Do you know how common everyday items, such as mirrors, fireworks or sunglasses work? This collection of Innovation articles explores the workings of objects you may come into contact with on a regular basis.

Many popular phrases have entered the American lexicon in a variety of ways, but few as quickly -- or as mysteriously -- as "the real McCoy." Was there a real McCoy? Where did this phrase come from, anyway?

You may not know who George Westinghouse is, but you know his name. It's adorned everything from televisions to light bulbs. Young science buffs may have entered the competition that once bore his name. Here are five of Westinghouse's inventions.

What were you doing at age 16? Blaise Pascal, a precocious 17th century French teenager, had already come up with his very own theorem. Some of Pascal's ideas even made it to the casino floor. How did this polymath affect your world?

Ever since the very first Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in 1901, the famous honor and its honorees (like Aung San Suu Kyi) have gotten rabble rousers all fired up. What's so ironic about peace, love and understanding?

Got a great idea? Want to make sure no one else steals it and profits from it? Call a patent attorney as soon as you can -- after you do a little homework, that is.

If you think you're on the brink of inventing the next big thing, you might need to protect your design and get a patent. But what does a patent do?

Even though it's not even really an application, filing a provisional patent application can give you a head start as you begin the process of protecting your invention.

You don't have to be Thomas Edison to come up with a valuable invention. But you do have to be savvy enough to protect that invention if you want to make the money that you deserve from it. In other words, you need a patent.

Patents are legal documents that protect your ideas and inventions, but in order to stake your claim, you first need to figure out what has already been patented. What does a patent search involve?

There's a lot at stake when it comes to developing and selling a great idea, which is why companies are always on guard against cases of patent infringement. When it occurs, they often wind up in court. But what is it exactly?

The difference between a marketable invention and an unusual paperweight can come down to whether the inventor has received a patent on a prized idea. But getting a patent is a tricky business. It's helpful to have the assistance of someone who knows the ins and outs of the process. Enter the patent agent.

You're convinced you have a great, marketable idea, but you're also aware someone could steal the idea if you don't have a patent. It's time to investigate the process of protecting your invention.

Because the definitions of ideas, expression, production and publication can get fuzzy, the difference between copyrights and patents might be a little confusing to some.

You might argue we have scientists to thank for our own survival. What breakthroughs have kept the human race from dying out?

Nobody pulls off rugged chic quite like Alaskans! But despite their hardy spirits and can-do attitudes, they're secretly wishing for a few inventions to improve the quality of life in their beautiful state. We suggest these five.

The term "digital gastronomy" conjures up images of space-age kitchens, but it may not be so far in the future. Marcelo Coelho and Amit Zoran are proposing the Cornucopia, three devices that would revolutionize food technology.

Gravity dictates the structure of the universe, from the way cosmic bodies form to the way they orbit more massive planets or stars. Has it always played such a starring role in our cosmic history?

Gravity is great, but if we could figure out how to selectively reduce its effects, we could cut the energy demands of travel and transportation. Don't cheaper airline tickets sound pretty good?

Many people consider caviar, unfertilized sturgeon eggs, to be a delicious delicacy. But how exactly is this luxury harvested, and what is the proper way to eat it?

Since the dawn of cartoons and comic books, kids have imagined themselves endowed with superpowers. What extraordinary abilities are scientists working to bring to you right now?

The occasional oddball research premise slips past the people who review government grant applications. What are some of the craziest instances of your tax dollars at work?

A burn injury is one of the most devastating things a body can endure, and until recently, a serious third-degree burn meant certain death. Skin grown in a lab (yes, you read that right) improves the odds.

For such a pedestrian item, mirrors resonate deeply in the human psyche. They represent truth and illusion at the same time, and this dichotomy has shown up in literature time and again.

Will slipping some java into a child's sippy cup result in an undersized tyke? An old wives' tale would have you believe so. Does coffee affect your measurements -- or does it just help you stay awake?

If you don’t know what tinnovation is, prepare to be amazed. These photos feature neat hacks that turn mere Altoid tins into utility items and art.