About Science Parks


Science parks are not museums, despite what their name seems to imply. They are not centers that are devoted to educating the public. They are research centers that are devoted to innovation. They produce the sorts of innovations that museums will discuss at later dates.

Science parks are not so different from modern research universities. In fact, they influenced their development in many ways. However, it is easier for entrepreneurs, businesses, government officials, and scientists to collaborate in the science park environment. It is also easier for researchers in general to collaborate in this sort of environment, which can make all the difference in terms of the amount of progress that they make.

It should be noted that many modern research universities, and modern universities in general, scarcely resemble a community of intellectuals sharing ideas. There is too much competition in these environments, and too many people devoted to their own private areas of study. The science park environment is very different.

Researchers are expected to collaborate, and they are expected to share ideas in a way that might even be risky in a conventional academic environment. This is an environment that is much more conducive to innovation in many ways. Cooperation tends to lead to better results than cutthroat competition usually does.

Scientific Exploration

History buffs have their special interests for one era or another, but for the most part, any look into the past of any period will entail a glance at the marvels of scientific innovation. Inventions have been around since the cave men learned to first make fire and paint images of animals on earthen walls. It has progressed steadily over the course of thousands of years, giving science a major role in establishing civilization. There would be no culture without it. It doesn’t matter if you are dealing with clipper ships on the high seas, the modern skyscraper, or a moon landing: science has been the road to reason. It has been the goal of man to evolve given the gifts of the fermenting mind.

Men and women everywhere have always been challenged by the nature of reality and material existence: what, why, when, and how. They want to know of what the world is made and how people can function better. They have even glanced at the great beyond. At the most mundane level, you have to cook, clean, and take care of yourself. Hence microwaves, electric razors, and even soap on a rope. On a more sophisticated level, they want to get to destinations fast and efficiently. Cars, trains, planes, and buses thus abound.

Science is ubiquitous and ever-present. It is unseen, yet the essence of life. No wonder we are always exploring, backpack mentally in hand, every nook and cranny of the universe. There is much left to discover. From the big picture or macrocosm, we get down into the depths of the microcosm with electronics and microchips. No stone is left unturned. Like a boy would reach into his school backpack of tricks and pull a new rabbit out of a hat. Loving science is to honor the best achievements of the past, present, and future.

Scientific exploration led Columbus to a new land. It helped the Aztecs fashion jewelry out of gold. It gave the ancient Egyptians a way to master death and the Romans their many roads and aqueducts. Science is at the root of human physiology and modern medicine; it has enabled man to fly. What would we do without the spinning wheel, the cotton gin, the steam engine, and the columbine. Moving forward, we saw the emergence of a microscopic entrée into a tiny world and a huge burst of energy from the atom bomb. We have embraced the good and eschewed the bad, all the while continuing the search for answers.

Who envisioned the brave new world of the Internet a century ago? Science was rooted in space flight and extraterrestrial perception. The world turned inward with Freud and outward with NASA. Major paradigm shifts have occurred embracing all kinds of new dimensions—all thanks to science. We have improved man’s lot in practical, spiritual, and ethical ways. Ideas are the rich expression of rational thought.

We know we can count on science to guide our every move. This doesn’t have to be inconsistent to the master creator, God, who is allowed to reign supreme. Science accounts for all principles seen and unseen, waiting to be discovered. It has given us the cinema, the radio, and the computer. It has imparted ways to survive in hot or cold climes. It has formed the core of our being and the roof of all thought. With science, we are safe from adversity and protected from the unknown.

Those who practice in any scientific endeavor sometimes take the philosophical perspective for granted. They have a job to do and a goal to fulfill. They use a particular method to reach explanations and solve problems. They are thrilled when their objectives are validated. Leave it to the deep thinkers to ponder the why. We explore simply because we must. We want another way to fabricate structures, to run cars with a new kind of fuel. We value updates and upgrades to everything from a shower head to a light bulb, and we have seen it all happen.

We have engineered food and solar energy. We have time-release drugs and laser surgery. Let’s not forget irrigation, weaponry, cosmetics, and more. There is nothing untouched by science. It is therefore easy to sing a paean to this ubiquitous concept that dominates the world. Perhaps among many, it is one of the most noble of the callings. Its insights and innovations are there to advise, guide, and otherwise rule human life. It is time to step back a brief moment and give science its due.

Modern Marvels taken for Granted: Showers

The history of the world is practically the history of the advent and development of technology. This should come as no surprise. Just look around you. It is all about the emergence of science and its triumph over superstition. As such, it has led the way to our modern world with all its gadgets and devices that make life easier. Yes, there are steam engines, trains, plains, skyscrapers, and cars. These were the big-time inventions. But there are also electronic things to which we listen and look, and practical things like showers and tubs.

We really take everything in our paths for granted. Our lives are full of whatnots that aid the chore of living. We cook, clean, take care of ourselves, and help others—all with the use of the marvels of technology. They are ubiquitous and go unnoticed. We seldom give a thought to something as mundane as a shower, for example. It is here, there, and everywhere. Ok, sometimes we need a new shower head to replace the old splatterer. Then we look online for all the great new models that regulate just the right flow and also provide a welcome, invigorating massage. Otherwise, it is all part of oblivion.

Speaking of showers, bathing and hygiene have come a long way baby over the centuries. From sponge bathing and loads of perfume in the olden days to mask odor, we are in a new world of luxury and pampering. Things go in and out of fashion, but showers will surely never find a replacement. They are part and parcel of our culture in which cleanliness is next to godliness. You might say that it is ingrained. What is better than a vigorous display of jetting water to soothe our weary backs! Science may improve it a bit, but the basic pleasure principle will always remain the same.

Hygiene is part of every society, primitive to modern, at least to some extent (such as bathing in the local river). In modern times, it has a big priority in one’s daily regimen. It is at the top of most people’s lists. You wouldn’t think of going for more than a day or two without a shower or a bath. Plus, you can avail yourself of wonderful amenities like soap on a rope, scented cleansing bars, and healthful lathers. Many like to indulge in hour long rituals, especially if they do not live in drought areas like arid California. Think of an enclosed space filled with soothing steam and droplets of dew on a slick glass door. Think of wandering off into a dreamlike la la land of peace and bliss. A shower is a panacea for everything. It should be embraced with glee.

Along these lines, showers are a solo experience but they can be a romantic haven for two. Newly weds listen up! Dual head showers are in abundance in newly constructed homes. People like communal bathing as in the days of yore. Plus, science has given us waterproof radios and CD players to make the water onslaught that much better. You can cuddle under the tepid flow, dance a bit to your favorite tune, and croon away in a kind of shower karaoke.

Showers thus rank high in the hierarchy of hygiene practice. They are actually preferred by most. You can’t do sitting in a tub what you can do standing. Plus, as they say, in tubs you are immersed in dirty water. Agh! Showers are thus the mode of perfect cleanliness par excellence. If you have one or two at home, consider an upgrade in at least one to make it special. New tile can add sparkle and dimension to the experience. A built in soap dish is a treat. A pebble floor is the latest in new installation and cartridges for soft water are de rigueur.

All in all, your shower is your haven from tension and anxiety—a masterful means of escape. It is a place to relax and get away from it all. Why on earth do we take this for granted? We ought to dwell in poetic terms on the benefits to be obtained: “Ode to my Shower” or “Beads of Water Gush.” Kidding aside, a shower is special yet mundane; it is a necessity and a pleasure. It is a two-sided temptation and a multi-pronged asset. You can get clean, rid your mind of ill-conceived thoughts, and relish your water wonder. Who knew such a simple device could be so appealing!

What is a Luddite?

luddites-textile-mill-2Many literary pundits have mentioned Luddites in their works from Herman Hesse and Charlotte Bronte to Thomas Mann and G.K. Chesterton. So who are these anti-technology people and why do we care? There have been pros and cons for ages revolving around their rejection of science. These 19th century textile workers smashed looms and broke equipment to knock the industrial revolution senseless and return to basic values. The band of weavers’ discontent with science seemed real enough. It was new and threatening as few precautions were initially taken. Plus plain and simple, machines put people out of work. There was an issue about the pride of skilled labor, of craftsmanship and quality, but it paled next to profit in industry. People were being put out of their jobs.

Luddite has a bit of mythology about it. From rejection to rebellion it has gained momentum in lore. It became part of the pop culture of the time, a group of actions that soon became politicized. Factory protests were just beginning to rear their ugly heads and wreak havoc with industrialization. Do we detect the word “union” stemming from this time? Dissatisfaction with working conditions has deep roots in the Industrial Revolution, not assuaged until well into the 20th century.

Charlotte Bronte’s book, Shirley, from 1849 takes place during this controversial era when factory rebellion was rampant. The Yorkshire textile industry is laid bare as exemplified by Cartright’s Mill from which the author was deeply affected. This is a social novel par excellence. Ethical and moral issues were also raised by Ernst Toller in his essay, “The Machine Wreakers,” which took liberties with history to make a point. Herman Hesse in Steppenwolf took a different route. He placed his neo-Luddites in a bizarre surrealist setting to enliven a long-feared competition between men and machines. He sharply delineated the “fat and well dressed and perfumed plutocrats who used the machines to sque4eze the fat from other men’s bodies.” This view carried over into Charles Chaplin’s film “Modern Times.”

Toi get back to specific, working conditions were tough at this time during the Napoleonic Wars. The movement soon spread from its ori8gin in England across Europe. As time wore on, the term “luddite” became associated with a negative attitude toward progress, particularly the budding dimension of technology which was destined to rule the world. Loosely used, it described a naïve or primitive mentality that eschewed the scientific method. It was derogatory and dismissive. Even in recent times, it has been used to refer to “a leaderless movement of passive resistance to consumerism and the increasingly bizarre and frightening technologies of the Computer Age.” (Kirkpatrick Sale, America’s New Luddites)

The concept was named after Ned Ludd, a young man who demolished two stocking frames (knitting machines) as early as 1779. By extension, Luddite denoted any machine destroyer. In addition, there is a character in Robin Hood known as King Ludd of Sherwood Forest. Whatever the origin, the word grew to large proportions. It is now a rather esoteric and sophisticated word to describe anyone who is anti-science and anything but modern. Maybe it doesn’t have to do with employment anymore, but with a philosophy about change and its repercussions. There are many sects in existence today who avoid modern technology in the form of automobiles and assorted appliances such as the Amish, who wouldn’t think of using something as utilitarian as a beginner’s sewing machine.

The urban dictionary defines Luddite as one who fears modern technology. This adds a twist to the already existing connotation of distaste. People of this persuasion want things to either stay the same or go back to basics before technology corrupted minds and hearts. Maybe “machines” threaten the true meaning of productive work from the hand of man or perhaps they interfere with personal privacy in some way. Would anyone be offended by being labeled a Luddite today? No doubt they would. It is a synonym for someone provincial, out of date, anti-science, and backward. This was not the original meaning of the word.

Why would someone be openly anti-technology today given the dominance of science? It is often said to be a matter of ignorance. If you can’t use a smart phone, well then it must be too complicated, too baffling, and of no real use. If you can’t operate and recharge an electric car, let’s just stick with gas. Most new things are seen as suspect until they become known and understood like new-fangled notions that become staples of life. Luddites are those who need a little more time.

Modern Marvels taken for Granted: Weights & Measures

Tscale2hose of us who need to lose a pound or two hover over the bathroom scale. Scientists think of it abstractly as the realm “weights and measures” when it comes to the ubiquitous device. We surely take this modern marvel for granted. You hop on each morning to take a reading and then you are on your merry way. So who exactly invented the scale and why? It was no doubt for commerce and the exchange or trading of goods. You had to know how much you were selling before you could name your price.

To do business in any society, you need accuracy of your merchandise to be fair. If you say it is cotton, it cannot be silk. If you say it weighs a pound, it cannot be 15 ounces. You can’t always count it out like a dozen eggs. It could be in powder or liquid form. Weights and measures as a concept have to be reliable and uniform. In the early days it was no doubt somewhat speculative. You had seeds, grain or stones as a countermeasure or for the measurement of length you had the span of the hand. Standards soon became stringent to avoid cheating and finagling. During the days before the American Revolution, a bushel of oats would weigh something different in Virginia, New Jersey, or Connecticut. By way of explanation, it could weight from 28 to 32 pounds. In California during the Gold Rush, measuring land or grain in exchange for gold was imprecise. It seems that each mining camp had its own rules.

To make things more exact, basically, it comes down to units. In measurements, you have inches and feet, or meters. In weights you have ounces and pounds or liters (or to go to extremes—tons). As is obvious, there is no worldwide system at present, although the metric system is always gaining ground. The US remains the only industrialized system that does not use it as their standard. Whatever system is used, the units must be the same in all places. At present we have the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Washington D.C. to safeguard our precious units. You want some type of authority to ensure that the quantity is correct when purchasing certain products. Laws for weights and measures have stabilized the process to protect consumers from fraud.

So without you even knowing it, weights and measures to some degree permeate your entire life – especially if you’re looking at scales for weight loss – because you’ll probably also be using a set in the kitchen to measure all of your food every meal as well. It is all behind the scenes in factories or labs where ingredients are measured for medications and chips are manufactured to scale for watches and phones. The bathroom scale is unfortunately lagging behind the times. We do have more accurate digital models, but they can be off due to a false initial tabulation. Scales used to operate by means of a stretched spring that moved a lever. This little device activated the dial that shows you the calibrated weight. Electronic versions are a considerable advancement using a strain gauge attached to a springy metal. When you stand on this type of device, this metal bends. Since it is connected to a circuit, it serves to compare changes in current through the strain gauge to a fixed current. You then read the results in a digital screen.

And yet, your average weight can be several ounces different from one scale to another, give or take – except on the most accurate scales. God forbid it should be off a whole pound from one day to the next! We have come to accept inconsistency with such scales, a fact we would not tolerate in other areas of our life. We don’t want to pay more for our gas than we buy and we don’t want to fork over extra money for incorrectly weighed premium cheese sold by the pound.

Weights and measure therefore matter. We can’t live without them. All of our packaged food contains a label regarding weight which correlates with price. When we buy lumber, it must be accurate to a 32nd of an inch. Why do we agree to use a bathroom scale that tells lies? Can we trust the deli department for accuracy when wrapping cheese? We don’t think too often about it, but maybe we should. Weights and measures are here for a reason to help humanity come to terms with the necessities of fair commerce. No one wants to be hoodwinked in the grocery store any more than on the scales. Maybe it’s wise to drop a few extra pounds to be on the safe side.

Modern Marvels Taken for Granted: Plumbing

Montage-of-Turkey-8268History buffs study just about anything, but often overlooked is the story of modern plumbing. We seldom think about it much and just about never utter the word “sanitation.” But it did exist, even if in only primitive form. The need for waste disposal is the history of mankind (from caveman to gentleman) in effect with major advancements occurring in ancient Greek and Roman times and those amazing aqueducts. However mundane a subject, a discussion of what is often taken for granted merits a minute of attention.

We have to take a breath and be thankful for the obvious sometimes. Sanitation has come a long way from a hole in the ground in an outhouse to the porcelain commode. We no longer have to even use euphemisms for it. The lavatory, loo, or “water closet” are just about obsolete except maybe in retro historical novels. Yes, there are still primitive devices where you stand on a piece of wood or ceramic and look down lest you spill a drop. These are found here and there in third world countries where toilets often separate the rich and the poor. But overall, the world is moving toward modern plumbing in order to combat disease from those nasty microbiological elements.

Statistics show that five million people a year die from unclean water. It is a huge issue in the world with concerned environmentalists. It seems to be the right of every human being to have access to clean water. A lot has to be done to eradicate these numbers. We should be grateful indeed for the legacy of those innovators who led the way to sublime cleanliness.

The word toilet comes from the French for cloth or “toile.” It pertains to an item used in personal grooming such as cutting the hair or applying cosmetics. It came to English usage in the 16th century with a wider base meaning to be applied to more than ablutions. Remnants of its origin still exist in the phrase “taking one’s toilette” implying getting ready for the public. It also is part of the connotation of “eau de toilette” or cologne.

Modern plumbing is a gift from the gods in so many ways. From a mere utilitarian ceramic object, the toilet in all its various guises has become customized as a design element in most new homes. You have a choice of materials, sizes, and shapes to accommodate your every whim. When updating a bathroom, a self-cleaning low-water usage model is a must. You also don’t expect must repair or maintenance these days. Upgraded tubing, fittings, and valves make longevity and reliability a no-brainer. Soft or filtered water make rust a thing of the past. Fortunately, we seldom have to greet the plumber at our door.

Dealing with sewage is a distasteful concept and is all but hidden from normal human view. Few have seen a water processing facility or been confronted with one’s views on water treatment for re-usage. It is behind the scenes magic in faraway plants that makes the most base personal needs almost pleasant. We actually get excited about modern toilets with bidets that spray different levels of mist to water sprays that can eliminate the need for paper. Before you know it, the porcelain throne will play music to accompany our perennial deeds.

Celebrating plumbing is not a common practice, but given its importance, why not praise a good thing? We have to credit it with transforming our daily existence in the simplest ways. We now have entire rooms for all our many fixtures including shower, tub, and sink. We want these rooms to be luxurious, comfortable, and supremely clean. It is hard to believe such obsession with health came so late in human history. But it did come with dry toilets, pit latrines, septic tanks, and more. Engineers have been delving into new solutions without our even knowing it.

Paying homage to the ubiquitous toilet is to honor civilized behavior, privacy, and absolute decorum. It is to salute plumbing innovation. Few have to lift those heavy tank lids any more to stem the flow of water onto the floor or to press bulbs and gadgets to make them work. You don’t even have to whisk with a brush every day with the advent of automatic tank disinfectant systems. We can turn the other cheek, pun intended. It is a brave new world of sanitation and hygiene that promises to stay the course and keep us clean unto eternity. Let’s stop taking it for granted.

Modern Marvels Taken for Granted: Hot Water

Ah! A hot shower in the morning when you first wake up or just before retiring. The pleasurable words conjures up steam on the mirror and jet sprays of heated warmth on your back. Adjust the shower head and go all out. Hot water creates images of luxurious pampering with the best scented soap and a free-for-all use of the most delicate shampoo on your scalp. You can stay in there forever, crooning a tune, listing to jazz, or just doing the reverse of chilling out. Thank the Lord for hot water systems and home filtration that gives us a soft regulated flow every time. What would we do without them?

Among the many modern marvels that are taken for granted, hot water is surely one of them. People actually used to heat up pans of the stuff on the stove and pour it into a portable tub. They would boil it to rid it of impurities before filtration crossed anyone’s lips. When a baby is born at home, someone screams “get some hot water.” Who knows why! When tea is desired, it must be made hot and steeped tout de suite. Hot water is a fundamental part of life that has immeasurable uses. We can’t even think of them, they are so obvious. But if you had to go without, you would know what they are!

Is hot water the basis of civilization? Those in the shower would say so. Those without would vote yes. But running water, not to mention hot, is definitely a jump up on a primitive well. It is a major improvement over the alternatives. Now we have electric heat pumps and instant tankless water heaters to do the vital job. It costs money to heat water so we know it is worth its weight in gold so to speak. It doesn’t come cheap or easy. A lot of people know as they upgrade to digital tankless units that are state of the art. A lot of new machining, welding, and assembly has gone into the process. More research and development is on its way.

You have heard the expression, “getting into hot water.” Is that a bad place to be? Perhaps yes and no. Metaphorically, you want to avoid such situations if you can, especially if they are not of your choosing. It means you are in trouble and need help. A husband with a roving eye is often in hot water. A child who has painted his bedroom walls with indelible ink is in hot water. On the other hand, a literal jump in a hot tub is a mighty fine thing indeed. We can riff on hot water endlessly, but you get the picture. We have your attention at the moment, so don’t wander off just yet .

What else has hot water done for you lately? It boils your eggs, heats baby bottles, washes dishes, helps you scrub yourself or your dog, and cleans your clothes. We already mentioned tea, so let’s add coffee and give a shout out to those marvelous self-heating units. The quicker the heating, the happier we are. No one likes to wait for mere essentials!

Anyone who has lost their electrical power in a storm knows what we are talking about. Try going for very long without hot water. Think about a tepid bath. Life is unattractive and grim. There are people who can’t survive without a least two cups of hot brewed morning coffee. Clothes never feel as clean when done in the cold cycle. While there is vichyssoise, no one likes cold tomato bisque or turkey noodle soup.

Stop taking hot water for granted and recognize it for the modern marvel that it is–modern here being loosely used since stoves have long been around. For eons, it has been helping everyone survive. I penned a little paean to its worth, with a little satire in mind.

Ode to Hot Water

Cool is nice, especially if you like ice, but hot is a welcome savior
Liquid gold in its converted form, has many uses to savor.

Heat it up to boiling point, that’s not a lot of palaver
It warms the cockles of your heart, inciting special behavior.

A hot tub beckons, so jump in now. It’s not a time to waver
Don’t turn away a hot cup of grog, full of rich rum flavor.

Take your tea tepid or piping, according to your favor
Enjoy the rapture down your throat, it will make you a raver.

Innovation Tomorrow

Innovation Tomorrow

Many people seem to get stuck in whatever time period in which they were born when it comes to their image of innovation and what is next for the world. They have a hard time imagining that the world is going to be substantially different, and they may have a tendency to believe that the world in which they were born is somehow the most normal one and that all others are simply deviations from that norm. The people who go to science parks to work and the people who are trying to really visualize the future are the individuals who have to break out of that mold.

Science fiction almost always seems to reflect the culture of its own day. Science fiction that truly represents a powerful fictional image is rare. Science fiction that was written by writers who were very keen on anticipating plausible scientific and societal changes is also going to be very rare. The fact that this situation exists shouldn’t surprise anyone, since even the most imaginative writers are rarely immune to falling victim to the present bias that can sometimes stifle innovation and keep society in one place.

One of the defining characteristics of innovation tomorrow is the simple fact that it is going to be unusually difficult to predict. The emerging technology of the future is going to be almost inherently unpredictable. Artificial intelligence may be possible in the near future, despite all of the disappointments involving artificial intelligence that occurred throughout the twentieth century. When artificial intelligence is thrown into the mix in science fictional worlds, it rarely manages to revolutionize society.

However, when artificial intelligence is introduced into the real world, it will manage to change society in ways that a lot of people could never possibly have anticipated. Problems that have dogged humanity for centuries may be solved by artificial intelligence in a blink of an eye. Diseases that have been dangerous for hundreds of years may be solved by artificial intelligence before people can even record new strains of them.

Artificial intelligence in science fiction typically does little more than replicate the intelligence that humans already have, which is hardly revolutionary. The artificial intelligence that is developed in the real world is ideally going to be intelligence that is so far above the human level that it will manage to solve incredibly difficult problems in a way that would have seemed miraculous beforehand.

In order to make this situation possible, researchers just have to make sure that they can create an artificial intelligence that is capable of making copies of itself and that is capable of upgrading itself. Essentially, they will be creating machines that can get over their own design hurdles. Once artificial intelligence that works like that is possible, a good portion of the rest of the innovation will follow. Researchers simply need to take some of these initial steps, and they may be on their way towards creating something that will truly change the world. Some of these researchers may get started in the modern science parks of the current world. These science parks may end up hosting some of the most important technological changes in the world.