Imagine an alternate universe where there was no war. Only love, peace, and harmony. But this world would also lack Hot Pockets, which is a terrifying thought. See, a lot of the wonder inventions that we enjoy today only exist because World War I and II made them possible. While it’s almost certain that all of these would have eventually come into being regardless, the wars certainly sped up the process. With that in mind, here is a look at 8 such products.
Quick, what’s for lunch today? If you answered, “A microwavable burrito that I bought at a gas station, as usual” you are correct! You can indirectly thank World War II and self-taught engineer Percy Spencer for your refined culinary tastes. While working on radar technology, he noticed one day that a candy bar in his pocket had melted. After investigating, he discovered that it was the result of magnetrons, which were used to generate microwave radio signals. He experimented with heating food such as popcorn and eggs, and realized he was on to something. Eventually, he attached an electromagnetic field generator to an enclosed metal box and the microwave was born.
2. Disposable Syringes
During the Civil War and through World War I, troops who were wounded on the battlefield had to deal with the pain until they could be wheeled off to the medical tents to be injected with morphine via glass and metal syringes. By World War II, these had been abandoned in favor of a plastic version, which were supplied directly to the soldiers. Since they were so compact, they could be prefilled with a single dose of morphine. Today, of course, these syringes are the standard for administering medical injections
3. Freeze Dried Foods
J.R. Simplot was a high school dropout. But not the kind who lived in his parents’ basement and played XBOX One all day long. No, this was like 70 years before high school dropouts were able to do things like that. Instead, he used his time productively. In particular, he created a freeze dried process for potatoes and vegetables that made it easy to feed the Allied soldiers as they advanced through Europe. Once the war ended, Simplot signed a contract with Ray Kroc (the guy who made McDonald’s what it is today) and today 50% of the world’s supply of McDonald’s French fries comes from the potato empire that Simplot founded.
4. Disney Studios
Disney is pretty much invincible today, but back in the 1930s it was on the verge of bankruptcy due to some poor financial decisions made by Walt Disney. Then World War II happened, of course. Concerned with the increasing influence of fascism in South America, the US government offered Uncle Walt an all-expenses paid trip down there to engage in some animated propaganda that highlighted Latin culture and build better relationships with the people down there. This proved to be a boost for Disney, which worked itself out of the financial turmoil and now serves us up a helping of those crappy, non-stop Marvel Extended Universe movies.
When we open our refrigerators and pop a few deviled eggs into our mouths, we can be pretty confident that we won’t die. But back in the 1930s fridges contained coolants that included sulfur dioxide and ammonia because folks were super stupid back then. Roy J. Plunkett was tasked with solving this problem by creating a safer chlorofluorocarbon. He attempted to release a gas called polytetrafluoroethylene, but ended up with a powder instead. Epic fail!!! But not really. During the Manhattan Project, the material was perfect for coating valves and pipes containing a highly reactive uranium. Humans being humans, we started trying out other uses for it and that eventually lead to the no-stick Teflon pans that you’re always ruining by scrambling eggs with a fork.
6. Duct Tape
During WWII when GIs were in need of a flexible, waterproof material to patch up water canteens and ammunition cases. Johnson & Johnson came up with the combination medical tape/self-adhesive strip that did the trick! So now you know where the magical adhesive that is perfect for pranking your sleeping, unsuspecting friends got its start!
This world has a population of more than 8 billion, but chances are you are still eating pretty well. You can pretty much thank chemical warfare for this! As population began to explode following the Industrial Revolution, food production was beginning to reach unsustainable levels. Scientists in the late 1800s understood that there was a link between nitrogen levels in the soil and crop yields, but nobody could figure out a practical way to enrich the soil. Enter German chemical researcher Fritz Haber…sort of. During WWII, the Allied Powers used the Haber nitrogen synthesis process to manufacture munitions. Once the war ended, these factories were repurposed to produce the chemical fertilizers that allow us to grow things like corn. Whoa. Corn can be made into corn chips! And then nachos!
8. Instant Noodles
Once upon a time, there was a dude named Momofuku Ando. He had just surrendered to the US from Japan, and with industry having grounded to a halt and with a lack of infrastructure, the folks got pretty hungry since food was scarce. Desperate to solve this problem, Ando managed to come up with an instant noodle formula that proved successful. So basically every college student who has ever had to subsist on ramen noodles owes that guy a solid!