Researchers have created a hitchhiking robot named hitchBOT that will be making its way across Canada this summer. If all goes well (and no one steals or destroys the thing) it will make its way from Halifax to Victoria. When people pick it up, it'll make "regionally relevant conversation using a combination of GPS and Wikipedia."
It's one thing to repeatedly slip across the Mexico-USA border. Dangerous, but in wide-open spaces. It's quite another to stowaway five times across the Atlantic on a confined ship. (Of course, stowing away in a jetliner's wheel well is another matter entirely.)
Just four travel bags, but linked together it reminds you of home. Your couch on a remote location. But also on airports and train stations, you can bring a little homish comfort and a feeling of safety with you.
Artist Matt Hope outfitted his bicycle with an air filtration system that allows him to breathe clean air as he bicycles around Beijing. It's his way of drawing attention to Beijing's pollution woes. Though he says it could also be seen as "a ridiculous solution to a ridiculous problem."
It reminds me of Hana Marie Newman's oxygen-tank bubble dress that I posted about a few months ago. Hope and Newman should get together. They could swap air purifiers.
Imagine you're riding in a train, when you see another train hurtling toward you on the same track. No problem. You're on the "anti-collision train," designed by P.K. Stern of New York. It was a bold idea for improving travel safety, but it never caught on. The Strand magazine (1904) explained the concept:
A single track is used, on which railway-cars are caused to travel. Two cars are rushing towards each other at a speed of twenty-five miles an hour, so that a collision would, under ordinary conditions, be inevitable, when suddenly one of the cars runs, not into, but over the top of the other and lands on the track on the other side, where it continues in perfect safety to its destination. The underneath car has proceeded as if nothing had happened.
The cars, although they run upon wheels, are really travelling bridges, with overhanging compartments for the accommodation of passengers. Over the framed structure of the cars thus constituted an arched track is carried, securely fastened to the car and serving the purpose of providing a road-bed for the colliding car. This superimposed track is built in accordance with well-understood principles of bridge construction.
On occasion, Japanese citizens who travel to Paris suffer episodes of extreme depression. The depression can be so severe that it leads to hallucinations and psychosis. The Japanese psychiatrist Hiroaki Ota named this condition "Paris Syndrome." He speculated that it's caused by the difference between the idealized view of Paris that the travelers held and the reality that confronted them.
Recently, filmmaker John Menick created a short documentary about this syndrome. He describes it as:
a short, cinematic essay analyzing the cultural implications of travel-related mental illnesses. The project places the syndrome within an ongoing history of cross-cultural relations; the emergence of a global tourist industry; and the creation of psychiatric schools of thought devoted to inter-cultural relations. In addition to the Parisian illness, Paris Syndrome also looks at a number of related issues: Stendhal Syndrome, an ailment experienced by traveling viewers of art (identified in Florence, Italy); the history of psychiatric portraiture; 19th-century mad travelers; and the changes in travel-related mental illnesses throughout history.
Back in 1901, Johann Beck was having trouble finding work in Germany, so he decided to seek his fortune in America. Problem was the cheapest steerage ticket cost 120 marks, and he didn't have that much. But he calculated that if he packed himself in a box and shipped himself as freight, he could go for half that price.
He built a box that he could seal from the inside by a series of hooks. He arranged to have it picked up at his home, telling the freight company that the box contained "artist's models." Then he sealed himself in it along with what he thought would be enough food to last him the trip: a dozen cans of condensed milk, a box of prunes, 36 chocolate bars, coffee in bottles, some bread, sausages, and a little whiskey.
Of course, things didn't go quite as he planned. For a start, he hadn't realized how cold it would be in the hold of the ship. And then there were the rats:
The ship (the steamship Palatia of the Hamburg-American Line) departed Hamburg on November 17, and its passage was slowed by a winter storm. So what was supposed to be a 14-day voyage took two days longer, and Johann ran out of food:
The one detail of Beck's transatlantic voyage that I haven't been able to find discussed was how he disposed of his bodily wastes. I suppose he used a bottle, but the smell must have been pretty bad, which would have added to the discomfort of the experience. More details about Beck's voyage here and here.
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.