It had been just over a year since Hurricane Irene flooded suburban New Jersey. Sandy took a similar path. Hardest hit was the sprawl of waterfront housing that the seawalls were designed to protect.

Often the things we make have ironic consequences. We invent tools, medicines and machines to solve specific problems, but sometimes those solutions aggravate the very problems they were invented to solve. Science writer Edward Tenner has called these “revenge effects” (video). Say, for example, that a cancer treatment causes hair loss but nevertheless helps control the cancer. Hair loss would not be a revenge effect. It would be an unfortunate side-effect of an otherwise useful treatment. But if the treatment spreads the cancer, the solution is exacting revenge.

Below are ten ironic examples of inventions striking back.

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The views and opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of Boise State University, the Center for Idaho History and Politics, or the School of Public Service.

  • Joe Totten


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