Signal Hill: The Birthplace of Modern Communications

Overlooking the harbour of St John's, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, is a massive piece of rock towering 140 meters above the Atlantic Ocean. The rock, known as Signal Hill, stands on St John's eastern shore across a narrow waterway that leads into the harbour. To the north lies Quidi Vidi Lake, and to the west lies the city towards which the hill descends gently in ridges and valleys. It was on top of this hill, in December 1901, that Guglielmo Marconi stood to receive the world’s first wireless transatlantic transmission.

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Cabot Tower on Signal Hill. Photo credit: Michel Rathwell/Flickr

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London’s Cabmen’s Shelters

Scattered throughout the streets of London, often overlooked, are small green sheds that have been offering shelter and hot food to the city’s cab drivers since 1875.

In those times, cab drivers rode horse-drawn carriages where the passengers sat inside while the poor cabbie had to sit on the top, exposed to the elements. But the drivers couldn’t just park their cabs by the side of the road and grab a quick drink at a public house, because the law forbade them to leave their carriages unattended. Some cabmen therefore employed young lads whose job was to look after the cab while they were away, as well as help carry the luggage and do other menial jobs.

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A Cabmen's shelter at Russell Square, London. Photo credit: Read the rest

It’s Sea Slug Census Time Again!

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Nelson Bay, a biodiversity hotspot off Port Stephens in New South Wales, Australia, has a number of garish occupants. There’s Pteraeolidia ianthina, or the “Blue Dragon,” which is covered in neon spines. There’s also Chromodoris splendida, which, with its striped horns and bright red spots, looks like a devilish clown. These creatures are nudibranchs, marine mollusks famed for their crazy shapes and colors and diverse lifestyles.

But the people of Port Stephens have a lesson for us all: Don’t censor the nudis, census them instead! This weekend, citizen scientists will join forces with experts to search out, document, and photograph as many nudibranches and other sea slugs as they can for the area’s annual sea slug count.

As the Port Stephens Examiner writes, … Read the rest

What’s the Future of the Urban Farmers’ Market?

Locally sourced food, it seems, is pervasive these days—especially in cities. Once only available at a farmers’ market one morning a week in front of city hall, it’s now on offer at most urban supermarkets, many bodegas and corner stores, on converted buses driven deep into neighborhoods, and even delivered straight to the doorstep. Now that Amazon has acquired Whole Foods, some are speculating that drones will bring us our fresh produce in the not-too-distant future.

But don’t count out the traditional farmers’ market just yet. These aren’t the fusty, American Gothic-like experiences of your parents and grandparents. Farmers’ markets, especially the ones in cities, are adapting to the times, getting smart about data and technology, catering to new customer bases, and offering lots … Read the rest

Inside the Radical Community Response to Baltimore’s Spiking Murder Rate

Forty-one hours into a 72-hour ceasefire called by a group of Baltimore citizens, someone shot Lamontrey Tynes, a 24-year-old African American man. Tynes was the 209th person murdered in Baltimore this year.

“Everybody got the wind knocked out of them that weekend hearing that news,” Erricka Bridgeford, one of the people behind the Ceasefire movement, said of Tynes’ murder. “It made us realize that we hadn’t reacted to hearing about murder before like that and we must have been numb.”

A second person was shot five hours later.

The Ceasefire plan was simple. “Nobody kill anybody for 72 hours.” The conceit of citizens calling a ceasefire is a radical, first-of-its-kind tack to addressing the city’s historically high homicide rate. And whether it has yet been successful … Read the rest

Brass

A metal with a chameleon quality is enjoying a slow-burn revival among designers. Kassia St Clair gives it a glowing review… Read the rest

Beauty and the beasts

Zimbabwe’s economic troubles make foreigners nervous of going there. Which means, as Samantha Weinberg discovered, that its richly stocked game parks and top-class lodges are mercifully free of human hordes… Read the rest

How to Solve the Environmental Information Divide

The cattle herders of Mongolia’s Tuul River Basin can’t use cell phones—the only technology readily available to them—to access their government’s online portals on pollution data. Herders are left in the dark about effects that nearby mining is having on their land, groundwater, and livestock. This lack of accessibility is not solely a Mongolian problem. In a recent report, the World Resources Institute has found that information about water quality is not being broadcast in a way that vulnerable communities can easily find or utilize.

The report, “Thirsting for Justice: Transparency and Poor People’s Struggle for Clean Water in Indonesia, Mongolia, and Thailand,” is the result of a three-year investigation into the efficiency of approaches these governments are taking to release water quality data. … Read the rest

The Devil’s Corkscrews

In the mid-1800s, ranchers across Sioux County, in the US state of Nebraska, began unearthing strange, spiral structures of hardened rock-like material sticking vertically out of the ground. The spirals were as thick as an arm and some of them were taller than a man. Not knowing what they were, the ranchers began calling them “devil’s corkscrew.”

The puzzling structures first came to the notice of the scientific community through geologists Dr. E. H. Barbour in 1891, when he was asked to investigate a nine-foot long specimen that a local rancher had discovered on his property along the Niobrara River. Barbour found that the spirals were actually sand-filled tubes with the outer walls made of some white fibrous material. Barbour knew they were fossils but of … Read the rest

Iligan, The City of Majestic Waterfalls

The city of Iligan, in the Northern Mindanao region of Philippines, is one of the country’s major city and the industrial center of the south. It has many heavy industries producing steel, tinplate, and cement. It also produces hydroelectric power for the entire Mindanao region. It’s surprising hence, that an industrial city such as Iligan should be known for its natural beauty.

The city is situated by the Bohol Sea which curves into the northern coast of Mindanao Island forming a small bay called the Iligan Bay. The bay lies to the west. To the east of the city lies flat cultivated coastal land which gives way to steep volcanic hills and mountains. These mountains are home to numerous cold springs and waterfalls. Officially, there are … Read the rest

How a 17th-Century Naval Engineer Revolutionized Set Design

In 1660, the stage designer Gaspare Vigarani came into an unexpected windfall. The Louvre was expanding, and the Grande Salle du Petit-Bourbon—a massive theater that had housed operas, plays, and ballets for nearly a century—was being destroyed to make room. Vigarani was told to grab everything he could from backstage and move it to his own theater, the Salles de Machines, which was then under construction.

Vigarani could have jumpstarted his new venture with a warehouse’s worth of set dressings, stage machinery, dropcloths, and everything else a young theater could ask for. Instead, he burned all of it to cinders—”ay, to the very least,” as the actor and theatrical historian La Grange wrote afterwards.

Why did he do this? Pure professional jealousy. As La Grange … Read the rest