history of science

Watch: The humble rubber band has a very curious history (and that's not stretching things too far)

For many years, there was just rubber. No bands.

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It’s easy to get, affordable and fairy strong. The rubber band can be used as a playful weapon, it can help keep long hair off your face, and generally brings chaos to lives in disarray.

Did you know that rubber bands were officially patented less than two centuries ago, though? But that doesn’t mean they aren’t much older.

Researchers discovered recently that Mesoamerican folks were already making rubber around 3,000 years ago. They could create sturdy objects with it, ranging from sandals to balls and even jewellery.

A little bit of confusion and several centuries later, the famed British chemist Joseph Priestley (who also discovered oxygen) realised that this material so many people had been obsessed with could easily erase pencil marks from paper, thereby inventing the extremely useful writing tool known as the eraser, and named it “rubber”.

The trajectory that the material took soon afterwards had little to do with rubber bands, though.

While Englishman Thomas Hancock managed to mass-produce rubber in 1819, and even worked out a way to put the waste rubber to good use with his own designs, he had not realised the practicality of rubber bands yet. Over the next few years, he did successfully turn rubber into a commercial product.

Meanwhile, American engineer Charles Goodyear discovered his vulcanisation process after several experiments. The material he came up with was hard, elastic and strong. By 1844, he had perfected the process and taken out patents for it in America.

The conflict began when he tried to take the process abroad, when he realised that Hancock had patented a similar method in 1843. After a long court battle, Hancock emerged the winner.

While rubber strips began to be used to tie bundles of material together in factories, it was a man named William Spencer from Alliance, Ohio, USA, who made rubber bands a household item in 1923. He cut spare rubber pieces into circular strips. Why? He wanted to wrap newspapers with these bands to prevent them from blowing across his and neighbours’ lawns.

Strange beginnings, by any standards, but soon afterwards the product, well, stretched into becoming a very useful item of everyday use.

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Advice from an ex-robber on how to keep your home safe

Tips on a more hands-on approach of keeping your house secure.

Home, a space that is entirely ours, holds together our entire world. Where our children grow-up, parents grow old and we collect a lifetime of memories, home is a feeling as much as it’s a place. So, what do you do when your home is eyed by miscreants who prowl the neighbourhood night and day, plotting to break in? Here are a few pre-emptive measures you can take to make your home safe from burglars:

1. Get inside the mind of a burglar

Before I break the lock of a home, first I bolt the doors of the neighbouring homes. So that, even if someone hears some noise, they can’t come to help.

— Som Pashar, committed nearly 100 robberies.

Burglars study the neighbourhood to keep a check on the ins and outs of residents and target homes that can be easily accessed. Understanding how the mind of a burglar works might give insights that can be used to ward off such danger. For instance, burglars judge a house by its front doors. A house with a sturdy door, secured by an alarm system or an intimidating lock, doesn’t end up on the burglar’s target list. Upgrade the locks on your doors to the latest technology to leave a strong impression.

Here are the videos of 3 reformed robbers talking about their modus operandi and what discouraged them from robbing a house, to give you some ideas on reinforcing your home.

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2. Survey your house from inside out to scout out weaknesses

Whether it’s a dodgy back door, a misaligned window in your parent’s room or the easily accessible balcony of your kid’s room, identify signs of weakness in your home and fix them. Any sign of neglect can give burglars the idea that the house can be easily robbed because of lax internal security.

3. Think like Kevin McCallister from Home Alone

You don’t need to plant intricate booby traps like the ones in the Home Alone movies, but try to stay one step ahead of thieves. Keep your car keys on your bed-stand in the night so that you can activate the car alarm in case of unwanted visitors. When out on a vacation, convince the burglars that the house is not empty by using smart light bulbs that can be remotely controlled and switched on at night. Make sure that your newspapers don’t pile up in front of the main-door (a clear indication that the house is empty).

4. Protect your home from the outside

Collaborate with your neighbours to increase the lighting around your house and on the street – a well-lit neighbourhood makes it difficult for burglars to get-away, deterring them from targeting the area. Make sure that the police verification of your hired help is done and that he/she is trustworthy.

While many of us take home security for granted, it’s important to be proactive to eliminate even the slight chance of a robbery. As the above videos show, robbers come up with ingenious ways to break in to homes. So, take their advice and invest in a good set of locks to protect your doors. Godrej Locks offer a range of innovative locks that are un-pickable and un-duplicable. To secure your house, see here.

The article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Godrej Locks and not by the Scroll editorial team.