Acrylic plastic refers to a family of synthetic, or man-made, plastic materials containing one or more derivatives of acrylic acid. The most common acrylic plastic is polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), which is sold under the brand names of Plexiglas, Lucite, Perspex, and Crystallite.
Ninety-five percent of all beer and soft drink cans in the United States are made of aluminum. American can makers produce about 100 billion aluminum beverage cans a year, equivalent to one can per American per day.
Small arms ammunition, or cartridges, are used in a variety of firearms ranging from pistols to rifles and shotguns to heavier automatic weapons sometimes called machine guns. The term "bullet" is commonly used to describe the cartridge, when in fact, it actually only refers to the projectile.
Stopping safely is one of the most important functions a motor vehicle can perform. Failure of the brake system will almost invariably result in property damage, personal injury, or even death.
Asphalt is a heavy, dark brown to black mineral substance, one of several mixtures of hydrocarbons called bitumens. Asphalt is a strong, versatile weather and chemical-resistant binding material which adapts itself to a variety of uses.
A balloon is an air-tight bag made out of a light material that can be inflated with air or gas. Toy balloons are available in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors to delight children and adults at birthday parties and other festive occasions.
Barbed wire is a fencing material consisting of a metal cable with regularly spaced sharp projections. The cable usually consists of two wires twisted around each other to add strength and to allow the cable to expand and contract with temperature changes without breaking.
When the game of baseball was first played, sticks were used to hit the ball. By the time the game had been officially organized as a team sport, the players either whittled their own bats or bought them from a wood turner.
Though humans have bathed since prehistoric times, baths served a primarily religious, social, or pleasurable function far more often than a hygienic one. The Greeks had bathrooms, complete with water supply and drainage, as early as 1700 B.C.
A pager, or beeper, is a small, battery-powered device that alerts the person carrying it when someone is trying to reach them by telephone. The beeper utilizes electronic components sensitive to an FM radio signal and will beep or otherwise sound, flash, or vibrate to alert its carrier.
The family of beverages generally referred to as "beer" has been brewed for centuries. Beers are obtained by the yeast fermentation of malted cereal grains, to which hops and water have been added.
Since prehistoric times bells have been used to herald significant events. Bells call the faithful to worship and toll the time.
Bicycles are one of the world's most popular modes of transportation, with some 800 million bicycles outnumbering cars by two to one. Bicycles are also the most energy-efficient vehicle—a cyclist burns about 35 calories per mile (22 calories per km), while an automobile burns 1,860 calories per mile (1,156 calories per km).
Bleach is a chemical compound derived from natural sources used to whiten fabrics. Bleach works by the process of oxidation, or the alteration of a compound by the introduction of oxygen molecules.
Wheat and barley were two of the earliest plants to be cultivated, and primitive people living as early as 5000 B.C. are known to have eaten these grains.
Bungee cord is made of one or more strands of an elastic material, usually rubber, bound together by a fabric covering. It is commonly used as a tie-down for luggage or equipment carried on the outside of a vehicle.
Business jet aircraft (also known as "biz-jets") typically carry 5-15 passengers and are primarily used as transportation by business executives and government officials.
Butter is a soft, yellow-hued, edible emulsion of butterfat, water, air, and sometimes salt. It is made from the churning of cream and is used as a spread as well as an important ingredient in cooking and baking.
The earliest buttons date to prehistoric times, and in spite of millennia of change in fashion and manufacturing techniques, the button has endured as the most common fabric fastener. Though buttons were used for thousands of years, the buttonhole was not invented until sometime in the 13th century.
The camera lens is an invention that attempts to duplicate the operation of the human eye. Just like the eye, the lens sees an image, focuses it, and transmits its colors, sharpness, and brightness through the camera to the photographic film, which, like our memory, records the image for processing and future use.
Carpet is a textile floor covering that is distinguished from the more general term "rug" by being fixed to the floor surface and extending wall to wall. The earliest peoples covered the floors of their dwellings with animal skins, grass, or, later, woven reed mats.
H. Edward Lowe is considered the father of the cat litter industry.
A cathode-ray tube, often called a CRT, is an electronic display device in which a beam of electrons can be focused on a phosphorescent viewing screen and rapidly varied in position and intensity to produce an image. Probably the best-known application of a cathode-ray tube is as the picture tube in a television.
The chalkboard is a flat, vertical writing surface on which anything can be inscribed by means of a piece of chalk. The device is generally used for educational purposes, but it can also be found in the workplace, the home, and restaurants.
Tobacco smoking is a practice which has changed little since American natives first stuffed the tobacco they cultivated in the hills of what is today modern Mexico into hollow reeds. As the practice spread through the Americas, different cultures wrapped their tobacco in vegetable leaves or corn husks, or put it in pipes for smoking.
CNC or "computer numerical controlled" machines are sophisticated metalworking tools that can create complicated parts required by modern technology. Growing rapidly with the advances in computers, CNCs can be found performing work as lathes, milling machines, laser cutters, abrasive jet cutters, punch presses, press brakes, and other industrial tools.
Human civilizations have long used metals as a medium for exchange. In addition to their long-lasting properties, metals lend themselves easily to melting and casting.
Condoms are thin sheaths worn by men during sexual intercourse to prevent pregnancy and venereal infections. According to the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics in Hyattsville, Maryland, male condoms or prophylactics are the third most popular form of birth control—preceded only by female sterilization (29.5%) and birth control pills (28.5%)—with usage at 17.7%.
The contact lens is a device worn in the eye to correct vision, although some people wear colored contact lens to enhance or change their eye color. The thin plastic lens floats on a film of tears directly over the cornea.
Traditional cowboy boots have narrow toes, high heels that slope under the foot, and leather tops that reach halfway up the shins. Designed for men who spent virtually their entire day in the saddle, cowboy boots are notoriously uncomfortable to walk in, and though adjustments have been made over the years, the boots remain unsuited for almost any work a cowboy or a rancher has to do on foot.
The earliest form of recorded communication is graphic art, beginning with drawings scratched on the walls of caves by prehistoric peoples. Cave dwellers had limited drawing tools, perhaps only pieces of carbon left over from a cooking fire.
Decorative plastic laminate is a durable flat sheeting material used in home and industrial furnishings. It is most familiar under the Formica brand name.
Dental floss is a thin filament used to remove debris caught between teeth and between teeth and gums. In 1994, Americans used more than 2.5 million miles of dental floss, the equivalent of circling the earth more than 100 times.
It is thought that diamonds were first discovered in Indiaabout 6,000 years ago in the riverbeds of the region. Traders were responsible for bringing the gems as far east as China and as far west as Rome during the classical and early medieval eras.
Drywall is a construction material consisting of thin panels of gypsum board. The board is composed of a layer of gypsum rock sandwiched between two layers of special paper.
Dynamite is a commercial explosive used mainly for demolition and mining. Invented in 1866 by Alfred Bernhard Nobel (1833-1896), it is more accurately described as the packaging of nitroglycerin, a highly poisonous explosive liquid, or other volatile compounds such as sensitized ammonium nitrate.
An elevator is a platform, either open or enclosed, used for lifting people or freight to upper floors within a building. Elevators are a standard part of any tall commercial or residential building.
Fat. No one likes it; no one wants it.
Fiberglass refers to a group of products made from individual glass fibers combined into a variety of forms. Glass fibers can be divided into two major groups according to their geometry: continuous fibers used in yarns and textiles, and the discontinuous (short) fibers used as batts, blankets, or boards for insulation and filtration.
The term "fire truck" is commonly used as a generic expression to describe a fire-fighting vehicle. Technically, a "fire truck" is a vehicle equipped with ladders and is used mainly to gain access to elevated portions of a structure or to provide a means of applying an elevated stream of water.
A firework is a device that uses combustion or explosion to produce a visual or auditory effect. Modern pyrotechnics also includes devices similar to fireworks, such as flares, matches, and even solid-fuel rocket boosters used in spaceflight.
A fortune cookie is a crescent-shaped, hollow cookie with a paper inside imprinted with a short saying or "fortune." Fortune cookies are often presented with the bill at the end of a meal in Chinese restaurants. Each diner selects a cookie and breaks it open to read the advice or prediction inside.
Freeze drying is a relatively recent method of preserving food. It involves freezing the food, then removing almost all the moisture in a vacuum chamber, and finally sealing the food in an airtight container.
Frozen yogurt is a refreshing, tangy dessert that combines the flavors and textures of ice cream and sherbet. Frozen yogurt is a relative new-comer in the dessert market.
Gasoline is a volatile, flammable liquid obtained from the refinement of petroleum, or crude oil. It was originally discarded as a byproduct of kerosene production, but its ability to vaporize at low temperatures made it a useful fuel for many machines.
The term "hay baler" refers to a particular piece of agricultural equipment used to harvest hay. Hay includes grasses and other plants called legumes.
The hearing aid is an instrument that amplifies sounds, particularly speech, for people with hearing impairments. It may be worn comfortably behind the ear, in the outer ear, within the ear canal, in the frames of eyeglasses, or against the body or in the clothing.
The hunting knife is an ancient tool that has survived essentially unchanged to the present day. Belonging to the generation of tools or weapons after stones and clubs, the hunting knife gave early hunters the ability to butcher animals for meat and skins.
Ice skating, in one form or another, has existed for thousands of years. Evidence suggests that as long ago as 1000 B.C.
In-line skates were developed in the mid-1980s, but the basic concept of rolling wheels attached to a boot is much older. Earlier roller skates had wheels of wood, plastic, or steel, arranged in pairs.
Industrial robots are mechanical devices which, to a certain degree, replicate human motions. They are used whenever there is a need to reduce the danger to a human, provide more strength or accuracy than a human, or when continuous operation is required.
An integrated circuit, commonly referred to as an IC, is a microscopic array of electronic circuits and components that has been diffused or implanted onto the surface of a single crystal, or chip, of semiconducting material such as silicon. It is called an integrated circuit because the components, circuits, and base material are all made together, or integrated, out of a single piece of silicon, as opposed to a discrete circuit in which the components are made separately from different materials and assembled later.
Iron is one of the most common elements on earth. Nearly every construction of man contains at least a little iron.
The jelly bean is a semi-soft candy, shaped like a bean and generally fruit flavored. Long considered a traditional Easter candy, jelly beans are also produced in seasonal colors for other holidays such as Halloween and Independence Day.
Kayaks have become an increasingly popular means of enjoying sporting and leisure boating activities. Kayaks resemble canoes in that both are long, narrow, lightweight paddle boats which are pointed at both ends.
Ketchup, a tangy, seasoned tomato sauce, is one of America's favorite condiments. Although ketchup, also spelled catsup, is used primarily as a relish for hamburgers, hot dogs, and french fries, it is also a common ingredient for sauces, meatloaf, beans, and stews.
Lead is a dense, soft, low-melting metal. It is an important component of batteries, and about 75% of the world's lead production is consumed by the battery industry.
Leather, a material made from tanned animal hides, has been used as clothing since the earliest days of human existence. Prehistoric people wrapped animal skins around their bodies for warmth and to absorb the magical powers that they believed the skins imparted to them.
Recreational and professional activities bring people in contact with water everyday. Safety on and near the water is an issue for the weekend sail boater as well as for military and rescue personnel.
A magnet is a material that can exert a noticeable force on other materials without actually contacting them. This force is known as a magnetic force and may either attract or repel.
Marbles are small, round, spherical objects made from glass or stone and most commonly used in children's games. They are usually less than an inch (2.54 cm) in diameter and often brightly colored or otherwise decorated.
The milking machine is a nearly automatic machine installation for milking cows. It is not a single unit, but rather an assembly of components designed to handle as many as 200 cows an hour.
A nail consists of a metal rod or shank, pointed at one end and usually having a formed head at the other, that can be hammered into pieces of wood or other materials to fasten them together. A nail is usually made of steel, although it can be made of aluminum, brass, or many other metals.
A neon sign is a lighting display made of glass tubes that have been filled with a gas and bent into the shape of letters or decorative designs. When a high-voltage electrical current is passed through the gas, the tubes emit light.
A newspaper is a printed periodical whose purpose is to deliver news and other information in an up-to-date, factual manner. Newspapers appear most commonly in daily editions, but may also be issued twice a day or weekly.
A paddle is an implement for manually moving and guiding a small boat. A paddle consists of a shaft with a broad flat surface, called a blade, on one or both ends.
Knowledge of papermaking eventually moved westward, and the first European paper mill was built at Jativa, in the province of Valencia, Spain, in about 1150. By the end of the 15th century, paper mills existed in Italy, France, Germany, and England, and by the end of the 16th century, paper was being made throughout Europe.
Pasta is a universally enjoyed food, and almost every country serves a type of noodle. In China, it is mein; Japan, udon; Poland, pierogi; Germany, spaetzle.
Since the beginning of recorded history, humans have attempted to mask or enhance their own odor by using perfume, which emulates nature's pleasant smells. Many natural and man-made materials have been used to make perfume to apply to the skin and clothing, to put in cleaners and cosmetics, or to scent the air.
Photographic film is a chemically reactive material that records a fixed or still image when the film is exposed to light. Typically, film is placed in a camera, and light from the image being photographed is allowed to enter and is focused and sometimes made larger or smaller by the camera lens.
Plastic wrap is a form of food packaging consisting of a thin film of flexible, transparent polymer that clings to itself and to food containers to form a tight seal. The plastic keeps the food fresh by protecting it from air and by preventing dry foods from absorbing moisture and wet foods from losing moisture.
The player piano begins as a standard, or non-player, acoustic piano. It contains a keyboard, and, when the keys are struck, felt hammers strike tuned metal strings to create musical tones.
Polyester is a synthetic fiber derived from coal, air, water, and petroleum. Developed in a 20th-century laboratory, polyester fibers are formed from a chemical reaction between an acid and alcohol.
A printed circuit board, or PCB, is a self-contained module of interconnected electronic components found in devices ranging from common beepers, or pagers, and radios to sophisticated radar and computer systems. The circuits are formed by a thin layer of conducting material deposited, or "printed," on the surface of an insulating board known as the substrate.
Road signs use shapes, colors, words, and symbols to communicate a message to drivers. Without such signs, the movement of traffic would be disorderly and unpredictable.
A rope is a bundle of flexible fibers twisted or braided together to increase its overall length and tensile strength. The use of ropes for hunting, carrying, lifting, and climbing dates back to prehistoric times.
A forklift is a mobile machine that uses two prongs, or forks, to lift and place loads into positions which are ordinarily difficult to reach. Forklifts generally fall into two categories: industrial and rough terrain.
A coiled piece of steel wire, sharpened at one end with a catch plate at the other, the modern safety pin is a device that can be traced back to New York City in about 1825. An indebted inventor named Walter Hunt sought a way to repay a $15 debt.
Salt is the common name for the substance sodium chloride (NaCI), which occurs in the form of transparent cubic crystals. Although salt is most familiar as a food supplement, less than 5% of the salt produced in the United States is used for that purpose.
Self-adhesive notes, also called "sticky notes," are partially adhesive, detachable note papers that have revolutionized memo making. Throughout the country, it seems almost every surface in an office is amenable to the little yellow notes: they're stuck to desks, computers, files, folders, and rolodexes.
Silk has set the standard in luxury fabrics for several millennia. The origins of silk date back to Ancient China.
Although skiing is a popular sport today, the first skis were used as a quick and efficient means of transportation rather than for recreation. It is believed that skis originated in the Scandinavian nations about 5,000 years ago.
A smoke detector is a device that senses the presence of smoke in a building and warns the occupants, enabling them to escape a fire before succumbing to smoke inhalation or burns. Equipping a home with at least one smoke detector cuts in half the chances that the residents will die in a fire.
The exact origins of soap are unknown, though Roman sources claim it dates back to at least 600 B.C., when Phoenicians prepared it from goat's tallow and wood ash. Soap was also made by the Celts, ancient inhabitants of Britain.
Soft drinks are enormously popular beverages consisting primarily of carbonated water, sugar, and flavorings. Nearly 200 nations enjoy the sweet, sparkling soda with an annual consumption of more than 34 billion gallons.
The technology for making glass dates back at least 5,000 years, and some form of stained glass was used in European Christian churches by the third or fourth century A.D. The art of stained glass flowered in the 12th century with the rise of the Gothic cathedral.
The image of a healthy person today does not necessarily include a deep, dark tan. Research has linked exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays to skin cancer, premature wrinkles, and other skin problems.
A surfboard is used in the sport of surfing. A typical surfboard is about 18-24 inches (46-61 cm) wide, 72-120 inches (183-305 cm) long, and several inches thick.
T-shirts are durable, versatile garments with mass appeal that may be worn as outerwear or underwear. Since their creation in 1920, T-shirts have evolved into a two-billion dollar market.
Tea has existed as a beverage since 2000 B.C. The brewing, serving, and drinking of tea are time-honored rituals throughout the world.
A telescope is a device used to form images of distant objects. The most familiar kind of telescope is an optical telescope, which uses a series of lenses or a curved mirror to focus visible light.
Tofu is a highly versatile and nutritious food that is made from soybean curds. Although the word "tofu" is Japanese, the food seems to have originated in ancient China, where the Mandarin term is "doufu." The creation of tofu is generally attributed to the ruler Liu An of Huai-nan during the second century B.C.
A toothbrush is a dental instrument used for cleaning teeth, ideally in conjunction with toothpaste or mouthwash. The toothbrush consists of a plastic handle and nylon bristles attached to the head of the brush.
A traffic signal, or stoplight as it is also known, controls vehicle traffic passing through the intersection of two or more roadways by giving a visual indication to drivers when to proceed, when to slow, and when to stop. In some cases, traffic signals also indicate to drivers when they may make a turn.
The development of vaccines to protect against viral disease is one of the hallmarks of modern medicine. The first vaccine was produced by Edward Jenner in 1796 in an attempt to provide protection against smallpox.
The violin is the most modern embodiment of stringed musical instruments played with a bow. Like the guitar and other plucked string instruments, bowed instruments date from antiquity.
Several types of stringed musical instruments, among them the violin, the viola, and cello, cannot be successfully played without a bow, and are therefore referred to as "bowed stringed instruments." Because they are almost always heard while being bowed, the bow is considered an integral part of their tone production, contributing its own individual character and timbre. The use of different bows on the same instrument will produce correspondingly different tonality as a result.
Whiskey (usually spelled whisky in Canada and Scotland) is a spirit produced from fermented grain and aged in wood. A spirit is any alcoholic beverage in which the alcohol content has been increased by distillation.
Zinc is an elemental metal. It is listed on the Periodic Table as "Zn," with an atomic number of 30 and an atomic weight of 65.37, and it melts at 788°F (420°C).