One morning last March, engineers at General Electric’s Nela Park research lab in Cleveland, Ohio, opened a century-old time capsule hidden in a corner stone of Building 307. Inside the cavity and beneath a layer of sand was a standard 40-watt Mazda incandescent bulb made at the time of Thomas Edison.

The engineers brushed off the dirt, screwed the lamp into a socket, and slowly powered it on. The bulb’s soft yellow glow was like a faint echo from the Big Bang that set GE on course to become a global industrial powerhouse.

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