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The World's First Skyscraper  

The word "skyscraper" was used to describe a tall building for the first time during the construction boom that rippled across many America cities in the late 19th century. But the idea of multi-storied buildings was hardly new. In the desert city of Shibam, in Yemen, there are mudbrick residential buildings as tall as ten stories, built in the 13th century. In San Gimignano, in Italy's Tuscany, there was once more than seventy towers, two hundred feet tall, all constructed before the 15th...

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2019-10-15 10:46:00



Port Arthur And The Convict Tramway  

In the middle of the 19th century, Tasman Peninsula, on the southeast coast of Tasmania, became home to one of Australia's most dreaded penal colony. The peninsula was selected as a penal settlement because it is geographically isolated from the rest of Tasmania, it being surrounded by water, which the administration rumored was infested by sharks. Its only connection to the mainland was a thirty-meter-wide isthmus known as Eaglehawk Neck that was fenced and heavily guarded by soldiers, mant

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2019-10-12 16:34:00



Disposable Ships  

Before the Industrial Revolution, the British shipbuilding industry was completely dependent on the countries around the Baltic Sea for timber and for other materials such as masts, tar and pitch needed to build ships. As a strong maritime nation, this frightful dependence on other countries for raw materials not only undermined Britain's defense, it also worsened the growing trade deficit Britain had with the entire Baltic region. Only a small percentage of Britain's demand for timber was f...

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2019-10-10 21:36:00



The Spiral Hives of Sugarbag Bees  

Not all bees sting. There are about five hundred bee species out of twenty thousand that have lost that ability, but they do exhibit other defensive behaviors like biting or showering intruders with a rain of wax, plant resin and mud. Larger predators are often engulfed by the sheer strength of their numbers. There are fourteen species of stingless bees that are native to Australia. Among these, the sugarbag bee or bush bee is particularly notable for the beautiful hives they make. Photo credi

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2019-10-10 10:22:00



Chinese Medicine Dolls  

For hundreds of years until the early 20th century, getting medical help for a Chinese woman was tricky. In those times the Chinese placed enormous importance to the chastity of a woman (many cultures still do), which meant that a woman couldn't show too much skin to a male who was other than her husband. This implied trouble as doctors were mostly men, and if a doctor couldn't get his female patients to undress so that she could be examined, a diagnosis and treatment was impossible. So a so...

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2019-10-08 16:39:00



Bouvet Island: The Uninhabited Island With Its Own Top-Level Internet Domain  

As far as islands go, Bouvet is pretty insignificant—a speck of rock located in the South Atlantic Ocean over 1,600 kilometers off the coast of Antarctica. It is the most remote island in the world. Its nearest inhabited neighbor is Tristan da Cunha, an isolated spot by itself, located 2,260 kilometers away. Bouvet Island is less than 50 square kilometers in size and is almost entirely covered by a glacier. But underneath that ice lies a fiery volcano that's still warm to the touch, so to s...

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2019-10-07 13:05:00



An Incredible Move: The Indiana Bell Telephone Building  

The relocation of the headquarter building of Indiana Bell Telephone Company in Indianapolis remains one of the most fascinating moves in the history of structure relocation. The headquarters of Indiana Bell, a subsidiary of AT&T serving the US state of Indiana, was housed inside an 8-story, 11,000-ton building built in 1907. In 1929, the phone company decided they needed a larger building, but they couldn't just demolish the old building because it was providing an essential service to th...

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2019-10-05 11:40:00



Shadwell Forgeries: How Two Illiterates Fooled Victorian Archeologists  

During the middle of the 19th century, London's antiquarian market was flooded by the sudden arrival of a large number of supposedly mediaeval leaden artifacts of unknown origin. Questions about the authenticity of the items were raised, but the general consensus was that they were real. The objects were eventually revealed to be forgeries made by two lowly criminals with no background in either history or archaeology. In fact, they were illiterates. As expected, their products were also inept...

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2019-10-02 20:56:00



Megapode Egg Fields  

Most birds incubate their eggs with body heat, but not megapodes, a chicken-sized bird with heavy body, short rounded wings and large, strong, four-​toed feet. Birds in this family bury their eggs in soil and incubate them using natural heat sources. Depending on the species and its location, megapodes may lay their eggs in burrows dug in sun-warmed beaches, or geothermally active areas, or they may build large incubation mounds and fill them with organic matter such as leaves, and derive heat...

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2019-10-01 20:20:00



Fist Fights on Venetian Bridges  

Throughout the Middle Ages and the early Modern Period, Venice was divided into many administrative districts and rival factions, who displayed incredible unrestrain when it came to getting at each other's throat. Armed raids on another's territory were common, and as if these violent interludes were not enough, these gangs mutually decided that it would be nice to meet once in a while in a public place and sort out their differences with fists and sticks. © Amusing Planet, 2019.

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2019-09-30 16:01:00



Fatberg: The Fatty Monster of The Sewer  

Blockages in sewers are pretty common in cities across the globe. But how large a congealed mass of filth has to be before it gets its own name? In 2013, after a 15 ton mass of wet wipes, condoms, sanitary products, and other trash that people shouldn't flush down their toilets was removed from a London sewer under Kingston upon Thames, a new term was born—fatberg. A worker cradles a fatberg in her arms in a London sewer. Photo credit: Adrian Dennis/AFP © Amusing Planet, 2019.

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2019-09-28 10:18:00



Fanny Burney's Gruesome Mastectomy  

In the days before anesthesia, the prospect of having to go under the knife was far more horrific than the affliction the procedure was supposed to cure. Without the means to render the patient unconscious, surgeons administered opium or liquor in a vain attempt to numb the pain, but many patients mercifully passed out halfway through the process. Anybody who didn't had to endure the physical pain as well as the mental trauma of watching their own operation. Even if the patient did survive the...

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2019-09-26 16:11:00



Russia's Circular Warships  

In the latter half of the 19th century, ships began to transition from wood to iron and many engineers thought the time was ripe to experiment new forms. John Elder, a Scottish shipbuilder, advocated that making a ship wider in the beam would allow it to carry heavier and more powerful guns. Such a design would also have a shallower draft and only a moderate increase in power would be required to match the speed of a normal ship. The concept greatly interested Andrei Alexandrovich Popov, a rear

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2019-09-26 16:11:00



The French Chateau With The World's Largest Private Collection of Warplanes  

Among the rolling hills of Burgundy's wine country, surrounded by vineyards and forested land, stands a 14th-century castle belonging to Michel Pont, an avid collector of anything that moves fast—racing cars, motorcycles and even fighter jets. He has turned his castle in the French commune of Savigny-lès-Beaune into a vast museum with over 250 motorcycles, 30 racing cars and an impressive collection of nearly 80 warplanes and helicopters— the world's largest private collection. Airp...

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2019-09-25 22:06:00



The Ottoman Sultans Who Were Raised in Cages  

Topkapi Palace from across the Bosporus, Istanbul. Photo credit: Faraways/Shutterstock.com Situated in the heart of Istanbul and visible from across the Bosporus, is the Topkapi Palace, an enormous complex that once served as the royal residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman sultans. A major part of this complex was dedicated to the Imperial Harem where the females of the royal family lived including the sultan's mother, his wives and concubines, their children and the servan...

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2019-09-23 21:45:00



Gloria Ramirez: The Toxic Lady  

Do you have people in your lives that you can't stand? A co-worker perhaps, or a family member, or a grumpy neighbor. You may call them "toxic", but there was a lady who was so noxious that people couldn't literally stand her. Her name was Gloria Ramirez. On the evening of February 19, 1994, Gloria Ramirez, 31-year-old mother of two, was wheeled into the emergency department of Riverside General Hospital in Riverside, California. Ramirez, a patient with terminal cervical cancer, was comp...

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2019-09-20 20:51:00



The Museum That Collects Houses  

The Weald and Downland Living Museum in Singleton, West Sussex. Photo credit: Anguskirk/Flickr In the village of Singleton, in West Sussex, there is an unusual museum dedicated to historic buildings—not reproductions, but real ones. Spread over 40 acres, the Weald and Downland Living Museum (formerly Weald and Downland Open Air Museum) showcases over 50 historic buildings, dating from the 10th century to the 19th century, that have been rescued from demolition. Each building has been carefu...

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2019-09-20 14:50:00



The Mountain Where Space Junk Litters  

The Altai Mountains in Central Asia is exceedingly beautiful with snow-capped peaks, rich pine forests and valleys studded with stunning alpine lakes and glaciers. The region is sparsely inhabited by various ethnic tribes, who lead a quiet and contented life herding sheep and buffaloes, raising bees, and growing grains and leguminous plants. But their peace is routinely shattered by debris from rocket parts that fall from the sky. Villagers collecting scrap from a crashed spacecraft, surrounded

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2019-09-19 11:10:00



Gabon's Ancient Nuclear Reactor  

The nuclear age might have begun in America, but it was in Gabon where the world's first fission reaction started. Gabon is one of the richest country in Sub-Saharan Africa, with a per capita income four times that of its neighbors. Its economy is dominated by oil, followed by timber and manganese exports. For a brief period, Gabon also exported uranium, the precious raw material used in nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons. The mines have dried up today, but nearly two billion years ago t...

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2019-09-16 11:59:00



Meteor Burst Communication  

Everyday billions of space rocks crash into the earth's atmosphere and disintegrate before they reach the ground. This produces two main effects—one we can see with our eyes, the other we cannot. The effect which we can see—provided the meteor is large enough—is the actual breaking up of the rock as it slams against the air, heats the air molecules and the heat melts the rock. As it burns and falls through the atmosphere, the meteor leaves a trail of glowing particles in its wake which w...

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2019-09-13 11:32:00



The Editor of Encyclopædia Britannica Once Wrote a Guidebook to Edinburg's Prostitutes  

In the late 18th century, tourists seeking carnal pleasure in Scotland's capital city Edinburgh had a handy guidebook to start with. It detailed the names, ages and specialties of sixty-six of Edinburgh's foremost working girls and where to find them. Unlike the infamous Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies—an annual directory of London prostitutes—that ran for four decades, the Ranger's Impartial List of Ladies of Pleasure was published only once, in 1775. Although the book was pu...

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2019-09-11 11:36:00



The Ancient Egg Hatcheries of Egypt  

Chickens that are raised in farms are almost never hatched by their mothers. Instead, they are hatched using artificial heat in large electric ovens called incubators, where hundreds and sometimes thousands of eggs could be hatched at the same time. Electric incubators are a modern invention, but the practice of artificial incubation itself is thousands of years old. © Amusing Planet, 2019.

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2019-09-10 10:53:00



The Moscow Cathedral That Was Once a Swimming Pool  

The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour near Moskva river, Moscow. Photo credit: Valeri Potapova/Shutterstock.com On the northern bank of the Moskva River, in Moscow, there stands one of the tallest Orthodox Christian church in the world—the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Two churches had stood here, one after the other, for the greater part of the last 150 years. In the intervening period, there was an enormous swimming pool in this place, the largest in the Soviet Union. © Amusing Pla...

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2019-09-07 13:13:00



Where Do The World's Oceans Meet?  

Two huge ocean waves clashing. Photo credit: David There are five oceans on earth, and all of them are connected with each other to form a continuous body of water. Historically, there were only four oceans, namely Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Arctic. In the year 2000, the International Hydrographic Organization decided to carve out a new ocean surrounding the least populated continent at the bottom of the earth—Antarctica—based on the evidence that ...

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2019-09-06 11:47:00



The Ancient Chinese Earthquake Detector That's Puzzling Modern Researchers  

In the year 132 CE, a brilliant Chinese astronomer, mathematician and engineer named Zhang Heng presented to the Han court an impressive invention—the world's first seismoscope. A seismoscope is an instrument that indicates the shaking of the earth during an earthquake. It should not be confused with a seismometer or a seismograph that also records the movement. In essence, any hanging pendulum or a delicately balanced object that can topple at the slightest disturbance will function as a s...

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2019-09-05 12:34:00



The Wonderful Art of Missing Pet Posters  

"Have you scene [sic] my CAT?", pleaded a crude hand-made poster. Underneath it was a sketch of the missing cat, apparently drawn by a child. It looked like a fish with legs. "DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN", screamed another poster. The accompanied image of the missing black poodle was a big featureless blotch of black, as if somebody had accidently knocked over the ink pot while making the poster. The illustrations in these missing pet posters, made by people with little artistic skills, a...

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2019-09-04 20:18:00



Punkah: The Hand Operated Ceiling Fans of Colonial India  

When the British first came to India, they had to adapt themselves to a lot of unfamiliar things, such as the climate, the blood sucking mosquitos, the spicy food, the language. But the one thing they couldn't get used to was the heat. Summer in India begins from April and lasts until October. In the north and in the west, the summer arrives early. In this part of India, April and May are usually the hottest months after which the monsoon helps keep temperatures down. In eastern India and in t...

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2019-09-02 22:00:00



Monadnock Building: The Last Brick Skyscraper  

In a city full of high-rises, a sixteen story skyscraper might not seem like much, but the Monadnock Building standing in the south Loop area of Chicago, between the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, is an edifice to behold. The Monadnock Building was built during a period when bricks were the building material of choice. Bricks are easy to manufacture, they are cheap and versatile. There was one problem, however, with bricks—they are very heavy. If you make a building too tall with bricks, it ...

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2019-09-02 22:00:00



Britain's Last Remaining World War One Memorial Tank  

After the end of the First World War, many British towns received gifts from the National War Savings Committee as recognition for the community's efforts in fundraising. These gifts were unusual—decommissioned tanks. Tanks were first rolled out in 1916, during the First World War. Almost immediately they caught the public's imagination. People were fascinated by this new piece of military hardware. Its robust construction and seemingly impenetrable armor gave them a feeling of invincibil...

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2019-08-31 15:33:00



Flying Aircraft Carriers  

Germany's mixed success with Zeppelins during the First World War convinced the British and the Americans to take a closer look at these flying behemoths. Although airships turned out to be poor bombers because of their lack of maneuverability, the Navy was interested in exploring their other capabilities. The British wanted to connect their great empire with airship routes. For this purpose they constructed two large helium-filled airships. One made a successful trip to Canada and back, but w...

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2019-08-29 20:08:00



The Other Anne Franks: 10 Holocaust Diaries You Haven't Read  

Anne Frank wasn't the only teenager who lost her childhood to war. Thousands of children and teenagers across Europe found their freedoms curtailed, their innocence lost, and their lives torn apart when the Second World War broke out. Probably hundreds of them kept diaries where they documented their everyday lives, their sufferings, their hopes. Only a few dozens of these secret diaries have been discovered after the war ended, and fewer still actually got published. The Dairy of Anne Frank i...

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2019-08-28 15:19:00



Jack The Baboon Signalman  

During the later part of the 19th century, travellers entering Uitenhage railway station, near Port Elizabeth, in South Africa, frequently saw a baboon working the levers at the signal box. His name was Jack, and he was a lawfully employed signalman for the Cape Government Railways. © Amusing Planet, 2019.

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2019-08-26 21:29:00



Letters Q, W, And X Were Once Illegal in Turkey  

An alternative spelling for taxi in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo credit: Jürgen Luger/Flickr In 1928, the Turkish government decided to change their alphabets. The old Turkish writing system used the Arabic script, which was so foreign in appearance that it was extremely difficult to master. Many foreigners who had lived in Turkey for years and could speak Turkish fluently still couldn't spell or read street signs. Young children took longer to learn to read the Turkish language compared to other...

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2019-08-26 21:29:00



The Citrus Gardens of Pantelleria  

Located halfway between Sicily and Tunisia's coastline, lies a small speck of an island called Pantelleria. Pantelleria has a typical Mediterranean climate with dry and hot summers and mild winters, with very little rainfall, that makes agriculture difficult. Yet, Pantelleria's inhabitants are mostly farmers and not fishermen, thanks to the resourceful islanders who have developed a unique method for cultivating crops they desire—capers, oranges and Zibibbo, a grape from which a sweet win...

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2019-08-23 11:59:00



Fishing With Sulphuric Fire  

Many fishes are attracted towards light just as moths and flying ants are—a behavior that fishermen around the world exploit to bring them together and keep them in one place until they could be caught. Most fishes that are caught using light are pelagic fish, such as herring, mackerel, sprat, anchovy, and sardine. These fishes spend most of their time swimming near the surface of the water, making them easy to prey upon. In earlier times, fishermen used oil lamps or flaming torches. Modern fi...

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2019-08-22 16:32:00



Harris's List: The 18th Century Guide Book to London's Prostitutes  

For nearly four decades, from 1757 to 1795, an anonymous publisher in Covent Garden printed and published a small pocketbook-sized annual directory of prostitutes working in Georgian London. The crudely printed little booklet, which originally cost two shillings and sixpence each, carried a description of each lady, including her appearance, her personality, her sexual specialties and the price she charged. Published under the title "Harris's List of Covent Garden ladies", or "Harris'...

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2019-08-21 21:11:00



Monet's Pond: The Pond Where Art Comes to Life  

In the woods just outside Seki City, in Japan's Gifu Prefecture, is a small Shinto shrine that stands at the foot of a sloping hill overlooking a small rectangular pond and the valley below. Nemichi Shine consist of a single wooden building and is pretty unremarkable. But the pond is spectacular. Until a few years ago this anonymous pond was totally unknown in Japan. But now a large number of visitors come here to see the lilies bloom and the koi fishes swim. The pond's popularity is due to ...

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2019-08-21 15:38:00



Mizuko Kuyo: The Japanese Ritual of Mourning The Unborn  

Losing a child can be very painful, even if that child is yet to be born. In fact, many parents who experienced miscarriages feel the pain is deeper because there is very little to acknowledge the loss. There is no body, so no funeral, and no ritual to cleanse the grief or placate the disturbed souls. In cultures across the world, mourning rites and rituals are often elaborate, but only for deaths, not for lost motherhoods. But things are different in Japan, where there is a traditional Buddhist

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2019-08-20 21:44:00



The German Hair Force: The Military's Failed Experiment With Long Hair  

Like every other country, the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, have strict rules on grooming. The Bundeswehr decrees that soldiers and officers should cut their hair short, such that they do not cover their ears or eyes. The hair is not allowed to touch their uniform or shirt color. Female soldiers can keep long hair as long as they are tied into a neat knot or braided. Soldiers with short cropped hair stand in formation. Photo credit: withGod/Shutterstock.com © Amusing Planet, 2019

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2019-08-20 11:18:00



The Clay Licks of Amazon Rainforest  

Macaws and parrots of the Amazon rainforest have developed a particular taste for clay. They collect in large numbers on exposed river banks to peck at the dirt, creating a dazzling spectacle that entertains thousands of onlookers. Red-and-Green Macaw at a clay lick in the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest. Photo credit: jorgeluizpsjr/Shutterstock.com © Amusing Planet, 2019.

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2019-08-19 15:14:00



The Chrysler Air Raid Siren Was So Powerful it Could Induce Rain  

The Chrysler Air Raid Siren was the size of a car. It measured twelve feet long and six feet high, and weighed an estimated 3 short tons. The gigantic siren was powered by a 180 horsepower eight-cylinder gasoline engine, that drove a two-stage air compressor and a rotary chopper. The compressor pushed 2,610 cubic feet of air a minute, at nearly 7 PSI, through a rotating chopper that sliced the air into pulses to create sound. The compressed air exited through six giant horns with a velocity of 4

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2019-08-17 15:22:00



How Mediaeval Husbands Chastised Wives Who Talked Too Much  

By putting a muzzle on them, of course. Known as Scold's bridle, these devices of torture and public humiliation were used mostly in England and Scotland during the 16th and the 17th centuries. "Scold" is an archaic word that means a woman who nags or grumbles constantly, a woman who "disturbed their neighbours' peace with gossiping, 'chiding and scoulding' or unruly behaviour", according to the British Library. Women who ran afoul with the neighbours, defied their husbands an...

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2019-08-17 15:19:00



Vivipary or Why My Tomatoes Are Mutating?  

Sometimes a seed will start developing and germinate while they are still inside their parent, the fruit. The seed first breaks through the seed coat and then out of the fruit wall while still attached to the parent plant. This condition is known as vivipary, and it gives the affected fruit a creepy and alien look. Vivipary in tomato. Photo credit: Kathy Clark/Shutterstock.com © Amusing Planet, 2019.

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2019-08-16 11:02:00



The Radioactive Energy Drink That Kills  

Ebenezer Byers was a well known American socialite, son of industrialist Alexander Byers. In his youth Eben showed promising talent at sports, finishing runner-up at the US Amateur Golf Tournament in 1902 and 1903, before becoming champion in 1906. Eben eventually became the chairman at his father's steel and wrought iron company, while continuing to pursue sports into his late forties. Eben travelled frequently around the US to watch teams play. In 1927, while returning on a chartered train f...

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2019-08-15 10:42:00



Project Isabela: How Goats Helped Eliminate Goats From The Galapagos  

The Galapagos Islands, off the west coast of Ecuador, are a treasure trove of unique ecological specimens. The islands' extreme isolation and favorable climate owning to its location on the equator have allowed a number of species to evolve peculiar characteristics suitable to their environment. The iguana, for instance, is a land-dwelling reptile. But those on the islands of Galapagos have learned how to swim and can now forage for food in the sea. Equally perplexing are the flightless cormor...

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2019-08-13 21:13:00



The Giraffes of Dabous  

In northern Niger, about half-way between the towns of Agadez and Arlit, and a few miles west of the tar road connecting these two places lies a stony outcrop at the top of which is an exceptionally detailed petroglyph of two life-sized giraffes. This region, known as Dabous, is home to a large number of prehistoric carvings depicting cattle and wild animals, hinting to a period of time when Africa was much wetter than it is today with lush vegetation, trees and lakes, that allowed these animals

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2019-08-13 10:24:00



Tomb of Cyrus: The World's Oldest Earthquake Resistant Structure  

Natural calamites like floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes have always been considered "acts of god", yet for centuries our ancestors have refused to bow down to the wrath of the higher beings. Dikes were used to protect homes from floods, and shelters themselves were an act of defiance against the natural elements. Historical and archeological research have revealed that ancient civilizations also had sound knowledge of building earthquake-resistant structures. The tomb of Cyrus the Great...

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2019-08-10 13:17:00



Lake Titicaca's 150-year Old Steamship That Runs on Dung  

The BAP Puno. Photo credit: Peruvian Navy. Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America, is situated high up in the Andes on the borders of Peru and Bolivia. The water body occupies a deep valley in the mountains some 190 kilometers long and 80 kilometers across at its widest point. Located at an elevation of over 3,800 meters, Lake Titicaca carries the distinction of being the highest navigable lake in the world because of all the commercial vessels that ply between the Peruvian and Bolivi

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2019-08-09 19:40:00



Republic of Cospaia: The Italian Hamlet That Became an Independent State For Four Centuries Due to Surveying Error  

Nuzzled next to Tuscany, in northern Umbria, lies a small Italian village called Cospaia. For nearly four centuries, this territory of just over three square kilometers was an independent republic, without any government, or laws, or taxes, or anything that makes a nation. This peculiar political situation arose during Renaissance, which makes it even more remarkable for at that time Italy was a mismatch of Papal states, family estates, and foreign kingdoms, embroiled in petty vendettas and trad

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2019-08-08 15:43:00



Jakarta's Rooftop Villages  

Rooftops make great gardens, especially in dense urban environments where every available space has been utilized for living and for commercial purposes. In many cities around North America, Asia and in Europe too, where outdoor space is scarce, architects and builders are turning rooftops into playgrounds with swimming pools and vegetable gardens. But in Jakarta, Indonesia, one developer has converted the rooftop of a shopping mall into an entire suburb of sorts with tiny homes, paved streets,

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2019-08-06 21:44:00



The Vitrified Forts of Scotland  

Throughout the Bronze and the Iron Ages, Europeans have constructed hilltop forts and enclosures made of stone. About two hundred examples of these show signs of intense heat damage. These stone walls were burned at such high temperature that the rocks have partially melted and fused with each other. They are known as vitrified forts, and for the past 250 years they have been a source of mystery for archeologists. At first, the vitrification was thought to be scars from past battles, except for

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2019-08-05 20:28:00



The 40-Foot Studebaker President  

Few companies escaped the Stock Market Crash of 1929 that plunged the United States and much of the western world into an abyss of economic recession. One of the worst hit was the automobile industry—because obviously it was hard to sell cars to people who were out of work. © Amusing Planet, 2019.

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2019-08-05 11:30:00



The Bridge of Breasts  

At one point in the distant past, Venice had a busy red light district in the very commercial heart of the city—the Rialto area. Prostitution was not only legal but the city actively encouraged it, because these working women, who were known throughout Europe for their wit, charm and elegance, drove a swarm of men—important and powerful men of their day such as bankers, princes and merchants—to Venice driving trade in the city. The city also used prostitution to keep in check all drunk yo...

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2019-08-05 09:57:00



Prague's Streets Paved With Jewish Gravestones  

Millions of people walking through the beautiful cobbled streets in the Czech capital Prague are unaware that they are treading upon old gravestones looted from forgotten Jewish cemeteries. They look like normal paving stones and indistinguishable from the rest, because the smooth, polished side of the granite block—the one that carries the inscription—is always laid face down. Photo credit: BBC © Amusing Planet, 2019.

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2019-08-02 21:24:00



Project A119: The Secret Plan to Nuke The Moon  

Long before the United States President John F. Kennedy delivered the inspiring "We choose to go to the Moon" speech in front of a large crowd that had gathered at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas, the United States Air Force had already made its decision—they were going to the moon. The only difference was the choice of payload. While President Kennedy envisioned Americans walking on the lunar surface, the bigwigs of the US Air Force fantasized a large mushroom cloud, one that would ...

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2019-08-01 16:07:00



Barge Haulers on The Volga  

Before the era of steam engines, the process of moving a boat or a barge up a river was extremely difficult. The usual method was to tow them using beasts of burden, such as horses or mules, along a towpath on the banks of a river or canal. Sometimes a team of human pullers did the job when animals were not available. During the time of the Russian Empire, barges loaded with cargo were often towed up the Volga and its tributaries with the help of laborers known as burlaki. The work was grueling

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2019-07-31 21:38:00



The Egg War of Farallon Islands  

The California Gold Rush of the 1850s induced another rush for a commodity, which, although not precious, became such rare and expensive that people literally killed each other for it. That commodity was eggs. The rush for gold triggered one of the largest mass migration in American history that brought some 300,000 fortune-hunters from all over the world to the then thinly-populated ex-Mexican territory of California. Ships poured into San Francisco bay, and this small seaside settlement of abo

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2019-07-30 21:52:00



Memorial to The First Icelandic Glacier Lost to Climate Change  

Next month, August 2019, a team of researchers and geologists from Rice University in Houston, along with members of the Icelandic Hiking Society and participants of the Un-Glacier Tour, will trek to Borgarfjörður, in western Iceland, to hold a funeral of sorts for a large glacier that once sat heavily on the mountainside. This glacier, known as Okjökull, once spanned 38 square kilometer but now has shrunk to barely one square kilometer of ice—too small to be called a glacier. Five years ag...

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2019-07-30 21:36:00



Tempest Prognosticator: Predicting Storms With Leeches  

Some animals have the instinctive ability to predict changes in the weather. Frogs croak when a storm is approaching, birds return to their nest, cows, sheep and ants become restless. George Merryweather, a 19th century English doctor and inventor, observed that medicinal leeches he used to work with behaved differently when the weather got worse. Housed in small glass jars of water, the leech would lie relaxed at the bottom when the weather was fine, but several hours before the skies became c

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2019-07-29 17:18:00



Australia's Mouse Plagues  

Rats and mice are big problem in Australia, especially around the grain-growing regions in the south and in the east. Every few years, mouse population reaches gigantic proportions ravaging crops and gardens, and invading homes and business establishments, especially hotels and restaurants. Even urban areas, such as Sydney, harbor a huge rodent population—between 500 million to a billion, according to one estimate. That's one hundred rats for every resident at the lower end of the scale. Me...

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2019-07-29 16:53:00



The British Cemetery on American Land  

For its size, the island of Ocracoke on the Outer Banks, off the coast of North Carolina, has a surprising number of cemeteries—more than eighty, cramped together on a sandy outcrop some 25 kilometers long and less than a kilometer wide for the most part. Most of these cemeteries are small and owned by individual families, although some hold dozens of graves. An interesting cemetery is the British Cemetery, containing the graves of four British sailors. Photo credit: Melissa/Flickr During Wo...

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2019-07-27 12:45:00



Ffordd Pen Llech: The World's New Steepest Street  

A sleepy little seaside community in northwest Wales will soon find itself swamped by tourists. Just a few days ago, the Guinness World Records awarded the title of "the steepest street in the world" to a short winding thoroughfare in Harlech, a town of 1,400 residents, located within the Snowdonia National Park. The title was previously held by Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand. The road named Ffordd Pen Llech is one of two roads surrounding Harlech Castle, the town's other important...

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2019-07-26 16:19:00



Helepolis: The Failed War Machine From Which Rose a Wonder of The Ancient World  

At the entrance to the harbor of the city of Rhodes, on the Greek island of the same name, there once stood a colossal statue made of iron, brass and stone. Dedicated to the Greek sun-god Helios, the Colossus of Rhodes, stood more than a hundred feet tall and was a symbol of pride for the Rhodians who had successfully defended their city against an attempted siege by the Kingdom of Macedonia. In the late 4th century BC, after the death of Alexander the Great, the Kingdom of Rhodes developed stro

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2019-07-25 21:15:00



Jap Herron: A Novel Mark Twain Wrote After His Death  

Mark twain died in 1910. Seven years later he wrote his last novel, Jap Herron—so claims St. Louis journalist and author Emily Grant Hutchings. Mrs. Hutchings claimed that Mark Twain, who had been dead for seven years, came to her from beyond the graves and dictated to her the book, as well as two short stories, through an Ouija Board—an apparatus that can be allegedly used to communicate with the dead—and with the assistance of a spirit medium, Mrs. Lola V. Hays. An Ouija Board. Photo c...

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2019-07-25 13:22:00



The Relief Map of Guatemala  

guSandwiched between Mexico on the northwest and El Salvador and Honduras on the east, the country of Guatemala may be small but it has a diverse topography. The northern half of the country is a vast lowland with hot and humid tropical climate, but the southern half is mountainous with snow-capped peaks and deep valleys. This dramatic contrast between the highlands and lowlands can be best appreciated at the center of Guatemala City, on this century-old topographic relief map of the country. P

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2019-07-24 21:06:00



The Japanese Fishing Boat Whose Lethal Encounter With An Atomic Bomb Inspired Godzilla  

Tucked away in a corner of Yumenoshima Park in Tokyo, a ten-minute-walk away from Shin Kiba Station, is a tall A-frame building. Sitting inside on concrete floors and held aloft by metal supports is a weathered 94-foot long fishing boat. Today the boat is largely-forgotten, but sixty five years ago, this unremarkable 140-ton boat was the symbol of protest against nuclear weapons, and an inspiration for a very enduring pop culture icon. © Amusing Planet, 2019.

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2019-07-23 12:18:00



Crannogs: Neolithic-Era Artificial Islands  

The Neolithic people of Great Britain were prolific builders. Just look at the British Isles—they are studded with countless ancient megaliths, hill forts, monumental graves, ritual sites and structures that archeologists have been collectively scratching their heads over for centuries. In Ireland and to some extant, in Scotland, a wholly different kind of structure is found that are as inexplicable as the rest. They are tiny artificial islands known as crannogs built by pounding wooden piles ...

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2019-07-22 14:51:00



The Rotating Solariums of Jean Saidman  

The importance of sunlight to human health is well understood, and that understanding developed in the late 19th century when it was discovered that sunbathing aided the production of vitamin D which helped prevent rickets. Soon, heliotherapy—treating patients by exposing them to sunlight—became a well-established remedy for treating various conditions of the skin, cancer, tuberculosis of the bones, among other things. Exposure to sunlight is also known to have a positive effect on a person...

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2019-07-22 12:27:00



The Islands of Loosdrecht Lakes  

Narrow elongated islands seen in an area called Scheendijk in the Loosdrecht Lakes, The Netherlands. Photo credit: George Steinmetz The Loosdrecht lakes are a system of shallow, interconnected lakes in The Netherlands lying in the province of Utrecht, south of Amsterdam. In medieval times this region was a large peat blog that was too soggy for agricultural purposes. Some attempts at draining the bog was made, but in the 17th century any plans for agriculture was abandoned and the bogs were mi

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2019-07-20 14:50:00



The Mahogany Ship: An Australian Maritime Mystery  

One of Australia's most enduring maritime mysteries is a shipwreck known as the "Mahogany Ship". It was first spotted in 1836 by a party of three whalers who themselves had got shipwrecked on the south-western coast of Victoria, close to the modern town of Warrnambool. While walking along the coast back to Port Fairy, the sailors discovered the wreck of a large ship half buried in the sand dunes. They described the ship to be made of hard dark timber, like mahogany. What's unusual abou...

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2019-07-18 12:52:00



The Aqueduct of Loukous  

In the Greek municipality of North Kynouria in Peloponnese, near the villa of Herodes Atticus, a wealthy Greek aristocrat and a Roman senator, stands an old aqueduct bridge crossing a small ravine. The aqueduct carries water from a spring located about one and half kilometer to the northwest. The water is rich in dissolved minerals, and over two thousand years of water dripping from the sides of the aqueduct have built up thick deposits that hang like stalactites in a limestone cave. Photo cre

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2019-07-18 11:02:00



Wainhouse Tower: The Tallest Folly  

Wainhouse Tower, standing high on a hill in the King Cross area of Halifax, is the tallest structure in Calderdale and a prominent landmark that can be seen for miles around. It has been called the world's tallest folly because it never got to be used for the purpose for which it was constructed. It's also associated with an interesting legend. The tower was commissioned as a chimney by John Edward Wainhouse, who owned the local dye works, in order to comply with the new smoke abatement act ...

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2019-07-17 15:37:00



Via Cava: The Cave Roads of Tuscany  

In southern Tuscany, there is a mysterious network of old pathways deeply entranced into massive rocks appearing like narrow canyons flanked by stone walls, some of which rise up to twenty meters tall. Some of the pathways connect burial sites and tombs, others lead straight to towns such as Sovana, Sorano and Pitigliano and to nearby fields and streams. Chisel marks are visible all over the rocky surface indicating the laborious process by which these passages were excavated, but for what purpo

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2019-07-17 10:53:00



Bernd And Hilla Becher's Industrial Photography  

For over 40 years, starting from the early 1960s, German artists Bernd and Hilla Becher photographed over two hundred industrial plants and buildings in Europe and North America. This included everything from water towers, coal bunkers, blast furnaces, gas tanks, coke ovens, oil refineries, grain elevators, storage silos, and warehouses. Each of these structures were photographed in an obsessively formalist way that defined a style and made them one of the most dominant influences in contempora

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2019-07-16 12:12:00



The Legend of Bingen's Mouse Tower  

On a small island in the Rhine river, outside Bingen am Rhein, in Germany, stands a 10th century stone tower with a macabre legend associated with it. The story goes that in the year 970, there was a terrible famine in Germany, so severe that people devoured cats and dogs just to stay alive, yet thousands died of starvation. At this time, the archbishop of Mainz was a cruel and wicked ruler named Hatto II, a despicable miser, whose dominant idea in life was to increase his treasures by fair mean

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2019-07-15 21:55:00



Dresden's Tobacco Mosque  

Standing on the banks of the Elbe river, in the German city of Dresden, is a monumental building with a multicolored glass dome and high-rise minarets reminiscent of a mosque. Its magnificent Islamic decoration and distinctive architectural character stands out from the typical Baroque buildings that Dresden is known for. Since its inception, more than a hundred years ago, the building has been known as the "tobacco mosque". © Amusing Planet, 2019.

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2019-07-15 21:26:00



Beautiful Siberian Lake is Actually a Toxic Waste Dump  

The electric blue waters of this pond in the Russian city of Novosibirsk has become the backdrop of many Instagram fans lately. Photographs of women in bikinis posing by the lakeside and visitors riding inflatable unicorns on the azure waters have gone viral on social networks. But authorities warn visitors not to be deceived by its appealing turquoise shade, because the lake is actually a toxic reservoir where chemical residue from a nearby power plant is dumped. The lovely color that reminds

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2019-07-03 11:34:00



Linnaeus's Flower Clock: Keeping Time With Flowers  

Who needs a watch to tell time when we got flowers? Many species of flowering plants open and close their flowers at specific times throughout the day. The first person to make a recorded observation of this phenomenon was Androsthenes, an admiral of Alexander the Great, who noticed that a tropical Tamarind tree raise their leaves during the day and droop them down during the night. Many people made similar observations—Pliny the Elder, in the first century, and Albertus Magnus, the thirteenth...

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2019-07-03 11:12:00



The World's Southernmost City  

The southern part of South America is fractured into a number of small islands collectively known as Tierra del Fuego. Located roughly between 52° and 55° latitudes, these islands constitute some of the most distant landmasses on earth measured from the equator. The region is sparsely populated, but there are two major population centers here—Ushuaia and Río Grande—both located on Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, the largest island of the archipelago. This island is shared by Argentina a...

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2019-07-02 10:58:00



That Time When America Air-Dropped Pianos For Troops in Battlefields  

You thought pianos dropping from the sky is a gag for cartoons? Then hear this story out. During World War Two, all kinds of production involving metals, such as iron, copper, and brass, that was non-essential to the war effort were halted by the American government, because these metals were needed to make guns, tanks, and artillery. Many musical instrument makers were affected by the new regulations, which meant that either they had to manufacture something else the military could use, or wait

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2019-06-29 14:04:00



Hellburner: The 16th Century Weapon of Mass Destruction  

In the age of sail, when ships were made of wood, fire was the number one enemy of sailors, and this fearsome tool was used in diabolic ways at times of war to sink enemy ships. A devious method pioneered by the ancient Greeks was to set on fire one of their own ships, loaded with combustible material such as tar and turpentine, and push it towards the enemy fleet. Such a fireship could wreck havoc upon the enemy with terrifying rapidity. In the 7th century, the Greeks discovered that naptha wh

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2019-06-27 21:33:00



The World's Longest Dinosaur Trackway  

In the French village of Plagne, in the Jura Mountains, 200 kilometers east of Lyon, there is a set of huge footprints made 150 million years ago. The footprints belonged to a sauropod, the largest class of dinosaurs, that had very long necks, which helped them reach the foliage on top of tall trees, long tails and four thick, pillar-like legs. An adult sauropod easily weighed 100 tons, although this particular individual probably weighed about 35 tons. © Amusing Planet, 2019.

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2019-06-27 12:32:00



The Triumphal Arch of Emperor Maximilian I  

Like many rulers, the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I had a fascination for large monuments, but instead of actually building them he romanticized them on paper. One of his most famous commissions was The Triumphal Arch, composed of 195 woodcut prints which, when arranged, formed a grandiose arch standing twelve feet high and ten feet wide. Maximilian commissioned other ambitious woodcut projects but The Triumphal Arch is the only one that was completed during his lifetime, and it remains one o

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2019-06-26 12:33:00



The Longest Papal Election in History  

The main attraction in the ancient city of Viterbo, in central Italy, is a 13th century palace built to serve as the country residence for the pope. The Palazzo dei Papi, or the Papal Palace, also provided popes with a place to escape to whenever things turned violent in Rome, as it often did because of rivalry between the two dueling factions—the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, supporting the pope and the Holy Roman Emperor, respectively. One of the grand halls in the palace, known as the Concla...

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2019-06-25 20:54:00



The World's First Parachute Jump  

On December 26, 1783, a crowd gathered outside the observatory in Montpellier, a French city near the south coast on the Mediterranean Sea. They were about to witness the world's first successful jump in a parachute. The observatory was housed inside a tall mediaeval tower known as "Tour de la Babotte". It is one of only two towers that survive from a time when Montpellier was encircled by ramparts. The tower is some 26 meters tall, and for a while it had been used as an observatory to st...

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2019-06-24 20:39:00



Hermits As Garden Ornaments  

Between the 17th and the 19th centuries, a certain reproachful and voyeuristic trend emerged among wealthy British landowners. Not content with inanimate garden ornaments such as gnomes and bird baths, these people hired real, living and breathing persons, to live as hermits in make-believe hermitages erected on the lavish grounds of their estates. Most of them were required to make scheduled appearances on the grounds in appropriate clothing whenever the employer was entertaining guests. They w

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2019-06-21 20:21:00



Thomas Edison's Forgotten Passion: Building Concrete Houses  

Of all things Thomas Alva Edison is known for, concrete is not one of them. It was one of Edison's less successful ventures, but not one without significance. Towards the end of 19th century, Edison, like many businessman and builders of the time, was captivated by the possibilities of cement. Edison believed that concrete was the future and the answer to all housing problem, and he decided to act on this impulse in a big way. Concrete houses in Gary, Indiana constructed using methods devel

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2019-06-20 20:20:00



François Coignet's Reinforced Concrete House  

In a quiet suburb, north of Paris, by the River Seine, stands a derelict four-story building. Its windows and doors are broken, some are barred by bricks, and large patches of plaster have fallen off the walls. It is apparent that nobody has lived here for quite sometime. Creepers cover the outer walls, and small branches and shrubs pour out from inside the house through the upper windows. Despite the barbed wire fencing, the property has been vandalized as evident from the graffiti covering the

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2019-06-19 10:51:00



The Galloping Horse Problem And The World's First Motion Picture  

"The 1821 Derby at Epsom" by Theodore Gericault Horses have appeared in works of art throughout history. They have appeared in prehistoric cave paintings, such as those in Lascaux, in temples and tombs of ancient Egyptians and the ancient Greeks, and as monumental statues during classical antiquity. These depictions showed great knowledge of equine anatomy. George Stubbs, an 18th-century English painter, helped further this knowledge by dissecting horse carcasses to learn more about the a...

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2019-06-17 14:55:00



Cunningham Sanitarium  

On the shores of Lake Erie, in Cleveland, the United States, there once stood a giant steel sphere sixty-four feet tall. Inside the sphere were 38 rooms where Dr. Cunningham's patients spent up to two weeks at a time breathing air at twice the atmospheric pressure. Dr. Cunningham believed that the higher air pressure introduced oxygen in abundance into the body system and aided in the therapy of various diseases. This is known as hyperbaric oxygen therapy. © Amusing Planet, 2019.

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2019-06-15 11:00:00



Mocha Dick: The Whale That Inspired Moby Dick  

About thirty kilometers off the coast of Chile is a small teardrop-shaped island called Mocha, inhabited by the indigenous Mapuche people. The island was well known among sailors, especially pirates and privateers, who used the island as their supply base, exchanging steel and manufactured goods for livestock, corn and potatoes. English and Dutch privateers would often stop at the island, load their ships with supplies, and after a brief stay, sail up the Pacific coast sacking Spanish ships and

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2019-06-13 20:39:00



Taiwan's Giant Wall of Propaganda Spewing Speakers  

Just off the southeastern coast of mainland China, lies a group of two islands collectively called Kinmen. For over seventy years, these islands have occupied a unique position in the delicate relationship between China and Taiwan. Kinmen Islands' location is the most peculiar. The islands sit in a small bay practically surrounded by the Chinese mainland, yet it is governed by Taiwan, which lies approximately one hundred miles away across the Taiwan Strait. The political status of Taiwan itse...

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2019-06-12 10:17:00



The Avian Honeyguides of Africa  

South of the great Sahara Desert in North Africa, there lives a bird called the greater honeyguide (Indicator indicator) that has developed a special symbiotic relationship with the local honey hunters. The honeyguide eats beeswax, and although it is excellent at finding bees' nests, it's unable to sneak past the stinging bees alone. Instead, it approaches humans and makes a loud chirping noise to attract their attention. Then it flies in the direction of the nest. Over the centuries, local...

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2019-06-11 10:12:00



The Great Aurora of 1859  

On the evening of September 2, 1859, after the sun went down on the western hemisphere, a spectacular show of light began on the skies above. Streams of luminous cloud in blue, green, purple and sometimes red shot upwards from the horizon in the north and filled the entire sky. Many people thought that there was a large fire burning somewhere. Others took it as a sign from the heavens of some great disaster that's about to befall man. Few realized what they were looking at, because many of th...

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2019-06-07 15:05:00



Churches of Peace: The Churches That Defied The Holy Roman Emperor  

In the towns of Jawor and Świdnica, in the Silesia neighborhood of Wroclaw, Poland, stand two magnificent timber-framed churches. The Holy Roman Emperor who ordered them built never expected to see them completed. In fact, he never wanted them built in the first place, for they were Protestant churches. But against all odds and under tremendous political and physical constraints, the Protestants displayed extraordinary resourcefulness, managing to complete three churches of such scale and comp...

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2019-06-07 15:04:00



Pretty in Pink: The Muralla Roja  

This innovative pastel-colored postmodern apartment complex is a popular landmark in the coastal town of Calpe, Spain. It is called Muralla Roja, which means "the red wall", although it is mostly pink with a bit of baby blue. Muralla Roja was designed by Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill, and built in the early 1970s. The building was built like a fortress drawing inspiration from the architecture of the North African kasbah. The silhouette of this high-walled, vertical structure is said to ...

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2019-06-06 13:11:00



Telefon Hírmondó, The Telephone Newspaper  

When cell phones were first introduced, they were unattractive, brick-like devices that could do nothing more than make voice calls and send and receive text messages. In order to entice customers to this new technology, network operators offered subscribers various value-added services, such as the ability to get news updates, infotainment, match scores, weather updates, and so on, on their phones through text messages. For a nominal fee, a customer could subscribe to any or all of these value

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2019-06-06 13:05:00



Vellir: This Icelandic Geyser is in The Middle of a River  

Iceland has many geysers but none is stranger than Vellir, also known as Árhver, because it is located smack in the middle of a flowing river. Located not far from the town of Reykholt, Vellir consist of a cone of cemented clay and gravel which can be clearly seen when the water level in the Reykjadalsa river is low, but at high water levels, the cone usually remains submerged. There are several other vents on small flats in the middle of the river, but only Vellir is more active with constan...

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2019-06-04 21:55:00



Porto Flavia  

On the west coast of Sardinia, the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, there was once an unusual port. It's a small opening on the rock face of the limestone cliffs above the sea, that led directly to the Masua mines, where zinc and lead ores were extracted, via a 600-meter-long tunnel. Ores were brought by conveyor belts to the mouth of the tunnel, from which a mechanical arm loaded the ore directly onto waiting ships. The ingenious harbor was built in 1924 by engineer Cesare Vece...

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2019-06-04 11:24:00



Kyshtym: The Nuclear Disaster That Was Kept Secret For 30 Years  

Thirty years before the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl exploded, in what became one of the most devastating nuclear accidents in history, there was another major mishap at yet another Soviet nuclear power plant. It was hushed up by officials for more than three decades. The accident took place at Mayak, one of Russia's biggest nuclear facilities, located near the town of Kyshtym in the Chelyabinsk district in the Southern Ural mountains. The facility was built shortly after the end of the Secon...

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2019-06-01 09:59:00






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