Author Archives: Gilles Messier

Alexander Graham Bell’s Forgotten Greatest Invention

Artists often come to resent their greatest hits, and while inventor Alexander Graham Bell didn’t hate his most famous creation, the telephone, it was far from his only priority and passion. An inveterate tinkerer, throughout his long life Bell pursued hundreds of projects across dozens of fields, inventing early versions of the metal detector and iron lung, improving Thomas Edison’s […]

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“The Thing” the Revolutionary Soviet Spy Gadget That Baffled the West

On August 4, 1945, William Averell Harriman, United States ambassador to the Soviet Union, received a delegation of the Vladimir Lenin All-Union Pioneers, the Soviet equivalent of the Boy Scouts. As a symbol of cooperation between the two Allied nations during the still-raging Second World War, the Young Pioneers presented Harriman with a gift: a hand-carved wooden version of the […]

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The Fascinating Story of One of the Most Elegant and Powerful Experiments in the History of Science

On March 31, 1851, a crowd of curious Parisians gathered at the Pantheon to witness a historic scientific demonstration. In the centre of the building, directly beneath its towering dome, they found a deceptively simple piece of equipment: a 28-kilogram brass-coated lead sphere, suspended from the building’s dome by a 67-metre-long wire. Beneath this was placed a wooden platform covered […]

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What Happens if You Commit a Crime Aboard an Aircraft or in International Waters?

Imagine for a moment you are on a long overseas flight – say, for example, Flight SQ22 between Singapore and New York, the longest regularly-scheduled nonstop route in the world. Around halfway through this gruelling 18 hour, 40 minute marathon, having run out of in-flight movies to watch and grown bored of the latest Dan Brown literary abomination you purchased […]

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Where Did the Keep Calm and Carry On Thing Come From?

You can find it almost everywhere: in every gift shop, on every online merchandise store, on every souvenir stand – and on every object imaginable, from posters and postcards to coffee mugs, water bottles, t-shirts, and phone cases: the brick-red background, the stylized white crown, and in big, bold letters, those five iconic words: Keep Calm and Carry On. …or, […]

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What’s the Difference Between a Tidal Wave and a Tsunami?

At 2:46 PM on March 11, 2011, at a spot 60 kilometres off the coast of Japan, the Pacific tectonic plate suddenly slipped and plunged under the Eurasian plate. The resulting Tohoku earthquake, lasting six minutes and measuring 9.0 on the Moment Magnitude Scale, was the most powerful in Japanese history and the fourth largest ever recorded, causing thousands of […]

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First World, Third World… What are the Second World Countries

If I say the words “Third World Country”, what image springs to mind? Most likely something out of a World Vision commercial: starving children, ramshackle villages of corrugated metal huts, dirty water, disease, corruption, human rights abuses, and war. Now, what about a “First World Country?” Well, if you’re watching this video right now, odds are you live in one […]

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Twister Aside, How Do They Actually Measure the Strength of Tornadoes?

On the afternoon of March 18, 1925, residents of southeastern Missouri watched with dread as a line of pitch-black storm clouds gathered on the horizon. As torrential rain and hail began to fall, a cluster of 12 sinister funnel clouds snaked their way down to the ground and began moving northeast, into neighbouring states of Illinois and Indiana. One of […]

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Did a Nuclear-Powered Manhole Cover Really Reach Outer Space Before Sputnik?

On October 4, 1957, an R7 rocket lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, carrying Sputnik I, the world’s first artificial satellite. This historic feat stunned the West and pushed the Cold War into a terrifying new phase, for if the R7 could launch a satellite into orbit, it could also place a nuclear warhead anywhere on the globe. But while […]

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What Does the “Octane Rating” of Fuel Actually Mean?

Ah, the joys of vehicle ownership! Traffic jams! Construction! Costly insurance! Speed traps! Searching endlessly for parking! Having the check engine light come on just as you were about to buy that new game system and having the mechanic charge you thousands of dollars for parts and labour… and, of course, the greatest joy of all: that weekly soul-crushing, wallet-emptying […]

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