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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas A&M pitcher Ryan Prager (18) delivers a pitch during Texas A&M’s game against Kentucky at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at in Omaha, Nebraska on Monday, June 17, 2024. Prager went for 6.2 innings, allowing two hits and zero runs. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
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Texas A&M pitcher Ryan Prager (18) delivers a pitch during Texas A&M’s game against Kentucky at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at in Omaha, Nebraska on Monday, June 17, 2024. Prager went for 6.2 innings, allowing two hits and zero runs. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
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Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) robs a home run from Florida infielder Cade Kurland (4) in the top of the ninth inning during Texas A&M’s game against Florida at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Sunday, June 15, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
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Accidental discoveries in science

Tires invention
Photo by Sketches by Reagan Brunsvold
Tires invention

Many discoveries in today’s society were found by scientists having a little luck during failure. Chris Martin, science and technology reporter with The Battalion, sat down with Texas A&M associate history professor Jonathan Coopersmith, to find out four of the accidents behind some of the technology prevalent in the world today. 
Viagra
When the pharmaceutical company Pfizer developed a drug, they found startling results. According to Popular Mechanics, Pfizer designed a pill to relieve chest pain and noticed the pill failed its primary purpose. What they did find were peculiar and unexpected side effects.
 The blue pill, commonly known as Viagra, is instead used for erectile dysfunction.
 “It turns out that it does not do what we thought it would, it has this interesting side effect,” Coopersmith said. “Chemistry is where you get a lot of experiments to go wrong. Sometimes you can find what you were not looking for.”
Penicillin
Sometimes, scientists need a dirty lab area to uncover a new area in science. A Scottish biologist, Alexander Fleming, came back from vacation to find his lab in disarray. Some of his staph bacteria samples were contaminated, but under the microscope, he  observed there was an odd fungus — later named Penicillin — counterattacking the bacteria. 
The rest is history. Doctors have used penicillin to treat patients with staph and strep bacterial infections.
“Penicillin is the big one. There is some unexplained phenomenon going on here, [Fleming] was able to get to the bottom of it,” Coopersmith said.  
Microwaves
The discovery of the microwave originated from a coincidence between waves and a chocolate bar. American engineer Percy Spencer walked in front of a device composed of a vacuum tube generating microwaves.
According to Popular Mechanics, Spencer began experimenting with the waves after he noticed the chocolate bar in his pocket had melted after his walk-by. In 1945, Spencer created the first microwave oven.
Vulcanized Rubber
There is a big difference between natural rubber and rubber found on a tire. In the 19th century, Charles Goodyear pondered why rubber’s durability failed in very cold and hot temperatures.
Goodyear unintentionally dropped natural rubber on a hot stove during an experiment. Amazingly, this serendipitous finding of a charred, leather-like substance led to the creation of an ultimate quality, “weatherproof rubber.”
“Vulcanized rubber is a good one, it’s one of the classic cases,” Coopersmith said. “You can call them accidental discoveries for something going wrong. A person must say, ‘Hold on for a moment, this isn’t what I set out to do. I overcooked the rubber.’”
Today, vulcanized rubber can be found on bikes, cars, buses and more.

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