown up in Russia as a naturalist and beetle taxonomist, but, in 1927, he joined Morgan's laboratory in America where he became thoroughly familiar with population genetics. He was ideally suited to show that the findings of the population geneticists and those of the European naturalists were fully compatible and that a synthesis of the theories of the two groups would provide a modern Darwinian paradigm, subsequently referred to as the 'Evolutionary Synthesis.' "

In Mayr's account of the Evolutionary Synthesis, he acknowledges the critical role Theodosius Dobzhansky played in achieving the synthesis of genetics with the theory of evolution. Here is a detailed account of Dobzhansky's achievement by one of his students.

"In 1972, Theodosius Dobzhansky addressed the convention of the National Association of Biology Teachers on the theme 'Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution'... The place of biological evolution in human thought was, according to Dobzhansky, best expressed in a passage that he often quoted from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: 'Evolution is a general postulate to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must hence forward bow and which they must satisfy in order to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light which illuminates all facts, a trajectory which all lines of thought must follow--this is what evolution is'.

"Dobzhansky's 'Genetics and the Origin of Species' advanced a reasonably comprehensive account of the evolutionary process in genetic terms, laced with experimental evidence supporting the theoretical arguments. It had an enormous impact on naturalists and experimental biologists, who rapidly embraced the new understanding of the evolutionary process as one of genetic change in populations. Interest in evolutionary studies was greatly stimulated and contributions to the theory soon began to follow, extending the synthesis of genetics and natural selection to a variety of biological fields."

By integrating the field of paleontology with natural selection and genetics, George G. Simpson played a vital role in building the Evolutionary Synthesis. Following is a classic paper by Simpson analyzing the geographical dispersal of various species over time.

"This I believe to be the type of pattern that would be shown by almost any form of life that had run its entire course from origin to extinction. A form appears in some center or 'cradle,' not an exact spot that could be marked with a monument but, say, a single biotic district or province. Thence it tends to spread steadily in all directions until it encounters insuperable barriers. After a time it begins to contract, possibly but not usually toward its center of origin and often splitting into disjunctive spots as it contracts. Finally it disappears."

-- Shrikant Rangnekar

Eternal Vigilance

At the Bottom of The Sea

by Gene Barth

Scattered over an area of the Pacific Ocean floor greater than North America are six exotic pieces of quartz. Under several miles of water, each tiny piece of quartz-a small fraction of an inch in extent- is the sensor element of a remarkable pressure gauge. Mechanically pulled taught ("loaded") by the pressure of the ocean itself, each piece of quartz oscillates at an ultrasonic
frequency that responds to sea floor pressure with enormous precision. This device can register a change in pressure of less than one millionth of its full scale reading. Since the pressure at the bottom of the ocean is simply the weight of the column of water overhead, ocean floor pressure is a direct measure of ocean depth. See reference.

Maintained by NOAA as part of the Deep Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART) program, these ocean floor sentinels ("bottom pressure recorders", or BPRs) can reliably detect a one inch tsunami wave at the top of a column of water several miles high - against the background of much larger wind generated waves and the tides. See reference.

Incorporating an acoustic modem, each BPR can immediately transmit an announcement of "event detection", along with the actual data, to a tethered ocean buoy miles over head. In turn, the buoy transmits the BPR data by GOES satellite to the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, and NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. Within minutes of mid-ocean detection of a one inch wave, a rock solid warning goes out to shore land communities in the Pacific basin likely to be hit by the tsunami. See reference. Be sure to click on the animation!

This feat of detection is a remarkable demonstration of Industrial Civilization's full devotion to Man's Life on Earth. It is not enough to pinpoint a large, shallow earthquake in the ocean minutes after it has occurred and then issue a warning for a possible tsunami. Most seaquakes do not cause tsunamis. Evacuations are an enormous disruption to productive, everyday life. In the United States, the prospect of detecting every tsunami that occurs, while avoiding a single "false positive", has sustained a decades long effort culminating in the ability to observe in mid-ocean a one inch tsunami wave atop several miles of water.

Enter this URL to observe BPR detection of the magnitude 9 Christmas 2004 earthquake off the coast of Sumatra.

Gene Barth ( works in a research lab at the University of Chicago Medical Center and is a regular contributor to TIA Daily.

Engineering Achievements

The National Academy of Engineering, along with several other engineering organizations, has initiated a project called the Great Achievements project to celebrate the technological achievements in the 20th Century.

Explore the histories of and the milestones in the development of the following major 20th century technologies:

Electrification, automobile, airplane, water supply and distribution, electronics, radio and television, agricultural mechanization, computers, telephone, air conditioning and refrigeration, highways, spacecraft, internet, imaging, household appliances, health technologies, petroleum and petrochemical technologies, laser and fiber optics, nuclear technologies, high-performance materials.

-- Shrikant Rangnekar

eBay Market

eBay Market

TIA Daily reader Charles Troje writes:

"I can't remember, has anyone suggested e-bay yet? It's a fairly awesome thing to have made available to the entire world an almost instantaneous, self-contained free-market. No taxation, very little government regulation, if any. Just sellers and buyers, selling and buying via the internet and 'regulating' one another by means of publicly posted 'buyer feedback' ratings. The somewhat shallow article linked (and copied) below discusses how e-bay reflects, almost instantly, the trends of the marketplace and certain aspects of culture (some good, some not). The article is mostly about unimportant superficial items but, implicitly, it reflects what an amazing capitalistic accomplishment e-bay has become."

For more about ebay read the article below:

"Why use eBay? The Web site has become a mirror of our times. More than 125 million people use it; $1,060 worth of products flow through it every second.

"It's a societal seismometer. When events happen, they show up instantly on eBay. When Ronald Reagan (news - web sites) died, 6,000 Reagan-related listings popped up on eBay within 48 hours. The Boston Red Sox won the World Series (news - web sites) in October, and listings of Red Sox paraphernalia tripled.

"No executive decides what eBay sells. Millions of people post items in response to the shifting marketplace. It's organic. That's what makes it unlike any repository of commerce and culture in history."

-- selection and editing by Shrikant Rangnekar

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Harold Warp's Pioneer Village

"See How America Grew"

by Shrikant Rangnekar

Harold Warp's parents immigrated to America from Norway and setup a homestead on the Nebraska Prairies in 1873. Harold, born in 1903, the youngest of twelve children, grew up as a barefooted farm-boy herding cattle and was enthralled by new inventions like the automobiles, tractors, phonographs, and radio that came to their pioneer home from distant cities.

As he grew up, he began inventing new and useful things himself. He noticed that chickens grew faster and laid more eggs in summer and that sunlight prevented rickets in chickens. The plastics revolution was gathering steam at that time and he spent three years developing a practical, weatherproof, translucent material that unlike glass let in the sun's ultraviolet rays; he called it Flex-O-Glass.

He moved to Chicago in 1924 with two of his brothers and a capital of $800 and started manufacturing Flex-O-Glass. Flex-O-Glass could be made so inexpensively that in addition to poultry house windows, millions of people began using it for winter protection in their homes in screen doors and window screens. By his forties he had made his fortune.

His wonder at the transformation of America in the short span of a century--through the stream of new inventions of man--had only grown over time, and he decided that he wanted to preserve the record of this incredible transformation. His own invention had given him the means to do so.

He decided to build his Pioneer Village, where one could "See How America Grew." He dedicated Pioneer Village to the pioneering spirit that settled the prairies.

Unlike many industrialists of his day, who simply gave away their fortune to their favorite causes, he personally spent his own time over three decades of his life to select, collect, catalog, and write about his collection demonstrating American ingenuity.

The result is Harold Warp's Pioneer Village--the largest private collection of Americana--housing over 50,000 items in 28 buildings on 20 acres in Minden, Nebraska.

He wrote: "For thousands of years man lived quite simply. Then like a sleeping giant our world was awakened. In a mere hundred and twenty years of eternal time man progressed from open hearth, grease lamps, and ox carts to television, super sonic speed, and atomic power. We have endeavored to show you the actual development of this astounding progress as it was unfolded by our forefathers and by ourselves."

From the pioneer days, you can see a one-room schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, a country church, a general store, a doctor's office, a frontier fort, a prairie sod house, a pony express relay station, a railroad depot, and more. You can see the largest collection of farm machinery, a collection of 300 antique cars, an exhibit tracing the evolution of lighting and musical instruments.

My favorite exhibit demonstrates the transformation of the kitchens, living rooms, and bedrooms of America, from the 1830s to the present, decade by decade, using full-scale recreations filled with items common to those times--all protected by Harold Warp's Flex-O-Glass.

For more information about Harold Warp's Pioneer Village click here.

Though it uses a form radically different from Harold Warp, the purpose of the Human Achievements column in TIA Daily is also to celebrate man's achievements. We depend on you, the reader, for ideas for upcoming Human Achievements columns; please send your recommendations to

Engineered Materials

TIA Daily reader Peter de Laat brought to our attention a company in Virginia that is developing Metal Rubber--a material that is flexible like rubber and conducts like metal--while withstanding extreme conditions.

"Terrible, horrible things can be done to this millimeters-thick patch of shimmering material crafted by chemists at NanoSonic in Blacksburg, Virginia. Twist it, stretch it double, fry it to 200°C, douse it with jet fuel—the stuff survives. After the torment, it snaps like rubber back to its original shape, all the while conducting electricity like solid metal."

The company uses a process called electrostatic self-assembly, which builds up a material layer by layer, the molecular composition of each extremely thin layer being precisely controlled. It has been using this process to design materials with a desired combination of mechanical, electrical, optical, thermal and chemical properties for various clients including the Missile Defense Agency.

The Development of Metal Rubber is a part of a long human endeavor of making materials to suit our purposes, going back to the time when man discovered that adding tin to copper makes it considerably stronger and inaugurated the Bronze Age.

In 1830's, Charles Goodyear was excited about the potential large-scale applications of a flexible material called rubber, but the material had a major drawback--it melted in the summer heat and froze solid in winter cold--until he discovered that adding sulphur to it eliminated the problem. In the late Nineteenth century, steel quickened the pace of human lives using rails and began to uplift our cities.

Twentieth century brought the full strength of engineering to bear on the development materials that have transform our lives:

Here is the honor call, lead rightfully by Plastics:

1907 Leo Baekeland made first totally synthetic plastic called Bakelite.
1910 Cellophane
1926 Synthetic rubber.
1927 Polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
1930s Engineers develop new molding and extrusion techniques for plastics.
1933 First continuous casting of steel
1936 Plexiglass.
1938 Nylon.
1938 Teflon
1938 Fiberglass.
1938 Foam glass insulating material.
1939 Plastic contact lens.
1946 Tupperware.
1946 Vinyl floor covering.
1946 Aluminum-based metallic yard.
1961 Superpolymers (heat resistant).
1964 Acrylic paint.
1964 Carbon fiber (used to reinforce materials in high temperature environment).
1964 Beryllium (hard metal) developed for heat shields in spacecraft
1986 Synthetic skin.
1990s New composites and lightweight steel.

For an article on the discovery of high-performance materials in the Twentieth Century and a more extensive timeline click here.

-- Shrikant Rangnekar

Edwin Land

TIA Daily regular contributor Gene Barth writes:

While an undergraduate at Harvard Edwin Land came up with his first commercial idea: creation of a sheet of plastic whose well aligned polymer molecules allowed only light polarized in one plane to pass through the sheet.

From his physics education, Land knew that that light reflected off pavement, snow, or water at a low incident angle (low sun, headlights, etc) emerges from the reflection polarized in one plane. By mounting pieces of his polarizing plastic in the frame of glasses so that the "plane of transmittance" of the plastic was perpendicular to the plane of polarization of glare, Land created the first pair of glare blocking sunglasses, "Polaroids".

Land quit Harvard to found his own company "Polaroid" to commercially exploit his sheet of polarizing plastic. Land was Polaroid's chief scientist and chief inventor. Using profits from Polaroid's product line, Land developed the science and technology of self-developing film, "the instant image", Polaroid's greatest product.

Land also had an entirely separate career from his business: He was central in developing the technology of the cameras used in the U2 supersonic, stratospheric surveillance aircraft. Edwin Land's career in spy planes is an example of a major cost of the Cold War--the diversion of a brilliant commercial/engineering mind into the War effort. Clarence Kelly of "Skunk Works" was another such individual. Such men are a fascinating measure of the spiritual wealth of the west ... and the cost of fighting its enemies.

For a brief timeline of Polaroid's history click here.

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

In response to our request for recommendations for places to see human achievements TIA Daily reader, Ed Thompson, writes:

"If you want to see human achievement, especially in the realm of engineering, all around you across the span of a mile or more, the Experimental Aircraft Association’s annual Fly-In Convention in Oshkosh, Wisconsin is for you. It’s on now through August 2. It’s where Burt Rutan cut his teeth. There’s everything from the Wright Flyer to the B-2, Stealth Fighter and everything in between. For a week, it’s the busiest airport in the world. There is always a bewildering array of aircraft on display. Notably, there is a proliferation of new light-aircraft designs, many of carbon fiber construction, that have advanced the art appreciably, as well as advances in avionics, navigation gear and many others."

For more information on The Experimental Aircraft Association's Fly-In Convention, known as EAA AirVenture Oshkosh click here.

For the history of the convention click here.

"Today, EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is an international gathering place for aviation enthusiasts. An AirVenture participant can study the latest aircraft and innovations; discover new ideas and techniques from the more than 500 forums and workshops; see aviation's top personalities; or just
talk airplanes with people from around the world. EAA Airventure Oshkosh has become important and influential but retains its friendly and personal feel - part of the reason the world comes to Oshkosh every year."


TIA Daily reader Polina Hanin writes:

"A sophomore at Harvard has recently opened his own business named Dormaid. This student realized that students live in messy conditions and that there is an untapped market for a cleaning service. Now Harvard's student newspaper is trying to portray that this cleaning service is another way that poor and rich kids will be stratified, and has asked the community to
boycott this ingenious idea. The New York Times has already covered this story, and the student and his brother (who is a freshman at Princeton) have appeared on a number of radio shows and newspaper interviews. This is a link to the positive and negative publicity that this organization has received."


"Dolby Laboratories was founded by Ray Dolby, who started his career in high school, when he went to work part-time for Ampex Corporation in Redwood City, California. While still in college, he joined the small team of Ampex engineers dedicated to inventing the world's first practical video tape recorder, which was introduced in 1956; his focus was the electronics."

"Dolby's first development under the aegis of his new company was called Dolby A-type® noise reduction. It was a sophisticated new form of audio compression and expansion that dramatically reduced the background hiss inherent in professional tape recording without discernible side effects on the material being recorded. Among the new concepts incorporated into the system was the treatment of soft signals only, leaving the loud signals that naturally mask noise unprocessed, and dividing the spectrum into multiple bands to prevent the pumping (noise modulation) inherent with conventional wideband companders."

"While at first glance noise reduction (NR) appears to be an esoteric invention with limited applications, its effects on the audio industry have been profound. The multitrack recording techniques that blossomed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, for example, came about only because of Dolby A-type NR. Without it, the high tape hiss resulting from the combination of narrow tracks and multiple mixdowns would have been intolerable. And when applied to consumer formats and motion picture sound, the results were to be even more far-reaching. "

Cuisinart Food Processor

TIA Daily reader Farhana Bandukwala writes:

"The food processor seems like a simple thing but it is one of a collection of simple things that allows me to fulfill many different roles. I am a mother who is very particular about the home cooked foods I serve my family every day. The time saved in the kitchen (and elsewhere in the home) allows me to pursue my professional interests, which I am passionate about, on a
full-time basis. I get great emotional satisfaction knowing that my family can "savor the good life" even though I don't spend all my time in the home!"

For a brief timeline of Cuisinart click here.

"1973: With great expectations, the Sontheimers unveil the 'Food Processor' at the National Housewares Exposition in Chicago.

"1974: Determined to make the product a kitchen staple, Sontheimer starts improving the discs and blades. He mixes eggs into a puff shell dough in 15 seconds instead of 15 minutes, chops a pound of meat in less than 60 seconds, and creates flavored spreads, pastries and dough faster and with less cleanup than ever before.

"1975: Sontheimer takes his new techniques and machine to such food authorities as James Beard, Julia Child, Craig Claiborne, Jacques Pépin and Helen McCully. Their accolades, plus stories praising the machine in Gourmet, The New York Times and other major publications, help establish Cuisinart as a worthwhile investment for serious home cooks."

Charles Lyell and the Founding of Modern Geology

When the young Charles Darwin set out on his voyage on H.M.S. Beagle he carried with him a recently published volume called "Principle of Geology: An attempt to explain the former changes of the earth's surface by reference to causes now in operation" by Charles Lyell and devoured it eagerly.

Charles Lyell was the man who did for the field of geology what Darwin would later do for the field of biology. Before Lyell, most prevalent theories of geology saw the earth as shaped by cataclysmic singular events in the past based on creationist accounts in the Bible. Lyell argued that all the varied features on the earth's surface are produced by the gradual operation of immutable natural laws over a long period of time and that those laws can be induced from observations of current geological phenomena--thus established the foundations of modern geology.

Later in his life, Darwin would say: "I really think my books come half out of Lyell's brain. I see through his eyes."

Click here for a biography of Sir Charles Lyell from Encyclopedia Britannica (1910-1911).

Click here for a brief account of Lyell's "Principle of Geology."

"...Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology, published in 1830, shook prevailing views of how Earth had been formed. His book was an attack on the common belief among geologists and other Christians that unique catastrophes or supernatural events -- such as Noah's flood -- shaped Earth's surface. According to this view, a once-tumultuous period of change had slowed to today's calmer, more leisurely pace."

-- Shrikant Rangnekar

Carrier and Air Conditioning

"When Willis Carrier designed his first air conditioning system in 1902, his customer was a frustrated Brooklyn, N.Y. printer who couldn't print a decent color image because changes in heat and humidity kept changing the paper's dimensions and misaligning the
colored inks...

"Razor blades, celluloid film, capsules for pharmaceuticals, processed tobacco, bakeries, meat packing houses, soap manufacturers, munitions ... the list of industries that found they could improve their products by using 'conditioned air' from Carrier expanded dramatically...

"Many Americans experienced air conditioning for the first time in theaters as owners struggled to revive summer business that always slumped as temperatures rose.

"Willis Carrier was a dreamer, but he based his dreams on reality. 'I fish only for edible fish, and hunt only for edible game - even in the laboratory.' "

-- selection and editing by Shrikant Rangnekar

Cedar Point Roller Coasters

TIA Daily reader Jay Palmer writes:

"This fine amusement park is located in Sandusky, Ohio on Lake Erie. Modern roller coasters are good and visible examples of engineering, and Cedar Point has some of the best and most advanced (16 in all). In particular, their new 'Top Thrill Dragster' roller coaster uses a hydraulic launching
system to reach 120mph in 4 seconds and crests a 420ft hill. Their 'Millenium Force' one uses a cable lift and has a 310ft hill. Both of these rides use magnetic eddy-current brakes that result in a very smooth stop (and there are no friction brake pads to wear out!). Of course these huge machines are great fun to ride, but they are also fascinating to watch in action."

TIA Daily reader Doug Meier writes:

"I grew up in Ohio near what I consider to be the greatest coaster park in the world, Cedar Point, in Sandusky, Ohio. Cedar Points' Magnum XL-200, when built, was the tallest, fastest coaster in the universe. It is still without doubt the most fun ride I've ever been on. Apparently, this coaster was
elected the most fun roller coaster by the industry magazine something like 10 years running, so the industry apparently knows and rewards excellence when it rides it.

"In looking at the pictures and videos throughout the site, and contemplating how much engineering and design grace goes into producing something that generates such a thrill, I'm undecided as to whether I'd classify roller coasters in general as human achievements or things of beauty. As with so many things, a lot of the beauty is in the achievement; for that reason, these coasters undoubtedly qualify for both in my mind."

"Reaching a stratospheric 420 feet tall and topping out at an unheard of speed of 120 mph, this new steel screamer helped Cedar Point reclaim the title of owning the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the universe."

Carnot Inaugurates Thermodynamics

Sadi Carnot reflecting on the success of the steam engines asked and proceeded to answer the question "How can maximum amount of work be obtained from a given amount of heat?" and in the process inaugurated the field of thermodynamics.

Here is the seminal 1825 paper "Reflections on the Motive Power of Heat" by Sadi Carnot. It is a superb example of a first rate scientific mind grappling with a new problem for the first time.

Click here for an introduction and biography of Sadi Carnot.

Carnot's paper part 1 and part 2.

"The study of these engines is of the greatest interest, their importance is enormous, their use is continually increasing, and they seem destined to produce a great revolution in the civilized world."

"Already the steam-engine works our mines, impels our ships, excavates our ports and our rivers, forges iron, fashions wood, grinds grain, spins and weaves our cloths, transports the heaviest burdens, etc. It appears that it must some day serve as a universal motor, and be substituted for animal power, water-falls, and air currents...

"Notwithstanding the work of all kinds done by steam-engines, notwithstanding the satisfactory condition to which they have been brought to-day, their theory is very little understood, and the attempts to improve them are still directed almost by chance.

"The question has often been raised whether the motive power of heat* is unbounded, whether the possible improvements in steam-engines have an assignable limit,-a limit which the nature of things will not allow to be passed by any means whatever; or whether, on the contrary, these improvements may be carried on indefinitely. We have long sought, and are seeking to-day, to ascertain whether there are in existence agents preferable to the vapor of water for developing the motive power of heat; whether atmospheric air, for example, would not present in this respect great advantages. We propose now to submit these questions to a deliberate examination."

-- Shrikant Rangnekar

Candlemakers vs. The Sun: Half a Century Earlier

In 1845, Frederic Bastiat Satirized the protectionist arguments with his brilliant "Petition of the Candlemakers".

"We are suffering from the ruinous competition of a rival who apparently works under conditions so far superior to our own for the production of light that he is flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price; for the moment he appears, our sales cease, all the consumers turn to him, and a branch of French industry whose ramifications are innumerable is all at once reduced to
complete stagnation..."

"We ask you to be so good as to pass a law requiring the closing of all windows, dormers, skylights, inside and outside shutters, curtains, casements, bull's-eyes, deadlights, and blinds -- in short, all openings, holes, chinks, and fissures through which the light of the sun is wont to enter houses, to the detriment of the fair industries with which, we are proud to say, we have endowed the country, a country that cannot, without betraying ingratitude, abandon us today to so unequal a combat."

Here are some arguments against industrialization, half a century earlier, being answered by their contemporaries.

Leeds Woollen Workers Petition, 1786 (The Candlemakers)

"The number of Scribbling-Machines extending about seventeen miles south-west of LEEDS, exceed all belief, being no less than one hundred and seventy! and as each machine will do as much work in twelve hours, as ten men can in that time do by hand, (speaking within bounds) and they working night-and day, one machine will do as much work in one day as would otherwise employ twenty men... We therefore hope, that the feelings of humanity will lead those who, have it in their power to prevent the use of those machines, to give every discouragement they can to what has a tendency so prejudicial to their fellow-creatures."

Letter from Leeds Cloth Merchants, 1791 ("The Sun")

"At a time when the People, engaged in every other Manufacture in the Kingdom, are exerting themselves to bring their Work to Market at reduced Prices, which can alone be effected by the Aid of Machinery, it certainly is not necessary that the Cloth Merchants of Leeds, who depend chiefly on a Foreign Demand, where they have for Competitors the Manufacturers of other Nations, whose Taxes are few, and whose manual Labour is only Half the Price it bears here, should have Occasion to defend a Conduct, which has for its Aim the Advantage of the Kingdom in general, and of the Cloth Trade in particular; yet anxious to prevent Misrepresentations, which have
usually attended the Introduction of the most useful Machines, they wish to remind the Inhabitants of this Town, of the Advantages derived to every flourishing Manufacture from the Application of Machinery; they instance that of Cotton in particular, which in its internal and foreign Demand is nearly alike to our own, and has in a few Years by the Means of Machinery advanced to its present
Importance, and is still increasing."

-- Shrikant Rangnekar

Bose Suspension System

"This year, the renowned acoustics innovators at the Bose Corporation unveiled the product of an intensive 24-year research effort code-named Project Sound: an outrageously inventive car suspension system."

To read the Popular Science Magazine article on the suspension system click here.

"Supplanting almost 100 years of traditional spring-and-shock-absorber suspension systems, this new system from Bose—a company best known for its stereo speakers—uses electromagnetic motors in place of traditional shocks. Mounted on each wheel, the motors use input from sensors throughout the vehicle to react to bumps and potholes instantaneously, exerting downward force to extend the wheel into potholes while keeping the car level and you comfy. As the wheel pops back up onto the road, the suspension recaptures nearly all the energy expended; it uses only one third the amount of power your AC does. And beyond smoothing out bumpy roads, the system improves handling, virtually eliminating body roll in tight turns and minimizing pitching motion during braking and

-- selection and editing by Shrikant Rangnekar

Bollettieri Tennis Academy

TIA Daily reader Chuck Salvi writes:

Anyone who follows tennis is familiar with the Bollettieri Tennis Academy --located in Bradenton, Florida--which has produced a who's who of modern major tournament winners. Here's a short list of players who attended the Bollettieri academy: Bjorn Borg, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Mark Phillippoussis, Monica Seles, Martina Hingis, Anna Kournikova, Venus and Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.

Click here to visit the website of the Bollettieri Tennis Academy.

"In addition to becoming the best known and most successful tennis coach in the world, Bollettieri created the 'business model' for the camp/academy training experience. Short Time weeks and Holiday/Summer camp sessions make the 'Academy' environment available to students of all ages and abilities. By combining specialized performance (fitness) training and mental conditioning programming with the technical training on court, the Bollettieri team builds athletes who thrive in the competitive arena. In other words, the NBTA produces players who could play, rather than just players who look great hitting a ball. As a result, Nick and the NBTA dominates tennis training."

--selection and editing by Shrikant Rangnekar

Bingham Canyon Copper Mine

TIA Daily reader Jay Palmer writes:

"I see that you do not have any items for Utah in your sightseer's guide to human achievements. To correct this deficiency, I think that the Bingham Canyon copper mine belongs on the list. This open-pit copper mine is now 100 years old, and at 2-1/2 miles wide, is the largest man-made excavation in the world."

"The mine has produced a total of over 15 million tons of copper to date, as well as large quantities of by-product molybdenum, silver and gold. During World War II, this one mine produced 1/3 of the copper used by the Allies; the mine has been the site of some important innovation in the mining industry. (The source of the latter information is an article in American Heritage of Invention & Technology, vol 16, number 3. It's a good article on the mine and the men who developed it, but marred by the author's groveling to environmentalism.)"

For more information about the mine, click here.

For visitor information click here.

"Standing at the overlook within the Bingham Canyon Mine, you can see, hear, and feel the breathtaking and awesome magnitude of the largest man-made excavation on earth. While you watch the action in the mine, a descriptive narration recorded in several languages explains the operations."

"From the overlook, you can watch 240 and 320 ton capacity haulage trucks deliver copper ore to the in-pit crusher, where the material is reduced to the size of soccer balls before being loaded onto a five-mile conveyor that carries the ore to the Copperton Concentrator."

-- selection and editing by Shrikant Rangnekar

Lance Armstrong

In his latest op-ed: "Lance Armstrong's Heroism Is a Moral Inspiration--Athletic victories provide a rare and crucial moral value: the sight of human achievement." Andrew Bernstein writes:

"But what explains the enormous interest in Armstrong's success--or that of any other sports hero? Why do sports fans set such a strong personal stake in the victories of their heroes?... Why do sports have such an enormous, enduring appeal in human life?"

"In an era when the anti-hero is dominant in intellectual culture, sports provide the purest arena in which to pursue, observe and appreciate human aspiration, achievement and greatness. The reality of an athlete striving to hone his skills to the utmost--enduring pain, overcoming injury, testing his mettle against the world's best--provides a noble vision of man's potential."

To read the entire op-ed click here.

-- selection and editing by Shrikant Rangnekar

B&O Railroad Museum

TIA Daily reader Thomas Bowden writes:

"Never forget the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore. Its roundhouse is as close to a cathedral as an industrial building gets. I often used to take my son there on Sundays and feel I was worshipping... human achievement."

For more information click here.

"The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum possesses the oldest and most comprehensive railroad collections in the Western Hemisphere. Its roster of rolling stock, historic buildings, and assortment of small artifacts make it a mecca of American railroading. The collection covers almost every aspect
of an industry interwoven into the folkore and culture of America."

"The Museum's collection dates from the very first days of the B&O Railroad with the laying of the First Stone on July 4, 1827. The First Stone as well as an assortment of tools used at that historic occasion are currently on display at the Museum. Also on display are hundreds of models ranging from early patent and prototype models to modern commercial railroads."

American Society of Mechanical Engineers

TIA Daily reader Fred Willis writes:

Please consider the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for the TIA human achievement column.

ASME was founded in 1880 to promote the interchange of technical information; it later became involved in developing boiler codes.

In the 1800’s, as steam power became prevalent, many boiler explosions occurred since steam pressure effects and regulating steam methods were barely known. The ASME standards greatly reduced and, I believe, eliminated boiler explosions.

ASME later became involved in establishing piping codes for multiple industries including nuclear, power, and chemical. At present, ASME maintains, reviews and updates over 600 codes covering many manufactured items from pressure vessels to screw threads.

ASME codes are written into equipment and construction specifications, failure to meet the codes can have legal effects and the codes influence extend world wide. Foreign made equipment must conform to ASME codes or equivalent codes.

I am sure most people do not know ASME or its codes even exist, because boilers do not now explode, piping ruptures are rare, screw threads are interchangeable and when multiple components from multiple manufacturers are assembled together they do not rupture when

For these reasons I believe ASME is a human achievement.

Click here to visit ASME.

"Founded in 1880 as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, today's ASME is a 120,000-member professional organization focused on technical, educational and research issues of the engineering and technology community. ASME conducts one of the world's largest
technical publishing operations, holds numerous technical conferences worldwide, and offers hundreds of professional development courses each year. ASME sets internationally recognized industrial and manufacturing codes and standards that enhance public safety."

-- selection and editing by Shrikant Rangnekar

Arthroscopic Surgery

"Not too long ago, when an athlete was felled by a serious knee injury, he most likely could kiss the season, and possibly his career, goodbye. Invasive operations followed by months of exhaustive and painful rehabilitation were the norm. How things have changed. With the advent of technological breakthroughs in the fields of medicine and fiber optics, athletes of all levels can be back on the playing field in as little as six weeks. One of the primary advances making these quick recoveries possible has been arthroscopic surgery."

In the 1980s, improved fiber optic imaging technology first delivered vivid, high magnification, television views of the interior of joints in "real time". Combining this brilliant view of the joint with new advances in remotely manipulable miniature instruments, orthopaedic surgeons now exploited the tiny arthroscopic incisions not just for observation--as they had for generations--but for the entire surgery.

Dr. Fronek, the head team physician for the San Diego Padres, explains the basics of arthoscopic surgery and how it has revolutionarized sports medicine:

"In any operation, the length of the incision is directly related to the amount of pain that the patient is going to experience after surgery because a greater amount of healing needs to take place inside the joint to recover from the trauma of the operation. The arthroscope allows you to make much
smaller incisions. The patient has a faster, less painful recovery period."

For a straightforward history of arthroscopy beginning with the Japanese scientist who pioneered this observational technique early in the twentieth century and ending with a good description of the 1980s breakthrough, where improved fiber optic imaging technology and remotely maneuverable
micro-instrumentation moved arthroscopy from "just looking" to surgery, click here.

Thanks to Gene Barth, a frequent contributor to TIA Daily, for recommending the links and for the description.

Archimedes' Palimpsest

In 1998, a battered manuscript resurfaced after long obscurity and was auctioned off by Christie's for $2 million. It looked liked a Christian prayer book and had been used as such for several centuries, but it was a palimpsest--a manuscript written over an earlier scraped text. It was put together in that form at a time when parchment paper was valued more highly than the ideas it had contained--the ideas of the greatest mathematician of the ancient world, Archimedes.

Archimedes' Palimpsest now resides at the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore and its contents are being retrieved using digital image processing. You can navigate the museum site using the icons at the top of the page.

"Our understanding of Archimedes is based on several manuscripts (now in cities such as Paris, Rome, Venice and Florence). All of them, however, except the Archimedes Palimpsest, are very late copies which provide us only with a very indirect picture of Archimedes' mind. The best view we have, the closest we can get to Archimedes, is through the Palimpsest."

-- Shrikant Rangnekar

Arabia Steamboat Museum

"Unbelievable treasures and fascinating history await. Explore our museum and learn how the handsome steamer Arabia prospered on the rivers, perished in 1856 and was finally rediscovered 132 years later, precious cargo intact. This exhibit, in Kansas City, Mo, is many things: history, ingenuity, tragedy, adventure, perseverance, preservation and a tribute to the pioneer spirit."

For more information on the museum located in Kansas City, Missouri, click here.

"They were heroes and heroines who faced danger and disease, famine and fatigue, with unwavering determination to build a new future and live in complete and glorious freedom. Embracing the desire for a fresh start, they traveled westward by the thousands and tens of thousands, making their own history as they came. Some traveled overland by foot, wagon, and horseback. Many, however, chose to ride the river. With their twin stacks belching clouds of smoke and ash, the Western-style steamboats churned their way upstream brimming with emigrants and their supplies.

"The Arabia was a side-wheel steamer, carrying passengers and cargo on a regular route and schedule. At 171 feet long and capable of carrying 222 tons, she was a medium-sized boat. Her trade route took her well into present-day South Dakota, and on one trip she carried soldiers and 70 horses on her main deck. Against the Missouri's swift current, the giant 28-foot tall paddlewheels could push the steamboat upstream at 6 or 7 miles an hour.

"A visit to the museum is a glimpse into the past. The Arabia's collection reveals details of frontier life seen nowhere else. A museum tour is partially guided, introducing visitors to the Arabia's history and sinking, with a short video presentation of the remarkable excavation. The 6-ton stern section of the boat is on display, carefully preserved, with draft marks and some original white paint still visible. A full-sized reproduction of the boat's main deck shows visitors the grand scale of a steamboat, with the Arabia's huge boilers and steam engine in place... But the contents of the Arabia's cargo hold can fascinate a visitor for hours. Case after case, window after window, 1856 comes to life in the everyday items recovered."

-- selection and editing by Shrikant Rangnekar

Ancient Greece

Never before or since have so few people achieved so much in so little time.

The achievement is the laying of the foundation of the western civilization.

It includes the invention of -new- fields such as history, science, philosophy, medicine and drama, and radical advances in fields such as geometry and sculpture.

The view of man underlying the Ancient Greek civilization is a beacon that
was powerful enough to inspire the rebirth of a civilization--even when
glimpsed through the dense fog of centuries of dark ages. Today, the brilliance of the beacon persists--as anyone who has savored the works of Archimedes, Aristotle, Sophocles or Phidias can attest.

TIA Daily reader Andrew Layman has compiled an exceptional list of resources
for studying Ancient Greece.

"These books outline the magnificent Greek achievement. They appear in a
suggested order of reading, starting with some basic surveys of Greek history and culture, then introducing art to help concretize the Greek worldview, then moving to histories and other works in chronological order."

-- Shrikant Rangnekar


"Charles Martin Hall, had been experimenting with minerals since he was 12 years old, turning a small woodshed behind his home into a crude laboratory. After graduation, he continued his woodshed experiments. He learned how to make aluminum oxide—alumina—and he fashioned his own carbon crucible. On a cold February day in 1886, he filled the crucible with a cryolite bath containing alumina and passed an electric current through it. The result was a congealed mass which he allowed to cool, then shattered with a hammer. And there were several small pellets of pure aluminum."

"On Thanksgiving Day, 1888, Hall and his first employee, Arthur Vining Davis, produced the first commercial aluminum using Hall’s technology. Soon the ingots were piling up, but where were the customers? Manufacturers hesitated to use an unfamiliar metal. To show the way, Davis began to make a
few fabricated products, starting with an aluminum teakettle. Meanwhile, Hall kept improving his process and developing alloys. He managed to reduce the price of aluminum ingot from $4.86 a pound in 1888 to 78 cents in 1893."

For the story of Alcoa click here.

"Alcoa is the world’s leading producer of primary aluminum, fabricated aluminum and alumina, and is active in all major aspects of the industry—technology, mining, refining, smelting, fabricating and recycling. Alcoa’s aluminum products and components are used worldwide in aircraft, automobiles, beverage cans, buildings, sports and recreation."

-- Shrikant Rangnekar

Admiral Rickover

In 1946, Hyman G. Rickover saw nuclear power "as an opportunity for the Navy". With unrelenting determination, he first championed and supervised the construction of world's first nuclear powered submarine, USS Nautilus, and then, over the next decades, spearheaded the building of the nuclear fleet of US Navy and oversaw its operations.

"As director of the Naval Reactors Branch, he saw the harnessed power of the atom as the means to raise the stakes in the growing Cold War with the Soviet Union. Gone would be the dangerous necessity for submarines to snorkel to recharge their batteries. This new miracle of science would keep
submarines where they belonged, cruising silently beneath the waves shadowing Soviet naval movements, collecting Soviet missile telemetry and eavesdropping on Soviet communications."

-- Shrikant Rangnekar

3M Innovations

Sandpaper, Scotch tape, Thinsulate and Post-it notes are just few of the innovations produced at the 3M corporation over its hundred year history. 3M's website does an exceptional job of highlighting its achievement.

For a brief timeline of 3M history click here.

For an in-depth look at the company, including a free 248-page e-book: "A Century of Innovation: The 3M Story" click here.

"If you take the aggregate character of the company, I believe it's one in which we think we can do anything. That's what I look for in someone whoruns a business. I want people who know they can run through walls...Thomas Edison believed that a small group of people from varied backgrounds could be the most inventive. That's what I found when I joined Central Research. I could talk to an analytical chemist, a physicist, people workingin biology and organic chemistry--people in all sciences. They were allwithin 50 yards."

-- Shrikant Rangnekar

Sightseer's Guide to Human Achievements

Some time ago, we asked TIA Daily readers to recommend places where one could "see" great human achievements. Following is the compilation of their recommendations. This is a work in progress--if you would like to add to the list, please e-mail will update the list periodically. We hope that this list adds a value to your travels. -- Shrikant Rangnekar


Alabama: U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville; Sloss Furnaces Historic Landmark, Birmingham; International Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum, Talladega

Alaska: Alaska pipeline; Alaskaland Pioneer Air Museum

Arizona: Titan Missile Museum, Sahuarita; Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West, Phoenix; Copper Mine, Clifton; Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff

Arkansas: None so far.

California: Intel Museum, Santa Clara; Tehachapi Loop, Tehachapi; Borate mine, Boron; Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco; Wells Fargo History Museum, San Francisco; USS Hornet aircraft carrier, San Francisco; Body World Exhibit, California Science Center, Los Angeles

Colorado: None so far.

Connecticut: Eli Whitney Museum, New Haven; Stew Leonard's Store, Norwalk

D.C.: Jefferson Memorial; National Air and Space Museum; US Capitol & National Archives; US Mint; Iwo Jima Memorial

Delaware: Hagley Museum, Wilmington

Florida: Kennedy Space Center, Titusville; Disney World, Orlando; Thomas Edison/Henry Ford summer homes (with Lab & Museum), Naples; Busch Garden

Georgia: Jekyll Island
Hawaii: None so far.
Idaho: None so far.

Illinois: Auditorium, Chicago; Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago; Sears Tower, Chicago; Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park

Indiana: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, Indianapolis; Auburn Cord Dusenburg Museum, Auburn

Iowa: None so far.
Kansas: None or far.

Kentucky: Corvette Assembly Plant Tour, Bowling Green;

Louisiana: National D-Day Museum, New Orleans; Super Dome

Maine: L.L. Bean Store, Freeport

Maryland: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt; Fort McHenry, Baltimore; B&O Railroad Museum, Baltimore

Massachusetts: Old State House, Boston; Springfield Armory Museum, Springfield; Minute Man National Historical Park, Concord; The National Plastics Center and Museum, Leominster

Michigan: Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn; Greenfield Village, Dearborn; Ford Rouge Factory Tour, Dearborn; Edison Train Depot, Mt Clemens; mackinac bridge, Mackinac Island

Minnesota: None so far.
Mississippi: None so far.

Missouri: Steamboat Museum, Kansas City; U.S. Army Engineer Museum, Fort Leonard Wood, Gateway Arch, St. Louis.

Montana: None so far.

Nebraska: Harold Warp's Pioneer Village, Minden; Strategic Air & Space Museum, Ashland

Nevada: Bellagio's Musical Fountains, Las Vegas Strip; Hoover Dam;
New Hampshire: None so far.

New Jersey: Edison National Historic Site, West Orange

New Mexico: National Atomic Museum, Albuquerque; Bradbury Science Museum

New York: New York City itself; Grand Central Station, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Statue of Liberty; Ellis Island; Empire State Building; Brooklyn Bridge, NYC Subway Museum, Central Park, Times Square, NY Stock Exchange, Museum of Natural History, Woodlawn Cemetery; Steinway piano factory, Astoria; Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown

North Carolina: Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills

North Dakota: None so far.

Ohio: Cedar Point roller coasters, Sandusky; USAF Museum, Dayton; Jungle Jims, Fairfield; National Inventors Hall of Fame; Football Hall of Fame, Canton

Oklahoma: None so far.
Oregon: None so far.

Pennsylvania: Independence Hall, Philadelphia; Fallingwater, Mill Run; Franklin Institute, Philadelphia

Rhode Island: None so far.

South Carolina: BMW factory museum in Spartanburg

South Dakota: None so far.
Tennessee: None so far.

Texas: Space Center Houston, Houston

Utah: Bingham Canyon copper mine, near Salt Lake City; Promotory Point; The Glen Canyon Dam

Vermont: American Precision Museum, Windsor

Virginia: Monticello, Charlottesville; University of Virginia, Charlottesville; Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg; Naval port, Norfolk

Washington: Boeing Factory Tour, Everett; Grand Coulee Dam

West Virginia: New River Gorge Bridge, Fayetteville

Wisconsin: EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, Oshkosh; National Railroad Museum, Green Bay

Wyoming: None so far.