Hey drug companies… how ’bout releasing those patents?

I’ve just seen the first sketches for 50 Burning Questions. So exciting!

One of my favorite parts of this new book is the section about matches. Who knew matches had such a fascinating history? In the 1800s, some were liable to burst spontaneously into flame — a wee bit of a fire hazard, I’d say. And some of them were made of poisonous white phosphorous, which rotted people’s jaws away.

Then, when a company in the U.S. bought the idea for a “safety match” and started mass-producing them, President Taft asked the company to release the patent for the good of humanity. In other words, let everyone start making safety matches, so no more houses burned down and no more jaws fell off. And… the company did!

Now why is it hard to imagine something like that happening today?

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