Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mistakes aren't bad ,not if they lead to new discoveries...are they?

Not all mistakes are bad.Some mistakes, some accidents can get you more than you ever expected. Such mistakes occur in the scientific world quite frequently.Listed here are some of such discoveries and inventions that were a result of the mistakes that worked.

  • Vulcanized Rubber:

The rubber in its original form is practically useless being brittle and stiff when cold and sticky when hot.Charles Goodyear had been trying to make it better for several years.But it actually happened by mistake.He brushed  his hands off that had the 'useless' rubber and some sulphur sticking on them onto a hot stove.He noticed that the rubber formed into some kind of gum and  left it out in the cold nailed to his door. He was astonished to find a perfectly elastic substance there by the morning.

  • X-Rays

In the nineteenth century, the penetrating rays emitted when electrons hit metal were a matter of interest for many.One such guy was Wilhelm Röntgen.One day he was trying to see the effect they had on objects that came in their way .But he was surprised when he saw the bones of his own hand being projected on the wall.This process led to the the discovery of X-Rays as we know them today. 
  • Penicillin

One day in 1928, Alexander Fleming didn't clean up his workstation before leaving.When he returned he found some strange fungus growing on some of his cultures but he was much more surprised when he saw that the bacteria didn't thrive anywhere near it.
Penicillin is still the most widely used antibiotics.
  • Artificial Sweeteners

Not washing hands before eating isn't bad specially if they taste sweet.Thats what the scientists who forgot to wash their hands after working with chemicals like aspartame, saccharin, cyclamate found out.Now wasn't that a sweet mistake.
  • Microwave Oven

The microwave was a result of things getting hot in Percy Spencer's pants, melting the candy bar in his pocket when he came close to a magnetron.
  • Pace Maker

This life saving device was discovered by Greatbatch when he was trying to make a circuit to record the heart sounds. By mistake he used a 1 mega ohm resistor in place of an intended 10,000 ohm one.The resultant circuit pulsed for 1.8 milli-second ,then stopped for a second and then pulsed again giving a perfect heartbeat.
  • Teflon

Roy Plunkett ,in an effort to make a new CFC planned to use a gas called TFE.In order to preserve the gas till the time of use, he cooled it and pressured it into canisters.But when the time of opening the canisters came, the gas was gone. Frustrated, he shook the canisters and out came some white flakes which later formed into the teflon we know today.
  • Radioactivity

Becquerel back in 1896 ran a series of experiments to see if all fluorescent elements emitted X rays in the sun.But the problem was that it was winter time and the sun refused to show up .Becquerel kept his apparatus in a drawer wrapped up in a paper for the meantime.When the sun finally showed itself ,Becquerel found that the uranium rock had left some imprints on the photographic plate even without being exposed to the sun.He studied this with the Curie couple to discover radioactivity.

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