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October 2001
Vol. 10, No. 10, p 72.
 
 
 
Lighter Elements
cartoon
www.sciencecartoonsplus.com
A Handy Engineering Conversion Chart
  • 10–6 mouthwashes: 1 microscope
  • 16.5 ft in the Twilight Zone: 1 rod Serling
  • 0.5 large intestine: 1 semicolon
  • The basic unit of laryngitis: 1 hoarsepower
  • 453.6 graham crackers: 1 pound cake
  • 1012 microphones: 1 megaphone
  • 106 bicycles: 2 megacycles
  • 2000 mockingbirds: 2 kilomockingbirds
  • 10 cards: 1 decacards
  • 1 kg of falling figs: 1 Fig Newton
  • 1000 g of wet socks: 1 literhosen
  • 109 pins: 1 terrapin
  • 100 rations: 1 C-ration
  • 2 monograms: 1 diagram
  • 8 nickels: 2 paradigms
  • 2.4 statute miles of surgical tubing at Yale:
    1 I.V. League
  • 100 senators: Not 1 decision

Patent Pondering
One of the most famous quotes about the patent office is actually false, adding to the mystery surrounding this government agency. Patent Commissioner Charles H. Duell is miscredited as saying, “Everything that can be invented, has been invented,” when in fact he said nothing of the sort.

The quote could be more easily attributed to Henry Ellsworth, a patent commissioner in 1843 who said something similar in a report to Congress. He said, “The advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end.” Although this sounds like he was saying that there will be an end to innovation, he was using it as a rhetorical device to emphasize the tremendous increase in patents and material that must be searched through to approve applications. In the speech, he continued and pointed out areas that were growing at above-average rates, which is not in line with the suggestion that all has been discovered.

In 1843, there were 819 applications and 494 patents granted. What would Mr. Ellsworth think of the 295,926 patent applications and 157,497 patents granted in 2000? Most likely, given time to adjust, he would still not think that everything has been invented.

Michael J. Felton

Coat D’Azur
Just about any material used by people finds its way into shipboard application. Our marine coatings laboratory was once evaluating a particular epoxy paint system. Of paramount concern was to make sure that the paint system applied to hulls did not generate “amine bloom” on the coating’s surface.

Ironically, among the satisfactory products tested was a shipment of paint from a manufacturer whose slogan, emblazoned on the side of every gallon can, was “Best Bloomin’ Paint in Town”!

Ken Brandau

But Can a Cow Reflux?
A label from a birthday cake box:

label from a birthday cake box

Hollis H. Hill


Please send your work-related stories to the Editorial Office 1155 16th St N.W., Washington, DC 20036. If your humor is published, you will receive either a Today’s Chemist at Work T-shirt or coffee mug.

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