Technology

Humankind has long striven to improve its living conditions through the development of tools, instruments, and transportation and communications systems, all with the goal of making our lives easier, more productive and—why not—more fun, too! Thanks to human curiosity and technological research, many significant inventions have been made throughout history that in turn made a difference in our daily lives.

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  • computer
    Computer
    Computer, device for processing, storing, and displaying information. Computer once meant a person who did computations, but now the term almost universally refers to automated electronic machinery. The first section of this article focuses on modern digital electronic computers and their design,…
  • Columns depicting Toltec warriors, Tula, Mexico.
    Material culture
    Material culture, tools, weapons, utensils, machines, ornaments, art, buildings, monuments, written records, religious images, clothing, and any other ponderable objects produced or used by humans. If all the human beings in the world ceased to exist, nonmaterial aspects of culture would cease to…
  • Singularity
    Singularity, theoretical condition that could arrive in the near future when a synthesis of several powerful new technologies will radically change the realities in which we find ourselves in an unpredictable manner. Most notably, the singularity would involve computer programs becoming so advanced…
  • construction of apartment buildings
    Construction
    Construction, the techniques and industry involved in the assembly and erection of structures, primarily those used to provide shelter. Construction is an ancient human activity. It began with the purely functional need for a controlled environment to moderate the effects of climate. Constructed…
  • Steps involved in the engineering of a recombinant DNA molecule.
    Biotechnology
    Biotechnology, the use of biology to solve problems and make useful products. The most prominent area of biotechnology is the production of therapeutic proteins and other drugs through genetic engineering. People have been harnessing biological processes to improve their quality of life for some…
  • In about 1490 Leonardo da Vinci drew plans for a flying machine.
    History of flight
    History of flight, development of heavier-than-air flying machines. Important landmarks and events along the way to the invention of the airplane include an understanding of the dynamic reaction of lifting surfaces (or wings), building absolutely reliable engines that produced sufficient power to…
  • electron hole: movement
    Materials science
    Materials science, the study of the properties of solid materials and how those properties are determined by a material’s composition and structure. It grew out of an amalgam of solid-state physics, metallurgy, and chemistry, since the rich variety of materials properties cannot be understood…
  • The incandescent lightbulb—the quintessential invention, attributed to Thomas Alva Edison in 1879.
    Invention
    Invention, the act of bringing ideas or objects together in a novel way to create something that did not exist before. Ever since the first prehistoric stone tools, humans have lived in a world shaped by invention. Indeed, the brain appears to be a natural inventor. As part of the act of…
  • Drawing of an Egyptian seagoing ship, c. 2600 bce based on vessels depicted in the bas-relief discovered in the pyramid of King Sahure at Abū Ṣīr, Cairo.
    History of technology
    History of technology, the development over time of systematic techniques for making and doing things. The term technology, a combination of the Greek technē, “art, craft,” with logos, “word, speech,” meant in Greece a discourse on the arts, both fine and applied. When it first appeared in English…
  • Safety
    Safety, those activities that seek either to minimize or to eliminate hazardous conditions that can cause bodily injury. Safety precautions fall under two principal headings, occupational safety and public safety. Occupational safety is concerned with risks encountered in areas where people work:…
  • Turing, Alan
    Artificial intelligence
    Artificial intelligence (AI), the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings. The term is frequently applied to the project of developing systems endowed with the intellectual processes characteristic of humans, such as…
  • Instrumentation
    Instrumentation, in technology, the development and use of precise measuring equipment. Although the sensory organs of the human body can be extremely sensitive and responsive, modern science and technology rely on the development of much more precise measuring and analytical tools for studying,…
  • Orville Wright beginning the first successful controlled flight in history, at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, December 17, 1903.
    Aerospace industry
    Aerospace industry, assemblage of manufacturing concerns that deal with vehicular flight within and beyond Earth’s atmosphere. (The term aerospace is derived from the words aeronautics and spaceflight.) The aerospace industry is engaged in the research, development, and manufacture of flight…
  • Figure 1: (A) A simple equivalent circuit for the development of a voltage pulse at the output of a detector. R represents the resistance and C the capacitance of the circuit; V(t) is the time (t)-dependent voltage produced. (B) A representative current pulse due to the interaction of a single quantum in the detector. The total charge Q is obtained by integrating the area of the current, i(t), over the collection time, tc. (C) The resulting voltage pulse that is developed across the circuit of (A) for the case of a long circuit time constant. The amplitude (Vmax) of the pulse is equal to the charge Q divided by the capacitance C.
    Radiation measurement
    Radiation measurement, technique for detecting the intensity and characteristics of ionizing radiation, such as alpha, beta, and gamma rays or neutrons, for the purpose of measurement. The term ionizing radiation refers to those subatomic particles and photons whose energy is sufficient to cause…
  • The Temelín Nuclear Power Plant, South Bohemia, Czech Republic, which went into full operation in 2003, using two Russian-designed pressurized-water reactors.
    Nuclear reactor
    Nuclear reactor, any of a class of devices that can initiate and control a self-sustaining series of nuclear fissions. Nuclear reactors are used as research tools, as systems for producing radioactive isotopes, and most prominently as energy sources for nuclear power plants. Nuclear reactors…
  • Automobiles on the John F. Fitzgerald Expressway, Boston, Massachusetts.
    Automobile
    Automobile, a usually four-wheeled vehicle designed primarily for passenger transportation and commonly propelled by an internal-combustion engine using a volatile fuel. The modern automobile is a complex technical system employing subsystems with specific design functions. Some of these consist of…
  • Temperate softwoods (left column) and hardwoods (right column), selected to highlight natural variations in colour and figure: (A) Douglas fir, (B) sugar pine, (C) redwood, (D) white oak, (E) American sycamore, and (F) black cherry.  Each image shows (from left to right) transverse, radial, and tangential surfaces.  Click on an individual image for an enlarged view.
    Wood
    Wood, the principal strengthening and nutrient-conducting tissue of trees and other plants and one of the most abundant and versatile natural materials. Produced by many botanical species, including both gymnosperms and angiosperms, wood is available in various colours and grain patterns. It is…
  • colour television picture tube
    Television
    Television (TV), the electronic delivery of moving images and sound from a source to a receiver. By extending the senses of vision and hearing beyond the limits of physical distance, television has had a considerable influence on society. Conceived in the early 20th century as a possible medium for…
  • Technology
    Technology, the application of scientific knowledge to the practical aims of human life or, as it is sometimes phrased, to the change and manipulation of the human environment. The subject of technology is treated in a number of articles. For general treatment, see technology, history of; hand…
  • The New Castle, built by Richard Trevithick in 1803, the first locomotive to do actual work.
    Railroad
    Railroad, mode of land transportation in which flange-wheeled vehicles move over two parallel steel rails, or tracks, either by self-propulsion or by the propulsion of a locomotive. After the first crude beginnings, railroad-car design took divergent courses in North America and Europe, because of…
  • Examples from biological and mechanical realms illustrate various “orders of magnitude” (powers of 10), from 10−2 metre down to 10−7 metre.
    Nanotechnology
    Nanotechnology, the manipulation and manufacture of materials and devices on the scale of atoms or small groups of atoms. The “nanoscale” is typically measured in nanometres, or billionths of a metre (nanos, the Greek word for “dwarf,” being the source of the prefix), and materials built at this…
  • simple machines
    Machine
    Machine, device, having a unique purpose, that augments or replaces human or animal effort for the accomplishment of physical tasks. This broad category encompasses such simple devices as the inclined plane, lever, wedge, wheel and axle, pulley, and screw (the so-called simple machines) as well as…
  • Intermediate technology
    Intermediate technology, simple and practical tools, basic machines, and engineering systems that economically disadvantaged farmers and other rural people can purchase or construct from resources that are available locally to improve their well-being. Designed to focus on people rather than…
  • contour farming; strip cropping
    Agricultural technology
    Agricultural technology, application of techniques to control the growth and harvesting of animal and vegetable products. Mechanical processing of soil so that it is in the proper physical condition for planting is usually referred to as tilling; adding nutrients and trace elements is called…
  • Open-cycle constant-pressure gas-turbine engine.
    Energy conversion
    Energy conversion, the transformation of energy from forms provided by nature to forms that can be used by humans. Over the centuries a wide array of devices and systems has been developed for this purpose. Some of these energy converters are quite simple. The early windmills, for example,…
  • Shanghai: skyline
    Building
    Building, a usually roofed and walled structure built for permanent use. Rudimentary buildings were initially constructed out of the purely functional need for a controlled environment to moderate the effects of climate. These first buildings were simple dwellings. Later, buildings were constructed…
  • Red Army
    Military technology
    Military technology, range of weapons, equipment, structures, and vehicles used specifically for the purpose of warfare. It includes the knowledge required to construct such technology, to employ it in combat, and to repair and replenish it. The technology of war may be divided into five…
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