Why Lightbulbs Might Be The Best Invention Ever

Why Lightbulbs Might Be The Best Invention Ever

Lightbulbs might be the best idea ever – just not for light. Head to https://brilliant.org/veritasium to start your free 30-day trial, and the first 200 people get 20% off an annual premium subscription.

A huge thanks to David Lovett for showing me his awesome relay and vacuum tube based computers. Check out his YouTube channel @UsagiElectric

Herring, C., & Nichols, M. H. (1949). Thermionic emission. Reviews of modern physics, 21(2), 185. – https://ve42.co/Herring1949

Goldstine, H. H., & Goldstine, A. (1946). The electronic numerical integrator and computer (eniac). Mathematical Tables and Other Aids to Computation, 2(15), 97-110. – https://ve42.co/ENIAC

Shannon, C. E. (1938). A symbolic analysis of relay and switching circuits. Electrical Engineering, 57(12), 713-723. – https://ve42.co/Shannon38

Boole, G. (1847). The mathematical analysis of logic. Philosophical Library. – https://ve42.co/Boole1847

The world’s first general purpose computer turns 75 – https://ve42.co/ENIAC2

Dylla, H. F., & Corneliussen, S. T. (2005). John Ambrose Fleming and the beginning of electronics. Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology A: Vacuum, Surfaces, and Films, 23(4), 1244-1251. – https://ve42.co/Dylla2005

Stibitz, G. R. (1980). Early computers. In A History of Computing in the Twentieth Century (pp. 479-483). Academic Press.

ENIAC’s Hydrogen Bomb Calculations – https://ve42.co/ENIAC3

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Written by Petr Lebedev, Derek Muller and Kovi Rose
Edited by Trenton Oliver
Animated by Mike Radjabov, Ivy Tello and Fabio Albertelli
Filmed by Derek Muller & Raquel Nuno
Additional video/photos supplied by Getty Images & Pond5
Music from Epidemic Sound
Produced by Derek Muller, Petr Lebedev, & Emily Zhang
Thumbnail by Ignat Berbeci

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31 Responses

  1. Uio Uio says:

    Light bulbs were such a good idea, they became the symbol for good ideas

  2. Tylen Johnson says:

    As someone who works for a commercial and industrial lighting agency, I love this. Such a great history lesson. This is the kind of Veritasium video I love to see!

  3. Concinnity says:

    Hi Derek, I’m a semiconductor Electrical Engineer. I also look forward to your silicon video(s). I have often imagined how to animate a Bipolar Junction Transistor (BJT). The electron would be a circle of one color, the hole a different color. During recombination, the colors disappear into the background. I’m sure you will explain what took me some time to learn. The reason the charge carriers get through the base into the collector is diffusion! The importance of emitter injection efficiency might be out of scope. Another in the series might show how the photo-voltaic diode works, the light making electron-hole pairs (EHP)s, and that makes power how?

    • sonycans says:

      I remember my old professor teaching me the differences in semiconductor transistors… I never fell more in love with the MOSFET and its design although delicate in nature.

    • connor page says:

      What’s your major?

  4. David Baldes says:

    I have a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. I have worked for IBM developing computer chips, and I have spent the rest of my life developing computer software, and I have never heard the invention of the vacuum tube explained so well! Please keep making content. You are awesome!

    • Jeremiah Fisher says:

      I wanted to comment something like this, I have a similar background, and this explanation put some of my college classes to shame..

    • sfurules says:

      I have no experience in this field besides just being interested in it. To me this was fascinating….I’d always known about vacuum tubes in old tech but never once thought, “But…why?”.

    • Matt Purnell says:

      I code for work, have tried multiple times to learn the journey of computer science, and always lost interest, which isn’t common for me.. but, it always seemed to be presented so drily. This was fascinating, great work Derek

    • Dale Johnson says:

      For real he really did nail it. I’m no engineer, just a tube audio enthusiast (listened to this video on my modded Dynaco ST-70), but he really did nail it lol

    • David Baldes says:

      So many of my college EE classes just jumped directly into the math without spending any time on background, explaining why what we were going to spend a semester studying was significant. I wish we had better science explainers adding context and explaining things in plain English back when I was a student

  5. Scott McIntosh says:

    As a software engineer for over 30 years I was fascinated that I just learned of ENIAC from you! Just proves that learning is 4ever. Thanks!

  6. KaijinCraft says:

    While I was a kid, my dad had an old FM radio and a separate audio amplifier that used vacuum tubes. Today I learned how they worked. Simply amazing! I hope you do the follow up video on how this works in silicon.

  7. Life = 42 says:

    My mind is constantly blown how far humans have come in the last 100 years.

    Edit: Great to see awesome comments here. The goal is to become a peaceful species to explore the cosmos. Let’s overcome the great filter!

  8. CAO Designworks says:

    Seeing the progress of computers laid out in a timeline is one of the most fascinating things to me. I’ve probably seen/ read the story about a dozen times and it’s still interesting

  9. garyantonyo says:

    I hope you eventually collab with someone like Ben Eater to explain at least some of the basics of how a processor actually works in this “series” of topics. When I was a kid this was the biggest mystery for me and no one could really explain it well (mostly because it is a complicated topic), but now as an adult this is something that I think is not so complicated that child me could not understand, there just was a lack of easy to access and understand material. Ben Eater’s videos really helped cement that knowledge and build an intuition for it even after taking college undergrad courses that touched on the subject.

  10. CaptainJuiccy says:

    As an eager mechanical engineering student, your videos always leave me in awe, feeling calm and hopeful. Your videos are beautiful and brilliant!

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