The World’s Greatest Idea by John Farndon

What do you think John Farndon nominated as ‘The World’s Greatest Idea’ in his book of the same name?

My top five world’s greatest ideas, in no particular order are:

Written language,

Summer holidays,

Combining music and dancing,

Cooking food and

 Rollerskates (genius).

If you asked fifty people to name their top five ideas, I bet they would all nominate different things. My Nana J, who would be 103 years old if she were alive today, always said the washing machine was the most life changing invention for women during her life time. Nana often told us how her own mother, who had seven children and lived on a dairy farm, washed the family’s clothing and linen in swamp water. To throw washing into a machine would have been a dream come true.

In this book, Farndon names fifty ideas in order of importance, explaining each idea and the idea’s history. He then explains the effects each idea has had on humanity.

Many of the ideas are not light reading. For example, I had no idea that Calculus, idea #25, had to do with algebra and geometry or that it had a practical use, but according to Farnham, people who understand and use Calculus provide us with extremely important and valuable knowledge.  

Idea #21, Quantum Theory, makes my head spin, but according to Farndon, I’m not alone.  He says, “no one knows how it works.” Apparently, “items as big as bacteria have been teleported,” by scientists who understand more about Quantum Theory than anyone. What?!!? I thought teleporting was what happened to Mike Teavee in the Gene Wilder version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. My brain is telling me this chapter is a joke, but Farndon says teleporting was first done in a lab in Rome in 1997. 

Most of the ideas make for interesting reading. Others I could care less about. I’m glad they exist, but I wasn’t interested in the hows and whys of Sewerage, (idea #9) or the Aerofoil (idea #47). However,  I really enjoyed the chapters on Electricity Grids (idea #22) and Refrigeration (idea #28).

Some ideas you would expect to see here, such as Government (idea #26 ) and Universities (idea #30).

Other ideas that I thought should have made the list didn’t. For example, I don’t know why combining chocolate and peanut butter didn’t make it.  

I’m not convinced Hope (idea #11) and Romance (idea #33) belong in the book, as to me both ‘hope’ and ‘romance’ are emotions rather than ideas. Still, Farndon had the assistance of a panel of very clever people create the list and they all know a lot more than I do.

For the record, Fardon’s #1 idea is the internet.

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