Author Archives: Gilles Messier

The Canadian Genius Who Attempted to Launch Satellites Using an Absolutely Ginormous Gun

On the beach just outside Grantley Adams Airport on the island of Barbados, five large naval cannons sit overgrown and rusting in the tropical heat, lying where they were abandoned fifty years ago. These relics are all that remain of Project HARP, an audacious 1960s attempt to launch satellites into space using giant guns – and of the grand ambitions […]

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The Badassary of Dorothy Lawrence

In the summer of 1915, a lone British soldier cycled down a country road outside the French town of Albert. His papers identified him as Private Denis Smith of the 1st Leicestershire Regiment, and at first glance he would have seemed quite ordinary: a slightly plump and ruddy-faced boy with short brown hair – no different from the thousands of […]

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The Great Light Bulb Conspiracy

In a dim corner of Fire Station #6 in Livermore California hangs a truly extraordinary object…a lightbulb. But this is no ordinary lightbulb. First installed in 1901, it has been burning almost continuously ever since, having only been switched off a handful of times in nearly 120 years. The Livermore Centennial Bulb has become something of a local celebrity, with […]

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That Time Albert Einstein Invented a New Refrigerator

The name Albert Einstein has become a byword for genius – and rightly so. The German physicist’s theories of Special and General Relativity fundamentally reshaped our understanding of the uni-verse to a degree not seen since Isaac Newton, while his groundbreaking 1905 papers on Brownian Motion and the Photoelectric Effect laid the groundwork for modern atomic and quantum theory. Yet […]

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That Time the Soviets Decided to Try to Extinguish a Fire with a Nuke For Reasons…

The phrase ‘the peaceful use of nuclear weapons’ might sound like the ultimate oxymoron. While nuclear reactors are widely used to peacefully generate electricity and medical isotopes, it is difficult to imagine a peaceful use for atomic bombs on account of the whole, you know, radioactive BOOM. But incredibly, between 1961 and 1989, both the United States and the Soviet […]

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