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Thread: Which half of the 20th century saw more radical technological/scientific progress and advancement?

  1. #1
    Roma_Victrix's Avatar Gatorade, is it in you?
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    Default Which half of the 20th century saw more radical technological/scientific progress and advancement?

    This is a tough question, I think, and quite possibly has the potential to produce some heated debate and differing opinions among the crowd here at TWC.

    A good way to pose this question would probably be how different was the way of life for the average person in 1900 versus 1950, or the average person in 1950 compared to the year 2000? If posed that way, one might easily say a person living in 1900 lived far differently than a person in 1950 when compared to a person living in 1950 and one in 2000.

    Take travel tech and transportation infrastructure for instance. Although automobiles existed by 1900, it was a few years later in late 1903 that mechanized, powered human flight was first achieved by the American Wright brothers. Then came the development of jet engines, with the first jet fighter being invented by the Nazis towards the end of WWII. The counterpoint to the importance of these inventions for the latter half of the 20th century would obviously be space flight, starting with the Sputnik satellite and manned flight of Yuri Gagarin from the Soviet Union, then the landings on the Moon and Mars by the United States.

    Also, what was more radical and revolutionary? The ushering in of the nuclear age by dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945? Or the establishment of the Internet for the general public by the early 1990s (with its origins going back to the 1960s with ARPANET of the US Department of Defense and the cooperative work of the scientific community from academic institutions like Berkeley)?

    What was more revolutionary for its age? The first commercially viable television sets of the 1940s? Or the personal desktop computer of the 1980s and 1990s?

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    hellheaven1987's Avatar Comes Domesticorum
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    Default Re: Which half of the 20th century saw more radical technological/scientific progress and advancement?

    The second half, more precisely after 1980 when Cold War entered arm race stage again.
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    icydawgfish's Avatar Campidoctor
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    Default Re: Which half of the 20th century saw more radical technological/scientific progress and advancement?

    The second half. The internet has connected the world in a way that was never possible before.


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    Aru's Avatar Protector Domesticus
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    Default Re: Which half of the 20th century saw more radical technological/scientific progress and advancement?

    The middle. WW2 more precisely. It was the war which brought about major discoveries in medicine, rocketry, nucler weapons and computing, among others, which were slowly adopted for civilian use in decades after the war.
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    Spear Dog's Avatar Primicerius
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    Default Re: Which half of the 20th century saw more radical technological/scientific progress and advancement?

    Second half, the transistor revolutionised everything and led to the miniaturisation of all technology. What once passed for a CPU used to fill a room, now I could put a half a dozen CPUs in my top pocket with my phone which is also a computer and a video camera!






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    Roma_Victrix's Avatar Gatorade, is it in you?
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    Default Re: Which half of the 20th century saw more radical technological/scientific progress and advancement?

    Great answers, guys! Keep them coming! I'm starting to be persuaded by the argument for the latter half of the 20th century, but a better argument can still be made for the first half.

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    Default Re: Which half of the 20th century saw more radical technological/scientific progress and advancement?

    I once remarked to myself that despite amazing technological progress our modern world isn't that different from the 30's.
    Most of what we use everyday would look familiar to someone from that period or he would at least understand what it's supposed to do and why.

    Our major progresses (as in things that changed our life) since the 30's have been in biology and electronics. Otherwise, a car is a car, a phone is phone, tv is tv, a plane is a plane etc ad nauseam.

    On the other hand, life in the late 1890 and early 1900 and in 1936-1940 was quite different, not totally different because to be honest most of what became widespread after WW1 was already known theorically or available albeit in small quantity for the elite. Progress wasn't that fast...
    But phones became widespread, automobiles too, plane appeared and changed travel around the world, ships passed from coal to oil, tv was created.

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    Manco's Avatar Dux Limitis
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    Default Re: Which half of the 20th century saw more radical technological/scientific progress and advancement?

    Second half

    Computers
    telecommunication
    mass media in all its forms
    gene modification and stem cell research

    the latter is still in its infancy and it's already hugely impacting food production and medicine.

    And I don't know if you realize this, but the average Westerner has in his pocket a device that's able to connect to literally almost the entire sum of human knowledge, allows one to constantly be up to date with the entire world's current affairs and that has the computing/processing power that would dwarf anything imaginable from the 60's and before. Okay, we only use it to send duck-faced selfies and pictures of cute animals to each other, but that's a huge technological and sociological change.
    We take it for granted now, but you really have to consider it for a second and you'll realize just what that means or can mean.
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    Default Re: Which half of the 20th century saw more radical technological/scientific progress and advancement?

    Keyser and Manco: you two should butt heads in this thread and have a fight over this.

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    Default Re: Which half of the 20th century saw more radical technological/scientific progress and advancement?

    Pure scientific progress: First half
    Technological progress: Second half

    In terms of radical scientific ideas, the first half of the 20th century saw a complete shift in our understanding of the world. The classical world of the 19th century was destroyed by relativity and quantum mechanics, the latter in my opinion having a larger impact since it effects physics and chemistry. Furthermore, it is in this half of the 20th century that cosmology really takes off as a field. Scientific progress in the latter half of the 20th century was a process of building upon the groundbreaking concepts of the first half. The fundamental concepts of quantum discretisation and uncertainty are as true today as they were in the 1920s.

    For technological progress, much of the progress made in the first half of the 20th century was like a continuation of the ideas that were developed in the 19th century. Technology was typically "big machines" which did things (notable exception being the development of radio). In the second half of the 20th century we have the development of the transistor and with it integrated circuits which meant that machines didn't need to be large or mechanical to do useful things. Funnily enough, a lot of the physics behind modern electronics is based of that which was developed in the first of the 20th century. Another major technological shift the second half of the 20th century was in materials. This includes the spread of plastics and composites (developed in the first half but really mass produced in the second) but also how materials can be much more easily shaped than before. Even something mundane such as the shape of modern cars is something which was a technological impossibility in the first half of the 20th century (and indeed much of the second).

  11. #11

    Default Re: Which half of the 20th century saw more radical technological/scientific progress and advancement?

    You could represent progress as driven by social and military needs in the first half, that resulted in more concrete developments where immediate results were desired, and the second half by military and commercial needs, topped off by our transition from the microchip age to the information era, which made progress virtual, and perhaps a tad more difficult to ascertain radicalism in relation to what had gone on before.

    But it's the second half.
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    Roma_Victrix's Avatar Gatorade, is it in you?
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    Default Re: Which half of the 20th century saw more radical technological/scientific progress and advancement?

    Although the electrical telegraph was invented by the 1830s, I should probably include here an innovation for it in the first half of the 20th century. In 1902 a submarine telegraph cable laid across the Pacific Ocean finally linked the entire world together to allow quick and effortless communication. Think of it as the establishing the global Internet of its day. That's something to consider when forming an argument here. Of course, the first submarine telegraph cable was laid between England and France in the 1850s, across the English Channel, allowing Queen Victoria and President Napoleon to instantly greet each other from London and Paris, respectively.

    Sorry for reviving a dead thread, but this just came to mind.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Which half of the 20th century saw more radical technological/scientific progress and advancement?

    If anyone wants to shift goal posts and talk solely military tech, then I might argue for the first half.

    The submarine, machine gun, tank, and airplane all became prevalent in WWI; and then by WWII you had the first atomic bomb, the first personal assault rifle, the first jet aircraft, the first aircraft carrier, paratroopers. ballistic missiles, stealth (in a primitive form) and of course, radar and radio. Each one of these objects I just named are still centerpieces techs for just about every military in the world today.

    Then if you want to look at some legacy hardware from the US military, you can see that most of it is still pretty aged.

    US ARMY
    M16 Assault Rifle - designed 1956
    Bulletproof vest - first designed 1923
    M1A1 Abrams - 1980
    UH60 Blackhawk - 1975
    Apache Helicopter - first flight 1975
    Humvee - 1984

    US AIR FORCE
    F-15 Eagle - 1972
    F-16 Falcon -1974
    A-10 Thunderbolt -1972
    C-130 - 1954
    C-17 -1991
    KC-130 Tanker 1962
    B-52 - 1955
    F-22 Raptor - 1997 (designed in the 80s)

    US NAVY
    Nimitz Carrier 1975
    Aegis Cruiser - 1980
    Ohio Class Nuclear Submarine - 1976
    Tomahawk Cruise Missile - 1983

    So yeah, with the exception of drones, computers, and some advances in propulsion, missiles, GPS, and other weapon guidance systems, I'm not seeing too many advances in impressive big budget weaponry past 1980. Though I do tip my cap to the upcoming rail gun.

    Last edited by Dick Cheney.; October 01, 2014 at 07:17 PM.

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    Default Re: Which half of the 20th century saw more radical technological/scientific progress and advancement?

    That's sort of low hanging fruit, though anyway you look at it, splitting the atom is an amazing achievement.

    And downloading a jpeg by morse code would take forever.
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    Roma_Victrix's Avatar Gatorade, is it in you?
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    Default Re: Which half of the 20th century saw more radical technological/scientific progress and advancement?

    Quote Originally Posted by Condottiere 40K View Post
    And downloading a jpeg by morse code would take forever.
    Geez, that's a torturous thought, and people thought dial-up modems were awful and slow (at least I did back in the 90s).

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