Posted : March 2013
Author : the admin
Invention is a foundation of the human experience. From the wheel to the air conditioner, we are always seeking to improve our way of life through the advancement of technology. We fail at least as often as we succeed, but we remain tenacious in our endeavors. This list serves testimony to some of the worst gaffes in the history of human invention.
The Seat Fuel Tank is ranked tenth because it is the one invention on this list that never went ‘live’. It was too tempting to include at least one contraption that was such a fail that it hardly made it off the drawing board. The Seat Fuel Tank represents this class of failed ideas with pride. Kenneth Brock will forever be remembered as the man who suggested fighter pilots strap into a seat filled with fuel. In theory, Mr. Brock was probably right: the extra fuel capacity could mean longer flight distances. However, try to convince the pilot to strap into his own personal bomb. Any jet that would implement Mr. Brock’s design would be the first to have a pilot eject because of an emergency only to have the fire follow him into the atmosphere.
9. Otto Lilienthal’s Glider
First, it must be mentioned that this guy was called the Glider King and sported king-sized marbles to do the things he did. Otto made gliders and tossed himself off high places in the name of progress. His work would later be referred to as instrumental by the Wright brothers, two boys from North Carolina who didn’t fail. Be that as it may, Mr. Lilienthal died during a gliding flight. His legacy is that he made the possibility of flying man practical, if not a bit hazardous. With a last name reminiscent of a Middle-earth elf, Otto Lilienthal is the one person on this list that might make a top ten list of inventors as well as the one before you. Here is an example that the road to inventive greatness is paved in cobblestones of failure.
Darn you, morning sickness, and your natural symptoms of being pregnant! Have no fear, just eat a pill of thalidomide and rest easy. The only drawback is a high likelihood that your offspring will spin a wheel of fortune and pop out with one of many birth defects this drug causes. During the 1950s and 1960s, over 10,000 children were born with deformed limbs among other health complications. It turns out that taking this morning sickness pill is the equivalent of putting Chernobyl in your mouth. Surprisingly, tests are being done with this drug to help with cancer and AIDS. Good luck with that one.
7. Ford Pinto
Never has Ford been as riddled with criticism and lawsuits as when the Pinto roamed the streets. The Pinto has been a lock on most “worst car” lists from magazines to blogs and beyond. Legend has it that the placement of the Pinto’s fuel tank increased the likelihood of a rear end collision resulting in a fiery roast of the occupants inside the vehicle. Other faults have been noted in the Pinto’s brakes, transmission, and suspension. Twenty-seven had been credited to the vehicle’s faulty design. Constant criticism and media attention caused Ford to recall the Pinto in 1978. The Ford Pinto’s heyday of terrorizing the streets was over, but the car continues to live in pop culture as a metaphor for ill-conceived vehicles.
It seems as if every failed invention is based off a failed promise and Olestra (aka Olean) is no different. A magical substitute for fat that adds no calories or cholesterol to products, Olestra became all the rave during the 1990s. It was especially common among prepackaged, frozen snacks. Suddenly, people were wondering where their loose stools, tummy cramps, and excessive diarrhea was coming from. FDA issued a label warning of these potential side effects in 1996. In spite of large opposition, the FDA repealed these labels due to an experiment they ran. It was concluded that Olestra did not have as an adverse effect as many thought. Eventually, the debate turned to the rats for an answer. It turns out that the rats which ate a mixed diet of Olestra potato chips with regular put on more weight than rats that ate regular chips alone—go figure. Olestra is now banned in many countries and regions such as Canada and the European Union.
5. Hydrogenated Oils and Fats
This thread is threatening to get hijacked into the nutritional category. However, much of the innovation and invention in the world today is geared towards eating habits. More genetic modifications are finding their way into our meat supplies and chemicals into our food. Hydrogenated products such as oils and fats are of the latter, and are quickly becoming recognized as being especially toxic to human health. Unlike trans fats, hydrogenated oils do not have to be labeled on nutritional panels. This mishap is likely to change as scientists prove that obesity does not depend on how much fat a person as much as what type of fat a person digests. Hydrogenated oils are on the fast track to following in Olestra’s footsteps.
4. Hydrogen Zeppelins
The first zeppelin was patented in Germany, 1895. By 1910, they were being flown commercially. By World War I, they were being used to drop bombs on the Allies. The 1930’s saw a golden age of commercial, transatlantic zeppelin flights. Then 1937 saw the zeppelin become a flaming, falling star in the form of the LZ 129 Hindenburg. There are many theories as to why the Hindenburg burst into flames and fell from the sky. Regardless of the truth, it can be said that being filled with over 7 million cubic feet of hydrogen made this zeppelin a ticking time bomb. Even zeppelins that used sources other than hydrogen were foolhardy, such as when the helium-filled USS Akron crashed off the coast of New Jersey, killing 73 out of 76 people aboard. It has since been realized that blimps of any kind are best left for clear weathered sporting events.
3. Agent Orange
During the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong made use of dense jungle canopies to mask their military outposts. Thermal imaging technology had not yet been mastered, so the U.S. Military saw one clear solution to the natural camouflage that their enemies exploited: get rid of it. What happened next was ecological warfare to the maximum, 20,000,000 gallons of herbicides, jet fuel, and defoliants were sprayed from the air onto Vietnam’s forested areas. One of these compounds was Agent Orange, which was heavily used to clear the Viet Cong of their cover and food supply. By spraying agricultural areas with Agent Orange, countryside peasants were forced to flee to U.S. occupied cities, depriving the Viet Cong of food sources and recruits. The side effects of the massive diffusion of this compound was great, up to a million Vietnamese were affected by this particular mix of chemicals. Some died, others were wounded. Birth defects became rampant. Even U.S. Veterans have since sued for their own Agent Orange-induced ailments.
Finally, humanity had found a miraculous way of dealing with those bloodsucking mosquitoes. DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) was loaded into trucks that drove up and down streets filling the air with clouds of vaporized wonder-juice. Kids ran in the streets behind the vehicle and played in the mist from the truck’s spray. For a while there was a love affair with DDT, which had been instrumental in helping control the spread of malaria through soldiers and civilians during World War II. It wasn’t until 1962 that the harmful effects of the chemical compound started to become known. Silent Spring written by Rachel Carson was a huge player in kick starting the environmental movement bringing attention to the negative impacts DDT had on the natural environment as well as sparking speculation about its potential for bioaccumulation in humans. It turns out that DDT caused cancer, birth defects, and polluted environments catastrophically. In many ways, the hostile reaction to DDT fueled the environmental movement that has resonated through the past few decades.
When it came to building and electrical insulation, asbestos was the industry standard for much of the 20th century. The uses of these rock forming minerals only multiplied and by the 1950s asbestos was everywhere it probably shouldn’t have been. From fire retardants to concrete, asbestos inhabited almost every facet of urban buildings. The end result is that cities were built with an ingredient that caused serious medical conditions. These included, but were not limited to asbestosis, malignant lung cancer, and mesothelioma. In short, asbestos became an attorney’s dream, and they just keep finding new people to sue. The ironic thing is that some countries (especially Russia) continue to mine hazardous asbestos in massive quantities to this day.