Field of Science

Tool Using Animal

The weekend of the 4th of July is Independence Day here in the USA for all of my international readers. For many years we spent the 4th at our cabin on the Mississippi River, but after our co-owners moved it became a labor merely to keep entropy at bay, so we sold the cabin after 15 years. Since then we have basically spent the weekend of the 4th keeping entropy at bay for our house and gardens. And this weekend was no different, and this isn't a complaint, but a prologue to some thoughts on our remarkable human ability to use tools because ultimately tools were our original means of independence. It came to me sometime during the 4th or 5th specifically different house-garden maintenance chore today that the Phactor had become one with his screwdriver, a magnificently simple, yet versatile tool. You see it's not that humans can manufacture and use tools that makes us unique, it's that we can look at a tool and see addtional uses, particularly if using the "right" tool would require another trek into the basement shopcave to retrieve an instrument specifically designed for one task, but not a screwdriver, elegant in its simplicity, and therefore useful in many ways. Today my screwdriver was used as a pry bar, a chisel, a putty knife, a scraper, a can opener, a nail punch, a cleaner outer of channels, and lastly, just as a lark, to hold the slotted head of a bolt in place while the nut was being tightened, which is more or less a use it was designed for. Although there is no question that the hammer is the king of tools, the screwdriver must be the queen. And this is the unique human thing, not that we use tools, but that we can invent a screwdriver, a wonderful tool for a specific use, and then open beer bottles with it; oh, now there's an idea! For a short while the paring knife was a candidate, but the last two used for alternative functions broke, so the Phactor has yet to hear the last of that, and for the time being will use paring knives for a single function, cleaning fingernails. Any other nominations out there for most useful tool?

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