The Stone Age isn't over. It may never end. This is not a reflection on Neanderthals lingering in Washington or Moscow, but a seemingly permanent fact of cultural life. Though Americans have lived in an age of material diversity for generations, few suspect they inhabit an island of modernity in a sea of cultures still built mostly of materials familiar to the Greeks and Romans.. Most are untroubled by this , for can't name a dozen of the metals that first came into use in the 20th century , let alone as many electronic materials. They are content to live in the cognitive world of their grandparents even as they employ the materials of the future.
But there's a difference that transcends the generation gap-- only a century and a half ago, there was little for our our great great grandparents to learn- the periodic chart had not been invented , and speculation as to how many sorts of atoms their might be was metaphysical, not scientific . Absent thermodynamics, caloric and phlogiston were respectable terms of reference in talking about heat, and even sophisticated master artisans capable of making steel or glass went about their business untroubled about the nature of the materials they so skillfully wrought- for most of human history, praxis existed without recourse to theory .
It had to- because the existing theories of matter were mostly wrong. Yet while