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Five Minutes to Zero Time

12 November 2012

A company I used to work for recently asked (via its Facebook page) what were the three greatest inventions in man’s history. Most people who responded said “the wheel” — hard to argue there. Some said “fire,” and I hate to be the dick who points this out, but we didn’t invent fire. Someone else said “electricity,” but we didn’t invent that, either. (Unless you subscribe to the theory that electricity was, indeed, invented by Phineas J. Lightning, leader of the Seven Tribes of Meteorology.)

My answers were powered flight, the assembly line, and the nuclear bomb.

Yeah, I caught some shit for that last one. Before you grab your torches (invented by Atticus H. Fire) and pitchforks (invented by music bloggers) to chase me with, let me explain why I chose the most devastating and horrible weapon we, as a species, ever conceived.

It’s not because of the research and work behind the bomb, though that is impressive. It’s not because of the terrible destructive power — that’s more frightening than anything. It’s not because of its tactical usefulness, which is last-resort at best. No, it’s because of the other inventions we have because the bomb was suddenly a thing.

The Internet. The space program. Long-distance telecommunications. Battery-powered anything. Cell phones. Digital video and music. Nuclear power plants (though some might not see these as good things — we’ll call this one debatable).

Pretty much everything we take for granted in the modern world can trace itself back to the Manhattan project in one way or another.

What about you, folks? What are your top three inventions? How did they shape the world, or just your part of it?

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