Monthly Archive: October 2015

7

The Culture That Invented A Phone 1,200 Years Ago

The Chimu civilization of northern Peru was conquered by the Inca around 1470, but it left behind some intriguing traces of the thriving society it once was. In spite of having no written language and no way to draw blueprints and plans, they successfully built a city of more than 10,000 buildings and nine palaces, using a system of canals 80 kilometers (50 mi) long to irrigate the desert with water flowing through a northern river. They also invented a rudimentary telephone, a simple system of two gourds with a long piece of cotton twine stretched between them, with hide membranes used in the receivers.

2,436

How An Ex-Nazi Helped Desegregate Alabama

Most people know Wernher von Braun as the designer of the V-2 rocket, the director of the Marshall Space Flight Center, and the ex-Nazi who helped the US get to the moon with Apollo 11. While the media has highlighted his controversial past in recent decades, few people know about his role in supporting civil rights for black people and his advocacy in ending segregation in Alabama. While there could be multiple reasons for the position that he took in the 1950s and 1960s, his efforts contributed positively to the divisive atmosphere of Alabama in the civil rights era.

2

John Huston’s Fake Documentaries Of World War II

If you’re a fan of classic films, then you’re probably a fan of John Huston. He’s the guy behind movies like The Maltese Falcon, and during World War II, he directed several memorable war documentaries. Only as it turns out, a few of Huston’s war docs were actually fakes.

2

Uranus Had A Different Name For 70 Years

The name of Uranus is probably the first science joke any of us learned. That wasn’t always its name, though. It wasn’t firmly established for 70 years after its discovery. William Herschel originally proposed naming the planet “Georgium Sidus” (“George’s Star”) after King George III. The name was even acknowledged by the Crown, getting Herschel an appointment as the king’s own astronomer. But many weren’t happy with the deviation from the naming traditions that had been set in place, and by 1850, Uranus (properly pronounced YOOR-un-us) was re-named.

1

The Odd And Increasingly Popular Theory Of Panspermia

The panspermia theory of life states that everything on our planet developed from life that originated somewhere out in space. For a long time, it’s been something of a fringe theory on how everything got started, but with the discovery of some microorganisms that have demonstrated an ability to survive the conditions they would have been subjected to, it’s passing from the realm of the far-fetched to the realm of the possible. With the advent of new telescopes and a color chart that will help us look for alien life on hundreds of nearby planets, it’s a mystery we may be within reach of solving.

1

The Man Who Could Smell The Weather Forecast

It’s a condition called phantosmia, the experiencing of phantom smells. While most people who suffer from these olfactory hallucinations don’t associate it with any related trigger, Max Livesey says that he can predict the weather with his hallucinations. According to the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, it’s not unlikely. A drop in barometric pressure can impact our sense of smell, and for those with smell hallucinations, it can make them even stronger.

371

The Creepy Story Of George White Rogers & The SS Morro Castle

In 1934, over 100 people died when the luxury liner SS Morro Castle caught on fire. No one ever discovered who or what started the blaze, but chances are good it had something to do with George White Rogers. The ship’s chief radio engineer, Rogers was an incredibly creepy character linked to several mysterious fires—and two gory murders.

2

Why Trash In Orbit Could Hurt Our Space Programs

Humanity has managed to launch thousands of satellites into orbit since the space race started, and now we have a bit of a crisis due to lack of proper planning. Many of these satellites are no longer functioning and pose a danger to anyone we send up into space. They can even pose danger to people or objects down on Earth when their orbit eventually decays.

487

The Man Who Walked Across Africa For Love

In 1898, Ewart Grogan set out to make history. He would walk across the entire African continent, from Cape Town to Cairo. Only he wasn’t interested in setting records or becoming a Victorian-era celebrity. Instead, he was walking across Africa for love.

428

How We Might Be Able To Create Our Own Universes

Parallel universes are cool to think about, but they have always seemed so far-fetched. However, cutting-edge physics research has shown that creating a “designer universe” is not only possible, but within the reach of human understanding. Technological barriers need to be overcome, but the theoretical groundwork exists.