Those “wrong” inventions

Generally speaking, “invention” is a good word, referring to the creation of new things or methods. However, not all inventions can really benefit mankind. Perhaps the invention appeared in the face of an angel at the beginning, but as time goes by, its devilish nature is gradually exposed. The inventors who gave them life either could not escape conscience or were criticized by people.

Gasoline additives
Friends who have played bow and arrow know that if you want the arrow to have a large initial velocity and a long range, then the bow must be full; if the spring releases greater force, the spring must be pressed to the end. The same is true for the engine. Compress the fuel and air mixture as much as possible, so that more power can be obtained when it is ignited. But if the bow is pulled halfway and suddenly released, and the spring is half-pressed and released suddenly, the strength will be greatly reduced. For the engine, there will also be such troubles, such as only half of the compression, because the mixed gas is unstable and cannot stand the pressure and spontaneously ignites. This not only reduces the power output, but also damages the engine in serious cases.

In order to solve this problem, it is necessary to improve the stability of the fuel mixture under pressure so that it can withstand a greater compression ratio. After 6 years of research and testing thousands of compounds, the American mechanical engineer and chemist Thomas Mikley invented tetraethyl lead in 1920, which is an organic solvent containing lead. After gasoline is mixed, the anti-deflagration degree of gasoline will be greatly increased. This invention is welcomed by automobile manufacturers and petrochemical companies.

It should be said that among the many elements and their compounds, it is very difficult to find tetraethyl lead, which is easy to synthesize and inexpensive. In order to study this project, Mikili also taught himself chemistry for several years. From this point, it can be seen that Mickley does have a very high talent for invention. But this invention cost the earth an expensive and irreversible price: before tetraethyl lead was used in large quantities, very little lead could be detected on the surface; after the product was promoted and used, lead has been widely distributed in the earth’s ecology In the cycle, it is easy to ask God to send it to God, and it is difficult to remove these lead elements.

Lead is a heavy metal, not a trace element necessary for the human body. It can affect the human nervous, cardiovascular, bone, and reproductive systems. It is harmful to the human body without any benefit. The destruction of ancient Rome is largely due to the abuse of lead products. In the 19th century, people already knew the hazards of lead, so in order to avoid causing public resistance to the new product, they declared the name of the product “ethyl” and avoided mentioning the word “lead”.

However, as more and more cars start to use leaded gasoline, lead pollution has become more serious, and even the factories that produce tetraethyl lead have experienced deaths of workers from poisoning. The New York Times wrote on the front page: “Workers became irritable, yelled hysterically, jumped up from the hospital bed and smashed everything, they were crazy… Some patients even reached 110 degrees Fahrenheit before death ( About 43°C).”

Facing people’s increasingly strong doubts, Mickley chose the former on the balance of interests and conscience. He specially held a press conference to dispel public concerns. In front of the reporters, he first poured tetraethyl lead on his hands to show that the contact was harmless; to further show that the gas was also safe, he opened a bottle of tetraethyl lead solution, went up and sniffed it. Minutes, in front of the dumbfounded reporters, he smiled dazzlingly, with a calm expression, and he didn’t seem to be poisoned at all. He smiled and said, “I work in such an environment every day, and I have conducted such a high concentration test just now. What’s the problem?” But a few days later, Mickel developed severe symptoms of lead poisoning and had to take sick leave for nearly a year before it gradually eased. In fact, before that, he had taken long vacations to relieve the health pressure caused by lead.

It was not until the end of the 1980s that countries around the world gradually banned leaded gasoline. However, tens of thousands of tons of lead is discharged into the atmosphere in the form of automobile exhaust and mixed into the ecosystem, which has been difficult to eradicate. Although tetraethyl lead has promoted the development of the automobile industry and brought people a certain degree of convenience, it has harmed people’s health and the ecological environment. The gain is not worth the loss. It is a very painful lesson and also the tragedy of Mikkeli.

The invention of refrigerant
However, the tragedy is not over yet. Mikiley’s boss will not ignore his genius inventing ability and entrusted him with a major project: the development of a safe and non-toxic refrigerant. Previously, refrigerants were generally toxic gases such as sulfur dioxide. Once the refrigerator refrigerant leaked at night, the family would go to see God.

Although Mickley recovered from a serious lead poisoning illness, it did not seem to hurt his smart brain. He and his assistants soon developed a new type of refrigerant. Its chemical name is dichlorodifluoromethane, and its commercial name is even more popular. Known as Freon. His invention is indeed non-toxic and safe. To illustrate this point, Mickley once again demonstrated his willingness to “dedicate his life” to science. At the American Chemical Society forum in 1930, he took a deep breath into a can of freon, and then sprayed it at the burning candle. Everything was normal. This gas is neither combustible nor harmful to the human body, this time it is really harmless. In 1937, Mickelion was awarded the Perkin Medal for his invention of Freon.

However, being harmless on the ground does not mean it is safe at high altitude. After this gas rises to the stratosphere, under the action of strong ultraviolet rays, it will decompose and release chlorine gas. Chlorine gas is a catalyst for the conversion of ozone into oxygen. A single Freon molecule can destroy up to 100,000 ozone molecules. With the popularization and use of Freon, a large amount of ozone is converted into oxygen, and a huge ozone hole appears over the Antarctic. The cosmic ultraviolet rays penetrate directly and irradiate the surface, leading to a significant increase in the incidence of skin cancer and an increase in the greenhouse effect. To this end, the United Nations Environment Programme has successively adopted a series of agreements to protect the ozone layer since 1976, and harmless treatment of Freon.

Thomas Mickley Jr

Mickley’s second important invention once again harmed the earth. If tetraethyl lead is his intentional fault, then Freon can barely be regarded as an unintentional fault. But he did not verify the various follow-up reactions after the gas escaped to high altitude, and he could not be called a responsible inventor. In 1940, 51-year-old Mickley had to rest in bed due to poisoning caused by long-term lead exposure. Facing the various inconveniences of the lingering sickbed, he invented a complete set of mechanical systems including ropes, movable pulleys, and fixed pulleys to help him get up on the bed. It should be said that this is an invention that is very suitable for the aging society. Unfortunately, on November 2, 1944, he was accidentally entangled in the neck by the pulley rope in this device, resulting in suffocation and death. He died at the age of 55. . We sigh deeply for this inventor, and shortly after his death, both inventions were banned.

The popularity of plastic bags
Although Mickley’s two inventions were harmful, they were banned after all. They were able to stop losses in time, and people also found alternatives. What makes people even more troublesome is that the products they invented are harmful to the environment, but they are hard to stop. This is the invention of plastic bags. As the inventor, the original intention of the Swedish engineer Steen Gustaf Turing was to hope that people could reuse plastic bags, thereby reducing the amount of paper bags and reducing the deforestation. Unexpectedly, because of its low price and practicality, plastic bags quickly swept the world.

According to statistics, in 2011, the world consumed 1 million plastic bags every minute. This is the last result Turing wants to see. Turin’s son Raul said, “In the eyes of his father, it’s strange that people treat plastic bags as disposable products.” As early as the 1970s and 1980s, Old Turin always carried a plastic bag with him. Use it when you need it, wash it and carry it with you, not throw it away at once.

Plastic is a product of petroleum as a raw material and modern industrial technology. It is very stable in nature and cannot be degraded. Especially plastic bags are the most harmful, because they are convenient and cheap, people use them in large quantities and throw them away when they are used up. The strong wind blows, plastic bags are flying in the sky, colorfully hung on the treetops, forming “visual pollution”; a large number of discarded agricultural films are buried in the soil, making the soil hardened and no longer suitable for farming; some of them are discharged into the river with garbage. Eventually it merges into the sea. In the ocean, dozens or even hundreds of square kilometers of “plastic waste islands” drift with the flow. Many marine animals eat plastic bags by mistake, cannot digest them, block their digestive tracts, and starve to death. Moreover, these discarded plastic bags will gradually break into tiny particles, even only a few microns in size, under mechanical abrasion, oxidation, and sunlight, which are also called “microplastics.” In 2004, Thompson and others of the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom published a paper on plastic fragments in ocean waters and sediments in the journal Science. They first proposed the concept of “microplastics”. These extremely small particles are called “Science”. PM2.5 in the ocean”. They eventually enter the human body along the food chain, and can penetrate the mucosal barrier and enter the blood vessels. The health hazards are still being evaluated.

You might say: If you don’t eat seafood, will you be fine? A foreign research institution selected 250 bottles of bottled water from 9 countries and 11 well-known brands for testing, and found that only 17 bottles of water had no plastic particles. These small particles contained 314 per liter of water on average. Is it safe to boil tap water and drink it yourself? American scholars studied 150 tap water samples from 14 cities on five continents and found that up to 83% of the samples contained plastic particles. Even if you can use the most expensive purification equipment to avoid drinking them, there is also a certain proportion of plastic particles in the salt… There is nowhere for humans to hide! The rubbish we discard to nature cannot be processed by nature, and will eventually be returned to humans.

Of course, not all of these plastic particles come from plastic bags, but as a disposable item that consumes astonishingly at present, the environmental disaster caused by plastic bags is obvious to all. Many countries have issued “plastic limit orders”. Degradable plastic bags are already available. The research on bacteria that can swallow plastic is also progressing. We are expected to solve the increase in plastic waste, and the stock can only be hoped that nature will slowly dissolve. . These inventions are all products of industrial civilization. After mastering modern science and technology, people seem to have formed a superior illusion, thinking that they can invent and create all kinds of unprecedented substances like the creator, and transform the world as they please, but it is often self-sufficient.

Attitude determines the development of science
The pesticide DDT that the author of the book “Silent Spring” once questioned, at the beginning of its publication, because it can kill all insects with a broad spectrum, drastically reduce insect-borne diseases, and greatly increase the output of agricultural products. Welcome. However, the various abnormal phenomena that followed proved that DDT can accumulate in organisms and gradually transmit to the upstream of the food chain to threaten human health. Eventually it had to be banned globally. However, as malaria and other diseases in some developing countries come back, WHO has to relax the DDT ban in these countries.

Plastic pollution is a global problem that has attracted the attention of many disciplines. Plastic fragments and microplastics are one of the threats to the unique biodiversity of the Mediterranean.

Of course, we should not regard industrial civilization as a scourge, and we should not be too harsh on these “wrong” inventions and inventors. Inventions originate from strong needs in reality. If Zhang San does not invent, Li Si will also invent them. , It’s just time sooner or later. Similarly, some inventions will eventually appear with the continuous improvement of human science and technology, such as various thermal weapons and even nuclear weapons. In particular, the invention of nuclear weapons has also been condemned by many people, but it is precisely the emergence of nuclear weapons that has greatly increased the threshold of war. Since the Second World War, mankind has never broken out a large-scale high-intensity global war. Isn’t this the contribution of new inventions to peace?

The development of human society is a process of constant trial and error. No one hopes to return to the primitive society where the mountains and rivers are beautiful but they have to drink blood, but for new inventions, we should uphold the awe of nature and the scientific and rigorous attitude, and carefully Confirm “Is the angel or the devil in the box” before deciding whether to make it public.