If Marconi believed in physicists or was vulnerable to criticism of skeptics, no long distance communication would be available
Scientists bend or change their theories and invent new theories when their predictions go wrong
Western domination is prevailing over us by means of western science and technology
Ideas that seem weird or foolish in the view of current western science can be very useful ideas one day
We live in a world where the use of technology is seen everywhere. Our computers, mobile phones, television and lot of other things we use are results of technology.
When the word technology is mentioned the next word that comes immediately to our mind is science. Technology and Science; what a nice combination! What a collocation! I’m sure you think these enhanced technological equipment are necessarily results of advanced scientific theories. Yes. I agree with you to some extent. However, what you are experiencing now is western science and western technology. Western domination is prevailing over us by means of western science and technology.
If we say western science is a medium for imperialism, many people (mostly the educated) start worrying. “Are you going to the age when people thought the earth was flat? Are you that mad? What a nice world we are in now with this technology! You are going backward. How do we have this advanced technology without the utmost guidance of science? Keep that rubbish with you.” Most people would say. They would go much further and recommend a punishment. “Don’t use your computer; don’t use your mobile phone; stop logging into Facebook; don’t use internet. They are precious gifts of modern (western) science. If you are against it, don’t use those things at all.”
Most of them don’t know that ancient Indians and Sri Lankans knew earth was a globe. I wrote about that explicitly in a previous article (Published on 2018.02.12 in the Daily Mirror). The funny side of the punishment is that most people don’t know the story behind how wireless communication originated.
Radio waves and Marconi
There was an Italian engineer named Guglielmo Marconi. Most of you may have heard of him. He was the inventor of radio and was a Nobel laureate too. Marconi had a great interest in radio waves. At that time radio waves were only used for scientific experiments and no one thought of using it as a long distance communication medium. Scientists said radio waves cannot be used for long distance communication because they are just like visual light. Therefore, the range of radio waves doesn’t extend beyond the visual horizon. Marconi proposed to create radio communication systems and his proposal wasn’t accepted in his homeland. However, Britain showed interest and he created several communication systems for the British.
Then Marconi was asked to create a transatlantic telecommunication system. It was supposed to facilitate direct wireless communication between America and England. He accepted the challenge and began to work.
Radio communication is done using electromagnetic waves. Electromagnetic waves go along straight lines. Physicists at that time said that radio transmission between America and England was impossible because of the globular shape of the earth. The straight line attaching America and England is located inside the surface of the earth. As the waves that Marconi used were not powerful enough to penetrate the earth surface, it was thought as impossible to transmit radio waves between England and America.
Marconi didn’t care much about these arguments and continued his work. Physicists and skeptics who chided Marconi continuously for his ignorance of physics were eager to see him fail. They thought Marconi was no more than a ‘fool’ who believe that the ‘Earth was flat.’ However such talk didn’t deter Marconi from continuing with his work.
Then Marconi did a test and transmitted letter S in Morse code. Skeptics continuously attacked Marconi saying it was not a blind test because he knew it was the letter S which was expected to be transmitted. Marconi did several tests again, but skeptics and physicists kept on chiding Marconi.
Physicists and skeptics
However, when Marconi finished his work it was the skeptics and physicists who were dumbfound. It worked. Marconi sent a message from Canada to Nova Scotia in 1902 and in 1903 President Roosevelt sent a greeting to King Edward VII through the Massachusetts station Marconi built in 1901. In 1904 Marconi started the first commercial transatlantic service to send news summaries and in 1907 he started the first regular transatlantic radio-telegraph service. Marconi had the last laugh.
What happened to the physicists and skeptics? They struggled with the problem as to how this was possible. Then physicists came up with a solution. They invented a new concept named ionosphere. They said there is a layer in the upper atmosphere which consists of ionized gas molecules. This layer reflects radio waves. The radio signal from America was transmitted to Europe after two reflections via the upper atmosphere.
This story explains how weird ideas aided advancement in technology. This is against the common belief. People usually think technology is strictly bounded by science. However, if Marconi believed in physicists or was vulnerable to criticism of skeptics, no long distance communication would be available today. Perhaps no ionosphere either! In the same way ideas that seem weird or foolish in the view of current western science can be very useful ideas one day. This story questions the usage of western science as the measuring instrument of knowledge.
Skeptics, realists and rationalists tend to label anything which cannot be explained by western science as a myth. If the things which were ‘proved to be wrong’ by western science have become useful concepts one day, how can we reject anything on the basis that there is no western scientific explanation?
Scientists bend or change their theories and invent new theories when their predictions go wrong, just as inventing the concept of ionosphere. Therefore, you shouldn’t be afraid of western science or skeptics if you believe in reincarnation, karma, astrology, heavens or gods either. Who can say you are wrong just because they are non scientific?
Marconi later became a member of the Fascist party of Benito Mussolini. Some of the Marconi’s patents were controversial. There were some people who claimed they invented the radio before Marconi. However, Marconi was the person who popularized radio communication systems.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this article we should invent our own science and technology to get rid of the domination of western science. We have to go against the established western scientific dogmas. We should not fear them. The so-called well-established ideas and ‘proofs’ were challenged and beaten in the history of western science and technology too. Why can’t we?
(Thamalu is a freelance writer and a second year undergraduate in Electronic and Telecommunication Engineering at the Moratuwa University. He could be contacted on email@example.com)