Monitor Quiz

Some Very High-Flying Inventions

These products were thought up on the ground and eventually made their way into outer space. Now they're everyday items in many non-astronauts' lives. Can you name them?

1. When American astronauts began circling the globe, they needed a way to keep things handy and secure. Objects had a way of floating around the space capsule during periods of weightlessness in flight. How could you keep a pencil or wrench in place? A French inventor looking at cockleburs came up with a two-part nylon version that did the trick. What was the invention called?

2. This nonstick substance is called 'the original space-age material.' The spacesuit John Glenn wore on his first flight was coated with it. It's been in nose cones, heat shields, and fuel tanks of space vehicles and satellites. It's also in bridges, boats, planes, winter wear, and even the Statue of Liberty. What is this substance, which the Guinness Book of World Records calls 'the most slippery substance on earth'?

3. This stretchy material went to the moon with Apollo 8 astronauts. The taffylike toy was made by accident as researchers tried to make synthetic rubber. This pliant goo withstands a wide range of temperatures well. It can also lift a newsprint image, collect lint, remove dirt, and stabilize tippy furniture. What bounces, is sold in colored-plastic eggs, and was originally called 'nutty'?

4. In Britain, it was known as a Biro; in France a Bic. Its quick-drying, smear-proof ink made it as popular as the pencil. Royal Air Force navigators found that it wrote better at high altitude than a fountain pen and didn't need refilling all the time. The astronauts' version requires a pressurized cylinder to operate in weightlessness. What do you call this instrument that delivers ink by way of a tiny ball bearing?


(1) Velcro, from the words 'velvet' and 'crochet,' it was first made in France; (2) Teflon, from its chemical name 'tetrafluoroethylene' and the common fabric suffix 'lon'; (3) Silly Putty. Its lab name was 'nutty putty'; (4) Ball-point pen. An improved version was invented in 1935 by Ladislas and Georg Biro of Hungary. By 1952, Marcel Bich of France had made the pens even more smooth-writing and nonleaky.

SOURCES: 'They All Laughed,' by Ira Flatow, 'Panati's Everyday Inventions,' by Charles Panati, 'The Inventive Yankee,' by Yankee Books, 'Everyday Inventions,' by Meredith Hooper, 'Steven Caney's Invention Book.'

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