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Brought up Apr 22, 2010

Most Important tech advances #14: Fire

When I first sat down and created this list I originally had fire near the top. After all the discovery and harnessing of fire allowed humans to warm themselves when it was cold, gave them a source of light in the darkness, and perhaps most important of all, led to cooked food. Believe it or not, cooking food is a vital component to our success as a species. However, in the end I decided that while fire was, and still is important, it has become overshadowed by other means of heat production.

No one really knows for sure when we first started using fire but we do know that it allowed humanity to move from the warm regions of the equator to the other places of the world. Not only did it allow us to inhabit colder regions, but it also gave us an extended day so that we could see, work, and socialize even after the sun went down.

Where fire really came in handy for early civilizations is in cooking food. While most people know that consuming raw meat isn't the best idea, what they don't stop to think about is the fact that several of the vegetables we eat need some kind of heat to be made eatable. Imagine trying to corn without baking it over flame first. It can be done, but it wouldn't be as tender.

The basic use of fire for cooking led to more advance uses such as baking breads, cooking rice, and a whole mess of other things that we take for granted every day. However, for early humans, this would have been an amazing find indeed.

While we still use fire quite a bit in the modern world. It has largely been replaced by electricity and other forms of heat production. You can still see fire in use at campsites and during barbecues. However open fire is not what it once was to us. This is a good thing really considering how much pollution would be caused if billions of people all used fire all day long.


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