When Good Science Goes Bad: 3 Ideas that Went Really Wrong

By Meghan Holohan. The history of scientific discovery is full of missteps. Sometimes iffy ideas lead to stronger theories. Other times, a good idea becomes a bad idea. And still others seem like they were always bad ideas (if scientists don't understand why something glows in the dark, maybe you shouldn't paint your face with it).

1. Fire-proof Aprons!

The bright idea: In the early 1900s, designers offered the perfect solution for women who hated seeing a dirty ashtray on the kitchen table—asbestos tablecloths. In fact, housewives (and magicians) were delighted to find out that asbestos materials came with a neat cleaning trick: if you set an asbestos tablecloth on fire, stains would come out, and the things would look brand new! No more washing and drying. Of course, with such a novel, fireproof material in their hands, suppliers didn't want to limit asbestos' potential to the kitchen table. So, they expanded to kitchen clothing. "Careless ladies" who leaned against the stove and caught aflame didn't have to worry anymore thanks to asbestos aprons and oven mitts. In fact, a 1936 article from The Monessen Daily Independent reported that the only disadvantage to the aprons was that they felt a little "starchy."

The downer: Although humans had used asbestos since the Greek and Roman empires (and even though physicians back then noticed that exposure to the fibrous material caused lung ailments), the United States didn't start investigating asbestos' negative affects until the 1970s. While it took governments centuries to ban asbestos, lawyers caught on much faster and mesothelioma attorneys have been suing companies ever since.

2. Glow-in-the-dark Paint

Picture 123.pngThe bright idea: In 1889, Marie Currie and husband Pierre discovered radium and coined the term radioactive. And while little was known about the alkaline earth metal, one thing was for sure: it glowed in the dark! Suddenly, the public was captivated by raduim's luminescence. Manufacturers painted airplane dials, instruments, and watch faces with radium, spawning a huge glow-in-the-dark fad. Women began painting their nails with it to impress suitors, for Halloween, people even coated their faces with the stuff to get that oh-so-ghoulish look.
The downer: A dentist in New Jersey noticed that many of his patients, who worked at U.S. Radium, suffered from deteriorating jaws or phossy jaw. Worse still, the Essex County coroner discovered that women from a plant were dying of severe anemia and leukemia. By 1925, he'd collected enough data to prove that radiation was so high in the women's bodies that it was likely the cause of death. As if exposure to the material wasn't bad enough, many of the watch-painting women had been dipping the tip of their paintbrushes in their mouths to make a finer point for painting tiny numbers on watches. Unfortunately, it took physicians a little while to officially link the substance with cancer.

3. An Automatic Flosser

Picture 132.pngThe bright idea: It's tough reaching those back molars with dental floss, and it's even harder to floss them. That's why Oral-B created the Hummingbird flosser, the Cadillac of dental aids. The ergonomically designed, vibrating electric flosser was made to gently massage those hard to reach spots and turn the flossing experience into a dream.
The downer: Oral-B investors had no idea the Hummingbird flosser would make picking padlocks a dream, too. With a few modifications—mainly changing the power source from a AAA battery to a D battery and replacing the floss with a pick—nefarious MacGyvers can create a vibrating pick that will pop open most padlocks. Even those inept at building can follow the step-by-step directions on the Web (not that we're encouraging it!).

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Win a Trip to Any National Park By Instagramming Your Travels
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If you're planning out your summer vacation, make sure to add a few national parks to your itinerary. Every time you share your travels on Instagram, you can increase your chances of winning a VIP trip for two to the national park of your choice.

The National Park Foundation is hosting its "Pic Your Park" sweepstakes now through September 28. To participate, post your selfies from visits to National Park System (NPS) properties on Instagram using the hashtag #PicYourParkContest and a geotag of the location. Making the trek to multiple parks increases your points, with less-visited parks in the system having the highest value. During certain months, the point values of some sites are doubled. You can find a list of participating properties and a schedule of boost periods here.

Following the contest run, the National Park Foundation will decide a winner based on most points earned. The grand prize is a three-day, two-night trip for the winner and a guest to any NPS property within the contiguous U.S. Round-trip airfare and hotel lodging are included. The reward also comes with a 30-day lease of a car from Subaru, the contest's sponsor.

The contest is already underway, with a leader board on the website keeping track of the competition. If you're looking to catch up, this national parks road trip route isn't a bad place to start.

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15 Dad Facts for Father's Day
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Gather 'round the grill and toast Dad for Father's Day—the national holiday so awesome that Americans have celebrated it for more than a century. Here are 15 Dad facts you can wow him with today.

1. Halsey Taylor invented the drinking fountain in 1912 as a tribute to his father, who succumbed to typhoid fever after drinking from a contaminated public water supply in 1896.

2. George Washington, the celebrated father of our country, had no children of his own. A 2004 study suggested that a type of tuberculosis that Washington contracted in childhood may have rendered him sterile. He did adopt the two children from Martha Custis's first marriage.

3. In Thailand, the king's birthday also serves as National Father's Day. The celebration includes fireworks, speeches, and acts of charity and honor—the most distinct being the donation of blood and the liberation of captive animals.

4. In 1950, after a Washington Post music critic gave Harry Truman's daughter Margaret's concert a negative review, the president came out swinging: "Some day I hope to meet you," he wrote. "When that happens you'll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!"

5. A.A. Milne created Winnie the Pooh for his son, Christopher Robin. Pooh was based on Robin's teddy bear, Edward, a gift Christopher had received for his first birthday, and on their father/son visits to the London Zoo, where the bear named Winnie was Christopher's favorite. Pooh comes from the name of Christopher's pet swan.

6. Kurt Vonnegut was (for a short time) Geraldo Rivera's father-in-law. Rivera's marriage to Edith Vonnegut ended in 1974 because of his womanizing. Her ever-protective father was quoted as saying, "If I see Gerry again, I'll spit in his face." He also included an unflattering character named Jerry Rivers (a chauffeur) in a few of his books.

7. Andre Agassi's father represented Iran in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics as a boxer.

8. Charlemagne, the 8th-century king of the Franks, united much of Western Europe through military campaigns and has been called the "king and father of Europe" [PDF]. Charlemagne was also a devoted dad to about 18 children, and today, most Europeans may be able to claim Charlemagne as their ancestor.

9. The voice of Papa Smurf, Don Messick, also provided the voice of Scooby-Doo, Ranger Smith on Yogi Bear, and Astro and RUDI on The Jetsons.

10. In 2001, Yuri Usachev, cosmonaut and commander of the International Space Station, received a talking picture frame from his 12-year-old daughter while in orbit. The gift was made possible by RadioShack, which filmed the presentation of the gift for a TV commercial.

11. The only father-daughter collaboration to hit the top spot on the Billboard pop music chart was the 1967 hit single "Something Stupid" by Frank & Nancy Sinatra.

12. In the underwater world of the seahorse, it's the male that gets to carry the eggs and birth the babies.

13. If show creator/producer Sherwood Schwartz had gotten his way, Gene Hackman would have portrayed the role of father Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch.

14. The Stevie Wonder song "Isn't She Lovely" is about his newborn daughter, Aisha. If you listen closely, you can hear Aisha crying during the song.

15. Dick Hoyt has pushed and pulled his son Rick, who has cerebral palsy, through hundreds of marathons and triathlons. Rick cannot speak, but using a custom-designed computer he has been able to communicate. They ran their first five-mile race together when Rick was in high school. When they were done, Rick sent his father this message: "Dad, when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!"

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