…some of which could come in handy in today's society.
I discovered this list a while ago and thought it would make an interesting blog.
1) FLEXIBLE GLASS
Lots of stories from ancient times describe incredible inventions, some purported to be real and others attributed to magic and wizards. It's fair to say that most of them are nothing more than fanciful tales with no relationship to reality. However…when three separate historians describe something, it wouldn't hurt to take a closer look. One such story comes from the reign of Emperor Tiberius Caesar and tells of a glassmaker who came to his court with a drinking bowl. The Emperor threw it on the stone floor where it merely bent rather than shattering. He had the man beheaded because he feared the flexible glass would undermine the value of gold. Some speculate that this tale presages the development of tempered glass, but even that doesn't bend, leaving the truth lost to the ages.
Some truly great inventions came from unlikely sources which is how you'd explain Starlite. Jane's International Defense Review contained the first announcement of Starlite, a revolutionary insulation created by hobbyist Maurice Ward in the 1980s. Live TV tests showed the material keeping an egg completely raw after 5 minutes of a blow torch. Several noted scientists vouched for its incredible ability to resist heat and impact. Unfortunately, Ward died in 2011 before sharing the secret of Starlite to anyone and the material hasn't been seen since.
3) THE OGLE CARBURETOR
Ever since the invention of the automobile people have been looking for ways to improving fuel efficiency. Most of them are worthless or scams (i.e., the dozens of "gasoline pills"), but every so often one comes along that's more believable. In the 1970s, a man named Tom Ogle developed a new type of carburetor that pressurized gasoline into a vapor and injected it into the firing chambers. After installing it in his Ford Galaxie, the car got a verified 113 miles per gallon. Unfortunately, Ogle died in 1981 before revealing the design of his carburetor.
4) SLOOT DIGITAL CODING SYSTEM
Here's a lost invention that's very modern, one that fascinates data storage experts. In the late 1990s Romke Jan Berhnard Sloot, a Dutch electronics technician, announced the development of the Sloot Digital Coding System. He described it as a revolutionary advance in data transmission that could reduce a feature-length movie down to a file size of just 8KB. Sloot demonstrated this by playing 16 movies at the same time from a 64KB chip. After getting a bunch of investors, he mysteriously died on September 11, 1999, two days before he was scheduled to hand over the source code.
An entire book could have been written about the inventions that Nikola Tesla took to the grave with him. One such invention was the ability to distribute power wirelessly on a global scale. Tesla had dazzled crowds with demonstrations of short-range wireless power through the air, using coils to light bulbs as far as 100 feet away with no physical connection between the coil and the light bulbs. Tesla claimed he had a significant upgrade on that technique that allowed for electricity to be transmitted through the Earth's atmosphere, using high-altitude receiving stations. He began constructing a prototype in 1901 but funding fell through and it was never completed.
6) GREEK FIRE
Warfare has always been a driving force for the development of technology. Apparently we humans never tire of coming up with faster and more painful ways to kill each other. In the 7th century, eastern Roman emperors were purported to have deployed an incendiary weapon exceptionally effective in naval warfare, as it could be shot from siphon-like devices and continued to burn even when it came in contact with water. The substance has come to be known as Greek fire, and although we've certainly invented other similar weapons, the composition and manufacture of this one was such a closely-guarded military secret that no records remain.
7) INCA STONEWORK
Some lost technologies don't seem all that impressive on the surface, but modern man still can't figure them out. A good case in point is the stonemasonry of the ancient Inca people of Peru. Working with huge, rough-hewn stones is extremely difficult especially without modern machinery. But the fit of the blocks in Inca structures in Macchu Picchu is so tight and precise that it's been said you couldn't fit a razor blade between them. It's still unknown how the Incas of the time were able to transport the massive stones—some weighing as much as 300,000 pounds—and place them with such precision.
This item is a plant rather than an actual invention. It's what the ancient Romans did with it that makes it notable. This member of the fennel family grew wild in North Africa and was used as a primitive contraceptive, with its leaves ground into a resin and used as a spermicide. The settlers of the area quickly began exporting silphium in large quantities resulting in the plant quickly being rendered extinct. To this day, we don't know what in silphium's biological makeup allowed it to serve as birth control.
9) TESLA DEATH RAYAnother Nikola Tesla creation. Thankfully, this one never saw the light of day. In the late 1930s, Tesla approached the U.S. military with a proposal. He would create a new style of weapon for them that could be fired great distances. The exact blueprints for this weapon have never been revealed, but there are a number of speculations. Some believe it might have been a primitive laser, while others think it was an electrostatic generator that blasted microscopic pellets of tungsten at intense force a distance of over 300 miles. Tesla's death device has since been lost forever.