Air Bag

An air bag is an inflatable cushion designed to protect automobile occupants from serious injury in the case of a collision. The air bag is part of an inflatable restraint system, also known as an air cushion restraint system (ACRS) or an air bag supplemental restraint system (SRS), because the air bag is designed to supplement the protection offered by seat belts.

Aluminum Foil

Aluminum foil is made from an aluminum alloy which contains between 92 and 99 percent aluminum. Usually between 0.00017 and 0.0059 inches thick, foil is produced in many widths and strengths for literally hundreds of applications.

Artificial Limb

Artificial arms and legs, or prostheses, are intended to restore a degree of normal function to amputees. Mechanical devices that allow amputees to walk again or continue to use two hands have probably been in use since ancient times, the most notable one being the simple peg leg.

Aspirin

Aspirin is one of the safest and least expensive pain relievers on the marketplace. While other pain relievers were discovered and manufactured before aspirin, they only gained acceptance as over-the-counter drugs in Europe and the United States after aspirin's success at the turn of the twentieth century.

Automobile

In 1908 Henry Ford began production of the Model T automobile. Based on his original Model A design first manufactured in 1903, the Model T took five years to develop.

Automobile Windshield

Glass is a versatile material with hundreds of applications, including windshields. Glass has a long history and was first made more than 7,000 years ago in Egypt, as early as 3,000 B.C.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a white crystalline powder (NaHCO3) better known to chemists as sodium bicarbonate, bicarbonate of soda, sodium hydrogen carbonate, or sodium acid carbonate. It is classified as an acid salt, formed by combining an acid (carbonic) and a base (sodium hydroxide), and it reacts with other chemicals as a mild alkali.

Ball Bearing

Ever since man began to need to move things, he has used round rollers to make the job easier. Probably the first rollers were sticks or logs, which were a big improvement over dragging things across the ground, but still pretty hard work.

Bar Code Scanner

Many different types of bar code scanning machines exist, but they all work on the same fundamental principles. They all use the intensity of light reflected from a series of black and white stripes to tell a computer what code it is seeing.

Baseball

The baseball traces its origin to the game of the same name. Modern baseball evolved from the English game of "rounders" in the first half of the 19th century.

Baseball Glove

Wearing a glove to protect one's catching hand was not considered a manly thing to do in the years following the Civil War, when the game of baseball spread through the country with the speed of a cavalry charge. It's uncertain who was the first to wear a baseball glove; nominees include Charles G.

Battery

Benjamin Franklin's famous experiment to attract electricity by flying a kite in a lightning storm was only one of many late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century experiments conducted to learn about electricity. The first battery was constructed in 1800 by Italian Alessandro Volta.

Bicycle Shorts

Bicycle shorts are form-fitting shorts designed specifically for the cyclist. A close inspection reveals that they differ significantly from typical jogging or beach shorts.

Blood Pressure Monitor

Blood pressure is the pressure that the blood exerts against the walls of the arteries as it passes through them. Pulse refers to the periodic ejection of blood from the heart's left ventricle into the aorta.

Blue Jeans

Blue jeans are casual pants made from denim, noted for their strength and comfort. They have been worn by sailors and California gold miners as sturdy work pants, by the young as a statement of their generation, and by the fashionable, who are conscious of the prestige conveyed by designer names.

Book

A book can be broadly defined as a written document of at least 49 text pages that communicates thoughts, ideas, or information. Throughout the ages, books have changed dramatically, assuming a number of different forms.

Brick

The term brick refers to small units of building material, often made from fired clay and secured with mortar, a bonding agent comprising of cement, sand, and water. Long a popular material, brick retains heat, with-stands corrosion, and resists fire.

Bulletproof Vest

Bulletproof vests are modern light armor specifically designed to protect the wearer's vital organs from injury caused by firearm projectiles. To many protective armor manufacturers and wearers, the term "bulletproof vest" is a misnomer.

Candle

One of the earliest forms of portable illumination, candles have served vital functions for humankind throughout history, a fact chronicled through the discovery of candles or candle-like objects in virtually every society. Historians believe the original candle may have been invented by primitive men who dipped dried branches in animal fat, thus producing a slow-burning and reliable source of light.

Carbon Paper

Carbon paper is an inexpensive reprographic device used to make a single copy concurrently with the original, as in credit card transaction receipts, legal documents, manuscripts, letters, and other simple forms.

Cellophane Tape

Cellophane tape consists of a backing to which an adhesive substance is affixed for the purpose of joining materials with a surface bond. Usually, a film of cellulose (a man-made textile fiber produced from plant matter) provides the backing for adherends made from chemically treated petroleum byproducts that create the tape's stickiness.

Ceramic Tile

Wall and floor tile used for interior and exterior decoration belongs to a class of ceramics known as whitewares. The production of tile dates back to ancient times and peoples, including the Egyptians, the Babylonians, and the Assyrians.

Chalk

Chalk used in school classrooms comes in slender sticks approximately .35 of an inch (nine millimeters) in diameter and 3.15 inches (80 millimeters) long. Lessons are often presented to entire classes on chalk-boards (or blackboards, as they were originally called) using sticks of chalk because this method has proven cheap and easy.

Cheese

Cheese is a fermented food derived from the milk of various mammals. Since humans began to domesticate milk-producing animals around 10,000 B.C., they have known about the propensity of milk to separate into curds and whey.

Chewing Gum

Chewing gum is a sweetened, flavored confection composed primarily of latex, both natural and artificial. Organic latex, a milky white fluid produced by a variety of seed plants, is best known as the principle component of rubber.

Chocolate

Chocolate, in all of its varied forms (candy bars, cocoa, cakes, cookies, coating for other candies and fruits) is probably America's favorite confection. With an annual per capita consumption of around 14 pounds (6 kilograms) per person, chocolate is as ubiquitous as a non-essential food can be.

Coffee

Coffee is a beverage made by grinding roasted coffee beans and allowing hot water to flow through them. Dark, flavorful, and aromatic, the resulting liquid is usually served hot, when its full flavor can best be appreciated.

Combination Lock

The combination lock is one opened not by a key but by the alignment of its interior parts in a definite position. The most common types have an internal mechanism consisting of a series of three or four interconnected rings or discs that are attached to and turned by a central shaft.

Combine

A combine is a large, self-propelled agricultural machine used to harvest grain crops such as wheat, corn, soybeans, milo, rape-seed, and rice. As its name suggests, the combine performs two, and sometimes more, basic functions of harvesting: first it reaps (cuts) the crop, and then it threshes it, separating the kernels of grain from the seed coverings and other debris(chaff).

Compact Disc

Ever since the invention of the phonograph in 1876, music has been a popular source of home entertainment. In recent years, the compact disc has become the playback medium of choice for recorded music.

Compact Disc Player

A compact disc, also popularly known simply as a CD, is an optical storage medium with digital data recorded on its surface. A compact disc player is a device that reads the recorded data by means of an optical beam and accurately reproduces the original information (music, pictures, or data).

Concrete

Concrete is a hardened building material created by combining a chemically inert mineral aggregate (usually sand, gravel, or crushed stone), a binder (natural or synthetic cement), chemical additives, and water. Although people commonly use the word "cement" as a synonym for concrete, the terms in fact denote different substances: cement, which encompasses a wide variety of fine-ground powders that harden when mixed with water, represents only one of several components in modern concrete.

Cooking Oil

Cooking oil consists of edible vegetable oils derived from olives, peanuts, and safflowers, to name just a few of the many plants that are used. Liquid at room temperature, cooking oils are sometimes added during the preparation of processed foods.

Corrugated Cardboard

Most items at your favorite supermarket, discount store, or shopping mall were safely delivered in boxes made of corrugated cardboard, and many are displayed in the same boxes, which were manufactured so they could be opened and used for this purpose. Other items may arrive in their own corrugated or uncorrugated paperboard boxes.

Cutlery

Eating or serving with utensils made of silver, silver-plated metals or stainless steel is relatively recent. Silver needed to be discovered in sufficient quantities, the smelting processes necessary to hand-craft silver needed to be refined, and in Northern Europe it took several centuries before the more civilized Latin table manners replaced the cruder Anglo-Saxon ones.

Expanded Polystyrene Foam (EPF)

Expanded polystyrene foam (EPF) is a plastic material that has special properties due to its structure. Composed of individual cells of low density polystyrene, EPF is extraordinarily light and can support many times its own weight in water.

Eyeglass Lens

Eyeglass lenses are glass or plastic optical items that fit inside eyewear frames to enhance and/or correct the wearer's vision. The magnifying glass, invented in the early 1200s, was the first optical lens used for enhancing vision.

File Cabinet

A file cabinet is a piece of office furniture characterized by drawers that hold papers in vertically placed folders. While such cabinets are mainly used to store documents, they also facilitate organizing, removing, and using such documents.

Fire Extinguisher

The hand-held fire extinguisher is simply a pressure vessel from which is expelled a material (or agent) to put out a fire. The agent acts upon the chemistry of the fire by removing one or more of the three elements necessary to maintain fire—commonly referred to as the fire triangle.

Floppy Disk

A floppy disk is a portable computer storage device that permits easy handling of data. Commonly used with personal computers, notebook computers, and word processors, such disks consist of flat, circular plates made of metal or plastic and coated with iron oxide.

Gold

Gold, recognizable by its yellowish cast, is one of the oldest metals used by humans. As far back as the Neolithic period, humans have collected gold from stream beds, and the actual mining of gold can be traced as far back as 3500 B.C., when early Egyptians (the Sumerian culture of Mesopotamia) used mined gold to craft elaborate jewelry, religious artifacts, and utensils such as goblets.

Golf Cart

A golf cart is an electric or gas-powered vehicle used to transport golfers and their equipment around the course during play. Designed to meet golfers' needs, the carts offer a number of specialized safety and comfort features.

Grinding Wheel

Grinding wheels are made of natural or synthetic abrasive minerals bonded together in a matrix to form a wheel. While such tools may be familiar to those with home workshops, the general public may not be aware of them because most have been developed and used by the manufacturing industry.

Guitar

A member of the family of musical instruments called chordophones, the guitar is a stringed instrument with which sound is produced by "plucking" a series of strings running along the instrument's body. While the strings are plucked with one hand, they are simultaneously fingered with the other hand against frets, which are metal strips located on the instrument's neck.

Helicopter

Helicopters are classified as rotary wing aircraft, and their rotary wing is commonly referred to as the main rotor or simply the rotor. Unlike the more common fixed wing aircraft such as a sport biplane or an airliner, the helicopter is capable of direct vertical take-off and landing; it can also hover in a fixed position.

Jet Engine

The jet engine is the power plant of today's jet aircraft, producing not only the thrust that propels the aircraft but also the power that fuels many of the aircraft's other systems.

Laboratory Incubator

An incubator comprises a transparent chamber and the equipment that regulates its temperature, humidity, and ventilation. For years, the principle uses for the controlled environment provided by incubators included hatching poultry eggs and caring for premature or sick infants, but a new and important application has recently emerged, namely, the cultivation and manipulation of microorganisms for medical treatment and research.

Laser Guided Missile

Missiles differ from rockets by virtue of a guidance system that steers them towards a pre-selected target. Unguided, or free-flight, rockets proved to be useful yet frequently inaccurate weapons when fired from aircraft during the World War II.

Laundry Detergent

The first soaps were manufactured in ancient times through a variety of methods, most commonly by boiling fats and ashes. Archeologists excavating sites in ancient Babylon have found evidence indicating that such soaps were used as far back as 2800 B.C.

Lawn Mower

The lawn mower is a mechanical device that literally shaves the surface of the grass by using a rapidly rotating blade or blades.

Light Bulb

From the earliest periods of history until the beginning of the 19th century, fire was man's primary source of light. This light was produced through different means—torches, candles, oil and gas lamps.

Light-Emitting Diode (LED)

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs)—small colored lights available in any electronics store—are ubiquitous in modern society. They are the indicator lights on our stereos, automobile dashboards, and microwave ovens.

Lipstick

Cosmetics can be traced back to ancient civilizations. In particular, the use of lip color was prevalent among the Sumerians, Egyptians, Syrians, Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks.

Liquid Crystal Display (LCD)

Liquid crystal displays (LCDs) consist of liquid crystals that are activated by electric current. They are used most frequently to display one or more lines of alpha-numeric information in a variety of devices: fax machines, laptop computer screens, answering machine call counters, scientific instruments, portable compact disc players, clocks, and so forth.

Lubricating Oil

Since the Roman era, many liquids, including water, have been used as lubricants to minimize the friction, heat, and wear between mechanical parts in contact with each other. Today, lubricating oil, or lube oil, is the most commonly used lubricant because of its wide range of possible applications.

Mattress

From the available evidence, it seems fairly certain that the concept of the mattress originated during prehistoric times. By lying on piles of leaves, straw, and animal skins, early humans were able to sleep more comfortably and more soundly than they could have on hard surfaces.

Microwave Oven

Microwaves are actually a segment of the electromagnetic wave spectrum, which comprises forms of energy that move through space, generated by the interaction of electric and magnetic fields. The spectrum is commonly broken into subgroups determined by the different wavelengths (or frequencies) and emission, transmission, and absorption behaviors of various types of waves.

Mirror

From the earliest recorded history, humans have been fascinated by reflections. Narcissus was supposedly bewitched by his own reflection in a pool of water, and magic powers are ascribed to mirrors in fairy tales.

Nail Polish

Unlike many other cosmetics that have a history of hundreds or even thousands of years, nail polish (or lacquer, or enamel) is almost completely an invention of twentieth century technology. Nail coverings were not unknown in ancient times—the upper classes of ancient Egypt probably used henna to dye both hair and fingernails—but essentially, its composition, manufacture and handling reflect developments in modern chemical technology.

Necktie

Neckwear dates back 30,000 years when primitive peoples adorned their chests with beads and bangles. Throughout the ages, people continued to wear wood, metal, pearls, feathers, glass, or cloth around their necks.

Optical Fiber

An optical fiber is a single, hair-fine filament drawn from molten silica glass. These fibers are replacing metal wire as the transmission medium in high-speed, high-capacity communications systems that convert information into light, which is then transmitted via fiber optic cable.

Paint

Paint is a term used to describe a number of substances that consist of a pigment suspended in a liquid or paste vehicle such as oil or water. With a brush, a roller, or a spray gun, paint is applied in a thin coat to various surfaces such as wood, metal, or stone.

Pantyhose

Pantyhose are a form of sheer women's hosiery that extend from the waist to the toes. The terms hosiery and stocking derive from the Anglo-Saxon words hosa, meaning "tight-legged trouser," and stoka, meaning "stump" When the upper part of a trouser leg was cut off, the remaining stoka became "stocking," and hosa became "hosiery." For centuries, sheer stockings and hose were worn as separate leg and foot coverings.

Peanut Butter

Wild peanuts originated in Bolivia and northeastern Argentina. The cultivated species, Arachis hypogaea, was grown by Indians in pre-Columbian times.

Pencil

One of the oldest and most widely used writing utensils, the pencil originated in pre-historic times when chalky rocks and charred sticks were used to draw on surfaces as varied as animal hides and cave walls. The Greeks and Romans used flat pieces of lead to draw faint lines on papyrus, but it was not until the late 1400s that the earliest direct ancestor of today's pencil was developed.

Pesticide

The word "pesticide" is a broad term that refers to any device, method, or chemical that kills plants or animals that compete for humanity's food supply or are otherwise undesirable. Pesticides include insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, nematocides (used to kill nematodes, elongated cylindrical worms), and rodenticides.

Porcelain

The term porcelain refers to a wide range of ceramic products that have been baked at high temperatures to achieve vitreous, or glassy, qualities such as translucence and low porosity. Among the most familiar porcelain goods are table and decorative china, chemical ware, dental crowns, and electrical insulators.

Postage Stamp

The postage stamp is a relatively modern invention, first proposed in 1837 when Sir Rowland Hill, an English teacher and tax reformer, published a seminal pamphlet entitled Post Office Reform: Its Importance and Practicability. Among other reforms, Hill's treatise advocated that the English cease basing postal rates on the distance a letter traveled and collecting fees upon delivery.

Pressure Gauge

Many of the processes in the modern world involve the measurement and control of pressurized liquid and gas systems. This monitoring reflects certain performance criteria that must be controlled to produce the desirable results of the process and insure its safe operation.

Rayon

For centuries humankind has relied upon various plants and animals to provide the raw materials for fabrics and clothing. Silkworms, sheep, beaver, buffalo deer, and even palm leaves are just some of the natural resources that have been used to meet these needs.

Refrigerator

Prior to the development of artificial refrigeration techniques during the 1800s, people utilized a variety of means to chill and preserve foodstuffs. For centuries, ice served as the principal refrigerant.

Revolver

The term "handgun" refers to any small firearm intended for use with one hand only. Currently, the two most important types of handguns are revolvers and automatic pistols.

Rubber Band

Rubber bands are one of the most convenient products of the twentieth century, used by numerous individuals and industries for a wide variety of purposes. The largest consumer of rubber bands in the world is the U.S.

Running Shoe

While most footwear protects and supports the foot, the running shoe goes beyond what one would expect of the ordinary shoe. Its advantages have been the subject of intense scrutiny in recent years, a focus that results from an increasingly health- and leisure-conscious population in general, and from the popularity of running in particular.

Saddle

A saddle is a seat for the rider of an animal, usually a horse. A well-made saddle gives the horse rider the necessary support, security, and control over the animal.

Salsa

Salsa is the Spanish word for sauce, and in Mexico it refers to sauces that are used as an ingredient for a variety of dishes and as a condiment. Most salsas are especially spicy, due to the prominence of hot chili peppers in their ingredients.

Sandpaper

Although the most familiar types of coated abrasives are probably the individual sheets of sandpaper with which home woodworkers prepare furniture or crafts for painting, the trade term "coated abrasives" actually encompasses a much wider array of products for both individual and industrial use. While these products assume many forms, all are essentially a single layer of abrasive grit attached to a flexible backing.

Satellite Dish

A satellite dish is a parabolic television antenna that receives signals from communication satellites in orbit around the earth. Its sole function is to provide the television viewer with a wider variety of channels.

Screwdriver

It would be very difficult to find an American household that did not have at least one screwdriver. Perhaps the most ubiquitous of hand tools, the screwdriver has a long genealogy, the result of a complicated manufacturing process.

Seismograph

Seismographs are instruments designed to detect and measure vibrations within the earth, and the records they produce are known as seismograms. Like the many other terms beginning with this prefix, these words derive from the Greek seismos, meaning "shock" or "earthquake." Although certain types of seismographs are used for underground surveying, the devices are best known for studying earthquakes.

Shaving Cream

Shaving cream is a substance applied to the skin to facilitate removal of hair. Shaving cream softens and moistens the skin and the hair, thus making shaving more comfortable and contributing to smoother skin.

Soda Bottle

The soda bottle so common today is made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a strong yet lightweight plastic. PET is used to make many products, such as polyester fabric, cable wraps, films, transformer insulation, generator parts, and packaging.

Solar Cell

Photovoltaic solar cells are thin silicon disks that convert sunlight into electricity. These disks act as energy sources for a wide variety of uses, including: calculators and other small devices; telecommunications; rooftop panels on individual houses; and for lighting, pumping, and medical refrigeration for villages in developing countries.

Spark Plug

The purpose of a spark plug is to provide a place for an electric spark that is hot enough to ignite the air/fuel mixture inside the combustion chamber of an internal combustion engine. This is done by a high voltage current arcing across a gap on the spark plug.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is an iron-containing alloy—a substance made up of two or more chemical elements—used in a wide range of applications. It has excellent resistance to stain or rust due to its chromium content, usually from 12 to 20 percent of the alloy.

Stapler

There are virtually as many types of staplers as there are uses for them. Staplers are produced for use in: the manufacture of furniture; medical fields; carpet tacking; electrical wire and insulation installation; picture frame manufacture and, of course, in the home or office.

Stethoscope

A stethoscope is a medical instrument used to listen to sounds produced in the body, especially those that emanate from the heart and lungs. Most modern stethoscopes are binaural; that is, the instrument is intended for use with both ears.

Sugar

Before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, sugarcane (from which sugar is made) was harvested on the shores of the Bay of Bengal; it spread to the surrounding territories of Malaysia, Indonesia, Indochina, and southern China. The Arabic people introduced "sugar" (at that point a sticky paste, semi-crystallized and believed to have medicinal value) to the Western world by bringing both the reed and knowledge for its cultivation to Sicily and then Spain in the eighth and ninth centuries.

Super Glue

Glue is a gelatinous adhesive substance used to form a surface attachment between discrete materials. Currently, there are five basic types of glue.

Thermometer

A thermometer is a device used to measure temperature. The thermoscope, developed by Galileo around 1592, was the first instrument used to measure temperature qualitatively.

Tire

A tire is a strong, flexible rubber casing attached to the rim of a wheel. Tires provide a gripping surface for traction and serve as a cushion for the wheels of a moving vehicle.

Tortilla Chip

The Spaniards first brought the word tortilla(from torta, "cake") to Mexico; the Mexicans, in turn, used it to describe their flat corn and flour cakes. The bread staple of the Mexican diet, all tortillas were originally made from the pulp of ground corn, the native grain of the New World.

Trumpet

A trumpet is a brass wind instrument noted for its powerful tone sounded by lip vibration against its cup-shaped mouthpiece. A trumpet consists of a cylindrical tube, shaped in a primary oblong loop that flares into a bell.

Umbrella

The umbrella as we know it today is primarily a device to keep people dry in rain or snow. Its original purpose was to shade a person from the sun (umbra is Latin for "shade"), a function that is still reflected in the word "parasol," (derived from the French parare," to shield" and sol, "sun") a smaller-sized umbrella used primarily by women.

Washing Machine

Mechanical washing machines appeared in the early 1800s, although they were all hand-powered. Early models cleaned clothes by rubbing them, while later models cleaned clothes by moving them through water.

Watch

The oldest means of determining time is by observing the location of the sun in the sky. When the sun is directly overhead, the time is roughly 12:00 noon.

Wind Turbine

A wind turbine is a machine that converts the wind's kinetic energy into rotary mechanical energy, which is then used to do work. In more advanced models, the rotational energy is converted into electricity, the most versatile form of energy, by using a generator.

Wine

Wine is an alcoholic beverage produced through the partial or total fermentation of grapes. Other fruits and plants, such as berries, apples, cherries, dandelions, elder-berries, palm, and rice can also be fermented.

Wool

As with many discoveries of early man, anthropologists believe the use of wool came out of the challenge to survive. In seeking means of protection and warmth, humans in the Neolithic Age wore animal pelts as clothing.

Zipper

Fasteners have come a long way since the early bone or horn pins and bone splinters. Many devices were designed later that were more efficient; such fasteners included buckles, laces, safety pins, and buttons.

Zirconium

Zirconium, symbol Zr on the Periodic Table, is a metal most often found in and extracted from the silicate mineral zirconium silicate and the oxide mineral baddeleyite. In its various compound forms, the grayish-white zirconium is the nineteenth most plentiful element in the earth's crust, where it is far more abundant than copper and lead.