Fun Facts and Interesting Information from Around the World


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 »


The transistor was invented in 1947 by a team that included William Shockley (1910–1989), Walter H. Brattain (1902–1987), and John Bardeen (1908–1991). In 1956 the three men received the Nobel Prize in physics for the development. Later close study of the invention has tended to minimize the role of Shockley, suggesting that he insisted on… read more »

uranium isotope separation

When the researchers in the Manhattan Project sought to build an atomic or nuclear bomb from 1942 to 1945, they soon recognized that there were two elements that could represent the fissionable core of the weapon. One fissionable material was plutonium,which could be made in nuclear reactors.The second was an isotope [V] of uranium with… read more »

Van Allen belts

In 1958, the American scientist John Van Allen (1914– ) discovered two belts of radiation encircling Earth, now known as Van Allen belts. The belts are shaped like concentric doughnuts, with the doughnut hole over the North and South Poles of the planet. Van Allen, who had earned a doctorate in physics in 1939 from… read more »

vertical takeoff and landing aircraft

The vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft has been an elusive goal, but by the end of the 20th century, a British and an American model were in military service. The helicopter can achieve vertical takeoff and landing but is limited in its forward speed because at more than 200 miles per hour it will… read more »

videotape recorder

The first videotape recorders were developed by Bing Crosby Laboratories, under a research team headed by engineer John Mullin, in 1951. The camera converted the visual information into electrical impulses and saved the digital information onto magnetic tape. Over the following years the video recorder was perfected. By 1956, the VR 1000, invented by Charles… read more »

long-playing record

After the development of the phonograph [IV], the recording industry settled by 1913 on a standard disc as the recording medium, rotating at 78 revolutions per minute (rpm) and made of a solidified shellac or resin. One drawback for serious lovers of music was the time limit of such recordings: about 5 minutes. Although suitable… read more »