Prologue: Time Travel with Abel

  • Reiner KümmelEmail author
Part of the The Frontiers Collection book series (FRONTCOLL)


Traveling in time and space from the Big Bang to the Sun and through the ages of the Earth we note that energy conversion is the prime mover in the evolution of life and the universe. We are witness to two revolutionary changes in the development of civilization when humans enhanced their access to the energy sources produced by the Sun. First, they increased their use of living biomass by the invention of farming and cattle breeding in the Neolithic Revolution after the climate had warmed and stabilized. About 10, 000 years later, humans started to exploit fossil energies by with the invention of the steam engine during the Industrial Revolution. Even without heat engines, Europeans had already conquered the world with firearms and sailing ships, which utilized the chemical energy of gunpowder and the kinetic energy of the wind. European dominance was shattered by World Wars I and II, which could not have gone global without fossil-fuel-powered heat engines. Since then, heat engines and transistors have decisively assisted the increasing production of material wealth. The resulting resource depletion and environmental pollution must be mitigated by a careful observation of the natural laws governing energy and entropy.


Blast Furnace Steam Turbine Industrial Revolution Heat Engine Vacuum Tube 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Theoretical Physics and AstrophysicsUniversity of WürzburgWürzburgGermany

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