A chest x-ray of a person with a pacemaker. (Source: Don Farrall/Getty Images)
In honor of the show "JUNKies" the Science Channel is celebrating the other side of science –- the, um, not so scientific kind –- the unplanned kind. They've counted down the Top 10 Accidental Inventions of all time. It's a good reminder of the cruel world of scientific invention, but also a good reminder that life-changing science can happen to any of us, anytime, anywhere.
Forget the inventors who spend their entire lives experimenting, tinkering and building contraptions. They methodically pour over data and test hypotheses. They work in goggles and lab coats. They dedicate their lives to a scientific pursuit. Then there are the other guys…
Isn't it time we celebrated the scientists that won the invention lottery?
While some of us forget to wash our hands before dinner and then get E. coli, these are the inventors who forget to wash their hands at dinner and discover the key to artificial sweeteners.
Not to say that some of these inventors didn't work hard, but for some of them laziness — or unfortunate accidents — actually made them a fortune.
And while the Science Channel calls these "accidental inventions," perhaps it's not giving enough credit where credit is due. Louis Pasteur was certainly not referring to accidental inventions when he said, "Did you ever observe to whom the accidents happen? Chance favors only the prepared mind." But in this context, perhaps the "mind" — prepared or not — should still be given credit for making the best of the "accident."
It's just so much more fun, though, to think of it as pure accident, that it could happen to any of us. So the next time you accidentally explode your homework or feel too lazy to clean up your lab, remember it’s not the end of the world. In fact, you may have just cured cancer — by accident.