Eureka is our week-long meditation on the wonders of invention, inventors and genius. Here are the topics we've marveled over.
How One Man Accidentally Invented Electronics in 1906
When Lee de Forest accidentally created the first electronic audio amplifier-the Audion-he "inaugurated the age of electronics." You can learn about it in this excerpt from Nicholas Carr's book What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.
The 10 Greatest Fictional Inventors of All Time
Eureka has been Giz's celebration of inventors of all stripe, from Tesla to Popeil. But some of the most memorable inventors of our time were actually invented themselves. Here are ten fictional innovators near and dear to our hearts
Inside Thomas Edison's Vertically Integrated MegaLab
Thomas Edison was not an inventor for the love of the game. "I always invented to obtain money to go on inventing," he said. For a tireless mind like that, a lab had to be far more than a lab.
Dr. NakaMats: The Man Who Claims to Have Invented Nearly Everything You Love
It's tough to think about inventors without remembering dear Dr. NakaMats. He claims to have invented over 3,000 items-frequently while almost drowning himself-and basically thinks Thomas Edison's an uneducated wimp who quit at 1,093 inventions.
The Cleanable Tobacco Pipe Invented By Kurt Vonnegut's Dad
After fathering sci-fi satirist Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Kurt Vonnegut Sr. dabbled in tobacco smoking, pipe cleaning, and innovation. The result: this patent for an easily-cleanable, tubular-stemmed tobacco pipe for "a maximum of digital cleanliness." That means clean fingers.
Five People Killed By Their Own Inventions
Imagine putting years of time, effort and money into a life-changing invention that you think will bring you tons of money and fame while changing the world. Now what if your amazing invention ends up killing you instead?
My First 3D: The Story of View-Master
No matter your age, there's a good chance that a View-Master was lying around either your bedroom or a friend's. The iconic red goggles are the perfect childhood diversion-cheap and briefly amusing. They also have a long history.
How Nathan Myhrvold and Intellectual Ventures Would Change the Patent System
Patents! They're a big deal. Nathan Myhrvold's Intellectual Ventures depends on patents to make money, and they file a lot of 'em. So I asked him how he'd change the patent system.
The Long, Unglamorous History of the Toilet
Nobody is entirely sure who first had the privilege of sitting on a toilet. Evidence of advanced plumbing systems in the ancient world abounds, but it's a strange, meandering path from antiquity to checking your inbox on the can.
Does Paul Allen Suing The Entire Internet Prove Our Patent System's Broken?
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has launched a salvo of litigation over disputed patents, targeting Apple, Google, AOL, and Netflix, among others. None of the patents involve technology Allen was responsible for creating, but were licensed through his Silicon Valley incubator.
6 Legends of TV Inventions
There's not much better than a good infomercial-except maybe a really bad one. But these days there's no better innovation hotbed than basic cable paid programming. Here we separate product from pitchman, and celebrate the brains behind As-Seen-On-TV.
Who Invented the Macintosh?
As invention has shifted from the singular genius to the corporate R&D lab, the notion of the true creator has become more slippery. For instance, who invented the Macintosh?
Do Different Languages Equal Different Realities?
We usually assume words are just a way of expressing ideas already in our heads. But what if it's the other way around? Some linguists say the languages we speak fundamentally alter the way we think, and even perceive reality.
Why Failure Is an Option at Intellectual Ventures
Nathan Myhrvold explains why failure is an option at Intellectual Ventures-and it has to be for any inventor, really.
What Do You Think the Most Important Tech Invention of the 21st Century Is?
A lot of amazing inventions, ideas, and technologies came about in the 21st century, but we want to know: Which tech invention do you think was the most important during this time?
Rube Goldberg: The Man Behind the Machines
From the maddening board game Mouse Trap to that awesome OK GO video (to the hundreds of brilliant contraptions scattered across YouTube), Rube Goldberg machines continue to enjoy a widespread popularity. But who was Rube Goldberg in the first place?
Inside the Secret Underwater Lake Fort
A Nevada family of scuba divers has prototyped an underwater fort-an anchored air pocket in a net-at the secret location at the bottom of a lake in the Sierras. And it's been there for three years!
Ladies, Missing a Leg? This Guy Wants Slap a Machine Gun Onto It
Filmmaker Rob Spence,famed for his camera eyeball implant, an eligible young woman is looking for an eligible young woman. Who's missing a leg. So he can give her a paintball machine gun. That she will attach to her leg.
Human Cannonball Astronaut: My Rocket Is My Clothes
Within weeks, Peter Madsen and Kristian von Bengtson will launch the first standing-room-only spacecraft. Their rocket is a cylindrical capsule that snugly fits around a standing person, with a clear plexiglass dome so that the astronaut can see out.
MIT's Top 35 Innovators Under 35
As we said in the introductory article for our Eureka theme-week, inventors are either white-haired old men like Edison, or crackpots from infomercials. MIT's Technology Review helps debunk these stereotypes with their 2010 list of the top innovators under 35.
How Kodak Built a FrankenCamera to Take Digital Photos in 1975
During the frigid Rochester winter of 1975, researchers at Kodak pieced together the future a quarter of a century early. Built from scavenged parts, the team had created their first "film-less" camera-an idea far ahead of its time.
Whoops! The 10 Greatest (Accidental) Inventions of All Time
"Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits," Thomas Edison once said. But is hustling all it takes? Is progress always deliberate? Sometimes genius arrives not by choice-but by chance. Below are our ten favorite serendipitous innovations.
Why Ideas Are Expensive
Intellectual Ventures founder and modern day Merlin Nathan Myhrvold explains why it costs a lot of damn money to create new ideas. Hint: Think Hollywood.
Living Batteries Will Perform Better After Three Snickers Bars and a Coke
Researchers have shown off a prototype of a new biological battery cell, which produces energy in the same way we do-by breaking down sugars and fats into something a little more useful.
Like Most Men, Thomas Edison Enjoyed A Good Catfight
Thomas Edison and his friends were prone to recording short movies for amusement. This particular one reveals how the brilliant inventor is really just like nearly any other man: He just wanted to watch women box.
Nike's Got Back to the Future II Sneaker Patents
They're the ultimate pipe dream of shoedom: Back to the Future II's Nike Air Mags. I mean, they're self-lacing, for goodness sake. And Nike's patented the technology to make them real, charging station included.
Prototype Robot Swarm Could Clean Up Oil Spill in a Month
This solar-powered fellow is part of a robot group called Seaswarm. He and his buddies are cheap, autonomous, and communicate via GPS and Wi-Fi. And 5,000 of them could theoretically clean up the Gulf oil spill in a month.
How Intellectual Ventures Wants to Reinvent Invention
"Did airplanes come from the R&D department of a train company or a steamship company?" Nathan Myhrvold asks, rhetorically, his voice cracking. He's explaining how his company, Intellectual Ventures, is going to reinvent the way things are invented.
Giz Talks To Sir James Dyson, Modern Inventor Extraordinaire
If anyone today can be considered an inventor, it's Sir James Dyson, the man who took the bag out of the vacuum and the blades out of the fan. Here's the first time we talked to him, last fall.
Who Needs an Indoor Ball? YOU Do, Apparently
Today's Nerf guns are exceedingly complex, with automatic firing and reloadable dart magazines. But Nerf's eureka moment arose from a decidedly more primitive scene: some cavemen chucking boulders around an office.
Watch This Color Movie, From Before Movies Were In Color
More than a decade before The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind gave color motion pictures wide notoriety, Kodak was conducting Kodachrome tests. The result: a series vibrant, full color moving portraits bursting out of 1922.
Eureka: Hello Invention
Once upon a time, "inventor" was an honest-to-god occupation. You could check a box, and tell the U.S. Census Bureau that's what you were. Now, inventors are as-seen-as-on-TV caricatures and "innovation" is a corporate-speak. We want to celebrate invention. Eureka.