It’s just coincidence that we all love to eat potato chips

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Albert Einstein once said, “God does not play dice. But he was only partially right about that. © pxel66, Getty Images

Science likes to boast about the many years of research it often conducts to make the world a little bit better. In the course of vaccinations against Covid-19, an emotional discussion about it has sparked in public. But especially in medicine it is important to get to the bottom of new drugs before they are released to the general public. In the course of history, however, some achievements have also arisen simply by chance. Everything could have turned out very differently.

A melted candy bar is to blame for the microwave

Nowadays it can hardly be missing in any kitchen: the microwave. Ready meals can be prepared in a very short time. As a result, this invention has revolutionized our eating habits. Of the Per capita consumption of frozen foods is almost 50 kilograms per year in Germany.

It’s not necessarily healthy. Although it has now been refuted that nutrients are lost through long storage, frozen products heated up in the microwave usually contain a lot of salts, fats and flavor enhancers.

But back to the invention: Engineer Percy Spencer originally worked for the US company Raytheon on the development of a magnetron that was actually intended for use in radar systems.

However, after Spencer melted his candy bar in his pants while standing next to the device, he finally came up with the revolutionary idea that other foods should also be able to be heated up in seconds with it. In short, he also tested the magnetron with other foods and they all got hot and the microwave oven was invented.

The secret of porcelain

Even today, people love to eat their food from beautiful crockery. Who, for example Mediterranean bowls in his collection much prefers to eat his healthy salad from it than from an inferior plastic bowl.

The old saying “The eye eats with you” has meanwhile also been scientifically proven. In a corresponding experiment, the test subjects were offered apple juice in three different colors. Once the juice was left in its natural color, the other two juices were colored red or green. Although the colorants had no flavor impact, many testers reported drinking blackcurrant juice or kiwi juice.

Tea also tastes much better from a porcelain bowl than from a simple cup. The Chinese already knew this in the 7th century. However, they kept the secret of porcelain production to themselves for a very long time.

It was only by chance that the alchemist Johann Friedrich Böttger found out about the recipe. He actually wanted to produce gold for the Saxon Elector and tried his hand at a wide variety of materials. Among them was a mixture of ground clay with quartz, feldspar and water, which Böttger simply burned in the kiln. Gold did not emerge from it, but since that time Europeans have also known how porcelain production works.

Revenge can also be salty

“Revenge is sweet” is an old saying. Chef George Crum, on the other hand, preferred to make them salty. He was quite annoyed by his guest, the famous railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, who kept sending the fried potatoes back to the kitchen because they were cut too thick for him.

In the end, Crum cut the potatoes wafer-thin and fried them. Actually, he wanted to achieve that Vanderbilt could no longer eat the slices with a fork. He succeeded, but the railroad magnate simply used his fingers and was amazed by the taste and texture of the potato slices.

However, Crum did not become rich with this invention, because industrial production only began around 70 years after its invention. The US sales representative Herman Lay invented a potato peeling machine with which the chips could be mass-produced. The brand still exists today, but has been owned by beverage and food company PepsiCo since 1965.

Incidentally, the first potato chips in Europe appeared in Vienna. In 1929, the restaurateur Karl Kolarik offered his so-called “raw slices” in the Schweizerhaus in Vienna’s Prater and sold like hot cakes.

A hunter’s anger gave us the Velcro

Velcro fasteners are completely normal nowadays and it is impossible to imagine our everyday life without them. They are mainly used on shoes and other items of clothing, but they also play an important role in medicine, for example for attaching blood pressure cuffs to the upper arm. Even astronauts’ space suits have Velcro in some places.

For the Swiss engineer Georges de Mestral, however, the burrs were one thing above all on his numerous hunting trips: a nuisance. Because they constantly got stuck on his clothing and in the fur of his hunting dog and were also very difficult to remove again.

Only after some time did he realize that the burr is actually an ingenious system of nature that, with its small and elastic hooks, could also be used wonderfully to lock things together in a simple way.

However, fans of the TV series “Starship Enterprise” know a different version of the invention. Because according to this, the invention of the Velcro goes back to the Vulcans. Mister Spock says hello.

Chance plays an important role in science

In science, coincidence is always spoken of when an event cannot be foreseen. In principle, science also exists to rule out chance as far as possible.

But now science has recognized that this is not possible, because chance is simply part of our nature. At least since the advent of quantum physics, it has been clear to scientists that chance rules the microcosm. The result of experiments simply cannot always be predicted exactly. Even if all circumstances are known, different consequences can arise in the case of identical initial situations.

The fact that man has risen to become the leading living being on earth is ultimately also due to a large number of coincidences. How might the planet have evolved if a cosmic asteroid impact hadn’t completely wiped out the dinosaurs? How would they tiny organisms on Earth around 570 million years ago developed if the earth’s temperature had been two degrees higher. A question that should also be of interest today in view of climate change.


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