Tag Archives: Amusing Planet

Michigan’s Massive Copper Boulders

In the early 17th century, fur traders traversing Lake Superior in North America heard tales of a fabulous boulder lying on the banks of the Ontonagon River. The boulder was said to be five tones in weight and as large as a house. And it was made of solid copper.

Stories about such a prize lying unclaimed in the wild set off many prospectors in the hunt, and it wasn’t long before the boulder was located. It really was made of solid copper. Curiously, no effort was made to relocate the treasure until nearly two centuries later. In 1766, when trader Alexander Henry laid eyes on the rock he was so excited that he grossly overestimated the weight of the boulder to be ten tons. Henry … Read the rest

Chindōgu: The Japanese Art of Unuseless Inventions

You have definitely seen a chindōgu. They are those ridiculous Japanese inventions designed to solve a particular problem but are, in fact, so clumsy and inelegant that they are an inconvenience to use, and generate a whole lot of new problems. A few examples of chindōgu are: chopsticks with a miniature electric fan to cool noodles on the way to the mouth; glasses with attached funnels that allow the wearer to apply eye drops with accuracy; tiny umbrellas attached to cameras to take picture in the rain; a toilet plunger with a ring at one end that attaches to train-car ceilings and functions as a handrail in crowded carriages, and so on.

“Basically, chindogu is the same as the Industrial Revolution in Britain,” says Kenji KawakamiRead the rest

The Lighthouse That Wrecked More Ships Than it Saved

For more than forty years a lighthouse stood on a large anvil-shaped peninsula jutting into the Tasman Sea near Jervis Bay, in southern Australia. It stood at a place where it shouldn’t have, luring ignorant ships into the very rocks they were trying to avoid.

The cliffs around Cape St George just south of Jervis Bay was notorious for shipwrecks, and so in the mid-19th century, it was decided that a lighthouse was needed for the safe navigation of coastal shipping.

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Photo credit: John Eggers/Wikimedia

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Michael Pederson’s Fake Street Signs

Sydney-based artist Michael Pederson creates small signs with humorous messages and tucks them all around his home city at places where you least expect to find them.

“Please wait here. Your future self will meet you shortly.” says one sign firmly implanted at the edge of a field. Or you walk into a public phone booth and find an official-looking sign announcing that it’s a time travel pay phone. “Never press 9” it warns, and you wonder if it’s real. Exit signs point at unnatural directions.

“I guess when you're doing anything in public, humour is a quick way to engage people,” Pederson told The Huffington Post. “I hope it brings up ideas as well — gets people thinking about their headspace.”

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The Churches of Chiloé Island

Off the coast of Chile, a group of about thirty islands belonging to the Chiloé Archipelago make up a fiercely independent community with its own distinct identity visible in the islanders’ folklore, mythology, cuisine and unique architecture. So proud the islanders are of their culture that they strongly protested when the government offered to connect the remote islands to the mainland with what would have been Latin America's longest bridge, fearing that tourism would forever erode the uniqueness of their community, and pollute their land and water.

But sometimes contact with the outside world is a good thing, as evident from the magnificent churches that stand on the archipelago's biggest island Chiloé. They are a fusion of European and indigenous architecture.

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The Church of Nercón in Read the rest

When ‘Blowing Smoke Up Your Ass’ Was a Real Thing

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This neat little box containing a pair of bellows and an assortment of pipes and other fixtures is a Tobacco Resuscitator Kit from the 18th century, approved for use and distributed by London’s Royal Humane Society, then known as Society for the Recovery of Persons Apparently Drowned. Tobacco was thought to have invigorating properties and the ability to soak up moisture and warm the body from the inside. Thus blowing tobacco smoke through various orifices of the human body was the recommended procedure to revive the apparently lifeless body of a drowned victim. The bellows in the kit enabled the physician or the reviver to pump tobacco smoke through the various nozzles that were ideally designed to fit into the victim’s nostrils and the … Read the rest

Britain’s Giant Hillside Chalk Figures

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The Westbury White Horse carved on the hillside near Westbury in Wiltshire, England. Photo credit: tipwarm/Shutterstock.com

A large portion of Southern England is made up of chalk. This white limestone are the shells of tiny marine organisms that lived and died in the seas that once covered much of Britain some 90 million years ago. As time progressed, layers of calcium carbonate built up and got compacted into a solid layer of rock. Later, tectonic movements lifted the sea floor out of the sea and these became the magnificent downland in south of England.

Much of this chalk is hidden by a thin layer of soil and vegetation, except on the edges where the chalk is exposed to the sea, leading to such dramatic headlands as … Read the rest

How The London Bridge Was Sold to America

For centuries, children and kindergarteners have sung and danced to the tune of London Bridge is falling down, but when engineers discovered that the London Bridge was actually falling down in the early 1900s, it was no laughing matter. The stone bridge was just over a century old, and was the busiest point in London crossed by 8,000 pedestrians and 900 vehicles every hour. Surveyors found that the bridge was slowly sinking—about one third of a centimeter every year. When measurements were taken in 1924, they found that the bridge’s east side stood some 9 cm lower than the west side. Another four decades had passed before the City Council could arrive at a decision.

Council member Ivan Luckin suggested that instead of demolishing the … Read the rest

Galgano Guidotti And The Sword in Stone

The story of King Arthur and his legendary sword Excalibur which he pulled out of a rock to prove his divine right to the throne is well known. But what is fiction to the British, is fact for Italians—for in a Tuscan abbey in Montesiepi, is a sword plunged into solid rock.

The sword, of which only the hilt and a few inches of the blade is visible, is now preserved at the abbey of San Galgano in the town of Montesiepi, 30 km from Siena. Legend has it, that the sword was driven into the rock by Galgano Guidotti, a 12th-century Tuscan nobleman, who after seeing a vision of the Archangel, renounced his life of violence and lust in favor of a pious hermitage, and … Read the rest

The World’s Longest Portico

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Portico di San Luca: Photo credit: Stefano Carnevali/Shutterstock.com

Atop a forested hill, some 300 meters above the city of Bologna, stands the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca, a 12th century Roman Catholic church. You can drive all the way up to the hill, but you can also walk through a specially constructed corridor. This covered monumental roofed arcade consists of 666 arches and stretches for 3.8 km making it the longest portico in the world.

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