The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

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The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby WaterToFire » Sun Jun 12, 2011 3:01 am UTC

Here.

Former hairdresser invents a magic compound with amazing thermal barrier properties, but due to his desire to retain control of the compound nothing's been done with it for more than twenty years.

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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby CorruptUser » Sun Jun 12, 2011 5:07 am UTC

No, the guy CLAIMS to have invented the world's best thermal barrier. As for its claims, I'm going to have to call it BS that he invented a material that can withstand '75 hiroshimas', or 10000C. For reference, the coolest layer of the Sun is merely ~4000C...

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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby KnightExemplar » Sun Jun 12, 2011 5:14 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:No, the guy CLAIMS to have invented the world's best thermal barrier.


Perhaps he's got it right however.

Either way, he needs to find some way to raise capital. Get some money (from people he trusts) to hire lawyers, hire lawyers to protect his invention, and then patent the sucker, throw out some NDAs to attract more investors to build a factory, and then start pumping out that material and selling it to the US Army.

It doesn't matter if he's the best chemical / materials engineer in the world. The true moral of the story is, if you aren't willing to take a risk, you won't get anywhere.

As for its claims, I'm going to have to call it BS that he invented a material that can withstand '75 hiroshimas', or 10000C. For reference, the coolest layer of the Sun is merely ~4000C...


The article seems to imply that this was a "flash", a short burst of energy thrown at it. I'd imagine it was one of those femtosecond lasers that had the strength of 75 hiroshimas for 20 femtoseconds or so (0.00000000000002 seconds). There are plenty of lasers that can output that kind of tempurature, because it has such low energy.

Either way, most material can't stand that kind of heat, even if it is for a couple of femtoseconds, but its probably an exaggeration of that sort of test.
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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby ++$_ » Sun Jun 12, 2011 8:45 am UTC

No, the moral of the story is that when someone claims something ridiculous and impossible, and that no one has recognized the potential of his idea, it's probably not true.

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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby Kag » Sun Jun 12, 2011 12:15 pm UTC

Now, it's fairly plausible that he's got some seriously bad ass stuff in there. On the surface level, the tests appear legitimate enough.

The more prominent issue is that this article is from April of 2009.
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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby KnightExemplar » Sun Jun 12, 2011 2:35 pm UTC

++$_ wrote:No, the moral of the story is that when someone claims something ridiculous and impossible, and that no one has recognized the potential of his idea, it's probably not true.


Its not really impossible. As stated before, if that tempurature was from a femtosecond laser, the article would still be "correct" but the results would be not nearly as impressive.
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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby Griffin » Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:54 pm UTC

It wouldn't be the first major technological leap that took a long time to see use because the guy who created it had issues. Judging from history, he'll eventually die, the secret will be lost, and we'll eventually come up with something better but be held back by never figuring out how it worked.
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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby Izawwlgood » Sun Jun 12, 2011 6:53 pm UTC

Corroborate the claims and I'll believe them. Searching for this stuff reveals just a handful of articles about Ward, and no reports from the organizations about how well the material fared. In all, it seems like a hoax perpetrated by Ward himself.
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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby sardia » Sun Jun 12, 2011 7:50 pm UTC

Griffin wrote:It wouldn't be the first major technological leap that took a long time to see use because the guy who created it had issues. Judging from history, he'll eventually die, the secret will be lost, and we'll eventually come up with something better but be held back by never figuring out how it worked.

One man's (supposed) invention isn't going to hold the world back. There's 7 billion of us, he isn't that unique or special, nor is his invention. If you had shot Einstein when he was born, another would have taken his place. That's the thing about great men, there will always be more of them.

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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby D.B. » Sun Jun 12, 2011 9:34 pm UTC

Well, here's a youtube clip from way back when on Tomorrows World: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4nnLP--uTI

Hardly a proof. Do any material scientists, etc, out there know if the sort of demonstrations they do here are meaningful? Are there other materials you can coat an egg in which insulate it in a similar manner**?


** I'm assuming the demonstration is not faked, as getting a long running tv show to do something like that is probably beyond the means of a typical spoofer.

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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby Griffin » Mon Jun 13, 2011 6:04 am UTC

One man's (supposed) invention isn't going to hold the world back. There's 7 billion of us, he isn't that unique or special, nor is his invention. If you had shot Einstein when he was born, another would have taken his place. That's the thing about great men, there will always be more of them.


Technology isn't science.

I said we'd come up with something better there, and we will. You're right about that - progress marches on. The particular technique and material, however, can quite easily be lost for a very long time and possibly, especially because progress marches on, especially nowadays.

Take Von Leeuwenhoek. His technological secrets stayed that way for three hundred years after his death, and in many ways were only rediscovered because he was so famous and people wanted badly to discover the secret. In the meantime, other methods had become dominant.

Unlike natural science (physics and the like), missed technology may well be gone for good.
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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby Link » Mon Jun 13, 2011 7:59 am UTC

Griffin wrote:Technology isn't science.

No, but materials science is (to some extent).

If this guy's claims are true, then anyone who wants to reverse-engineer it - even without a sample - already has some good leads on where to start, because a lot of the properties are known: it's bendable, largely organic, includes borates and ceramics, and doesn't need very exotic equipment to make. The problem is the questionable veracity of the claim. If it's not true, then someone who tried to reverse engineer it could waste years of time and vast amounts of money without any indication of improvement - which is probably the main factor that put other people off trying to duplicate it so far.

Anyway, if the claim is true, it's an amazing invention, and I really hope it gets into the public domain eventually.

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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby ++$_ » Mon Jun 13, 2011 8:16 am UTC

D.B. wrote:Well, here's a youtube clip from way back when on Tomorrows World: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4nnLP--uTI

Hardly a proof. Do any material scientists, etc, out there know if the sort of demonstrations they do here are meaningful? Are there other materials you can coat an egg in which insulate it in a similar manner**?


** I'm assuming the demonstration is not faked, as getting a long running tv show to do something like that is probably beyond the means of a typical spoofer.
Intumescent materials give similar results (you can find some demonstrations on Youtube). They are pretty amazing, actually, but they don't live up to the claims this guy is making (such as not vaporizing at 10,000 degrees C). To be fair, though, it is not clear whether the guy is making the claim or the reporter is misquoting him.

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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby podbaydoor » Mon Jun 13, 2011 12:39 pm UTC

sardia wrote:One man's (supposed) invention isn't going to hold the world back. There's 7 billion of us, he isn't that unique or special, nor is his invention. If you had shot Einstein when he was born, another would have taken his place. That's the thing about great men, there will always be more of them.

Great men and women. This is still the XKCD forums, right?

OT: Guy needs to get it tested by reputable organizations and publicize. What's separating him from any other crankcase?
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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Jun 13, 2011 3:19 pm UTC

podbaydoor wrote:Great men and women. This is still the XKCD forums, right?
Indeed, as evidenced by the fact that I already had a quote tab ready to make the same point, before I got to your post.
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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby Le1bn1z » Mon Jun 13, 2011 4:37 pm UTC

Meh. As I understand it, artifical sweetener, scotch tape, the cure for scurvy and antibiotics were all invented under similar circumstances.

I'd give the guy benifit of the doubt.

But after a certain point, you'd think the government would step in and say "we'll buy for $1 billion, straight up" and then whole sale the stuff themselves. Private capitalism is cute and all, but after a while when this nonsense is holding up something which could save a tonne of lives, its time to get serious.

Imagine if the Japanese had access to this stuff two moths ago....
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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Jun 13, 2011 4:41 pm UTC

Le1bn1z wrote:Meh. As I understand it, artifical sweetener, scotch tape, the cure for scurvy and antibiotics were all invented under similar circumstances.
Under similar circumstances meaning "mostly by accident"? Sure, I'll grant you that. Under similar circumstances meaning "by people who refused to tell anyone else about it but still expecting them to shell out loads of capital for 'further development' and such"? Not so much.
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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby Garm » Mon Jun 13, 2011 4:42 pm UTC

Man, if only TimeCube could get funding.
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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby Le1bn1z » Mon Jun 13, 2011 4:49 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Le1bn1z wrote:Meh. As I understand it, artifical sweetener, scotch tape, the cure for scurvy and antibiotics were all invented under similar circumstances.
Under similar circumstances meaning "mostly by accident"? Sure, I'll grant you that. Under similar circumstances meaning "by people who refused to tell anyone else about it but still expecting them to shell out loads of capital for 'further development' and such"? Not so much.


I agree. I was speaking to the plausibility of his claims.

But, seriously, there has got to be a law or legal mechanism of some sort to prevent uber douchebaggery of this magnitude. There have likely been extrodinary losses of life, health and mere money (which has a shocking effect on quality of life, as it happens) due to the world not having access to this stuff.

This family is guilty of supreme jackassery to the nth degree.

In my humble opinion. But then, I'm given to understatement.
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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby Soralin » Mon Jun 13, 2011 4:53 pm UTC

Le1bn1z wrote:But, seriously, there has got to be a law or legal mechanism of some sort to prevent uber douchebaggery of this magnitude. There have likely been extrodinary losses of life, health and mere money (which has a shocking effect on quality of life, as it happens) due to the world not having access to this stuff.

Well that's what patent laws are for, to encourage people to make public their discoveries, and how to recreate them, in exchange for monopoly protection over them for a limited time.

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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby achan1058 » Tue Jun 14, 2011 12:27 am UTC

Well, if it is truly amazing enough, and can be somehow verified, the secret police might do something about it......

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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Jun 14, 2011 1:11 am UTC

Le1bn1z wrote:But, seriously, there has got to be a law or legal mechanism of some sort to prevent uber douchebaggery of this magnitude. There have likely been extrodinary losses of life, health and mere money (which has a shocking effect on quality of life, as it happens) due to the world not having access to this stuff.


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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby KnightExemplar » Tue Jun 14, 2011 4:51 am UTC

Le1bn1z wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
Le1bn1z wrote:Meh. As I understand it, artifical sweetener, scotch tape, the cure for scurvy and antibiotics were all invented under similar circumstances.
Under similar circumstances meaning "mostly by accident"? Sure, I'll grant you that. Under similar circumstances meaning "by people who refused to tell anyone else about it but still expecting them to shell out loads of capital for 'further development' and such"? Not so much.


I agree. I was speaking to the plausibility of his claims.

But, seriously, there has got to be a law or legal mechanism of some sort to prevent uber douchebaggery of this magnitude. There have likely been extrodinary losses of life, health and mere money (which has a shocking effect on quality of life, as it happens) due to the world not having access to this stuff.

This family is guilty of supreme jackassery to the nth degree.

In my humble opinion. But then, I'm given to understatement.


IMO, it is the height of douchebaggery to look at someone else's work and call them an asshole for "not telling you the secret". His formula, his invention, his secret. If he doesn't want to make tons of money on it, whatever. Thats his decision. Calling him an asshole because of it, takes an enormous amount of arrogance IMO. (I think its fair to call him naive, overprotective, and a little nuts. But he ought to have full control over his invention IMO).

Afterall, if you really think the material exists, you can go ahead and build it yourself. Because he hasn't patented it, he has no protection. If you recreate it, it is yours for the keeping. You can then patent it yourself.
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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby Adacore » Tue Jun 14, 2011 4:57 am UTC

KnightExemplar wrote:IMO, it is the height of douchebaggery to look at someone else's work and call them an asshole for "not telling you the secret". His formula, his invention, his secret. If he doesn't want to make tons of money on it, whatever. Thats his decision. Calling him an asshole because of it, takes an enormous amount of arrogance IMO.

Afterall, if you really think the material exists, you can go ahead and build it yourself. Because he hasn't patented it, he has no protection. If you recreate it, it is yours for the keeping. You can then patent it yourself.

You can get into a larger capitalist/socialist argument from this. Why should the world waste precious resources and time researching and devloping something that has already been discovered? Surely humankind would be better served by only doing all research once, rather than twice, so we can do twice as much research in the first place.

It's something that gets frustrating when you're actually working in R&D - unless you're working for the leader in the field, you'll almost certainly be solving problems that other people have already solved, or designing stuff that's already been designed, by a different company. All that duplication of effort has to be a collosal waste of resources - why should one man's selfishness impose that on humanity? At least with a patent the effort isn't expended on duplicating the discovery.

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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Jun 14, 2011 5:01 am UTC

Adacore wrote:It's something that gets frustrating when you're actually working in R&D - unless you're working for the leader in the field, you'll almost certainly be solving problems that other people have already solved, or designing stuff that's already been designed, by a different company. All that duplication of effort has to be a collosal waste of resources - why should one man's selfishness impose that on humanity? At least with a patent the effort isn't expended on duplicating the discovery.

Wut? R&D is about rehashing what's already been discovered?
As for why one man should be entitled to selfishly benefit from the products of their creation, I suggest looking at the various patent threads, or, really, reading anything about patents, to figure out why it's a very very good thing.
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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Jun 14, 2011 5:05 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
Adacore wrote:It's something that gets frustrating when you're actually working in R&D - unless you're working for the leader in the field, you'll almost certainly be solving problems that other people have already solved, or designing stuff that's already been designed, by a different company. All that duplication of effort has to be a collosal waste of resources - why should one man's selfishness impose that on humanity? At least with a patent the effort isn't expended on duplicating the discovery.

Wut? R&D is about rehashing what's already been discovered?
As for why one man should be entitled to selfishly benefit from the products of their creation, I suggest looking at the various patent threads, or, really, reading anything about patents, to figure out why it's a very very good thing.

You.. answered your question. Patents. R&D is about working out a new way to solve a problem that's already been solved. One that can be patented by Corp Z, because Corp X and Corp Y own the patents on the previously discovered methods.
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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Jun 14, 2011 5:07 am UTC

Except that's not what one 'certainly does in most of R&D' as Adacore claimed.
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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby KnightExemplar » Tue Jun 14, 2011 5:09 am UTC

SecondTalon wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:
Adacore wrote:It's something that gets frustrating when you're actually working in R&D - unless you're working for the leader in the field, you'll almost certainly be solving problems that other people have already solved, or designing stuff that's already been designed, by a different company. All that duplication of effort has to be a collosal waste of resources - why should one man's selfishness impose that on humanity? At least with a patent the effort isn't expended on duplicating the discovery.

Wut? R&D is about rehashing what's already been discovered?
As for why one man should be entitled to selfishly benefit from the products of their creation, I suggest looking at the various patent threads, or, really, reading anything about patents, to figure out why it's a very very good thing.

You.. answered your question. Patents. R&D is about working out a new way to solve a problem that's already been solved. One that can be patented by Corp Z, because Corp X and Corp Y own the patents on the previously discovered methods.


Generally speaking, it would be cheaper for Corp Z (and more productive for Corp X and Y) to buy a license to Corp X and Corp Y's product (or from Corp X and Y's perspective... to sell such a license). Like you know... what Apple and Microsoft do to each other all the time?

True, the marketplace is not efficient, and human douchebaggery creates flaws in this plan, but whats the alternative? FORCE inventors to give up control of their inventions? How are you going to force them?

The way that makes sense to me... is to do everything in your power to encourage inventors to release details of their inventions to the public. But you can never force them... its a decision the inventor must make himself.
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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby Iulus Cofield » Tue Jun 14, 2011 5:11 am UTC

Or to reverse engineer Corp X's product as Apple and Microsoft and a bunch of other IT companies used to do and perhaps still do.

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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby KnightExemplar » Tue Jun 14, 2011 5:13 am UTC

Iulus Cofield wrote:Or to reverse engineer Corp X's product as Apple and Microsoft and a bunch of other IT companies used to do and perhaps still do.


Well, if its patented, no need to reverse engineer. (you can just download the patent document and see the specs). And legally, because it protected by a patent, they can still sue you for patent infringement.

I don't actually like current patent law btw.
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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby Randomizer » Tue Jun 14, 2011 7:57 am UTC

I really can't see how someone inventing something useful and not telling people how it works could in any way be considered worse than someone who spends their time playing videogames or sitting on the internet all day. :p I mean, neither one is really contributing anything.
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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby Zamfir » Tue Jun 14, 2011 8:57 am UTC

Randomizer wrote:I really can't see how someone inventing something useful and not telling people how it works could in any way be considered worse than someone who spends their time playing videogames or sitting on the internet all day. :p I mean, neither one is really contributing anything.

He was not simply not telling. He was showing it around, seeking media attention, apparently showing his material to big companies and labs, who showed genuine interest. And then he refused to sell it, at least at the terms offered.

It sounds a lot like someone who invented a good, but not revolutionary new thing and then demanded money as if it were a revolutionary thing. So everyone declines his terms, and he goes on making vague stories about nuclear tests and Airforce One and billions in profit and god knows what. From the looks of it, he believed his own stories of the greatness of his material, always dangerous.

In particular, the truly expensive step in the development of materials is often making it suitable for mass production. From the looks of it, he wanted large companies to do that work (which might have failed), and then he still wanted a large piece of the eventual profits, or even of the revenues. Aramids for example seem somewhat similar to his stuff, polymers with some properties of hard ceramics like high heat resistance. They date in labs from 1950 or so, but they only became big on the market around 1980. Boron nitride in some forms is even older, and has absolutely incredible properties. But is still only a niche product, and people who invested big in it in the 1960s will never recoup their investments.

That makes it sound as if everyone, including himself, would have been better off he had simply taken the best deal offered. He would have died rich and respected, instead of a somewhat bitter guy living on conspiracy theories. He would have had all the money he needed for futher playing around with inventions. And labs could have tested how good the stuff really was and what the underlying trick is, and companies could have tried to turn it into useful and affordable products.

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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby KestrelLowing » Tue Jun 14, 2011 1:42 pm UTC

Also, another thing that has to be looked at are the other properties of the material. If those properties just don't work for the majority of applications where people would need this thermal barrier (for example, they need a rigid barrier, or they need it to not react with certain chemicals, it doesn't have a long enough life, etc.), it's still pretty useless.

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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby Endless Mike » Tue Jun 14, 2011 2:38 pm UTC

Garm wrote:Man, if only TimeCube could get funding.

I can imagine the advertising now...

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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby Le1bn1z » Sun Jun 19, 2011 2:05 pm UTC

Hiding your discoveries out of inflated ego puts you on a pantheon of douchebaggery with the likes of Issac Newton (MP, PhD, DB etc.)

On the other had, in our system, he's just begging for someone to go all Leibniz on his ass, duplicate his discovery and spread it far and wide to the benefit of all mankind while he's still trying to figure out what passage of Revelations to rhyme out while stirring Mercury to get Gold.

Then he can go crying to his friends about how unfair life is. But as one of those friends isn't the Elector of Brunswick...
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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby dedwrekka » Sun Jun 19, 2011 3:35 pm UTC

Griffin wrote:It wouldn't be the first major technological leap that took a long time to see use because the guy who created it had issues. Judging from history, he'll eventually die, the secret will be lost, and we'll eventually come up with something better but be held back by never figuring out how it worked.

Third option, he turns up like Troy Hurtubise, goes bankrupt multiple times trying to develop and distribute a thermal barrier material as a profession, and turns into Telsa in the end. Broke, destitute, and unknown and unheralded, even for his own invention.

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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby KnightExemplar » Wed Jun 22, 2011 1:40 am UTC

dedwrekka wrote:
Griffin wrote:It wouldn't be the first major technological leap that took a long time to see use because the guy who created it had issues. Judging from history, he'll eventually die, the secret will be lost, and we'll eventually come up with something better but be held back by never figuring out how it worked.

Third option, he turns up like Troy Hurtubise, goes bankrupt multiple times trying to develop and distribute a thermal barrier material as a profession, and turns into Telsa in the end. Broke, destitute, and unknown and unheralded, even for his own invention.


Except everyone know who Tesla is. He's that guy who created all of those inventions that were stolen by other people. Hell, all Electrical Engineers learn about the important people who contributed to Electrical Science... Ohm, Ampere, Coulomb, and Tesla. Whenever people talk about Magnetic Flux, Tesla will always be remembered.
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Re: The world's best thermal barrier - still unused

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jun 22, 2011 1:49 am UTC

Yeah, if only anything at all had been named after Tesla, then he might not have vanished into obscurity...
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