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Amusing Planet - Amazing Places, Wonderful People, Weird Stuff



The 4,000-Year-Old Termite Mounds The Size of Britain  

In the seasonally dry, deciduous forests of northeastern Brazil, obscured by walls of thorny-scrubs, is a vast landscape made up of tens of millions of densely packed earthen mounds. These cone-shaped piles of dirt, each measuring thirty feet wide at its base and twice as tall as a grown man, are waste earth excavated by the termites when they burrow tunnels under the soil. Researchers estimate that there are some 200 million mounds here, covering a vast region nearly equal to the size of Great

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2018-11-21 11:42:00



A Barrel Post Office, Mysterious Disappearances and Moby Dick: The Strange History of Floreana Island  

The Galapagos islands in the Pacific Ocean were once natural stopovers for 18-century whalers, who were drawn to the remote islands by fresh water and a variety of food sources. These whalers would spend months and sometimes years on the job, hunting whales and processing them for the oil and would return only when the ship's hold was full with barrels of whale oil, which at that time was a valuable commodity widely used in oil lamps and making soaps. Islands like the Galapagos provided sailor...

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2018-11-19 21:09:00



Schwerer Gustav: The World's Biggest Gun Ever Built  

Hitler sure had some grand ideas—from mass murdering Jews and conquering Europe, to rebuilding Berlin and draining the Mediterranean sea. Even when generally showing off how great Nazi Germany was, the Führer and his generals liked to do things in style. They even built what would have been the world's biggest hotel, but the project had to be called off because there were more pressing matters at hand, such as invading France. In the 1930s, France constructed a series of massive fortificati...

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2018-11-19 21:02:00



“The Miraculous Journey” By Damien Hirst  

A series of fourteen monumental bronze sculptures chronicling the gestation of a fetus inside a womb, from conception to birth, is one of the most daring sculptures ever to be commissioned and installed in a region that's historically known for his archaic laws and the suppression of women. Titled "The Miraculous Journey", the sculptures sit outside the Sidra Medical Centre dedicated to women and children that opened this week in Doha, Qatar. The sculptures were originally installed in 201...

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2018-11-17 11:47:00



Why Iceland Imports Ice From Other Countries  

The name Iceland is a misnomer. In reality, the country is stunningly green, especially during summer, and only about ten percent of Iceland is actually covered with permanent ice. This is largely due to the warm North Atlantic ocean that keeps the island's climate warm and its coasts ice-free throughout the winter, despite being located so close to the Arctic. Legend has it that Iceland's Viking settlers chose such a morose name to keep out people looking to settle in new lands. They hope...

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2018-11-17 11:45:00



The Korean Exam That Brings The Nation to a Halt  

Every year in November, more than half a million high school students across South Korea sit for the examination of their life—the infamous Suneung or CSAT (College Scholastic Ability Test). It's a grueling eight-hour session of back-to-back exams where students are tested on Korean, English, mathematics, social studies, history and sciences. It's the single most important test any Korean student ever takes in their life. How they perform that day determines which university the student go...

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2018-11-15 15:28:00



A Modern Mosque That's Angering Iranian Muslims  

The fate of a beautiful, avant-garde mosque in the Iranian capital Tehran hangs in balance as the city decides what to do with the partially completed structure. The new Vali-e-Asr mosque that was supposed to open last summer has drawn the ire of Iranian hardliners who are refusing to recognize it as a mosque because it does not have a minaret or a dome. The daring mosque was designed by Iranian architects Reza Daneshmir and Catherine Spiridonoff, co-founders of Fluid Motion Architects, who won

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2018-11-15 12:28:00



The Homeless Jesus Sculpture  

Since 2013, Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz has been placing a particular sculpture depicting a homeless man sleeping on a bench in cities across the globe. The life-size bronze statue appears to be anonymous with his face and hands hidden under a blanket, but the gaping wounds on his feet reveal that the person is actually Jesus. Surprisingly, the statue has appeared in front of many churches that have shown extraordinary tolerance for the controversial sculpture. When it was installed at St

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2018-11-15 12:27:00



Tiny Fairy Houses of Isle of Man  

Tiny adorable "fairy houses" are popping all over Isle of Man, a small island sandwiched between Great Britain and Ireland, in the past few weeks. These delightful fortresses and palaces have appeared in glens, beaches, on hillsides and on top of walls. The fairy houses were created by the Swedish art collective Anonymouse MMX, who has a reputation for leaving miniature creations around the world, including houses for mice, "the world's smallest bookstore" and a tiny amusement ...

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2018-11-14 21:02:00



The Tay Bridge Disaster And The World's Worst Poem  

On the night of 28 December 1879, a violent storm lashed across Scotland collapsing an iron bridge that straddled the Firth of Tay and plunged a train into the river killing all on board. It remains one of the worst railway disaster in Britain's history. This great tragedy is remembered largely due to the work of a terribly bad Scottish poet who has achieved much fame throughout the last century as the "worst poet" in history. William Topaz McGonagall's poetry was so bad that he was pelt...

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2018-11-14 20:58:00



Drvengrad: A Traditional Serbian Village That's Actually A Movie Set  

Two hundred kilometers southwest of Serbia's capital, Belgrade, on Mokra Gora mountain only a few miles from the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina is a bustling little mountain town called Drvengrad. It means "timber town", which is correct, for the entire town is made of wood obtained from the area's numerous conifer trees. Even the streets and main square are paved with wooden tiles. Drvengrad has a church, a library, a cinema, a couple of restaurants and shops, but it's not a rea...

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2018-11-13 20:59:00



How Solitary Confinement Saved Ludger Sylbaris From The Deadliest Volcanic Eruption  

At the northern end of Martinique, a French overseas island in the eastern Caribbean sea, stands Mount Pelee, a volcano that famously erupted on 8 May 1902 and totally destroyed the city of Saint-Pierre, that was once known as the "Paris of the West Indies." Only two out of an estimated 30,000 people that lay in the direct path of the eruption's pyroclastic flow survived that day. One was a shoemaker living on the edge of the city who escaped with severe burns. The other was Ludger Sylba...

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2018-11-12 23:09:00



The Paradox of Prince Rupert's Drop  

Prince Rupert's drop is a glass artifact that exhibits two properties that are the exact opposite of each other—they are extremely tough and extremely fragile at the same time. The drop looks like a tadpole with a bulbous head and a long, thin tail. The head is so strong that it can withstand the impact of a hammer, and bullets fired at it at point-blank range have been shown to shatter on impact—the bullet, not the glass. Yet, if you take the drop's tail and snap it with your finger,...

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2018-11-10 15:54:00



The Mystery of Lady Dai's Preserved Mummy  

Believe it or not, this grotesque figure is considered to be one of the world's best preserved mummies. While her face looks swollen and deformed, her skin is still soft to the touch, and there are no signs of rigor mortis anywhere—her arms and legs can still bend. Even her internal organs are intact and there is still blood in her veins. While other mummies tend to crumble at the slightest movement, the mummy of Lady Dai is so well-kept that doctors were able to perform an autopsy more than...

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2018-11-09 20:19:00



Dhanushkodi: The Ghost Town Ravaged By Cyclone  

In the middle of Palk Strait between India and Sri Lanka is a small elongated island called Pamban, and is connected to the Indian peninsula by a 2 km-long, one hundred year old railway bridge. This Pamban bridge, the only connecting link to the mainland, is considered to be one of India's most dangerous. The wind is so strong here that trains slow down to a crawl when crossing the bridge, otherwise it would be blown off the tracks. The bridge's design doesn't offer much confidence either....

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2018-11-08 16:13:00



Dutch Prisons Are Being Converted Into Hotels And Apartments Because of Lack of Prisoners  

The Netherlands has a problem with prisons and prisoners, just like any other country. But while the rest of the world is struggling with overcrowding, the Netherlands is struggling to fill its prisons. Indeed, the country is actually running out of people to lock up, such that the government has been forced to close prisons throughout the country because they have been sitting empty. Crime rates in the Netherlands are falling spectacularly for the past two decades, thanks to the country's wh...

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2018-11-07 13:22:00



ATLAS-I: The Cold War-Era Facility That Tested The Effects of EMP on Military Aircraft  

Flying in and out of Albuquerque, in New Mexico, the United States, one can catch a glimpse of a gigantic wooden trestle standing in the middle of an enormous pit in the desert. Built between 1972 and 1980, this wood and glue laminate structure called ATLAS-I (Air Force Weapons Lab Transmission-Line Aircraft Simulator) was used extensively during the waning days of the Cold War to test how well the United States' strategic assets could withstand the effects of the electromagnetic pulse. An ele...

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2018-11-07 13:20:00



The Buried Village of Al Madam  

About two kilometers south-west of Al Madam, a small town along the old Dubai-Hatta road, is a spooky little abandoned settlement. It was once inhabited by the people of the Al Kutbi tribe, who are among the three prominent tribes living in the vicinity of Al Madam. For some reason the residents packed up their bags and left more than a decade ago. Local legends hold that it's the nasty "jinn" that drove the people away. Jinn is a demon-like supernatural creature that the Arabs and Muslim...

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2018-11-05 16:43:00



Brine Pools: The Lakes Under The Ocean  

Just like there are waterfalls underneath oceans, there can be lakes on seabed too. One is kept separate from the surrounding body of water by density arising from temperature difference, while the other is kept separate by it's salinity. These saline lakes of dense water on the seafloor has distinctive shorelines and surfaces, and they are called brine pools. They are common in the Gulf of Mexico, where the smallest ones are not much bigger than a puddle, measuring just one meter across, but...

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2018-11-03 16:18:00



Letters of Utrecht: The Endless Poem  

In the Dutch city of Utrecht, a poem is growing—one letter at a time, every week, for the past six years. Every Saturday, at around one in the afternoon, members of Utrecht's guild of poets gather at the center of Utrecht, where the end of a long string of letters has currently reached, to carve the next letter in stone and install it in the cobblestone pavement. As new letters are added words begin to form, then sentences and finally verses. It takes about three years to publish an aver...

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2018-11-02 15:51:00



Killer Wasps And Zombie Cockroaches  

The emerald jewel wasp is a deadly and venomous insect, like all wasps are. Their sting can be excruciatingly painful for humans. Nevertheless, this brilliant metallic blue-green tropical wasp found in South Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands is of little concern to humans unless disturbed. But for cockroaches, this wasp is the stuff of nightmares. The emerald jewel wasp is a parasitic wasp that enslaves cockroaches by injecting mind-controlling venom into their brains. After being stung by th

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2018-11-01 15:57:00



Beijing's Underground City  

One of the entrance to the Underground City in Beijing. Photo credit: Scott Sherrill-Mix/Flickr In the late 1950s, relation between the two biggest communist nations—the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union—soured because of differing political ideologies, and for a while it appeared as if a major conflict was imminent—a war where neither country would hesitate to use nuclear weapons. In 1969, amidst rising tension, Chairman Mao Zedong ordered his countrymen to dig tunnels...

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2018-10-31 21:43:00



India Unveils World's Tallest Statue  

The controversial Statue of Unity dedicated to India's first deputy prime minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, was unveiled today at a remote corner of India's westernmost state of Gujarat. Standing 182 meters tall the gargantuan statue is now the tallest in the world surpassing the Spring Temple Buddha in China, which was until now the world's biggest statue at 128 meters. The base upon which the Statue of Unity stands itself is 58 meters tall, taking the total height of the statue to n...

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2018-10-31 16:13:00



Foucault Pendulum And The Pantheon  

In the old Latin quarter in Paris, stands a magnificent 18th century building—the temple to all the gods, the Pantheon. Originally constructed as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve, it was later converted into a mausoleum containing the remains of distinguished French citizens such as Voltaire, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Marie and Pierre Curie, and Jean Moulin. Today, the Pantheon resembles less of a church and more of a museum. The church had long been stripped off its a...

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2018-10-30 14:53:00



The Disgusting Food Museum  

A new museum aimed to assault the olfactory senses of visitors and churn their stomach opened yesterday in Sweden's third largest city, Malmo. Inside are various exhibits that some cultures supposedly eat, such as fermented shark meat, bull penis, fermented herring, maggot cheese and ant larvae. It's so bad that the museum provide visitors with vomit bags before they enter. "I want people to question what they find disgusting and realize that disgust is always in the eye of the beholder,...

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2018-10-30 11:13:00



Horse-Drawn Boats  

Before diesel and electric engines made sailing convenient, boats and barges had to be either rowed or pulled. In many European countries such as the Netherlands and the UK, and to some extent in France, Germany, and Belgium, horse-drawn boats were common. Horses and sometimes mules and donkeys would walk along the canal on a towpath pulling behind a small tow-boat loaded with goods or passengers. Because the cargo moves on water, friction is minimal, allowing the horse to pull fifty times as mu

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2018-10-30 11:10:00



The Ziggurat of Choga Zanbil  

The Egyptians had pyramids, the Mesopotamians had ziggurats, which are massive brick structures with raised platforms with successively receding levels. Nobody knows what they stood for, but it's presumed that they once contained shrines dedicated to the gods and had living quarters for priests. The Great Ziggurat of Ur in Iraq is one fine example of a ziggurat. But Choga Zanbil is one of the few ziggurats that lies outside Mesopotamia, and it's the largest one among them. The ziggurat stand...

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2018-10-26 14:45:00



Maison Carrée, The Most Intact Roman Temple  

Maison Carree in Nimes, France. Photo credit: Lamax/Shutterstock.com The Maison Carree in the city of Nimes, in southern France, is the only ancient Roman building that you don't have to use the word "ruins" to describe. Although not as impressive as the Parthenon of Athens, nor as elegant as the Pantheon in Rome, the Maison Carree retains an integrity in its design, and preserves much of its original ornamentation, unlike so many ancient buildings that have been repurposed through the...

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2018-10-26 11:45:00



The Mines of Messines Ridge  

About 8 kilometers south of Ypres, in the middle of a farm, is a small green pond known as the "Pool of Peace", but its creation was a rather violent event. It was 1916 and the First World War was in its second year. The Germans had occupied the Belgian coast and was using the coastal ports as bases from which they attacked merchant ships and troop transports in the North Sea and English Channel. Capturing these ports became a major objective for the British army. But before that could happe...

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2018-10-26 11:42:00



Damme Canal: The Canal That Napoleon Built To Avoid The British Navy  

A popular way to see the beautiful city of Bruges in Belgium is from a boat cruising along the city's many canals. The historic city center is conveniently enclosed within an 'egg' encircled by canals allowing tourists to take a boat ride around the city center admiring the charming historic houses and churches. The city's canals themselves are worth seeing, particularly the tree-lined Bruges-Sluis Canal or the Damme Canal. The canal is about 15 km long and connects Bruges to the Dutch ...

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2018-10-24 20:49:00



Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge: The World's Longest Sea Crossing  

The world's longest sea crossing connecting Hong Kong with Macau and Zhuhai opened this week in China. The unusual bridge cum tunnel system consist of a series of three cable-stayed bridges and one undersea tunnel, as well as two artificial islands for a total length of 55 km. The largest part of the crossing is the 30-km-long Main Bridge, which is actually a bridge and a 6.7 km undersea tunnel that dips beneath the Pearl River Estuary and emerges at the other end just before the Hong Kong bo...

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2018-10-24 20:48:00



Offa's Dyke: The 1,200-Years-Old Dyke Separating Wales From England  

In south-west England, there runs a great earthwork from the mouth of River Dee near Chester, to the estuary of River Severn near Chepstow, traversing through more than 150 miles, although the earthwork is not continuous. This is Offa's Dyke, and for centuries it has marked the boundary between England and Wales. Offa was the king of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia during the second half of the 8th century. He controlled large swathes of land in the lowlands of Britain to the east and south...

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2018-10-24 10:40:00



Rectangular Iceberg  

Nature follows specific laws, but results are often irregular and asymmetric like clouds and coastline and ocean waves. So when NASA scientists flying over the northern Antarctic Peninsula last week as part of Operation IceBridge spotted a neatly cut rectangular piece of iceberg floating amidst a jumble of broken ice, everybody thought it was pretty interesting. While icebergs with relatively straight edges are common, this was the first time anybody has seen an iceberg with two corners at right

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2018-10-23 16:27:00



Morocco's Abandoned Movie Sets in The Desert  

In the early 1960s, movie director David Lean was scouting for locations to shoot his upcoming movie Lawrence of Arabia when he learned about Ouarzazate. This large desert town, nestled at the foot of the High Atlas Mountains, in southern Morocco had exotic scenery, clear skies and friendly locals, providing an attractive location for movies involving ancient, desert-based story lines. Lean eventually shot most part of the movie in Spain, but many key scenes were also shot in Jordan and in Ouarz

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2018-10-23 12:04:00



Michigan's Massive Copper Boulders  

In the early 17th century, fur traders traversing Lake Superior in North America heard tales of a fabulous boulder lying on the banks of the Ontonagon River. The boulder was said to be five tones in weight and as large as a house. And it was made of solid copper. Stories about such a prize lying unclaimed in the wild set off many prospectors in the hunt, and it wasn't long before the boulder was located. It really was made of solid copper. Curiously, no effort was made to relocate the treasur...

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2018-10-18 21:34:00



Chindōgu: The Japanese Art of Unuseless Inventions  

You have definitely seen a chindōgu. They are those ridiculous Japanese inventions designed to solve a particular problem but are, in fact, so clumsy and inelegant that they are an inconvenience to use, and generate a whole lot of new problems. A few examples of chindōgu are: chopsticks with a miniature electric fan to cool noodles on the way to the mouth; glasses with attached funnels that allow the wearer to apply eye drops with accuracy; tiny umbrellas attached to cameras to take picture in...

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2018-10-17 12:14:00



The Lighthouse That Wrecked More Ships Than it Saved  

For more than forty years a lighthouse stood on a large anvil-shaped peninsula jutting into the Tasman Sea near Jervis Bay, in southern Australia. It stood at a place where it shouldn't have, luring ignorant ships into the very rocks they were trying to avoid. The cliffs around Cape St George just south of Jervis Bay was notorious for shipwrecks, and so in the mid-19th century, it was decided that a lighthouse was needed for the safe navigation of coastal shipping. Photo credit: John Eggers/W...

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2018-10-17 12:07:00



Michael Pederson's Fake Street Signs  

Sydney-based artist Michael Pederson creates small signs with humorous messages and tucks them all around his home city at places where you least expect to find them. "Please wait here. Your future self will meet you shortly." says one sign firmly implanted at the edge of a field. Or you walk into a public phone booth and find an official-looking sign announcing that it's a time travel pay phone. "Never press 9" it warns, and you wonder if it's real. Exit signs point at unnatural di...

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2018-10-17 12:02:00



The Churches of Chiloé Island  

Off the coast of Chile, a group of about thirty islands belonging to the Chiloe Archipelago make up a fiercely independent community with its own distinct identity visible in the islanders' folklore, mythology, cuisine and unique architecture. So proud the islanders are of their culture that they strongly protested when the government offered to connect the remote islands to the mainland with what would have been Latin America's longest bridge, fearing that tourism would forever erode the...

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2018-10-15 15:14:00



When 'Blowing Smoke Up Your Ass' Was a Real Thing  

This neat little box containing a pair of bellows and an assortment of pipes and other fixtures is a Tobacco Resuscitator Kit from the 18th century, approved for use and distributed by London's Royal Humane Society, then known as Society for the Recovery of Persons Apparently Drowned. Tobacco was thought to have invigorating properties and the ability to soak up moisture and warm the body from the inside. Thus blowing tobacco smoke through various orifices of the human body was the recommende...

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2018-10-13 13:10:00



Britain's Giant Hillside Chalk Figures  

The Westbury White Horse carved on the hillside near Westbury in Wiltshire, England. Photo credit: tipwarm/Shutterstock.com A large portion of Southern England is made up of chalk. This white limestone are the shells of tiny marine organisms that lived and died in the seas that once covered much of Britain some 90 million years ago. As time progressed, layers of calcium carbonate built up and got compacted into a solid layer of rock. Later, tectonic movements lifted the sea floor out of the sea

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2018-10-11 21:48:00



How The London Bridge Was Sold to America  

For centuries, children and kindergarteners have sung and danced to the tune of London Bridge is falling down, but when engineers discovered that the London Bridge was actually falling down in the early 1900s, it was no laughing matter. The stone bridge was just over a century old, and was the busiest point in London crossed by 8,000 pedestrians and 900 vehicles every hour. Surveyors found that the bridge was slowly sinking—about one third of a centimeter every year. When measurements were tak...

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2018-10-10 16:07:00



Galgano Guidotti And The Sword in Stone  

The story of King Arthur and his legendary sword Excalibur which he pulled out of a rock to prove his divine right to the throne is well known. But what is fiction to the British, is fact for Italians—for in a Tuscan abbey in Montesiepi, is a sword plunged into solid rock. The sword, of which only the hilt and a few inches of the blade is visible, is now preserved at the abbey of San Galgano in the town of Montesiepi, 30 km from Siena. Legend has it, that the sword was driven into the rock by ...

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2018-10-09 19:47:00



The World's Longest Portico  

Portico di San Luca: Photo credit: Stefano Carnevali/Shutterstock.com Atop a forested hill, some 300 meters above the city of Bologna, stands the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca, a 12th century Roman Catholic church. You can drive all the way up to the hill, but you can also walk through a specially constructed corridor. This covered monumental roofed arcade consists of 666 arches and stretches for 3.8 km making it the longest portico in the world.Read more » © Amusing Planet, 2018.

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2018-10-09 15:25:00



New Zealand's Castaway Depots For Shipwrecked Sailors  

An old castaway hut in the North of Antipodes Islands, New Zealand. Photo credit: LawrieM/Wikimedia Before the Suez and Panama Canals opened, ships sailing from Australia and New Zealand to England and back had to make a treacherous journey through the frigid waters of the Antarctic Ocean fighting fierce winds, huge waves and skirting potentially dangerous icebergs. This route was known as the clipper route—so called because they were usually taken by clippers, a very fast sailing ship of the...

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2018-10-08 21:19:00



Banaba: A Tropical Paradise Destroyed by Mining  

In the Pacific Ocean, halfway between Papua New Guinea and Hawaii, there is a small island named Banaba belonging to a scattered group of islands called the Gilberts. Before European contact, Banaba was a beautiful coral island rich in animal and plant life and with a thriving community that shared close links to people of Kiribati. In 1900, a New Zealand prospector named Albert Ellis working for the Pacific Islands Company discovered that the surface of Banaba was made of petrified guano that h

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2018-10-08 14:13:00



Robert Peary's Meteorite And Minik  

Many historical figures are celebrated for achieving great things but conveniently forgotten of all the terrible things they did to other people. Christopher Columbus is one prime example. A quick Google search will reveal dozens of beloved characters with shady personalities, but one story that is not told often is that of Arctic explorer Robert. E. Peary who is widely believed to be the first person to have reached the North Pole in 1909. This story, however, begins a lot earlier. About 10,00

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2018-10-05 11:17:00



The Mountain That Japan Hid From The World  

Photo credit: 663highland/Wikimedia Inside the Shikotsu-Toya National Park, in the island of Hokkaidō, not far from the active stratovolcano, Mount Usu, there is a 400-meter tall volcanic peak called Shōwa-shinzan. Shōwa-shinzan is Japan's youngest mountain. It appeared on 28 December 1943 out of a wheat field accompanied by strong tremors and hot lava. As the molten magma broke through the surface, it uplifted the field and over the following two years the lava dome continued to rise unti...

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2018-10-04 15:26:00



Stott Hall: The Farm in The Middle of The Highway  

Driving along the M62 motorway, on the border between Lancashire and Yorkshire between junctions 22 and 23, motorists are greeted with an unusual sight—a farm situated smack dab in the middle of the motorway. The two incoming carriageways of the high-speed motorway connecting the cities of Liverpool and Hull separates at this point to make room for the Stott Hall Farm. For the past half a century, the farm has become one of the best-known sights, seen by a hundred thousand people everyday as t...

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2018-10-03 21:38:00



The Treetop Squatters of Hambach Forest  

For the past six years, some men and women have been living in a small 250-acre forest on the outskirts of Cologne, near the town of Jülich in North Rhine-Westphalia, in western Germany. They eat, live and sleep on elaborate treetop houses perched 80 feet off the forest floor. They are squatters, but they are not homeless. These men and women are occupying the forest to protect it from being swallowed by an open-pit mine operating right on the edge of what happens to be the only oak and hornbe...

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2018-10-02 17:35:00



Corippo: The Village That Wants to Become a Hotel  

The tiny mountain village of Corippo, perched on the Swiss Alps, is much more than a village. It is an autonomous municipality with its own coat of arms and a mayor who leads the town council consisting of only three local citizens. With only twelve residents, Corippo is the smallest municipality in Switzerland. And its population is progressively shrinking—just two years ago it had fourteen. When Corippo became a fully independent municipality in the mid-19th century, it had a population of n...

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2018-10-02 12:24:00



Frankfurt's Old Quarter Reconstructed 70 Years After The War  

The DomRömer Quarter in the heart of the old town of Frankfurt, Germany, has received a new breath of life after the controversial Technical City Hall building was pulled down some years ago, and the entire quarter reconstructed in the style of the pre-war architecture. The historical city center with its beautiful timber-framed buildings was destroyed by RAF bombing during the Second World War. When this quarter was rebuild in the 1950s, the charm of the old alleyways, romantic squares, and p...

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2018-10-01 20:04:00



Gliwice Radio Station, Where World War 2 Began  

On the evening of August 31, 1939, as the last rays of the setting sun lingered on the top of the giant wooden mast towering over the then German city of Gliwice, a few miles from the border with Poland, two cars passed through the gates of the Gliwice radio station and stopped outside the three-story transmission building. A small unit of SS officers posing as Polish partisans got out of the car. Along with them was Franciszek Honiok, a 43-year-old unmarried German Catholic, who had been arrest

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2018-09-29 16:48:00



The Bächle of Freiburg: The Mediaeval Gutters That Became Recreational Hotspots  

The German city of Freiburg in the edge of Black Forest has a curious attraction—little streams of clear water flowing through the city in open channels sunken into the pavement. During a hot day, of which there are plenty in Freiburg, one can see people relaxing besides these streams with their feet dipped into the cold water. Children love to splash around in the shallow waters, they jump, run and float paper boats and have merry. And if an outsider accidentally falls into one, the local wis...

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2018-09-28 19:28:00



Smith Mansion: The House That Killed its Builder  

For over thirty years a five story rickety wooden structure with long undulating staircases and haphazardly protruding balconies have been standing atop a hillock in the middle of Wapiti Valley, near the town of Cody, in the US state of Wyoming, not far from the Yellowstone National Park. The house was a labor of love, built single-handedly by an eccentric engineer named Francis Lee Smith. Smith spent twelve years building the log house using timber salvaged from a wildfire on the nearby Rattle

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2018-09-27 14:47:00



Thailand's Aircraft-Less Aircraft Carrier  

The aircraft carrier is the ultimate symbol of military strength. Enormously large and with a full fleet of combat aircrafts on its deck, they are floating airbases free to move about in the open ocean, ready to engage with enemy states. A nation equipped with an aircraft carrier has the power to project its military might beyond its shores. They are the flagship of a navy's fleet. Aircraft carriers are prohibitively expensive which is why very few nations have them. On last count, there was f...

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2018-09-27 11:35:00



The World's Largest Waterfalls Are Underwater  

Victoria Falls in southern Africa is often regarded as the world's largest waterfalls. "Regarded", because there is no standard method to measure the largeness of a waterfall. A tall waterfalls might not have enough width, while an extremely wide one might have an insignificant drop. If we go by volume or flow rate, then the largest waterfalls should be Boyoma Falls—I bet you've never heard that name. But Boyoma Falls, in reality, are only rapids on the Lualaba river in central Africa....

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2018-09-25 11:30:00



How War Marooned 15 Ships in The Suez Canal For Eight Years  

The Arabs and the Jews have never got along. Since the rise of Zionism and Arab nationalism towards the end of the 19th century, the two groups have been involved in petty conflicts that have often led to serious consequences. But out of all the horrible things war entails, one of the best things to come out of the conflict in the Middle East is the story of the "Yellow Fleet". In 1967, Israel's relationship with Egypt turned sour over the closure of the Straits of Tiran, around the Sina...

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2018-09-24 11:11:00



Northern Cyprus's Giant Mountain Flag  

From any high point in Nicosia, the capital and the largest city on the island of Cyprus, one can see a giant flag of Turkey-occupied Northern Cyprus painted on the slopes of Kyrenia Mountains. Beside this flag is another large flag of Turkey and a legendary quote in Turkish made by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey. It says "Ne Mutlu Türküm Diyene" which translates to "How happy is the one who can say 'I'm a Turk!" Each of these flags is about 450 meters ...

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2018-09-21 12:31:00



The Landlocked Navy of Mongolia  

Many landlocked countries with no access to the open ocean maintain navies, which might seem odd at first. But once you realize that aside from oceans, lakes and rivers too form national borders for many countries, the idea will not seem so absurd. For example, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan—three landlocked countries, all maintain their own naval fleet on the enormous lake, Caspian Sea, which they border. Paraguay has armed patrol boats on the country's major rivers because any ...

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2018-09-20 15:39:00



Null Island: The Fictional Place Created by Digital Mapping Error  

A few hundred miles off the west coast of Africa, in the Gulf of Guinea, a lonely weather buoy bobs up and down the ocean waves. Code named Station 13010-Soul, this moored observation buoy is one of numerous that make up the "Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Tropical Atlantic", in short PIRATA—a system developed jointly by the US, Brazil and France to study ocean-atmosphere interactions in the tropical Atlantic. Data collected by the PIRATA array helps scientists better understa...

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2018-09-19 12:31:00



The Collyer Brothers: History's Worst Hoarders  

In the heart of Harlem, in New York City, at the northwest corner of 128th Street and 5th Avenue, lies a small rectangular lot. A sign from the NYC Parks Department attached to the perimeter fence identifies the nearly empty lot as the "Collyer Brothers Park". It is one of New York City's smallest parks with a couple of benches, a few potted plants and a number of trees for providing shade. New York City has dozens of such 'pocket parks' scattered throughout the city, so this is nothin...

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2018-09-18 20:02:00



The Horseback Fishermen of Oostduinkerke  

On the western end of Belgium's short coastline, about 20 km east of Dunkirk, France, is a place called Oostduinkerke (meaning "East Dunkirk"), where a handful of fishermen practice an unusual form of fishing. Instead of using boats, these fishermen ride out to the sea on horseback. These horseback fishermen hunt for a special variety of shrimp—the Crangon crangon, commonly known as grey shrimp, which is found in the southern North Sea, and is a delicacy in Belgium. Five centuries ago, s...

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2018-09-15 15:00:00



The Cave-Dwelling Crocodiles of Gabon  

Ten years ago, a team of scientists went exploring into the rainforest of Gabon, and ventured into a cave. In the pitch-black, bat-infested interior, the scientists came face to face with a terrifying creature with big glowing eyes and bright orange scales. It was a crocodile. Crocodiles rarely inhabit caves, and this malevolent appearance threw the scientists off feet. Luckily, the creature was as surprised as the men, and it scurried off into the darkness. After exploring more than 600 meters

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2018-09-14 15:29:00



Queen Elizabeth's Childhood Playhouse  

In the garden of Windsor's Royal Lodge in Berkshire, England, tucked away from public view stands a miniature thatched cottage with white-washed walls. For the past eighty years, the Little House or Y Bwthyn Bach, has been the play den for the Queen and generations of royal children. The playhouse was presented to Princess Elizabeth and her sister Margaret in March 1932 on behalf of 'the people of Wales' on the occasion of Elizabeth's sixth birthday. At that time, Elizabeth's parents ...

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2018-09-14 11:19:00



How The Soviets Put Out Oil Well Fires by Using Nuclear Bombs  

In the early 1960s, the two nuclear superpowers of the world—the United States of America and the Soviet Union—began looking for ways to utilize the tremendous energy released by nuclear bombs for productive purposes. Things that were discussed included blasting a new canal through the Isthmus of Panama, creating an artificial harbor in Alaska, excavating mountains, and other such projects that involved moving large quantities of earth and rocks. Under Operation Plowshare, the US carried out...

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2018-09-12 21:36:00



Diolkos: An Ancient Trackway That Carried Ships Over Land  

In ancient times, Greek merchants sailed all around the Mediterranean Sea carrying goods from Spain to Phoenicia and from Carthage to Egypt and Italy. Even when trading between Greek towns traders preferred to travel by sea, because the country is so mountainous that transporting things by ox-driven carts, up and down the mountains was extremely challenging. These sea-faring merchants had a particularly difficult time reaching Athens, especially from the Gulf of Corinth. Those who are not famil

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2018-09-11 21:08:00



The War of The Bucket  

In a way, all wars are stupid—but none was stupider than the Battle of Zappolino that was waged over a silly wooden bucket. The War of the Oaken Bucket, as it is popularly known, was fought in 1325 between the rival city-states of Bologna and Modena in Italy. It started when a group of Modenese soldiers sneaked into Bologna and stole an oak bucket used to draw water from a well located in the center of the city. While the bucket itself held no historic or sentimental value, the affront hurt B...

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2018-09-10 20:31:00



The Glass Fishing Floats of Japan And Norway  

Every year, Oregon's Lincoln City, on the west coast of the United States, organizes a treasure hunt where more than 3,000 handcrafted glass orbs are hidden on public beaches for people to find. The orbs come in a range of sizes—from the size of a baseball to as large as a basketball. They are hollow and are decorated with colorful swirling patterns. The Finders Keepers treasure hunt has been an annual event for the last two decades, but there was a time when nobody had to hid glass balls on...

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2018-09-08 20:13:00



Guillame Legros's Ephemeral Landart  

These gigantic graffiti artworks spray-painted over the fields and the hillside were made by Swiss artist Guillame Legros, who goes by the name Saype. Legros uses biodegradable paint, which he prepares himself out of linseed oil, water and flour, mixed with natural pigments. The paint lasts only about a month, but can fade away sooner depending on factors such as the amount of rain and how fast the grass grows. One of his largest artwork depicting a gentleman clad in a fedora and suspenders, sm

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2018-09-08 11:45:00



Inemuri, The Japanese Art of Sleeping at Work  

In most countries sleeping at work is not only embarrassing, it might even cost one's job. But in Japan, sleeping in the office is common and is socially accepted. In fact, it is often seen as a sign of diligence, as in—"the person is so dedicated to their job that they worked themselves to exhaustion." And it is not untrue. Japan is one of the most sleep-deprived nation in the world. One study suggests that an average Japanese sleep only 6 hours and 35 minutes each night. Hence most fal...

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2018-09-07 15:09:00



Dr. Charles Campbell And His Malaria-Fighting Bat Towers  

Sixty years ago the United States took upon itself a challenge—eradicate malaria from the entire country, all 3.8 million square miles of it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the nation's leading public health institute, was borne out of this plan, and for the next four years the CDC devoted itself to the cause spraying DDT in millions of homes across the country. In just three years, malaria cases dropped from 15,000 in 1947 to only 2,000 in 1950. By the end of the next...

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2018-09-06 14:24:00



Moldova's Underground Wine City  

The tiny landlocked country of Moldova in Eastern Europe is one of Europe's poorest. "The roads are a bone-shaking ordeal. Horses haul carts loaded with produce and people. Geese glare at outsiders," wrote Stephen Sackur for BBC News. But there is one thing the country's agriculture-driven economy is rich at, and that is grapes. Moldova's low hills, its sun-kissed plains, the flowing streams and two big rivers, and the moderate climate shaped by the Black Sea provides all the ideal con...

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2018-09-05 11:20:00



The Miniature Coffins of Arthur's Seat  

At the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh are a set of eight miniature coffins carved in wood and decorated with tinned iron. Each coffin contains a tiny wooden figure, with a painted face and dressed in clothes that had been stitched and glued around them. Since their discovery in a cave by a group of young lads one June afternoon in 1836, the miniature figurines have been a source of much fascination and mystery. The boys had been out all day hunting for rabbits on the slopes of a rocky

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2018-09-05 11:18:00



Xiaohe: A 4000-Year-Old Desert Cemetery  

In the far eastern edge of the desolate Taklamakan Desert, hundreds of kilometers from the nearest settlement, a clump of dense wooden stakes mark the spot of a 4,000-year-old cemetery. The cemetery lies on top of a small sand dune. The wooden posts, whose tops has been splintered by centuries of strong wind, are the tombstones of those who lie buried beneath. The dry summer and frigid winters have helped preserve the bodies to such an extent that one can still see the features and contours of

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2018-09-01 21:03:00



The Most Kissed Girl in The World: The Mona Lisa of The Seine  

Sometime in the late 19th century, the body of a young woman was fished out of the Seine River in Paris. Because there was no evidence of violence upon her, it was assumed that she had taken her own life. This was nothing new. On average, some two hundred people are pulled out of Seine's murky water each year by Paris's river police. At least a quarter of them are corpses, and nearly half of those pulled out are people attempting suicide. Young women make up the biggest proportion of suici...

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2018-08-30 20:43:00



The Mail That Was Smuggled to The Moon  

A lot of objects flew to the moon and back aboard NASA's Saturn rocket. During the Apollo missions and those before that, astronauts were allowed to take some personal items with them as mementos. Before the flight, the astronaut had to declare the list of items they intend to carry as souvenirs and have it validated by NASA. As long as the request was not unreasonable and the items didn't exceed a certain weight and size, they were usually allowed to be flown. In between fourteen flights, ...

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2018-08-29 20:54:00



Hungary's Hyperinflation: The Worst Case of Inflation in History  

The amount of Bolivars needed to buy 2.4 kg of chicken in Venezuela today. Photo credit: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters The economic situation in Venezuela today is depressing. The annual inflation rate is spiraling out of control and millions of Venezuelans are struggling to afford even basic items such as food and toiletries. Prices are doubling every month, and if economists are to be believed, the inflation rate will touch 1 million percent by the end of this year. The last time hyperinfla

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2018-08-28 23:06:00



Alberta's War on Rats  

The brown rat is an extremely invasive species—a pest, that survive on human-produced garbage, usually, but often times this nasty rodent will help themselves to food meant for human consumption. Rats also carry disease. Throughout history rodent-borne diseases have caused more human death than any other epidemics on earth. For centuries, humans have been raging a losing war against rats. In the 1930s, New York City officials tried to rid the city of its rats with mustard gas, then with a p...

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2018-08-27 20:51:00



The Hunger Stones of The Elbe River  

A record drought in Europe this year has exposed over a dozen boulders along the Elbe River, that usually stays below the water line, in and near the northern Czech town of Decin near the German border. Some of these boulders are carved with ominous messages warning people of the hard times ahead. These boulders are known as "hunger stones", and they were used as historical markers to record water level of rivers around Central Europe during periods of extreme drought since at least the med...

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2018-08-27 20:50:00



The Gigantic Wine Barrel of Heidelberg  

In a cellar under the Heidelberg Castle, in the German town of Heidelberg, sits a gigantic wooden keg. It's the world's largest wine barrel with an astounding capacity of 219,000 liters—although back in the 18th century, when it was built, the Heidelberg Tun was slightly larger. Sitting empty all these centuries, the oak had dried and shrank reducing the barrel's capacity by some 2,700 liters. In fact, the Heidelberg Tun has sat empty for most of its life. When Mark Twain went to visit ...

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2018-08-25 13:09:00



The Island Named After A Satellite  

Satellite imagery, made available to the public through applications such as Google Earth and Google Maps, have allowed anybody with a computer or a smartphone and access to the internet to become an explorer. This have led to the discovery of dozens—probably hundreds—of places and features on the planet previously unknown to man, ranging from the biggest natural arch to tiny meteor craters. Back in 1972, NASA had just launched the Landsat program for taking pictures of the earth from space,...

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2018-08-24 21:30:00



The Clifftop Folly of Frederick Hervey  

Perched dramatically on the edge of a 120 feet tall cliff, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the Mussenden Temple near Castlerock, in the north-western coast of Northern Ireland, is a curious building. It was built in 1783 by Frederick Hervey, the 4th Earl of Bristol, who took great pleasure in building splendid mansions at Downhill and Ballyscullion, and then filling them with precious art he procured from Italy and elsewhere. His home at Downhill was once adorned with Rembrandts, Rafaels, Titian

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2018-08-24 12:25:00



The Skeleton of Jeremy Bentham  

Pictured above is the council meeting of the University College London. The council meets every year, but this particular picture was taken during the 2013 meet. This was a special occasion for the board because it was Provost Malcolm Grant's final UCL Council meeting before his retirement. Seated around the table you can see several attendees dressed in formal attire of suits and ties, except one man who seems to be a little out of fashion and time. It's easy to spot the guy with the big s...

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2018-08-22 16:01:00



The British Quarry That Hid Van Gogh, da Vinci and Rembrandt  

For four years, a disused slate quarry in a remote mountain in North Wales became home to some of the world's greatest artistic masterpieces. In specially constructed air-conditioned underground chambers the priceless treasures in the collection of London's National Gallery sat out the days of the Second World War safe from Luftwaffe bombers and Nazi art hunters. The abandoned slate quarry was located beneath a small mountain named Manod Mawr, near the historic mining town of Blaenau Ffestin...

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2018-08-21 10:22:00



Marshalsea Debtors' Prison  

Back in Victorian times, being in debt and unable to pay was a serious crime, so much that there were special debtors' prisons all around the UK to incarcerate financial criminals. These accounted for nearly half of all prisons in Britain. Since the 14th century, until the reforms introduced by the Debtors Act of 1869, any debtor could be thrown to prison for debts as low as 40 shillings (about £278 in 2014). It's hardly surprising then that approximately 10,000 people found themselves impr...

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2018-08-18 21:28:00



The 17th Century Bond That's Still Paying Interest  

Sometimes a company or a government issues bonds that never mature. They are called perpetual bond, and as the name suggests, they remain in force for as long as the issuer wishes to. This allows the bond holder to reap benefits for long periods. While perpetual bonds sound like great long-term investment instruments, they are not. The only party that benefits from this kind of an arrangement is the bond issuer, because it allows them to raise money without ever needing to pay it back since the

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2018-08-17 14:32:00



Photographer Uses Drone to Capture Social Inequality Across The World  

American Photographer Johnny Miller became interested in social inequality and segregation when he moved to Cape Town, in South Africa. The country has barely recovered from apartheid, which although officially ended a quarter of century ago, traces of the racial segregation in the form of roads, rivers, "buffer zones" of empty land, and other barriers still exist separating the rich from the poor, the blacks from the whites. This gave birth to the photo series Unequal Scenes (previously on ...

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2018-08-17 10:26:00



How Croatia Got The Coastline Away From Bosnia  

There is a small joke going around social media circles for the past few weeks involving the strange border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. You may have seen it a hundred times already, but here it is anyway: As you can see from the map, Croatia is located mostly north of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but a long stretch of the former borders the Adriatic Sea blocking nearly all of the other country's access to the water. It might appear—and as the joke suggests— that Bosnia and He...

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2018-08-16 00:04:00



The Scientists Who Starved to Death Surrounded By Food  

The 900-day Siege of Leningrad during the Second World War was perhaps one of the most gruesome sieges in modern history. Hitler's diabolic plan was to choke all food supply routes to the city of two million residents and let nature do the dirty work. "Leningrad must die of starvation", Hitler declared in a speech at Munich on November 8, 1941. The following winter, hundreds of thousands starved to death. People tried in vain to stay alive by eating sawdust. Others froze to death in the s...

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2018-08-13 17:32:00



The Strange Case of Kijong-dong And Daeseong-dong  

After three years of bloody conflict that saw three million people dead, the two neighboring countries, North and South Korea, entered into an armistice in 1953 agreeing to end all hostilities of the Korean War but never quite agreeing to peace. As a result, the border between the two countries is still one of the most heavily armed regions in the world enclosed by barbed wire fences and dotted by land mines, and surrounded by hundreds of thousands of soldiers. As part of the armistice signed,

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2018-08-10 11:59:00



Bedale's House For Leeches  

On the banks of the Bedale Beck, in the small market town of Bedale in North Yorkshire, stands one of the most unusual historic buildings in the whole of UK. Between the late 18th and the early 19th century, this small brick building was used to store medicinal leeches used by local doctors for bloodletting, a common procedure for treating a variety of ailments. The local apothecary kept leeches alive in special containers using fresh water diverted from the river flowing just a few feet from t

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2018-08-10 11:57:00



Posthumous Execution  

The execution of Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton and John Bradshaw in 1661, from a contemporary engraving. Oliver Cromwell, the 1st ruler of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland, was born in Huntington, Cambridge on April 25, 1599. He died on September 3, 1658, from sepsis following a urinary infection. And he was executed on January 30, 1661—more than two years after his natural death. This makes Oliver Cromwell one of very few people who has been executed posthumously. Throughou...

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2018-08-08 11:47:00



China's Ready-Made Urban Forests  

Since the past few years, the Chinese government has been planting thousands of trees in cities across the country hoping to create an urban forest that would fight pollution as well as bring shade to public spaces. The effort is laudable, but if you are to investigate the origin of some of these trees, you'll discover a disturbing process. A large number of these trees were not grown in their current urban location, but were relocated as mature trees from rural areas. "The whole concept of ...

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2018-08-08 11:42:00



The EIRE Signs of World War 2  

The recent heat wave in the UK has revealed more than ancient henges. Over at Bray Head, on the Irish coast, a short distance away from Dublin, a wildfire stoked by the hot weather has revealed a World War Two-era landmark that had disappeared under thick undergrowth for many years. It's an aerial sign made by arranging rocks and boulders to spell out the word "EIRE", which means Ireland in the Irish language. More than eighty such signs dotted across Ireland's coast during the Second W...

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2018-08-07 23:28:00



The Seven Bridges of Königsberg  

Wedged between Poland and Lithuania, along the Baltic Coast, is a piece of Russia located 200 miles away from the Russian border. The Kaliningrad oblast, an exclave of Russia, was originally a Prussian state before it was transferred over to the Soviet Union after the end of the Second World War when the Allied powers met at Potsdam to decide who gets which territory. Back then Kaliningrad was known as Königsberg. If that name doesn't ring any bells then you are definitely not a mathematician...

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2018-08-06 15:16:00



The Grave of Florence Irene Ford  

The Natchez City Cemetery in Adams County, Mississippi, is home to several unusual tombstones. There is one called the "Turning Angel", which is a statue of an angel that's carved such a way so as to form an optical illusion. When approaching the statue from the correct angle, the angel appears to turn towards the visitor. There is also a large three-tier tombstone whose rather large size is accounted for by the fact that there is rocking chair inside—as was the wish of Rufus E. Case, wh...

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2018-08-06 12:56:00



The Underground Rivers of London  

Where London is situated today was once the floodplains of the river Thames, surrounded by gently rolling hills and valleys carved by the river itself and its innumerable tributaries. London originally began on the Thames' north bank and for many centuries London Bridge was the only bridge over the Thames close to the city. But as the city grew, the marshlands and streams feeding the Thames began to get in the way of growth and were gradually buried under streets and houses. "Today, in man...

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2018-08-04 12:20:00



Palace of Shaki Khans  

The city of Shaki in northern Azerbaijan is situated more than 300 km from Baku—too far away for most tourists to make the trip, but is home to the most valuable monument to the Shaki khanate which ruled over the country for more than 75 years in the 18th and 19th centuries. Shaki was the capital of the Shaki khanate, whose seat of power was in the Palace of Shaki Khans, which was also the summer residence of Shaki Khans. The Palace, known for its magnificent interior and exterior decorated w...

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2018-08-02 21:43:00



Mount Sunflower: The Tallest Peak With The Easiest Climb  

Situated at a formidable height of 4,039 feet above sea level, the lofty summit of Mount Sunflower is the highest point in the state of Kansas, the United States. Yet, it's barely noticeable and virtually indistinguishable from the surrounding plain. There is no peak here that you can stand upon and take in the breathtaking view. Just a small bump in the middle of a private ranch located half a mile from the Colorado border. Mount Sunflower is perhaps the only 4,000-plus-feet peak that you can...

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2018-08-02 17:11:00






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