Technology has come a long way since humans built the ancient wonders of the world. Impressive structures like the Great Pyramid of Giza, or recent additions like Machu Picchu, and the Taj Mahal, pale in comparison to the wonders we’ve built with the aid of modern technology. Humans have now reached the moon, own weapons that can vaporize an entire continent, and are very close to building computers capable of conscious thought.
Technology is advancing at such a rapid pace that everything around us, including our bodies, might be completely unrecognizable just a hundred years from now. We are well on the way to creating a nearly fully automated world, artificial prosthetics as good as biological limbs, and antibodies that can fight currently incurable diseases like AIDS. Beyond that, there are now revolutionary space programs are gearing up to spread humanity’s reach through the solar system. Our future, as always, is uncertain, but if current trends hold, there’s no doubt that we can achieve wonders.
Of course, the technological wonders of today are not all enormous, and neither should they be. Much of what makes for good technology includes slimming and shrinking existing technology into better, more space friendly designs. Sophistication and application of a technology are far more important, and the ambition behind a project weighs heavily on whether it is included on the list, too.
There are so many different structures and technologies out there that it would have been impossible to include them all, so we’ve only added a few that really stood out and wowed us. Whether they further our search for understanding of the universe, or are just really pretty to look at, these five picks reflect how human ingenuity and scientific know-how can be applied to just about anything.
4 Palm Islands
The Palm Islands are man-made islands being built in Dubai. They are shaped in the form of palm-trees, and are easily visible from the sky. Currently, the Palm Islands include the Palm Jumeirah and the Palm Jebel Ali. Construction on a third island, the Palm Deira Island, is ongoing.
The Palm Islands are built entirely of sand and rocks – no concrete whatsoever is used in construction. To give you an idea of how big the islands are, about 5 million cubic meters of rock and more than 90 million cubic meters of sand were used to create the islands. For the reclamation process, more than 200,000,000 cubic meters of sand, rock and limestone were moved. To construct the islands, dredging ships were used, the islands made by having sand sprayed into the air and down to the ground, with GPS systems for guidance.
The Palm Jebel Ali, which is half again as big as the Palm Jumeirah, has six marinas, a sea village, homes that have been built on stilts, and boardwalks around the fronds of the palm-leaves. The island also has a water park for the tourists.
With oil reserves in the country being depleted rapidly, Dubai’s ruler seems to have set the country on the path to becoming a must-visit destination for tourists. Ambitious and impressive projects like the Palm Islands are certainly a step in the right direction.
3 The Three Gorges Dam
There is no denying that the Three Gorges Dam in China is a complicated modern marvel, even if many think it’s a disaster waiting to happen. The largest hydropower producing dam in the world, experts estimate that just the steel required for the Three Gorges project – more than 450, 000 tons – was enough to construct as many as 60 Eiffel Towers. The power station attached to the dam is capable of producing a massive 22, 500 MW of electricity.
The dam is built on the Yangtze River in China’s Hubei province. The length of the reservoir is more than 600 kilometers. The construction of the dam displaced more than a million people, and also flooded as many as 13 cities, more than 100 towns, and more than 1,000 villages.
The Three Gorges Dam cost about $25 billion to build. The thing is so big that it is creating a microclimate within itself, and the weight of the water it’s carrying may be enough to induce earthquakes in the region. This has created dangers of landslides occurring in the vicinity, as well as downstream. It is also causing droughts, and may even be affecting fishing operations carried out in the East China Sea.
2 The Large Hadron Collider
The Large Hadron Collider might be the most technologically advanced machine humans have ever built, holding the title of the world’s most powerful and highest-energy particle accelerator. The LHC was built over a period of 10 years, from 1998 to 2008, by the European Organization for Nuclear Research. It was constructed to allow scientists to search for the Higgs boson particle- a then-theoretical particle that, according to the standard model of particle physics, are part of a special field that helps to allow mass to exist. The search for the particle was of immense importance, since the Higgs’ non-existence would mean having to rethink all of particle physics. Thankfully, in 2012, the LHC discovered the Higgs. Across the world, the search had gone on for more than 40 years.
The LHC rests 175 meters (575ft) under the border of Switzerland and France, near Geneva. It occupies a tunnel 27 kilometers (17 miles) long, and was built by a combined effort of over ten thousand scientists and engineers, as well as hundreds of labs and universities from all over the world. It functions by allowing two opposing particle beams of nuclei or protons to collide. The results of the collision are measured by more than a hundred computing centers in over 30 countries from all over the world.
With the LHC’s discovery confirmed as legitimate in 2013, the project is set to undergo an upgrade to begin searching for new particles. The hope is that scientists will be able to use the collider to answer more questions in the coming years, helping our species gain greater understanding of how we exist.
1 The International Space Station
If you look up in the sky at night, you might see a bright light speeding by. Don’t get too excited - it’s probably not a shooting star or flying saucer. More than likely it’s the International Space Station (ISS) that you’re seeing. It’s now the third-brightest object that can be seen in the night sky, right after the Sun and the Moon.
The International Space Station is a habitable satellite that is currently in a continuous orbit around the earth. It’s possible that the International Space Station is the most expensive structure ever built by man- an estimated $150 billion dollars was spent on its construction.
The ISS was launched in 1998, a combined effort by several spacefaring nations. It uses state of the art technology; including external trusses, pressurized modules, solar arrays, and other components; to serve as an orbiting observatory and laboratory. The goal, of course, is to use it to help understand our galaxy better. In the past decade, experiments in biology, meteorology, astronomy, physics, and other fields have been carried out on the ISS.
The ISS is regularly visited by spacecraft that carry out servicing operations, and has been continuously inhabited since it was first launched. Operations on the ISS may continue until the year 2028, after which it may used to develop modules for a newer space station.
Finally, we have the internet, which is perhaps the most complicated, useful, and important technological marvel of them all. The internet is a vast collection of computer networks from all over the world, and now serves billions of people from all across the planet. According to estimates, more than 2.4 billion people, or about 1/3rd of the current human population, have accessed the internet in one form or the other.
The internet is the single greatest information resource on the planet, and the largest such resource in the history of mankind. Today, much of the world depends on the internet for entertainment, communication and information sharing. A collection of cables running under the ocean, and satellites in the sky, connect the computers in different countries together.
The internet was conceived far back in the 1960s by the United States Government, which was looking to build a fast means of communication between computers. They probably never imagined just how the internet would forever alter human society.
Today, the internet is governed by no country, with the only “official” body associated with the internet being the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), which does nothing more than decide core protocol specifications that are necessary for transmitting information over networks.