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The (Un)intended Consequences of Technology

Key inventions — the telescope, steam engine, automobile, telephone, transistor, digital computer, and others — have revolutionized society, both for better and for worse. Their development, their underlying physical principles, and the personalities of the creators are interesting stories in themselves, but their impact on society is even more engrossing: how they have changed the ways we interact with one another, and changed our world view. 

Galileo’s telescope, for example, led to the Enlightenment. Carl Benz’ invention of the automobile revolutionized travel. The visionary Henry Ford saw that with higher pay his workers could become consumers of his product, which fundamentally changed the nature of business. At the same time, the internal combustion engine — which powered this revolution — has polluted our environment. How will the invention of the automobile be viewed one hundred years from now? 

Some of scientists we will discuss include the mathematician Johannes Kepler; astronomer and physicist Galileo Galilei; English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, and alchemist Isaac Newton; philosopher John Locke; inventor, printer, and political philosopher Benjamin Franklin; statesman, architect, and author Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Newcomen, inventor of the first practical fuel-burning engine; industrialist Henry Ford; mathematician Ada Lovelace, who wrote the world’s first computer program; and physicist William Shockley, who led the team that invented the first transistor.

The course will consider each of these advances and also discuss important questions; are we better off . . . wiser, healthier, happier? And what does the future hold for us and for our planet? This lecture-based course will include assigned readings, class discussions, and video presentations.

Instructor Bob Topper is a retired engineer who started his career as an aeronautical engineer with NASA at Goddard Space Flight Center in the 1960s and then moved on to work as project manager for Catalytic, President of Getinge International, and V.P. of Engineering at Frigidaire Commercial, before finishing his career as the owner of MaineStay Design, a consulting business serving the refrigeration industry. Bob holds a Master’s Degree in applied physics, with major course work in fluid mechanics and heat transfer. He has had a life-long interest in technology.

Class Limit: 12

Members must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to register for this course.
We will follow the current mask policy of the course site. 

If you want to register and are not yet a member, Click here for New Member Signup

Tuesday, September 12, 2023, 9:30 AM until Tuesday, October 31, 2023, 12:00 PM Eastern Time (US & Canada) (UTC-05:00)
Carpenter Room, Skidompha Library
Damariscotta, ME  
Additional Info:
Event Contact(s):
Robert Topper
Fall 2023
Registration is required
Payment In Full In Advance Only
You must be an active CSC member to register for this course.
Cancellation Policy:
A member may cancel a course registration up to 3 days prior to the start of class and will receive a course credit that can be used for a future registration. No refunds will be given.
Available Slots: