In Celebration of Inventions

December 2019 Issue

A spark of insight! A concept seen in a flash of premonitory clarity! A creation that overtakes and remakes society! Few aspects of the scientific process capture the imagination quite like the invention of something wholly new. There's a dynamism even in the word itself: it suggests a sudden overwhelming breakthrough and practically demands the finality of an exclamation point. If this cultural conception of the "Eureka!" moment persists at the expense of the less thrilling reality that most technology advances by incremental hard work, it still captures something significant: that once a pivotal creation or convenience enters our lives, even if by years of slow progress, it creates a sense of critical advancement in retrospect. Soon, it's hard to even imagine life before the light bulb, the radio, the internal combustion engine, aeroplane flight, the home computer, the modem, fidget spinner, the hoverboard. And by this, the unitary act of invention maintains it mythic status in our pop-scientific narratives.