EASYCHAIR - CIA covert listening devices
> EASYCHAIR – also written as Easy Chair or EC – was the codename of a super secret research project, initiated by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), aiming to develop covert listening devices (bugs) based on the principle of the Resonant Cavity Microphone – also known as The Great Seal Bug or The Thing – that had been found in 1952 in the study of the US ambassador’s residency in Moscow, hidden in a donated wooden carving of the Great Seal of the United States.
> Upon discovery of The Thing, many US agencies – including the CIA – investigated the possibility of using the new – hitherto unknown – technology to its own advantage. The secret research took place in the Netherlands at the Dutch Radar Laboratory (NRP) in Noordwijk.
Little Bay Islands relocation
> The strains on Little Bay Islands — emigration, resource collapse, aging populations — are familiar to small towns around the world. Local leaders have tried to revive dying villages with offers of $1 homes or promises to pay would-be residents to move in. Newfoundland and Labrador takes a different approach: It pays you to leave.
How Crisco Made Americans Believers in Industrial Food
> Crisco’s main ingredient, cottonseed oil, had a bad rap. So marketers decided to focus on the ‘purity’ of factory food processing
That time a monkey flew to the edge of space
> So when NASA’s young engineers at Langley Research Center in Virginia began testing their new Mercury capsule in flight, they wanted to see whether the accelerations experienced during the abort of a Mercury flight shortly after launch were survivable. Enter Sam, an eight-pound rhesus monkey.
‘Grand inquisitors of the realm’: How Congress got its power to investigate and subpoena
> Back in his day, Robert Morris was a pretty big deal. He was just one of two men to sign all three of our nation’s founding documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution.
> “Wherefore, and encouraged by a consciousness of the Integrity of his Administration, your Memorialist is desirous that a Strict Examination should be had into his Conduct,” Morris wrote, “in order that if he has been guilty of Maladministration it may be detected and Punished, if otherwise, that his Innocence may be manifested, and acknowledged.”
> Morris’s mouthful of a demand was taken up in the House of Representatives, where members referred it to a select committee, ultimately helping lay the foundation for the wide-ranging subpoena power Congress uses to investigate/torment the executive branch, including the president.
Instant stone (just add water!)
> This basic technology has been known since prehistoric times: the kilning of limestone is older than pottery, much older than metalworking, and possibly older than agriculture. But over the millenia, better formulas for cement have been created, with superior mixtures of ingredients and improved processes.
Plus a follow up: https://rootsofprogress.org/cement-redux
The Unrepeatable Architectural Moment of Yugoslavia’s “Concrete Utopia”
> Monument to the Uprising of the People of Kordun and Banija, in Petrova Gora, Croatia. Abstract, boldly expressive memorials once dotted the Yugoslavian countryside by the thousands.
The 3 A.M. Phone Call
> It went to a national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was awakened on 9 November 1979, to be told that the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the combined U.S.–Canada military command–was reporting a Soviet missile attack. Just before Brzezinski was about to call President Carter, the NORAD warning turned out to be a false alarm. It was one of those moments in Cold War history when top officials believed they were facing the ultimate threat. The apparent cause? The routine testing of an overworked computer system.
Thirty years after the Berlin Wall fell, a Stasi spy puzzle remains unsolved
> In the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago, East Germany’s secret police frantically tried to destroy millions of documents that laid bare the astounding reach of mass surveillance used to keep an iron grip on citizens.
> As shredders that were available jammed or broke down, Stasi officers resorted to tearing the documents by hand, stuffing them into bags to later be burned or pulped. But the effort came to a premature halt when citizens groups stormed and occupied Stasi offices to preserve the evidence.
> Three decades later, in the same rooms behind the foreboding gray facade of the former Stasi headquarters, Barbara Poenisch and nine fellow archivists are trying to piece those documents, and the history, back together.
History of Information
Lots of little facts organized in various ways.
The Berlin Wall Fell 30 Years Ago. Where Did It Go?
How these American dishes evolved from foreign roots
> Gumbo. Chile con queso. California roll. Spaghetti and meatballs.
> The names are as familiar as household brands. Yet how much do you know about these dishes? Based on the names alone, with their roots in other languages and other cultures, each dish sounds like an import. In some ways, they are. But each dish also morphed and adapted to its new environment, transforming into something uniquely American.
How to Read “Gilgamesh”
> The heart of the world’s oldest long poem is found in its gaps and mysteries.
History of Cartography
> The first volume of the History of Cartography was published in 1987 and the three books that constitute Volume Two appeared over the following eleven years. In 1987 the worldwide web did not exist, and since 1998 book publishing has gone through a revolution in the production and dissemination of work. Although the large format and high quality image reproduction of the printed books (see right column) are still well-suited to the requirements for the publishing of maps, the online availability of material is a boon to scholars and map enthusiasts.
> On this site the University of Chicago Press is pleased to present the first three volumes of the History of Cartography in PDF format.
The pain of tracking down changes in U.S. law
> But this didn’t tell me when the coffee exception was introduced or in what legislation. Most of Title 23 dates from 1958, but the coffee sign exception was added later. When Congress amends a law, they do it by specifying a patch to the existing code. My use of the programmer jargon term “patch” here is not an analogy. The portion of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1978 that enacted the “free coffee” exception reads as follows:
> To track this down, I had no choice but to grovel over each of the links to the Statutes at Large, download each scan, and search over each one looking for the coffee provision. I kept written notes so that I wouldn’t mix up the congressional term numbers with the Statutes volume numbers.
Grumman X-29: The impossible fighter jet with inverted wings
> There’s no airplane quite like the Grumman X-29. Its astonishing forward-swept wings were just one of its many bold innovations.
> Created at the height of the Cold War by a conglomerate of giants -- NASA, the US Air Force, the “men in black” at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and aerospace behemoth Grumman -- it first flew in 1984 as part of a quest to build the ultimate fighter jet.
Confession of Kim Philby made public for first time
The (Mostly) True Story of Helvetica and the New York City Subway
> There is a commonly held belief that Helvetica is the signage typeface of the New York City subway system, a belief reinforced by Helvetica, Gary Hustwit’s popular 2007 documentary about the typeface. But it is not true—or rather, it is only somewhat true. Helvetica is the official typeface of the MTA today, but it was not the typeface specified by Unimark International when it created a new signage system at the end of the 1960s. Why was Helvetica not chosen originally? What was chosen in its place? Why is Helvetica used now, and when did the changeover occur? To answer those questions this essay explores several important histories: of the New York City subway system, transportation signage in the 1960s, Unimark International and, of course, Helvetica. These four strands are woven together, over nine pages, to tell a story that ultimately transcends the simple issue of Helvetica and the subway.
What it was like to fly the baddest airplane the world has ever known
> The X-15 was not the first rocket-powered aircraft, but it is probably the best one ever built and flown. Before the first X-15 took flight in the late 1950s, the fastest speed airplanes had reached was Mach 3. The X-15 doubled that. And, remarkably, it also went on to fly into space more than a dozen times.
How the woman who broke the news about World War II was also first to the ‘Third Man’ spy
> Much of the coverage following the death of Clare Hollingworth has focussed upon her reporting on the outbreak of World War II and the fact that she broke the first stories about Germany’s invasion of Poland. But a little more can perhaps be said about her role in another major 20th-century news story. Hollingworth played a significant part in the outing of Kim Philby as the so-called “Third Man” in the Cambridge Spy Ring, following his disappearance from Beirut in January 1963.