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Sunday, February 24, 2013

10 things that used to be impossible and the 'crazy people' who made them possible.

1) Horseless Carriage -(aka the car) : Crazy person = Henry Ford. 

Henry Ford hated horses. Rumor has it that he had been kicked a few too many times by cantankerous horses and he just didn't trust them as transportation. So he was constantly looking for ways to get around riding a horse into town - he lived on the farm and hated it. One day, he came across a buggie that had a huge steam engine propelling it down the country road near his parent's farm instead of the usual horse drawn buggie. Henry Ford, who already had a reputation for tinkering with contraptions, flagged the rider down and asked him everything he could about the machine powered buggie. It wasn't too long after that Henry Ford was seen around Detroit with his new fangled contraption - the quadricycle, crowds followed him everywhere. 

Quadricycle - from Wikipedia

After the Quadricycle came a few more models that made him famous in Detroit but, it was the Model T that made him world renowned.

2) The 4 minute mile - Crazy Person = Roger Bannister.

Roger Bannister wanted to win a Gold medal in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, when he finished fourth in the 1500 meter he was understandably upset. After walking away from the Olympic games with no medal in hand he set for himself a bigger goal - to be the first man on the planet to run a four minute mile. At the time it was unheard of.But after training for months to improve his speed in each quarter mile, on May 6th, 1954, Bannister broke the 4-minute mile by running a mile in 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds.

3) The Black president- Crazy Person = Barack Obama. To those who aren't African American, or mixed for that matter, you can either skip this one or indulge me for a moment. But when I was young the idea of a Black President was considered somewhat of an impossible dream. Regardless of what your political opinion might be I think I can safely say in the 2008 election - Obama outworked his competitor. One example of this is during the townhall meeting debate. 

After everything was said and done, all the questions answered and comments made. He and his competitor went and mingled with the crowd. The difference is that his competitor shook a few dozen hands and then left. Barack Obama went on to make contact with every single audience member he could get a hold of (there were easily a hundred) and made the effort to shake each hand he could. Check out 1:35:00 or so on the above video.

4) Light without fire: aka the lightbulb. Crazy Person = Thomas Edison, It's no secret that Thomas Edison, the famed inventor worked quite a bit "10,000 times" before he perfected the idea of the lightbulb. However, before the lightbulb people were reliant on lamps and candles and oil and wax were considered necessary in order to function at night. Fires were a way of life.

5) Man in flight: Crazy People = Will and Orville Wright aka The Wright Brothers. Simon Sinek does a TED talk about it's not "What you do but, why you do it." He talks about how at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries there was a race to have the first heavier-than-air manned flight. The Wright Brothers had none of the funding or the notoriety as one now forgotten competitor - Samuel Pierpoint Langley but, they were so focused on figuring out how to become the first that they overcame all odds and achieved their goal.

6) Man on the moon: Crazy person = JFK/NASA/Neil Armstrong. So we all likely know the story of Neil Armstrong, the famous words "One small step for man, One giant step for mankind" . What is mentioned less often is how John F Kennedy addressed congress in 1961 and said "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth." 
In Plato's time or Jesus' or even Da Vinci's reaching the heavens was nothing more than a dream left for the undiscovered country that is the afterlife. Today we've not only reached the heavens but touched the moon. The next logical step that would be considered impossible today would be to reach a planet in a galaxy far far away that could continue to sustain the human species. Today this seems an impossibility but hopefully in the distant future, when our descendants are researching that ancient past called the 21st century they'll read this blogpost and laugh.

7) The Personal Computer: Crazy People =Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak
1950's computer from
To explain how far we've come in the world of computer's I have borrowed some quotes from  who borrowed these from the Kansas City Star.
  • "Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."
            - Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of
                 science, 1949. 
  • "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
             - Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943. 
    " There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
             - Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of
                  Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.  
60 years ago the idea that we would need computers in our homes, much less our pockets or wrists was an insane idea. Now with the question has become 'where can't we put computers?' Although there were a few models that came before them, the Apple I and more specifically the Apple II were the first personal computer models to become widely accepted and for the most part advanced us into the computer age. Without the self-confidence and bravado of one crazy Steve Jobs and the crazy tech genius of Steve Wozniak our world might be entirely different today.

8) Invisibility: Crazy People = Dr Susumu Tachi & His Team: So I guess there is this movie and book called Harry Potter that discussed an invisibility cloak. For most of us invisibility is an odd illusion that magicians create in some classic fantasy or smoke and mirrors show. Well it's lot closer to reality thanks to Dr. Susumu Tachi and his team. [Check out this clip] Although the invisibility cloak is very rudimentary today - just consider how far the computers has come in the span of a generation.

9) Robots the size of a tank: Crazy person = Japanese artist Kogoro Kurata. So when the Jetson's came out in the 1960's we were all convinced we'd have flying cars and a robot maid. Then while I was growing up, the coolest cartoons were Voltron and Transformers. But we were fairly confident tank sized robots would not be arriving anytime soon. Fast forward to today and tada - the Giant Robot has arrived: 

10) Flying Cars: Crazy Person = Dr. Moller - To use the Jetson's example again. We were all going to be driving flying cars by now something that was unthinkable a century ago. Well our hovering cities have not yet arrived but the hovercar is here. The Moller Skycar is now available

Dr. Moller has had a passion for flight since he was a boy and after tinkering around as aeronautical engineer for a few years, he made the decision to get his PHd in aeronautics all the while working on the flying car. 

Note to Dr. Moller - I would prefer my hover car in blue. Please & Thank You.

So what are some things you know of that were once considered impossible which have since become reality? Please post them in the comments below. 

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