Author Archives: Gilles Messier

The Largely Forgotten Entirely Mad Adventure of Half Safe The Amphibious Car That Could

If you suddenly decided to travel around the world, what sort of vehicle would you choose? Likely a sailboat, or – of you’re feeling particularly ambitious – an aeroplane. Well if so, then you’re a far more reasonable person than Ben Carlin. When this former Australian mining engineer began planning his own round-the-world trip in the early 1950s, he decided […]

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The Popular Cocktail That Includes a Dehydrated Human Toe

The world of alcoholic cocktails is dizzyingly diverse, with as many potential drink combinations as there are varieties of alcohol and mixers. Some, like the Cuba Libre – rum mixed with Coca-Cola – are very simple, while others, like the Commonwealth – a monstrous, record-braking concoction boasting an astounding 71 ingredients sourced from every nation in the British Commonwealth – […]

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The One-Eyed Barnstormer Who Invented the Space Suit in the 1930s

The space suit has become synonymous with the astronaut, defining the occupation more than any other piece of equipment. Essentially flexible, one-person spacecraft, space suits protect astronauts from the harsh environment of outer space and have been key to countless spaceflight achievements, from walking on the moon to the building the International Space Station. But while humans first reached space […]

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How Close Did the Nazis Actually Come to Building an Atomic Bomb?

On August 6, 1945, the American B-29 bomber Enola Gay flew over the Japanese city of Hiroshima and dropped a single, 4,000 kilogram uranium bomb called Little Boy. Seconds later the bomb detonated with the equivalent power of 15 thousand tons of TNT, destroying 8 square kilometres of the city and killing an estimated 90-140,000 people. Three days later the  […]

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The Secret Code of Hobos

The Great Depression of the 1930s brought sweeping changes to American life and culture, not least to the American vocabulary. As Americans increasingly blamed freefalling wages and skyrocketing unemployment on president Herbert Hoover, more and more common objects were derisively renamed in his honour. Sprawling “Hooverville” shanty towns popped up in nearly every city, the homeless slept under newspaper “Hoover […]

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The Amazing Story of the British Schoolboys Who Cracked Soviet Space Secrets

Ah, the science fair project: the dreaded rite of passage for many an elementary or high school student. A chance to stand for hours in front of a crudely adorned tri-fold presentation board and demonstrate to the judges one’s tenuous grasp of the scientific method. For many, these projects trend towards the basic and unambitious: building a baking soda and […]

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The Curious Case of the Last Witch in Britain

In the late 16th and early 17th Centuries, Europe found itself gripped by witch mania. After centuries of denying the existence of witchcraft, Church leaders incredibly came to believe that misfortunes such as plagues and crop failures were causes not by God’s will but rather individuals acting in league with the Devil. The resulting hysteria, stoked by the political turmoil […]

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The Shocking and Gruesome Truth About Pavlov’s Dog’s and How the Results are Commonly Misinterpreted

The Pavlov’s Dog experiment is among the most famous in the history of psychology. As the story goes, in 1901 Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov observed that if a dog was presented with food, it would begin to salivate in anticipation. If, however, that food was repeatedly presented alongside a separate stimulus – like the ringing of a bell – eventually […]

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Can You Really Dissolve a Human Body in Acid Like in Breaking Bad

In the second episode of the acclaimed television series Breaking Bad, high school chemistry teacher-turned-drug kingpin Walter White and his accomplice Jesse Pinkman find themselves in a rather sticky situation. Having just killed two drug dealers who kidnapped and forced them to cook methamphetamine at gunpoint, the pair must now find a way to dispose of the bodies. Drawing on […]

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Where Does Outer Space Actually Begin?

On July 11, 2021, high over the New Mexico desert, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo detached from its mothership and ignited its engines, rocketing billionaire Richard Branson and five crewmates past the edge of space. The 15-minute suborbital hop made Branson the first person to fly into space aboard his own privately-built spacecraft and officially ushered in the age of commercial space […]

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How Long Do Twinkies Actually Last?

Imagine, for a moment that the unthinkable has happened. Whether due to nuclear war, climate change, an asteroid impact, or one too many classic 80’s movies being remade, society has utterly collapsed, leaving only a handful of survivors clinging to life amid the rubble of civilization. Every day, you and your loyal – if mildly radioactive – dog set forth […]

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