Also see Mind-Blowing Science: The Zombie Bees and Other Animal Discoveries…
Remember that sleepy morning when you accidentally (and drowsily) spread some butter on your toast, and after you popped it in the oven, it just came out perfectly delicious? Life’s simple pleasures can come from everyday slip-ups, but even the most iconic findings can come just as serendipitously. It may be hard to believe, but these five discoveries were just happy accidents that we certainly are thankful for today.
About 2,000 years ago in China, it was said that the multi-colored pyrotechnics we ooh and aah at were actually created by a cook. Mixing together ordinary kitchen items like saltpeter, sulfur, and charcoal in the kitchen (why someone would do such a thing is beyond us), the cook burned the mixture and had it compressed in a bamboo tube. Of course, it exploded, and fireworks were born. Could the cook have been fired because of that unexpected kitchen explosion?
What 3M Laboratories researcher Spencer Silver really wanted was to make a strong adhesive, but instead, he ended up creating something weaker than expected. It would cling to surfaces for a while, but the adhesive could easily be pulled off without a trace. His colleague used this invention to serve as bookmarks in a choir hymn book by spreading the adhesive on small bits of paper, and there you have it: the Post-It.
Made even more popular by the endearing Slinky Dog from the Toy Story franchise, the fun Slinky spring was discovered in 1943 when Richard James, a naval engineer, wanted to create a sturdy spring to stabilize his ship’s more sensitive equipment. While working on the support spring, one of them fell off, kept moving, and there he found the inspiration for the toy. After his wife came up with its catchy name, the worldwide phenomenon has been slinking down stair steps worldwide ever since.
Imagine creating a universally loved snack just because of an irate customer, an angry chef, and some hot grease. Chef George Crum served up some potatoes to a very choosy customer at Moon’s Lake House. The customer kept sending the potatoes back to the kitchen, complaining that they were too soggy. Chef Crum flared up and to annoy his customer, he fried the thinnest potato slices he could make and drowned them in salt. Surprisingly, and to his dismay, the customer loved the chips. And on that fateful day in Saratoga Springs, New York, the potato chips were born. So the next time you send back a plate of spaghetti, think twice because who knows? You might get back a tasty and crunchy treat instead.
Who would have thought that Coca-Cola would be invented via a splitting headache? Pharmacist John Pemberton wanted to cure headaches with cola nuts and coca leaves. Add that to his assistant mixing them with carbonated water, and there you have it: the first prototype of the drink we love today. Of course, Coke has now evolved the recipe with secret ingredients, but the discovery is still as serendipitous as the soft drink is deliciously refreshing.
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