September 25, 2009

Back to Basics Part II, Science.


Read the Other Posts in this Series: Back To Basics I: American Exceptionalism; Back to Basics II: Science, Back To Basics III: The Economy, Back to Basics IV: Culture; Back to Basics V: Recap; and the drivel that inspired me to action: The Story of Stuff

Space Shuttle

I started this series of posts yesterday. I am fed up with BHO’s American Apology World Tour. I am fed up with finding out crap such as The Story of Stuff is being taught to America’s children. Maybe, if we pass this type of information along we can dispel some of this nonsense. Yesterday I focused on the way in which the United States has used its’ Overwhelming and Awesome Military power in a way that has never been used before in the history of the world, namely that a Nation who could probably defeat and rule the entire planet with its’ raw military whup-ass power has almost uniformly used such power only to free oppressed people and fight the spread of tyranny the world over.

An American GI helping Kids

Today I want to talk about Science. Since the beginning of the Oministration, we have heard about putting science back in its’ rightful place. We know (in my best Pepe LePew voice) that ze americans are filthay and stoopahd, stupahd Americans I spit un yoo! puh puh! All us Americans are a bunch of rednecks hillbillies. So let’s just talk about what makes the United States Exceptional in all of recorded history with regard to the advancement of science and technology.

I read the 5000 year leap book several months ago. It is a fantastic book, but I just want to focus on the premise of the book which is: in the last 200+ years our species has leapt forward in technology more than it did in the previous 5000 years. I say we don’t need to go back nearly that far, let’s go back to 1492. Many of you may remember that that was the year that Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Let’s talk about that. In Christopher Columbus’ lifetime this is what was invented that had a lasting historical impact: Johannes Gutenberg invented the Moveable type printing press in the early 1450’s; Nicholas of Cusa invented Concave lens for eyeglasses about 1451; The Globe (you know that map drawn on a ball that we use for decoration in library’s, it is what they used before they had GPS.) was invented about the time of Chris’s first trip to the Bahamas. Two other items of note were the double entry system of bookkeeping, and the toothbrush (completely unknown to the listeners of the Grateful Dead to this day). People walked or rode in wagons pulled by animals, ships sailed on the whim of the winds. And that was the way of transporting things and moving people for about another 400 years. Back then, Spain was one of the wealthiest nations on the planet and scientists had recently Jewel Encrusted Toilet(re)discovered that the earth was not flat. From 1500 to 1600 here are the major technological advancements. Ball bearings:& Scissors: Leonardo Da Vinci; the Pocket watch, the Pencil the Hookah was invented in India (much to the delight of Obama voters) , Compound microscope, and that most wonderful of inventions the Toilet by John Harrington & Thomas Crapper .

Ok so let’s go another one hundred years (we better get to the US soon, all these before computersother countries are coming up with all the good stuff, we might never catch up). From 1600 to 1700 here are the major advancements in Science. The Telescope; Flintlock musket; The Slide rule (just wait until they invent the pocket protector); the Barometer, paving the way for seers and fortune tellers Climatologists in the future, the steam engine, water pump, and the Piano. Not one American in the lot.

Okay speeding up, from 1700 to 1800 here are some of the best of the best. the Jethro Tull Seed drill by Jethro Tull (the rock band came later); and the Steam piston engine. In 1714 the Mercury thermometer was invented by Fahrenheit, further allowing the chicken little's and global warming alarmists serious scientists another tool at their disposal. This is the century in which we were first able to plot the position of ships at sea with any sort of accuracy thanks to the invention of the Octant and the Marine chronometer (both by Englishmen). Thanks to John Kay’s Flying shuttle mechanical weaving became a reality. Then Benjamin Franklin invented the Franklin stove, the lightning rod, and Bifocal Glasses just to name a few. Then Americans invented the Flatboat, the Submarine, the practical Steam Engine and Steamboat. To be fair there were several very noteworthy inventions by the French and the British around this time.

What was invented just by the USA from 1700 to 1865? The coffeepot, the circular saw, dental floss (still unknown in Europe to this day), the electric doorbell, the Potty Humortelegraph, the sewing machine, the wrench, the combine harvester, anesthesia, baseball, the safety pin, the potato chip, the clothespin, and canned milk, the elevator for people, TOILET PAPER (over one hundred years past the invention of the toilet itself sheesh), the mason jar, burglar alarm, can opener, oil well, water tower, repeating rifle, breakfast cereal, modern door locks, and roller skates; and that is just up to 1865.

Since 1865 I count 426 actual inventions listed in Wikipedia as originating in the United States. How many did France have? Every entry in Wikipedia attributable to France for all time = 84 items. Here are some of the most notable US inventions from only the last 100 years or so: Refrigeration, the telegraph, assembly line production, the airplane, the bulldozer, space based astronomy, EEG brain topography, the digital computer, nylon, nuclear weapons, the transistor, Human Genomesupersonic flight, the video game, cable television, radiocarbon dating, the atomic clock, the credit card, the nuclear submarine, the laser, carbon fiber, the microchip, the weather satellite, the birth control pill, Kevlar, the compact disc, the jumbo jet, the PC, email, the space shuttle, the GUI, GPS, the iPod and the iPhone and in case you missed any of that: you can rewind it with your DVR. Oh, did I forget to mention that this nation of racist redneck hillbillies landed on the moon almost fifty years ago, and that we beat the best estimate of how long it would take to map the human genome by about a decade?

Let’s look at it another way for a minute. Each year scientists write papers and those papers are cited by other scientists. Scientists keep “score” on the number of Hot Nerdy Girlcitations their papers produce. These statistics are out there. I guess you would call them units of scientific thought, if someone is referencing your paper it is a coup for you. To appeal to those who would say that the National Science Foundation would be biased I used some stats I found from a Japanese Foundation. From 1981 to 1994 here are the number of scientific citations broken down by several countries:


The United States had 33,923,883 citations the rest of the world combined had 28,234,877. Remember this is with the Japanese keeping score.

Or to put it another way,because we are the worlds largest marketplace (even The Story of Stuff admits this) when a person anywhere in the world develops a product, if they are serious at all about selling it they file a patent application, which makes this a good measurement for innovative thought.

Number of Patents in the US 1995-2008- 2,096,055, rest of the world- 1,728,002

Rube Goldberg Invention

# of Patents per State/Country 1995-2008

United States (Grand total)
















































Purple Mountains Majesty above the Fruited Plain

Remember as The Story of Stuff tells us, the United States only has 5% of the world’s population. I think that is pretty good, 5% of the world population contributing 55% of the world’s inventions, and 55% of the scientific citations. One might even say that level of scientific advancement would be astounding, special, and maybe even Exceptional.

Of course, we could always go back to life as it was in the late 18th century.

Tomorrow we will talk about Economics…

Read the Other Posts in this Series: Back To Basics I: American Exceptionalism; Back to Basics II: Science, Back To Basics III: The Economy, Back to Basics IV: Culture; Back to Basics V: Recap; and the drivel that inspired me to action: The Story of Stuff


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