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I came across this photo the other day, and I was struck by how even in an active war zone, sightseers and rubberneckers are a constant problem. The picture was taken on April 4, 1945 in front of Cologne cathedral, and shows a corporal from the 82nd Airborne Division reading a warning sign. He’s probably wondering what kind of idiots would be wandering around, taking in the sights, while anti-sniper operations were going on. I’m sure that there were plenty of them.
What actually caught my eye was that I recognized Cologne cathedral in the photo, which surprised me as the nearest I’ve been to the edifice is a paper scale model of the thing that I made umpteen years ago. It never ceases to amaze me at how obscure bits of knowledge pop out of memory at times, triggered by a photo in this case, or by sounds or especially smells. Haven’t you ever walked into an old, dusty storeroom and had the smell bring up a startlingly clear memory of your grandparent’s house? If someone could figure out how to control this method of memory retrieval, he could probably write a self-help book about it, sell it on an infomercial and become fabulously wealthy in 90 days or your money back.
Considering the pounding that Cologne and its cathedral took during WWII, it’s amazing that either place still exists. Cologne was bombed 262 separate times, including the first 1,000 bomber raid by the Allies on May 30th and 31rst, 1942. The cathedral was hit at least 70 times by aerial bombs, but remained standing, which is more than can be said about the rest of Cologne.
Continue reading Rubberneckers Unwelcome
Sometimes, our greatest achievements are dwarfed by someone with balls of depleted uranium jumping out of a balloon into the stratosphere.
[Image Credit: S. Marekovich]
Miss Mildred Birt would soon be telling her children not to sit too close to the TV or they’ll go blind. Of course, merely 4 years after John Logie Baird demonstrated the first moving television picture, she probably didn’t realize the danger to which she was being subjected. She learned, though, and the [...]
Not seen at Burning Man. Way too mindblowing.
On July 16th, 2012, Rick Cavallaro was at the controls as the Blackbird land yacht, powered only by the wind, accelerated from a stop to 20 mph. However, the 10 mph breeze was blowing directly in his face for the entire run, giving the Thin Air team the first North American Land Sailing Association (NALSA) record for traveling directly upwind at a speed faster than the wind itself.
This new record has attracted far less attention and controversy than Blackbird’s spectacular downwind speed record, set in 2010. But some people still believe both runs were faked. While the ideas that the wind could push against itself or push something faster than itself seem obviously impossible, I’m confident that this is not a hoax, and I arrogantly believe I can explain upwind and downwind carts to my fellow Toasters. 
Continue reading Faster Than The Wind And Flames
There’s a scene in The Hunt For Red October where Jack Ryan is trying to figure out how to get Captain Ramius and anyone involved in his defection plan off the Red October without the crew getting suspicious. He’s racking his brain trying to figure it out. Then it hits him. We’ve all been there. A problem is rattling around in our brain and we just can’t seem to find a solution. It could be finding a way to solve a problem in an engineering design, or finding the inspiration to write, or figuring out how to fix something. We can spend hours, days, or weeks trying to come up with a solution.
Continue reading Moments of Inspiration
I was lucky enough to be in Paris last year. Wandering around unsupervised, a group of us stumbled on the Egyptian obelisk in Place de la Concorde. We stared not for the majesty or heritage, but in disbelief; as engineers, our first instinct was to try to figure out how to move such a monument with appalling 19th-century technology. 
Continue reading Installation Is The Reverse Of Removal
In the late 1910s, interest in a self-propelled coach grew enough that several companies began producing them. They were used primarily on small branch lines for service where it did not make financial sense to run a full locomotive. Most had a gasoline engine driving a generator, while some had a gasoline engine [...]
Today is Flag Day in the US. It’s a day where we commemorate the adoption of the Stars and Stripes as our symbol of national unity. However, flags as a national identifier are a relatively new phenomenon. Flags were originally meant to communicate on the battle field.
Continue reading Let Your Flag Fly
Are you bigoted?
A while back I blundered across images of some of the landing maps that were used for the D-day landings on the Normandy beaches during WWII, and I’ve been looking for an occasion to use them. Today seems to be appropriate since it is the 68th anniversary of D-day, and it’s a nice way to commemorate the event. Plus, the maps are quite interesting themselves.
The maps are reproductions of the landing maps for Omaha beach that were carried by Tech Sgt. Harry F. Green of the 110th Field Artillery, U.S. 29th Infantry Division on D-Day, and are now in the care of his nephew, Tim Roop of the ww2dday.com website. The story of the preparation of the maps and the huge effort taken to keep them secret is fascinating, and appeared in the June 2002 issue of National Geographic, “Untold Stories of D-Day” written by Thomas B. Allen.
”ONE SIMPLE WORD, BIGOT, is stamped in big letters across the Operation Neptune Initial Joint Plan of February 12,1944, and from then until June 6, that stamp appeared on all supremely secret pieces of paper handled by D-Day planners. If any of those papers or maps had fallen into enemy hands, the invasion would have failed or been scuttled—a distinct possibility in the anxious days after Exercise Tiger.”
Continue reading Bigoted?
A rarely seen Victorian Imperial Walker which was most likely made by Isembard Kingdom Brunel. It just shows that there is evil in all empires regardless of era. Some are cooler than others though.