Right Now in Invention

You probably use one everyday: to warm up your lunch, to explode pats of butter or simply to reheat your coffee. But how does a microwave oven work and where does this amazingly useful invention come from? Find out in this episode of Invention!

The Turnspit Dog

In this episode of Invention, Robert and Joe continue the month’s journey through human CULINARY techno-history -- this time with the story of the turnspit dog. This now-extinct breed of dog turned the meat in many a European kitchen, before it was replaced by machines.

Canning

In this episode of Invention, Robert and Joe kick off a month of food content with the history of canning! Yes, from Napoleonic bottles of soups to our modern bounty of canned sustenance, you’ll explore where it came from, who invented the process and how it changed the world.

Invention Classic: Guillotine

Once more, for Halloween! The 18th century Guillotine represents the absolute pinnacle of mechanical decapitation. In this episode of Invention, Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick explore its origins and legacy.

Casket-a-go-go, Part 3

Sure, caskets and coffins are essentially just containers for the dead -- but we stash far more than our corpses inside them. We also pour in a generous helping of human anxiety, hope and magical thinking. In this three-part exploration of Invention, Robert and Joe consider the nature of caskets and look at some of the stranger designs from human history.

Casket-a-go-go, Part 2

Sure, caskets and coffins are essentially just containers for the dead -- but we stash far more than our corpses inside them. We also pour in a generous helping of human anxiety, hope and magical thinking. In this three-part exploration of Invention, Robert and Joe consider the nature of caskets and look at some of the stranger designs from human history.

Casket-a-go-go, Part 1

Sure, caskets and coffins are essentially just containers for the dead -- but we stash far more than our corpses inside them. We also pour in a generous helping of human anxiety, hope and magical thinking. In this three-part exploration of Invention, Robert and Joe consider the nature of caskets and look at some of the stranger designs from human history.

Ketchup

You love it. You put it on everything. But where does ketchup come from? In this episode of Invention, Robert and Joe explore the mysterious origins of everyone’s favorite sweet red sauce -- and consider the jaw-dropping fact that ketchup isn’t always red and isn’t always made from tomatoes.

Air Conditioning, Part 3

Air conditioning has had a profound impact on modern life -- and in more ways than you might realize. In this trio of Invention episodes, Robert and Joe explore pre-AC cooling methods, the invention itself and the many ways it changed the shape (and temperature) of our lives.

Air Conditioning, Part 2

Air conditioning has had a profound impact on modern life -- and in more ways than you might realize. In this trio of Invention episodes, Robert and Joe explore pre-AC cooling methods, the invention itself and the many ways it changed the shape (and temperature) of our lives.

Air Conditioning, Part 1

Air conditioning has had a profound impact on modern life -- and in more ways than you might realize. In this trio of Invention episodes, Robert and Joe explore pre-AC cooling methods, the invention itself and the many ways it changed the shape (and temperature) of our lives.

The Telescope

The telescope is one of the most important inventions in human history, ultimately enabling humanity to gaze beyond the limits of biological sight and begin a greater understanding of the cosmos. In this episode of Invention, Robert and Joe explore the invention’s history and impact.

Bubble Wrap

Don’t take bubble wrap for granted! Someone had to invent it and you might be surprised to learn where it came from. In this episode of Invention, Robert and Joe discuss the history and future of packing material.

Listener Mail: Machine

It's listener mail time again on Invention! You've written in with your thoughts on past episodes and now Robert and Joe are going to read some of them -- with the help of a brand new mailbot.

Scissors

Let's cut to the chase: scissors are an excellent and ancient invention that impacts our lives in a number of ways. In this episode, Robert and Joe discuss their origins, use and examples from past and present -- along with a little scissor myth and folklore.

Bread/Toast/Toasters

Who invented toast? Who then went on to invent the toaster? In this episode of Invention, Robert and Joe chase the origins of bread transformed through the Maillard reaction and consider the origins of the specialized mini-oven we use to do it.

The Hypodermic Needle

Sit back. This might sting. In this episode of Invention, Robert and Joe explore the history of hypodermic needles: what came before in human and evolutionary history and where we’re going with drug injections and blood withdrawls. 

The Earthquake Detector

How does earthquake detection work and when did humans device the first method of detecting them at a distance? In this Invention two-parter, Robert and Joe first discuss the mysterious invention of ancient Chinese polymath Zhāng Héng before moving on to modern innovations.

Penicillin

A fungal accident in the early 20th century opened the door for the medical wonders of the antibiotic age. In this episode of Invention, Robert and Joe explore what came before and how Alexander Fleming’s discovery changed the world. 

Chewing Gum

Chewing gum is everywhere today, but where does it come from? What did we chew before Bubblicious? How does gum affect us? Robert and Joe explore in this episode of Invention.