QUIZ WHIZZ #1: Fluke Inventions

By Hashim Khan

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Accidents do happen and they don’t always lead to tragedies. In fact, sometimes they can be quite the contrary! As you may learn by the end of the blog, some accidents have not only made people famous, they have completely altered our lives!

Yesterday, in QUIZ WHIZZ, we asked you:

Do you know which of the following is NOT a fluke invention?

a. Kevlar

b. Pacemaker

c. Microwave

d. Super Glue.

We would like to thank all of you for taking out time and answering the question. Kindly read on to find out the correct answer.

Pacemaker: One of the greatest inventions of all time in the medical history is perhaps the pacemaker. This lifesaving device is a contingent discovery by Wilson Greatbatch. He was working on a circuit that helped record fast heart sounds; he incidentally replaced a 10,000 Ohm resistor with a 1 Mega Ohm resistor. Later realizing that his circuit pulsed for 1.8 milliseconds, he stopped for one second, and repeated the cycle, creating the perfect heartbeat. FLUKE!

Microwave: A microwave oven is an essential appliance in today’s modern homes. We treat ourselves with hot, cooked meal with a mere push of a button. Percy LeBaron Spencer, an engineer working on radar technology after WWII, had a weakness for chocolates that led him to stumble upon this remarkable idea. While working with the magnetron in the lab, a bar of chocolate melted in his pocket which he proposed was due to the invisible rays and not body heat. Soon, his fascination with the invisible radiation rays helped him design the microwave, and he began exploding eggs and popping popcorn with his microwave oven. FLUKE!

Super Glue:  Dr. Harry Coover, in 1942, worked for Eastman Kodak; his job was to find a plastic that could be used as a clear gun sight. During his research, he observed that the compound used, cyanoacrylate, was very sticky, it polymerized on contact with moisture and stuck to the test material and thus, discarded it. After about 6 years, he again came across cyanoacrylates and this time set to work on it realizing it could form an adhesive that did not require heat or pressure to develop a strong bond. With a bit of chemical change, “Alcohol-Catalyzed Cyanoacrylate Adhesive Composition” or Super glue came into existence. FLUKE!

And finally the correct answer for our question:

Kevlar: Poly-paraphenylene terephthalamide – branded Kevlar – was invented by Polish-American chemist Stephanie Kwolek while working for DuPont. In 1964, her group began searching for a new lightweight strong fiber to use for light but strong tires. Relying on experience and instinct, Stephanie Kwolek invented one of the modern world’s most readily recognized and widely used materials: Kevlar, a fiber five times stronger than steel, but about half the density of fiberglass. Kevlar is best known to the public as the material from which bulletproof vests are made; and in this use alone Kwolek’s discovery has saved thousands of lives.

Congratulations to those who got it right! Stay tuned to QUIZ WHIZZ for more questions, every Monday at 7 : 00 pm.

– The writer is an Executive member of NUST Science Society and a sophomore at School of Chemical and Materials Engineering.

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