Serendipity plays a large role in scientific discovery. From Archimedes
getting into a bath and discovering the principle that bears his name to
Alexander Fleming's noticing that a speck of mold on an old culture plate
killed Staphylococcus bacteria many scientific advances have been the result
of accidents. In Accidental Inventions, a DVD that feels like
it was intended for use in schools, 10 inventions that were stumbled upon
by accident are discussed and explained.
This disc retells some interesting stories of discovery. There's
the tale of how Teflon was accidentally synthesized in a lab and then used
in making the first atomic bombs before it was ever utilized on the inside
of a pan, how a melted chocolate bar near a piece of radar equipment led
to the first microwave ovens, and how it was discovered that Superglue
could be used to reveal fingerprints.
My favorite story concerns the discovery of dynamite. Alfred Noble
was trying to make the very fragile and explosive compound nitroglycerine
more stable when he dropped a tube of the substance. He figured that
he was dead, but instead of exploding the liquid was absorbed by some sawdust
that was lying on the floor. This inspired him to mix the explosive
with another substance as a stabilizing agent. He eventually settled
on mixing it with diatomaceous earth which gave a blend that was more powerful
than black powder yet very stable. Of course this made him very wealthy
and he used part of his fortune to establish the Nobel Prizes.
The accounts given here are fairly accurate. I only noticed one
error and that was minor. (The show claims that the creator of Post-it
Notes gave prototypes to executives at 3M and they agreed to manufacture
the product. Actually, they turned him down so he gave samples to
their secretaries. When the secretaries asked for more, he told them
to ask their bosses.) These short segments are nice and succinct
and would be perfect for classroom use. Even children with the shortest
attention spans would be able to watch one of these without growing bored.
As for a documentary, I was hoping for a little more information.
While this does hit the highlights of each invention, there isn't any depth.
I would have liked to see expanded versions that explore the subject a
little more fully.
The inventions examined on this disc are:
The Microwave Oven
Super Glue Fuming
The stereo English soundtrack fits the show well. The narration
and dialog sounds fine.
Like the soundtrack, the full frame video image looks good but mot exceptional.
There's a little aliasing and some slight blocking, but nothing major.
It fits the show well.
This disc has an "Invention Quiz" that presents the viewer with 10 questions
about the show they've just seen. If they get 80% or more right,
a coupon for $5 off the next purchase from the publisher's web page (vat19.com)
is given. I received an error message when I tried to enter my coupon
code, but I'm sure that's a temporary glitch.
The biggest bonus item is rather hidden. Some, but not all, of
the inventions have bonus scenes that cover material tangentially related
to the topic covered. The problem is they are not listed in
a bonus section of the disc and you have to go down two menu levels to
find them. These are interesting but they should have made them more
There are also a series of teacher's guides in .pdf format accessible
with a computer equipped with a DVD-ROM drive.
This would be a great DVD for school libraries to have. The topics
are interesting and might spur young minds to search out more information.
As a stand along documentary, it's not that great however. Each invention
only gets a few minutes and the treatment is rather superficial.
Even so, this was a fun way to spend an hour or so and is worth a rental.