Some of the most useful inventions in modern times have resulted from moments of inspiration and have been developed by amateur scientists (or even non-scientists) using simple materials and low technology*. These ‘accidental* inventions are all around us and are  often so well-known that we don’t think of them as inventions at all.

For example, have you ever thought about cat’s-eyes – the little pieces of rubber and glass set in the middle of roads? They shine in car headlights and help drivers to keep in the right lane, especially in heavy rain or fog. As every motorist knows, they are a great help after dark,  even on a clear night. Driving on minor roads that have no cat’s-eyes is far more tiring than driving on main roads or motorways where you can follow the cat’s-eyes without even thinking.

This simple but imaginative invention was thought up by an Englishman named Percy Shaw in 1934.

His inspiration came from  seeing some reflectors on a poster by the side of the road when he was driving home one night. Looking at the eyes of a cat in the dark helped  him to develop the idea. The cat’s-eye consists of a glass ‘eye’ to reflect light back in the direction from which it is coming. Built into an aluminium pad to act as a mirror, this glass ‘eye’ is fixed in a flexible  rubber pad which protects both the glass and car tyres as they pass over it. The cleverest part of all, perhaps, is that each time a car tyre passes over the cat’s-eye, the glass is pushed down into the rubber, which is designed in such a way that it removes the dirt off the glass.

Thus, cat’s-eyes are always kept clean.


Mark the best choice.

1. Which of the following is not true?

a) ‘Accidental’ inventions can be developed by using simple materials and can be very useful.

b) ‘Accidental’ inventions don’t always require ‘high technology’ to be developed.

c) ‘Accidental’ inventions can be the inventions of amateur scientists or non-scientists.

d) ‘Accidental’ inventions are not inventions at all because they are always around us.

2. Cafs-eyes enable motorists to .

a) drive comfortably only on minor roads in fog

b) see the reflectors on posters by the side of the road

c) keep in the right lane on a clear night only d) follow the road without difficulty after dark, in heavy rain or fog
3. The function of the glass ‘eye’ is to .

a) reflect light in the mirror

b) protect the car tyres

c) push the rubber down

d) reflect light back

4. Line 23, ‘it’ refers to .

a) the car tyre b) the rubber c) the cafs-eye d) the glass

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