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The best tech inventions that have enabled humans to evolve

In this series, we look at everything, large and small, that has changed the way we do things or has significantly enhanced our lives. In part 14, we look at inventions that have furthered human advancement throughout time.

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Topic: Innovation
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1 of 14 422737

Pencil

Pencils evolved in their current form when a large graphite deposit was discovered in Cumbria, England in the 1500s. This graphite was sawed into sticks and was mistakenly thought to be lead.

In 1560, Italians worked out how to hollow out wood and encase the graphite inside the wood. This method is still in use. Most pencils manufactured in the US are painted yellow.

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2 of 14 Gepharts 3D

Tin can

Cans are containers for storing foods, drinks, oil, chemicals, and a range of other products. Invented in 1810, cans were originally steel and sealed with lead.

Now, your favourite beverage comes in an aluminium can with an easy-to-open ring pull.

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3 of 14 Hans

Mathematics

There is no generally accepted definition of mathematics. It is the study of numbers, structures, space, change, and motion.

Formalist mathematics identifies symbols and rules. Logical mathematics can be identified with a countable model. No one can agree on exactly what mathematics actually is.

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4 of 14 TPSDave

Fire

The ability to create fire for warmth and cook food dramatically changed the early habits of humans up to 1.9 million years ago.

Cooked food killed bacteria, reduced disease, and kept predators away. Where would geeks be without fire in BBQ season?

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5 of 14 Shotput

Zero

Zero, nothing, nought, or the telephone number 'oh' was represented by the word meaning 'empty' in Arabic. It originated in China around the fourth century BC. It is a paradox.

The ancient Greeks asked 'How can nothing be something?' when arguing about its existence. It would be nice to see several zeroes after numbers on checks sent to your account.

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6 of 14 Pexels

Abacus

An abacus is a counting device sitting in a frame. Beads strung on rods determine successive orders of magnitude and enable counting to be done more quickly than making the calculations in your head.

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7 of 14 PaulBr

Fossil fuels

Fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and other volatile materials are formed by decomposition of organisms over millions of years. When burned, they produce a significant amount of energy and produce greenhouse gases.

In 2016, US greenhouse gas emissions totaled 6,587 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. Total US emissions have increased by 3.5 percent from 1990 to 2015.

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8 of 14 CocoParisienne

Paper

Made from woodpulp, rags, or grasses, and macerated before being dried, paper appeared in China during the 2nd Century BC. It is used for other things than writing on; what else would protect your Amazon Prime delivery?

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9 of 14 Felix Broennimann

Fermentation

Fermentation converts sugars in foods and liquids to acids, gases, and alcohol. Pickles, yoghurt, and kimchi are fermented foods, as is wine. And nice, cool beer, of course.

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10 of 14 StevePb

Toothbrush

Toothbrushes made of hogs bristles were used in China in about 700AD. Toothbrushes have been mass produced since 1780 and are the invention that most Americans cannot live without.

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11 of 14 Wen Photos

Geometry

Geometry is the study of shapes, size, relative positions of figures, lengths, and volumes. Classic geometry concerns points, lines, planes, and angles, whereas algebraic geometry has applications in cryptography.

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12 of 14 Incredible Engineering

Cofferdams

If you have ever stood on an ancient bridge and wondered how the foundations were built under water, then picture a cofferdam around the pillar.

Cofferdams provide a temporary enclosure around a body of water, allowing the water to be pumped out and foundations to be built.

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13 of 14 Public Domain Pictures

Calendar

Calendars were first discovered about 3,000 years ago and are a way to document observations of the Sun, stars, and the Moon. Solar calendars assign a date to each day, where lunar calendars number the days according to the cycle of the moon.

This Aztec calendar represents a 52-year 'century' combining ritual and agricultural calendars.

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14 of 14 Memory Catcher

Milling

People have been grinding grains, nuts, and seeds for 12,000 years. Grinding was originally carried out using a grinding stone.

Circular millstones or quern stones with radial grooves allow whole grains to be poured into the centre of the stone and ground, with the flour appearing at the edges of the stone.

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