15 things discovered by accident

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We all make mistakes every day: dropped things, wrong turns, lost items, misspelled words. Most of those mistakes are quickly forgotten, and we move on.

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But sometimes, mistakes turn into happy accidents. Throughout history, decisions and actions that seemed like errors at the time have sometimes turned into amazing discoveries. Or, in some cases, products that had overstayed their welcome found a new life as something else entirely.

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Think about these scenarios the next time you mess up. Maybe your slip-up is actually a blessing in disguise.

1. Microwave Oven
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A melted candy bar helped invent microwave cooking. Percy Spencer worked as an engineer at Raytheon in the middle part of the 20th century.

One day, microwaves from an active radar set started melting the candy bars in his pocket. Next, he tried popcorn kernels, which began to pop. This eventually led to Raytheon’s invention of the first microwave oven in 1947.

For the simplest way to clean your own microwave, see “How to Clean a Dirty Microwave in 30 Seconds.”

2. Curd
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It is believed that yogurt became popular because many early humans could not tolerate dairy products. Someone discovered that once dairy products were fermented, they suddenly turned into something digestible.

Professor Mark Thomas of University College London told NPR that, “If you milked a cow in the morning … by lunchtime in the Near East it would have started to ferment into curds.” The change probably wasn’t intentional, but it was a lovely accident for those of us who can’t imagine a day without yogurt.

Did you know that you can make your own yogurt? It’s also much cheaper than store-bought, as we detailed in “10 Food Staples That Are Cheap and Easy to Make at Home.”

3. Ice Cream Cone
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There are many legends about the development of the ice cream cone, but The New York Times reports that in America, the cone originated at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.

Ernest Hamwi, a Syrian concession vendor, is believed to have rotated a waffle cookie to hold the frozen treat so fairgoers could turn around and eat it. is reasonable!

Now all you need is ice cream. We have a recipe in “How I Made Homemade Ice Cream That’s Better Than Store-Bought”.

4. Popsicles
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Frank Epperson was just 11 years old in 1905 when he forgot his soda cup, a stirring stick still inside, was outside on his porch.

In the morning they found the drink frozen solid, but with the easy stick in it. was well on its way to becoming our favorite summertime icy dessert. Epperson called them Epsicles, but other kids called them “Pops Sisicles”, and we now know them as Popsicles. cold!

5. Penicillin
test tubes in the lab, penicillinEverett Historical / shutterstock.com

Scottish biologist Alexander Fleming is quoted as saying, “Sometimes one finds what one is not looking for.” He should know: In 1928, he accidentally contaminated a Staphylococcus culture plate and discovered that it produced a substance that killed many disease-causing bacteria.

For a while, they called it “mold juice,” and we’re all glad the name was later changed to penicillin.

By some estimates, antibiotics have saved more than 200 million lives.

6. Potato Chips
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There are a lot of legends surrounding the birth of the potato chip—and, really, there’s no telling who first sliced ​​potatoes thin and fried them. New York chef George Crum is often credited with popularizing them in the 1800s.

But snopes.com reports that Crum’s sister, Katie, may actually have been the inventor, saying she accidentally dropped a thin slice of potato into the hot oil, and the rest is crispy history.

7. Beer
making a toast with a beer glassAnna Schlosser / shutterstock.com

Beer has a long and storied history. Although we don’t know exactly who and how it originated, international beer expert Horst Dornbusch believes it happened by accident.

As reported by Smithsonian magazine, he theorizes that bakers making bread outside accidentally left their dough out, and later discovered what the magazine describes as a “soupy, fermenting liquid”. Is. He tried it, got a little drunk, and now all we can say is, “Thank you so much.”

8. Artificial Sweetener
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Russian-born chemist Konstantin Fahlberg is credited with discovering the commercially available artificial sweetener saccharin back in 1879.

According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, Fahlberg was investigating the oxidation of a chemical when he noticed that when he went home to eat, everything he ate tasted sweet. It was this chemical that was producing the sweetness, and they later named it “saccharin”.

9. X-ray
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In 1895, German physicist William Roentgen began experimenting with a cathode tube that had “a thin aluminum window that allowed some electromagnetic rays to escape,” according to PBS.

He realized that mysterious invisible rays were passing from the tube through the cardboard to cause the screen to glow. He called them X-rays, because he did not know the nature of electromagnetic rays.

In a chilling postscript, the first X-ray of a human body part was taken by Roentgen from his wife’s hand, which was wearing her wedding ring. When he saw his skeletal hand in the image, he reportedly said, “I have seen my death.”

10. Post-It Notes
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Spencer Silver, a scientist at 3M, accidentally created an adhesive that stuck temporarily, but could be easily peeled off. Another 3M scientist, Art Fry, was frustrated because his paper bookmarks were outshining his church’s hymns.

When the two came together, they invented the Post-It note, a piece of adhesive paper that could be lightly stuck to surfaces, yet easily removed. Notes now come in many colors, but their original canary yellow color was another accident: It’s the color of the paper that happened to be in the lab next door.

11. Champagne
champagneVictoria Ashman / shutterstock.com

It is believed that the winemakers who invented Champagne were trying to make only white wine, but the cold weather in that area of ​​France in the 1400s stopped fermentation.

When the weather warmed, fermentation progressed, but now the wine had the famous bubbles of Champagne. Cheers for this happy accident!

12. Snow
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Omar Nedlik owned a Dairy Queen franchise in Kansas in the 1950s, but his store did not have a soda fountain to serve cold drinks. So he allegedly took home bottles of soda pop, froze them, then brought them back.

Customers enjoyed the slushy drink so much that they began experimenting with an old ice cream machine and tried to make the drink at the same consistency every time. Soon after, he invented Icee.

13. Corn Flakes
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According to NPR, in 1898 brothers WK and John Harvey Kellogg were actually trying to make granola, but weren’t satisfied with the results. WK Kellogg kept experimenting until he invented toasted corn flakes.

Forget granola: Kellogg’s Corn Flakes has proven to be a hit. Pass the milk!

14. Play-Doh
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That favorite childhood toy, Play-Doh, was originally meant for something dull and grown-up to use: wallpaper cleaner. But then, according to the National Toy Hall of Fame, a twist of fate changed toy history:

“Joe McVicar learned from a teacher that children generally find it very difficult to manipulate modeling clay. Upon discovering that the squishy cleaning product he created could be a substitute, McVicker sent some to the school. Following praise from teachers and children, he offered to supply the product to all Cincinnati schools.

Suddenly, that wallpaper-cleaning putty took on a new life.

15. Silly Putty
child playing with puttyChaNaWiT/Shutterstock.com

Who doesn’t love Silly Putty, the goofy, stretchy compound that many adults remember to lift images from the pages of the colorful comics in the Sunday paper? (It’s hard to do today – many papers use soy ink, which doesn’t rise well.)

According to The Strong National Museum of Play, James Wright, a chemist at General Electric, was looking for a rubber substitute during World War II when he stumbled upon putty. Although industrialists never found a wartime use for it, toy marketer Peter Hodgson later began selling it as a novelty, and useless putty turned into good fun—and good profit, most likely.



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