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Sunday, 31 May 2015

10 BIZARRE CALENDARS FROM HISTORY



10 Bizarre Calendars From History
By Elizabeth S. Anderson,
Listverse, 30 May 2015.

The Gregorian, Islamic, Chinese, and maybe Julian calendars are the most popular calendar systems in use today. However, other, sometimes rather odd and unique, calendars have been used throughout history. Here are 10 such examples.

10. The International Fixed Calendar


The International Fixed Calendar has 13 months; each of which has 28 days. The months are named with the regular January–December, with a new month called “Sol” added between June and July. There would be a single, month-less day at the end of every year called “year day.” Independence Day would no longer be July 4, but Sol 16. Easter would always be on April 15, and every Christmas would be a Wednesday. Every year would start on a Sunday, and for the superstitious, every Friday would always be a 13th.

The calendar was made by Moses Cotsworth, a railway adviser who didn’t like how the Gregorian calendar was “scattered.” The calendar was popular among businessmen, particularly those into haulage and transportation. While it was never officially adopted by any country, it was used by George Eastman, who used it in his photography company - Kodak, from 1928–89. George Eastman popularized the calendar, hoping other businesses would also adopt it. He even opened an office inside his headquarters for the International Fixed Calendar League, an organization which wanted their calendar to replace the Gregorian calendar.

9. The Egyptian Calendars


The first calendar used by early Egyptians was a lunar calendar based on the rising and falling of the River Nile. This calendar ended up inaccurate because it provided an error of up to 80 days, prompting the Egyptians to introduce a solar calendar based on the star Sirius. The two calendars were used simultaneously, but they soon drifted apart, forcing the Egyptians to add an extra month to the lunar calendar once every three years.

Even with the extra month, the calendars were still out of sync, so the Egyptians introduced a new calendar called the “civil” or “civic” calendar, which was loosely based on the lunar calendar but was neither a lunar nor solar calendar. It had 365 days divided into 12 months. Each month had 30 days and an extra five days were added at the end of the year. Just like its predecessors, the civil calendar was also inaccurate. While the specific months of the lunar calendar fell in the same season every year, months in the civil calendar fell on any season. The Egyptians then introduced a new lunar calendar based on the civil calendar. The new lunar calendar was used to determine the day of religious celebrations, while the older lunar calendar was used for agricultural purposes.

8. The Mayan Calendars


The Mayan calendar was actually made up of three different calendars: the Long Count (astronomical calendar), the Tzolkin (divine calendar), and the Haab (civil calendar). The Haab calendar had 365 days, divided into 19 months - 18 20-day months and a five-day month. The Tzolkin, on the other hand, had 20 “periods,” with 13 days each. The Tzolkin was used in determining the days of Mayan ceremonies and religious activities. The Long Count was used to determine longer time frequencies known as the “Universal Cycle.” A universal cycle has 2.88 million days (about 7,885 years). Ancient Maya believed that the universe is destroyed and then rebuilt every 2.88 million days.

Dates in the Mayan calendar were calculated with the Tzolkin and Haab calendars. Both calendars were used to create a new calendar called “calendar round.” Interestingly, it was the Long Count calendar that led to the rumour that the Maya had predicted that the world would end on December 21, 2012, the day the last Great Cycle ended. The Maya never said that Earth would cease to exist on that date. Instead, a Great Cycle would end, and another would begin.

7. The Positivist Calendar

Photo via Wikipedia

The Positivist calendar was intended to replace the Catholic calendar. It was invented in 1849, by August Comte. All its months had exactly 28 days, divided into four seven-day weeks. It had a standalone month-less day dedicated to all dead people at the end of every year. Every leap year would have an extra month-less day dedicated to women. Each day was named after an historic person or organization, and all months and years begin on Monday.

The first month of the year was named after Moses, the third was named after Aristotle, the fourth after Archimedes, the fifth after Caesar, the sixth after St. Paul, and the 10th after Shakespeare. The 14th day of Moses was named after Buddha, the 21st day of Aristotle after Socrates, and the seventh day of Gutenburg after Columbus. If the calendar had been adopted, the Gregorian calendar’s 1789 would be year 1, and 2000 would have been 212.

6. The Soviet Revolutionary Calendar

Photo via Wikipedia

The Soviet “Revolutionary” calendar was introduced in the Soviet Union in 1929. The calendar did not change the year like several other calendars. Instead, it manipulated the weeks of the year, reducing the number of days in a week from seven to five. The number of weeks in a month was also increased from the usual four to six. At the end of every year were five or six days that did not have a month. While the calendar lasted, the Soviet Union experienced February 30. Each day on the calendar was represented with either a colour or Roman numeral. Workers, both government and non-government, were issued a number or colour. They were to observe a day off on the day that fell on their number or colour.

The results of the new calendar were disastrous. While it did increase productivity as intended (80 percent of the country was working at any given time), it segregated families and friends. A wife could have her off on a blue day, while the husband had his on a red and the children on a green. Workers were generally demoralized, and machines could not be routinely maintained since they were used almost daily. To counter this new problem, the Soviets introduced a new calendar with six-day weeks. Everyone worked for five days every week, and there was a general day off for everyone. The calendar was intended to increase workers’ productivity, although it also had some roots in exterminating religion. The calendar was finally abolished on June 26, 1940.

5. The Chinese Calendar

Photo credit: _sarchi

The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar, meaning that it is calculated based on the position of the Sun and the Moon. A regular year has 12 months and 353–355 days, while a leap year has a whole extra month, which brings the year to 383–385 days. The leap month is added once roughly every three years, and it shares the same name as the previous month. Although the calendar is still in use in China, it is mostly used to calculate the days of Chinese ceremonies and weddings, while the Gregorian calendar is used for almost everything else.

Years are not counted in numbers like in other calendars. Instead, they are named after one celestial term and one terrestrial body over a 60-year cycle. The celestial terms, 10 in number, have no equivalent word in English. The terrestrial bodies are the 12 animals that comprise the Chinese zodiac signs. And just like almost every other calendar out there, the Chinese calendar has its own errors. In the year 2033 (Gregorian calendar), the leap month will be added after the seventh month instead of the 11th, which is very unusual.

4. The Ethiopian Orthodox Calendar


Ethiopia celebrated the new millennium on September 12, 2007, seven and a half years behind the West. This is because they use the Coptic Orthodox calendar, which is used by the Coptic Orthodox Church and is similar to the Jewish calendar. The calendar has 13 months of 30 days each, and leap years have an extra month of five or six days. The calendar was used by the West prior to 1582, when they changed to the Gregorian calendar.

Ethiopia did not switch to the Gregorian calendar because it was conservative and overprotective of its religion. Besides, they were located far from other major countries of the world and might have not been informed when the change of calendar took place. To prevent confusion between the Orthodox and Gregorian calendars, all calendars in Ethiopia list the date based on both the Orthodox and Gregorian calendars. The major challenge Ethiopians face with using two calendars is that a leap year for one calendar is not necessarily a leap year in the other.

3. The French Revolutionary Calendar

Photo via Wikipedia

The French Revolutionary calendar was also called the French republican calendar. It was used in France from October 24, 1793, until January 1, 1806, when it was abolished. It was readopted around 1871, before being abolished yet again. The calendar was a failed attempt to “de-Christianize” France. It was first introduced on October 24, 1793, a little over a year after the French revolution. Because of this, there was no year 1. Instead, the calendar began from year 2.

It had 12 months, each of which had three decades (rather than weeks) of 10 days each. Five month-less days (or six in the case of leap years) were added at the end of the year. Each day of the year was named after seeds, trees, flowers, fruits, tools, and animals. Of all the 10 days in the decade, only the last day was regarded as the day for rest. The remaining nine days were strictly for work.

Leap years were often added to make the New Year begin on the autumnal equinox, but this simply complicated issues, as the autumnal equinox was difficult to predict. The calendar soon got out of sync with other calendars, and several adjustments were planned by year 20 to correct the calendar. These adjustments never came, as the calendar was abolished in year 14.

2. The Roman Calendar

Photo credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen

The Roman calendar is a perfect example of what a calendar shouldn’t look like. Also called the “pre-Julian” calendar, it was created by King Romulus when Rome was founded. It had 10 months, totalling 304 days, and an additional 61 days that were not assigned to months or weeks. Because the months were not in sync with the seasons, King Numa added two extra months, Ianuarius (January) and Februarius (February) to bring the months to 12. An extra month could also be added at the behest of the pontifex maximus, a Roman high priest.

Most pontifex maximi added the extra month for their own political gains. Some were even bribed to add or reduce the length of the year. Leap years were also deliberately avoided because they were believed to bring bad luck. Julius Caesar later introduced the Julian calendar after he became the pontifex maximus. However, the new calendar could not be immediately adopted because of the inaccuracies in the Roman calendar. So, 46 BC ended up with 15 months, totalling 445 days. That year was named “the last year of confusion,” and the Julian calendar finally started in 45 BC.

1. The Aztec Calendar


The Aztec calendar was made up of two different calendars - the Xiuhpohualli and the Tonalpohualli. The Xiuhpohualli had 365 days divided into 18 months of 20 days each. Five extra days, which were considered unlucky, were added at the end of the year, and 12 days were added once every 52 years. The Tonalpohualli, on the other hand, had 20 months divided into 13 days, bringing its days to 260. Each of the 260 days was associated with a number or sign and dedicated to a god.

The two calendars became equal once every 52 years, during which the Aztecs believed the world would be destroyed. To prevent the impending destruction, they performed a 12-day ritual called the new fire festival to “bind up” the years. All fires burning in the city would be extinguished on the first day of the festival, and they would remain like that till the 12th day, when a human sacrifice would be offered and a new fire lit. This sacrifice was to ensure that the Sun would keep rising for the next 52 years.

Top image: The Aztec calendar stone. Credit: Nyttend/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Listverse. Edited. Top image added.]

10 INSECTS YOU’LL NEVER SEE COMING (UNTIL ITS TOO LATE)



10 Insects You’ll Never See Coming (Until Its Too Late)
By Christopher Stephens,
Toptenz, 30 May 2015.

Venomous insects have been copied by a range of “imposters,” which may be other insects, non-insect species or even plants. Motives include avoidance of predators, a bizarre pollination scam or an attempt to infiltrate gatherings of a prey species. Whatever the logic, “be yourself” is the antithesis of survival for these life forms.

10. The Bird that Looks like a Caterpillar


For a venomous insect to be effectively mimicked by another insect is plausible. But in the case of the creatively named orange caterpillar, the imposter is a bird. Native to Peruvian rainforests, the cinereous mourner is a tropical songbird which raises its chicks in open nests and frequently leaves them alone in a warm, food rich but otherwise hostile environment filled with experienced nest predators.

The grey birds begin their life as bizarre nestlings covered in bright, obvious orange feathers with special quill-like protrusions. These protrusions are effective in helping match the appearance of a toxic caterpillar which happens to be almost identical in size to a cinereous mourner chick. And if that weren’t enough, the young birds have an elongated body shape and creep around the nest in an exaggerated caterpillar like motion. Any predator looking at the nest sees a writhing, toxin laden bug that could be their last meal, rather than a vulnerable and tasty young bird.

9. Insect Mimicking Orchids


The ability of a plant to take on the appearance of an animal is a rare switch in a world where animals tend to mimic plants to blend in. In order to pass on their pollen, one flower mimic the females of certain wasp and bee species, which draw males looking to mate. These careless suitors mount the flowers, but instead get a load of pollen with which they will struggle before being scammed again and depositing the pollen on another flower. The flower is then pollinated, but there’s no contribution to the male’s reproductive success in the process.

8. Robber Fly


Insects and animals mimic venomous insects in order to look more intimidating, but in a more ingenious and aggressive twist, this mainstay of defensive mimicry has been turned around as a form of aggressive mimicry by the Florida Bee Killer Mallophora bomboide. Coloured to match their specific prey species rather than to appear venomous, these robber flies infiltrate areas where bees gather and seize single, unsuspecting bees in lightning fast surprise attacks.

Their black and yellow hairs, together with the beelike hum produced in flight, allow them to get close enough to strike without being recognized. Among the largest and strongest flies, Mallophora kill with powerful legs that simply crush the bee against the enormous fly’s body. Discarded exoskeletons of the bees may be found near a robber fly’s hunting grounds. Beekeepers have reported losses to their activity, but normally no serious problems result from the fly’s presence.

7. Wasp Mimicking Longhorn Beetle


Wasps are the more formidable counterpart to bees, thanks to their ability to sting enemies repeatedly in defense. Wasps also capture live prey, in some cases using their stinger to assist in subduing the victim. It makes sense that wasps might become the subject of mimicry, including by a beetle. Native to England, Wales and parts of Scotland, the wasp beetle is a longhorn beetle that has developed both the colouring and the shape of a typical wasp. This animal is a completely harmless insect that makes its home in decaying woody material and bark.

Slow moving and likely quite palatable, the beetle would be a prime target for birds were it not for the misdirecting wasp markings that discourage attacks. Not only marked like a wasp, the wasp beetle has also taken on the specific movements of a wasp to complete the full mimicry of its venomous model species. The long horns and hard carapace distinguish the animal, but even humans could be fooled at first glance.

6. Aggressive Ant Mimicry


Imitating a formic acid bearing ant is a good strategy to encourage predators to leave an animal alone, but certain spiders from North America have more sinister intentions. In contrast to defensive mimics, aggressive ant mimicking spiders resemble ants and infiltrate groups of these dangerous prey animals before seizing one and injecting it with venom.

Being seen with a dead body of an ant might be a giveaway that the vulnerable spider is an ant killer, but a creepy trick allows the spider a chance to avoid attacks. Holding up the body of the prey, an ant mimicking spider uses the body as a shield against defending ants. Stranger yet, the spider may actually convince the other ants that it’s a member of the group carrying a dead nest mate away, as ants sometimes do. The lines between aggressive mimicry and defensive mimicry may sometimes be blurred, according to leading research into the behaviour of these rather aberrant but marvellously adapted spiders.

5. The Marvellous Mimicry of Moths


Moths are the first to come to mind when truly defenseless insects are mentioned. Select moths have therefore come to mimic bees and wasps, among the most dangerous of insects, in order to gain protection under false pretenses. Except for their bright blue antenna, clearwing moths of North America appear to be extra-large and intimidating wasps. The slender appearance of these insects, combined with black and yellow body patterns and clear wings, bring the entire effect together to confuse even humans.

In contrast, the Orange Wasp Moth of open Australian habitats is large, with a broad wingspan and hefty body. The colours on this creature are even more vibrant, giving enough of an impression of risk to avert the attentions of even the most persistent predator. These moths are less likely to fool humans due to their distinctive moth shape, but predators are likely to fail to recognize the defensive mimicry.

4. Wasp Mantidfly


Few insects seem as far apart as a wasp, a lacewing and a praying mantis. However, the potential of convergent evolution to produce astounding examples of mimicry is strong. Found in certain North American habitats, the wasp mantid Climaciella brunnea is a lacewing with base brown colours but accented by bright yellow bands that make it look like a lanky wasp with praying mantis-like forearms.

In a bizarre parasitic relationship, the adult animal approaches wasp colonies and lays eggs that soon hatch into larvae that grab onto adult wasps in order to be distributed. This parasitic behaviour isn’t particularly harmful, but it does add a weight burden to the flying wasps. This strange lacewing also has exceptional adaptations to aid it in hunting. With hooked front arms, the wasp mantid can capture other insects praying mantis fashion and make short work of such victims.

3. The Australian Spider that Mimics Golden Ants


Spiders may seem intimidating, but ants may be seen to pose a greater threat. This is evidenced by a small yellow spider from the Eucalyptus forests of Australia that exhibits subtle but distinctive evolutionary changes that transform it into what any reasonable person would recognize as an ant. The Myrmarachne jumping spiders engage in defensive mimicry, but come equipped with acidic venom that may be used on potential predators as well.

The spider not only resembles an ant, but walks in an antlike fashion and takes the mimicry one step further by waving its antenna. The creatures often associate loosely with real ants to add to the effectiveness of their disguise. While ants are unpalatable enough to warrant mimicry, a strange additional fact to consider is that certain predators can handle ants and may deliberately target them. Ant mimicking spider species have been known to “turn off” their mimicking behaviours and reveal themselves to be a spider in order to avert an attack by predators that would certainly prefer to tackle an ant rather than a spider.

2. Hoverfly Mimicry of Vespids and Bees


With a nearly worldwide distribution, hoverflies of many species take on the appearance of both wasps or bees to ward off the attention of predators. Adult hoverflies feed on nectar and pollen, while the young of certain species may add insect prey to their already mixed diet.

The hummingbirds of the bird world, hoverflies are already well defended against many predators thanks to their exceptional aerial agility and wing blurring flight. But that’s apparently not enough, and the hoverflies have adapted to look completely unpalatable and toxic to prevent an attack by a predator. There are downsides - some scientists have suggested that looking like a wasp may make a hoverfly more subject to persecution by humans.

1. The Scarab Beetle that Passes for a Bee


While beetles seemingly couldn’t be more different from bees, a fascinating scarab beetle native to North America matches the colours and even the shape of a bee. Right down to the position of the wings, this incredible arthropod has yellow fuzz on its abdomen that completes the perfect impression made by this highly evolved, defensive imposter.

The brightly coloured flower scarab beetle Trichiotinus affinis appears as if it were a resident of dry land. Closely related to June bugs and other familiar beetles, this species is in fact found on purple iris stalks in wetlands. The harmless insect could be swiftly captured by blackbirds, predatory insects and other hunters, but the appearance of the insect is such a dead ringer for a bee that no predator is likely to tangle with it.

Top image: The baby bird (cinereous mourner) that looks and behaves like a caterpillar. Credit: Slate Video via YouTube.

[Source: Toptenz. Edited. Top image added.]

Saturday, 30 May 2015

10 ARCHITECTURAL WONDERS TOO IMPRACTICAL TO EVER BUILD



10 Architectural Wonders Too Impractical To Ever Build
By Morris M.,
Listverse, 30 May 2015.

Human history is littered with incredible monuments we stupidly tore down. But plenty didn’t even make it that far. Go digging through dusty old ledgers and architects’ scrapbooks, and you’ll uncover a wealth of awe-inspiring structures ripped straight out a retro sci-fi film - structures that really never could have worked.

10. The Tokyo Tower Of Babel


Imagine the entire height of Mount Everest, all 8,848 meters (29,029 ft). Now imagine some lunatic had built Dubai’s record-breaking Burj Khalifa on top of it. Congratulations: That tower plus the mountain (10 times taller) below it combined still fall a couple of hundred meters short of the Tokyo Tower of Babel.

The craziest building Japan never built was dreamed up in the dying days of the bubble economy in 1991. Clocking in at a cool 10,000 meters (around 6.2 miles), it would have taken up to 150 years to build, cost US$306 trillion and housed 30 million people. It would also been bigger than many countries. When a comparatively tiny 4,000-meter (13,000 ft) tower was proposed around the same time, somebody crunched the numbers for one the same size as Everest. They concluded that a tower that large would need a base of 4,100 square kilometres (1,500 mi2) - an area of ground nearly twice the size of Luxembourg. The base for Tokyo’s Babel would have been even larger.

Although it was proposed during a Japanese craze for structures bigger than mountains, it’s not clear Babel was ever intended to be built. And by the time the architects made the proposal, the economy was well and truly crashed.

9. The Fun Palace


By the late 1950s, Joan Littlewood had already ensured her place in the history books. A British theatre director, she was known for smashing down boundaries to make plays more accessible. But rewriting the theatre rulebook wasn’t enough. Littlewood wanted to change the way we saw theatres themselves.

In 1960, Littlewood hired architect Cedric Price to design the most radical theatre in history. His Fun Palace, as it became known, redefined what architecture could do. Taking inspiration from cybernetics theories, avant garde playwrights, and Monty Python, he drew up plans for a building where nothing stayed in one place. Everything from the seats inside, to the stages, to the lobby, to the cafe and cinema screens could be shunted around and reconfigured at will. Where the stage was one day, you might have the box office the next. Where the changing rooms had been on Monday, you could have the auditorium by Tuesday. No two visits would ever be the same.

If that sounds potentially confusing, you’re not alone. People hated it. Church groups, local citizens, and London’s councils all conspired to stop the Fun Palace going ahead. When permission finally came through in the 1970s, funding mysteriously dried up. Work never even started.

8. The Cenotaph For Newton



Etienne-Louis Boullee was fascinated with Isaac Newton. A neo-classical architect working in 18th-century France, he thought the ground-breaking mathematician deserved an equally ground-breaking monument. So he sat down and drew up designs for the biggest, craziest sphere on Earth.

A 1,500-meter (500 ft) orb encased in a sheer cylindrical base, the cenotaph would have dwarfed the Great Pyramid at Giza. It would also have invoked a sensation of vertigo in anyone foolish enough to visit. After climbing up a gigantic staircase, visitors would crawl through a tiny tunnel into the inside of the orb. There, they would encounter a vast, sightless void stretching on seemingly forever. At the very centre of this disconcerting blank would sit a single sarcophagus containing the body of Newton, a speck against the emptiness of the universe.

Tiny holes in the skin of the sphere would have let pinpricks of light through in the shape of the constellations. There were even plans to somehow create a fog effect inside the sphere, giving everything a weird, haunted air. For reasons of practicality, the thing sadly never got built.

7. Ivan Leonidov’s Lenin Institute



In 1927, Ivan Leonidov was an architecture student with everything to prove. A radical Russian of the constructivist school, Leonidov wanted to make the biggest splash possible with his graduate designs. He wound up aiming far too high. His proposal for the Lenin Institute in Moscow was both breathtakingly ornate and completely unbuildable.

Designed to function as a combined library and lecture hall, everything about Leonidov’s plans screamed “big.” The library alone would have held 15 million books, along with five reading rooms each capable of housing 500-1,000 visitors. Such a huge library needed a similarly huge delivery system, so Leonidov stuffed it full of clanking conveyor belts that whisked books skyward dozens of stories at a time. He also included a gigantic sphere for lectures. Capable of seating 4,000, the enormous glass orb could fold open in half and housed its own private tram system running direct to Moscow. To top it all off, Leonidov then included a radio station.

Although the design won Leonidov plenty of admirers, architect Moisei Ginzburg perhaps summed it up best when he remarked Leonidov “was not really able to prove that his constructive conundrum was actually necessary” and called it “impossible.”

6. London’s Safety-Defying Airports


If you’ve ever been to London, you’ll know inserting an airport into the city centre is a madman’s dream. Meet that madman: Charles W. Glover. In 1931, Glover produced designs for bringing air travel to central London. He did it by throwing every safety regulation out the nearest window.

Glover proposed a £5 million wheel-shaped runway that would sit on top of thousands of homes. Stretching from Kings Cross to Trafalgar Square, it had private garages for personal airplanes, lifts to bring people up from ground level, and absolutely nothing to stop an incompetent pilot from careening off the end and right into the heart of London’s shopping districts. Although the potential for catastrophe was clearly enormous, people still took Glover seriously. A watered-down version of the project was still being considered as late as the 1960s.

Glover wasn’t the only one to take a cavalier approach to Londoners’ safety. A 1930s proposal suggested placing an airport next to Westminster, where a bad crash could easily wipe out the government. Another from the 1950s aimed to place a landing platform for personal helicopters directly above Charing Cross Station. As Popular Science blithely noted, this new landing pad would helpfully include “radar aids for landings in London’s pea-soup fogs.”

5. The Dynamic Tower



In 2008, Italian architect David Fisher unveiled plans for the most ambitious construction project on Earth. Known as the Dynamic Tower, this 80-story behemoth would cost US$700 million and generate its own power using 79 wind turbines. Every single floor would rotate independently of the others, so the tower never stayed in a single shape.

The idea was to use prefab constructions hugging tight to a central concrete core, sort of like having 80 separate bungalows stacked on top of one another. The 79 turbines would then send juice flowing through each floor, allowing them to rotate slowly at slightly different speeds. To someone who had never heard of the concept before, it would seem like the Dynamic Tower was constantly shape-shifting.

With such an inspired design, you might be wondering what happened. Officially, nothing. Fisher insists his tower is still going ahead. However, it was originally meant to be finished in 2010, and so far - in mid-2015 - not a single brick has been laid or a meter of land purchased. Perhaps it doesn’t help that Fisher’s proposed site was Dubai: a city whose construction industry hasn’t fully recovered from the 2008 banking crash.

4. Konstantin Melnikov’s Monument To Columbus



Eight decades before David Fisher came up with his rotating tower, Konstantin Melnikov was working on a dynamic, moving monument. Unlike Fisher, Melnikov wasn’t content with simply creating some building that shifted meaninglessly. He wanted to create one capable of playing its own musical compositions.

One of the Soviet Union’s 23 official entries to the Pan-American competition to design a monument to Christopher Columbus, Melnikov’s lighthouse was the definition of ambitious. Its gigantic upper cone was hollowed out to collect rainwater that would power a small turbine, generating electricity. More impressively, the huge wings on the side of the building were designed to sway in the wind. As they swung back and forth, they would strike one of seven rings, producing a distinct musical note that could be heard for miles. On blustery days, the lighthouse would be capable of playing intricate musical scores.

The Columbus statue itself was equally impressive. As the lighthouse’s two cones turned, they would briefly intersect, causing the statue to temporarily rise up into view. Too bad the committee ultimately ditched Melnikov’s vision in favour of a big, boring block.

3. Gerard K. O’Neill’s Space Cylinders

Photo credit: NASA

In 1974, Princeton physicist Gerard K. O’Neill wrote a paper that would inspire plans for years to come. Interested in bringing humanity off Earth to inhabit the universe, O’Neill set out his designs for a vast outer space colony living in gigantic cylinders. Known as O’Neill Cylinders, his designs were the pinnacle of futuristic thinking.

Giant glass tubes 30 kilometres (20 mi) long, each O’Neill Cylinder would hang at the L5 point in the Moon’s orbit - a place the Guardian described as “like a gravitational eddy where things stay put by themselves.” Each would provide gravity by rotating, and strips of land would alternate with long sheets of glass to let sunlight in. In effect, this meant that people on one strip of land would always have another directly above their heads. It would be possible to look up in the mornings and see the roof of your neighbour's house, many thousands of feet above.

Even more impressively, each Cylinder would come complete with its own weather system that could be manipulated to create the sensation of passing seasons. O’Neill’s ultimate plan was to have hundreds of these cylinders connected by a web of cables, connecting four billion human colonists in the empty wastes of space.

Sadly for sci-fi lovers, his plans were hundreds of years ahead of their time. Even now, 40 years later, building an O’Neill cylinder would require technology we simply don’t have. Once again, you failed us, future.

2. Giovanni Battista’s Imaginary Prisons

Photo credit: Giovanni Battista

Unlike most of the people on our list, Giovanni Battista Piranesi never intended for his designs to be built. And that’s a good thing because living in Piranesi’s drawings would’ve been hell on Earth. An Italian etcher and architect (among other things) from the 18th century, Piranesi spent his time drawing impossible prisons so horrifying that they seem ripped straight from H.P. Lovecraft’s nightmares.

Featuring bizarre angles, staircases that lead nowhere, and rumbling machines that resemble torture devices, Piranesi’s etchings come from the Venetian tradition of imaginary subjects. In this case, there’s a good argument to be made that his subject was hell. The endless corridors, slumped figures, and chains all seem to point toward people trapped in eternal torment. That didn’t stop his admirers from seeing more earthly possibilities in them. According to art critic Jonathan Jones, Piranesi’s prisons directly inspired the movie architecture for Metropolis and Blade Runner and even influenced London’s real-life Tate Modern and Jubilee Line.

1. The Utter Insanity Of Hermann Finsterlin

Photo credit: Herman Finsterlin

Hermann Finsterlin has an unusual claim to fame. Despite being a visionary architect whose work inspired many, he never saw a single building he designed actually built. There’s a good reason for this. Finsterlin’s designs were bonkers.

We don’t mean they were unusual or overambitious or simply too expensive to make. We mean they were the work of a man who’d clearly parted company with rationality many moons ago. Finsterlin’s whole approach was to make inhabitants of his buildings feel like they were inside a living creature. He took inspiration from mammals’ limbs, the human thorax, the alimentary canal, and dinosaurs. In one book, he claimed he wanted his rooms to feel like separate organs, with inhabitants enjoying “the giving and receiving symbiosis of a giant fossil womb.” At least one of his designs featured what looks uncannily like a gigantic, erect penis.

His 3-D models were no less absurd. One currently housed in New York’s MOMA collection resembles nothing so much as a five-year-old’s overexcited experiments with modelling clay. The more abstract ones don’t even seem to fit together. Yet had Finsterlin been allowed to build his designs, there’s no doubt our world would be a much more interesting place to live in - and one a good deal more nightmarish, too.

Top image: The Tokyo Tower Of Babel. Credit: Tower Ten.

[Source: Listverse. Edited. Top image added.]

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC'S BEST SPACE PICTURES THIS WEEK LXII



Week's Best Space Pictures: Champagne Flows, Pockmarked Moon
By Jane J. Lee,
National Geographic News, 29 May 2015.

Bubbles of hot gas burst and Saturn's moon Rhea displays its cracks and crags in this week's most amazing views from space.

1. A Massive Nasty


A Wolf-Rayet star evolves quickly and is much more massive than our sun. This particular one, named Nasty 1, swirls in the middle of a two-trillion-mile-wide nebula in this illustration released by NASA.

2. A Bit of Bubbly


Young stars in nebula RCW 34 inject massive amounts of heat into pockets of gas, which start to expand. The enormous bubbles travel to the nebula's edge, where they burst into the vacuum of space. This movement is called champagne flow.

3. Mountain High


Astronauts on the International Space Station captured this image of Central Asia's Tien Shan mountain range as they flew over it. Deep blue Lake Issyk Kul (left) is the second largest mountain lake in the world after South America's Lake Titicaca.

4. Surprise Flare


Astronomers at the Alma Observatory in Chile spied an enormous flare (illustrated here) emanating from the surface of one of a pair of red giant stars named Mira. The star is near the end of its life, and activity like this flare came as a surprise.

5. Mars Probe


Engineers put a solar array through its paces in preparation for a March 2016 launch. The array is part of NASA's InSight lander, which will study Mars's deep interior in an effort to understand the early history of rocky planets.

6. Technicolor Crater


An impact crater on Mars sparkles in this enhanced colour image of sedimentary rock layers. Researchers think the site might once have hosted a lake billions of years ago, and the area was considered as a landing spot for the Curiosity rover.

7. Pockmarks


Impact craters on Saturn's moon Rhea stand out in stark relief in this image captured by the Cassini spacecraft. Rhea is the ringed planet's second largest moon after Titan.

8. A Crowd


This Hubble Space Telescope image shows the Arches Cluster, the most crowded part of the Milky Way. Located 25,000 light-years away from Earth, Arches is our galaxy’s densest known star cluster and hosts 150 of the brightest stars in the Milky Way.

Photo gallery by Emily Jan.

[Source: National Geographic News. Edited. Some links added.]

Friday, 29 May 2015

INFOGRAPHIC: 7 WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY JOBS THAT WILL CHANGE THE WORLD



7 wearable technology jobs changing the world
By
Adecco, 20 May 2015.

At best, wearable technology is currently viewed as something strictly for techies, trendsetters and “early-adopters.” At worst, it is seen as a fad and a gimmick. Either way, wearable technology has been underestimated.

Thanks to the Internet of Things, leading companies and innovators are improving the perception and expanding the potential of wearable technology. As the IoT expands the utility of wearable tech across multiple disciplines and industries, it is already beginning to have a quantifiable and significant impact on the economy and the world.

Infographic: 7 Wearable Technology Jobs Changing the World

Infographic Sources:
1. Bureau of Labour Statistics (2015). Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2014.

2. The Economist (2015). The wear, why and how.
3. Edwards, R. (2014). BMW has a self-parking car you can summon with your smartwatch. Techradar.
4. Fiorletta, A. (2014). Will Wearable Technology Shake Up The Retail Landscape? Retail TouchPoints.
5. Higginbotham, S. (2015). IBM's block chain booster for the Internet of things surfaces at EY. Fortune.
6. Motorola (2015). Public safety is transforming. Motorola Solutions.
7. Nightingale, R. (2015). 5 Ways That High Tech Personal Wearables Will Change Your Life. Make Use Of.
8. Pickett, D.T. (2015). The Internet of Everything Will Impact Everything, Including Your Next Tech Job. Wired.
9. Project ProFiTex (2015). ProFiTex Advanced Protective Firefighter Equipment.
10. Rackspace (2014). The Human Cloud At Work: A Study Into The Impact of Wearable Technologies in the Workplace.
11. Silent Herdsman (2015). Healthier Cows, Better Performing Cows.
12. The Verge (2013). Understanding Calico: Larry Page, Google Ventures, and the quest for immortality.

Top image: BMW Remote Valet Parking Assistant. Credit: BMW.

[Post Source: Adecco. Top image added.]