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In the United States, the start of 2014 marked the end of an era—the "death" of incandescent light bulbs. Not that all 40- and 60-watt incandescent light bulbs simultaneously stopped working on January 1, 2014, but their manufacture in the U.S. was banned for not meeting stricter energy-efficiency standards. This move follows similar initiatives being put in place around the world since 2004.

With a 135-year history, the incandescent light bulb was worked on, refined and improved by many great minds, inventors and scientists, and, most notably, popularized by Thomas Edison in 1879.

According to the Smithsonian Institute, Edison and fellow researchers tested nearly 1,600 different materials in a long, and ultimately fruitful, quest to find a long-lasting, cheap filament for light bulbs. They eventually decided on carbonized bamboo, after testing materials from coconut fiber to beard hair.

It's the ultimate story of scientific discovery, isn't it? An idea followed by trial and error, followed by more ideas and more trial and error. However, it may be a slightly romanticized version of how science works, at least today. The mad genius struck by otherworldly inspiration working tirelessly toward a solution for the problem that plagues their mind is being replaced by computers—and it's helping speed innovation.

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