A Brief History of Motion Book Summary - A Brief History of Motion Book explained in key points
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A Brief History of Motion summary

Tom Standage

From the Wheel, to the Car, to What Comes Next

4.3 (94 ratings)
28 mins

Brief summary

'A Brief History of Motion' by Tom Standage is an insightful book that explores the evolution of transportation, from foot travel to self-driving cars. It offers a fascinating glimpse into how humans have innovated to move ourselves and our goods over time.

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    A Brief History of Motion
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    The invention of the wheel led to both practical uses and luxurious status symbols for ancient kings.

    Science has given us a lot of answers over the years, but history still retains a few secrets. For instance, who invented the wheel? For a while, it was assumed that the wheel came from Mesopotamia, often referred to as the “cradle of civilization,” and emerged sometime around 3500 BC. 

    However, new carbon dating results suggest that the origins of the wheel may reside in the Carpathian mountains, in areas like western Ukraine. A clay model of a bull on four wheels, found in Ukraine, was dated to have been made between 3950 to 3650 BC. In nearby southern Poland, a drawing of a four-wheeled carrier was found etched onto a pot that dates back to 3630 - 3380 BC.

    The key message here is: The invention of the wheel led to both practical uses and luxurious status symbols for ancient kings.

    The Carpathian mountains were loaded with copper ore, which was one of the major ingredients that precipitated the Bronze Age. Mining copper ore was no easy task, of course, and it makes perfect sense that the world’s first small hand-pulled wheeled vehicles would be ones that were used to cart ore out of the copper mines. So it was from the Carpathians that the invention of the wheel spread outward, to areas such as Mesopotamia. At least that’s the theory that historian Richard Bulliet helped popularize in 2016.

    But, surprisingly enough, wheels didn’t catch on overnight. They weren’t exactly easy to make with the tools at the time. And since it would be a while before axles and other modifications would make turning possible, their use was limited. By 3000 BC, two-wheeled carts were being used, but it wasn’t until 2000 BC that chariots took wheels into new territory.

    The invention of spoked wheels was a big leap. It meant wheels could be bigger, lighter, and faster. This led to the creation of chariots, which were pioneered by the Hittites as a military tool. Not only were they used to move weapons and supplies, war chariots were also painstakingly decked out with lavish decorations and used to elevate kings and heroic warriors into faster-than-life, god-like beings. Indeed, it was common for Egyptian and Hittite rulers to be buried with their chariots upon death. Already, wheels were becoming something of a status symbol in ancient times.

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    What is A Brief History of Motion about?

    A Brief History of Motion (2021) provides a revealing overview of the history, and possible future, of the automobile. From the invention of the wheel, to early steam engine contraptions and the enticing promises of automated cars, you’ll find out how these vehicles changed the course of human history, and the unexpected problems they’ve caused along the way. 

    A Brief History of Motion Review

    A Brief History of Motion (2022) dives into the fascinating evolution of human motion and why it matters. This book is definitely worth reading because:

    • It uncovers the surprising ways humans have moved throughout history, from ancient civilizations to modern technology.
    • Packed with interesting facts and anecdotes, it reveals the impact of motion on society, culture, and even the human body.
    • Its thought-provoking exploration of the future of motion keeps readers engaged and sparks curiosity about what lies ahead.

    Who should read A Brief History of Motion?

    • Gearheads
    • Anyone concerned about climate change 
    • Investors wondering about the future of transportation

    About the Author

    Tom Standage has been a writer for the Economist since 1998 and now serves as the publication’s deputy editor. He is also a popular commentator and keynote speaker, often on the subjects of technology and social trends. He is the author of numerous best-selling books including A History of the World in Six Glasses and An Edible History of Humanity.

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    A Brief History of Motion FAQs 

    What is the main message of A Brief History of Motion?

    The main message of A Brief History of Motion is the significance of motion in human history and its impact on society.

    How long does it take to read A Brief History of Motion?

    The reading time for A Brief History of Motion varies, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is A Brief History of Motion a good book? Is it worth reading?

    A Brief History of Motion is a compelling book that sheds light on the fascinating role of motion in shaping our world. It's definitely worth a read!

    Who is the author of A Brief History of Motion?

    The author of A Brief History of Motion is Tom Standage.

    What to read after A Brief History of Motion?

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