We take a lot of things for granted in the modern world. Fiber optic cables deliver enormous amounts of information at nearly the speed of light. You can hop into your car and shout your destination at your GPS navigation system, and a digitized and disembodied voice issues easy-to-follow directions. We have it pretty sweet here in the 21st century.
As time marches on, it becomes easier to overlook the contributions of those who came before us. Even in the 19th century, Charles Duell, patent commissioner of the United States, reportedly remarked that everything that can be invented already has been invented.
Clearly, if Duell said such a thing, he was way off. The 20th and 21st centuries have seen enormous booms in ingenuity. However, his alleged words also reveal an understanding that seems to have been lost. He understood that humans have experienced flashes of brilliance and made discoveries throughout history. He also understood that these advances have so greatly accelerated human progress that everything following them seems to be built on the foundation provided by these early inventions.
Perhaps no other ancient culture has contributed more to this advancement of human progress than the Chinese. Here are ten of the greatest inventions of the ancient nation, in no particular order.
We'll begin with arguably the most famous ancient Chinese invention. Legend has it that gunpowder was accidentally discovered by alchemists looking for a concoction that would create immortality in humans. Ironically, what these ancient chemists stumbled upon was an invention that could easily take human life.Early gunpowder was made of a mixture of potassium nitrate (saltpeter), charcoal and sulfur, and it was first described in 1044 in the Collection of the Most Important Military Techniques, compiled by Zeng Goliang. It's assumed the discovery of gunpowder occurred sometime earlier, since Zeng describes three different gunpowder mixtures and the Chinese used it for signal flares and fireworks before appropriating it for military use in rudimentary grenades.Over time, we realized that metals added to the mixture created brilliant colors in gunpowder explosions and -- kaboom! -- modern fireworks displays were born. It also makes a handy explosive for projectiles like bullets.
Where would we be without the compass? We'd be lost, that's where. Those of us who hike in the woods or fly various aircraft have the Chinese to thank for guiding us home safely.Originally, the Chinese created their compasses to point to true south. This was because they considered south, not north, their cardinal direction. The earliest compasses were created in the fourth century B.C. and were made of lodestone.The mere existence of lodestone is the result of a bit of luck. Lodestone is a type of magnetite (a magnetic iron ore) that becomes highly magnetized when struck by lightning. The result is a mineral that's magnetized toward both the north and south poles. We're not certain precisely who came up with the clever idea of discerning direction using lodestone, but archaeological evidence shows the Chinese fashioned ladles that balanced on a divining board; the ladles would point the direction to inner harmony for ancient Chinese soothsayers.
It's not entirely clear who first came up with the notion to convert thoughts into a written language. There was a horse race between the Sumerians in Mesopotamia, the Harappa in present day Pakistan and the Kemites in Egypt to be the first to formulate a written language. We do know that the first languages appear to have emerged around 5,000 years ago. One can even make the case that it dates back earlier -- that is, if one included artistic expressions like cave paintings as a form of written language. Once language began to develop, though, humans wrote on anything that would lay still long enough. Clay tablets, bamboo, papyrus and stone were only a few of the earliest writing surfaces.Things changed once the Chinese -- specifically, a man named Cai Lun -- invented the prototype for modern paper. Before Cai's breakthrough, the Chinese wrote on thin strips of bamboo and lengths of silk, but in A.D. 105, he created a mixture of wood fibers and water and pressed it onto a woven cloth. The weave in the cloth allowed the moisture in the pulpy mixture to seep out, resulting in a rough paper. Exactly what Cai wrote on his first piece of paper is unknown.
审校:落月 编辑:listen 来源：前十网