Rubber: Intro

music Marlui Miranda – “Ihu”


The modern world has become utterly dependent on a certain elastic material that was once called “white blood”. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont. Rubber has countless applications, from wire insulators to surgical gloves to radial tires.

“The Indians knew it as caucho, the weeping tree, the white blood of the Amazon, and for generations they had molded it into strange shapes and forms. Columbus found Indians playing with these strange balls that bounced and flew and Benjamin Franklin found that it was very useful for rubbing out the notations he made with lead pencils, and because he thought it came from India he called it India rubber. Well, of course, it came from the Amazon.”

Wade Davis is an ethnobotanist, a scientist who studies the relationship between people and plants. That white liquid inside the rubber plant is what we now call latex.

“One of the important discoveries that was made in the early days of the rubber industry was that you did not have to cut down the tree to extract the latex. The latex vessels are found on the outer part of the bark close to the surface of the tree and you can carefully cut into that layer of latex vessels without damaging any of the growing part of the tree. And that allows you to tap the same tree time after time.”

By the 18th century, the Portuguese had begun to manufacture rubber capes and shoes, but there was a slight problem.

“In summer the rubber cape would turn into a sticky shroud and in winter it would become brittle like porcelain.”

And then Charles Goodyear discovered vulcanization, the process of adding sulfur to rubber, which gives it its durability. The breakthrough came just in time for the fifteen million newly manufactured Model T Fords, which would all need tires made of rubber. We’ll hear more on the history of rubber in our next program. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation.

Rubber: Intro

The modern world is completely dependent on a certain elastic substance that was once called "white blood".
Air Date:09/18/2000
Scientist:
Transcript:

music Marlui Miranda - "Ihu"


The modern world has become utterly dependent on a certain elastic material that was once called "white blood". I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont. Rubber has countless applications, from wire insulators to surgical gloves to radial tires.

"The Indians knew it as caucho, the weeping tree, the white blood of the Amazon, and for generations they had molded it into strange shapes and forms. Columbus found Indians playing with these strange balls that bounced and flew and Benjamin Franklin found that it was very useful for rubbing out the notations he made with lead pencils, and because he thought it came from India he called it India rubber. Well, of course, it came from the Amazon."

Wade Davis is an ethnobotanist, a scientist who studies the relationship between people and plants. That white liquid inside the rubber plant is what we now call latex.

"One of the important discoveries that was made in the early days of the rubber industry was that you did not have to cut down the tree to extract the latex. The latex vessels are found on the outer part of the bark close to the surface of the tree and you can carefully cut into that layer of latex vessels without damaging any of the growing part of the tree. And that allows you to tap the same tree time after time."

By the 18th century, the Portuguese had begun to manufacture rubber capes and shoes, but there was a slight problem.

"In summer the rubber cape would turn into a sticky shroud and in winter it would become brittle like porcelain."

And then Charles Goodyear discovered vulcanization, the process of adding sulfur to rubber, which gives it its durability. The breakthrough came just in time for the fifteen million newly manufactured Model T Fords, which would all need tires made of rubber. We'll hear more on the history of rubber in our next program. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation.