Attention Deficit Disorder Prosthetic Memory Program

Serendipity

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Unplanned fortunate discovery. Serendipity is a common occurrence throughout the history of product invention and scientific discovery. The term “serendipity” is often applied to inventions made by chance rather than intent. The origin of cheese, for example, possibly originated in the Nomad practice of storing milk in the stomach of a dead camel that was attached to the saddle of a live one, thereby mixing rennet from the stomach with the milk stored within. Other examples of serendipity in inventions include: The post-it note, the microwave oven, the Velcro hook-and-loop fastener, the Popsicle and the penicillin.

The term “serendipity” is often applied to inventions made by chance rather than intent. Andrew Smith, editor of The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, has speculated that most everyday products had serendipitous roots, with many early ones related to animals. The origin of cheese, for example, possibly originated in the Nomad practice of storing milk in the stomach of a dead camel that was attached to the saddle of a live one, thereby mixing rennet from the stomach with the milk stored within.

Other examples of serendipity in inventions include:

— The Post-It Note, which emerged after 3M scientist Spencer Silver produced a weak adhesive, and a colleague used it to keep bookmarks in place on a church hymnal.

— Silly Putty, which came from a failed attempt at synthetic rubber.
The use of sensors to prevent automobile air bags from killing children, which came from a chair developed by the MIT Media Lab for a Penn and Teller magic show.

— The microwave oven. Raytheon scientist Percy Spencer first patented the idea behind it after noticing that emissions from radar equipment had melted the candy in his pocket.

— The Velcro hook-and-loop fastener. George de Mestral came up with the idea after a bird hunting trip when he viewed cockleburs stuck to his pants under a microscope and saw that each burr was covered with tiny hooks.

— The Popsicle, whose origins go back to San Francisco where Frank Epperson, age 11, accidentally left a mix of water and soda powder outside to freeze overnight.

— The antibiotic penicillin, which was discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming after returning from a vacation to find that a Petri dish containing staphylococcus culture had been infected by a Penicillium mold, and no bacteria grew near it.

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