sexta-feira, 11 de maio de 2012


What was the most important year ever? Andrew Marr suggests it was probably 1776, but Robert Butler, a contributor to Intelligent Life, points to the start of the industrial revolution ...

It was a jet of cold water that changed the world forever. In 1712 an English ironmonger from Devon, Thomas Newcomen, showed that if you trapped steam in a cylinder and squirted cold water from the outside, the drop in temperature would create a vacuum, and the vacuum could draw down a piston, which if linked to a lever, could drive a pump. That pump could extract water from mines, which transformed mining as an industry.
The atmospheric steam engine can claim to be the single most important invention of the industrial revolution. Newcomen and his assistant, a plumber named John Calley, came up with their engine 50 years before James Watt designed his--a machine that did a job that had previously required 500 horses.
steam engine 2.jpg
This set the world, as Bill McKibben explains in "Deep Economy", on an intense 300-year path of fossil-fuel consumption that would replace manual labour in many areas, create the modern city, power the transport that would conquer oceans and continents, and introduce untold improvements to our standards of living. "The steam engine marked the decisive turning point in human history," observes Jeffrey Sachs, an economist.
But it came at a price. Two illustrations tell this story: one is the original design as depicted in the "Diagrammatic View of Newcomen's Atmospheric or Fire Engine (1712)" complete with handwritten captions and arrows. At the bottom right-hand side of the page it shows the fire that heats the water. On the bottom left-hand side, it shows the mine pump leading to the coal. It was burning fossil fuel to extract more fossil fuel.........

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