How One Man Took a Secret Super-Material to His Grave

Illustration for article titled How One Man Took a Secret Super-Material to His Grave

In 1990, an amateur inventor called Maurice Ward appeared on British TV demonstrating a super-material he'd invented without any scientific training. Called Starlite, it could withstand temperatures of 1000 °C, was hard enough to drill holes in walls, and could easily be painted on to surfaces. In 2011 Ward sadly passed away—without ever having explained to a single scientist how it worked.

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So starts an intriguing story, which is told wonderfully by Richard Fisher in this week's New Scientist. Unsurprisingly, since that first appearance in 1990 Starlite has been of interest to a small but select group of people around the world. In fact, it piqued enough interest that Ward spent time talking with private companies, defense researchers and even NASA throughout the past twenty years.

At first, many scientists were skeptical of his claims, but as time progressed and tests were conducted—under close supervision from Ward, of course—those same researchers softened. In fact, they ended up wanting a slice of Starlite.

But Ward was a tough cookie, and he never found anybody he was happy to hand his secret over to—either through a sense of power or desire for money. When he died, in May 2011, many thought he'd taken his secret to the grave.

But, as the New Scientists article explains, there may still be hope. Ward mentioned in one interview shortly before his death that his family knew about the Starlite recipe. They are, however, remaining tight-lipped—so the future of Starlite seems as uncertain as ever.

I honestly can't encourage you enough to go and read the New Scientist feature: it's a wonderful piece of writing that beautifully brings together science and story-telling. [New Scientist]

Image by Smit/Shutterstock

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DISCUSSION

qeylis
Qeylis

Too bad he's dead. If you come up with something that can advance the whole of humanity as much as this could of, and fail to use it, or sell it, or do anything with it, you should be put in prison.

You should be forced to do something with every invention. If you don't do anything with it within 5 years, it should go up for auction, with every penny of the auction going to the inventor. If the inventor fails to put it up for auction within 5 years, he should go to prison until he sells it. Communism, I know, but its the right thing to do.

Edit: And the people that buy it should have 5 years to do something with it, or, you guessed it, auction. Repeat until someone uses it!