A Drink with Leonardo

By: John A. Lanier

The promises of graphene aluminum-ion batteries are quite alluring – more energy density, reduced risk of combustion, made of a cheap and abundant material, longer lifespan, and eye-popping recharge rates (perhaps as much as 60 times faster to recharge than lithium-ion).

Photo Credit: www.theenglishnose.com

I have a ridiculous hypothetical for you. Just imagine if you could hop into a time traveling device and pop on back to Milan, Italy in 1512. There, you meet Leonardo da Vinci in the 60th year of his life, and you offer to treat him to a glass of wine. Settling in with your drink on a cool autumn afternoon, you proceed to explain that you are a traveler from far away who has come to show this famed inventor some amazing inventions. You then show him the chronological history of inventions that occurred after his death, such as the refracting telescope invented in 1608, the mechanical calculator invented in 1642, the steam engine invented in 1712, and so on. I wonder what would be the first invention that would make Leonardo think you were a magician instead of an inventor. What would be the first thing that left him truly dumbfounded?

My guess is the battery, first invented by Alessandro Volta in 1800. Leonardo would have had no real concept of electric current, so this would have been revolutionary for him. Just imagine his eyes when he saw a battery discharge and cause an electric arc, say between two metal wires. He would be like, “Dude! You just made a miniature lightning bolt! WTF?!?!?” Or, you know, however you would say that in Italian 500 years ago.

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