Lightning

Human Lightning Conductor

Posted on: June 26, 2017

Roy Sullivan is a name that will no doubt mean absolutely nothing to you. No offence, Roy. He was a park ranger in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, and between 1942 and 1977 was hit by lighting SEVEN times. He survived all of these strikes, and even managed to get himself in the Guinness World Records as the person struck by lightning more times than any other. Based on an average 80 year life you, the common person, have a 1 in 10,000 chance of being hit by lightning.

Later in life, Roy was avoided by people because they were worried about the possibility of being hit by lightning, they genuinely feared that he was a conductor for it and they might get caught by it themselves. The details of his passing are open for debate (the reasons anyway), having died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Sources:

We are the real encyclopedia, but Wiki has a nice summary


Bread clips

Kwik Lok

Posted on: June 26, 2017

The little bread bag tags that we have all used countless times in our lives, are almost exclusively produced by one company. The idea came to a man named Floyd Paxton during a flight in 1952. He was eating a packet of complimentary nuts (as was the norm at the time), and he wanted to save some for later so he whittled the first bread clip out of a piece of plastic.

Sources:

Kwik Lok


Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon

Buzz Aldrin Expenses Claim

Posted on: June 19, 2017

Buzz Aldrin was required to submit a travel expenses claim…for his trip to the moon. He submitted one for $33.31. The trip was from Houston, TX to the moon via Cape Kennedy, FL and then returning from the moon to the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii, and back to Houston. It was approved on August 26, 1969.

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Fig cut in half

Fig Wasps

Posted on: June 19, 2017

Fig wasps spend their larval stage inside wasps. Che? Yeah it’s mental, but it’s also true! The female wasp crawls in a hole that is so small her wings break off (showing some serious commitment) and so she becomes trapped inside the fig. Basically like a kid sticking their head through a railing and not being able to get it back out again. If the fig is male, she lays her eggs inside. Think about that for a minute. She might have got it wrong and now she’s just trapped inside a female fig with nothing to do! She still pollinates the fig, but then just tragically dies all on her lonesome, having laid no eggs. Assuming it is a male fig, the eggs that she lays hatch into larvae, burrow out and fly off as wasps, carrying fig pollen with them.

Apparently, the female fig produces an enzyme that digests the wasp completely, and in the male fig all of the baby wasps have flown away, but I have no information on what happens with the original mother wasp in the male fig. Hmm. But fear not, apparently we don’t eat those figs.

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Mike the headless chicken

Mike the Headless Chicken

Posted on: June 12, 2017

September 10, 1945, a day that shall live in infamy. Mike the headless chicken (still headed at this time) was pottering around in Fruita Colorado. Lloyd Olson was asked by his wife to go outside and kill a chicken for dinner. Lloyd grabbed Mike and swung his axe, chopping his head off. Mike did not die. Lloyd decided to keep Mike and look after him. He started feeding a mixture of milk and water from an eye dropper straight down Mike’s neck. He would also feed single grains of corn down his neck. He took Mike to the University of Utah, where they inspected Mike and it transpired the jugular vein was missed and a clot had prevented him from bleeding out. He had most of his brain stem and one ear remaining. So Mike was relatively healthy! Lloyd then got Mike into the sideshow circuit, and at the height of his fame he was earning the equivalent of $48,000 a month. Sadly, a grain of corn got stuck in his throat and he choked to death.

Mike the headless chicken

Mike the headless chicken…and his head

References:
Mike the Headless Chicken


Euthanasia Rollercoaster

Posted on: June 5, 2017

The Euthanasia Rollercoaster is a roller coaster designed in 2010 by a Royal College of Art student, Julijonas Urbonas. It is designed to kill its passengers. The concept is the riders will be killed in a state of prolonged elegance and euphoria associated with cerebral hypoxia. It starts off at a height of 500m and descends rapidly going through smaller and smaller loops, where you ultimately are killed by cerebral hypoxia where you are not able to get enough oxygen to your brain. This is essentially death by ‘G’ force, with a constant 10 g maintained on the passengers.

Euthanasia roller coaster

Photo source: Julijonas Urbonas


Boston harbour after molasses flood

The Great Molasses Flood of January 15, 1919

Posted on: June 5, 2017

In Boston in 1919, on that fateful day in the middle of Winter, a large molasses tank burst spurting 2 million gallons forth onto the streets of Boston in the North End. The molasses traveled at speeds of up to 35mph in a 15-foot high wave, 160 feet wide, destroying all in its path. In total, 21 people were killed, and a further 150 were injured. Buildings were knocked off their foundations, electrical poles swept aside and even steel girders of the elevated Boston Elevated Railway were broken. Equated to today’s terms, the cost of the damage reached $100m.

The tank that exploded had been troubled since its construction, a mere three years earlier. It was never properly tested (by filling with water) as there was not time, with an impending shipment of molasses. Over the years it was in service, it sprung many leaks, with molasses taking the slow crawl down the side of the tank, only to be collected by locals for home use.

With Prohibition on the horizon, there was plenty of cash to be made from people stocking up on alcohol. As such, on the day of the flood the tank was holding an approximate 2.3m gallons of molasses, weighing 26 million pounds. It was reported that for years after the accident the whole city smelled of molasses.

Broken train rail after molasses flood

References:
History Today, Vol 59, Issue 1


Bat bomb canister

Bat Bombs

Posted on: June 5, 2017

This was an experimental weapon developed by the United States to use against Japan in World War II. The idea was hundreds of bats would be put inside a bomb-shaped case and dropped from a bomber at dawn. The case would deploy a parachute mid-flight and release the bats, each of which would have a small, timed incendiary bomb attached. The bats would then fly into houses, and their bombs would explode which would then start fires. They invested $2m in this before plans were shelved in 1944.

The reasons for using bats were that they occur in large numbers, fly in the dark, can carry more than their own weight, and find secluded places (like in buildings).