Archive for the ‘History’ Category
The purpose of the British Royal Family is procreation; its prime duty is to produce at least one heir to the throne. Each heir has to provide a child that will guarantee the survival of a monarchy that began with Athelstan, the first king of all-England in 926.
The baptism of Prince George is the second of his public appearances on the road to his coronation as George VII. Royal job done. Or is it?
In spite of his celebrity parents, Prince George’s chances of being king are not as high as most appear to think even though the monarchy is more popular than it has ever been during this sovereign’s reign.
The Maasai people are one of the best known tribes in Africa, and their name has been used to brand everything from pens to car accessories to designer clothes. A group of elders, led by Lawrence ole Mbelati, is now trying to claim rights to the brand and receive licensing fees from companies like Louis Vuitton and Jaguar Land Rover. He’s been working with a New Zealand nonprofit for four years to try to solidify the tribe’s legal claim to the intellectual property, as detailed in a new Bloomberg Businessweek report. While their legal argument may be weak, there’s precedent for large corporations to acknowledge a tribe’s right to its name and pay fees for its use. And the Maasai could use it: leaders are hoping to help improve water supplies with whatever money they can get.
Run Silent, Run Deep, a World War II naval drama starring Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster, reportedly inspires Star Trek screenwriter Paul Schneider to mull a space-exploration equivalent to a submarine submerging underwater. What to do…
Dec. 15, 1966
Invisibility technology makes its Star Trek debut in episode 14, “Balance of Terror,” when a Romulan Bird of Prey equipped with a cloaking device attacks the Starship Enterprise.
Sept. 27, 1968
In episode 59, “The Enterprise Incident,” the technology finally gets a name: It’s called a “cloaking device.” The Trekkie trope inevitably becomes a sci-fi staple, appearing (and disappearing?) in everything from Dr. Who to Predator to Stargate.
June 26, 1997
A divorced mother of a young child quietly publishes a children’s book about a young orphan who receives an invisibility cloak as a Christmas present. Only 1,000 copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone are printed.
Physicists from Duke University unveil the world’s first-ever invisibility cloak. (Thanks, J.K. Rowling!) The elaborate set-up was created using metamaterials, which are capable of manipulating wavelengths — like light — in ways that aren’t found in nature. The catch? This “cloak” only works on microwaves and in two dimensions.
The British military tests something frightening: An invisible tank, which uses cameras and projectors to beam the surrounding landscape onto the vehicle’s hull. Says one soldier who was apparently at the test trials: “This technology is incredible. If I hadn’t been present I wouldn’t have believed it. I looked across the fields and just saw grass and trees — but in reality I was staring down the barrel of a tank gun.”
Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, use metamaterials to change the natural direction of visible and near-infrared light in three dimensions. Developed by Xiang Zhang, a professor at Berkeley’s Nanoscope Science and Engineering Center, the light-bending concept is likened to viewing a distorted straw through a glass of water.
Birds do it, bees do it — but how did 3-ton dinosaurs with sharp, pointed spikes on their backs and tails get it on?
Very carefully, say some researchers, who believe mounting a female from behind would have proved deadly for the males of dinosaurs like Stegosaurus.
“The females could not raise their tails, because the bones at the top end were fused,” Brian Switek, a dinosaur researcher and writer, told the Sunday Times. “Also, some species had lethal spikes on their backs, which would have been impossible to get past.”
It’s the most popular file in the FBI Vault—our high-tech electronic reading room housing various Bureau records released under the Freedom of Information Act. Over the past two years, this file has been viewed nearly a million times. Yet, it is only a single page, relaying an unconfirmed report that the FBI never even followed up on.
The file in question is a memo dated March 22, 1950—63 years ago last week. It was authored by Guy Hottel, then head of our field office in Washington, D.C. (see sidebar below for a brief biography). Like all memos to FBI Headquarters at that time, it was addressed to Director J. Edgar Hoover and recorded and indexed in FBI records.
The subject of the memo was anything but ordinary. It related a story told to one of our agents by a third party who said an Air Force investigator had reported that three “flying saucers” were recovered in New Mexico. The memo provided the following detail:
“They [the saucers] were described as being circular in shape with raised centers, approximately 50 feet in diameter. Each one was occupied by three bodies of human shape but only three feet tall, dressed in metallic cloth of a very fine texture. Each body was bandaged in a manner similar to the blackout suits used by speed fliers and test pilots.”
After relaying an informant’s claim that the saucers had been found because the government’s “high-powered radar” in the area had interfered with “the controlling mechanism of the saucers,” the memo ends simply by saying that “[n]o further evaluation was attempted” concerning the matter by the FBI agent.
Germany was on the defensive in the second Great War. The final defeat inched nearer. Two weeks earlier, the 156,000 Allied troops on nearly 5,000 amphibious vehicles had landed in Normandy, France and began fighting their way east through occupied Europe. While Schön laced up his leather boots in the bowels of Berlin’s Olympic Stadium on the afternoon of Sunday June 18, 1944, thousands of predominantly American, British, and Canadian men forced German warriors from strongholds across France.
In the port city of Cherbourg, roughly 200 miles from Paris, raids by United States P-47 Thunderbolt planes killed or wounded 800 of Schön’s countrymen. In the nearby Brittany capital of Rennes, Marauder and Havoc bombers blew up rail yards. In Washington D.C., Representative Clarence Cannon, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, told American officials, “There is a general belief that the German armies will collapse not later than the first or second week of September, and perhaps much sooner.” In Algiers, General Charles De Gaulle presided over a ceremonial session observing the fourth anniversary of the French resistance. More than 2.3 million Soviets troops were poised to fight west through Eastern Europe. The reign of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, and the National Socialist German Workers’ Party was not over, but the tide had turned. In less than a year, Germany would be defeated and the war in Europe would come to an end.
SOME YEARS AGO, I sat on a stone-cut bench in a dark chamber in the catacombs of Paris wearing a headlamp and muddied boots, and listened to the strange story of Félix Nadar, the first man to photograph the underground of Paris. In 1861, Nadar invented a battery-operated flash lamp, one of the first artificial lights in the history of photography, and promptly brought his camera into Paris’s sewers and catacombs. Over three months, Nadar—41, moustachioed, with unruly red hair—shot in the darkness beneath the streets. He used 18-minute exposures and, as models, wooden mannequins dressed in the garb of city workers. On the surface, the images of dim, claustrophobic passageways created a stir. Parisians had heard of the vast subterranean networks underlying their streets and Nadar brought this dark lattice to light. The pictures opened up Paris’s relationship to its subterranean spaces—catacombs and crypts, sewers and canals, reservoirs and utility tunnels—a connection which, over the years, has grown deeper and more peculiar than in any other city.
In between shots of soldiers meeting their brutal end and Sally Field being the most perfect Mary Todd Lincoln of all time (besides maybe MTL herself), the trailer for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, a war drama in theaters everywhere November 16, presents Honest Abe as an honest badass. “I am the President of the United States of America…clothed in immense power,” he declares, because if you’re going to abolish slavery you have to be the toughest dude in the room. In our 1957 issue, PopSci celebrated Lincoln as the awesome war scientist he was. We wrote about how the great emancipator tested out and helped create at least a rudimentary form of most of the weapons we knew in the mid-20th century.
The girl who would later take on the pen name Nellie Bly and help launch a new kind of investigative journalism was born Elizabeth Jane Cochran on May 5, 1864 in Cochran’s Mills, Pennsylvania. The similarity between her surname and her birthplace was no coincidence: the town was named after its most prominent citizen, her father Michael Cochran, a wealthy landowner, judge, and businessman.
He had ten children by his first wife. After she died, he married again and had five more children, the third of which was Elizabeth, considered the most rebellious child in the family.Her father died when Elizabeth, nicknamed Pink or Pinky, was only six years old. The death was a terrible financial blow, as he left no will to protect the interests of his second family. A year after his death Elizabeth’s family had to auction off its mansion and was thrown into hard times.