Fun Facts and Interesting Information from Around the World

radiocarbon dating

The process by which the radioactive decay of the isotope [V] carbon 14 or 14C can be used to date the point in time when a particular piece of vegetable or animal matter died was invented by Willard Libby (1908–1980), an American physicist, in about 1947. He had worked on methods of separating uranium isotopes… read more »

radio-thermal generator

A radio-thermal generator or RTG (also known as radioisotope thermoelectric generator) is a device that uses the heat derived from the decay of a radioactive isotope [V] to generate electricity. The first demonstrated RTG was produced in 1958 and displayed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in January 1959. The Martin Company of Baltimore accomplished the… read more »


The snorkel was invented in 1938 in Holland, as a device to allow submarines [V] to take in air that would allow diesel engines to operate while submerged. When Germany invaded Holland in 1940, they acquired the device and gave it the name schnorkel or schnorchel. In English the term has usually been spelled snorkel…. read more »


Streptomycin was discovered by Dr. Selman A. Waksman (1888–1973), a Ukrainian-born biochemist who immigrated to the United States. Waksman worked as a professor of soil microbiology at Rutgers University in New Jersey from 1918 to 1958. He had studied microorganisms in soil, and after one of his students, R. Dubos, isolated the powerful antibacterial tyrothricin… read more »


With the development of motion pictures [V] and their popularity during the 1910s and 1920s, many experimenters sought to improve the medium with the development of color photography. From 1926 to 1933, three researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)—D. F. Comstock, H. T. Kalmus, and W. B. Westcott—worked on perfecting a system that… read more »


Teflon, a plastic material technically known by its abbreviation PTFE, for polytetrafluoroethylene, was discovered by a Du Pont chemist, Roy Plunkett, in 1938. The material is an excellent insulator and is extremely slippery, resisting adherence. Applications proliferated after World War II, with the concept of developing nonstick cookware occurring in several locations in about 1952…. read more »

thermonuclear weapons

Thermonuclear weapons or hydrogen bombs were first built in both the United States and the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1955, and a dispute as to which country developed such a weapon first soon ensued, a symptom of the Cold War competition between the two powers. Both the United States and the Soviet Union considered… read more »

three-dimensional motion pictures

In the 1950s, the increasing popularity of television caused movie producers to search for new technologies that might lure TV viewers back into theaters. Two of the efforts were three-dimensional motion pictures (3-D) and wide-screen motion pictures. Three-dimensional effects could be achieved in a number of ways. One had been developed as early as 1915,… read more »


Kevlar is a trademarked fiber first manufactured by Du Pont in 1965. The polymer plastic is extremely strong and has a high melting point. In 1976 a Du Pont researcher, Stephanie Kwolek, invented a process for spinning the polyamide into fiber, which led to an increase in its longitudinal strength. She received an award for… read more »