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Cars - are they a species?

October 21, 2015

Excerpt from an OUPblog article, published on 8th October, by Jennifer Coopersmith, Honorary Research Associate at La Trobe University. She is author of Energy, the Subtle Concept: The Discovery of Feynman's Blocks from Leibniz to Einstein, which is now available on Oxford Scholarship Online.

Energy, the Subtle Concept: The discovery of Feynman's blocks from Leibniz to Einstein


"The Edwardian seer and futurologist, H. G. Wells, wondered whether aircrafts would ever be used commercially. He did the calculations and found that, yes, an airplane could be built and, yes, it would fly, but he proclaimed this would never be commercial – the amount of oil-based fuel required was far too great, totally unrealistic. That a global politico-economic nexus would arise just in order to extract this black, sticky stuff (oil and oil products) was simply too fantastical a prospect for Wells to anticipate. (Question: what ‘obvious’ trends are our current futurologists missing?)

One of our contemporary seers is the naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough. He suggests that grass has ‘herded’ elephants, arguing that the elephants cull the trees and so enable the grasslands to increase their dominion. Is it too much to suggest that cars have likewise procreated and spread by bending human society to their own ends?."

Discover more: Read more about the enduring nature of classical music in Jennifer's article 'Cars - are they a species?'. The first chapter of her book, 'The Quest for Perpetually Acting Machines' is now freely available until the end of December. Get access to the full text of this book, as well as hundreds of Oxford Music titles, by recommending OSO to your librarian today.