One word for today in history: plastic

This is from Wired:

1933: Two British research chemists miss an important detail … and make polyethylene.

Reginald Gibson and Eric Fawcett worked at Imperial Chemical Industries’ research laboratory at Winnington in County Durham. Their equipment was faulty when they attempted to react ethylene and benzaldehyde under high pressure. They produced a waxy lump of what the British call polythene.

Unbeknownst to the researchers, oxygen had leaked into their apparatus and catalyzed the reaction. <snip />

During World War II, polyethylene was a military secret. It was used to insulate cables on newly developed radar devices. Large-scale, commercial polyethylene production began after the war to create a plethora of plastic kitchenware, toys, containers and packaging.

Plastic is a mixed bag. Ahem. On the one hand, it’s helping us wreck our planet that much more quickly. On the other hand, it helps us make all sorts of amazingly wonderful things. On the whole, I believe I’ll fall into the “Plastic is Good” camp.

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3 Responses

  1. Joel says:

    couldn’t pass this up:

  2. And I can’t resist this one:

    Watch it and then visit to learn how to kick the plastic habit.

  3. Scott Gunn says:


    Thanks for your comment. Glad you found your way to this corner of the blogosphere.

    Of course, you’re right. We use waaay too much plastic. I could have been more clear. Plastic itself has been a technology which has offered many benefits. Our consumption of plastic (and just about everything else) is nothing to celebrate.


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