EVOLUTION OF CULTURE - UNDERSTANDING
Without clocks and calendars, the hunter gatherers culture had to rely on solar, and planetary observatories to track the days and seasons.
In the UK, Stonehenge was built as an astronomical observatory. There are many other examples of observatories built by hunter gatherers .
There are examples of star observations in Egyptian hieroglyphics, a priority after accounting !
Written communications are key to the team work to develop and spread understanding. From 3000BC to 500 BC, Picture writing systems evolved to the phonetic letter system that dominates till today.
Picture writing system: glyphs (simplified pictures) directly represent objects and concepts, or sounds
- Phonetic system: graphemes refer to sounds or spoken symbols, and the form of the grapheme is not related to its meanings, can be a whole word, syllables, or an elementary sound.
Scholars now recognize that writing may have independently developed in at least four ancient civilizations: Mesopotamia (between 3400 and 3100 BCE), Egypt (around 3250 BCE), China (1200 BCE), and lowland areas of Mesoamerica (by 500 BCE), and the Indus Valley aka Pakistan.
The Kish tablet from Sumer, with pictographic writing. This may be the earliest known writing, 3500 BC. There are several regional variants that developed the Sumerian's used Cuniform, Mycenean's used Linear A&B, and Egyptian hieroglyphs have the largest preserved content in tombs and temples.
The Egyptian hieroglyphs came in 3 types - Phonograms for one or more sounds, Logograms for words, Determinatives for context information.
Pictographs have survived to this day in Chinese. The logographic script made a much more dramatic impression on readers than a phonetic script because people were not just reading words on a page but absorbing concepts directly as they read. On the negative side, the creation of a literate elite meant class divisions where those who could read and write were considered more valuable members of society than those who could not. Chinese script was adopted by Japan as Kanji, Korea, and Vietnam. Japanese also have a syllabic pictograph scripts as well - Kana.
Phonetic Graphemes emerged 1800 BC as a representation of language developed by Semitic workers in Egypt, developing into into the Proto-Canaanite alphabet (c. 1400 BCE). This alphabet gave rise to the Arabic and Greek alphabets in the 8th century BC. The modern alphabets are arranged in the same order. The most widespread descendant of Greek is the Latin script,. The separated independent graphenes or letters are ideal for setting in a letterpress, and lead to the domination of Latin script as soon printing became available.
The rise of Islam in the 7th century led to the rapid rise of Arabic as a major literary language in the region. Arabic and Persian quickly began to overshadow Greek's role as a language of scholarship. By the beginning of the second millennium, the city of Córdoba in modern Spain had become one of the foremost intellectual centers of the world and contained the world's largest library at the time. Its position as a crossroads between the Islamic and Western Christian worlds helped fuel intellectual development and written communication between both cultures. The connected cursive style of Arabic was not well suited to the letterpress.
The Rosetta Stone is a rock inscribed with three versions of a decree issued in Memphis, Egypt, in 196 BC during the Ptolemaic dynasty The top and middle texts are in Ancient Egyptian using hieroglyphic and Demotic scripts respectively, while the bottom is in Ancient Greek. The decree has only minor differences between the three versions, making the Rosetta Stone key to deciphering the Egyptian scripts.
The first flourish of explanations of the underlying facts of the world came during the Greek enlightenment 600 BC-27AD. Starting in 600 BC, many Greek cities formed Republics in a fledgling democracy. These cities supported some of the earliest scientific inquiries for example; in geometry by Pythogoras and Euclid, in theoretical astronomy by Aristarcus, and medicine by Hippocrates.
Claudius Ptolemy based in Alexandria Egypt, documented a earth centric model of the universe in 150 BC that lasted through the middle ages.
The idea that the Earth circled the sun - "Heliocentric universe" - was first proposed by Aristarcus. "His (Aristarcus) hypotheses are that the fixed stars and the sun remain unmoved, that the earth revolves about the sun on the circumference of a circle, the sun lying in the middle of the orbit" in "The Sand Reckoner" by Archimedes. Aristarchus also estimated the sizes of the Sun and Moon as compared to Earth's size. He also estimated the distances from the Earth to the Sun and Moon. He is considered one of the greatest astronomers of antiquity along with Hipparchus, and one of the greatest thinkers in human history.
Euclidian geometry is still taught today.
Democritus proposed the existence of molecules.
None of these insights gained lasting traction. Once the Romans took over Greece, and instituted emperors, they re-established religious dogma as their understanding of how the world worked. The fact that priests were virtually the only people who could read and write helped ensure the dominance of dogma.
Elsewhere, Chinese discovered the compass around 300 BC. The "Silk Road" started trans- continental trade and exchange.
In the early 1000'sAD, Islamic scholars in Samarkand developed maths and improved astronomical observations.
In the 1100's the Cinque ports emerged as ports forming a trading network in northern europe. Guilds of skilled craftsman formed a early middle class throughout Europe. In the 1300's, the Hanseatic league centered on Germany formed a even larger trading network.
It seems likely that the ravages of the Black Death undermined the trust in religion having all the answers, setting the stage for the liberal Renaissance popes.
The Renaissance popes living in the Republic city states of northern Italy in the 1417 to the 1530's had uncontested control over the Christians that dominated Europe. They supported a new breed of open thinkers, such as Leonardo Da Vinchi, Michaelangelo, etc. They changed the trajectory of science by accepting that the search for scientific understanding was not in conflict with religious dogma.
It has long been a matter of debate why the Renaissance began in Florence, Many have emphasized the role played by the Medici. They who rose to through the power structure of Northern Italy including the papacy. Machiavelli participated in, and wrote about the political machinations in "The Prince". The Medichi's were a banking family and later ducal ruling house, who patronized and stimulated the arts and sciences through Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael and Gallileo, even inventing opera.
In Florence, Cosimo de Medichi 1389-1464 established them as bankers and power brokers. He built a library before printing, that included the classic Greek texts collected all through Europe and out to Constantinople. Cosimo funded the construction of the dome of Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore by Bruneschelli. modelled after classic domes such as Rome's Pantheon. During this time the Borgia's were pope. Cosimo's grandson Lorenzo "the Magnificent" had a classical education and at times had Boticelli, Leonardo and Michaelangelo living in his villa. As the Medichi bank and influence waned, he purchased a cardinal-ship for his son Giovanni de' Medici (1475-1521). Giovanni became the first Medichi pope, Pope Leo X from 1513 to his death.. Leo X was famous for "Since God has given us the Papacy, let us enjoy it." Leo X sponsored Raphael's work in Rome, and encouraged the sale of indulgencies to fund his ambitions including the Vatican Library. He established a printing-press from which the first Greek book printed at Rome appeared in 1515. He made Raphael custodian of the classical antiquities of Rome. Leo X also sponsored a number of Leonardo Da Vinchi paintings, introduced him to Francis I of France. Francis I was inspired to spread the Renaissance to France where Leonardo spent his later years in the Loire Valley.
By the time of Leo X. the printing press had become widely available, and the ideas of the Renaissance had spread throughput northern Europe. Literacy had spread outside of the clergy.
Martin Luther's response to papal excesses came to the attention of Leo X, who excommunicated him with little effect. At Leo X death (1521), Leo was briefly replaced by a religious pope who was probably poisoned and replaced by Leo X's Uncle Guido (Clement VII) in 1523.
Celment's tenure was battered by invasions from Spain, and turmoil in Italy. In spite, Clement VII sponsored Michaelangelo's work in the Cistine Chapel. He was introduced to Compernicus's ideas of a sun centric universe in a private presentation and happily accepted his ideas with no doctrinal objections. Interestingly, Luther rejected Copernicus ideas. Clement VII rejected England's Henry VIII request for a divorce, which resulted in the split to form the Protestant Church of England in 1538.
On the death of Clement VII (1534), the center of Medichi power moved back to Florence with his Second cousin Cosimo I, who rebuilt the financial base and continued the sponsorship the arts. Cosmio was established as Duke of Umbria or Northern Italy, with Galileo as a lead courtier. The Reneissance or "Rebirth" was coined by Giorgio Vasari, PR guy of Cosimo 1 in "The Lives of the Artists" .
The great granddaughter of Lorenzo, Caterina was married (1533) into the French royal family and eventually became Queen of France. After 2 sons became kings in succession, she was the dominant force in France in a turbulent time when the Protestants were getting established. She brought the Renaissance to France in cuisine, and the Chateau at Chenonceaux on the Loire. She arranged for a distant de Medichi cousin to marry one of her sons to carry on the Italian connection. Meanwhile the Florence de Medichi's hired Galileo to tutor their children, continuing their role in cultivating arts and science.
Strathern, Paul The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance (2003)
Science and art were intermingled in the early Renaissance, with polymath artists such as Leonardo da Vinci making observational drawings of anatomy and nature. Da Vinci set up controlled experiments in water flow, medical dissection, and systematic study of movement and aerodynamics, and he devised principles of research method that led Fritjof Capra to classify him as the "father of modern science". Other examples of Da Vinci's contribution during this period include machines designed to saw marbles and lift monoliths, and new discoveries in acoustics, botany, geology, anatomy, and mechanics.
In 1455, the Gutenberg printed the first bibles. By 1500, at least half a million books had entered circulation. These books ranged from Columbus’ account of the New World to classical Greek texts. Printing enabled greater literacy and enabled the acceptance of new ideas. It also eliminated the control that organized religion had exerted over the spread of knowledge.
In the 1490's Copernicus was exposed to early Greek ideas. In 1533, Johann Widmanstetter, secretary to Pope Clement VII, explained Copernicus's heliocentric system to the Pope and two cardinals. The Pope was so pleased that he gave Widmanstetter a valuable gift.
After Clement, the Catholic establishment attempted to re-establish control through the Inquisition. Galileo (1564-1642 AD) fell foul of the post-Reformation Catholic Church dogma for championing Copernicus's ideas. By then the church had fragmented into Catholic and Protestant factions, and the Catholic establishment could no longer impose control. In spite of this, in 1859 Darwin imposed a self imposed delay in Origin of Species possibly due to religious pressure and the debate continued through the Scopes monkey trial in 1925, until today.
At the same time the drive towards democracy started in the late 1700's and 1800's with revolutions in the US and France, and constitutional monarchy in the UK. It is not surprising that the intellectual freedom to discover and the freedom to pick your own leader are linked.
The Scientific and Industrial Revolution has literally changed the world, transforming our understanding of the world.
In the 1700's and 1800's. Most notably mathematics, gravity and optics were revolutionized by Newton, electricity and magnetism by Faraday, chemistry by Lavoisier, geology, dinosaurs, classification of plants and anthropology. Much of the work was done by bored priests.
Newton was responsible for the laws of motion and gravity having fixed acceleration. Emily du Chatelet proved Leibnitz theory that the energy of an object is the square of the velocity.
Lavoisier showed mass is conserved during chemical conversion.
Faraday showed that electricity and magnetism are linked by electric fields.
In the 1900's the center of science moved to USA. The abundance of natural resources and funding as the armorers of WW1 and 2 were the principle drivers. By the end of WW2, the industrial and civilian infrastructure of everywhere else had been destroyed.
The details of atomic physics and the quantum world came from Plank, Einstein, Schrodinger and others. Sub atomic particles have become the realm of huge teams running huge accelerators. The energetics of the nucleus led to our understood of fission and fusion - the engine of the sun and universe.
Einstein, aided by his wife Mileva Marić's math skills, was responsible for understanding the fixed speed of light and relative velocity in Special Relativity, leading to E=mC squared. General Relativity considered relative acceleration. The Photo electric effect showed the quantum properties of light.
Unlocking the power of the atom were Lisa Meitner and Otto Frisch who discovered nuclear fission, while trying for nuclear combination. Driven into isolation in Sweden by the Nazis and reduced to remote data analysis, she realized that bombarding Uranium with neutrons split it up with some mass loss - fission. Hahn usurped the Nobel prize, Meitner was ignored for the Nobel prize for being a woman and Jewish.
The discovery of nuclear fission in Germany made the atom bomb a possibility, and drove the Manhattan Project even as the German effort floundered. Two types of fission bombs were built one limited by refining the other by the trigger mechanism. One path involved refining U235 and using a simple gun barrel style trigger to get to critical mass quickly enough. The other used more easily obtained Plutonium, but which needed a more difficult spherical compression as a much more rapid trigger. The trigger was proven in the first atom bomb test in New Mexico.
One of each type were dropped on Japan and the Japanese surrendered - possibly with a net savings of lives. Apparently a remote demonstration was ruled out because of the fear of a dud.
With a combination of spying and inevitability, the Russians followed. Most fission bombs are now plutonium based, although many "low tech" solutions (Iran?) try to use U235. Oppenheimer was feted for his wartime contributions and then persecuted in the red menace paranoia of the '50's, helped by Teller.
The "super" or fusion bomb, fathered by Edward Teller (aka Dr Strangelove") used a fission bomb to create temperatures and pressure to fuse hydrogen with 10-100x more power than the fission bomb. Initially frozen hydrogen was required making delivery impossible. The breakthrough was using Lithium deuteride as the fission fuel that converted to hydrogen that then fused in situ.
The universality of fusion and fission driving the universe, made the bomb inevitable and has led to the idea that any surviving advanced technological species must have learnt how to live with the atomic bomb.
Our understanding of astronomy has been enabled by some of the most famous in science; Isaac Newton (1642 – 1727), Albert Einstein (1879–1955), Edwin Hubble (1889 –1953), and Stephen Hawking (1942 –2018).
The advent of space based telescopes such as Hubble, Webb, Plank for the Cosmic Microwave Background, Kepler for exo-planets, has revolutionized our view of the Universe.
Chemistry started through empirical processes that changed materials. It became a science with Mendeleev's Periodic Table (1869) making sense of the properties of elements. The Curies expanded the Table with unstable radioactive elements. Our understanding of chemical properties were explained through the electronic structure of atoms by Rutherford and Bohr.
Biology became a science with Darwin's Theory of Evolution. Crick and Watson discovered the molecular biology of life in 1953 aided by Rosalind Franklin, which has revolutionized medicine, criminology and has made family secrets a thing of the past !
Scientific medicine transformed life expectancy with control of infection through improved public sanitation and discovery's such as antibiotics and vaccination, all leading to a population explosion.
The increasing population needed food and energy which led to massive use of fossil fuels leading directly to todays climate change.
Improvements in education led to many more practicing scientists and engineers, which in turn accelerated the technical revolution. Transformations in travel and communications have driven globalization and democratized consumption of information and the arts.
Since the 1880's, the horse has been replaced by the bicycle, car, train, plane, and jet aircraft. In 1519, it took Magellan 3 years to sail around the earth. In 1872, it took Jules Verne 80 days. In 2023, it takes less than 2 days using commercial airlines, and the Space Station takes 1.5 hours. The shrinking of the the world has enabled the global economy.
As noted above, the printing press transformed access to knowledge and enabled mass literacy. People could choose what to read and the church lost control of information. In 1839, Daguerre invented the first usable photography process enabling image creation by the masses. In 1877, Edison invented the record player enabling recorded music in the home. In 1886 Edward Muybridge made the first images of a horse in motion, starting the movie business.
The invention of the telephone by Bell in 1876, enabled person to person remote communication. Wireless communication started started with Morse Code in the 1890's. Between WW1 and 2, the radio became the favorite real time direct to consumer information and entertainment. After WW2, television took over as the mass communication vehicle. The implementation of the cell phone by NTT in Japan in 1979, brought portable communication to the masses.
The computer age was founded in the Enigma code breaking effort in WW2, with Alan Turing's concept of the programmable machine and first code breaking electro-mechanical machines. After the war as a gay man he was another victim of the red paranoia, and then homophobia leading to chemical castration and suicide - another war hero persecuted.
The 1970's started the semiconductor revolution with the first commercial integrated circuit (chip) by Intel with 5000 transistors, In 2016, chips have 10 Billion transistors, so 10M times growth in transistor count equal to 40% per year maintained for 46 years. This was achieved by reducing geometries from 10 micron to 20 nm contributing 500K times growth. The lateral size of the transistor has also been reduced 5X, contributing the extra 25X times growth. The shrinking geometry allows the clock speed to increase and, with lower drive voltage, scales the power dissipation so that the lower dissipation of the chip remains around 30W.
To manage the shrinking size and wiring complexity, the chip started with 7 layers and is now 30 layers, a 5x increase and the equipment cost has increased 200x = 1000x This has been offset by improved productivity from larger wafer size 75mm to 400mm (30x), throughput and reliability 6x, and yield 5x = 900x.
Chips with 10B transistors and memory bits enables the astonishing levels of functionality that appear in 2020 era phones and computers.
In 2024, we can see the end of lateral shrinks at 8nm feature size or 20 atoms using 13nm light. Flash memory is already 3D with a stack of 128 linked memory cells. By 2028, some sort of logic 3D is expected. The challenge with logic 3D is managing the increased power dissipation, and increased cost of transistor layers.
As of 2022, the logic chips have 10 independent CPU's which will grow to over 100 by 2040. Increasing CPU's adds parallel processing power, or allows the clock rate and power to decrease at constant processing power. The human brain is the ultimate parallel processor with a 3D parallel network of 100B neurons dissipating 30W. Neurons switch at 200 sec-1 and have 1 to 1000 connections.
Software writing productivity has not scaled with transistor count. Real time is 5x slower to write than automated information systems or 4 to 20 ESLOC per person day. (ESLOC = equivalent source line of code, which is however higher that simply new SLOC, because it also adds modified SLOC, reused SLOC, and auto-generated SLOC, each of these three adjusted with a certain (subunitary) factor). Writing in Smalltalk and Objective C is 4x more productive than Assembly. Anecdotal evidence suggests scripting languages like Python are 2-5x faster to program. The international average is 10 LOC per person day. Japan and Europe are 30% more productive than India and the US. Japan has 10x lower defect rates !
In 1980, Steve Jobs visits Xerox PARC and is shown their vision for the first personal computer. He "stole" the ideas of graphical user interface, network connectivity, and object oriented programming, probably the biggest strategic give away in commercial history.
Connectivity has revolutionized communications, now packet switching networks allow cell phones, internet access, tv quality video and real time video conferencing. The recommended bandwidth for FHD (1920X1080) resolution with H.264 codec is 6 Mbps. Cell phone bandwidth is 70 Mbps. Intercontinental glass cables support 20 Tbps. Without switching delays, a bit will travel around the world in 0.1 sec, allowing real time interaction.
Today we have wireless access to the worlds data. This has enabled almost complete freedom of choice in information, literature, and music. It has also allowed individual freedom to create and distribute. This has also led to the proliferation of malicious and incompetent misinformation, and political propaganda. This has become a major problem within social networks where there is unlimited one to many communication. Right wing media has become a co-conspirator. It appears that fact free beliefs have a new distribution channel.
In 2022, robotics have developed to the point where Boston Dynamics have robots with motions are life like, they can dance, do gymnastics and deal with very rough terrain. Self drive cars can work in ideal conditions, but not close to dealing with real world driving challenges. AI applications are starting to appear. The limitations and biases associated with the learning experiences are showing up in apps such as face recognition.