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History in a new light: The Flubber salute to great inventors & inventions.

Discovering the faces behind the inventions.

You know how important inventions are to our world. Without the telephone, we'd have trouble communicating with each other from a distance. And without the light bulb, we wouldn't be able to see in the dark.

While you may be familiar with these inventions, you may not know the inventors. This is because the story of Latino, African-American, and Asian-American inventors is a tale of great achievement but little recognition.

An enlightening story about the lightbulb.

A classic example of famous inventions and unrecognized inventors is found in the story of the lightbulb.

Almost everyone has heard of Thomas Edison. What you probably don't know is that Lewis Latimer, an African-American, was a member of the group of inventors who worked with Thomas Edison. Latimer made contributions to the development of the electric lamp and invented the incandescent lamp.

Now let's look at the telephone. Everyone knows of Alexander Graham Bell. But did you know that an African-American, Granville T. Woods, patented the telephone transmitter, commonly known as the mouthpiece?

From chocolate chips to computer chips.

Here's just a short list of inventions that are as rich and varied as our culture:

* Almost everyone likes chocolate. While chocolate was a product of cacao beans cultivated by the Maya and Aztec Indians, its use in hot chocolate was "invented" by the Spaniard Hernando Cortes. (Christopher Columbus brought the cacao bean back to Spain, but no one knew how to use it.)

* If you've ever used the expression "the real McCoy," you may be referring to Elijah McCoy. He received patents for a lawn sprinkler, ironing table, and over 50 inventions. George Washington Carver made shoe polish, rubber, and rope from the sweet potato. Benjamin Banneker invented the first American clock that would strike on the hour, as well as one of the most reliable almanacs. Dr. Percy Julian was a scientist whose research helped in the creation of drugs used to treat arthritis and glaucoma. And Madame C.J. Walker invented the hair-straightening comb and later made a fortune on hair care products. All of these individuals were African-Americans.

* Luis Walter Alvarez, a Latino, is one of this century's most respected scientists. He is a researcher, and research is the source of most of today's inventions. Researchers work with teams of people testing and developing theories and products. One of the products of his research is an invention known as narrow-beam radar, which helps planes land in the fog.

* Have you ever heard of Wang computers? It was an Asian-American inventor, An Wang, who invented a component of the early computers and later founded his giant company.

Creating ideas from thin air.

Very few inventions are made by one person Usually, teams of scientists use the scientific method, a systematic process of formulating a problem, collecting data, stating the hypothesis (an educated guess about the results), and testing the hypothesis over and over It can take years before you see the final version of any product Here are some tips to help you brainstorm ideas:

1 Write down every idea you think of--no matter how silly it sounds!

2 Don't judge or criticize ideas. Even if you don't like an idea, it may lead to something else.

3 Come up with a lot of ideas. It doesn't matter how useful they are--sometimes a new invention is used for a purpose not originally thought of!

4 Think of some simple ideas. These can be the foundation for others.

5 Don't be afraid to go wild. The wackiest idea today can be tomorrow's invention.

RELATED ARTICLE: What is "Flubber"?

To celebrate great inventions and great investors, Walt Disney Pictures presents the movie Flubber. Flubber stars Robin Williams as the absent-minded Professor Brainard, who creates amazing investions. Like so many investors, no one takes him seriously -- until he creates an invention that saves a school!

What goes up must come down -- unless it's FLUBBER!

FLUBBER is a gooey, rubber-like substance that practically defies gravity. As Professor Brainard explains, Flubber bridges metastable compounds with an organic compound. Metastable compounds aren't very stable. Organic compounds contain hydrocarbons (hydrogen + carbon) and are the compounds of life. Does that mean Flubber is a living, moving force? The answer can be found in the movie!
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Title Annotation:Walt Disney character introduces inventors
Publication:Science World
Date:Nov 17, 1997
Previous Article:Fighting the volcano: a SWAT team of scientists tackles the ultimate challenge - an explosive volcano waking up from a 400-year sleep.
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