Author Archives: Gilles Messier

The Steampunk Flight Simulator That Helped Win WWII

Flight simulators are often an integral part of pilot training, allowing trainees to log hundreds of flying hours and experience in as many emergency scenarios as possible without ever leaving the safety of the ground. But while modern simulators with their advanced computerized displays and motion-simulating hydraulics may seem like a relatively recent development, the idea of replicating the experience […]

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Why Do We Call a Software Glitch a ‘Bug’?

“It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.” At one point or another we’ve all heard someone use this phrase or a variation thereof to sarcastically describe some malfunctioning piece of equipment or software. Indeed, the word “bug” has long been ubiquitous in the world of engineering and computer science, with “debugging” – the act of seeking out and correcting errors […]

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That Time an Oregon Free-Love Cult Launched the Largest Bioterror Attack in US History

On September 18, 2001, one week after the 9/11 attacks, mysterious envelopes began appearing at the offices of major American news outlets including ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as Democratic Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. The envelopes contained a strange brown powder, which quickly caused those who came into contact with it to fall seriously ill. That powder […]

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‘Kaputnik’: America’s Disastrous First Attempt to Launch a Satellite

On July 20, 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface and uttered the immortal words “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” While five more Apollo crews would land on the moon over the next three years, for many that moment marked the triumphant end of the Space Race, which over the previous twelve […]

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Scamming Pan Am

Being an early adopter can be a risky proposition, especially for a large company. On the one hand, no company wants to fall behind as its competitors take full advantage of a new game-changing technology. On the other hand, many seemingly revolutionary developments ultimately turn out to be nothing but overhyped fads, leaving early adopters saddled with expensive white elephants. […]

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The Curious Case of the Cat that was Turned Into a Living Telephone FOR SCIENCE!!!

The domestication of Felis catus, AKA the common house cat, began around 10,000 years ago, when their skill at hunting rats, mice, and other vermin was seemingly first taken heed to. Since then cats have enjoyed a rather comfortable relationship with humanity, even being revered by the Ancient Egyptians as representatives of the goddess Bastet. But history hasn’t all been […]

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How WWII Made Everybody Think Carrots Were Good for Eyes and Why It Didn’t Really Have to Do With Tricking the Germans

“Carrots help you see in the dark.” Most of us were taught this fact from an early age, presumably in a vain attempt to convince us to eat our vegetables. And on the surface, this makes sense: after all, carrots are rich in beta-carotene and Vitamin A, essential to maintaining the health of our retinas and corneas. But while carrots […]

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The Real Life Ocean’s Eleven Heist and How the Mastermind Behind It Road His Way to Freedom After Being Caught

The morning of July 19th, 1976  started out like any other in the French city of Nice, its citizens having just enjoyed a relaxing three-day weekend for the national holiday of Bastille Day. But for customers of the Société Générale bank on Avenue Jean Médecin, it was quickly becoming clear that something was very wrong. All weekend the ATM outside […]

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Where Did the NASA Expression Steely-Eyed Missile Man Come From?

In the 2011 novel The Martian and its 2015 film adaptation, orbital dynamics expert Rich Purnell devises a maneuver to get NASA’s Hermes spacecraft back to Mars and rescue marooned astronaut Mark Watney. Upon carrying out the maneuver, the crew of the Hermes sends a signal back to Mission Control, stating: “Houston, be advised: Rich Purnell is a steely-eyed missile […]

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The Surprisingly Plausible Theory that the Pyramids were Poured from Ancient Concrete

The Egyptian pyramids at Giza are among the most famous and storied monuments in the world. The oldest  of the seven wonders of the ancient world – and the only ones still standing – they have awed and inspired travellers, scholars, poets, and artists for thousand  of years. Yet despite this timeless fascination, relatively little is known about who built […]

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