The Craziest Invention

by Laura Overdeck

May is National Inventors Month, when we celebrate all the cool things that make our lives better. Whether it’s the refrigerator, your light-up sneakers, or that one cool Lego piece that everyone fights over, there was a time when these things didn’t exist. What’s funny is a lot of inventions were made totally by accident, including the microwave, potato chips, and one of our favorite desserts, the warm-center chocolate cake. In each case, the inventor was trying to solve one problem, but somehow did the project wrong — and ended up solving a different problem instead! And today we thank them for those accidents.

Wee ones: The microwave oven was invented when a scientist saw that his new tool was melting candy bars. If you microwave a candy bar, a stick of butter, a bowl of spaghetti and an egg, how many foods do you microwave?

Little kids: Warm-center chocolate cake — which gushes yummy chocolate sauce when you slice into it — was born when a famous chef undercooked a cake. If he cooked it for 7 minutes instead of 9, by how many minutes did he fall short?  Bonus: If he also cooked it at 300 degrees F instead of 100 degrees hotter, what temperature was he supposed to have set?

Big kids: Fireworks were invented 2,000 years ago when a cook packed charcoal, sulfur, and saltpeter into a tube and set it on fire, which made it explode. If you mix 3 tablespoons of charcoal, twice as much sulfur, and twice as much saltpeter as sulfur, how many tablespoons of stuff do you mix? (Note: This is not the real recipe, but please DO NOT try it!)  Bonus: If each tablespoon makes 10 sparkles in the sky, how many sparkles does your mixture make?

Answers:
Wee ones: 4 foods.

Little kids: 2 minutes.  Bonus: 400 degrees F.

Big kids: 21 tablespoons, since you mix 6 spoons of sulfur and 12 spoons of saltpeter.  Bonus: 210 sparkles.

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