Energy is so ubiquitous in everyday life that we often take it for granted. Think about how hard it would be to get to work without fuel or electricity. Or what a long and arduous process it would be to cook your entire Thanksgiving dinner with only a campfire! In the spirit of the holidays, here are ten technologies or inventions we’re thankful for this Thanksgiving—and that we can use thanks to the energy found in batteries, fuel and electricity.
Powered by Batteries
The invention of batteries as we know them started in the late 1700s. Italian physicist Alessandro Volta invented the first modern battery, the voltaic pile, in 1799. It was the first device to emit a steady electric current. In 1836, English chemist John Frederick Daniell created another early version of the battery, the Daniell Cell. In 1898, the National Carbon Company manufactured the Colombia Dry Cell, the first battery sold commercially in the U.S. The history of batteries is closely linked to discoveries in electricity, since batteries convert chemical energy into electricity. But more on that later.Batteries power many of out most beloved gadgets. Here are a few we’re thankful for this Thanksgiving.
1. The Smoke Detector
Maybe you decided to take a quick nap while the turkey was in the oven, or maybe you lit some candles, your nephew knocked one over and didn’t tell anyone and now your brand new tablecloth is on fire. A lot of things can go wrong during a Thanksgiving dinner, but you can trust this often-forgotten technology to alert you of these accidents before it gets out of hand.
2. Smartphones and Tablets
Of course, Thanksgiving is all about connecting with your family, sitting around the table and enjoying their company without distractions. But let’s face it, once dinner is over and the food coma sets in, you may have exhausted all the talking points and no one has the energy play charades. These always-handy gadgets provide a little distraction while you recover for a second round of dessert.
Powered by Fuel
While oil-derived gasoline has only been used in automobiles since the 1890s, the history of oil goes back to much earlier civilizations. The use of petroleum — or “rock oil” — for medicine, architectural adhesive and roads, dates back to Mesopotamia in 3000 B.C. By 2000 B.C., the Chinese were refining crude oil for lighting and heating their homes. Although today scientists and industry professionals are looking for greener sources of power, fuels derived from oil and gas are still integrated in everyday life. These are some of the oil-fueled technologies we’re thankful for.
3. The Gas Fireplace
Nothing says “holidays” like huddling around a warm fire with your loved ones. With the invention of the gas fireplace, your attention can be more focused on them, and less on tending the fire. Just make sure you keep your fingers, children and pets at a safe distance.
4. The Airplane
With Thanksgiving air traffic the highest it’s been since the recession took hold, the airport might be a little frustrating this season. Find some patience by remembering that, without the invention of the airplane, making it back to your hometown to surround yourself with family and friends might be a whole lot harder.
5. The Automobile
Replacing the traditional turkey with a vegetable and tofu concoction sounded like a noble idea at first—but maybe you should have known your family wasn’t going to go for it. Thanks to the invention of fuel, you can hop in your car and drive around town until you find a turkey. Of course, cars don’t have to run on just gasoline anymore. For the environmentally-conscious, electric vehicles can also save you!
Powered by Electricity
Since electricity occurs in nature, no specific person really invented it; and the question of who discovered it is a complex one. Here’s a brief overview: Around 600 B.C. the Greeks discovered static electricity by rubbing silk and amber together. In 1600, English physicist William Gilbert coined the term electricity, derived from the Greek word for amber, elektron. In 1752, Benjamin Franklin proved that lighting is just static electricity. In 1808, Sir Humphry Davy invented the first lamp, which consisted of a piece of carbon connected to a battery. In 1831, Michael Faraday proved that electricity could be induced by changes in an electromagnetic field.
The list goes on, but you get the picture. A lot of people were involved in making electricity a staple in human life. We round out the list with some of our favorite electric devices that make Thanksgiving especially great.
6. The Kitchen Stove Fan
When you’ve gotten into the cooking groove and all your burners are roaring with delicious sides and desserts, it’s easy to get carried away. That gravy could go from perfect to burnt in the blink of an eye, and suddenly you’re lost in a cloud of smoke. Don’t worry, the trusted kitchen fan is there to save the day.
7. The Digital Video Recorder (DVR)
It’s almost impossible to get all your guests to arrive on time, have dinner ready to go, say thanks, eat the meal, eat seconds and dessert before the traditional Thanksgiving TV begins. If you have a DVR, you can save yourself the stress by recording it. No matter how late dinner is over, the whole family can sit down and watch the football game or The Sound of Music.
8. The Self-Cleaning Oven
Dinner was delicious, but the turkey juices dripped, the pumpkin pie filling overflowed, and little bits of stuffing litter the bottom of your oven. If you’re someone who likes the self-cleaning function on newer ovens, then you be thankful for this option.
9. The Computer
Despite all of your best efforts, you couldn’t find a ticket home, or maybe you just couldn’t afford it this year. But you don’t have to spend your entire day wallowing in your sweatpants and watching Netflix. One quick Skype or Google call and you can see your family’s smiling faces. In the end, isn’t that what Thanksgiving is all about?
Okay, not directly powered by electricity, but how about being thankful for the hard-working group of journalists covering energy at Inside Energy? Over here, we’re very thankful for this opportunity, this invention of us. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!