The Renaissance gave the world an intellectual revolution, the 18th century
an industrial revolution, and the 20th century is giving us a scientific
revolution, of which the advances in transport and communications are a part.
For the purpose of this essay, we can discount the train, ship, motor car, and
telephone, because they have all been with us for many years, and consider more
recent developments, As we do so, we are confronted with a bewildering array.
Taking transport first, the most dramatic advance has been in rocketry. At this
moment, both the USSR and the USA are capable of putting men `into orbit' round
the earth, who can even leave their space-craft and float in the space.
Permanent scientific satellites already carry equipment which feeds back date to
the earth. The second revolutionary advance is the speed of air transport due to
the development of jet engine. Invented by Sir Frank Whittle, this engine today,
powers aircraft to incredible speeds and heights. The 'sound barrier' is broken
very easily and high flying reduces air friction, so that crossing oceans and
continents is now a matter of hours. The safety-factor has also been highly
developed. Air line disasters continually make news, but in fact, the accident
rate in flying is very low. For local transport, the helicopter has become an
incredibly useful machine. Able to hover, land and take-off vertically, this
aircraft needs only a confined space; even the top of a large building or a
small jungle clearing will do. The machine has shown its paces in war, and also
in the more humane tasks of land-sea rescue, collecting land-casualties and
dropping food and medical supplies. Perhaps bracketed with this machine is the
hovercraft, land-sea or land by means of compressed-air jets. For short,
comfortable journeys, this transport innovation is ideal. Four of them have
recently been ordered by Britain for the English Channel crossing. Finally, of
course, nuclear fission has helped transport. The nuclear engine can operate for
months without re-fueling, with the result that submarines carrying strategic
nuclear weapons, can remain under sea almost permanently, and that nuclear
sea-transports are independent of fuelling-stops.
Turning to communications, we find a series of similar advances. Perhaps the
modern age dawned when the murderer, Crippen, was arrested in 1910, as he left
the trans-Atlantic liner in the USA where subsequently, he was tried and
executed. His arrest was due to the radio-telephone, an invention which has been
of great service ever since where world-wide instantaneous communication is
desired. Nowadays, it is possible to pick up the telephone in Singapore and
within a matter of seconds speak to the subscriber in London. This is achieved
by a series of booster radio stations set up at intervals for this purpose. The
undersea cable supplements this method, and it is not possible to send pictures
by both means. This is a boon to journalists. Internal communication have, of
course, been greatly improved. A large office or factory nowadays, relies
greatly on two modern methods of communication; that of the intercom telephone
system, which enables offices to exchanges notes at the drop of a switch, and
the 'public address' system for disseminating news and even 'music while you
work'. The same system is used on ships and at sports meetings, among other
places. The last has marked the development of radar, which is really a locating
system. Radio waves 'bounced' back from the object located define its position,
on a screen. Television is, of course, the best known advance in communication.
It has a variety of scientific uses in addition to its commercial use as a news
and entertainment medium. Satellites such as 'Telestar' and 'Early bird' now
enable television to be used on world-wide scale.
We live in an age of scientific marvels, which could make for a better, happier
world - were their employment confined to humane purposes. But every one of
these inventions can be misused, and the reflective mind is saddened by the fact
that whereas man is making enormous advances on the scientific front, he is
still in the dark age from the moral point of view.