Amateur Innovators - This Is Your Century!
In the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries, the amateur was king in many fields. Early breakthroughs in chemistry, medicine and particularly astronomy form the foundations of modern science. These talented amateur scientists often made their own instruments, or had them fabricated by local craftsmen. But in the twentieth century, the talented amateur was slowly replaced by university-trained PhDs who were hired to build and maintain extremely expensive instruments.
However, according to a new report by Charles Leadbeater and Paul Miller, the 21st century could mark the return of the talented (and obsessed!) amateur to the first ranks of science. This is a fantastically useful and interesting observation; this observation could be as important as the ideas in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, published in the 1960's by Thomas Kuhn.
(William Herschel and Heinrich Schwabe)
For example, in the late 18th century, William Herschel became interested in astronomy, and pursued the construction of larger and larger instruments while maintaining his career as a singer. In 1781, he discovered the planet Uranus, the first new planet discovered since ancient times. He became a celebrity, and (further demonstrating his acumen) he named the planet Georgium Sidum, after King George III. He was made "King's Astronomer" and recieved a pension for life. He and his sister continued their observations, working on double stars (proving that gravitation worked outside the solar system), an evolutionary system of the universe, developed evidence that the sun put out energy outside the visible spectrum, and started the study of the effect of the sun on the earth's weather.
Amateur astronomer Heinrich Schwabe ran his family pharmaceutical business in the early 19th century. In his spare time, he tried to discover planets within the orbit of Mercury. In doing so, he accumulated many drawings of sunspots, trying to find a planet making a transit of the sun. He never discovered a planet, but his seventeen years of nearly continuous sunspot observations demonstrated a ten-year periodicity in sunspot activity - the sunspot cycle. He was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1857.
Look all around you for examples of the important contributions of amateurs to science and world culture - linux, amateur music remixes, The Sims, and specialized blogs and websites. Yes, even amateur astronomers are making a comeback - the charged couple device (CCD), a light-sensitive chip that can capture starlight and is inexpensive enough for ordinary individuals, is revolutionizing amateur astronomy. And people who know nothing about it can use the SETI@home screensaver, which allows the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program use idle machine cycles around the world to analyze data.
As for the tie-in to science fiction, take a look around on this site to see some of the remarkable inventions of talented amateurs - science fiction writers. For a start, take a look at waldoes, geosynchronous telecommunication satellites and computer tapeworms. The original story was taken from Amateur Revolution; get your own copy of the report (when it comes out in November) here.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/7/2004)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )
Related News Stories -
Bush Robots - Fingers On Your Fingers On Your Fingers...
From Heinlein to Moravec to MacLeod - bush robots are cool.
Amateur Innovators - This Is Your Century!
the 21st century could mark the return of the talented (and obsessed!) amateur to the first ranks of science. This is a fantastically useful and interesting observation; this observation could be as important as the ideas in The Structure of Scientif
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Will A Steel Umbrella Stop Russia?
'Everyone was aware that the damned platform was wandering around in its own orbit...'
EVE Artificial Womb For Lambs (For Now)
'In the crimson darkness, stewing warm on their cushion of peritoneum and gorged with blood-surrogate and hormones...'
TIKAD Armed Drone Ready To Fight
'Each a television eye and a sonic stunner...'
Bees Royal Jelly Helps Wounds Heal Faster
'An alien drug... used by an insect race.'
NASA Wants To Make Oxygen On Mars
'They plop down on the Red and if the dust is deep enough ... they burrow in...'
Hackers Insert Malware Into DNA
'They tied the memory to the bloodline and that was their record!'
X2-VelociRoACH Cooperates To Launch Tiny Drones
Little robots cooperating can do big tasks. Eventually.
'Do Not Pay' Chatbots To Replace Law Firm Associates?
'I want my lawyer program.'
MULTI Model Of Star Trek Turbolift
Cool prototype video!
A Look Into The Future Of Spacecraft!
Ever wonder how you look when you enter a new part of a spacecraft?
An 'Ethical Black Box' For Robots?
Explored by science fiction authors.
Dadbot Digital Immortality
'A hardwired ROM cassette replicating a dead man's skills...'
Should We Permit Computers To Create Their Own Language?
'Talk Between Robots radio...'
Breakthrough Starshot Sprites Yearn For Alpha Centauri
'Whoever launched it fired a laser cannon...'
Kino Project Roaming Personal Fashion Robots
'Most of the crew have the tiny imp ride on their shoulder...'
Astronaut Exercise Video, Predicted By SF Writers
'Joe got out the gravity-simulator harnesses.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories