• 12/15/2006
    5:00 AM
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The Big Bang, Astrophysics and You

The more everyone touches and uses IT, the less they "understand" about why and how it works--this makes your job that much more important, that much more vital to how
From The Publisher
13.7 billion years ago there was an explosion, or implosion; either way, it was a "bang." What ensued was a matter/anti-matter demolition derby, with particles annihilating each other upon impact. Luckily for us, for every 100,000 or so pieces of anti-matter there were 100,001 pieces of matter, and so matter reigned supreme. That's good because matter went on to create atoms, and those atoms went on to create everything known in the universe.

Instead of trying to pretend that I know more than I know, I'll stop there. But I think it is interesting, because the Big Bang affects us so fundamentally. The water we drink, the cars we drive, the computers we use, are all a retread of that matter. We can buy a telescope and get a glimpse of Mars, or look up in the night sky and check out the Big Dipper. However, without the big thinkers who studied and postulated about astronomy and physics, we wouldn't have an understanding of what we see, or how it was formed.

Galileo, Newton and Einstein formed the theories that others went on to prove, or dispute for years. Stephen Hawking set a new standard for understanding the origin of the universe, and people like Degrasse-Tyson are breaking down that critical first nanosecond after the bang to really understand the universe. These are the people who enlighten us about the origins of everything.

So, what about our own corner of scientific study? In 1623, Wilhelm Schickard built the first add/subtract machine. This was followed by the first machine that could perform the four basic mathematical operations, created by Von Leibniz in 1673. Then, over the next 300 years, a series of machines were invented to capture and process information.

For most of us, things got interesting in the early 1970s, when Intel introduced the first microprocessor (VCRs and microwaves would forever blink 00:00). A scant decade later, IBM introduced the PC, Microsoft gave us DOS, and Lotus the spreadsheet. Almost simultaneously, the LAN came to be as Bob Metcalfe scribbled Ethernet on a napkin in 1973. In little more than a decade, it too was ubiquitous. By the late eighties, what had been a project to survive a cold war attack became the public Internet, and just five years later the Web was born.

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