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Railway engineering has come a long way from Richard Trevithick’s first steam locomotive to today’s high speed Maglev trains. Throughout this long history spanning more than two hundred years, engineers have come up with all sorts of ideas. Some of these were groundbreaking. Others were implausible and wacky. William Brunton’s Mechanical Traveller or Steam Horse falls into the second category. Read More »
In the city of Niš, in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula, stands a macabre monument to the Serbian resistance against the Ottoman's 400-year rule. But it was built not to celebrate or commemorate the heroic sacrifices of thousands of resistance fighters who lost their lives, but to strike fear in their very hearts. The Serbian Empire fell to the Ottomans in the late 14th century, but the wri Read More »
On 16 January 1647, a fleet of three Dutch ships—the Nieuwe Haerlem, the Olifant and the Schiedam—left Batavia, which is now Jakarta, for the return voyage to The Netherlands. The ships were richly loaded with cargo from the East. En route, the ships encountered a storm and got separated from each other. Now alone, the Nieuwe Haerlem reached Table Bay, on 25 March 1647, where it became stranded o Read More »
Huangling in Wuyuan County, in east China's Jiangxi Province, is a small picturesque village built on the hillside, surrounded by spectacular terraced rapeseed blossom fields. The village dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)—its long history visible in its Hui-style houses, featuring black roof tiles and white walls. Huangling’s wonderous landscape captivates tourists from all over Ch Read More »
Nobody could have known, not even Elzire Dionne, that she was going to give birth to quintuplets. Already a mother of five, the shock of giving birth to five more baby girls—Annette, Émilie, Yvonne, Cécile and Marie—knocked her out for two hours. “What will I do with all them babies?” she reportedly screamed. Elzire suspected she was carrying twins, but the possibility of quintuplets didn’t cros Read More »
On Schmellwitzer Street in Cottbus, in northeast Germany, stands an old five-story apartment building. High up on the face of the building, between the second and the third floor, one can still see the scars of an accident that happened nearly half a century ago. On January 14, 1975, thirty-three-year-old Major Peter Makowicka was on a training mission when the MiG-21 that he was flying encoun Read More »
Some call it ugly. Others defend it for its architectural features. Whichever faction you side with, you can’t deny that it is an exceptional building. The Slovak Radio Building, standing in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, was constructed in the shape of an inverted pyramid. It stands 80 meters tall, if you measure it to the tip of the antenna on its roof. Since 1983, the year the building Read More »
Image credit: dcabrerizo/Flickr There is an unusual donation box installed beneath the streets in front of the State Parliament building in Germany’s northern city of Bremen. It appears like a circular, bronze manhole cover, but in the center of the lid, there is a small slit for people to drop coins or paper money. In return, the donation box plays a musical thank you from one of Bremen’s fou Read More »
The village of Mödlareuth in south Germany, straddles the border between the two federal states of Bavaria and Thuringia. For more than 140 years, this border, which manifests itself in the form a small stream, made little difference to the daily life of the local populace. There was just one school and one restaurant, both on Thuringia, and the villagers went to the same church in the neighbor Read More »
The theremin is probably the world's strangest and spookiest musical instrument ever made. It has no keys, no strings, just two metal rods that you don’t even touch. You just move your hands in the air around the device, and an eerie quivering, disembodied voice, like that of an opera singer, emerge from the instrument. The theremin was an accident. In 1919, the young Russian physicist Lev S Read More »
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