The twentieth-century scientific and technological
revolution that British physicist Stephen Hawking
describes in the above quote has transformed virtually
every aspect of human life at an unprecedented pace.
Inventions unimaginable a century ago have not only
become commonplace but are now considered necessities
of daily life. As science historian James Burke
writes, “We live surrounded by objects and systems
that we take for granted, but which profoundly affect
the way we behave, think, work, play, and in general
conduct our lives.”
For example, in just one hundred years, transportation
systems have dramatically changed. In 1900 the
first gasoline-powered motorcar had just been introduced,
and only 144 miles of U.S. roads were hardsurfaced.
Horse-drawn trolleys still filled the streets of
American cities. The airplane had yet to be invented.
Today 217 million vehicles speed along 4 million miles
of U.S. roads. Humans have flown to the moon and
commercial aircraft are capable of transporting passengers
across the Atlantic Ocean in less than three hours.