As observed by this recent Doodle at the Google website, March 30, 2011 marked 200 years since the birth of notable German chemist Robert Bunsen. If the name sounds familiar, those of you who remember chemistry from high school or college might recall the Bunsen burner (pictured above). Happy Birthday, Robert Bunsen!
Coca-Cola® soda has been a favorite of ours for quite some time . . . and not just from a taste standpoint. The registered Coca-Cola® mark with respect to soda products provides a great example in discussing trademark law. Additionally, the formula behind the Coca-Cola® soda is an excellent tale of trade secret protection. We often share the story that only two people at the Coca-Cola® company know how to mix the secret “7X flavoring ingredient” at any given time. This is certainly one way of taking reasonable steps to maintain the secrecy of the information!
Interestingly, this recent article discusses the discovery by producers of the radio program This American Life of what appears to be a photo of the original soda formulation. This photo could render the “trade secret” formulation available for the public to freely make and use. When the discovered formula was taste-tested, however, it was apparently close . . . but not exactly the same.
Trade secrets, when used properly, can be a useful form of intellectual property protection. However, this article illustrates one negative aspect of trade secret protection, which is information that becomes publicly available or is otherwise reverse-engineered (assuming no misappropriation or theft of the trade secret under state laws), can limit one’s right to claim and protect the information as “trade secret”.
For those who are interested in making some original Coca-Cola® soda in their garage and/or bathtub this evening, the “secret” formula (according to the article) is as follows:
Fluid extract of Coca: 3 drams USP
Citric acid: 3 oz
Caffeine: 1 oz
Sugar: 30 (unclear quantity)
Water: 2.5 gal
Lime juice: 2 pints, 1 quart
Vanilla: 1 oz
Caramel: 1.5 oz or more for color
The secret 7X flavor (use 2 oz of flavor to 5 gals syrup):
Alcohol: 8 oz
Orange oil: 20 drops
Lemon oil: 30 drops
Nutmeg oil: 10 drops
Coriander: 5 drops
Neroli: 10 drops
Cinnamon: 10 drops
JW Note: Hat tip to the folks at the Paleofuture blog, where we first read this story. Originally published on June 23, 1911 by the Miami Metropolis Newspaper.
What will the world be a hundred years hence?
None but a wizard dare raise the curtain and disclose the secrets of the future; and what wizard can do it with so sure a hand as Mr. Thomas Alva Edison, who has wrested so many secrets from jealous Nature? He alone of all men who live has the necessary courage and gift of foresight, and he has not shrunk from the venture.
Already, Mr. Edison tells us, the steam engine is emitting its last gasps. A century hence it will be as remote as antiquity as the lumbering coach of Tudor days, which took a week to travel from Yorkshire to London. In the year 2011 such railway trains as survive will be driven at incredible speed by electricity (which will also be the motive force of all the world’s machinery), generated by “hydraulic” wheels.
But the traveler of the future, says a writer in Answers, will largely scorn such earth crawling. He will fly through the air, swifter than any swallow, at a speed of two hundred miles an hour, in colossal machines, which will enable him to breakfast in London, transact business in Paris and eat his luncheon in Cheapside.
The house of the next century will be furnished from basement to attic with steel, at a sixth of the present cost — of steel so light that it will be as easy to move a sideboard as it is today to lift a drawing room chair. The baby of the twenty-first century will be rocked in a steel cradle; his father will sit in a steel chair at a steel dining table, and his mother’s boudoir will be sumptuously equipped with steel furnishings, converted by cunning varnishes to the semblance of rosewood, or mahogany, or any other wood her ladyship fancies.
Books of the coming century will all be printed leaves of nickel, so light to hold that the reader can enjoy a small library in a single volume. A book two inches thick will contain forty thousand pages, the equivalent of a hundred volumes; six inches in aggregate thickness, it would suffice for all the contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica. And each volume would weigh less than a pound.
Already Mr. Edison can produce a pound weight of these nickel leaves, more flexible than paper and ten times as durable, at a cost of five shillings. In a hundred years’ time the cost will probably be reduced to a tenth.
More amazing still, this American wizard sounds the death knell of gold as a precious metal. “Gold,” he says, “has even now but a few years to live. The day is near when bars of it will be as common and as cheap as bars of iron or blocks of steel.
“We are already on the verge of discovering the secret of transmuting metals, which are all substantially the same in matter, though combined in different proportions.”
Before long it will be an easy matter to convert a truck load of iron bars into as many bars of virgin gold.
In the magical days to come there is no reason why our great liners should not be of solid gold from stem to stern; why we should not ride in golden taxicabs, or substituted gold for steel in our drawing room suites. Only steel will be the more durable, and thus the cheaper in the long run.
Per this recent report from MSNBC, a Washington inventor named Josh Springer has invented a machine and cup system that allows one to fill a beer cup upside down. The invention includes a thin magnet that covers a hole at the base of the beer cup. When placed on the dispenser, the magnet is raised and the beer flows into the cup through the hole. The magnet is attracted to a metal rim at the cup’s base and, when the cup has been filled, seals the hole at the base of the cup. A Youtube video of the system in operation can be seen below.
The system allows one to impressively fill up to at least 56 beer cups per minute, as shown in the a clip at the inventor’s website here.
More information on the inventor and his company, Grinon Industries, including further videos of the invention in operation, can be found here.
There is an interesting photograph-based article on famous “accidental” discoveries and inventions at the Newsweek website, located here. Per the article:
Some of the biggest game-changing inventions and discoveries of our time were not the product of calculated genius, but accidents that happened to work out. These lucky mishaps have given the world everything from the awesome Slinky toy to the lifesaving antibiotic penicillin. In many cases they’ve also reshaped major industries or created entirely new ones. NEWSWEEK takes a look at some of the most serendipitous breakthroughs in history and how they came about.
We recommend reading this article, if you have a few minutes to spare. Are there any other “accidental’” inventions that are readership believes are worth mentioning? Feel free to leave a comment if you can think of any!
The 2010 Ig Nobel Prize winners were announced September 30, 2010 at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre. Per this Wikipedia entry, the Ig Nobel Prizes are a parody of the Nobel Prizes and are given each year for ten achievements that “first make people laugh, and then make them think.” The prize is organized by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research (AIR).
The 2010 winners include:
ENGINEERING PRIZE: Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse and Agnes Rocha-Gosselin of the Zoological Society of London, UK, and Diane Gendron of Instituto Politecnico Nacional, Baja California Sur, Mexico, for perfecting a method to collect whale snot, using a remote-control helicopter.
MEDICINE PRIZE: Simon Rietveld of the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and Ilja van Beest of Tilburg University, The Netherlands, for discovering that symptoms of asthma can be treated with a roller-coaster ride.
TRANSPORTATION PLANNING PRIZE: Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Atsushi Tero, Seiji Takagi, Tetsu Saigusa, Kentaro Ito, Kenji Yumiki, Ryo Kobayashi of Japan, and Dan Bebber, Mark Fricker of the UK, for using slime mold to determine the optimal routes for railroad tracks.
PHYSICS PRIZE: Lianne Parkin, Sheila Williams, and Patricia Priest of the University of Otago, New Zealand, for demonstrating that, on icy footpaths in wintertime, people slip and fall less often if they wear socks on the outside of their shoes.
PEACE PRIZE: Richard Stephens, John Atkins, and Andrew Kingston of Keele University, UK, for confirming the widely held belief that swearing relieves pain.
PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE: Manuel Barbeito, Charles Mathews, and Larry Taylor of the Industrial Health and Safety Office, Fort Detrick, Maryland, USA, for determining by experiment that microbes cling to bearded scientists.
ECONOMICS PRIZE: The executives and directors of Goldman Sachs, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, and Magnetar for creating and promoting new ways to invest money — ways that maximize financial gain and minimize financial risk for the world economy, or for a portion thereof.
CHEMISTRY PRIZE: Eric Adams of MIT, Scott Socolofsky of Texas A&M University, Stephen Masutani of the University of Hawaii, and BP [British Petroleum], for disproving the old belief that oil and water don’t mix.
MANAGEMENT PRIZE: Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo of the University of Catania, Italy, for demonstrating mathematically that organizations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random.
BIOLOGY PRIZE: Libiao Zhang, Min Tan, Guangjian Zhu, Jianping Ye, Tiyu Hong, Shanyi Zhou, and Shuyi Zhang of China, and Gareth Jones of the University of Bristol, UK, for scientifically documenting fellatio in fruit bats.
A dream of many futurists, inventors, and . . . patent attorneys! It is nice to know that inventors are still innovating in the field of jet packs.
Did you celebrate National Waffle Day yesterday? According to this article at Time.com, August 24th is recognized as National Waffle Day because it is the anniversary of the first U.S. patent on the waffle iron.
Apparently, the first U.S. patent on the waffle iron is U.S. Pat. No. 94,043, a downloadable pdf of which is available here. The patent issued to Cornelius Swartwout of Troy, New York, and describes both an “Improvement in Waffle-Irons” and the operation of the same. The single patent claim reads as follows:
What I claim, and desire to secure by Letters Patent of the United States, is—
The handle M, with the connecting-rod N, or its equivalent, and the device P, or its equivalent, arranged so as to loop or hook over the lug S, or any equivalent thereto, and forming rivets through the ears K and L, substantially in the manner and for the purposes as described and set forth.
JW Note: The Ward family celebrated National Waffle Day in grand style, including home-made waffles with blueberries and whipped cream! Inventions can be delicious!