More: Great Moments In Bicycle-Powered Warfare
War is an ugly business, in which whoever moves fastest and strikes first often triumphs. So long before there were tanks and planes, people used bicycles to rush into combat. For decades, people experimented with machine guns on bikes, military quadricycles, and bicycle infantry. Here are the greatest moments of pedal-powered battle strategy.
On September 19, 1940, Witold Pilecki, a Polish soldier, was captured by German SS officers and sent to the concentration camp in Auschwitz. Considering he was a spy, things had turned out exactly as he’d planned. Captain Pilecki’s mission was to organize resistance from within the most horrific symbol of the Holocaust, send information to the Allies, and record the horrors he witnessed for the sake of history.
Pilecki arrived in Auschwitz sometime in the evening between September 21 and 22, 1940, and described what he found as “another planet”—a hell in which every building’s walls were covered in swastikas and corpses lay everywhere. Pilecki went on to live in inhumane conditions for nearly 1,000 days and become the first person to inform the Allies about the appalling conditions of detention and the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime.
Copper, a metal that has never lost its usefulness
The earliest use of copper in the Near East comes from the Sumerians who manufactured spears, arrowheads and tools such as chisels from the metal as early as 6000 years ago. They also used copper in works of art.
Copper is a metal used for thousands of years and is relatively abundant in such mountainous areas as the Lake Van district in eastern Anatolia, the mountains of Lebanon and the Red Sea hills of the eastern desert of Egypt. Its use is traced back to approximately 5000 BC, when mankind began to shape it into weapons and other items. In fact copper gave its name to the Chalcolithic era, the period of time between the Stone Age and the Bronze Age, with bronze being an alloy of copper. Read more.
The 369th Infantry Regiment — the legendary Harlem Hellfighters — was the first African-American unit to fight in WWI, and of the most decorated American units overall in that conflict.
"The French called them the ‘Men of Bronze’ out of respect, and the Germans called them the ‘Harlem Hellfighters’ out of fear," explains Max Brooks, author of a new graphic novel about the unit.
Our buddies over at Code Switch have a great feature on the Hellfighters (who still exist today) and the new book — check it out here.
102-foot-long Roman boat
Built for river commerce in the first century A.D., a 102-foot-long Roman barge was lifted in 2011 from the Rhône River in Arles, France. Virtually intact after two millennia in the mud, the boat went on display last fall in the local antiquities museum. A marble Neptune, also found in the river, watches over it.
Source: National Geographic
Comet Halley – the most famous comet of all human history
Halley’s Comet is visible from Earth every 75–76 years, making it possible for a human to see it twice in his or her lifetime. It last appeared in the inner Solar System in 1986 and will next appear in mid-2061.
Halley’s returns to the inner Solar System have been observed and recorded by astronomers since at least 240 BC. Clear records of the comet’s appearances were made by Chinese, Babylonian, and medieval European chroniclers, but were not recognized as reappearances of the same object at the time. The comet’s periodicity was first determined in 1705 by English astronomer Edmond Halley, after whom it is now named.
Images above show the comet’s apparition of 1986, 1910, 1835 and 1070s.
It is “unusual, even weird and startling,” wrote a journalist in 1924, upon seeing the world’s first projection planetarium. “It is the best ‘movie’ I have ever seen,” said another, and according to a third, the star-dome was “nothing more nor less than a playhouse in which the majestic drama of the firmament is unfolded.”
The new machine that had been erected on a rooftop in Jena, Germany, dazzled with a Jazz Age marriage of science and style: Optical projectors cast dots of light against the curved ceiling of a darkened theater, making stars that twinkled like the sequins on a flapper’s dress. “It became a phenomenon in a way that nobody envisioned,” says Jordan D. Marche, author of the definitive history of American planetariums, Theaters of Time and Space. By 1935, domes had been installed in Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and New York City, and interest in astronomy was flourishing. Contemporary reports described crowds falling silent as the lights went down and then gasping in astonishment as the concrete vanished into constellations.
wikipedia list of unusual deaths highlights:
- 620 BC: Draco, Athenian law-maker, was smothered to death by gifts of cloaks and hats showered upon him by appreciative citizens at a theatre on Aegina
- 455 BC: Aeschylus, the great Athenian author of tragedies. Valerius Maximus wrote that he was killed by a tortoise dropped by an eagle that had mistaken his head for a rock suitable for shattering the shell of the reptile. Pliny, in his Naturalis Historiæ, adds that Aeschylus had been staying outdoors to avert a prophecy that he would be killed by a falling object.
- 206 BC: One ancient account of the death of Chrysippus, the 3rd century BC Greek Stoic philosopher, tells that he died of laughter after he saw a donkey eating his figs; he told a slave to give the donkey neat wine to drink to wash them down with, and then, ‘…having laughed too much, he died’
- 258 AD: The Christian clergyman Saint Lawrence was roasted alive on a giant grill during the persecution of Valerian. Prudentius tells that he joked with his tormentors, “Turn me over — I’m done on this side”.He is now the patron saint of cooks and firefighters.
- 1567: Hans Steininger, the burgomaster of Braunau, Austria, died when he broke his neck by tripping over his own beard. The beard, which was 4.5 feet (1.4 m) long at the time, was usually kept rolled up in a leather pouch
- 1601: Tycho Brahe died from complications of a burst bladder after refusing to leave a dinner table to relieve himself because it would have been a breach of etiquette.
- 1974: Basil Brown, a 48-year-old health food advocate from Croydon, drank himself to death with carrot juice.
- 1993: Garry Hoy, a 38-year-old lawyer in Toronto, fell to his death on 9 July 1993, after he threw himself against a window on the 24th floor of the Toronto-Dominion Centre in an attempt to prove to a group of visitors that the glass was “unbreakable,” a demonstration he had done many times before. The glass did not break, but popped out of the window frame.
- Joe Buddy Caine, 35, died in Anniston, Alabama, when he and a friend got drunk and played catch with a rattlesnake.
Out of ammunition. God save the King.
—One of the last transmissions sent from the surrounded British paratroopers in Arnheim during the ill-fated Operation Market Garden, 1944. (via bantarleton
The H1 and the H4 built by John Harrison. In 1714 the Longitude Prize was established which would award significant sums of money to the person who could devise a way to determine longitude within a certain distance. Determining longitude was essential for accurate navigation, and there was no reliable way of doing that. There were some great tragedies as a result of improper navigation—in 1707 for example an entire British fleet was sunk with the loss of 4 large ships and 1400 sailors because the navigators didn’t know where they were.
John Harrison was the first person to develop a clock accurate enough to be able to determine longitude anywhere in the world. His first clock was built between 1730-1735, and the last one was finished in 1761. The time trial was undertaken with a voyage to Jamaica and when his watch was tested it was found to be only 5.1 seconds behind (after a journey of two months).
The second trial of H4 was done in 1764. Due to some internal politics within the scientific community and delays by Parliament John Harrison wasn’t awarded the remainder of his prize money until 1773!
Cook took a copy of H4 on his journey and said that it was “. . our faithful guide through all the vicissitudes of climates.
There some excellent resources to learn more about the Longitude Problem. Dana Sobel’s Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time is a great book about the subject. PBS NOVA did a documentary on the subject called Lost at Sea: The Search for Longitude