Everybody yips about The Wheel as the greatest invention of all time. What a media whore! Think about it! What can you actually do with a wheel? Not much! Try it! Look around for something round, (pie plate, saucer, jar lid, even one of those ancient DVD discs — it doesn’t matter.) Now, try and find a use for it. Frankly, once you’ve done Frisbee, you’re pretty much finished. The fact is, despite the hype, a wheel, by itself, is absolutely useless. And whoever invented it must have been a dumbass. Imagine the caveman conversation.
“Hey, Marvin! What you got there?”
“I call it a wheel.”
“Cool! What does it do?”
“Watch this! I just give it a push, and look, it rolls all the way down the hill.”
“Cool! And — uh?”
“And nothing. I go down, carry it back up the hill and do it again.”
“Dude! We’re like friends and everything, but that is totally stupid.”
“That’s all you know. The wheel is going to be a big thing, someday. It’s goin’ be as big as like fire, probably.”
“Man, you gotta stop lickin’ those shiny frogs.”
Here’s the deal. In order to do anything except roll away, wheels need other wheels. Plus, they need something to control the spin and some way to attach the spin to something else (i.e. transfer the energy.) In other words, they need an axle, and that concept it very complicated. It took prehistoric humans 10,000 years of circular hit and miss just to figure out they could use tree trunks as rollers to move heavy stuff like stones. And it was another millennium plus before Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II’s two-wheeled chariots kicked the crap out of the Hittites at the Battle of Kadesh in 1274 B.C. However, it was actually a Roman genius, Vitruvius (who most people have never heard of, BTW) who unleashed the tireless potential of the wheel axle, when he built and used the first vertical waterwheel around the time of Christ. Eighteen hundred years later, steam turned the wheels axles of the Industrial Revolution, and from there, it didn’t take very long (less than 200 years) for NASA’s Planetary Surface Exploration Device to be doing wheelies on Mars.
So even though the wheel gets all the credit, it’s really the tireless work of the axle that is one of the greatest human achievements of all history.