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Which Came First--the Chicken or the Egg?

David L. Heiserman
13  June, 2015

Which came first?
The egg or the chicken
or the chicken or  the  egg?

The origin of  that  little ditty is obscure, but we  can assume the thought--the little causality dilemma--is a by-product of Greek philosophy. Here is a more serious example:

If God created everything
who created God?

These apparent dilemmas are caused by an inadequacies  in the system of  thought or misconceptions on the part of the one asking such questions.

But let's get  to the point of this blog ... beginning with a bit of technology history. And by asking a question that has a form  that should be familiar to you by now:

Which came first?
The radio transmitter or the radio receiver
or the radio receiver or the radio transmitter?

Electromagnetic waves, the medium for radio transmission and reception, cannot be detected with any of the human senses. The human senses  evolved according  to a "need-to-know" principle, and primitive humans had no need to know about the existence and nature  of  electromagnetic waves.

In order to invent a radio receiver, one would have to suspect the existence of something beyond the senses--electromagnetic waves. And simply knowing about them isn't enough; one must also know  how manipulate them. Normal, everyday life,  guided by the five primary senses, could not even suspect the existence  and nature of electromagnetic waves, let alone invent two complementary devices -- both required to prove the  workability of the other.

Our sensory system is limited  in what  it can detect and  interpret. It takes a brain to free us of the physical limitations of an organic sensory system and plunge into invisible worlds that can be found  and appreciated only by human intellect.

The tools we need for exploring and exploiting the "unseen" is mathematics.

James Clerk  Maxwell wasn't an inventor or engineer. He was a physicist. His set of equations, now commonly known to generations of electrical engineers and engineering technicians as Maxwell's Equations. His little handful of equations completely  describe the realm of electromagnetic energy. These aren't number-crunching equations, but descriptive equations -- equations  that  describe the essence  of  a realm. Armed  with this sort of mathematical "map" of a new world, others set about finding ways to  prove and exploit the effects. Thus we now enjoy modern radio communication, discovered and described in mathematical terms.

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David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 06, 2015