Simultaneous Inventions

Analogue Boy

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While watching an Ancient Aliens (yes I know) episode on The Akashic Record, there was a reference to how many inventions had been produced by different inventors at the same time. I was familiar with a few of these, Joseph Swan’s light bulb being of particular interest to me as a northerner. But there are many more examples where groundbreaking inventions appear simultaneously on different continents.

In 1922, researchers William Ogburn and Dorothy Thomas set out to unearth some truth about multiple discovery by looking at the data. The pair compiled a list of 148 discoveries that were made independently by more than one scientists, and found a trend: it’s happening more and more often.
https://qz.com/emails/quartz-obsess...mail&utm_medium=quartz-obsession&utm_content=

While Ancient Aliens jumps to the obvious conclusion, it is interesting that while the lead-in steps to creating a new technology may be the result of tiny increments of progress, it does seem like there may be a belt and braces approach to humanity making these technical strides with two brains having the same idea at the same time.

Programme here...


Also of note - at the end there is a mention of the universe being comprised of data looking a lot like ones and zeroes.

Apologies if this has been mentioned in another thread.
 

EnolaGaia

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I've had to engage with this sort of issue multiple times over the decades, and the various debates (however formal / informal) in which I've been involved have consistently produced agreement on two issues that must be addressed.

First and foremost ... Technological 'invention' and scholarly / scientific 'discovery' represent two ultimately distinct things, though they overlap in the sense of producing some novel result. 'Invention' typically involves proactively produced novelty for a purpose, whereas 'discovery' can be passive or even serendipitous. They're often reciprocally interrelated in the sense that a discovery (e.g., of a natural principle) can motivate and support invention (leveraging that principle for useful benefit), whereas invention can sometimes establish new capabilities for making further discoveries. Still, they're not the same thing.

Second ... Whether or not such innovations seem to co-occur depends on the broader context within which the inventors / discoverers were operating and the objective(s) toward which they were working. If one cherry-picks innovations without attention to such context any claim of sudden / remarkable co-occurrence may be at best misleading and at worst entirely spurious.

Consider the example of 'inventing' calculus. Both Newton and Leibniz were advancing inquiry into, and application of, mathematical ideas and techniques that pre-dated both of them by centuries (arguably even by millennia).{*} Newton's primary focus was differential calculus applied practically to resolve issues in physics. Leibniz's primary focus had more to do with integral calculus and the creation of formal nomenclature / notation. It's an oversimplification to claim they were both working on the same thing for the same reasons.

{*} See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_calculus
 

Ascalon

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Wasn't the jet engine an example of this?

Whittle and von Ohain working away independently, and came up with more it less the same design. One was axial compressor, radial turbine, and the other was the opposite.
 

Analogue Boy

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That was one of the examples mentioned in the Ancient Aliens programme, I believe.
 

Victory

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This from Wikipedia on three heady months in the development of the safety lamp - Stephenson vs Davy... seemingly a neck-and-neck race between two inventors.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safety_lamp#Timeline_of_the_development_of_the_safety_lamp

October 21, 1815 Oil lamp (flame enclosed by glass, restricted air ingress through a single throttleable tube) delivered to George Stephenson for trials to identify safe opening size

November 3, 1815 At a 'meeting of the Coal Trade' in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, a private letter from Sir Humphry Davy announcing progress to date in developing a safety lamp is read out. Davy's letter mentions four different possible designs; none involve surrounding the flame with wire gauze; one (flame enclosed by glass, restricted air ingress through small-bore tubes)[32] roughly matches Stephenson's second design.

November 4, 1815 Stephenson tests improved lamp (air access by three small-bore tubes to give more light) at Killingworth colliery.

November 9, 1815 At a meeting of the Royal Society in London Davy presents the paper describing his lamp.[33]

November 30, 1815 Further improved lamp tested by Stephenson.

December 5, 1815 Stephenson lamp demonstrated at a meeting of the Philosophical and Literary Society of Newcastle.[34]

January 9, 1816 First trial of a Davy lamp at Hebburn Colliery.
 
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