With television, the car is probably the most widely used and most useful of all leisure-inspired inventions. German engineer Karl Benz produced the first petroldriven car in 1885 and the British motor industry started in 1896. Henry Ford was the first to use assembly line production for his Model Т car in 1908. Like them or hate them, cars have given people great freedom of travel.
The name came from the Greek word for amber and was coined by Elizabeth I's physician William Gilbert who was among those who noticed that amber had the power to attract light objects after being rubbed. In the 19th century such great names as Michael Faraday, Humphry Davy, Alessandro Volta and Andre Marie Ampere all did vital work on electricity.
Photography (Early 19th Century)
Leonardo da Vinci had described the camera obscura photographic principle as early as 1515. But it was not until 1835 that Frenchman Louis Daguerre produced camera photography. The system was gradually refined over the years, to the joy of happy snappers and the despair of those who had to wade through friends' endless holiday pictures.
Edinburgh-born scientist Alexander Graham Bell patented his invention of the telephone in 1876. The following year, the great American inventor Thomas Edison produced the first working telephone. With telephones soon becoming rapidly available, the days of letter-writing became numbered.
Computer (20th Century)
The computer has been another life-transforming invention. British mathematician Charles Babbage designed a form of computer in the mid-1830s, but it was not until more than a century later that theory was put into practice. Now, a whole generation has grown up with calculators, windows, icons, computer games and word processors, and the Internet and e-mail have transformed communication and information.
The plane was the invention that helped shrink the world and brought distant lands within easy reach of ordinary people. The invention of the petrol engine made flight feasible and the American Wright brothers made the first flight in 1903.
(from Club, abridged)
THE GENE REVOLUTION
Every plant, animal and person has genes. They are passed on from generation to generation. They make sure that humans give birth to humans or cows give birth to cows. They also make sure that a pig cannot give birth to a frog, or a horse to a dog.
The recipe for a human being is contained in the 80,000 genes we inherit from our parents. These genes have the instructions that not only make us human but also determine things like skin colour and the shape of our nose.
Scientists have known about genes for a long time. What they haven't known until recently is how to change them. Now they do.
Genetic engineers put duck genes into chicken to make the chickens bigger. They put genes from flowers into soya beans and from scorpions into corn.
British scientists managed to create the first "geep," an animal which is 50% sheep and 50% goat.
Now people are wondering if the world will soon see another incredible sight: a clone of a human being.
(from Speak Out, abridged)
Nanotechnology is the trendiest area of modern science. It is a form of molecular technology, which can combine biotechnology with atomic electronics. Put simply it is the technology of building very, very small things.
Making things' as small as a nonometre - one thousand millionth of a metre - might sound impossible, but today's scientists are building tiny machines and structures from components as small as single atoms.
But why would anyone want to go to the trouble of moving single atoms around with highly sophisticated machinery?
"Nanotechnology makes it possible to take all the atoms in your body and reassemble them. If you're just about to die of some nasty disease, we could send nanotechnology robots into your body and undo that damage and repair all of the cells," says a British scientist. "Nanotechnology can also undo your age. It can make a 90-year old man a young man of twenty-one again."
The possibilities of nanotechnology are enormous.
Nanotechnology is a fairly new area of research, and most of the work going on is to develop tools and techniques rather than practical inventions. But just as the space race gave us spin-offs like digital watches and ever-smaller computers, so nanotechnologists are already finding that their skills have a surprising range of uses.
Children and grown-ups are doing it. Skiers and ice hockey players are doing it.
Athletes and acrobats are doing it. What is "it"? In-line skating!
In-line roller skates are more and more popular. Millions of people in Europe and the USA are putting on their skates and doing the strangest things.
Ice-hockey players and skiers use them in summer. Some have stopped playing ice hockey and play roller hockey with in-line skates instead. Why? It's more fun! Roller hockey combines elements of hockey and basketball. Even women play in-line roller hockey.
The streets of America are full of children playing hockey on their skates. In London parks there are now special skating sections so that skaters don't frighten joggers and walkers when they whizz past at 50 kilometres per hour!
Of course, some people like competition, so there are in-line speed-skating championships with different distances.
Joseph Merlin, a Belgian inventor and musical instrument maker, invented the roller skates in about 1760. He was also the first person to wear them. He wore his new metal skates to a party in London, where he crashed into a very expensive mirror.
He wasn't very interested in skating after this experience.
In 1863, James Plimpton, an American businessman, invented a roller skate that could turn. Plimpton opened a skating club in New York where gentlemen enjoyed showing off for the ladies by doing fancy figures, steps and turns.
Within 20 years, roller skating had become a popular pastime for men and women.
Indoors, wealthy gentlemen played "roller polo," a hockey game. Others held contests in dance and figure skating. Outdoors, men and women were racing in speed contests.
The more the public saw of skating, the more they wanted to try it themselves. Roller skating was soon enjoying its first boom. Roller hockey teams were playing throughout Europe as early as 1901.
In the 1970s, the first plastic skate wheels were made. Such wheels were quieter than those made of wood or metal, and skaters could move faster and easier.
In 1980s, a new kind of roller skates appeared. They are called in-line roller skates.
They were invented by two brothers in Minnesota, USA, who wanted to practice icehockey in the summer.
Everybody liked the invention and soon the two brothers started to produce in-line skates commercially. In 1984, Rollerblade, the first in-line skate company was bom.
Today, there are lots of companies and lots of skates.
(from Speak Out, abridged)
Snowboarding is the fastest-growing winter sport. It's catching on all over the world and is now included in the Olympic Games.
Did we say sport? Snowboarding is also a way of life, with its own equipment, style, music, clothing and even language.
The "father" of snowboarding is Jake Burton. He became hooked on the idea when he was a teenager and took 15 years to develop the perfect snowboard. Now he owns the largest snowboard business in the world.
Snowboarding is different from skiing. "The only thing skiing has in common with snowboarding is the snow," says one snowboarding fan.
A snowboard looks like a big skateboard without wheels. While standing up with both feet on a board, a snowboarder slides down a slope, controlling the direction with the same small movements that a skateboarder uses. The most difficult thing is, of course, to keep balance.
Skiers, however, aren't happy about the latest craze. They say that snowboards ruin the surface of the snow, and snowboarders can be intimidating as they fly down hills at amazing speeds. Besides, their baggy trousers, baseball caps, bright shirts and Walkmans playing Hip Hop music are not what traditional, conservative skiers are used to.
But snowboarders will give you a long list of reasons why snowboarding is better than skiing.
Snowboarding is especially popular with teenagers and college students (some say as many as 90% of snowboarders is between the ages 10 and 25). "Skiing is for old people," says a student from Colorado. "Snowboarding is for the young. You can go crazy when you snowboard and that's cool."
(from Speak Out, abridged)
Surfing is popular all over the world. It's practised on lakes and rivers, seas and oceans - anywhere with good wind.
Some people think that it's a new kind of sport. But it is not. It was first reported by the British explorer Captain Cook in 1778. It became popular with the introduction of mass-produced, lightweight boards made of fibreglass in the 1960s.
The birthplace of surfing is Hawaii and today it's home of the most famous surfing competition. Huge waves crash along mile after mile of beautiful sand, and every surfer dreams of experiencing surfing in Maui or Oahu.
The best time for surfing is when the waves are high. Serious surfers must be very brave, love adventure and have lots of energy. Once they've experienced the excitement of a ride on top of the waves, they never want to stop.
It takes time to learn to catch a wave at the right moment, stand up on your board and stay there. But during a hot summer day, who minds practising?
(from Speak Out, abridged)