Washington is a city of great bridges and terrible bridges. These are their stories.
Washington is a city of great bridges and terrible bridges. These are their stories.
Cincinnati Built a Subway System 100 Years Ago–But Never Used It
The Cincinnati subway stations are still there. But if you’re still waiting for a train to come, you’ve been waiting for almost a century. To this day Cincinnati remains home to the largest unused subway system in the world, with over two miles of empty tunnels. Engineers who inspected the tunnels recently deemed them in “very good condition.”
A Cryptologic Mystery
Did a broken random number generator in Cuba help expose a Russian espionage network?
I remember concluding that the most likely, if still rather improbable, explanation was that the 9-less messages were dummy fill traffic and that the random number generator used to create the messages had a bug or developed a defect that prevented 9s from being included. This would be, to say the least, a very serious error, since it would allow a listener to easily distinguish fill traffic from real traffic, completely negating the benefit of having fill traffic in the first place. It would open the door to exactly the kind of traffic analysis that the system was carefully engineered to thwart. The 9-less messages went on for almost ten years. (If I were reporting this as an Internet vulnerability, I would dub it the “Nein Nines” attack; please forgive the linguistic muddle). But I was resigned to the likelihood that I would never know for sure.
Hasselblad, Kodak, & Apollo 11
A probably not entirely wrong history of cameras developed for the moon.
In 1927, a Baltimore man was on a mission to blast off to Venus. Nearly a century later, a documentary crew is on its own mission to find the rocket built for that journey.
Some great illustrations, too.
"Kharkovchanka" - The Colossal Soviet Antarctic Cruisers
“The Kharkovchanka” - Russia’s Colossal Antarctic Cruisers which have been continuously operating in some of the most extreme environments on Earth for over 50 years. Produced in Kharkiv, Ukrainian Soviet Socialistic Republic and originally operated by USSR, the ’Харьковчанка’ (literally ‘Kharkiv Women’), these amazing Snow Cruisers were built in the late 1950s and featured everything a polar explorer could need in the field. In their half-century mission, they have crossed thousands of miles on Antarctic Ice, visited the South Pole, the pole of inaccessibility as well the dozens of outposts and research stations on the continent.
Previously: “The Snow Cruiser“-Antarctica’s Abandoned Behemoth
A Century Later, the Expensive Lesson of Reversing the Chicago River
Way back in 1673, the French Canadian explorer Louis Jolliet noticed that the land around present-day Chicago had “a very great and important advantage, which perhaps will hardly be believed.” The area, he foresaw, could become the great node of a huge continent, with the Great Lakes on one side and, just a few miles to the southwest, the Illinois River and the entire Mississippi Basin. Jolliet envisioned, rather hopefully, that connecting the two — and creating a water route from Lake Erie all the way to the Gulf of Mexico – would be as simple as building a canal through just “half a league of prairie.”
Pictures from inside the German intelligence agency BND
The German foreign intelligence service Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) is moving to a brand new headquarters in Berlin. Here we show some unique pictures from inside the former headquarters in the village of Pullach and also give an impression of what the new building looks like.
Engineering and Technology History Wiki
The ETHW is not a “how-does-technology-work” site. The scope of the ETHW is historical; instead of focusing on the inner workings of technology, it aims to explain how the technology was developed, who were the major players involved, and what long term significance the technologies have. The ETHW is not only an encyclopedia of the history of technology, but it also contains a full range of materials that relate to the legacy of engineering, including personal accounts, documents, and multimedia objects. In that sense, it is a combination reference guide, blog, virtual archive, and on-line community.
A Codebreaker's Dream: The Bombe!
What is this, sporting dozens of colorful knobs, almost like a “turn-the-knob” toddler’s game at a playground in a nearest mall? This the awesome British Bombe electro-mechanical codebreaking machine which only had one purpose: to determine the rotor settings on the German cipher machine “ENIGMA” during WW2.
Turbojet SVL - the “forgotten” train of Russia and its American predecessor
What if we put a jet engine on a train engine? In Russian.
Cognitive scientists have identified a number of common ways in which people avoid being gullible. But con artists are especially skillful at what social scientists call framing, telling stories in ways that appeal to the biases, beliefs and prominent desires of their targets. They use strategies that take advantage of human weaknesses.
Good collection of cons.
How to explain the KGB's amazing success identifying CIA agents in the field?
Their argument was simple. How could these disasters have happened with such regularity if the agency had not been penetrated by Soviet moles? The problem with this line of thought was that it did not so much overestimate CIA security as underestimate the brainpower of their Russian counterparts.
David Rumsey Historical Map Collection
The David Rumsey Map Collection was started over 30 years ago and contains more than 150,000 maps. The collection focuses on rare 16th through 21st century maps of North and South America, as well as maps of the World, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania. The collection includes atlases, wall maps, globes, school geographies, pocket maps, books of exploration, maritime charts, and a variety of cartographic materials including pocket, wall, children’s, and manuscript maps. Items range in date from about 1550 to the present.
This is fantastic.
The 1918 Parade That Spread Death in Philadelphia
The influenza pandemic of 1918-19 killed between 50 and 100 million people around the world, more than died in the battles of World War I. In the United States, the hardest-hit city was Philadelphia, where the spread of the disease was spurred by what was meant to be a joyous event: a parade.
Point Of Saturation
75k - The number of restaurants around the world that use the Aloha point of sale system. Aloha is an industry stalwart that has managed to stay relevant while often still looking like it was designed in 1998.
Plus some NCR history.
The Fairey Rotodyne, the vertical takeoff and landing airliner time forgot
The phrase “Urban Air Mobility” (UAM) seems like it’s been with us for quite a while, but really it’s only been in widespread use for two or three years. NASA officially recognized UAM in 2017, calling for a market study of remotely piloted or unmanned air passenger and cargo transportation around an urban area. Most people would probably call this the “air taxi” idea—a vision of hundreds of small, unmanned electric multi-copters shuttling two or three passengers from nearby suburbs or city spaces to vertiports at about 100 mph (roughly 161 km/h).
But if things had worked out differently in the late 1950s and early 1960s, we might have a very different understanding of UAM—something more like mass-transit. We might have had a city-center to city-center 55-passenger vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) airliner shuttling between urban heliports at 180 mph (289 km/h).
Actually, we did have that, it’s just few people remember. It was called the Fairey Rotodyne.
OldNYC: Mapping Historical Photographs
The Pond and Plaza Hotel in 1933: https://www.oldnyc.org/#718363f-a
George III's collection of military maps
George III’s collection of military maps comprises some 3,000 maps, views and prints ranging from the disposition of Charles V’s armies at Vienna in 1532 to the Battle of Waterloo (1815).
Most notable among these are the military maps, prints and drawings collected by his uncle, William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1721–65), particularly during his period as Captain General of the British army during the War of the Austrian Succession (1743–8) and the Seven Years War (1756–63).
The second major collection, bought by George III in 1763, was that of the military prints collected by the Italian art patron, Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588–1657). In addition to these, George III acquired hundreds of maps of contemporary conflicts, such as the American War of Independence (1775–83), and the French and Napoleonic Wars (1792–1815).
How the CIA used Crypto AG encryption devices to spy on countries for decades
For more than half a century, governments all over the world trusted a single company to keep the communications of their spies, soldiers and diplomats secret.
But what none of its customers ever knew was that Crypto AG was secretly owned by the CIA in a highly classified partnership with West German intelligence. These spy agencies rigged the company’s devices so they could easily break the codes that countries used to send encrypted messages.
Follow up: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/compromised-encryption-machines-gave-cia-window-into-major-human-rights-abuses-in-south-america/2020/02/15/bbfa5e56-4f63-11ea-b721-9f4cdc90bc1c_story.html