Tag: weird science

Attractions & Other Oddities

Today, February 4, marks the 100 year anniversary of the high-speed death of Franz Reichelt, the man known as the Flying Tailor, and would-be parachuting pioneer. (Video below.)

In 1912, the Austrian-born French dressmaker, having realized a dire need for a proper parachute that could be worn by aviators, sought to invent such a device himself. While the parachute was nothing new, earlier forms required that the canopy already be open before the jump, or were otherwise too bulky to be worn by pilots. And so, Reichelt worked to develop a lightweight suit that could be deployed as needed.

His initial experiments, which employed the use of dummies dropped from buildings, weren't very successful. Believing, however, that part of his problem was a lack of available height, Reichelt petitioned authorities to allow an attempt at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. ... Continued

For years I've assumed that one of mankind's greatest fantasies has been to develop a practical, personal jetpack. But if the covers of Popular Science serve as any measure for this sort of thing, then it seems that for the past few decades man's been dreaming less about rocketing through the sky than he has about riding in some kind of giant wheel.

The revelation struck me as I was skimming Google's new archive of Popular Science and Popular Mechanics magazines for interesting cover art. As I quickly realized, the magazines' covers featured some crazy new vehicle every few years eschewing the apparently pesky and cumbersome multiwheel concept in favor of one enormous gyre.

Of course, once I noticed the pattern, I had to go back and scan all the issues methodically to see just how many variations have appeared over the generations. ... Continued

Your room may be equipped with Edison electric light, but those new-fangled bulbs wouldn't be good for much more than pepper shakers if it weren't for a man named Nikola Tesla.

Before the turn of the century, Thomas Edison and Tesla were engaged in a battle known as the War of Currents. Edison was a staunch proponent of direct-current electricity, while Tesla was an advocate of alternating current. Tesla was confident that AC was the way of the future, but Edison had already sunk a great deal of time, energy and money into DC.

The problem was that DC required expensive, high-maintenance converters to transform between voltages. AC, on the other hand, could do the same thing with less expensive and more efficient equipment, making it more effective in overcoming current loss over great distances. Tesla knew this and continued to promote AC for wide distribution. ... Continued

Despite the increasing popularity of CFLs and LEDs, I still love the warm glow and aesthetic design of a traditional incandescent. After all, I can't imagine lighting up a good, old-fashioned roadside arrow with fluorescent light.

That's why I had to admire this vintage sign I discovered at Gizmodo this morning. That and the reassuring disclaimer that this strange alternative to gas "is in no way harmful to health, nor does it affect the soundness of sleep." Reportedly, they still display these at the historic National Hotel in Jamestown, California.

I've recreated the sign in two versions you can print yourself and display at home.

The GIF is optimized for a typical letter-size sheet and the PDF is vectorized for lossless resizing.

I recommend printing on a nice antique-style paper stock.