Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Interesting facts

1.The Vela Incident
On 22 September 1979, an orbiting American Vela satellite spotted an unidentified "double flash" of light near the remote Prince Edward Islands off the coast of Antarctica. No one knows what the light was, but double flash lights are a common characteristic of nuclear tests. But who was testing a nuclear bomb, and why? To this day, no national governments have ever owned up to it. Weird.

This grisly practice has been in use since ancient times, and involves drilling a round hole in a patient's skull. Cave paintings from the Neolithic period show that people believed it would cure epileptic seizures, migraines, and mental disorders by letting out the "evil spirits" inside. Surprisingly, quite a few people survived the procedure and went on to live full, albeit draughty, lives with a hole in their head.

3. The 1958 Lituya Bay megatsunami
On July 9 1958, Lituya Bay in Alaska was hit by a massive earthquake, sending 30 million cubic metres of rock plunging into the sea and creating the largest tsunami in recorded history: a skyscraper of water over 30 metres high that swept across the inlet. A local couple (the Swansons) and their sailboat (the Badger) were caught up in the tsunami, managed to ride the wave, and lived to tell the tale.

4.The Demon Core
This spherical core of plutonium was kept at New Mexico's Los Alamos laboratory in 1945 and was responsible for the deaths of two scientists. The core was made up of two hemispheres that had to be kept separate, as allowing them to touch would form a critical mass. In a display of bravado, physicist Louis Slotin decided to use a thin screwdriver blade to wiggle them around. As you can imagine, it didn't go well.

5. Toynbee tiles
These baffling, handmade tiles and plaques have been cropping up around the US and South America since the 1980s, and no one knows who is making them, or why. They're the size of a car licence plate, and usually say something like "In movie 2001 resurrect dead on planet Jupiter", a reference to the 1970s Stanley Kubrick/Arthur C. Clarke film, although a few feature political statements too.

6. The Yonaguni Monument
The Yonaguni Monument is a series of pyramidical underwater ruins and ledges off the coast of Japan that some people believe are the remains of an ancient culture. The monument is made up of straight walls, columns, platforms, and a carving of a human-like face, but the Japanese government don't believe that it's some kind of Atlantis-style city probably made by aliens, and refuse to protect it.

7. The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa
This huge eruption in Indonesia was one of the most destructive volcanic events in history, killing 36,000 people. The volcano first erupted, then underwent a cataclysmic explosion; the noise of the explosion was so loud (180 dB) that it was heard 2,000 miles away in Perth, Australia. Afterwards, it was discovered that the entire island of Krakatoa had been almost completely obliterated.

8.The Radium Girls

In 1917, the harmful effects of radiation were still largely unknown, and radium was used as a glow-in-the-dark paint. The Radium Girls were watch-dial painters at the United States Radium factory in New Jersey. They were told that the paint was harmless, and so they would lick their paintbrushes to give them a fine point, which over time caused fatal radiation poisoning, anaemia, and horrific necrosis of the jaw.

9. The Crypt of Civilization
This underground, airtight, 2,000-cubic-foot chamber was built between 1937 and 1940 at a university in Brookhaven, Georgia, and is packed with artifacts that the crypt's creator, Thornwell Jacobs, believed to tell a "running history" of civilisation for any future inhabitants of the planet. It contains (among other things) seed samples, a toaster, Budweiser beer, and a cash register. Um, OK.

10. The Beale Cipher Mystery

These cryptic papers date back to 1885 and are written in a complex numerical cipher. They're said to contain the whereabouts of three tons of buried gold and silver treasure, originally hidden by a man named Thomas J Beale in a secret location in Virginia in the US. Only one text has been deciphered so far, but it only gave details of what was buried and its general location (Bedford County). Weird.

11. The Grindell-Matthews Death Ray
Harry Grindell Matthews was an English inventor who, in the 1920s, repeatedly insisted that he had created the world's first electric death ray. In an early demonstration he managed to stop a motorcycle engine from a distance, switched on a light bulb, and also claimed it could shoot down planes and ignite gunpowder. Matthews claimed that he went on to sell the ray to the US military.

12. The Texas City Disaster

This tragic disaster is the largest non-nuclear explosion since records began, and is one of the deadliest industrial accidents of all time. On 16 April 1947, an arms carrier called the SS Grandcamp carrying 2,300 tons of highly volatile ammonium nitrate exploded after a fire on board. The blast leveled nearly 1,000 buildings on land, killed 531 people, and shot 6,350 tons of metal thousands of feet into the air.

13. The Bloop

The Bloop was a strange, extremely powerful low-frequency signal detected by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 1997. The sound varied in frequency, and could have been made by a large marine animal, but no animal on Earth is large enough to have created it. The NOAA now says it was probably caused by two large icebergs, but we all know the truth. It was Godzilla.
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