Science and Engineering at Your Fingertips #innovation #tech #science #engineering

Isn’t science all about stars and black-holes type stuff?”

Carlos Delgado; CC-BY-SA

Carlos Delgado; CC-BY-SA

There’s so much more, and we encounter it every day in so many ways. Take, for example, a ball point pen. It’s a fairly recent invention. You’ve seen the iconic pocket protector worn by Dilbert and engineers everywhere. Do you remember them? They were needed before ball point pens because fountain pens leak.

The first patent was filed in 1888, but it took years and a lot of failure before our familiar pen emerged. Different pen designs and different inks were tried. In 1941, a fleeing German and his associates (the Western Hemisphere didn’t just get nuclear physicists from Germany because of the Nazi!)

Early ball point pens had problems – the ink would hang up and the pen become unusable. This happened all the time. There was also a safety issue – people like to chew on the ends of pens and a swallowed cap could choke someone. Such an accident might be rare, but consumers don’t expect their pens to kill anyone.

A brilliant engineering solution came across the creative mind of scientists, and a newly innovated cap was introduced into the market which enables the nib to breathe in air, helps in regulation of air pressure [inside the pen] to match the air pressure outside, and to avoid death in people who accidentally swallow the cap. Yes, the innovation in design was just a hole being placed on top of the caps.”

Competition was fierce but it wasn’t until well into the 1950s that pens “boasting additional features and technological advances which also included the use of tungsten-carbide textured ball-bearings in their pens” [wikipedia] began to sell in the millions each year – and familiar names such as Parker and Bic emerged. Today ball point pens are so cheap we tend to walk off with them without thinking, and loads of businesses hand them out for free as advertising.

How cool.

Thanks for pointing out this miracle of modern science, and for the quotes above.

4 Books on Mars white background (500x500)Our world is full of amazements we take for granted. Consider the fantastic logistics behind the pencil. I found inspiration there for my science fiction novel Glory on Mars. What fantastic technologies will the first colonists haul to Mars? And what common conveniences will they leave behind?

All my books, including the On Mars series, are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and other major online retailers, including Smashwords and Create Space for paperbacks. On Mars books 1 and 2 are available now, with books 3 and 4 due out this fall. Read one today.



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