This summer, the Olympic Games will bring the world’s sports fans back to Brazil just two years after the country hosted the 2014 World Cup. And for good reasons: Their beaches, their food, their hospitality, and their come-one, come-all culture -- a culture that's responsible for way more innovations than you may realize. So, besides the most famous waxing technique in the history of womankind, here are just some of the things we can thank Brazil for.
They put music in our pockets
Andreas Pavel, a Brazilian of German descent (Germans have constituted the fifth-largest immigrant population in Brazil since its discovery by Europeans) invented and patented the portable stereo cassette player in 1972. Sony would later make his invention world-famous by turning the technology into the Walkman. But they wouldn’t admit that Pavel was the actual inventor of the Walkman for thirty years. That's like a dozen plays of "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" right?
Can’t drive stick? Brazilians gave us the automatic transmission.
It was two Brazilians who finally put the automobile in the hands of everyone, regardless of their inability to stop riding the damn clutch. In 1932, José Braz Araripe and Fernando Lehly Lemos found that the ideal material to allow the seamless shifting of gears was hydraulic fluid, and were able to sell their design to General Motors, who first used it in Oldsmobiles and then in the production of WWII tanks for the U.S. Army. The automatic transmission that’s most likely in your car today is the direct descendant of their work.
They've given the world even more barbecue
While we argue what style of American 'cue is superior, nobody is mad that there are plenty to choose a favorite from. Churrasco is the Brazilian challenger. What began with farmers around their communal wood-fire cookouts, churrascarias have evolved to feature skewers of damn near everything and waiters that go table to table slicing cuts straight to your plate. At many joints, a multicolored block (yellow in the middle and green or red at either side) serves as the only form of communication you need with your waiter. Green side up means keep bringing the meat. Yellow... also means keep bringing the meat, just slightly less. Red means stop, but you've hopefully passed out with the meat sweats before you'll ever need that.
They brought gaming to a whole new bodily level
Brazilian Alex Kipman's invented the Kinect, Microsoft's gaming peripheral that allowed the entire human body to be a controller and made millions of people flail angrily at their TV, but with purpose. The master tinkerer is now determined to create the first ever personal hologram technology, the HoloLens, which would seamlessly intertwine reality with the fantasy worlds of gaming and film, both building on all of his previous work and making it obsolete in one move.
Havaianas embodies the fun, vibrant, and spontaneous way of Brazilian life. As the original flip-flops created in 1962, Havaianas have been bringing the Brazilian spirit all around the world with high quality rubber and bright, joyful designs. They’re as Brazilian as caipirinhas, beautiful beaches, and the bossa nova. Not since the tire has rubber done so much to get people moving.
A Brazilian created the most green light bulb in history
During a blackout in 2002, Brazilian mechanic Alfredo Moser changed the way the third world will live in the future. He found that an empty plastic bottle filled with a mixture of water and bleach is able to refract sunlight with the brightness of a 40 or 60 watt light bulb, which is a handy thing to know if you happen to live in a country where infrastructure like electricity isn't necessarily an everyday guarantee.
Brazilians were flying high centuries before the Wright Brothers
With the King of Portugal and all the members of his attendant aristocracy watching in frightened interest, a Brazilian named Bartolomeu de Gusmao made Lisbon the site of the first successful lighter-than-air flight in 1709. It wouldn’t be until 1899 that a patent would be released for a lighter-than-air vehicle (to a man named Zeppelin), but de Gusmao is considered the father of ballooning, and therefore the father of air travel and terrifying birthday clowns.
They brought samba to our airwaves
What jazz is to the US, samba is to the culture of Brazil. Born, just like jazz, of the rhythms of Africa that were brought to the New World in the holds of slave ships, the music grew from a niche genre to something as metaphoric of Brazilian life as the stories of the blues are to the American South. Most important though, it had enough of a rhythm that people all over the world co-opted it into their own dance routines. And of course having fruit-topped Carmen Miranda as the unofficial musical ambassador didn't hurt.
A Brazilian invented anti-venom, so we can play with rattlesnakes
Immunologist Vital Brasil -- no confusion about where he came from -- changed the world for the first time in 1903 when he successfully created an anti-venom to counteract snake bites from rattlesnakes, coral snakes, and jararaca snakes. Brasil would follow this first anti-venom with a similar formula for scorpion stings in 1908. Sadly, he couldn't cure the sting of middle school burns. Damn you, Becky.
Brazil taught the world about the gift of ginga
Technically, ginga is the word for the most rudimentary move in capoeira, the Brazilian martial art that mixes ceremonial dancing with brutal striking. But in everyday slang, ginga refers to any confident, carefree movement. Ginga, especially on the soccer field, is style. Ginga is the thing that makes you stop and say, “Wow,” and Brazilians know how to harness its power. Basically, we can thank them for giving soccer its spice and making it the beautiful game we know and love.