50 Things And More That Made Today’s World

Like Dr Seuss’ metaphorical ‘The Cat in the Hat’ BBC Radio 4 opens the box to release ” 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy“. The “Things” did not stop at 50 but kept coming throughout the first and second series. “These things will not bite you” said “The Cat in the Hat”, but are instead the ingenious products, processes, services and systems that have “made the modern economy”.

By listening to the “50 Things” programmes presented by the excellent Tim Harford, we can learn much about the radical inventions and innovations that have changed our world and disrupted our way of life.

We may wonder who invented some thing? Where did the idea come from? What challenges were faced by those involved in the development and implementation? What was the impact on our way of life? Who has gained and who was pained in the innovation process? How did we get here and what can we learn from this for the future? This series provides answers to many of these questions for each “Thing”.

Of course, not all the “things” covered in the series are products – they include innovative processes, services and socio-technical systems as well as products. Each episode offers a brief but fascinating and detailed historical account of an invention or innovation. You may be surprised and intrigued by many of the details of the stories behind the innovations. 

Do you know that Socrates explained how to use solar power to heat a house? This is an old technology and part of the history of solar photovoltaics

Do you know how microsatellites – CubeSats – are changing the way we use space?

Do you know the Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tag has origins in a story of Cold War espionage?

Do you think Blockchain disrupt our lives more than the Internet? 

Do you know that the Battery has its origins in testing electrodes on the bodies of executed 20th century murderers? 

Will Dwarfwheat help to feed the world’s growing population?

Are Chatbots getting closer to passing “the Turing test”?

Will Seller feedback transform trust in services? 

From Bricks and Concrete to Google and the Robot, find out more about more than 50 Things.


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