General Question

ubersiren's avatar

Which of mankind's inventions are you most thankful for?

Asked by ubersiren (15180points) June 3rd, 2009

I must say I love the internet, but I would be significantly unhappier if I didn’t own a car and a dishwasher.

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75 Answers

syz's avatar

Sanitary napkins.

Blondesjon's avatar


i’m not joking

Tink's avatar

Hand Sanitizer hope I spelled it right

AstroChuck's avatar

The pornograph.

Judi's avatar

the tooth brush

jrpowell's avatar

Modern dentistry.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I’m going to second indoor plumbling. I remember as a kid visiting relatives who still had water pumps in the back yard and cisterns for drinking water inside the house.

Dog's avatar

I second beer and add wine.

Also greatly appreciate bathrooms and modern dentistry.

hearkat's avatar

The flush toilet and hot showers.

Eyeglasses and contact lenses.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@Blondesjon Beer: The cause of and solution to all of life’s problems.
Bonus points if you can identify the quote

RedPowerLady's avatar

Very Simply. Indoor Plumbing.
I know I’m not the first to say it but it is still very true for me :)

Blondesjon's avatar

@jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities & @The_Compassionate_Heretic . . . Dinner: The break between work and drunk.

musicman997's avatar

The car, specifically the g35.

essieness's avatar

@syz Yes, and tampons.

I agree with internet and have to add cell phones.

Dishwasher and garbage disposal are pretty far up there too.

peyton_farquhar's avatar

I can’t believe this hasn’t been mentioned yet.

Can you guess?

Teh internets!

Al Gore, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…

neo2049's avatar

The toilet followed by the washing machine then beer :)

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

I’m just throwing this out there, but they have combined the awesome powers of bacon and mayonnaise. That’s right, Baconnaise does exist.

Silently weeping for America’s future.

Blondesjon's avatar

@jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities . . .link?

i bet it’s delicious right out of the squeeze bottle

Blondesjon's avatar

@DarkScribe . . .is that the part when we had bras on our heads?

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

@Blondesjon Link is there now. Try and read some of the testimonials and not die a little on the inside.

Blondesjon's avatar

@jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities . . .LITE!?!

i never understood what “jesus wept” truly meant until now. the scales have fallen from my eyes

Aethelwine's avatar

Comedy Clubs


jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

Holy shit! They actually have bacon flavored lip balm on their website! I think the apocalypse is upon us.

Judi's avatar

I’m sorry, but I would rather piss in a hole in the ground than never brush my teeth.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

The microwave. Sure saves a lot of dish washing.

lady4life's avatar

washing machine

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@Blondesjon Not just “the break”... “the perfect break”. I know too many Simpsons quotes

essieness's avatar

@jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities Those testimonials are awesome.

ragingloli's avatar

Anime, in conjunction with the internet and filesharing.

Mr_Callahan's avatar

.44 Magnum Colt Anaconda

ubersiren's avatar

@AstroChuck : You are hilarious, my friend.

@johnpowell: GA, definitely…

Jack79's avatar

the internet because of the speed of information; it’s a huge nexus connecting all of people’s minds. And yes, I know most of those minds are empty and 99% of the stuff on the internet is junk, but the importance of this connection in moving our world forward is immense in the long run.

breedmitch's avatar


@jbfletcherfan: I’m curious. How does the microwave save on dishwashing? Don’t you have to wash the container that the food was microwaved in?

_bob's avatar

Girl-on-girl porn.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

@essieness & @breedmitch…LOLL… two must be of the ages where you grew up with microwaves. You don’t know the difference. Before they came into being, you had to jack with putting things in pans & cooking them on the stove or in the oven. Yes, you still have to wash dishes, but not not near as much. You can heat on paper plates, paper towels, in containers that you just throw away, etc. Believe me, it saves A LOT on washing dishes.

SirBailey's avatar

The wireless remote control.

breedmitch's avatar

@jbfletcherfan: I guess I was asking you a loaded question because I was assuming that you were throwing away whatever container you were microwaving in and was gearing up to nag you for filling our landfills with plastics that will never bio-degrade.

Some quick, ready-to-heat-and-eat microwave meals contain so much packaging. I don’t think one should be allowed to hurt the planet just because one needs a quick (high fructose corn syrup-filled) snack.
end rant

BTW: Mankind’s worst invention ever: plastic.

DarkScribe's avatar

@breedmitch BTW: Mankind’s worst invention ever: plastic.


Have you truly considered just how much we would lose if all plastic was to suddenly vanish? There is almost nothing that we rely on that does not contain plastic. It is an insulator, required in all electronics, medical equipment and research, vehicles, aircraft, marine, housing, weaponry, food chain, clothing. Glasses, contact lenses, dentistry – computers of course. The list is endless.

I don’t think that you would enjoy living in a world sans plastic.

hearkat's avatar

@DarkScribe: I can’t begin to imagine all the medical advances and devices that we wouldn’t have if there were no plastics.

breedmitch's avatar

@DarkScribe & @hearkat: I thought of those things. I offer that had we not invented plastic we would have found a way to do all of those things using other (perhaps yet-to-be-invented) materials. Because of plastic packaging, today’s society has come to view too many products as disposable. Example: Your kitchen timer breaks. You throw it away. If it were made of metal, you might consider having it fixed.

In the Pacific, north of Hawaii, is an area of ocean twice the size of Texas that because of poor and circular currents seems to be the world’s repository of plastic waste. Sailors avoid it (because of these poor currents) but those who have seen it are appalled at the sheer volume of plastic refuse that has accumulated there.

Sorry for the thread jack.

DarkScribe's avatar

@breedmitch Sailors avoid it (because of these poor currents) but those who have seen it are appalled at the sheer volume of plastic refuse that has accumulated there.

Gee. You do have some strange ideas. I have spent much of my life at sea, first Navy then twelve years living on a ketch, mostly in the Pacific, North & South, and I have not known any other yachties to avoid it. I am looking out my window now at the Pacific Ocean. There is no huge amount of plastic – occasional yes, but not as much as many people like to exaggerate the levels to. I agree that plastic bags should be banned – they are in the process of doing that here right now – but other plastics are vital to our life, health and well being. Many of them are fully recyclable.

As for finding another way to do those things – never going to happen. You might use something like Bakelite (still a form of plastic) to handle electrical insulation, but not in something like an IC with several hundred thousand transistor and silicon junctions in something not much larger than a cigarette filter. There is too much to “find another way” for.

Look around your home and workplace. Count all the devices that you can see. List those devices that do not contain plastic, then look at the remainder. Unless something is entirely metal, wood (plastic glues are used to bind wood) or animal product then it contains some plastic. The water and sewage system uses plastic pipes, the electricity grid uses plastic insulation, your refrigerator and stove/microwave use plastic. Your clothing, even if woolen and cotton, use plastic for zips and buttons. It would be like stepping back to the nineteenth century.

Blondesjon's avatar

@DarkScribe . . .was that you in the opening of the graduate?

DarkScribe's avatar

@Blondesjon .was that you in the opening of the graduate?

No, if that was me when that movie came out and I was that close to “Mrs Robinson” they would have had to give it an X rating. ;) I had a real thing for her back in those days. I was about fourteen when I first saw that movie and kept looking for my own Anne Bancroft. I found a few.

Blondesjon's avatar

She was a beauty. Bit icy, but hot…if that makes any sense.

breedmitch's avatar


The Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch is a decidedly different kind of target. Outside of a small circle, few folks know anything about it or its evil twin, the Western Pacific Garbage Patch. Both swirling systems are created by slow-moving currents called the North Pacific subtropical gyre that suck up garbage from around the world. Of the 200 billion pounds of plastic produced each year, researchers estimate that 10 percent ends up in the ocean, and a 2006 United Nations report calculated that each square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of plastic. Worse still, more than a million marine mammals and birds die each year from gulping down these bobbing bits.
from here

from wiki

and since you can’t see it outside your window…

Feel free to continue this discussion via PM as I don’t wish to thread jack further.

DarkScribe's avatar

@breedmitch Interesting. I sailed in that area extensively in the early eighties, not untoward then, I find it surprising that they say it cannot be seen by satellite. An infrared satellite image should be very apparent if there is really that much plastic close to the surface.

I have had the occasional problem with plastic bags at sea, mostly a few years ago when a plastic bag would block a water intake. Use to happen a lot on ski boats Sea Doos etc. Nowadays they are designed not to allow blockage. It is a problem, but not one that should cause people to decry all plastic items. That is unrealistic.

At one stage I was heavily involved in all wood yachts, I bought an old gaff rigged sloop, carvel hardwood hull and no motor. I was being a “purist” After a few years of that I went back to glass and steel. Even with a wooden boat you are using other materials to maintain it. In those days, red lead anti-fouling paint, polyurethane varnish, a huge amount of time and resources to keep it seaworthy. A glass boat was more “green” in that it used less during its lifetime.

Currently we have a 63’ full glass ketch, but I am thinking of buying a larger all steel sloop to eventually retire on. A sloop so that I can single hand it. They are less expensive than an average house nowadays – about three times the cost of a house when I bought my first sloop. I’ll be back up in that area then – I’ll look out for an excess of plastic.

wundayatta's avatar


Also, vibrators.

skfinkel's avatar

It’s hard to ignore the dental, hygienic, and vaccine/medical advances, but I will have to vote for writing (originally probably art) and reading.

Supacase's avatar



The telephone. Among several other significant reasons, it is nice to know you can pick up the phone and call 911 instead of sending the neighbor kid into town to fetch Doc Baker.

Trains and, before them, ships (both, at different times in history, revolutionized travel and commerce)

Modern dental care

Microscopes (so many things made possible by this one little thing)

AstroChuck's avatar

Either the ShamWow! or the Snuggie.

dynamicduo's avatar

It’s hard to pick. Certainly mankind’s germ theory has directly benefited my life the most, but that’s debatable as to if we invented it or not.

The internet/computers wins hands down for inventions in my mind. They have revolutionized our lives and even facilitate interlingual communication, which no other invention really does.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

@breedmitch I gotta get back to this microwaving food thing. In our town, we have a recycling center that almost everything that goes through this house goes to. Styrofoam containers are especially nasty for the environment, & everyone knows (or SHOULD know) that you DON’T put them in a microwave. They go in the plastic bin. Food here is put in our dishes to cook. We do all we can here to recycle. We use cloth bags for shopping. We realize that we have to do all we can to take care of the earth. Our grandkids depend on it.

This is kind of off topic, but I had to clarify that.

ubersiren's avatar

@jbfletcherfan : Can you recycle styrofoam? I was under the impression you couldn’t, but I’ll feel really guilty if I could’ve been doing it all this time. Maybe it has to do with the recycling centers themselves or something…

jbfletcherfan's avatar

@ubersiren Well, our recycling remdemption center says yes. We just throw it in the plastics bin. It sure makes me feel better to bring home leftovers from restaurants in those annoying boxes. We know it’d going back to be used again. If you have a redemption center, ask them. Then you’d know for sure whether they’ll take them.

ubersiren's avatar

I will do that, thanks!

astrocom's avatar

ubersiren: the method for recycling Styrofoam (polystyrene) is fairly new, I remember being told in my childhood that Styrofoam was completely non-recyclable, but currently most items made from polystyrene are marked as a #6 recyclable plastic. (I believe polystyrene in the form of Styrofoam was rather tricky to develop a recycling method for, but someone came up with a method a few years ago and several locations around the country are beginning to implement it.) The real problem with Styrofoam is how energy intensive it’s production method is, and how many toxins/carcinogens are byproducts of this process.

I’m personally most thankful for refrigeration, trains, and Wikipedia. If the education system actually worked well I’d vote for that too, but we need serious work there (and I’m talking pedagogues here, not more/less funding, or what we should teach).

tb1570's avatar

diving mask, snorkel and fins.

and i’ll also give a nod to modern dentistry/ oral hygiene products.

ubersiren's avatar

@astrocom : I completely agree with you about education. It’s not more money that makes students, teachers, and schools better. I think schools need to be totally transformed to allow broader curriculum and include… well, I don’t want to get into a whole societal/philosophical debate… Have you read the Ishmael series?

astrocom's avatar

@ubersiren: I do though! I love debating pedagogues. One of my main plans for ridiculous quantities of money (whether I earn it myself or coerce various sources to fund it) is a school system specializing in alternative forms of education. Have you read Émile (By Jean-Jacques Rousseau, I know it’s not recent but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I tried to handle it in the original french but didn’t have the vocabulary, had to continually refer to english translations). I’m going to have to look up this Ishmael series. Now are you talking about society and philosophy or philosophies of education (aka pedagogues)? We should do some reading/research and then write a Fluther about it. Ooohh I’m excited, my first good question idea.

astrocom's avatar

Anyone wishing to see what else I had to say to ubersiren on our tangential topic should check…her? (curse my memory) and my pages. I’ll repost my above comment there, since I’m hoping it’ll be removed here due to a lack of relevance.

astrocom's avatar

I take it all back: My one and only answer to this question is SCIENCE! Best damn concept humans ever came up with.

AstroChuck's avatar

The invention of the concept of zero.

mattbrowne's avatar

- fertilizer
– 911 phone number
– anesthesia

avajordin's avatar

Telephone and the internet. This helps in unifying all the office communication needs of my small business.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fact from fiction, truth from diction. I am amazed no one has thought of the mother of all inventions; the WHEEL. How many things are made possoble because of the wheel? Jet planes, cars, trains, buses, trucks, just to name a few. YOu have to use the wheel to get to work, the doctors, the dry cleaners, school, the movies etc. The computer you are using arrived at your home by USPS, FedEx, UPS, or DHL, that meant a truck and that meant a wheel. Imagine if you wake in the morning and ALL the wheels had suddenly vanished? Would be very though doing a lot of things you do now with out thinkiing of it.

hearkat's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central: And the wheel is also the basis of gears – someone looked at wheels and saw the opportunity to link them together… All the machines and mechanisms we have go back to that one concept.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

The “Mute” button.

And Tullio Campagnolo’s invention of the quick release hub.

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