First How Things Work Encyclopedia: A First Reference Guide for Inquisitive Minds
Any new idea or product that has been created by a person can be called an invention. Inventions change the way people live their lives—they can make things safer, easier, faster, or cheaper.
Accidental ideas Inventions can happen by accident. When chemist John Wesley Hyatt was trying to find a material for billiard balls, he spilled a liquid that dried into a tough, flexible film. This “celluloid” was later used as camera film.
Knowing your stuff
Technology is the science of how things work. The inventors of the shoes shown in this drawing knew that a coiled spring is a source of stored energy.
They used this technology to make power shoes.
Expensive origins Some of the things in everyday use were developed for space programs. Smoke detectors, for example, were first used on the Skylab space station. When was the first pair of shoes invented? Electric lightbulb Eyeglasses Cathode ray tube Faraday’s induction ring Telephone Refractometer Wheel Technology “Discovery consists of … thinking what nobody else has thought.” seeing what everybody has seen an
Inventors are creative people. The Italian artist and scientist Leonardo da Vinci was an avid inventor. He designed hundreds of machines, including airplanes, pumps, and cannons, that were centuries ahead of their time.
How long does an invention take? An invention has to begin with an idea. It can sometimes take hundreds of years before the science, technology, or materials are advanced enough to make the idea work. The idea for a helicopter may have come from
China as far back as 400 bce.
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