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The Technology Portal

Technology is the practical use of science, including the making, modification or improvement, applied activity or behavior, use and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, methods of organization, or environmental modifications or arrangement in order to solve a problem, improve a preexisting solution to a problem, achieve a goal or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, modifications, environmental arrangement and procedures. Technologies significantly affect human as well as other animal species' ability to control and adapt to their natural environments. The word technology comes from Greek τεχνολογία (technología); from τέχνη (téchnē), meaning 'art, skill, craft', and -λογία (-logía), meaning 'study of-'. The term can be applied either generally or to many specific areas, examples of which include construction technology, medical technology and information technology.

The human species' use of technology began with the conversion of natural resources into simple tools. The prehistorical discovery of the ability to control fire increased the available sources of food and the invention of the wheel helped humans in travelling in and controlling their environment. Recent technological developments, including the printing press, the telephone, and the Internet, have lessened physical barriers to communication and allowed humans to interact freely on a global scale. However, not all technology has been used for peaceful purposes; the development of weapons of ever-increasing destructive power has progressed throughout history, from clubs to nuclear weapons.

Technology has affected society and its surroundings in a number of ways. In many societies, technology has helped develop more advanced economies (including today's global economy) and has allowed the rise of a leisure class. Many technological processes produce unwanted by-products, known as pollution, and deplete natural resources, to the detriment of the Earth and its environment. Various implementations of technology influence the values of a society and new technology often raises new ethical questions. Examples include the rise of the notion of efficiency in terms of human productivity, a term originally applied only to machines, and the challenge of traditional norms.

Philosophical debates have arisen over the present and future use of technology in society, with disagreements over whether technology improves the human condition or worsens it. Neo-Luddism, anarcho-primitivism, and similar movements criticise the pervasiveness of technology in the modern world, opining that it harms the environment and alienates people; proponents of ideologies such as transhumanism and techno-progressivism view continued technological progress as beneficial to society and the human condition. Indeed, until recently, it was believed that the development of technology was restricted only to human beings, but recent scientific studies indicate that other primates and certain dolphin communities have developed simple tools and learned to pass their knowledge to other generations.

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The iconic Flatiron Building, New York, shortly after its construction in 1903
The early skyscrapers were a range of tall, commercial buildings built between 1884 and 1939, predominantly in the American cities of New York City and Chicago. Cities in the United States were traditionally made up of low-rise buildings, but significant economic growth after the Civil War and increasingly intensive use of urban land encouraged the development of taller buildings beginning in the 1870s. Technological improvements enabled the construction of fireproofed iron-framed structures with deep foundations, equipped with new inventions such as the elevator and electric lighting. These made it both technically and commercially viable to build a new class of taller buildings, the first of which, Chicago's 138-foot (42 m) tall Home Insurance Building, opened in 1884. Their numbers grew rapidly and by 1888 they were being labelled skyscrapers. Chicago initially led the way in skyscraper design, with many constructed in the center of the financial district during the late 1880s and early 1890s. Sometimes termed the products of the Chicago school of architecture, these skyscrapers attempted to balance aesthetic concerns with practical commercial design, producing large, square palazzo-styled buildings hosting shops and restaurants on the ground level and containing rentable offices on the upper floors. In contrast, New York's skyscrapers were frequently narrower towers which, more eclectic in style, were often criticised for their lack of elegance. In 1892, Chicago banned the construction of new skyscrapers taller than 150 feet (46 m), leaving the development of taller buildings to New York. The first decade of the 20th century saw a new wave of skyscraper construction. The demand for new office space to hold America's expanding workforce of white-collar staff continued to grow. Engineering developments made it easier to build and live in yet taller buildings. Chicago built new skyscrapers in its existing style, while New York experimented further with tower design. Iconic buildings such as the Flatiron were followed by the 612-foot (187 m) tall Singer Tower, the 700-foot (210 m) Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower and the 792-foot (241 m) Woolworth Building. Though these skyscrapers were commercial successes, criticism mounted as they broke up the ordered city skyline and plunged neighboring streets and buildings into perpetual shadow. Combined with an economic downturn, this led to the introduction of zoning restraints in New York in 1916.

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Featured biography

Zhang Heng
Zhang Heng was an astronomer, mathematician, inventor, geographer, cartographer, artist, poet, statesman, and literary scholar from Nanyang, Henan, and lived during the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25–220) of China. After beginning his career as a minor civil servant, he eventually became Chief Astronomer, Prefect of the Majors for Official Carriages, and then Palace Attendant at the imperial court. His uncompromising stances on certain historical and calendrical issues led to Zhang being considered a controversial figure, which prevented him from becoming an official court historian. Zhang applied his extensive knowledge of mechanics and gears in several of his inventions. He invented the world's first water-powered armillary sphere, to represent astronomical observation; improved the inflow water clock by adding another tank; and invented the world's first seismometer, which discerned the cardinal direction of an earthquake 500 km (310 mi) away. Furthermore, he improved previous Chinese calculations of the formula for pi. His fu (rhapsody) and shi poetry were renowned and commented on by later Chinese writers. Zhang received many posthumous honors for his scholarship and ingenuity, and is considered a polymath by some scholars.


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Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock, interview with Peter Bogdanovich (1963)

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Oil platform P-51 (Brazil).jpg
Credit: Divulgação Petrobras for Agência Brasil

P-51, a semi-submersible oil platform owned by Brazilian multinational energy corporation Petrobras.


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