The Sun beneath the Clouds

In 1962, Berlin astronomer Johann Dunkeldorf, a 15-year-old Wunderkind and Nobel laureate, made a shocking discovery: our sun will expire one day and then Earth will be shrouded in eternal darkness. Dunkeldorf was a unique product of the Cold War, as he had been conceived and later born in the no-man’s land between the American and Soviet zones of Berlin. …

Like a Lion in Zion

When iron was first discovered, back in the Bronze Age, it didn’t seem much of an improvement over the then-traditional copper-tin alloy. Iron was twice as hard, but this benefit quickly vanished once it started to corrode -which it did a lot faster than bronze. Iron has a not-so-secret boner for oxygen, and that feeling is mutual, so the two …

The Multi Blower that Multi Sucked

The Philips HK 4250 Multi Blower was invented in the late 1960s, when consumerism had hit its first ceiling: every household in the First World had bought every variety of appliance they could ever possibly need. With World War II and its hardships still fresh in people’s minds, nobody was willing to replace things before they broke down. Sure, the …

Reinventing the Wheel

The device we call a labeller or label maker today, was initially presented to the Swiss patent office in Bern as a ‘travel typewriter’ -and variations of this name in French, German, Italian and Rhaeto-Romance- from 1961 to 1963. Its inventor, Giancarlo di Saronno Originale, was a creative genius, but not a very practical one. And it was precisely the …

Fossil Fuel

When the first blue metal canisters -some filled with gas, others punctured and empty- were discovered near Marseille in 1971, paleontologists were baffled. The mysterious objects were found deep underground, in layers that had to be at least 30 million years old. And what’s more, in that same layer were found fossils of dinosaurs -which were thought to have been …