Something to Bragg About: California’s Glass Beach

Smooth glass left after 30 years of abrasion.

From a distance it appears to be a normal beach, slightly mottled. As you get closer the sand seems rather large and irregular, it seems to glimmer. This is no ordinary beach.

Starting in 1949 the occupants of the city of Fort Bragg, California made a specialty of cheaply disposing of unwanted item. Hauling the items over the nearby cliff and letting gravity do the work. Cars, Washing Machines and normal household rubbish was disposed of in the same way, littering the beach beneath the cliff. The idea was patently rubbish but the behaviour continued, earning the entire area the nickname of ‘The Dumps’.

In 1967 the local authorities refused to put up with the refuse and they closed off the area entirely. Slowly but surely they engaged in a series of cleanups to return the area to its previous pristine state, allowing locals to drink in the previously beautiful scenery. This was not a job they would complete. Read more

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The Famous Nameless Face

In 19th Century Paris, just as with any other time in Paris, there were suicides. In Paris, the Seine was a favourite, at a time when most could not swim the large river was a simple death sentence. Bodies would often drift up onto the banks of the river where they were then put into the care of the authorities. In the 19th Century, they had a special method for identifying the damp deceased. An exhibition.

A cooled room was set up and up to 14 bodies placed within it. At one end of the room was a large window, any passer-by could peer inside and, hopefully, identify one of them. Parisians and travelers alike were fixated by the chilling sight, neatly arranged bodies only slightly too still to be sleeping. In the volume ‘Unknown Paris’ it was noted that:

“There is not a single window in Paris which attracts more onlookers than this.”

In the 1880′s there was one particular body. She was dragged from the Seine with not a scratch or spot. Suicide they said. The body was presented behind a window and the people peered at the restful smile which sat across the features. No name came and the body rotted, it was placed in an unmarked grave, but the smile remained. An unknown pathologist had been so taken by the beauty that they decided to take the beauty. A plaster cast mold of the face was taken and a death mask made, an object to preserve the image of one deceased. Through odd contrivances and circumstances now lost to time the mask got out and garnered a following. The face became famous.

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How Much Monopoly Money?

Monopoly MoneyYou may have heard that, “more Monopoly Money is printed each year than is printed by the United States.” This is utterly false, which is a shame, but at least you know now.

When we make 1 monopoly note equal to $1(USD) and a 500 monopoly note equal to a $500 we see that there is a lot of money though. In the 78 years since the first publication on the Monopoly game, they have printed approximately $10,000,000,000. For those of you less inclined to count zeroes, that is 10 billion dollars. A sizeable amount, and more than the United States prints in any given year, however the United States prints just over 10 billion dollars every 14 years or so.

This means that the United States Government is currently out in the lead and doing a capital job of it too, maintaining a monopoly on money printing. As another advantage, their money is actually worth something, which might be important.

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Morgellons: The Non-Existent Epidemic

Supposed Disease Fibres

It spreads like wildfire beneath the skin, the slight prickling sensation of itching. Tiny and innumerable fibres seem to poke through the skin and tiny parasites creep beneath the surface. The urge to pick at the fibres arrives, fingertips reach and simply start to scratch. Later sores appear over the body near where the picking occurred, it feels as though the fibres are causing it.

This peculiar condition is called Morgellons. In the past 11 years 12,000 people claim to have been affected. Yet, according to the consensus among medical professionals, it does not exist.

The first case was in 2001, Mary Leitao’s son had sores around his mouth and complained of feeling ‘bugs’ beneath them. She examined his skin with a toy microscope and found an astonishing array of coloured fibres peppered over his skin. She did some reading and found a reference in a 17th Century text referring to a condition in which people had long dark hairs grow on their backs. From this text she got the word ‘Morgellons.’ She maintained that it was a new condition and set up a foundation to research it.

After 12,000 reported cases a million dollars(USD) was set aside by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) in the United States of America to research it. They followed the symptoms and tracked down those claiming to have morgellons. Sufferers described their compulsion to pick at the fibres, often displaying a strong conviction that they were the products of other creatures beneath or on the skin. Morgellons sufferers were looking for a little information and a confirmation of the conditions existence. The CDC more than scratched the surface, the drilled deep.

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How Long is a CD?

Compact DiscWhen Sony was busy creating the Compact Disc or CD, they had a problem to contend with: how much data should it store? The more data they could store, the more expensive it would be and so on. In the end they chose a limit; the average CD today can hold 74 minutes worth of music.

This rather unusual length was chosen by Sony’s president at the time Norio Ohga. His reasoning behind the 74 minute limit was that a single CD should be able to contain the longest recorded version of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony; and that it did indeed. There is a second, also common CD format that can hold 80 minutes of audio, but that is far less interesting.

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Sunshine: Seeing Things in an Old Light

Light travels very quickly, about 30 million metres per second, but that is only when traveling through a vacuum. Now we know how fast light is let us get some figures of relative relevance. If you were to perform the calculations you would find that light takes all of eight minutes to get from the sun to the earth.

That is 150 million kilometres in not very long at all, that is however, far from the full story. Light is not made on the surface of the sun, instead it emerges from the core of the sun, which is a little bit further.

Using the previous figures we find that is should only take an extra 3 seconds to escape the sun and head for earth, unfortunately light doesn’t always travel at light speed. It slows down occasionally, especially when it hits stuff. Unfortunately for the little rays of light the sun happens to be made of stuff. This changes the whole deal rather substantially.

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Helmet Horns

A Viking Helmet

As much as we wish it to be true, it is not. Vikings never wore horns on their helmets for either battle or ceremony.

The only helmets found to have horns on them at that time were from Britain.

The misconception has many possible sources. One of the most likely , monks at the time trying to make vikings more closely resemble the devil. The monks rather resented all of the murdering and pillaging the Vikings did.

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The Door to Hell

In 1971 a small group of Soviet Scientists were rooting around the small village of Dervaza. The village crucially lies in the Ahal Province of Turkmenistan, an area known for its abundance in one useful resource… Natural Gas. They found it. A site was identified next to the village and preparations were made for the drilling rig and camp to be set up on site, so as to facilitate the gathering of the sweet combustible resource.

There was, of course, an incident.

On an undisclosed date shortly after completion, the drilling rig was drilling. A cornucopia of equipment was spread throughout the surrounding drilling camp. Gas was rapidly pouring in and being stored for transportation and the Soviet Scientists were reveling in their success.

In an instant the ground beneath the camp cracked and tore open, revealing a new crater 100 metres across. The camp and rig plummeted downwards, swallowed by the depths of this new menacing construct.

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