We’ve all heard of vulcanized rubber. But how many of us know what it really means? Here’s what you should already know.

Having nothing to do with Star Trek, vulcanization is a chemical process for converting natural rubber into hard rubber for use in the many rubber products you rely on today. Without it, you wouldn’t have car tires, hoses, conveyor belts, saxophone mouthpieces, bowling balls or hockey pucks, to name just a few. The process, invented by none other than Charles Goodyear, was a vast improvement over the traditional rubber curing process known since prehistoric times. So who was Vulcan? The Roman god of fire, of course.

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