This picture and caption ran in papers back in October 1951. It's not clear why it was considered newsworthy. It also left unanswered the question of who the shortest man in the Air Force was, if Sgt. Perkins was the second shortest.
Developed by Goodyear in the 1950s, the Inflatoplane could fit in the trunk of a car, and then be inflated to full size in 10 minutes. The idea was that the air force could drop inflatoplanes to pilots stranded in enemy territory, allowing them to fly themselves to safety. But the project was eventually abandoned because of a series of accidents, and the military's concern that the plane could too easily be shot down. Link: bendbulletin.com
In the mid-1950s, Hiller constructed a series of innovative Flying Platforms for an Army-Navy program as a one-man flying vehicle that the pilot could control with minimal training. The pilot simply leaned in the desired direction and the platform would follow. The platforms, which utilized the aerodynamic advantages of the ducted fan, were incapable of tumbling, because if the pilot leaned over too far, the platform would pitch up and slow down.
Unfortunately, the flying platform was plagued by engineering problems. Otherwise, we'd probably all be floating around cities in these today. More info here
Sometimes even generals come to their senses. The notion of airborne nuclear reactors proved too worrisome even for the military, despite the brilliant failsafe plan of catastrophic ditching into water.
The story goes that, during the Battle of the Bulge, in the winter of 1944, Sgt. William Furia (shown) decorated his helmet with some lace curtains that he found in an abandoned home. He did it as a joke, but then he and his fellow soldiers realized the lace made excellent camouflage in the snow. So the practice of decorating helmets with lace curtains became widespread. And thus camouflaged, the Allied soldiers were able to beat back the German offensive. Which is how lace curtains became America's secret weapon that allowed it to win the war.
First up, apologies if this post contains more typos than usual, I'm sending it from my new ultra-small netbook and I'm still getting used to its itty-bitty keyboard. Which brings me nicely to my first story. That according to a survey for satellite channel SKY-HD, British consumers waste £52 billion a year on hi-tech features they don't use. For example, half of the people polled did not know their high definition television also required a hi-def signal source such as a blu-ray player or HD satellite receiver – like the ones sold by SKY-HD perhaps (Telegraph).
And it's not just the the British, military officials in Russia recently discovered 100 front-line battletanks parked and forgotten by the side of the road near Yekaterinburg in the Urals. Locals say the tanks, which were unguarded and unlocked, have been there for several months and lack only ammunition and the all important starter keys (Reuters).
Someone who might have had a use for those tanks were guests at a wedding in New Delhi in India recently. The Hindu ceremony was somewhat marred when an elephant hired for the event went on a rampage after becoming aroused by the smell of a nearby female in heat. The amorous pachyderm then proceeded to crush 20 limousines, smash through a nearby mall and mount a truck before it could be tranquilised (Orange).
Also losing it this week was the man on the RyanAir flight who found he had won 10,000 euros on a scratchcard he bought on the budget flight from Poland to the UK. Furious that the airline had not seen fit to equip all their planes with the requisite amount of cash onboard, hence he could not be given his prize there and then as he demanded, the unnamed passenger ate the winning card rather than wait to claim it at his destination (BBC News).
Tonight is the night of the Yule moon, also called the “wolf moon” (the first new full moon of the year), and coincidentally will be the largest and brightest full moon of 2010. This is because the Moon’s orbit is not a perfect circle but an ellipse, with its nearest point to Earth some 31 thousand miles closer than its furthest. And occasionally the full moon will coincide with this closest approach, which is enough for the moon to appear 14% larger and 30% brighter than at any other time this year. Incidentally, this also means the previous new moon was very nearly the smallest it could have been, which is why – along with occurring with Earth at its nearest to the Sun – the solar eclipse on January 15th was annular (Space.com).
Also watching the skies tonight may be Luchezar Filipov, Deputy Head of Space Exploration at the Bulgarian Academy of Science. However, Filipov’s interest is not the Moon, but aliens, who he believes are living among us on Earth at this very moment. Filipov and his team claim to be in telepathic contact with the aliens, who he says are friendly, but could not establish a coherent conversation because of our “lack of evolution”. This lack of coherence appears to have only been one way however, as Filipov was still able to state that the aliens were critical of our immoral behaviour, environmental destruction and use of cosmetics and artificial insemination, which they condemned as unnatural – unlike space travel one presumes. The next meeting of minds between Filipov and the aliens is scheduled for sometime in spring this year (Sofia Echo).
But perhaps the aliens are backing the wrong species, because it’s move over Iron Man and make way for Iron Snail. The scaly-foot snail is certainly well protected for its kind, with an iron rich outer layer that deters piercing, a thick organic middle that dissipates the force of an attack and a calcified inner layer that gives the shell sufficient rigidity to resist attempts to crush it. The snail’s armour is so good that it’s attracted the interest of the Department of Defense, who are seeing if any useful lessons could be learned for application in the man-made versions (MIT).
Someone else who could have benefited from some armour is “Macho B”, who was – until his death in February last year, the last known wild jaguar in South West America. Perversely, it wasn’t poachers who did for him in the end but Arizona’s own Fish and Game Department, who deny it was their intention to capture the jaguar despite setting snares around his territory. Now a federal inquiry has concluded that Macho B was trapped deliberately, and the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service is considering whether to bring charges (NY Times).
But even as the jaguar takes one step nearer joining the dinosaurs in extinction, scientists are one step closer to bringing them back, in our imaginations at least. For the first time, a team from China, the United Kingdom and Ireland have determined the colours and pattern of a dinosaur, a metre-long feathered carnivore called Sinosauropteryx. Turns out the bird-like bipeds were orange, with white striped tails and a “mohawk” display crest on their heads. Despite the feathers, Sinosauropteryx was a flightless reptile who most likely used its feathers primarily for display (CBC).
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Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
Chuck is the purveyor of News of the Weird, the syndicated column which for decades has set the gold-standard for reporting on oddities and the bizarre.
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