Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 2, 2014

ED VASICEK: Military inventions that benefit us all

Indeed, some things are for the better

Kokomo Tribune

---- — Most of us view war as a sometimes necessary evil, but an evil to be avoided if possible. The sad reality is we need armed forces to protect our security and preserve our freedoms. Surprisingly, military enterprise sometimes invents things that benefit civilian society in amazing ways.

Radar made a significant difference that helped turn the tide in our favor during World War II. Yet anyone who travels by plane enjoys the benefits of radar. It is fair to say thousands of lives have been saved because of it. It is much, much safer to fly in a commercial plane than to ride in an auto.

Mentalfloss.com suggests a number of other military inventions that benefit us civilians. For example, the Internet was a military creation. Yet most of us depend upon the Internet on a daily basis.

We recently visited our son and daughter-in-law in St. Louis. How did we find our way? Through a military invention, the GPS. I also printed up a set of back-up directions via the Internet from MapQuest, thus depending upon both technologies.

Could you imagine life without duct tape? Some postulate the universe is held together with it. According to mentalfloss.com, “In 1942, duct tape was invented for the military as a way to seal ammunition cases so that water couldn’t get in. Soldiers during WWII quickly realized that it worked well for fixing army gear, too.”

Computers were also developed for military use; the first one (with vacuum tubes) was engineered by our military during the Second World War. Did you warm up a cup of coffee in your microwave today? The microwave was also a military invention, a side-effect of radar.

Wikipedia lists the jet as yet another military invention that has benefited us civilians, replacing the much-slower propeller planes. Even digital photography was — at first — a military application.

Recently, news broke of another monumental invention discovered by Lockheed Martin, a military supplier. According to Reuters, “A defense contractor better known for building jet fighters and lethal missiles says it has found a way to slash the amount of energy needed to remove salt from seawater, potentially making it vastly cheaper to produce clean water at a time when scarcity has become a global security issue.”

The filter is made of a carbon membrane with holes as small as one billionth of a meter that can filter out salt molecules. It is 500 times thinner than any filter currently available, but a thousand times stronger. The article continues:

“The development could spare underdeveloped countries from having to build exotic, expensive pumping stations needed in plants that use a desalination process called reverse osmosis.”

In the United States, where water is plentiful and inexpensive, this may seem to be a trite invention. But for millions and millions throughout the world, this will be viewed as a blessing from heaven above.

But even in the U.S., we might see significant benefits from this new technology. Will we be able to filter out undesirable elements from groundwater effectively and inexpensively? Will we be able to reduce air pollution? Can this result in significantly reducing carbon emissions? Will such technology have medical implications?

None of us knows what 2014 will hold; the future is, by nature, unpredictable. While it is human nature to bemoan the negatives, it is refreshing to consider many changes likely will be for the better. I wish all readers a great 2014!

Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at edvasicek@gmail.com.