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Amusing Planet - Amazing Places, Wonderful People, Weird Stuff

The Red Taj Mahal: John Hesssing's Tomb  

The Roman Catholic Cemetery in Nehru Nagar, Agra, harks back to a time when the many princely states that eventually united to become India had merchants and settlers originating from all over Europe, before the British had a death grip on the subcontinent. These people migrated to India attracted by the remarkable religious freedom India offered, regular pay, and overall better prospects, and found employment under various Indian courts. Eventually, they became so attached to the local culture,

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2019-03-20 20:57:00

Syndrome K: The Fake Disease That Saved Lives  

In the fall of 1943, as German soldiers began rounding up Jews in Italy and deporting them by the thousands to concentration camps, a mysterious and deadly disease called "Syndrome K" swept through the city of Rome causing dozens of patients to be admitted to the Fatebenefratelli Hospital located in the middle of the boat-shaped island on Tiber river. The details of the disease are sketchy, but the symptoms include persistent coughing, paralysis and death. The disease was said to be highly c...

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2019-03-19 21:42:00

Why Did Ancient People Bury Butter in Bogs?  

Peat bogs are favorite hunting grounds of archeologists because of the many odd surprises these marshy wetlands have revealed from time to time. These wetlands of decaying plant matter have remarkable preservation properties. Low in oxygen and high in tannic acid, bogs are perfect place to fall into and have your bodies stay intact for millenniums to come. Ritual sacrifices by drowning in peat bogs were common in northwestern Europe. We know this from the thousands of "bog bodies" that have ...

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2019-03-18 21:45:00

The Stockholm Lights That Can Be Controlled By Anyone With A Phone  

The 72-meter tall Phone Tower at the former headquarter of Ericsson at Telefonplan, in southern Stockholm, is a known landmark. It is the tallest building in the neighborhood for miles around. Every night, the windows of the top ten floors of the now defunct Phone Tower lights up with different colored lights. And the colors keep changing according to the whims of the public. The lights are wired to a computer, that reacts to how people touch the number pad on their mobile phones. © Amu

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2019-03-18 19:21:00

Alai Minar: Alauddin Khilji's Unfinished Minaret  

The Qutub Minar in New Delhi is a well known landmark. The sandstone-colored minaret with intricately carved inscription and reliefs on its façade was erected in the late 12th century by Qutubuddin Aibak, the slave general of Muhammad Ghori, to celebrate Ghori's victory against the Rajput rulers of Delhi. It's believed that Aibak was inspired by his contemporary, the great Ghurid Sultan Ghiyas-od-din, who built a similar victory tower, the Minaret of Jam, in remote Afghanistan just a few ye...

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2019-03-16 13:54:00

The Wheel of Urine  

A pot of urine can tell a lot about your diet and health. It can tell whether you are adequately hydrated, or how well your kidneys are functioning. It can tell if you are suffering from jaundice, or if you have high blood sugar. Modern chemical analysis of urine can reveal a wide range of afflictions. Even centuries ago, before such diagnostic tests became available, and before there were microscopes and blood tests and X-rays, urine was the one and only body fluid that could be reliably analyz

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2019-03-15 11:59:00

The Building That Steals Your Body Heat  

More than a quarter million commuters pass through the Stockholm Central Station everyday, unaware that their bodies are being tapped for energy. Unlike the machines in The Matrix that enslaved humans and literally sucked energy out of their bodies using cables, the commuters at Stockholm Central Station aren't tethered to anything. They are free to roam about. In fact, the more they move, the more energy they produce. © Amusing Planet, 2019.

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2019-03-13 15:37:00

The World's Most Inland Lighthouse  

Of all the lighthouses in the world, none was built further from the body of water it lit than the one on top of Bidston Hill, on the Irish Sea coast in England. This hundred-acre hill of heathland and woodland on the Wirral Peninsula is one of the highest points on the Wirral, visible for miles around, especially from the sea. The first pair of lighthouses went up in 1763 to guide ships through the shallow sandbanks on the mouth of the estuaries of River Dee and River Mersey as they approached

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2019-03-12 21:50:00

What Grandmas Around The World Cook  

I love photography projects that explore different cultures of the world—like Julian Germain's photos of classrooms from various countries, or Jan Banning's photos of bureaucrats' work desk. James Mollison's photos make make us wonder where children's sleep, or what they eat (photographed by Hannah Whitaker), or what they play with (photographed by Gabriele Galimberti). This time Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti seeks out grandmothers and their love for good cooking. For two ...

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2019-03-12 16:26:00

Salt Domes And Salt Glaciers of Iran  

Million of years ago, the Persian Gulf was a much larger body of water than it is today, inundating large sections of the Arabian peninsula in the south and Iran in the west. As the water evaporated and the shores of the sea retreated, it left behind vast quantities of salt. The layer of salt became covered with sediments washed down from the mountains by rainwater, and over time, the sediment layer thickened, became compact and weighed down heavily on the salt layer underneath. © Amusi

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2019-03-12 16:25:00

The Cactus That Crawls Across The Desert  

The narrow peninsula of Baja California Sur, sticking into the central Pacific off Mexico's west coast, is home to a unique species of cactus known as the "creeping devil" (Stenocereus eruca). Instead of standing erect like other species of its family, the creeping devil lies flat on the ground with only its tip slightly raised. When hundreds of these cacti grow together in a massive colony, it looks almost like the site of a brutal massacre, as if someone had ruthlessly hacked them to pie...

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2019-03-09 11:33:00

The Arsonist Who Set Fire to an Ancient Wonder of The World So That People Would Remember Him  

On the night of July 21, 356 BCE, two important events took place in the Mediterranean Basin. One created history, the other erased it. On that night, in the city of Pella, the capital of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia, the wife of King Philip II gave birth to a baby boy. This child would, years later, create one of the largest empires of the ancient world rewriting the history of much of Europe, Asia and northeast Africa. He was Alexander the Great. The other event was more prosaic: an

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2019-03-08 11:56:00

Stolpersteine: The 'Stumbling Stones' of Holocaust Victims  

With hundreds of things to see in Berlin, few tourists pay attention to what lies under their feet. The barely four inch by four inch blocks of brass embedded in the pavement are easy to miss at first. But once you know they exist, you begin to come across them with surprising frequency. Each stone is engraved with the name, date of birth and fate of an individual who has suffered under the Nazi regime. Known as "Stolpersteine", or "stumbling stones", there are over eight thousand of th...

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2019-03-07 11:46:00

The Catholic Church Built by a Muslim Emperor  

The city of Agra on the banks of Yamuna is a historical city full of monuments from the Mughal period, of which the Taj Mahal is one of the best known. This colossal marble mausoleum with a dazzling white façade, four towering minarets and an onion dome on the roof is so breathtakingly beautiful that it overshadows pretty much everything else in this 500-year-old city, even something as rare as a Roman Catholic Church commissioned by an Islamic ruler. The Church of Akbar. Photo credit: Jeromee...

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2019-03-07 11:45:00

Earthquake Rose  

On February 28, 2001, an earthquake of magnitude 6.8 rocked the US state of Washington cracking sidewalks, toppling buildings, and causing some $2 billion worth of damages all throughout the state. In Port Townsend, 65 miles north of the epicenter, a local shop called 'Mind Over Matter' had a sand-tracing pendulum on display, featuring a pointed weight at the end of a long wire suspended over a tray of sand. The natural swing of the pendulum causes the weighted tip to trace long lines on th...

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2019-03-05 20:52:00

Lunatic Express: The Train That Gave Birth to Kenya  

More than a hundred years ago, before Europeans had set foot on what is now Kenya, a tribal prophet named Kimnyole spoke of a vicious "iron snake" that would slither its way across the grassy plains, devouring cattle, plundering their lands and wreaking havoc along the way. The beast, he said, would bring a kind of foreigner never seen before, one with strange red hair who would one day rule their land. Although Kimnyole could not have known the details, the prophecy he made was clear on on...

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2019-03-04 14:55:00

The Roadside Shrines of Greece  

Roadside shrines erected in memory of those who lost their lives in road accidents are a common sight across Greece. They are found next to highways, and mountain roads, and dirt tracks. The shrines are usually small metal or concrete boxes elevated from the ground on legs or pillars. Some are decorated in the fashion of miniature churches. Virtually all of them have tiny glass doors, behind which a lamp will burn. There will be a bottle of extra oil, a couple of images of saints, a sun-drenched

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2019-03-02 15:11:00

How The Soviet Helped Vulcan, An American Town, Get a Bridge  

In south West Virginia, near the border with Kentucky, the United States, is a small unincorporated community named Vulcan. Vulcan was once a thriving coal mining town, but in the early 1960s, the mines dried up and many residents moved away in search of employment elsewhere. No longer a productive community, Vulcan's infrastructure deteriorated and even the state government forgot the town existed. © Amusing Planet, 2019.

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2019-03-01 23:21:00

The Last Gas Streetlights  

For much of human history, people have lived in the dark. The sun shines for only half the day, or less—lesser still during winter. So everything that required good visibility, including sewing, embroidery, reading and writing was accomplished while there was still daylight. But that didn't mean people retired to bed early. In 18th century London, shops were often open till ten at night. Balls went on till two or three in the morning lighted only by candle chandeliers. © Amusing Plan...

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2019-02-28 20:59:00

Bone Records: Soviet-Era Bootlegged Music on X-Rays  

During the Cold War, Soviet Russia was a very restrictive place. The media was heavily censored, foreign radio and television station waves were jammed, books that criticized the Soviet regime were banned, and playing western music that was deemed morally and culturally depraved was prohibited. At the same time, dissident activity was rife. Banned literature and underground publications were reproduced by hand and the documents passed from reader to reader. Even music was bootlegged. © A

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2019-02-28 12:16:00

Cat Ladders of Bern  

Cats love climbing, and they certainly need no human help to navigate precarious-looking structures. But in the Swiss city of Bern, cat owners are extra concerned of the wellbeing of their pets. All around the city you will see structures built specially for cats to climb. They look like fire exits, but of a more dangerous kind, attached to the outer walls, creating a path from the upper floor balconies or windows down to the street. Switzerland-based graphic designer and writer Brigitte Schust

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2019-02-27 16:22:00

Buchette Del Vino: The Wine Windows of Florence  

A unique architectural curiosity found only in the Italian city of Florence are tiny decorated openings on the outside walls of many sumptuous palaces. They are about the size of a cat door, but are located below the level of the waist. The openings are blocked by a wooden or iron door, and many doors have knockers. For many centuries, a surreptitious trade of wine was conducted through these tiny windows. A customer looking to buy wine would knock on the door, whereupon the cellarman or porter

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2019-02-25 23:02:00

Qinngua Valley, Greenland's Only Forest  

Greenland is actually quite white and blue, due to all the glaciers that cover the world's largest island like frosting on a cake. But near the southern end, sheltered within narrow fjords, there is still some greenery left. South of Tasersuag Lake and east of Tasiusaq Fjord, oriented north-south, is a valley about 15 kilometers long that contains the only natural forest in Greenland. Qinngua Valley is protected on either side by tall mountains nearly 5,000 feet high that shields the valley f...

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2019-02-25 11:31:00

Sergei Krikalev: The Man Who Went Up a Soviet And Came Down a Russian  

Late in the spring of 1991, Soviet cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Anatoli Artsebarski, along with Britain's first astronaut, Helen Sharman, blasted off into space towards Mir, the Soviet space station. Sergei Krikalev's and Anatoli Artsebarski's mission was to relieve the existing crew of the space station, while Helen Sharman was onboard as part of the British Juno program to conduct experiments on life sciences. Sharman returned back to earth together with the crew of the previous mis...

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2019-02-22 21:19:00

What a 7-Year-Old Russian Boy Doodled in The 13th Century  

Fifty years ago, a trove of manuscripts written on birch bark was discovered in the Russian city of Novgorod, situated some 200 kilometers south of Saint Petersburg. Birch bark was frequently used in the old days as a replacement for paper, which was—until a few centuries ago—a valuable commodity. Birch trees were widely available and could be easily cultivated. In fact, Novgorod is surrounded by birch forests, whose bark was used for centuries by the locals for writing since it was soft an...

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2019-02-21 17:08:00

Mauritania's Iron Ore Train  

At one million square kilometers, Mauritania is not a small country, but a very small percentage of it is habitable. The rest is covered by the sands of the Sahara. Towns and settlements are separated by vast stretches of inhospitable desert. Roads often have to make detours hundreds of kilometers long just to avoid the drifting sands. The mining town of Zouerat in northern Mauritania is one such isolated outpost. With a population close to fifty thousand, Zouerat is not a small town either....

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2019-02-19 16:02:00

Witch Windows of Vermont  

Photo credit: Larry Lamsa/Flickr An architectural oddity found only in the US state of Vermont is the so-called "witch window". These are normal portrait-style windows, but angled diagonally so that its long edge is parallel to the roof slope. They are installed in the upper stories in the gable-end wall of the house, and are usually found in old farmhouses. According to the locals the windows were installed to prevent witches from flying into the house, because apparently witches can't f...

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2019-02-19 11:22:00

Water Powered Funiculars  

Funiculars are an odd mode of transport, but at the same time, they are one of the most energy-efficient one. The system consist of two counterbalanced cars attached at the ends of a long cable that goes up a slope and over a pulley and then comes back down. So when one car goes up, the other comes down. The weight of the two cars counterbalances each other, so that only a minimal amount of energy is required to pull up the ascending car, which is usually provided by an electric motor. Some hist

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2019-02-18 14:57:00

The Bolivian Clock That Runs Backwards  

The building that houses Bolivia's legislative assembly in Plaza Murillo, in central La Paz, features a clock above the entrance that looks like a mirror image. The positions of the numerals on the clock face are reversed, and the clock itself runs anticlockwise. The building, which was erected during the 1920s and was originally intended to serve as the headquarters of Bolivia's central bank, featured a regular clock until 2014, when the clock was reversed to better reflect the "souther...

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2019-02-18 14:55:00

European Trees With The Most Interesting Stories  

The Environmental Partnership Association (EPA) is seeking votes from the public to help them select the winner of the European Tree of the Year competition 2019. Each year participating countries select an entrant by holding a national poll, from which a winner is selected in the European round by an online poll that runs throughout the month of February. The winner is announced at an awards ceremony in late March held in the EU Parliament, Brussels. © Amusing Planet, 2019.

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2019-02-16 10:08:00

Cemetery Guns And Coffin Torpedoes  

This unusual-looking gun, now exhibited at the Museum of Mourning Art in Arlington Cemetery, once kept body snatchers away from cemetery grounds and discouraged them from digging up dead bodies. The gun would be set near the foot of the grave and a series of tripwires would swing the gun in the appropriate direction when triggered, and fire upon the unsuspecting thieves. © Amusing Planet, 2019.

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2019-02-15 11:12:00

Yasukuni Shrine, Where War Criminals Are Revered  

The Imperial Shrine of Yasukuni, in Chiyoda, Tokyo, is a beautiful spiritual place for remembering those who died in service for Japan. As many as 2.4 million men, women and children, and even various animals, are enshrined here. These people (and animals) lost their lives in numerous conflicts involving Japan spanning nearly a hundred years—starting from the Boshin War of 1868-1869 to the Second World War, including the First Indochina War of 1946-1954. Those enshrined are mostly militar...

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2019-02-13 16:21:00

Shin's Tricycle  

Behind a glass case at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is a battered and rusted tricycle. The seat is missing, and so are the pedals and the handle grips, and the entire metal frame of the cycle is caked in rust. Like many of the artifacts preserved at the museum dedicated to the world's first nuclear attack, the tricycle has a heart-wrenching story. © Amusing Planet, 2019.

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2019-02-12 16:09:00

When Little Boys Wore Dresses  

Until about a century ago, in the western world, you couldn't tell whether a young child was a girl or a boy from the way he or she dressed. All young children dressed alike, irrespective of their gender, in girls clothing complete with girly shoes, long hair and ponytails. Trousers or breeches wasn't worn until boys were at least four, but some continued to wear skirts, gowns and petticoats until they were significantly older—about eight years of age. By that time, the boys would eagerly ...

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2019-02-11 21:26:00

Edwin Smith Papyrus: The 3,600-Year-Old Textbook of Surgery  

In 1862, an American Egyptologist named Edwin Smith bought an ancient scroll of papyrus from an Egyptian dealer. Smith didn't know how to read it, but he figured it was something important and precious. He kept the papyrus scroll with him until his death in 1906, whereupon his daughter donated the papyrus to the New York Historical Society. It was there the importance of document, now known as the Edwin Smith Papyrus, was first understood. © Amusing Planet, 2019.

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2019-02-11 21:25:00

Historic Watercolors Document How The World Was Before Photography  

Before there were cameras, people documented how the world and its inhabitants looked like through paintings. Oil on canvas was the medium of choice because of its vivid colors and the durability of the medium itself. But starting from the 18th century, many European artists—both professional and amateur—began to prefer watercolors, especially those who liked to paint outdoors. The materials required to paint in watercolor can be easily carried in a compact carrying case. Additionally, water...

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2019-02-08 21:19:00

How Australia Remembers The World's Biggest Gold Nugget  

On February 1869, two British prospectors, John Deason and Richard Oates, were digging for gold in central Victoria, Australia, when their pickaxe struck something hard very near the surface. When Deason bent down to examine the large stone he thought was on the way, he discovered an enormous gold nugget—the largest anybody had ever seen, and will ever see. The nugget measured two feet in length and almost a feet in width. Miners and their wives posing with the finders of the world's bigge...

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2019-02-08 11:51:00

The Statue of Liberty of Lake Mendota  

This is what will happen when the polar ice melts and sea level rises. Well, not really. It's just a continuation of a prank that started forty years ago. In 1978, a student party named Pail and Shovel swept the students election at the University of Wisconsin. During their campaign, the party made absurd promises that included installing escalators on Bascom Hill, painting the curbs fluorescent so drunk students could find their way home from the bars, flooding Camp Randall for faux naval ba...

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2019-02-07 15:59:00

Music in The Clouds  

In June 1867, James Glaisher, an English astronomer and meteorologists, and an avid balloonist, was floating over Paris in a balloon when he entered a region of dense cloud: Suddenly, whilst we are thus suspended in the misty air, we hear an admirable concert of instrumental music, which seems to come from the cloud itself and from a distance of a few yards only from us. Our eyes endeavour to penetrate the depths of white, homogeneous, nebulous matter which surrounds us in every direction. We

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2019-02-07 11:50:00

Globsters: When Sea Monsters Wash Ashore  

On November 30, 1896, two young boys, Herbert Coles and Dunham Coretter, were bicycling along Anastasia Island, near St. Augustine on the Atlantic coast of Florida, the United States, when they noticed an enormous carcass half buried in the sand, apparently washed from the sea. The boys thought it was a whale, and reported their discovery to the local physician, Dr. DeWitt Webb. Dr. Webb visited the carcass the next day, and discovered that it was not a whale. But he couldn't say what the mass...

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2019-02-05 21:36:00

James Hiram Bedford: The First Person To Be Cryogenically Preserved  

Will humans ever posses the technology to revive a dead person back to life? Dr. James Hiram Bedford certainly hopes so. He has been waiting for that day for the last fifty years frozen in a lab at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation. James Hiram Bedford was an American psychology professor at the University of California. Prior to his death in 1967, Bedford expressed his desire to be cryogenically frozen so that his body could be repaired and his consciousness revived with more advanced techno

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2019-02-05 10:57:00

Gyrobus: The Flywheel-Powered Public Transportation  

Back in the 1940s, Swiss engineers developed a new kind of zero-emission electric bus that used a large spinning flywheel to store energy rather than rechargeable batteries. The reason was simple—they wanted something quieter and cleaner, but most importantly they wanted a vehicle that wasn't constrained by overhead power lines. Many Swiss cities at that time had trolley buses as public transport that ran on predetermined routes powered by electricity. But rails restricted movement and runni...

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2019-02-04 16:26:00

Hagfish: The Slimy Creature of The Deep  

Hollywood horror movie monsters and aliens aren't complete without loads of repulsive slime, mucous and saliva drenching from their mouths. But this image of a car covered in some white gelatinous mess is not a scene from a movie set. The sticky situation was created in 2017 on an Oregon (USA) highway when a truck carrying live hagfish overturned and covered passing cars in slime.Read more » © Amusing Planet, 2019.

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2019-02-02 16:23:00

Halton Arp's Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies  

Less than one hundred years ago, astronomers were not even sure whether our galaxy made up the entire universe or there were more Milky Ways like ours. Edwin Hubble settled the debate in 1925 when he established that the Andromeda Galaxy was not a cluster of stars and gas within our own galaxy, but an entirely separate galaxy located a vast distance away from the Milky Way. Since then astronomers have discovered thousands of galaxies, but they are also aware that there are potentially hundreds

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2019-02-01 16:50:00

The Tomb That Inspired Britain's Iconic Telephone Box  

The United Kingdom Post Office introduced the first public telephone kiosk, designated K1, in 1921. These were constructed out of pre-cast concrete sections, had a four-sided rectangular form with a pyramidal roof, and was topped by a wrought iron spear. It was not a particularly bad design, but somehow, it didn't appeal to the British public. The London Metropolitan Boroughs as well as the Birmingham Civic Society voiced their dislike and even resisted the Post Office's effort to erect K1 k...

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2019-02-01 12:11:00

Juhyo, The Snow Monsters of Mount Zao  

High against the slopes of Mount Zaō, in central Japan, the cold, moisture-laden winds from Siberia slams into creating a natural wonder that brings thousands of tourists every winter from all over Japan. The tiny water droplets that the strong wind carries freezes against Mount Zaō's pine trees and their branches forming icicles. These icicles grow nearly horizontal, owing to the strong winds, over which falling snow settles creating towering, grotesque white figures that the Japanese call ...

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2019-01-31 20:42:00

RMS Tayleur: The Other Titanic  

The sinking of the Titanic is one of the best remembered maritime disasters in history. A grand luxury ship touted as the safest vessel afloat, carrying over two thousand passengers, many of which were wealthy and powerful members of society, sinking on her maiden voyage was an unimaginable event. The loss of the Titanic, for many, was symbolic of the fragile nature of society itself, and science's valiant but futile attempts to triumph over nature. But Titanic wasn't the first casualty suff...

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2019-01-30 16:14:00

Bookwheel, The 16th Century Forerunner to The eBook Reader  

For many of us, the ebook reader was the next best thing to happen since Gutenberg's printing press. The printing press made books widely available, and the ebook reader conveniently shrunk the same to such compactness that we can carry a thousand of them around wherever we go without discomfort. Such a concept would have been fantastic for someone born in the 16th century, but nevertheless, the idea did cross their minds—especially the mind of Agostino Ramelli. Read more » © Amusing ...

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2019-01-29 15:41:00

Henry Cotton: The Psychiatrist Who Tried to 'Cure' His Patients by Removing Their Teeth  

This illustration of a mutilated mouth is not the result of a road accident, but that of a doctor's obsession with an utterly bizarre theory of insanity—a theory that left hundreds of his patients dead and thousands maimed for life. Dr. Henry Cotton was the medical director and superintended of the Trenton State Hospital, a large lunatic asylum in New Jersey. Before returning to the US to accept the position as medical director at a young age of 30, Cotton had studied psychiatry in Europe u...

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2019-01-26 11:05:00

The Filipino Hero Who Killed Ferdinand Magellan  

Ferdinand Magellan is remembered in the west as the intrepid Portuguese explorer who led the first voyage to circumnavigate the globe, but for the Philippines he is just another white man who fell to his death attempting to conquer lands that did not belong to him. The real hero—for the Filipinos—is Lapu-Lapu, the tribal chief who famously vanquished Magellan becoming the first Filipino hero to successfully resist colonization by a foreign power. Magellan's conflict with the proud and unyi...

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2019-01-25 12:24:00

The Caves of Maresha And Bet-Guvrin  

The Shfela lowlands in south-central Israel, at the foot of the Judaean Mountains, is characterized by a thick layer of soft chalk that was extensively quarried in the past by the local population leaving the underground hollow like a piece of cheese. There are more than a thousand caves here underneath the former towns of Maresha and Bet Guvrin situated on the crossroads of the trade routes that led to Mesopotamia and Egypt. These quarried caves served as cisterns, oil presses, baths, dovecotes

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2019-01-22 13:41:00

The Ancient Portraits of Fayuum Mummies  

These haunting portraits of long-dead men, women and children come from a vast region known as the Fayuum Basin, located immediately to the west of the Nile south of Cairo. Watered by canals diverting the Nile river, this sprawling oasis is one of the most fertile region in Egypt with rich agricultural land and a large saltwater lake that has been providing the local population with fresh fish since ancient times. It was in Fayuum where farming first developed in Egypt, and during Roman occupati

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2019-01-19 15:43:00

Moqui Marbles And Martian Blueberries  

Across many places in southern Utah, in the western United States, where the orange-colored sandstone gives way to the spectacular white- and pink-colored cliffs and bluffs of Navajo Sandstone, one can find hundreds of iron spheres either embedded in the rock or gathered loosely into "puddles" on the ground. They range in size from fraction of an inch to several inches in diameter. They are called moqui marbles. The word "moqui" comes from the Hopi Tribe, and it means "the dead" in t...

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2019-01-18 16:05:00

Grammichele: The Hexagonal Town  

Located in the province of Catania, in the Italian island of Sicily, is the town of Grammichele. It is one of the few towns in the world to have the unique hexagonal layout. The town was founded after the great Sicily earthquake of 1693 wiped out an earlier settlement called Occhialà, located to the north of modern Grammichele. The survivors built a new town and named it Grammichele, after St. Michele, in the hope that the saint will protect the new town from further disasters. Read more » ...

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2019-01-18 11:04:00

Charvolant: The Kite-Drawn Carriages  

On 8 January 1822, an extraordinary journey was made from Bristol to Marlborough. An English schoolteacher named George Pocock took his wife and his kids on a 182 km-trip in a carriage drawn not by horses but by a couple of enormous kites. Pocock designed the carriage himself, which he called "Charvolant". George Pocock was fascinated with kites from a young age, and as he played and experimented with them, he learned that kites had tremendous lifting power. Young Pocock would tie small ston...

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2019-01-18 11:04:00

Cloughmills' Crochet Village  

The village of Cloughmills in County Antrim, in Northern Ireland, has a small model replica of their village displayed in their village hall. But unlike many miniature models, theirs is made of wool. The model was created over a period of seven months and completed in 2017 by a group of about thirty old ladies—all members of the Cloughmills Crochet Club. Read more » © Amusing Planet, 2019.

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2019-01-16 23:30:00

The Great Wall of China Hoax  

"Fake news" is a new term, but lies and propaganda is as old as written history, spread by individuals to aggrandize oneself or smear the public image of an enemy. Then, there is yellow journalism, where newspapers rely on sensationalism and the publication of scandal-mongering articles and exaggerations of news events to increases sales and circulation. While this sort of media irresponsibility is often seen among competing newspapers, there was one time when four different newspapers collu...

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2019-01-16 12:16:00

The Gable Stones of Amsterdam  

Before Amsterdam had house numbering, they had a curious way of identifying addresses. Each house and building in the city used to have a stone plaque, called gable stone (gevelstenen in Dutch), that was carved and colorfully painted depicting the function the building served. For instance, the gable stone of a paper mill would show the various stages of the paper-making process, and the gable stone of at the butchers' inspectors office showed in intricate details the carcass of a slaughtered ...

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2019-01-09 15:29:00

Congreve Rolling Ball Clock  

In the early 19th century, an Englishman named Sir William Congreve invented an unusual clock that kept time using balls rolling down an incline. At that time, most clocks kept time through the regular swinging of a pendulum. The Congreve rolling ball clock consists of a brass plate with a zigzag path carved on it. A small brass ball rolls down the carved track, and when it reaches the end of the track, the ball hits a lever and a spring raises the end of the plate, reversing the tilt of the pla

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2019-01-08 21:09:00

China's Misguided War Against Sparrows  

These panel of images from the late 1950s China, depicting young boys hunting sparrows for sport, were taken from a poster aimed at school children. The poster was part of a large campaign to eradicate pests responsible for the transmission of pestilence and disease. Four pests were chosen for eradication—mosquitoes, rats, flies and sparrows. The last on this 'kill list' was deemed responsible for creating shortages in grains and fruits which the bird ate. The ill-conceived idea to tamper...

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2019-01-08 20:36:00

A Short History of Showering  

Personal hygiene hasn't always been an integral part of grooming, yet the need to clean oneself easily and quickly was as pressing in ancient times as it is today. Bathing in a tub was cumbersome, so those who could bathed under waterfalls. These were the first showers used by man. The first man-made showers that provided the privilege of bathing in the privacy of one's homes dates back to the time of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. These were generally enjoyed by the wealthy because it invo...

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2019-01-07 12:43:00

Cascata delle Marmore: A Man-Made Waterfalls Created by Ancient Romans  

About 8 kilometers east from the city of Terni, in the Umbria region of Italy, is a beautiful three-tiered waterfalls called Cascata delle Marmore or the Marmore Falls. The falls were once part of the 'Grand Tour' which wealthy young Englishmen of the 17th and 18th century took through France and Italy seeking out places art, culture and the roots of Western civilization. Marmore Falls' curiosity lies not solely in its grandeur but also in the fact that it was a product of human interventi...

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2019-01-07 12:42:00

Forma Urbis: Rome's Giant Marble Map  

A modern illustration of the Temple of Peace with Forma Urbis, the giant map of Rome, on the wall. At the Roman Forum in the center of Rome there once stood a grand monument called the Temple of Peace, built by Emperor Vespasian to project his might and fortify his strong public image. The Temple was razed to the ground when Rome was sacked by the Goths in the early 5th century. Only a fire-ravaged interior wall survives. This wall later became the exterior of the Church of Saints Cosmas and Da

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2019-01-04 11:30:00

SS Warrimoo: The Ship That Missed New Year's Eve But Gained Two Centuries  

The story that follows supposedly happened more than a hundred years ago on the eve of New Year. It spanned two centuries, yet was over in a couple of seconds. The story involves a passenger steamer named SS Warrimoo that was launched in 1892, originally to serve the Trans-Tasman route between Australia and New Zealand but later began ferrying passengers between Canada and Australia. The extraordinary event happened during one such trip. Read more » © Amusing Planet, 2019.

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2019-01-03 12:50:00

The Photographers Who Braved Mount St. Helens  

When Mount St. Helens erupted in the morning of May 18, 1980, a freelance photographer named Robert Landsberg was within four miles of the summit documenting the event. Robert had been visiting the grumbling mountain since April, and had made dozens of successful trips hiking and climbing to various vantage points to capture the changing volcano that had been erupting for the past several weeks. On Saturday evening, May 17, Robert camped near the volcano and wrote in his journal, "Feel right o...

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2019-01-02 11:45:00

Walt Disney's Backyard Railway: The Carolwood Pacific Railroad  

Even before Walt Disney drew up plans for the first Disneyland Park, he knew what to include in it—a rideable miniature railroad. Indeed, he had one in his own backyard at his home in Los Angeles. Walt Disney was a rail enthusiast, whose love for trains goes back to the time when he was young boy—and it came from family. Disney's father worked as part of a track installation crew for the Union Pacific Railroad, and his uncle, his father's cousin, was a locomotive driver for the Santa...

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2019-01-02 11:44:00

Meat-Shaped Stone And Jadeite Cabbage  

This mouth-watering chunk of stewed pork belly with a gratuitous layer of fat and glistening sheen is actually a piece of rock—jasper to be exact—that was cleverly carved and dyed to resemble a succulent piece of meat by an anonymous Qing dynasty artist in the 19th-century. Known as the "meat-shaped stone," the just two-inch-tall sculpture has been the most prized possession of the National Palace Museum in Taiwan for the past two hundred years. What makes this piece of art so special is...

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2019-01-02 11:42:00

The Ziggurat of Dur-Kurigalzu  

This enormous structure rising over the desert sands near the Euphrates River resembles a sandstone butte but is actually made of mud-bricks, and is about 3,400 years old. The structure was originally a ziggurat standing some 60 meters tall with a foundation about 70 meters square. What remains today is the core; the rest was destroyed along with the city of Dur-Kurigalzu that was invaded by the Elamites in the 12th century BC.Read more » © Amusing Planet, 2019.

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2018-12-24 15:01:00

Kola Superdeep Borehole  

It's hard to imagine that under this small metal cap lies the world's deepest borehole. Now surrounded by ruins, the Kola Superdeep Borehole was a scientific project undertaken by the Soviet Union in the 1970s to better understand the Earth's crust. The crust is the earth's outermost layer. It is a thin shell in comparison to the earth's dimension—about 30 to 50 kilometers thick and is made of light rocks such as granite and basalt. The crust floats above the Earth's mantle, the s...

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2018-12-22 11:56:00

Atmospheric Railways: The 19th Century Trains That Ran On Air  

The 19th century ushered in a new form of transport—railways. Journeys that previously took weeks were now completed in days. Distances that could only be covered in days on horseback or on horse-drawn wagons were now being covered in a matter of hours. All this was possible because of the steam locomotive, the hulky and bulky "iron horse" that could pull a dozen wagons behind it and cover great distances without fatigue. It was the locomotive that made railways a grand commercial success....

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2018-12-19 21:33:00

Devil's Tramping Ground  

In the woods just outside of Siler City, North Carolina, lies a bare circle of earth about forty feet across where nothing grows except for a few strands of grass. Legend has it that on certain nights the Devil rises from the depth of fiery hell and comes to this place where he stomps around in circles extinguishing any life form that attempts to take root. Over the years, the alleged "Devil's Tramping Ground" has become the subject of numerous spooky tales and campfire ghost stories. T...

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2018-12-19 21:32:00

Betsiboka: Madagascar's Red River  

This image of the Betsiboka River's estuary in northwest Madagascar provides tantalizing evidence of catastrophic erosion that has been plaguing this small island country in the Indian Ocean for the past fifty years. The bright red color seen in the river's jellyfish-like tentacles and the sandbars in between is the result of iron-rich sediments that gets washed from the hills during heavy rain and deposited in the river's mouth. It is estimated that as many as 400 tons of soil per hectar...

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2018-12-18 23:54:00

Nova Scotia's Christmas Gift to Boston  

For nearly half a century, the Canadian province of Nova Scotia has been sending a gift to the people of Boston in the form of a Christmas tree. This annual tradition of holiday goodwill goes back to 1971, but the events that led to it is older still and was one of great tragedy. In 1917, the port city of Halifax in Nova Scotia was a bustling scene of activity. The Great War in Europe was in its third year and Halifax's strategic location in the Caribbean-Canada-United Kingdom shipping triangl...

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2018-12-17 23:43:00

The Biggest Little Railway in the World  

Last year, a team of British railway enthusiasts got together to engineer the longest miniature railway journey in the world. The tracks that were laid for this purpose stretched for 114 kilometers across the Scottish Highlands from the town of Fort William to the city of Inverness. Their effort, and the model train's maiden and only journey was televised over a 5-episode series by Channel 4. Read more » © Amusing Planet, 2018.

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2018-12-17 23:41:00

The Sydney Hospital Built By Rum  

Two hundred years ago, Sydney was little more than a convict camp in desperate need of infrastructure, supplies and a hospital. The long journey from Great Britain across the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean in damp, unhygienic conditions of 18th-century convict ships left prisoners in poor health. Many arrived suffering from infectious diseases or other illnesses such as dysentery, smallpox, scurvy, and typhoid. One convict out of ten died during the voyage itself. The situation in the colony was

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2018-12-14 16:29:00

William Clark's Expensive Folly  

In late 19th century New York, on an avenue dubbed the "Millionaire's Colony", there stood an insanely ornate house belonging to the wealthy entrepreneur and politician, William A. Clark. Clark was, in the words of Mark Twain, a "rotten human being", "a shame to the American nation" and "the most disgusting creature that the republic has produced since Tweed's time". He tried to bribe his way to the US Senate, and the scandal that resulted forced the country to change its con...

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2018-12-14 12:19:00

Demon Core: How The Third Nuclear Bomb Destined For Japan Killed a Bunch of American Scientists  

President Harry S. Truman knew that one bomb would not be enough to force Japan to surrender, so he ordered two. What many don't know is that there was a third bomb in reserve, just in case. This third bomb had not been assembled yet, but its plutonium core—the heart of the bomb—was ready, and kept at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. When it became clear a third bomb would not be necessary, nuclear scientists at Los Alamos were delirious with excitement. Here there was in their hands, t...

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2018-12-13 11:11:00

A Nature Park in an Abandoned Railway Yard in Berlin  

For more than a century, the Anhalter Bahnhof was the most important railway station in Berlin. Located at the heart of the German capital, this beautiful station with a hundred meter wide façade was covered with exquisite sculptures cast in zinc, and had lavish and spacious interiors with waiting rooms and other facilities for passengers that came all the way from Leipzig, Frankfurt, Munich and beyond. The roof was a huge iron and glass structure that rose to more than thirty meters and undern...

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2018-12-12 16:16:00

John Lethbridge's Diving Machine  

This strange apparatus hanging at the Cite de la Mer museum in Cherbourg, France, looks like some kind of a medieval torture device, but is actually the world's first diving machine. And a very successful one at that. Its inventor, John Lethbridge, was a wool merchant of Newton Abbot, a market town of Devon, England. Not much is known of his childhood or what inspired him to create a diving machine. A BBC article simply notes that John Lethbridge had a lot of mouths to feed—he had 17 child...

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2018-12-11 18:27:00

The Tale of The Exploding Whale  

Beached whales sometimes spontaneously explode due to build up of gases, mostly methane, as the carcass decomposes. Occasionally, whale carcasses are also exploded using actual explosives, after they have been towed out to the sea, to dispose them quickly. Explosives have also been used to euthanize beached whales. The most famous case of a whale exploding happened in the city of Florence, Oregon, in November 1970, when a dead sperm whale was blown up using dynamite resulting in unintended cons

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2018-12-11 12:40:00

The True Story Behind 'The Pied Piper of Hamelin'  

The story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin is well known. This dark European folktale with unsettling themes of ingratitude and terrible vengeance has been told and retold for generations. The tale goes something like this: In the year 1284, there was a serious rat problem in Hamelin, which was at that time a prosperous port on the river Weser in Lower Saxony, Germany. Barges full of corn and wheat arrived every day which was ground in the mills and made into bread and cakes in the bakeries. But the

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2018-12-08 16:24:00

James Nasmyth's Fake Lunar Photographs From 1874  

In 1874, an astronomer and an inventor together published one of the most influential books of the time on lunar geology, titled The Moon: Considered as a Planet, a World, and a Satellite. In 276 pages, James Nasmyth and James Carpenter summed up three decades of research encompassing all that astronomers knew about the moon, and even attempted to answer some of the still-unanswered questions of the time, such as: Could the moon support life? Did it have an atmosphere? How did its craters form?

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2018-12-07 16:13:00

Barbarastollen: The Underground Archive Where Germany's Cultural Heritage Lives  

On the western edge of Black Forest, deep into the mountains where miners once quarried for silver, lies Germany's cultural heritage. It's housed inside an old tunnel driven into the rocks for nearly 700 meters whose entrance is now barred by a heavy steel door. Behind this door are hundreds of stainless steel barrels stacked waist-high. Inside these hermetically sealed barrels are copies of the country's most important cultural documents and images etched in microfilm. Safely buried und...

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2018-12-06 11:45:00

The World's Largest Vacuum Chamber  

At the 6,400-acre Plum Brook Field Station complex near Sandusky, Ohio, stands five large test facilities operated by NASA to test various aspects of space flight. Most of these were built decades ago at a time when the country's space program was of national importance. But now, these million-dollar facilities have fell into disuse and some are so rundown they would require millions of dollars more to repair. Out of the five still-standing facilities, four have seen no use in the recent past....

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2018-12-04 11:13:00

San Petronio Basilica: The Church That Ticked The Pope Off  

Dominating the central square in the city of Bologna is one of the world's largest church with a unique mismatched façade that has been intriguing visitors for centuries. The upper half is made of bricks, while the lower half is made of marble with intricately sculpted scenes from both the Old and the New Testament. "They just ran out of money," is the usual reply tourists get when they ask what caused the church façade to be left uncompleted. But lack of funds was only part of the prob...

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2018-12-01 12:24:00

The Hitachi Tree of Moanalua Gardens  

About 5 miles northwest of downtown Honolulu, is a 24-acre privately-owned park called Moanalua Gardens, best known for its annual Prince Lot Hula Festival, where locals and visitors partake in a wealth of cultural workshops, demonstrations, food booths, craft vendors, and the festival's central attraction—hula presentations. The festival takes its name and inspiration from the fact that Prince Lot Kapuaiwa, who later reigned as King Kamehameha V, used to entertain his guests here with hula ...

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2018-11-30 15:31:00

Tarpeian Rock: The Cliff Romans Threw Their Traitors From  

The ancient Romans used a variety of horrific methods to execute those condemned to death for crimes ranging from rape and murder, to adultery, libel, and treason. One method called poena cullei, or "penalty of the sack", involved sewing up the thoroughly beaten but still alive accused in a leather sack along with an assortment of live animal, most commonly a cock, a dog, a monkey and a serpent, and then throwing the sack into water. Another method of execution, reserved for the worst crimin...

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2018-11-29 11:55:00

Hotel Belvédère: The Iconic Swiss Hotel at The Edge of The Rhone Glacier  

Located in one of the snowiest regions in Switzerland, the Furka Pass, connecting the cantons of Uri and Valais in the country's south-central region, is considered to be one of the "most iconic, exhilarating and exciting drives" through the Swiss Alps. The scenic road with its tight switchbacks curving up the picturesque mountainside attracts countless tourists. There is the Rhone Glacier with its ice grotto—a one hundred meter long tunnel drilled through the glacier every year that glo...

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2018-11-27 21:16:00

Halifax Gibbet: The Infamous Forerunner to The Guillotine  

Standing inconspicuously in the middle of an empty plot behind some trees, in the small English town of Halifax, in West Yorkshire, is a fearful mediaeval instrument of torture. It's called a gibbet, and for more than three hundred fifty years it beheaded people for crimes as minor as stealing. The Halifax Gibbet is a tall wooden structure with a sharp blade at the top, held up by a rope. The condemned prisoner was positioned below the hanging blade and securely fastened. When the executioner ...

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2018-11-27 14:58:00

The Boot Monument: How America Remembers Its Most Infamous Traitor  

At the Saratoga National Historical Park in New York is an American Revolutionary War memorial depicting a single boot sculpted in stone. The dedication on the memorial reads: "In memory of the most brilliant soldier of the Continental Army who was desperately wounded on this spot, winning for his countrymen the decisive battle of the American Revolution and for himself the rank of Major General." The memorial carries no name, but it's understood that it honors Major General Benedict Arnol...

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2018-11-26 21:34:00

The Salt Mining Elephants of Mount Elgon  

Large herbivores such as elephants often seek out natural mineral deposits such as rocks and soil to supplement their dietary intake of sodium whenever the mineral is not obtained in adequate quantities from woody plants and natural water which elephants consume. So it is not uncommon to find elephants devouring soil and licking rocks high in sodium content. In Mount Elgon National Park on the Kenya-Uganda border, elephants have taken this activity a step further—they have learned to quarry so...

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2018-11-26 11:17:00

The Collapse of Marib Dam And The Fall of an Empire  

Near the ancient city of Marib, in Yemen, lies the ruins of a great dam. Considered to be one of the biggest engineering wonders of the ancient world, the Great Dam of Marib stretched for 580 meters and was easily one of the largest dams of its era. For as long as it stood, the Great Dam turned the desert into an oasis allowing the irrigation of more than a hundred square kilometers of sandy soil centered around Marib, which was then the largest city in southern Arabia. When the dam collapsed in

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2018-11-22 21:17:00

Wrangel Island: The Island of Polar Bears And Wooly Mammoth  

Wrangel Island, in the Arctic Ocean, is one of the most remote islands in Russia. Straddling the International Date Line—the boundary where the eastern and the western hemisphere meet—this rugged volcanic island, where summer temperatures barely climb above freezing, is believed to have been the last place on earth where the wooly mammoth survived, six thousand years after their cousins on the mainland disappeared. This harsh landscape supports a surprisingly diverse ecosystem, including Arc...

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2018-11-21 16:29:00

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

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