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Lost Inventions

2012-05-16 19:37:06.620945+00 by petronius 2 comments

An interesting bit from New Scientist (resgistration required). In the 1980s a former British hairdresser and small time plastics manufacturer demonstrated on TV Starlite, a miraculous substance he created. It could be painted on to something and provide thermal protection up to 1000 degrees Celsius (~1800 Far.) The British Defense Ministry, NASA and Boeing all looked into it and thought that this little man actually was on to something, but he would never give anyone the formula, and refused to settle on a specific price for the rights. Then he died. There are a couple of tiny samples still extant, but nobody has successfully reverse engineered the substance.

[ related topics: Technology and Culture Invention and Design Space & Astronomy Television ]

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#Comment Re: made: 2012-05-17 00:49:31.048784+00 by: meuon

The trick usually in "what is it made of" which any spectrograph or analysis can tell you. The trick is, how did he get those substances to bind together, just so.

#Comment Re: made: 2012-05-17 16:25:31.757279+00 by: petronius

Quite right. The story says that microacopic analysis indicates that this stuff produces tiny voids that inhibit heat transfer. The question is how did this guy stumble on the process.

Of course, there is still the issue of possible fraud, which apparently drove Boeing crazy. I have read of many cases where guys show up with perpetual motion engines and such who get super-cagy when it comes time to put up or shut up. They usually end up demanding the money upfront, preferrably in small, greasy bills, beore they will reveal the secret. Physicist/bongoist Richard Feynman once confronted one such, in a case that ended tragically.