Eureka! 我成功了!

更新時間 2013年 12月 23日, 星期一 - 格林尼治標準時間11:46
A test tube

Observation is at the core of science

Vocabulary: scientific discoveries 詞匯: 科學發現

Are you absent-minded? Sometimes I wish I were. So many things were achieved by people who just left something in their pocket or forgot to switch off a machine.

Like what happened to this group of Swedish scientists. According to the British newspaper The Independent, they left their equipment switched on over the weekend by accident and ended up creating a synthetic form of the world's most absorbent material.

Their experiments to create what they now call Upsalite were not going well till the cock-up happened. Johan Gomez de la Torre, researcher at the Uppsala University, said: "A Thursday afternoon in 2011... by mistake (we) left the material in the reaction chamber. Back at work on Monday morning we discovered that a rigid gel had formed and after drying this gel we started to get excited."

The breakthrough has far-reaching commercial applications, including cleaning up huge oil spills.

It might also have been by chance that the US engineer William Percy had a bar of chocolate in his pocket when he visited a factory which produced equipment for radars. It was during the Second World War. Percy was intrigued when the sweet melted and he decided to investigate.

The scientist observed the effect the equipment had on popcorn and other foods and invented another machine with similar technology. It was the precursor to the microwaves we see today.

But we can't talk about accidental breakthroughs in science without mentioning the Scottish bacteriologist Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin, the first antibiotic, in 1928. Fleming came back to his laboratory after a holiday and observed a strange phenomenon in a dish used to grow microbes. He noticed a bacteria free circle around a growth of mould and realised that the mould was acting as an antibiotic killing the bacteria around it.

Maybe being absent-minded isn't a problem as long as you have the curiosity of a scientist. Get used to observing your surroundings. Who knows where it might lead?

Quiz 測驗

1. What happened to the group of Swedish scientists?

They forgot to switch off their equipment when they left for the weekend.

2. Where was William Percy when his bar of chocolate melted?

He was visiting a factory which produced radars.

3. Who is Alexander Fleming?

The Scottish bacteriologist who discovered the first antibiotic.

4. Why were there no bacteria around the mould?

Because something in the mould had killed the bacteria.

5. What word is used in the article to refer to something which was not created by nature?

Synthetic.

Glossary 词汇表 (点击单词收听发音)

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