Mixed Successes in Historical Military Innovation: Experimental Tanks

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The Soviet heavy track Object 279:

Developed at the Kirov Industrial Plant in Leningrad. Only one was built, in 1959. The tank has a four-track running gear and a 2000 hp 2DG-8M diesel engine, and if necessary it withstands the shockwave of a nuclear explosion.

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The Syrian rebel Sham II:

Five video cameras and a 7.62mm gun outside, flat screen TVs, PlayStation controller (controlling the machine gun) and a steering wheel on the inside.

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The Russian Tsar Tank, a.k.a. the Lebedenko Tank:

The largest armored vehicle ever built was made in 1914 in Russia, developed by Nikolai Lebedenko. The tank used the good old tricycle form instead of caterpillar tracks.

The weight of the big wheels was too much, so it often got stuck in the ground. After some tests the tank remained somewhere in a field, and stood there eight years before it was taken apart.

Via io9 for tons more examples of ingenuity – or something like that.

Abandoned Commune and Medieval Village of Craco, Italy

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Craco is an abandoned commune and medieval village located in the Region of Basilicata and the Province of Matera in Italy. It was abandoned in 1963 due to recurring earthquakes.

Around 540, the area was called “Montedoro” and inhabited by Greeks who moved inland from the coastal town of Metaponto. Tombs have been found dating from the 8th century suggesting the original settlement dates back to then.

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Via Wikipedia and Sometimes Interesting for many more photographs.

Mars Expedition to Use Astronaut Feces as a Radiation Shield

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The man and woman aboard the Inspiration Mars mission set to fly-by the Red Planet in 2018 will face cramped conditions, muscle atrophy and potential boredom. But their greatest health risk comes from exposure to the radiation from cosmic rays.

The solution? Line the spacecraft’s walls with water, food and their own faeces.

“It’s a little queasy sounding, but there’s no place for that material to go, and it makes great radiation shielding,” says Taber MacCallum, a member of the team funded by multimillionaire Dennis Tito.

Image via Space Facts.
Via New Scientist.

The Maunsell Sea Forts of England

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The Maunsell Forts were small fortified towers built in the Thames and Mersey estuaries during the Second World War to help defend the United Kingdom. They were named after their designer, Guy Maunsell. The forts were decommissioned in the late 1950s and later used for other activities.

Maunsell sea forts, built in the Thames estuary and operated by the Royal Navy, were to deter and report German air raids following the Thames as a landmark, and attempts to lay mines by aircraft in this important shipping channel.

One became the Principality of Sealand.

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Via Wikipedia.

Vaudeville Piece About the Evils of Card Play and Alcohol

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In 1906 The Journal of the English Folk Song Society published a piece on the old English ballad “Death and the Lady.” Some enterprising female entertainer encountered the article and realized the story might be used as a great vaudeville piece about the evils of card play and alcohol.

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I must not be the target market demographic. After watching this, I really badly want to pour a Scotch and play some cards. With some skeletons.

Via Morbid Anatomy which has several other great photographs.

Gobekli Tepe: Megaliths in Turkey that Predate Stonehenge by 6,000 Years

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Six miles from Urfa, an ancient city in southeastern Turkey, Klaus Schmidt has made one of the most startling archaeological discoveries of our time: massive carved stones about 11,000 years old, crafted and arranged by prehistoric people who had not yet developed metal tools or even pottery.

The megaliths predate Stonehenge by some 6,000 years. The place is called Gobekli Tepe, and Schmidt, a German archaeologist who has been working here more than a decade, is convinced it’s the site of the world’s oldest temple.

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In the pits, standing stones, or pillars, are arranged in circles. Beyond, on the hillside, are four other rings of partially excavated pillars. Each ring has a roughly similar layout: in the center are two large stone T-shaped pillars encircled by slightly smaller stones facing inward.

As we walk among them, I see that some are blank, while others are elaborately carved: foxes, lions, scorpions and vultures abound, twisting and crawling on the pillars’ broad sides.

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Gobekli Tepe is, in fact, the earliest human-built ceremonial center we have found to date, and it upends a lot of anthropological theory about the formation of civilization. In the conventional story, settlement began as a foundationally agrarian effort which then opened up a path towards more organized religious structure.

But there’s a problem with this theory; there is no evidence of permanent economic development at Gobekli Tepe. In fact, though, this may not be as novel as it may at first sound; there is quite a lot of evidence that many of the Mayan ceremonial centers were not cities in the conventional sense, but ceremonial centers, and while the Mayans certainly had settlements (and were a lot later than Gobekli Tepe, of course), it shows the connection isn’t as rigid as we have frequently assumed.

Fitted together with Gobekli Tepe, it is starting to sound like we had the cart before the horse. In other words, ceremonial efforts may have created the social mechanisms that allowed for long term persistent economic development.

Via Smithsonian and YouTube.