Say what you will about the U.S. military industrial complex, it sure has given us some truly awesome products, machines, and devices. All right, some military inventions may represent ridicuolous wastes of taxpayer dollars, and quite a few never really needed to exist to begin with (we're looking at you, F-22 Raptor). Still, go ahead and try to make a case that the world isn't a little more awesome for F-22s being in it.
But not everything the army builds exists just for the sake of being cool as hell, or funneling money to congressional districts. Some things invented by the military have found their way into our everyday lives. In fact, practically everything you can think of contains some part, material, or process that came about through military funding.On this list, we're going to take a look at some cool military technologies and army inventions that you either use every day, or would if you could. Sorry, no jet fighters included.
- Photo: Ewen Roberts / Flickr
No, soldiers weren't using microwaves to make popcorn during the days of the Blitz. They used it to cook chickens on the decks of aircraft carriers. Or so the story goes. Microwaves were a direct evolution of the radar systems America and England developed to detect German fighters coming across the Channel. Functionally, there's no difference at all between a microwave and a radar emitter; the 2.45 gHz frequency that microwaves use is actually within the range of most Naval surface ship radar systems.The story goes that microwave cooking was "invented" by a ship's safety officer, demonstrating for his crew the power and danger of the carrier's brand new radar system. His demonstration consisted of hanging a whole, raw chicken in front of the massive radar emitter. Two minutes later, his chicken came down, fully cooked and steaming. Ratheon introduced the world's first "Radar Range" a few years after the war ended.
- Photo: alsis35 (now at ipernity) / FlickrBirds Eye revolutionized the home dining experience in the 1950s when it began selling fully prepared and pre-packaged "TV dinners." The freeze-drying technique used to keep these foods fresh and tasty when re-heated was pioneered by the military in WWII, and proved vital for maintaining stores of medical supplies and antibiotics in the field.
- Photo: Zlatko Unger / Flickr
We used to use tampons to plug bullet holes. That's right. Back in 1914, a lumber mill called Kimberly Clark developed a new product - a fluffly, absorbent, cotton-like material called "cellulocotton." Paper cotton wasn't too good for clothing, but it proved fantastic at absorbing vast quantities of gushing blood. Kimberly Clark found a customer in the U.S. government who bought loads of what we would today recognize as tampons and pads, and sent them out with medics to plug bullet holes and serve as absorbent padding for bandages.After the war, Kimberly learned from returning nurses that the women on the front lines had been using the bullet-hole plugs and absorbent pads for exactly what you'd think. Kimberly Clark (reluctantly) created a new division called Kotex, which remains the name brand today.
- Photo: SDASM Archives / FlickrMany people think of the GPS satellites that circle our Earth as pretty recent inventions, but in fact, our own Navy starting building the network more than 50 years ago. Back in the 1950s, NASA started putting a series of radio navigation satellites into orbit; they functioned like orbiting lighthouses, giving ships a fixed point to navigate by during the day and on cloudy nights when the stars weren't visible.