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Posts Tagged ‘disaster

“But the toaster was quite satisfied with itself, thank you”*…

 

Would a toaster still work in a freezer?  —My Brother, My Brother and MeEpisode 343, discussing a Yahoo Answers question

On a recent episode of Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy’s terrific advice podcast, My Brother, My Brother and Me, the brothers pondered a Yahoo Answers question about what would happen if you put a toaster inside a freezer. (The discussion comes around the 36-minute mark.)

They have a fun discussion of a few aspects of the problem before eventually moving on to the next question. Since they don’t really settle on a final answer, I thought we could help them out by taking a closer look at the physics of freezer toasters.

(A quick safety note: If you actually do this, keep in mind that the toaster may melt some of the ice in the freezer, leaving you with a running electrical appliance in a pool of water.)…

Another in Randall Munroe’s marvelous What If? series: “Toaster vs. Freezer.”

* Thomas M. Disch, The Brave Little Toaster

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As we cultivate curiosity, we might recall that President Abraham Lincoln wasn’t the only person to die in Ford’s Theater: it was on this date in 1893 that three interior floors of the building collapsed.  Ford had acquired his venue from a failed baptist Church; but shortly after its conversion, it burned to the ground.  Ford hastily rebuilt, and began to program performances like Our American Cousin, which featured the  famous actor– and assassin– John Wilkes Booth.

Following Lincoln’s death, the United States Government appropriated the theatre, (Congress payed Ford $88,000 in compensation), and an order was issued forever prohibiting its use as a place of public amusement.  In 1866, the theatre was taken over by the U.S. military… then in 1893, the front of the building gave way, killing 22 military clerks and injuring another 68… which led some to conclude that the former Church-turned-theater was cursed.  (A restored Ford’s Theater opened in 1968.)

Bodies being removed from Ford’s Theatre following the building’s collapse

source

 

Written by LW

June 9, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Consider the furniture!”*…

 

Ikea is a behemoth. The home furnishing company uses 1 percent of the planet’s lumber, it says, and the 530 million cubic feet of wood used to make Ikea furniture each year pulls with its own kind of twisted gravity. For many, a sojourn to the enormous blue-and-yellow store winds up defining the space in which they sit, cook, eat and sleep.

All that wood is turned into furniture that tries to bring a spare, modern aesthetic to the masses. “We’re talking about democratizing design,” Marty Marston, a product public relations manager at Ikea, told me.

The furniture is also sold according to some unique economics. In many cases, Ikea’s famously affordable pieces get dramatically cheaper year after year. In others, prices creep up. In some cases, products disappear entirely. The result is an ever-evolving, survival-of-the-fittest catalog that wields an enormous amount of influence over residential interiors…

Pull up a chair at “The Weird Economics Of Ikea.”

* Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone

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As we avoid the meatballs, we might spare a thought for Sir Thomas Bouch; he died on this date in 1880.  A railway engineer and executive whose career began at age 17, Bouch was knighted for designing the two-mile-long Tay River Bridge— on which an estimated 75 people died when the bridge collapsed.  An enquiry found Bouch to be liable, by virtue of bad design and construction; he died four months after the verdict.

Bouch is thus also indirectly responsible for the best-known poem, “The Tay Bridge Disaster,” by the gentleman widely-regarded to have been the the worst published poet in British history, William Topaz McGonagall.

Sir Thomas Bouch

 source

Written by LW

October 30, 2016 at 1:01 am

“And worse I may be yet: the worst is not/ So long as we can say ‘This is the worst’.”*…

 

Terror attacks, Zika, Brexit, police shootings, Syria, Trump, record-hot temperatures, the losses of Prince and David Bowie—this has been one unrelenting turn around the calendar. Have terrifying events truly piled up on each other in 2016, in a way they didn’t in any other year in human history? Or is it impossible to judge the awfulness of a year while it’s still unfolding? Do we just notice negative happenings more these days because of our high levels of connectivity? And what does “worst year” even mean—“worst year” for Americans, for humanity, for the planet?…

In an effort to understand how to determine a “worst year” in history, Rebecca Onion asked ten historians to nominate their own “worst years” and to reflect on what constitutes a “really bad year.” Explore the bottom of the barrel at “Is 2016 the Worst Year in History?

* Shakespeare, King Lear

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As we hold our heads in our hands, we might spare a thought for Mark Antony; on this date in 30 BC– pretty surely his worst year ever– he won a minor victory over the forces of Octavian (Augustus) in the Battle of Alexandria.  But most of Antony’s army, cowed by the Roman forces, subsequently deserted, leading to his suicide.

 source

 

Written by LW

July 31, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Sometimes that light at the end of the tunnel is a train”*…

 

The moment of impact

As the U.S. remained mired in an economic depression in 1896, the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (commonly known as “the Katy” line) faced two major problems: how to boost revenue and ticket sales amid increasing competition in the rail industry and what to do with an aging fleet of locomotives as it upgraded to larger, more advanced steam engines. And so the company’s creative passenger agent for Texas, William Crush, pitched an idea that would address both problems in one spectacular fell swoop.

With atom bombs and Justin Bieber still far off on the horizon in the late 19th century, an explosive train collision was perhaps the most eye-catching manmade disaster imaginable. And Crush knew he had the trains, the space and the public appetite to attempt such a spectacle. His plan was simple: ferry paying spectators to an isolated locale where two obsolete locomotives would be positioned face-to-face on the tracks. After gunning the trains to full speed, the engineers would jump to safety, and the masses would enjoy the fiery demolition from a safe distance. “Oh,” the exuberant Crush effused to The Galveston Daily News, “but it’s going to be a smash-up”…

In the event, over 40,000 people gathered at in the temporary town of “Crush, Texas” (for the day, the second largest city in the State).  And what a “smash-up” they saw.  As planned, the engineers stoked their locomotives, got them steaming toward each other, and jumped clear…  But though Crush had been assured by the railroad’s technicians that the engines’ boilers were strong enough to hold together on impact, both exploded.  As The Dallas Morning News put it: “The rumble of the two trains was like the gathering force of a cyclone… [then, a huge explosion, and] the air was filled with flying missiles of iron and steel varying in size from a postage stamp to half of a driving wheel… black clouds of death-dealing iron hail.”  Three spectators were killed, six others seriously injured; and countless onlookers were scorched by the hot shrapnel — many long after the explosion, when they picked through the flaming locomotive carcasses in a hunt for souvenirs.

Crush was immediately fired from the railroad. But given a lack of negative publicity, he was rehired the next day.

Read more at “Staging a Texas-size train disaster for fun and profit,” and check out the photos from the event here (one of which is used above).

* Charles Barkley

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As we ruminate on the rails, we might send foresightful birthday greetings to the extraordinary Jules Verne, imaginative writer non pareil; he was born in Nantes on this date in 1828.

Best known for his novels A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), From the Earth to the Moon (1865), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1869–1870), Around the World in Eighty Days (1873) and The Mysterious Island (1875), Verne is the second most translated (individual) author of all time (behind Agatha Christie).  He is considered, with H.G. Wells, the founder of science fiction.

Verne was startlingly prescient: Paris in the 20th Century, for example, describes air conditioning, automobiles, the Internet, television, even electricity, and other modern conveniences very similar to their real world counterparts, all developed years– in many cases, decades– later.   From the Earth to the Moon, apart from using a space gun instead of a rocket, is uncannily similar to the real Apollo Program: three astronauts are launched from the Florida peninsula– from “Tampa Town” ( only 130 miles from NASA’s Cape Canaveral)– and recovered through a splash landing.  And in other works, he predicted helicopters, submarines, projectors, jukeboxes, and the existence of underwater hydrothermal vents that were not invented/discovered until long after he wrote about them.

Jules Verne

Written by LW

February 8, 2016 at 1:01 am

“When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on”*…

 

From Grog LLC, because it’s “better to know a knot and not need it, than need a knot and not know it”: Animated Knots.

[TotH to Kyle Lerfald]

* Franklin D. Roosevelt

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As wrap then pull, we might recall that it was on this date in 2006 that the MS al-Salam Boccaccio 98, an Egyptian Roll on/Roll off passenger ferry, sank in the Red Sea en route from Duba, Saudi Arabia, to Safaga in southern Egypt. 388 people were rescued; the balance of the estimated 1400 passengers and crew– the majority, Egyptians working in Saudi Arabia, but also including pilgrims returning from the Hajj in Mecca–were lost.

 source

 

Written by LW

February 3, 2016 at 1:01 am

“The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea”*…

 

Back in the 18th and 19th century, recreational swimming kickstarted a service industry of aids for decent beach life etiquette. These tools of maintaining dignity were perhaps unsurprisingly mostly aimed at women. Among innovations of this time was the Bathing Machine, or the Bathing Van, which helped bathers change into to their bathing attire right next to the water.

Bathing machines became a thing around all of Great Britain’s empire starting ca. 1750 and spread to the United States, France, Germany and Mexico to serve the greater goal of common decency at beaches…

The passenger enters a horse or human drawn carriage, which is transported some distance out into the water. The van’s human cargo changes into whatever shapeless sack was deemed suitable at the time. The mechanics of it all are unsurprisingly not that glamorous and worth exploring in further detail

More at “Victorian Beach Life: Photos of 19th Century Bathing Machines in Operation.”

* Isak Dinesen

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As we dive in, we might recall that it was on this date in 1871 that the foundation stone was laid for the Tay Railway Bridge to be built across the Firth of Tay on the east Scottish coast.  It’s designer, Sir Thomas Bouch, a railway engineer and executive, was knighted for engineering and overseeing the building of the two-mile-long bridge— on which an estimated 75 people died when the bridge collapsed.  An enquiry found Bouch to be liable, by virtue of bad design and construction; he died four months after the verdict.

Bouch and his creation are thus also indirectly responsible for the best-known poem, “The Tay Bridge Disaster,” by the gentleman widely-regarded to have been the the worst published poet in British history, William Topaz McGonagall.

Contemporary illustration of the search after the disaster

 source

 

Written by LW

July 22, 2015 at 1:01 am

“OPIATE, n. An unlocked door in the prison of Identity. It leads into the jail yard”*…

 

From 1999 to 2010, the sale of prescription painkillers to pharmacies and doctors’ offices quadrupled. In the exact same time span, the number of overdose deaths from prescription painkillers also quadrupled, rising to almost 17,000…

How the American opiate epidemic was started by one pharmaceutical company: “Poison Pill.”

* Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

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As we note that “one pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small,we might send re-engineered birthday greetings to Sir Thomas Bouch; he was born on this date in 1822.  A railway engineer and executive whose career began at age 17, Bouch was knighted for designing the two-mile-long Tay River Bridge— on which an estimated 75 people died when the bridge collapsed.  An enquiry found Bouch to be liable, by virtue of bad design and construction; he died four months after the verdict.

Bouch is thus also indirectly responsible for the best-known poem, “The Tay Bridge Disaster,” by the gentleman widely-regarded to have been the the worst published poet in British history, William Topaz McGonagall.

Sir Thomas Bouch

 source

 

Written by LW

February 25, 2015 at 1:01 am

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