Wikipedia: Raising of Chicago

During the 19th century, the elevation of the area was not much higher than the shorelines of Lake Michigan. The lack of drainage caused unpleasant living conditions, and standing water harbored pathogens that caused numerous epidemics. In 1856, engineer Ellis S. Chesbrough drafted a plan for the installation of a city-wide sewerage system. Workers then laid drains, covered and refinished roads and sidewalks with several feet of soil, and raised most buildings to the new grade with hydraulic jacks.

In January 1858, the first masonry building in Chicago to be thus raised—a four story, 21 m long, 750-ton brick structure situated at the north-east corner of Randolph Street and Dearborn Street—was lifted on two hundred jackscrews to its new grade, which was 1.88 m higher than the old one, “without the slightest injury to the building.”

Many of central Chicago’s hurriedly erected wooden frame buildings were now considered wholly inappropriate to the increasingly wealthy city. Rather than raise them several feet, proprietors often preferred to relocate these old frame buildings. Consequently, the practice of putting the old multi-story, intact and furnished wooden buildings on rollers and moving them to the outskirts of town or to the suburbs was so common as to be considered nothing more than routine traffic.

Traveller David Macrae wrote incredulously, “Never a day passed during my stay in the city that I did not meet one or more houses shifting their quarters. One day I met nine. Going out Great Madison Street in the horse cars we had to stop twice to let houses get across.

Wikipedia: Eskimo or Inuit?

The two main peoples known as “” are: the Inuit of Canada, Northern Alaska (sub-group “Inupiat”), and Greenland, and the Yupik of Alaska and eastern Siberia. A third group, the Aleut, is closely related to the Eskimo and shares a recent, common (“Paleo-Eskimo”) ancestor, and a language group (Eskimo-Aleut). The Aleut are also recognized as belonging to the greater Eskimo race.

While the term “Eskimo” is sometimes considered offensive, in its linguistic origins it is not a fundamentally offensive word. Alternative terms such as Inuit-Yupik have been proposed, but none have come into widespread acceptance.

Two principal competing etymologies have been proposed for the name “Eskimo”. The most commonly accepted today appears to be the proposal of Ives Goddard at the Smithsonian Institution, who derives it from the Montagnais word meaning “snowshoe-netter” or “to net snowshoes.” The primary reason some people consider Eskimo derogatory is the questionable but widespread perception that in Algonkian languages it means “eaters of raw meat.”

The Inuit Circumpolar Council, as it is known today, uses both “Inuit” and “Eskimo” in its official documents. Because of the linguistic, ethnic, and cultural differences between Yupik and Inuit peoples, it seems questionable that any umbrella term to encompass all Yupik and Inuit people will be acceptable.

Wikipedia: Strategic steam reserve

A (SSR) is a collection of withdrawn steam locomotives which is kept in working order for possible use in a national emergency. During the Cold War several countries, including Sweden and the Soviet Union, kept SSRs and the United Kingdom is reported to have done so, albeit without hard evidence.

Many European railways have a large mileage which is electrified. In the event of a war, or major natural disaster, electricity supplies could be disrupted and electric locomotives would be unworkable. Diesel locomotives could also be at risk for two reasons:

– supplies of imported oil might be cut off,
– solid state components in diesel locomotives might be destroyed by the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from a nuclear weapon.

The alleged British ‘Strategic Reserve’ is a potent and frequently recurring urban myth amongst railway enthusiasts. Following the complete withdrawal of mainline steam traction in 1968, the myth persisted for decades that a reserve of locomotives had been retained for such a strategic purpose. As no official reserve existed, nor was any reserve obviously visible, this encouraged many fanciful explanations for where the reserve might be hidden, usually in some tunnel or mine. One theory even claimed that the growing steam preservation movement was itself the Strategic Reserve.

Wikipedia: Lichen

A is a composite organism that emerges from algae or cyanobacteria (or both) living among filaments of a fungus in a symbiotic relationship. The whole combined life form has properties that are very different from properties of its component organisms.

Common names for lichens may contain the word “moss” and lichens may superficially look like and grow with mosses, but lichens are not related to mosses or any plant. They can survive in some of the most extreme environments on Earth: arctic tundra, hot dry deserts, rocky coasts, and toxic slag heaps. They can even live inside solid rock. Some lichens do not grow on anything, living out their lives blowing about the environment (see also: ).

Some lichens have lost the ability to reproduce sexually, yet continue to speciate. Lichens may be long-lived, with some considered to be among the oldest living things. Lichens can survive unprotected in space with no discernible damage.

Wikipedia: Weasel war dance

The is a colloquial term for a behavior of excited ferrets and weasels.

In wild animals, it is speculated that this dance is used to confuse or disorient prey. In domestic animals, the war dance usually follows play or the successful capture of a toy or a stolen object and is commonly held to mean that the ferret is thoroughly enjoying itself. It consists of a frenzied series of sideways and backwards hops, often accompanied by an arched back, and a frizzy tail.

Ferrets are notoriously clumsy in their surroundings during their dance and will often bump into or fall over objects and furniture. Most often, the act includes a clucking vocalization, commonly known as “dooking”. It normally indicates happiness.

Wikipedia: The Spanish Flu

The (January 1918 – December 1920) was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic, the first of the two pandemics involving H1N1 influenza virus.

It infected 500 million people across the world, including remote Pacific islands and the Arctic, and killed 50 to 100 million of them—three to five percent of the world’s population—making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history.

This has been attributed to the circumstances of the First World War. In civilian life, natural selection favours a mild strain. Those who get very ill stay home, and those mildly ill continue with their lives, preferentially spreading the mild strain. In the trenches, natural selection was reversed. Soldiers with a mild strain stayed where they were, while the severely ill were sent on crowded trains to crowded field hospitals, spreading the deadlier virus.

To maintain morale, wartime censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in Germany, Britain, France, and the United States; but papers were free to report the epidemic’s effects in neutral Spain, creating a false impression of Spain as especially hard hit – thus the pandemic’s nickname Spanish flu.

John B. Calhoun’s mouse experiments

In July 1968 . The universe was a 2.7 m square metal pen with 1.4 m high sides. There was no shortage of food or water or nesting material. The only adversity was the limit on space.

Initially the population grew rapidly and reached 620 by day 315, after which the population growth dropped markedly. The last surviving birth was on day 600. This period between day 315 and day 600 saw a breakdown in social structure and in normal social behavior. After day 600, the social breakdown continued and the population declined toward extinction.

During this period females ceased to reproduce. Their male counterparts withdrew completely, never engaging in courtship or fighting. They ate, drank, slept, and groomed themselves – all solitary pursuits. Sleek, healthy coats and an absence of scars characterized these males.

The conclusions drawn from this experiment were that when all available space is taken and all social roles filled, competition and the stresses experienced by the individuals will result in a total breakdown in complex social behaviors, ultimately resulting in the demise of the population.

Wikipedia: 2009 Norwegian spiral anomaly

The appeared in the night sky over Norway on 9 December 2009.

The light could be seen in all of Trøndelag to the south and all across the three northern counties which compose Northern Norway, as well as from Northern Sweden and it lasted for 2–3 minutes.

A similar, though less spectacular event had also occurred in Norway the month before. Both events had the expected visual features of failed flights of Russian SLBM RSM-56 Bulava missiles, and the Russian Defense Ministry acknowledged shortly after that such an event had taken place on 9 December.

Russian defence analyst Pavel Felgenhauer stated to AFP that “such lights and clouds appear from time to time when a missile fails in the upper layers of the atmosphere and have been reported before … At least this failed test made some nice fireworks for the Norwegians.”

Further reading: Universe Today – What was the Norway Spiral? (with videos)

Wikipedia: Fortress of Mimoyecques

The is the modern name for a Second World War underground military complex built by the forces of Nazi Germany between 1943 and 1944.

It was intended to house a battery of V-3 cannons aimed at London, 165 kilometres away. Originally codenamed Wiese (“Meadow”), it is located in the commune of Landrethun-le-Nord in the Pas-de-Calais region of northern France.

It was suggested that the gradual acceleration of the shell by a series of small charges spread over the length of the barrel might be the solution to the problem of designing very long-range guns. To reach England, the weapon needed barrels 127 metres long, so it could not be moved; it would have to be deployed from a fixed site.

Wikipedia: St Scholastica Day riot

The of 10 February 1355, is one of the more notorious events in the history of Oxford, England.

The seed of the riot was an altercation in the Swindlestock Tavern between two students, Walter Spryngeheuse and Roger de Chesterfield, and the taverner, John Croidon. They complained about the quality of drinks, which led to an exchange of rude words that ended with the students throwing their drinks in the taverner’s face and assaulting him.

Retaliation for this incident led to armed clashes between locals and students. 200 students supported Spryngeheuse and Chesterfield, allegedly assaulted the mayor and others. As the situation escalated, locals from the surrounding countryside poured in, crying: “Havac! Havoc! Smyt fast, give gode knocks!”

A riot broke out and lasted two days, which left 63 scholars and perhaps 30 locals dead.

Wikipedia: The Great Emu War

The Emu War, also known as , was a wildlife management operation undertaken in Australia in 1932 to address public concern over the number of emus said to be running amok in Western Australia.

The attempts to curb the population of emus, a large flightless bird indigenous to Australia, employed soldiers armed with machine guns.

The machine-gunners’ dreams of point blank fire into serried masses of Emus were soon dissipated. The Emu command had evidently ordered guerrilla tactics, and its unwieldy army soon split up into innumerable small units that made use of the military equipment uneconomic.

After their withdrawal, Major Meredith commented on the striking maneuverability of the emus, even while badly wounded. “If we had a military division with the bullet-carrying capacity of these birds it would face any army in the world…They can face machine guns with the invulnerability of tanks.”

Wikipedia: Project A119

, also known as “A Study of Lunar Research Flights”, was a top-secret plan developed in 1958 by the United States Air Force.

The aim of the project was to detonate a nuclear bomb on the Moon which would help in answering some of the mysteries in planetary astronomy and astrogeology.

The flash of explosive light would have been faintly visible to people on earth with their naked eye, a show of force resulting in a possible boosting of domestic morale in the capabilities of the United States, a boost that was needed after the Soviet Union took an early lead in the Space Race and who were also working on a similar project.

Neither the Soviet nor the US Project A119 were ever carried out, being cancelled primarily out of a fear of a negative public reaction, with the potential militarization of space that it would also have signified, and because a moon landing would undoubtedly be a more popular achievement in the eyes of the American and international public alike.

Wikipedia: Michael Fagan incident

is a Buckingham Palace intruder who broke into the palace and entered the Queen’s bedroom in 1982.

At around 7:00am on Friday morning, 9 July 1982, Michael Fagan scaled Buckingham Palace’s 14 ft perimeter wall – topped with revolving spikes and barbed wire – and shimmied up a drainpipe before wandering into the Queen’s bedroom at about 7:15am.

Fagan entered the palace through an unlocked window on the roof and spent the next half hour eating cheddar cheese and crackers and wandering around. He tripped several alarms, but they were faulty. He viewed the royal portraits and rested on the throne for a while. He then entered the postroom, where Diana, Princess of Wales had hidden presents for her first son, William. Fagan drank half a bottle of white wine before becoming tired and leaving.

On Fagan’s second attempt, an alarm sensor detected him. A member of the palace staff thought the alarm was faulty and silenced it. En route to see the Queen, Fagan broke a glass ashtray, cutting his hand. The Queen woke when he disturbed a curtain, and initial reports said Fagan sat on the edge of her bed. But in a 2012 interview, he said that she in fact left the room immediately, seeking security.

She phoned twice for police but none came. Fagan then asked for some cigarettes, which were brought by a maid.

Wikipedia: Parity of zero

Zero is an even number. In other words, its parity—the quality of an integer being even or odd—is even.

The simplest way to prove that zero is even is to check that it fits the definition of “even”: it is an integer multiple of 2, specifically 0 × 2. As a result, zero shares all the properties that characterize even numbers: 0 is divisible by 2, 0 is neighbored on both sides by odd numbers, 0 is the sum of an integer (0) with itself, and a set of 0 objects can be split into two equal sets.

A 1972 study reported that when a group of prospective elementary school teachers were given a true-or-false test including the item “Zero is an even number”, they found it to be a “tricky question”, with about two thirds answering “False”.

Wikipedia: Bouvet Island

(Bouvetøya) is an uninhabited subantarctic volcanic island and dependency of Norway located in the South Atlantic Ocean.

It is the most remote island in the world, approximately 2,200 kilometres south-southwest of the coast of South Africa. After a dispute with the United Kingdom, it was declared a Norwegian dependency in 1930.

Unlike Peter I Island and Queen Maud Land, which are subject to the Antarctic Treaty System, Bouvetøya is not disputed. The dependency status entails that the island is not part of the Kingdom of Norway, but is still under Norwegian sovereignty.

The harsh climate and ice-bound terrain limits vegetation to fungi (ascomycetes including lichens) and non-vascular plants (mosses and liverworts).

Wikipedia: The Battle for Castle Itter

, the Austrian village of Itter in the North Tyrol, was fought in the final days of World War II in Europe, five days after the death of Adolf Hitler.

Troops of the 23rd Tank Battalion of the US 12th Armored Division led by Lieutenant John C. “Jack” Lee, Jr., anti-Nazi German Army soldiers, and imprisoned French VIPs defended the castle against a small force from the 17th Waffen-SS Panzer Grenadier Division.

The French prisoners included former prime ministers, generals, and a tennis star. It may have been the only battle in the war in which Americans and Germans fought as allies. Popular accounts of the battle have called it the “strangest” battle of World War II.

Wikipedia: Fordlândia

is a now-abandoned, prefabricated industrial town established in the Amazon Rainforest in 1928 by American industrialist Henry Ford to secure a source of cultivated rubber for the automobile manufacturing operations of the Ford Motor Company in the US.

Ford had negotiated a deal with the Brazilian government granting a concession of 10,000 km2 of land. The land was hilly, rocky and infertile. None of Ford’s managers had the requisite knowledge of tropical agriculture.

The mostly indigenous workers on the plantations, given unfamiliar food such as hamburgers and forced to live in American-style housing, disliked the way they were treated – they had to wear ID badges, and work through the middle of the day under the tropical sun – and would often refuse to work. In 1930 the native workers revolted against the managers.

By 1945 synthetic rubber had been developed, reducing world demand for natural rubber. Ford’s investment opportunity dried up overnight without producing any rubber for Ford’s tires, making Fordlândia a total disaster.

Wikipedia: Blue Peacock

, renamed from Blue Bunny and originally Brown Bunny, was a British tactical nuclear weapon project in the 1950s.

The project’s goal was to store a number of ten-kiloton nuclear mines in Germany, to be placed on the North German Plain and, in the event of Soviet invasion from the east, detonated by wire or an eight-day timer.

One technical problem was that during winter buried objects can get very cold, and it was possible the mine’s electronics would get too cold to work after some days underground. Various methods to get around this were studied, such as wrapping the bombs in insulating blankets.

One particularly remarkable proposal suggested that live chickens be included in the mechanism. The chickens would be sealed inside the casing, with a supply of food and water; they would remain alive for a week or so. Their body heat would, it seems, have been sufficient to keep the mine’s components at a working temperature.

Wikipedia: N-Plants

is an ambient album of Biosphere (Geir Jenssen). Each track title is named after a Japanese nuclear plant.

Geir Jenssen about N-Plants:

“Early February 2011: Decided to make an album inspired by the Japanese post-war economic miracle. While searching for more information I found an old photo of the Mihama nuclear plant. The fact that this futuristic-looking plant was situated in such a beautiful spot so close to the sea made me curious.

Are they safe when it comes to earthquakes and tsunamis? Further reading revealed that many of these plants are situated in earthquake-prone areas, some of them are even located next to shores that had been hit in the past by tsunamis.

The album was finished on February 13th. On March 17th I received the following message from a Facebook friend: ‘Geir, some time ago you asked people for a photo of a Japanese nuclear powerplant. Is this going to be the sleeve of your new coming album? But more importantly: how did you actually predict the future?'”

Wikipedia: Patent encumbrance of large automotive NiMH batteries

The is the encumbrance of the commercialization of nickel metal hydride (NiMH) battery technology by corporate interests.

The current trend in the industry is towards the development of lithium-ion technology to replace NiMH in electric vehicles. Li-Ion technology, while functionally superior due to its higher specific energy and specific power, is prohibitively expensive and relatively untested with regards to its long-term reliability.

In 1994, General Motors acquired a controlling interest in Ovonics’s battery development and manufacture, including patents controlling the manufacture of large NiMH batteries. The EV1 program was shut down by GM before the new NiMH battery could be commercialized, despite field tests that indicated the Ovonics battery extended the EV1’s range to over 150 miles.

In 2001, oil company Texaco purchased General Motors’ share in GM Ovonics. Texaco was itself acquired by rival Chevron several months later. ChevronTexaco also maintained veto power over any sale or licensing of NiMH technology.