Technology Cleans Up



The modern day advances in technology never cease to astound me. And I am not one that is easily astounded.

I am not referring to the latest invisible particle discovered by invisible particle scientists working in the buried lairs of their particle accelerators. These particular scientists are the ones that keep coming up with new invisible particles to constantly confound high school students by forcing them to purchase new and more expensive chemistry textbooks with updated tables of periodic elements featuring the latest invisible particles that they have discovered.

When I was taking high school chemistry back in the stone ages, the last chemical listed in the periodic table was Lawrencium, named after the famed particle physicist T. E. Lawrencium. The current periodic table that can be found in my children’s school agenda lists a wide assortment of newly discovered elements like Unununium (symbol Uuu – quelle surprise). Try saying that five times fast!

And just what is about these school agendas that my children (meaning my wife and I) are forced to purchase every year? I never had an agenda when I went to school. It seems to me that my agenda consisted of going to classes, taking notes, completing homework, studying for tests, and getting failing grades.

But the modern student of today gets an agenda (subsidized by the parents) every year that contains the latest periodic table and who knows what else. Students of today use their agenda to record important items like their homework assignments, whereas, in the good old days, these important items were committed to small notes in the margins of the textbook.

Anyway, it is the latest advances in technology that I wanted to write about. I am referring to the television commercial that advertises the latest breakthroughs in dishwasher technology. This dishwasher has the ability to:

1. Estimate the size of the load, and

2. Estimate the amount of dirt.

I am assuming that in between all of this estimation, the dishwasher is still able to wash the dishes.

Now these new features raise some intriguing questions. Just how does the dishwasher estimate the size of the load? Does it have little kitchen scales inside? How does it know when it’s overloaded? Can I cram it full of crock-pots?

And dirt estimation is an entirely different science from load estimation. Somehow, I doubt that the dishwasher uses my technique for estimating dirt that consists of staring at a filthy surface such as a toilet bowl, rubbing my chin and saying, “I would estimate that we could wait another month before this needs to be cleaned.” Then my wife estimates whether or not our crock-pot would fit over my head.

So how does this dishwasher estimate the amount of dirt? Does it ask you to clean the dishes and save the dirt so that it can be measured on its internal kitchen scale? Is it full of dirt pixies that tell it how much dirt there is? Is this some new application for Unununium?

While we are waiting for the answers to these pressing questions, let’s spend some time figuring out ways to adapt this concept of “smart” appliances to other household items:

• Electronic toothbrushes that sense the amount of plaque on your teeth and will scrub for upwards of 45 minutes until it is all gone.

• Nose hair trimmers that attack you when they sense your nose hairs getting too long.

• Coffee makers that adjust the level of caffeine in your coffee by sensing what sort of mood you’re in.

• Crock-pots that will only take a certain load of crock.

• Telephones that send non-fatal surges of electricity through the heads of telephone solicitors that call you in the middle of supper.

• Alarm clocks that sense you will pound the tar out of them if they go off at six in the morning.

• Computers that estimate the amount of time remaining before they crash on you in the middle of writing an important colu

Nick Burn is a freelance writer, husband, father of three, engineer, teacher, and webmaster for the Canadian Catholic Information Network. In his spare time (hah!), he enjoys camping, skiing and reading.

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