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.