Design, History

Stanley R Mickelsen Safeguard Complex / Cavalier County, North Dakota

The Stanley R Mickelsen Safeguard Complex in Cavalier County, North Dakota, is the focus of an amazing set of images hosted by the US Library of Congress, showing this squat and evocative megastructure in various states of construction and completion. It’s a huge pyramid in the middle of nowhere tracking the end of the world on radar, an abstract geometric shape beneath the sky without a human being in sight, or it could even be the opening scene of an apocalyptic science fiction film—but it’s just the US military going about its business, building vast and other-worldly architectural structures that the civilian world only rarely sees — via BLDGBLOG

Photo: Benjamin Halpern, courtesy of the US Library of Congress


Law Journals / Red Wolf

Law Journals and Law Journals, originally uploaded by Red Wolf

Design, History

Bran Castle / Romania

Whisper it quietly, rather than shout it from the rooftops, but Dracula’s Castle, in Transylvania, is on the market.

Not in the conventional fashion, with estate agents staking their For Sale signs in the ground, but in a quiet, offers-are-invited-from-the-right-people sort of way.

If someone comes in with a reasonable offer, we will look at who they are, what they are proposing, and will seriously entertain the idea, says Mark Meyer, of Herzfeld and Rubin. The New York law firm is handling the sale (he’s also the honorary American consul for Moldova)

The property comes with a long list of previous owners: everyone from Saxons to Hungarians to Teutonic knights. And although the facilities may not be exactly state-of-the-art (the plumbing is reported to require some work), there’s no questioning the detachedness of the property. It stands on top of a hill, and is most definitely not overlooked by neighbours — via Telegraph

Design, History

Fire engulfs iconic Glasgow School of Art

One of Scotland’s most cherished cultural icons is partly in smouldering ruins today after fire raged through Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s architectural masterpiece, the Glasgow School of Art, writes Tristan Stewart-Robertson.

In what was last night described as a national tragedy, flames consumed around a third of the interior of building, with some reports suggesting the famous Mackintosh library had been lost.

Widespread emotion and dismay was demonstrated on the streets of Glasgow, and echoed around the world as the news spread.

Hundreds of students, lecturers and shoppers gathered in Renfrew Street and Sauchiehall Street as flames were seen bursting out of windows on the upper floors shortly after noon.

Many wept at the sight of fire engulfing the A-listed school, completed in 1909 and recognisable across the globe as an Art Nouveau gem — via

History, World

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams held over Jean McConville murder

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has been arrested by Northern Ireland police in connection with the 1972 murder of Jean McConville.

He presented himself to police on Wednesday evening and was arrested.

Speaking before his arrest, Mr Adams said he was innocent of any part in the murder.

Mrs McConville, a 37-year-old widow and mother of 10, was abducted from her flat in the Divis area of west Belfast and shot by the IRA.

Her body was recovered from a beach in County Louth in 2003 — via

Design, History

Teardrop Car / Norman Bel Geddes

Norman Bel Geddes (1893-1958) was an industrial designer who focused on aerodynamics. His designs extended to unrealised futuristic concepts: a teardrop-shaped automobile, and an Art Deco House of Tomorrow. By popularising streamlining when only a few engineers were considering its functional use, he made possible the design style of the thirties — via Retronaut

Design, History

Buckminster Fuller’s Geodesic Dome Home to be Restored as Museum

On 19 April, Southern Illinois University will begin to restore the world’s first geodesic dome home, built by Buckminster Fuller. Originally assembled in just seven hours from 60 wooden triangle panels, the dome was occupied by Fuller and his wife, Lady Anne, in the 1960s during his residency at SIU. After Fuller’s death, the dome was used as student housing before falling into disrepair. In 2001, the home was donated to a non-profit that had it listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. It will now be restored and preserved as a museum in Carbondale — via ArchDaily

Design, History

Blitz 2.0 / Stockpile Designs

Brooklyn-based designer Jake Wright was surrounded by military-related objects from the time he was a child. Born to an Air Force Pilot and a military defence contractor, Wright was naturally drawn toward these materials in his design work. Known collectively as Stockpile Designs, Wright’s line of furniture and home objects is based on obsolete and decommissioned military equipment — via Dornob

Art, Design, History

Classic Car Graveyard in Sweden / Svein Nordrum

When American soldiers pulled out of Europe after World War II, they left hundreds of automobiles behind. Many were consigned to a scrapyard in the woods near Bastnas, Sweden. The brothers who ran the scrapyard abandoned it over twenty years ago, and since then moss has grown inside the cars and trees have grown up through them. Cleaning up the scrapyard is proving to be a difficult task, as birds and animals use the classic autos for nests. Photographer Svein Nordrum took a set of gorgeous and haunting pictures of the cars — via Neatorama

Photo: Svein Nordrum/

Craft, History

Decapitated Marie Antoinette / Creepy and Cute

You can choose whether you want her displayed before or after the decapitation. Her head holds in place with two invisible magnets if you rather see her before this unfortunate ending. She’s made of soft alpaca wool and a high quality acrylic yarn and stuffed with a synthetic non allergenic filling. It’s approximately 14 cm tall — via Etsy

History, Politics, Rights

Burglars Who Took On FBI Abandon Shadows

The perfect crime is far easier to pull off when nobody is watching.

So on a night nearly 43 years ago, while Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier bludgeoned each other over 15 rounds in a televised title bout viewed by millions around the world, burglars took a lock pick and a crowbar and broke into a Federal Bureau of Investigation office in a suburb of Philadelphia, making off with nearly every document inside.

They were never caught, and the stolen documents that they mailed anonymously to newspaper reporters were the first trickle of what would become a flood of revelations about extensive spying and dirty-tricks operations by the FBI against dissident groups.

The burglary in Media, Pennsylvania, on 8 March 1971, is a historical echo today, as disclosures by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J Snowden have cast another unflattering light on government spying and opened a national debate about the proper limits of government surveillance. The burglars had, until now, maintained a vow of silence about their roles in the operation. They were content in knowing that their actions had dealt the first significant blow to an institution that had amassed enormous power and prestige during J Edgar Hoover’s lengthy tenure as director.

When you talked to people outside the movement about what the FBI was doing, nobody wanted to believe it, said one of the burglars, Keith Forsyth, who is finally going public about his involvement. There was only one way to convince people that it was true, and that was to get it in their handwriting — via

Design, History

Abbey Mills Pumping Station / Charles Driver + Joseph Bazalgette + Edmund Cooper

The Abbey Mills pumping station is a sewage plant designed so elaborately it looks like an authentic Byzantine monastery. It was thus named the Cathedral of Sewage. Located in the Thames estuary, this one-of-a-kind pumping station was built between 1865 and 1868 to siphon London’s sewage from the low level sewers up to the high level plant which processes the waste waters. Designed by architect Charles Driver and engineers Joseph Bazalgette and Edmund Cooper, the Cathedral of Sewage has a cruciform layout with intricate Byzantine architecture, a special touch that earned it a place in the United Kingdom’s Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. Not to mention, the fascinating building got a starring role in Batman Begins (2003) as the Arkham Asylum Laboratory with the Scarecrow and Rachel Dawes — via When On Earth

History, Technology

Royal pardon for codebreaker Alan Turing

Computer pioneer and codebreaker Alan Turing has been given a posthumous royal pardon.

It overturns his 1952 conviction for homosexuality for which he was punished by being chemically castrated.

The conviction meant he lost his security clearance and had to stop the code-cracking work that proved critical to the Allies in World War II.

The pardon was granted under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy after a request by Justice Minister Chris Grayling — via


Bay Psalm Book, published in 1640s, sets new world record after selling for more than $15m at auction

The first book printed in what is today the USA has sold for more than $15 million at auction in New York, becoming the world’s most expensive printed book.

A translation of Biblical psalms, The Bay Psalm Book was printed by Puritan settlers in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1640.

One of only 11 surviving copies from the original 1,700, it was sold at a one-lot auction in just minutes by Sotheby’s.

Bidding opened at $US6 million and closed swiftly at a hammer price of $US12.5 million, rising to $US14.165 million (around $15.5 million) once the buyer’s premium was incorporated.

The book, with its browning pages and gilt edges, was displayed in a glass case behind the auctioneer to the small crowd who attended the auction.

The bidding lasted less than five minutes, and was won buy David Rubenstein, a billionaire American financier and philanthropist — via


Hundreds mourn forgotten Dambusters veteran

Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral of a Bomber Command veteran they had never met, following a newspaper and internet appeal to honour him.

Harold Jellicoe Percival died aged 99 at a nursing home on the Lancashire coast with few friends and little family, and staff feared no-one would be there to pay their respects.

He was part of the ground team which supported the legendary Dambusters squadron, whose daring raids in May 1943 smashed three dams serving the industrial heartland of the Ruhr valley.

But after a public appeal for the Second World War veteran, an estimated 300 people attended the service at Lytham St Annes, with traffic blocking roads in the area and space running out in the crematorium. He was laid to rest yesterday at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month — via

History, Wildlife

Future of the monarchy rocked as fox kills Tower of London’s guardian ravens

It was a week in which the future of the monarchy looked even more secure, thanks to the Royal christening.

But unbeknownst to members of the Royal family cooing over Prince George, another event has shaken the foundations of the British monarchy to their very core.

An urban fox attacked and killed two ravens in the Tower of London where, according to superstition, there must be six of the birds or else the monarchy, the kingdom and the Tower itself will fall.

The unfortunate ravens, Jubilee and Grip, were snatched and eaten just before they were due to be locked up in their cages overnight — via

History, Weird

The Man Who Fought in WWII With a Sword and Bow

Running into battle armed with a broadsword, bow, and quiver of arrows was perfectly acceptable if you were fighting in the Hundred Years’ War or fending off some orcs on Middle Earth. But when it comes to World War II, such medieval weaponry looks like child’s play next to the technology of the time. A sword isn’t the most likely of defences against rifles and tanks. However, for John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, nicknamed Mad Jack, there was nothing he’d rather arm himself with than a trusty sword and bow.

Born into an old Oxfordshire family, he graduated from the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst in 1926. Before his World War II fame, Mad Jack worked as an editor of a Nairobi newspaper, a model, and a movie extra, appearing in The Thief of Bagdad due to his expertise with a bow. That same talent with archery took him to Oslo, Norway where he shot for Britain during the world championships in 1939.

By this time, of course, Europe was fast approaching World War II. Mad Jack had left the army after ten years of service, but happily returned to it because of the country having gotten into a jam in my absence.

By May 1940, Mad Jack was the second in command of an infantry company. He always marched into battle with a bow and arrows and his trusty basket-hilted claymore by his side. Despite these weapons being wildly outdated, Churchill defended them, saying, In my opinion… any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed — via

History, Politics, World

9 questions about Syria you were too embarrassed to ask

The United States and allies are preparing for a possibly imminent series of limited military strikes against Syria, the first direct US intervention in the two-year civil war, in retaliation for President Bashar al-Assad’s suspected use of chemical weapons against civilians.

If you found the above sentence kind of confusing, or aren’t exactly sure why Syria is fighting a civil war, or even where Syria is located, then this is the article for you. What’s happening in Syria is really important, but it can also be confusing and difficult to follow even for those of us glued to it.

Here, then, are the most basic answers to your most basic questions. First, a disclaimer: Syria and its history are really complicated; this is not an exhaustive or definitive account of that entire story, just some background, written so that anyone can understand it — via

Iconic Case Study Houses Finally Reside on National Register

At long last the Los Angeles Conservancy‘s effort to get a set of homes in the region included on the National Register of Historic Places has paid off, with the announcement that 11 of the Case Study Homes are deemed historically significant.

Ten of the homes have been placed on the list, according to the Conservancy. The 11th home did not get put on the list despite eligibility because of owner objection. All of them will enjoy equal preservation protections under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), says the Conservancy.

The Case Study program grew out of a post-WWII discussion of the future of architecture as a new era of building dawned. The idea was to create affordable, well-designed Mid-Century Modern homes for American families (of course, putting many in fancy neighbourhoods ensured the average Angeleno wasn’t likely to ever call one home, alas).

Not all the planned homes were built, and the program didn’t spring forth a gush of mass-produced affordable houses from the prototypes, but it did give architecture wonks and admirers much to love over the years. Most iconic is probably Case Study House #22, the Stahl house, designed by Pierre Koenig, which is oft-photographed — via

Design, History

Spitbank Fort / Gosport, UK

The Spitbank Fort was the result of an 1859 Royal Commission and is located in the Solent, near Portsmouth, England. Though its purpose and wares shifted somewhat over time, it was aimed at protect British shores from both sea and (eventually) air attacks — via WebUrbanist

Design, History

Einstein Tower / Erich Mendelsohn

The Einstein Tower in Potsdam, Germany, designed by the German architect Erich Mendelsohn, is one of the best-known examples of German expressionist architecture. Designed as an amorphic structure of reinforced concrete, Mendelsohn wanted the tower to represent as well as facilitate the study of Einstein’s radical theory of relativity — a groundbreaking theorem of motion, light and space — via ArchDaily

Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing to be given posthumous pardon

Alan Turing, the Enigma codebreaker who took his own life after being convicted of gross indecency under anti-homosexuality legislation, is to be given a posthumous pardon.

The government signalled on Friday that it is prepared to support a backbench bill that would pardon Turing, who died from cyanide poisoning at the age of 41 in 1954 after he was subjected to chemical castration.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, a government whip, told peers that the government would table the third reading of the Alan Turing (statutory pardon) bill at the end of October if no amendments are made. If nobody tables an amendment to this bill, its supporters can be assured that it will have speedy passage to the House of Commons, Ahmad said.

The announcement marks a change of heart by the government, which declined last year to grant pardons to the 49,000 gay men, now dead, who were convicted under the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act. They include Oscar Wilde — via

World’s oldest calendar discovered in Scottish field

Archaeologists believe they have discovered the world’s oldest lunar calendar in an Aberdeenshire field.

Excavations of a field at Crathes Castle found a series of 12 pits which appear to mimic the phases of the moon and track lunar months.

A team led by the University of Birmingham suggests the ancient monument was created by hunter-gatherers about 10,000 years ago.

The pit alignment, at Warren Field, was first excavated in 2004.

The experts who analysed the pits said they may have contained a wooden post.

The Mesolithic calendar is thousands of years older than previous known formal time-measuring monuments created in Mesopotamia.

The analysis has been published in the journal, Internet Archaeology — via

How Thor’s Hammer Made Its Way Onto Soldiers’ Headstones

To summarise, Thor’s hammer represents heroism, nobility, self-reliance, and honour. It’s a symbol with a history that extends back a thousand years to pre-Christian Europe. And adherents of Odinism, the religion that Thor’s hammer represents, tend to make natural soldiers. Oh, and it also shares a pretty strong cultural heritage with a superhero who is, in his own weird, Technicolor, space viking way, as American as apple pie. How strange would it be, then, if the US Department of Veterans Affairs — the organisation that oversees cemeteries dedicated to US veterans and ultimately says which symbols can be used therein to represent your religious faith — had a problem with Thor’s hammer?

But for decades, the VA did have a problem with Thor’s hammer. Not so much for what Mjölnir stood for but because it was a pagan symbol, and pagan symbols were verboten.

If you look at all the symbols the Department of Veterans Affairs have approved for use on headstones over the years, pagan symbols were really the final frontier, Pitzl-Waters says. Hinduism, Humanists, Atheists, all these other symbols had been approved. But there wasn’t a single pagan symbol on the approved list — via

New York teacher’s remains found behind wall 27 years on

The skeleton of a New York state teacher who vanished in 1985 has been discovered behind a false wall in the home she shared with her late husband, police say.

The remains of JoAnn Nichols were found in a foetal position, tied with rope and wrapped in plastic in the house in the town of Poughkeepsie.

A post-mortem examination found she had been killed by a blow to her head.

Her husband, James Nichols, died in December of natural causes aged 82 — via

Design, History

Atlas Missile Silo / Lewis, New York

It’s 185 feet below the surface of Lewis NY, and comes with Strangelove-ian clocks that show the time in cities around the world and gun-metal grey consoles covered with analogue switches and dials for you to flip and turn while making blastoff noises with your mouth. You also get 8 acres with a waterfront view. Asking price: $750,000 — via Boing Boing

Yuri Gagarin air crash details emerge

New details have emerged about the air crash on 27 March 1968 that killed Yuri Gagarin — the first man in space.

Fellow cosmonaut Alexey Leonov claims an unauthorised plane flew too close to Gagarin’s fighter jet, sending it into a spin.

Gagarin and his flight instructor Vladimir Seryogin died when their MiG-15 went down near the town of Novoselovo, about 90km from Moscow.

Secrecy surrounding the crash has led to vigorous speculation down the years.

A government investigation of the accident (which Mr Leonov was part of) concluded that the MiG tried to avoid a foreign object — such as geese, or a hot air balloon.

On the conclusions of this original investigation, Mr Leonov said: That conclusion is believable to a civilian — not to a professional.

In an interview with Russia Today, the cosmonaut — who, in 1965, became the first person to walk in space — claimed he had been permitted to share a declassified report showing that a Sukhoi fighter jet flew too close to Gagarin’s MiG, disrupting its flight — via

Rose Engine Lathe No.1636 / Holtzapffel & Company

Rose Engine Lathe No.1636 / Holtzapffel & Company

A rose engine lathe (Wikipedia) is a type of geometric lathe used to produce complex radial engravings called Guilloché, which are used both for decorative and security (ie, anti-counterfeiting) purposes.

Those of you with more than $238,000 of disposable cash lying around may be irked to discover that the auction for this stunningly beautiful antique specimen is long closed. At least we can all still enjoy the gorgeous photographs, courtesy Massachusetts-based Skinner Auctioneers, who sealed the deal back in December. Their site is actually chock-a-block with beautiful old tools, instruments, and apparatus — via MAKE

German WWII Dornier bomber lifted from sea off England

A British salvage team has lifted a German World War II bomber from the seabed off the coast of south-east England.

The Dornier Do 17 was shot down during the Battle of Britain in August 1940, but was only discovered by divers in 2008.

Covered with barnacles and missing a wing, the dripping wreck of the plane was slowly raised 15 metres to the surface at Goodwin Sands, Kent, at the mouth of the English Channel — via

Blood, Sweat, and Steel

Blood, Sweat, and Steel

When I got this sword, it was completely covered in blood rust. Sword maker Francis Boyd is showing me yet another weapon pulled from yet another safe in the heavily fortified workshop behind his northern California home.

You can tell it’s blood, he says matter-of-factly, because ordinary rust turns the grinding water brown. If it’s blood rust it bleeds, it looks like blood in the water. Even 2,000 years old, it bleeds. And it smells like a steak cooking, like cooked meat. I’ve encountered this before with Japanese swords from World War II. If there’s blood on the sword and you start polishing it, the sword bleeds. It comes with the territory.

Blood rust: I hadn’t thought of that. I guess it would turn water red, but the steak comment is kind of creeping me out, as is the growing realization that if these swords could talk, I couldn’t stomach half the tales they’d have to tell — via Collectors Weekly

World War II Code Is Broken, Decades After POW Used It

It’s been 70 years since the letters of John Pryor were understood in their full meaning. That’s because as a British prisoner of war in Nazi Germany, Pryor’s letters home to his family also included intricate codes that were recently deciphered for the first time since the 1940s.

Pryor’s letters served their purpose in World War II, as Britain’s MI9 agents decoded the messages hidden within them — requests for supplies, notes about German activities — before sending them along to Pryor’s family in Cornwall.

There were two types of information buried in these letters, Pryor’s son, Stephen. There is military intelligence going back about munitions dumps, about submarines that have been sunk, and information requests for British Military Intelligence in London to send maps and German currency and German ID, to help them with their escape plans — via

Rare Liberty Head nickel sells for $3.1m

A century-old US five-cent coin, once branded a fake, has been sold for $3.1m (£2m) at auction.

The 1913 Liberty Head nickel, one of only five such coins, had a pre-sale estimated price of $2.5m.

The coin’s intriguing provenance — it was illegally cast, found in a car crash, deemed a forgery and abandoned for decades — explains its high value.

It was located after a nationwide search and put up for sale by four siblings in the state of Virginia.

Not only is it just one of only five known, genuine 1913-dated Liberty Head design nickels, this particular one was off the radar for decades until it literally came out of the closet after a nationwide search, said Todd Imhof, vice-president of Heritage Auctions, where the coin was sold — via

Hydro-Plane: 1940 / Howard McGraw

Hydro-Plane: 1940 / Howard McGraw

My grandfather Howard McGraw, a photographer for the Detroit News, likely saw the scene in his neighbourhood and stopped for the shot. The airplane is an early 1940’s Murray Pursuit pedal car with Army decals and machine gun mounts — worth over $1000 today if restored! And the gas pump would likely go for about $3000 restored! Scanned from a 4×5 negative — via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive

New York’s Sidewalk Clock / William Barthman

In lower Manhattan, blocks from where the World Trade Centre once stood, embedded deep into the sidewalk, is a clock. It’s a simple clock, the hours and minutes are neatly displayed by spade hands, while Roman numerals and train track minutes markers circle the dial. All of this is cloudy, but visible under the scratched and stained crystal that occupies a break in the pavement at the intersection of Maiden Lane and Broadway. And it has been ticking away there, under the feet of Manhattan, for over a century. — via HODINKEE + Vimeo


Pyramids / Marat Dupri

Recently a troop of Russian photographers surreptitiously scaled the Great Pyramid of Giza and documented the unseen vistas from its summit. How’d they do it? Seems like the group waited several hours after closing time, hiding from guards until they saw their chance. As one of the photographers would later point out, climbing the Pyramids is a punishable crime and can carry sentences of up to three years — via Architizer