or the story of how grandma gets to see the new baby!
My name is Roie Philom. Philom means "lover of learning". So I have amassed knowledge throughout my life and interpreted that knowledge into my own "world view" which is the way I see the world. As a result of this process I have became a Jack of many trades but a King of none.
This is my attempt to explain to you, according to my world view, how you can have a new baby and let grandma who is in another country across the ocean see the new baby within minutes after it is born. In the process of answering this question we will touch on a little history and a lot of science. It is hoped that you will find the story interesting and maybe will learn a little something from it. Please realize that to the extent that my world view is incomplete or imperfect then the story I will tell you will be untrue. But, true or not, it should be a good story. A friend of mine once told me, "If you are going to tell a story, try your best to make it interesting."
Also please remember that we are both like the blind men trying to describe an elephant. We have different perspectives and therefore we have different perceptions of the elephant each of which is both true and incomplete.
So... Where to begin? Well they say the best place to begin is at the beginning. Some say that is the "Big Bang" some 14 billion years ago. That is a theory of when and how the world came to exist. I don't necessarily believe that that theory is exactly true but I do agree that there is a world that exists, at least in our consciousness.
At any rate that world consists of stuff which consists of matter and energy and maybe some other stuff.
At present I see the world as a huge evolutionary process from my perception of time which, I realize, is probably an illusion. This process proceeds from chaos toward complexity in stages in which all possibilities are tried and almost all result in what, from my perception, is failure with a very infrequent success. Complete chaos means nothing exists which is the same as complete order. Once something exists it tends to be in a disordered state because there are more arrangements of stuff that are disordered than that are ordered. If, in a disordered universe, small pockets of order happen to appear, energy is required to maintain or increase that order.
The first stage of this process was physical which resulted in many worlds with vast amounts of matter and energy, a very small proportion of which became stars and galaxies and planets.
The next stage was biological in which life appeared on a very small number of these planets.
The next stage was multicelluar in which the complexity of a few organisms increased by symbiosis of individual single cells and life later evolved to a form of complex multicelluar plants and animals and in a very few cases it developed consciousness. Of these, which on Earth was the genus Homo, several species developed with only one becoming Homo sapiens sapiens, a species which walked upright and developed large brains with a corresponding ability to use logic and to develop science.
The next stage was social in which complex forms of life banded together to form social units of more and more complexity resulting, at this point, in the most complex being nations and multi-national corporations and other aggregations.
The next stage seems to be virtual in which people are forming virtual communities which is probably a further refinement of the social stage but it is unclear where this is heading.
During the last of these stages, due to the brain power or ability for abstract thought and analysis of man, there were technological developments which accelerated the process. The first of these were fire and weapons. Later came agriculture and machines and the industrial revolution leading to robotics and nanotechnology with the result of freeing man from physical labor.
Then came the printing press and computers which resulted in very enhanced mental abilities and possibilities of data collection and organization and manipulation leading to an accelerated explosion of knowledge and consciousness.
This led to development of the internet which meant that planetwide communication and creation of virtual worlds was possible.
In the meantime genetic knowledge gives the possibilities of man being able to control his own evolution and that of other species and space exploration which gives the possibility of man leaving earth and spreading to other places.
Of course there were many setbacks along the way including several near extinctions of all life on Earth and several near extinctions of Homo sapiens. There were also setbacks in the development of man such as arguably, agriculture, and unarguably, religion. At this point there are a number of threats (see problems) to the existence of mankind, most of which are caused by man himself, which are likely to result in an end to this prong of the overall evolution of this planet in this world of the many worlds of the universe.
So anyway, to continue our story, there was a man named Benjamin Franklin who flew a kite in a rain storm and demonstrated the existence of electricity. He was studying energy so today we might call him a physicist. If he studied matter we might call him a chemist. However, according to Einstein's theory of relativity, as demonstrated by the existence of atomic energy, matter and energy can be converted one to the other so physicists and chemists are really studying different aspects of the same thing.
Matter consists of atoms such as oxygen which has 8 protons in its nucleus and carbon which has 6 and silicon which has 14. A stable atom has the same number of electrons in its shells as protons in its nucleus but it is possible for an atom to have too few electrons so there can be an electron imbalance. This causes a potential for the electrons to flow from one place to another to correct this imbalance. Some materials allow electrons to flow easily and others do not. We call the first type of materials conductors because they conduct electrons freely and the other type non-conductors or insulators or resistors because they do not. Essentially this flow of electrons and changing their status from one energy level to another is what we call electricity and this process can release energy which can be useful to us humans.
So things like metals and water are generally conductors and things like glass and rubber and plastic are insulators. That means if we have a thing like a battery which stores high energy excess electrons or a generator which creates them and we connect it with a piece of metal such as a wire to a sink sometimes called a ground which has a lower number of electrons we can induce a flow of electrons through the wire. If we cause these electrons to flow through a material of greater resistance such as the filament in a light bulb then we will get a release of some of the energy in the electrons usually in the form of heat or light. That's why light bulbs and electric heaters work. Passing an electric current through a coil around a core of ferromagnetic material such as soft iron creates an electromagnet which can be used to move matter giving rise to electric motors, generators, relays, loudspeakers, hard disks, MRI machines and many other uses.
Men who had developed abstract concepts like language and even writing and drawing or painting discovered or realized that the flow of electrons could be controlled to represent a code like that developed by a man named Morse. So the telegraph worked by one man pressing a key to allow or stop the flow of electricity over a wire and by a man at the other end of the wire listening to clicks produced by the energy released by directing this flow into an electromagnet which attracted a piece of metal mounted on a spring. When the second man interpreted the code represented by these clicks man had created a method of transmission of information over a distance.
Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone by realizing that instead of sending clicks over a wire he could collect sound waves into a pattern of electron flow by means of a microphone and decode that back into sound waves by a speaker on the other end of the wire.
Then Marconi and others invented the radio by sending these patterns through air and space by means of modulated radio waves. Besides the light bulb and many other inventions, Thomas Edison, invented a method to store these patterns of sound waves so that they could be played back over speakers at a later date and they could even be duplicated to be played back many times. Thus the phonograph and records.
Then it was just a matter of encoding light waves and decoding them along with sound waves to invent the television and movies.
Information is data represented in an abstract way such as words, or written symbols or, in the case of the telegraph, patterns of electron flow. Our brains receive input as signals from stimulated neurons. We know of five sources of these stimuli. The eyes receive light rays and transmit that data. The ears receive sound waves. The nerves in the skin receive touch from other matter. The nose analyses chemicals in the air and the tongue analyses chemicals in materials in the mouth. There is also the subconscious part of the brain and the autonomic nervous system to consider.
So the brain receives input and interprets it and stores this interpretation as information in memory. If I receive a letter from my dad in which he says he has three cows in the barn, my brain receives the image of the light rays reflected from the page of his letter and interprets these into words. It then interprets these words into an image of three cows in a barn. This image in my mind probably gives a color to these cows such as black and a position such as standing or lying down even though the letter did not specify this information. The image of the barn may be more exact because I may have seen the barn in the past and may have a memory of it already so that the new data is merged with the old memory. Later if I visit the barn and find two standing red cows my brain will reinterpret the information by correcting the color and position of the cows and concluding that one cow has left the barn or perhaps that my dad was mistaken in the number of cows he originally reported in his letter.
Organically information can be stored in memory as patterns in brain cells and transmitted by the nervous system, perhaps as words spoken to another or as actions taken by muscles due to conclusions reached from analysing the data. We also now, as humans, have the ability to store data externally in a number of ways including on paper; magnetic, optical, or solid state on digital media; graffiti on walls, etc. and to transmit data by moving the storage media physically or by copying and transmitting it as electronic images or by light or sound waves or other methods. Some of the first methods used to store information external to the human memory were rock carvings, cave paintings and storage of numeric data by means of knots tied in ropes.
The digital camera is an instrument invented to collect light rays hitting a lens in much the same way the eye works and converting the information received into an electronic code which can be used to recreate these light wave patterns perhaps on a computer screen or printed on a paper.
Now to answer the original question:
Your new baby is born and, having a digital camera, you take a picture of her cute smiling (or crying) face. The camera stores the information collected by those light rays shining through the lens onto a light sensor into an electronic pattern in a format determined by the program in your camera. That computer file is stored on a storage media such as a solid state flash card and labeled with a file name such as "pic001352.jpeg" That means that this is the 1352nd picture taken on your camera and that it is information stored in the format standard developed by the Joint Photographic Experts Group.
You also have a computer which is an instrument invented by man for the purpose of electronically collecting, storing, and manipulating data. For more information about this click here.
You connect your camera to your computer and transfer the file of the picture of your new baby to the computer in the process changing the file name to "NewBaby.jpg". The file is stored on your computer's hard disk drive in a region that has been labeled by the computer's operating software as "My Documents/My Pictures". You store it in this location so that you can find the picture easily among all the other data stored in your computer such as Aunt Jane's recipe for sauerkraut and notes from your advanced calculus class and your financial records and your genealogy information.
Then you run an application program you have installed on your computer which has the purpose and the ability to send and receive email. Grandma has told you in the past that her email address is "email@example.com" so you give your email program the command to send an email to grandma at that address and you write the subject as "Picture of new baby attached." Then you give your email program the command to attach and send a copy of a computer file along with your message and you browse to the place in your computer file system where you have stored the picture and click with your mouse on "NewBaby.jpg". This tells your email program which computer file you want to attach.
When you click on the send button the magic begins to happen. Assuming you have set up a connection to the internet through an ISP (Internet Service Provider) such as your local telephone company, your email program sends your email to the MTA (Mail Transfer Agent) which is a program on a computer belonging to your ISP. The MTA program reads the address and parses out the domain "yahoo.com". The MTA sends a request to the DNS (Domain Name Server) for the ISP. The request asks that computer for the IP (internet protocol) address of yahoo.com and that address is received back in the format of 4 numbers separated by dots as in 18.104.22.168. The numbers are all three digits or less from 0 to 255. The IP address is a number assigned to the computer receiving internet traffic for Yahoo. From this point on the IP directs your message to Yahoo's computer. The message is transferred from computer to computer so that it goes to a main internet backbone computer first identified as 98. That computer then sends the message to a computer within its network identified as 139 which sends it to a computer in its subnetwork labelled 180 which then sends the message to computer 149 at Yahoo. That computer then reads the address as "Grandma" and stores the message in a part of its storage system indexed to Grandma so that when Grandma uses her email program to check her email it will find and download the message with the attached picture into her computer and she can view the jpg file with her picture viewing application.
That is a computer program which instructs the computer to load a data file, in this case NewBaby.jpg, and decode the file to convert it to a pattern of colors on a computer monitor (screen) or to print that pattern of colors on paper by means of an attached printer. That pattern of colors is a reasonable representation of the light waves received by your camera lens when focused on your new baby's face.