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Everything posted by Cosmo

  1. Hi everyone, I've been head-down for a while learning some things and planning out some features. Now that I have the knowledge to execute some things I've been wanting to do (for a long time at this point), it's time to start making those changes. I began outlining some of what I have planned on the Curious Cosmos Devlog, but here's what's changing with TTI: First, we're archiving these forums and starting fresh. These forums, the one you're reading now, will remain here at https://archive.timetravelinstitute.com for as long as I own the site. This place will continue to function the way it is now until the end of the year. Feel free to make threads, make posts, use private messages, whatever you like. At the end of the year, we'll officially say goodbye to the old forums and set everything to read-only. I currently have new registrations disabled, and no new topics will be allowed in the Paranormal or I'm a Time Traveler forums. In the meantime, the new forums are ready to go at https://bbs.timetravelinstitute.com. This is a clean slate, and there are a LOT of little things about the new software that I think will make TTI a more interesting place. I won't dive into those details, but try it yourself and see what it's like. If you get stuck or confused, I'm happy to help via PM. We will not be converting these forums. I have other intentions with this place that I'll discuss another time. I'm doing this for a few reasons. First, I'm tired of traditional forum software. There are more interesting alternatives out there, and I don't think we need to mangle a 22 year old database in order to try something new. Second, I think we could use a fresh start. Not because of any one thing in particular, but I do generally feel that the "traditional" forum setup has run its course. At least for TTI. I will be maintaining a more regular and active presence here and on Curious Cosmos. That'll be a mix between feature development, livestreams and just communicating with you all much more in general. The Curious Cosmos forums are also restarting, and will us Discourse too. TTI will ONLY contain time travel/chronology discussion, so head to https://bbs.curiouscosmos.com for everything else 🙂 There's a lot of other things moving, but I'll talk about those when I have something to show. Hope to see you all on the new forums 👍
  2. Gave it a shot last night and we played some Portal and Journeyman Project. The setup needs a little work but we got it going and had some fun 🙂 I'll do this randomly throughout the week to keep getting the hang of it and then we'll make it a more regularly scheduled thing.
  3. Happy birthday to your son! Saw a couple photos on FB; hope you guys have a lot of fun 🙂 Been working out my setup; first several streams will probably be totally lame (this is something that takes practice), so you're not missing anything yet. Tonight my kids and I are going to play a couple random games and then I'll settle in on Journeyman Project 2 for a good while. I'll post the stream here when we start, but again, we're learning how to do this so I'm not expecting anyone to even yet 😉
  4. Gonna try to stream something this weekend. Will post a link and whatnot; feel free to stop by.
  5. Forgot about this thread. Thank-you Gamer for bringing this back to the light. 🙂 Seems that there is a issue with the definition of "infinity" verses " eternal". I figure that "infinity" refers to a physical definition , and "eternity" refers to a measure of time. in the YouTube video linked , an astronaut is running on a ring around a planet. First thing is setting of parameters of the scenario. That the astronaut is indeed running a'top a 'ring' that is circular in shape. That the astronaut will be running along the top of the ring forever. IF the astronaut had a starting point, then from his perspective, is the ring really infinite, if asked how many times he has passed a starting point? IF the astronaut is doomed to run a'top the ring forever, he is running on it 'not' infinitely, but, eternally. Run AstroMan Run
  6. My kids and I built a new gaming PC and I thought it'd be interesting to try and host some time travel-related watch parties or game streaming. Would anyone be interested in dropping in if we did something like that on a regular basis? If you aren't sure what a watch party is, it's basically a Twitch stream where the "game" is a movie from Amazon Prime. If you have an account too, we can watch it together and talk about it in chat. We have quite a large backlog of time travel games; playing something like ChronoTrigger or Journeyman Project together and talking about whatever comes up could be fun. If you're interested, let me know what days and timespans work well for you. I've got to work with my own schedule here on the west coast, but I'll try to do it when others will likely have time to hang out.
  7. Cosmo

    I need to find Pam.

    She has an account here; register and send a message. See if she replies.
  8. The Chronovisor is the closest thing that I know of: https://allthatsinteresting.com/chronovisor Whether it has any basis in reality or not is up to the viewer (heh), but it's interesting regardless. There's also a movie called Time Lapse that has a camera like this. I enjoyed it 🙂 It's fictional, of course, but it explores some interesting questions about that sort of scenario: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/time_lapse_2015
  9. Moved to the appropriate category. TTI is here and I have no plans to take it down. 2021 is a different environment for niche forums, and you all are welcome to provide suggestions on what you'd like to see. I'm happy to consider anything that sounds like interesting or challenging functionality. As far as new posts go though, that's sort of up to you guys 😉 I've been working on a programming project for Curious Cosmos the last couple months and that's finally beginning to pay off. I'll be around a little more, but I'm not the one who makes this place interesting. All of you are. That's why this place exists - We are ripe with potential.
  10. Several stray dogs with bright blue fur were recently found roaming near a derelict factory in Dzerzhinsk, Russia.
  11. In search of otherworldly sights? Just find the right icy pond. On certain days during Boston’s long winter, residents can glimpse the stars by looking down. On the dove-colored surfaces of frozen ponds or lakes, shapes appear, rounded in the center with spiky arms stretching outward. The water, a scramble of gray and white, seems to mirror a star-pricked sky. Instead of appearing brighter than their surroundings, as their spacefaring counterparts do, these shapes are darker, showcasing the deep blue below. The moody wells and meandering branches might evoke a tie-dyed shirt or a squashed spider, legs akimbo. (Or, if your mind’s eye gazes inward, maybe the forking dendrites of a nerve.) Scientists have dubbed these shapes “lake stars,” and they speckle frozen water from Boston to Boulder, Chicago to Sweden. The celestial cast we meet on cloudless nights begins in dust. Those stars grow under immense pressure, in hot, collapsing clouds. Lake stars also grow under particular conditions: Temperature and precipitation have to be right. Lake stars are born when warm water wells up from beneath a thin layer of ice, covered with a just-thick-enough coating of snow and slush. It’s a meteorological Goldilocks situation. “If the initial ice is not thin enough, the warm water from below has difficulty seeping through. If the snow layer is not thick enough, then the water seepage doesn’t occur,” says Victor Tsai, a geophysicist at Brown University and coauthor, with Yale physicist John Wettlaufer, of a 2007 paper conveniently titled “Star patterns on lake ice.” The perfect lake star porridge is a short-but-mighty cold snap that freezes ice an inch or two thick, followed by warmer days that bump the ice temperature above 32 degrees Fahrenheit, “allowing it to become leaky,” National Center for Atmospheric Research scientist Charles Knight wrote in a 1999 edition of the magazine Weatherwise. “Finally,” Knight continued, “in this ideal scenario, a cold front goes by, dropping several inches of snow.” The initial central hole could be formed by any number of things—a rock or branch splashing into the water, for instance, or the antics of an animal. Some appear at regular intervals. In the 1980s, other researchers, including Kristina Katsaros, then an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington, speculated that the stars were a product of convection in the water, in which temperature differences cause water layers to shift, with warm water gathering near the surface and cool, dense water descending. Tsai and Wettlaufer didn’t dive into the origin of the circles in their 2007 paper, but they laid out a mathematical model to describe the formation of the reaching arms. Tsai and Wettlaufer then took their model for a spin in the lab, by dribbling water with a temperature of 1 degree Celsius (just above freezing) though a thin layer of slush spread atop a circular plate held just below freezing. They found that the number of tendrils reaching out from the center was typically between five and eight (but out in the wild, slushy yonder, results may vary). Studded with pockets of air, snow has pores through which water can wander. “If one location has a little bit more water flow than another, it tends to melt faster,” Tsai says. “This is the fundamental reason why the fingers form.” The reason that the spots don’t sprout zillions of fingers is that “heat likes to distribute itself evenly in space,” Tsai adds. “If one region is a little warmer than another, over time the temperatures tend to even out.” The flow promotes the fingers fanning out from the center, and the heat distribution curtails the zigs and zags. Wettlaufer says that, more than a decade after their paper came out, hole formation remains a little murky. Getting clarity on those mechanics might require a scalable lab experiment, he says. “Or someone really needs to set up an array of cameras or fly a drone systematically over an actual lake.” Meanwhile, as scientists continue to probe the celestial realm and rove alien worlds, lake stars remain one of winter’s loveliest mysteries here at home. View the full article
  12. An odd moment during a French newscast appears to show a UFO zip through the sky behind a correspondent who is stationed in Moscow. Anyone know what this might have been?
  13. To the relief of scientists at NASA and the delight of space enthusiasts around the world, the space agency's Perseverance Rover has successfully touched down on Mars. View the full article
  14. A Florida fisherman could not believe his eyes when he reeled in a catch and saw that it sported a mouthful of human-like teeth. View the full article
  15. It also set in motion the process that made the vast territory part of America. In 1804, indigenous Tlingit people living near the Alaskan town of Sitka went to war with the Russians. Russian fur traders, actually, and their battle would have far reaching consequences, not just for the Tlingit, but also for the future of Alaska, by setting the stage for it to become part of the United States. The battleground where this took place is now part of the Sitka National Historic Park, but the precise location of the Tlingit fort had been debated, until now. Thomas Urban of Cornell University spotted it in a map he made using ground-penetrating radar and electromagnetic induction, two technologies that sense subtle changes in the soil. The battle between the Tlingit and the Russians had been years in coming. In 1799 Russia’s Emperor Paul I issued a decree founding the Russian-America Company and giving it a monopoly on Russia’s fur trade in North America. Alexander Baranov (or Baranof) was put in charge of the company, which had several outposts along the coast of Alaska. Otter fur in particular was a lucrative commodity, and to get it Baranov needed the cooperation of the local Tlingit people, according to Mary A. Miller, superintendent of the Sitka National Historic Park, who is of both Russian and Tlingit descent. When Baranov was called away, Miller recounts, he left explicit instructions for his people not to irritate the Tlingit. Apparently, those instructions were not followed. In 1802, after being subjected to several insults (what they were specifically is a closely guarded tribal secret), the local Tlingit clan attacked the Russian fur trading post, destroying it and killing everyone inside. Knowing that the Russians would return with a larger armed force, the Tlingit built what they call the Shis’gi Noow, or “Sapling Fort,” to defend what is now known as Baranov Island. Historic documents state that the fort was located on a peninsula near the mouth of Indian River, where it was protected by wide tidal flats that prevented the cannons of Russian ships from getting too close. True to its name, the fort’s defenses were made from flexible saplings that may have helped repel cannonballs. When the Russians attacked in 1804, as the Tlingit knew they would, they brought 150 Russian soldiers and 400 to 500 Aleut warriors recruited from farther north along the coast. According to Yuri Lisyansky, a Russian officer who observed the battle from aboard a ship, there were about 800 Tlingit defending the fort. The Tlingit turned back the initial ground assault and withstood Russian artillery barrages. Excavations led by William Hunt of the Midwest Archaeological Center between 2004 and 2008 revealed cannonballs and other shot from the battle. His team’s work turned up some “linear features,” but nothing that could conclusively be identified as the site of the fort. An excavation conducted in 1954 had identified a likely location for it based on some pieces of wood that may have been part of one of the walls, but no one knew for sure where it was until Urban’s recent geophysical survey, which found that this location was correct. The work revealed “anomalies” in the soil that match historic descriptions of the fort’s outline, as well as some buildings inside. “It confirms our opinion,” says Hunt, as before this new work “we just didn’t feel like we had enough information to make a definite identification.” The new data promises to reveal more about the battle itself, and will make Miller’s job as park superintendent easier. “Knowing better where the actual outline is will let me as the park manager treat that better as an archaeological resource,” she says. The battle wasn’t just fought with guns; much of it was hand-to-hand. Miller tells a story of a Tlingit hero named K’alyáan, who floated down the Indian River holding onto a log and popped up in the middle of the Russian and Aleut forces. He killed many of them, the story goes, using a blacksmith’s hammer. Like many Tlingit warriors, he wore a battle helmet, in his case shaped like the head of a raven, and armor made of leather and wooden slats. The Tlingit were able to fend off the first attack, but were running out of gunpowder. They made an effort to bring in more by canoe, but a Russian cannon blew the boat out of the water, killing several experienced Tlingit warriors in the process. Under cover of darkness the Tlingit made a strategic withdrawal from their fort and began a 70-mile walk to Point Craven at north end of the island. The Russians tore down the fort and reestablished a trading post in Sitka, which would eventually become New Archangel, the capital of Russian America. Relations between the two groups remained hostile after that. The Tlingit blockaded Russian ship traffic, leading to more conflict, although they still engaged in some trade. The blockade lasted many years and eventually Baranov invited the Tlingit to come back to Sitka and live near the Russian fort, which they did. “It’s a very important turning point in Russian America,” says Thomas Thornton, an anthropologist at University of Alaska Southeast who has studied Tlingit culture at the park. “It basically allows for the establishment of the Russian-American Company in southeast Alaska.” This foothold in Sitka allowed the company to lay claim to the entire Alaskan territory on behalf of the Russian Empire, even though they only controlled a few coastal trading posts. Thornton continues, “the entire territory of Alaska, now state of Alaska, could [then] be purchased by the Americans from the Russians,” which happened in 1867. The battle and subsequent return to Sitka was pivotal for the Tlingit people as well. “Although that happened 200 years ago, we are still here,” says Miller speaking of the modern Tlingit tribe, “we are still here because of those actions and decisions by the people who came before us.” View the full article
  16. A spooky piece of footage captured by a baby monitor at a house in Georgia appears to show a set of triplets talking to an unseen entity. View the full article
  17. This was no cozy nook. After two decades spent leading archaeological digs among the 1,900-year-old ruins of the former Roman emperor Hadrian’s sprawling Villa Adriana, Rafael Hidalgo Prieto thought he’d seen it all. Then the Spanish professor and his team discovered an imperial breakfast room unlike anything in the world. The palazzo area once featured a royal four-bedroom complex centered by a semicircular nymphaeum with a private dining area suspended over a pool of flowing water. Vaulted ceilings with niches for sculptures overlooked a marble triclinium—that is, a sumptuous Roman dining area where aristocrats enjoyed expensive food and drink while lying on u-shaped couches. The area was accessed by retractable wooden bridges and flanked by a wall that featured small waterfalls and a recessed fountain. The room was open on one side and looked out on a courtyard of ornamental gardens. Here, archaeologists believe, Hadrian and his wife, Vibia Sabina, breakfasted in a lavish display of power: The raised platform was positioned to project their silhouettes through a pair of windows for members of the court to see, site director, Andrea Bruciati, told the Times of London. “The villa was a machine that served to represent the emperor’s divinity … [This would have been] a quasi-theatrical spectacle.” Built 20 miles east of Rome, in what’s now Tivoli, between 118 and 138 A.D., the 300-acre compound was once one of the world’s most incredible palatial properties. The only thing like it, writes Mary Beard, the famed scholar of ancient Rome, was emperor Nero’s wildly lavish, 300-room “Golden House,” which stood in the center of Rome. But unlike Nero, writes Beard, “Hadrian got away with this over-the-top architectural extravagance because it was out of town and out of sight.” (She also objects to the description of the find as a breakfast spot, noting that the Romans generally did not attribute as much cultural significance to the meal as many modern diners.) Hadrian ruled from 117-138 A.D. and is considered one of the “Five Good Emperors” of Rome who presided over the empire’s peak. He was known for consolidating and unifying Rome’s vast lands and ushering in a golden age of peace and prosperity. A lover of world art and architecture, Hadrian personally participated in the design of Villa Adriana, combining architectural elements observed while traveling through Italy, Greece, Egypt, Spain, Germany, North Africa and Asia Minor. His goal was to create an ideal city, in miniature. Now a designated UNESCO world heritage site, the seven-square-mile villa comprised more than 30 buildings at the height of its grandeur and was bigger than the town of Pompeii. The complex contained an unrivaled array of art and furnishings, and buildings were connected by a landscape peppered with ornate fountains, pleasure gardens, pools, spas, nature shrines, sculptures, baths, and a recreation of the Nile River. Prieto, the Spanish archaeology professor, described the discovery of the breakfast area—which had previously remained unexcavated due to funding issues and a focus on other areas of the massive estate—as a “bombshell” in the Spanish newspaper ABC. “In all the Roman world there is nothing like it,” Prieto said. “The emperor wanted to show things that would overwhelm the visitor, something that had not been seen anywhere else in the world and that exists only in Villa Adriana.” The announcement of the new find came as Italy dialed back pandemic-related social distancing restrictions on cultural venues and museums in early February, and coincided with the historic villa’s reopening. View the full article
  18. Featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not! Oliver Cromwell is one of the most controversial figures in the history of Britain. Following the English Civil War and the execution of King Charles I, he established himself as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland. All of this is well-recorded and still much-debated by historians, but what we really want to hear is the story of how his brother-in-law—who married Cromwell’s youngest sister Robina in 1656—thought he was going to get out to the Moon to meet and trade with aliens, way back in the 1600s. John Wilkins Interplanetary Trade With Aliens Let’s start at the beginning with this one. Cromwell’s brother-in-law was John Wilkins, a distinguished scholar and Anglican clergyman who was a founding member of the Royal Society—the world’s oldest national scientific society. He was about as learned as it was possible to be at the time, having attended both Oxford and Cambridge and campaigned to unite scientific advancement and religion (which is one heck of a can of worms, as we know). He also believed that the Moon and the surrounding planets were all inhabited, and was convinced that he could build a flying machine to reach them. His ambitions were loftier still, though: he hoped to establish trade with the residents of the Moon/other planets, and so contribute to the prosperity of Britain. Needless to say, four hundred years ago, the whole concept of space travel was just a tad out there. Britain was only just getting to grips with the whole hey, maybe we should shower more than once a season thing back then. Wilkins was through the looking glass with this one, though not as much as you may think. This was an incredible period of scientific discovery, and with humanity’s knowledge of space as it was at the time, these theories were revolutionary yet plausible. He became consumed by these ideas, and wrote extensively about them in his The Discovery of a World in the Moone in 1638 and A Discourse Concerning A New Planet in 1640. Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines There were two huge, conspicuous, bright purple polka-dotted elephants in the room, then: just how the heck would people get out to those planets back then, and how the heck would they breathe in space? Don’t worry, though, because wise old Wilkins had the answer to both these dilemmas. As The Vintage News explains, the idea was that “…space travelers would soon grow accustomed to the purer air breathed by angels who he believed inhabited the vast space between planets.” So, there’s one little logical landmine sidestepped. Glad you’ve thought this through, John. With that solved, we come to the issue of actually flying out to the Moon, at a time several hundred years before even conventional vehicles like airplanes and cars. As for the precise method for securing astral transport to the pale planetoid floating in the heavens? Wilkins explained that flight was well within the capabilities of mankind. They merely need the aid of a flying machine piloted by either a good or bad angel—he didn’t care which. If the angels were unwilling, however, voyagers could instead use a winged chariot to break free from gravity as if opposing the force of a magnet, then snap delicately to the surface of the Moon to greet the aliens who lived there. Wilkins noted records of 11th-century Benedictine monks proved man could achieve flight. Brought Back Down To Earth With A Bump So what became of that moon mission, and those chariots? As the warden of Oxford’s Wadham College, Wilkins had access to a vast ‘inventor’s garden,’ which contained the likes of a rainbow-making device, a statue that could speak and glass beehives through which one could watch the colony in action. Here, as fellow natural philosopher Robert Hooke wrote, the pair worked on various plans and prototypes for flying machines. None of which, needless to say, ever actually made it to the Moon. In the decades to come, the work of Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke would demonstrate that space was actually a vacuum, and knowledge and understanding of the force of gravity would greatly improve (Isaac Newton and his famous apple were on the way). With this new information in hand, Wilkins was forced to concede that space travel simply wasn’t possible in the 1600s. As eccentric as these ideas may seem to us now, there’s no doubt that Wilkins’ brilliant mind pathed the way for space travel as we now know it. It wasn’t until 1969 that humanity would eventually set foot on the Moon, and without John Wilkins and scientists like him, maybe we never would have. By Chris Littlechild, contributor for Ripleys.com Source: The 17th-Century Plan To Trade With Aliens On The Moon View the full article
  19. They sat on top of a fridge for decades. Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar? Not Andy Warhol. While he wasn’t a cookie thief, the pop artist shamelessly burglarized supermarket aisles with his eyes, using the logos for Campbell’s soup, Coca-Cola, and Brillo pads as inspiration for his iconic paintings. And he had a thing for cookie jars, too. Warhol loved spending Sundays at New York’s flea markets, buying the kitschiest ones. “Cookie jars are, after all, a form of Pop Art in themselves,” Wally Amos, Warhol’s friend and founder of Famous Amos cookies, once noted in an interview. He also remembered that Warhol "was particularly fond of the funny figural pieces." Over Warhol’s lifetime, he collected 175 ceramic cookie jars, shaped like everything from clocks to Humpty Dumpty. “Having grown up as the child of poor immigrants in Pittsburgh during the Great Depression, he may have associated these objects with an idealized middle class that was well beyond his family's means,” adds Lydia Yee, a curator at London’s Whitechapel Gallery who organized a 2015 exhibition of unusual collections belonging to artists. This week, two of Warhol’s collectible jars are up for sale at Sotheby’s Paris, as part of an estate auction for the contemporary artist duo, Christo and Jeanne-Claude. The last time these ceramics were on the market was in 1988, as part of a 10-day sale of Warhol bric-a-brac at Sotheby’s New York that sold everything from the artist’s salt shakers to his watches. His cookie jar collection alone sold for a record-breaking $247,830, far exceeding estimates that it would sell for $7,000, total. Gedalio Grinberg, chairman of the Movado watch company, bid aggressively for most of the jars, while Stuart Pivar, an art collector and friend of Warhol, paid $11,550 for a few. This spectacular profit was widely covered by the press, with many dumbfounded that the late Warhol’s fame could make even his cookie jars a hot item. No articles mentioned, though, that one of the cookie-jar buyers was the artist Jeanne-Claude. She returned home with two jars: one shaped like a bunch of bananas and the other molded like a Chinese lantern, labeled FORTUNE COOKIES. “Christo never told me the reason why she was so keen to have them, but I guess he's never really known!” says Lorenza Giovanelli, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s studio manager. She notes that Jeanne-Claude did seem to have a fascination for serial collections, and that the artist pair shared interests with Warhol, such as his love of humble packaging. However, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s projects tended towards the grand. They were best known for installations that swathed architectural landmarks in fabric—like the Pont Neuf in Paris and the Berlin Reichstag. Their last wrapped monument, a posthumous project, will be the Parisian Arc de Triomphe in September 2021. At the couple’s SoHo home and studio, these vintage containers spent decades perched atop the fridge between a sculpted portrait bust and oversized serveware. Warhol allegedly stashed money in his jars, but it's unclear if Christo and Jeanne-Claude ever filled these jars with maslenki (jam-filled cookies from his native Bulgaria) or macarons (from her native France). Since Jeanne-Claude passed away in 2009 and Christo in 2020, the cookie jars are now for sale once more. In the end, maybe they were just sculptural objects to Christo and Jeanne-Claude. If so, they’d be in good company among other Americana aficionados, such as the members of the McCoy Pottery Collectors’ Society. Both the banana jar and the fortune cookie jar bear the trademark for the J.W. McCoy Pottery Company, which doesn’t guarantee their authenticity. The company began producing coveted ceramics at the start of the 20th century, and the antiques market is full of imitation McCoy tchotchkes, with articles the company never designed or sold bearing their logo. So are they the real McCoy, and would Warhol have cared if they weren’t? The pop artist who made his fortune riffing off commercial branding probably cared little if his jars were fake. And if you’re willing to adopt a Warholian approach, you can get a questionable McCoy specimen on eBay for a bargain. The opening bids for Warhol’s jars at Sotheby’s start at 300€ each. Online offers for the banana-shaped jar have already climbed to 2,600€. Meanwhile, on eBay, $24.99 buys a dead ringer for the fortune cookie jar, but with some chips and wear. If you do buy it, feel free to steal some cookie jar provenance and say it belonged to Warhol, then Christo and Jeanne-Claude. View the full article
  20. YouTube star GeoWizard, aka Tom Davies, shares some straight talk about his linear style of adventure. Tom Davies knows a thing or two about staying the course. The 29-year-old British adventurer, also known as GeoWizard, first gained a following through YouTube videos that showcased his skill playing the popular web-based game GeoGuessr. His channel, which he describes as “home of the mischievous adventure,” has 74 million views and counting. Davies is perhaps now best known for his “Mission Across” series, which chronicles his adventures trying to cross entire countries in a straight line. He chooses a route, uploads it to a handheld GPS, and sets off. The mission’s success is determined by the accuracy with which he follows that linear route; he even has a grading system. A mission in which there is no deviation of more than 25 meters (about 80 feet) is defined as a platinum run. Less than 50 meters (a little more than 160 feet)? It’s a gold run. His two attempts to cross Wales were unsuccessful, but Davies recently scored a platinum run across Norway, no small achievement given the country’s abundance of mountains and fjords. Davies has encountered everything from barbed-wire fences and hostile farmers to brittle cliffs and gorges. Among his most harrowing moments: getting stuck in a peat bog, slowly sinking as he struggled to move. His next project promises ample adventure. With his best friend Greg, a veteran of the second "Mission Across Wales" attempt, Davies is planning a straight shot across rugged Scotland. Atlas Obscura chatted with Davies via email about keeping to the straight and narrow. How did you come up with the straight line mission concept? Its roots hark back to my late childhood, when myself and my then step-brother, and now best friend, Greg would leave my mother’s house, perched on the edge of the huge conurbation that is the West Midlands (of England), and simply set off in an easterly direction into the countryside of Staffordshire searching for adventure and mischief. Aged 13 and with nothing but a fiver in our pockets and the clothes on our back, we would "mission" our way through fields, clamber over fences, hedges and rivers, evading farmers and inevitably making some sort of strange and intriguing discovery. Without fail we would have a string of great stories to regale Greg's dad, who would begrudgingly pick us up from some random town 15 miles away. Fast-forward to a 28-year-old me, still yearning for adventure and wanting to do something new in a world where there was so little left to be done, trying to think of some obscure record that could potentially be broken. Slowly but surely, with the knowledge that no one my age could have possibly hopped more barbed wire fences than myself, and with a lot of free time to scour Google Earth, the mad idea that was the straight line mission became a reality. Just how challenging is it to walk in a straight line? You have to be constantly looking at the screen of the GPS to make sure you're not veering from it, which is especially hard in dense, disorientating forests or in the high pressure environment of a working farmyard. What causes you the most worry? Farmers and landowners were the main source of paranoia in Wales, and will be in the upcoming Scotland trip. If a stern, no-nonsense farmer catches up to you on his quad bike, which is highly possible, then it could easily end the trip. You won't meet many farmers who will let you climb over their hedgerows. At best they will direct you to the nearest track and off their land, which could be hundreds if not thousands of meters off course, and I aim to keep well within 25 meters. You’ve tasted victory in Norway and suffered defeat in Wales. Which moments stand out for you most? Half a mile into my first Wales attempt, a freezing, swollen river forced me over 100 meters wide (of my line). Luckily, I found a rotting old bridge on which I managed to eke my way over the raging torrent below. Ultimately I failed the trip nine miles from the coast when I got into a sticky situation in the mountains. (I was) hypothermic and running on empty after having walked across 12 miles of swampy, uneven moorlands and rather large mountains. I was supposed to rendezvous with a subscriber of mine, Joey, at the other side of the mountains to restock on food and GoPro batteries, but (facing) a ravine, undetected on Google Earth, darkness drawing in and no phone signal, I realized I had to get off that mountain. Heartbreakingly but with no choice, I had to leave my line and climb down to safety so that Joey and my family knew I was alive and well. Norway, which I made sure to plan more thoroughly, had hardly any fields or owned land. It was wild, and the biggest threats there were navigating the steep cliffs and drops in the rugged mountain wilderness. Thanks to some help from another subscriber, Noah, who identified all of the steepest gradients using lidar imagery, I managed to do so safely. In the end I almost drowned in a peat bog, but thankfully I managed to claw my way out and stagger on, completing the Norway line with a maximum deviation of around 25 meters. A huge weight off my shoulders. What will be the biggest challenges for you in Scotland and beyond? I can't give too much away, but with some of the obstacles that lie on our line, it promises to be a truly epic adventure. Beyond that I don't plan on slowing down. Despite its brutal, often torturous nature, I'm in love with this breed of adventure. There aren't too many countries where a straight line mission is realistically possible, but I plan to conquer the ones where it is. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. View the full article
  21. A conservation team wanted to know if removing killer bees would make life easier for Lear's macaw. Maximo Cardoso had never used a crossbow before, but he was intuitively able to assemble the Barnett Raptor FX, a model typically marketed for deer hunting. The field guide also displayed natural marksmanship. So it was agreed: He would be the one to launch the poison. At the base of a sheer rock face amid dry scrub in Bahia, Brazil, decked out in a beekeeping suit, Cardoso took aim at a 45-degree angle, the crossbow loaded with bolts modified to carry glass vials of insecticide. He was targeting small cavities in the red sandstone above that held nests of invasive Africanized honeybees. Depending on the size of the hive and difficulty of shot, it took anywhere from a single bolt to as many as nine for each of 52 hives. Two or three hits usually weakened a hive enough to allow the team’s work to continue. Over the following days, the team, with members from five countries, checked the activity of the hives with binoculars and walked the base of the cliff looking for dead bees. If the coast was clear, a pair of expert climbers, also wearing protective bee equipment, rappelled to the cavities from above to inspect them. One used a smoker to pacify the remaining bees while the other further treated the hives with insecticide if necessary. Eventually they were able to chip out the honeycomb by hand, all while dangling several stories in the air. The bees weren’t the real subject of this scientific conservation effort. The cliffs in the hot, dry caatinga of Bahia are historic nesting grounds for one of the rarest parrots in the world, Lear’s macaw. There, bees and parrots compete for homes in the same small openings in the rock, and researchers suspected that clearing out hives would provide more nesting and breeding opportunities for the macaws, which are bright blue, with yellow cheeks, and named for British poet Edward Lear. Most of the crossbow-related fieldwork was conducted in 2016, but the results of long-term observation were published in 2020 in the journal Pest Management Science. The team found eight new Lear’s macaw nests in 52 cavities that received their novel crossbow treatment. Over that time, there were no new parrot nests at a similar number of untreated sites. “Where there are parrots and there are large bee populations, there will be competition,” says Donald Brightsmith, a parrot researcher at Texas A&M University who was not part of the study. The reclaimed nesting sites suggest that the presence of bees can limit the Lear’s macaw population. Biologist Erica Pacífico had suspected that might be the case since 2009, when locals told her there were Africanized honeybees in former Lear’s Macaw nests. These hybrid “killer bees” had escaped a quarantine facility in the 1950s, and have since spread around the Americas. They’re known to be particularly defensive, and can chase people who disturb them. Pacífico knew that removing hives of them would require precautions. “Africanized bee stings are dangerous in any circumstance,” she says, “but during rappelling a cliff about 80 meters, in remote areas, the chance of rescue is very low.” In addition to local expertise, Pacífico recruited bee experts and experienced climbers from the organization Explore Trees for the most dangerous parts of the effort. Team members had worked on bee and parrot projects before, although never in cliff nests. Entomologist Caroline Efstathion, founder of the Avian Preservation and Education Conservancy, recalls an 11-hour bus ride to a research station, with drives of six-plus hours between the study’s four main sites. The team had to pack almost all supplies in, including water, tents, and all their climbing gear. Local attitudes toward Africanized honeybees are mixed, the team says. Many people consider them a nuisance, but others value the honey—after all, it’s why they were bred from European and African varieties—and the glue-like propolis, a traditional medicine. Honey gatherers build ladders of branches wedged into the cliffside. “As far as they’re concerned, these are their bees,” says Efstathion. To complicate matters, honey collection can be used as cover for parrot poaching. Pacífico was eventually able to get community support and financial backing from a group of conservation organizations to determine if removing bees would benefit the macaws. The experimental hive removal could commence, but the trouble was how. The first step would be to get insecticide up into the beehives. A paintball rifle might’ve reached the highest nests, says Efstathion, but they were unable to import one. Study coauthor Jamie Gilardi, executive director of the World Parrot Trust, suggested the crossbow, which conservationists use to sling ropes over high branches when studying other parrot species that nest in trees. After some tinkering, the bolts were tipped with three-milliliter glass vials filled with a smidge of powdered permethrin, an insecticide and repellent sold as a lice treatment. The goal wasn’t to kill all of the bees, says Efstathion. Instead, trap boxes treated with bee pheromones were placed near the cliffs to give colonies a place to relocate. Efstathion had used a similar “push-pull” method with permethrin around the world to treat the nests of parrots, starlings, and barn owls, and had studied its effects on bird health. “By the time we got to Brazil, I was one-hundred percent certain [permethrin] would not harm Lear’s macaw,” says Efstathion. However, before any larger-scale effort can get underway, the team needs to monitor effects of the treatment on other species they observed in the cliffs, including “ants, beetles, native bees, tarantulas, geckos, rats, bats, and their ectoparasites.” But the results in Bahia so far show a lot of promise for continuing to support the endangered birds. At their low point in the 1980s, there were estimated to be just 70 Lear’s macaws left in the wild. Those numbers have rebounded thanks to conservation efforts from both the Brazilian government and private organizations, Pacífico says. While the top threats to parrots are habitat loss and illegal trade, “Bees are on our radar as parrot biologists,” says Brightsmith, but it wasn’t clear until now that they parrots would make use of extra nesting space if bees are removed. The recent study suggests that they will. “The problem is we can all know a problem in the back of our heads,” he adds, “but doing the science and getting it published is not trivial.” View the full article
  22. Washington Pie is actually a layer cake or bread pudding, depending on the recipe. In 1895, Washington Pie was such a popular recipe that it was also a metaphor. Leading up to Independence Day festivities in Grand Rapids, Michigan, an article in The Michigan Tradesman used the dessert to explain a way to keep the town’s raucous paraders in line, suggesting that they make, “a sort of Washington Pie with that part of the procession—a layer, say, of traveling men and then a filling of Salvation Army jam, and so on, with the brass band by way of frosting.” This article describes the most famous version of Washington Pie, which is actually a layer cake with a jam or jelly filling. According to culinary historian Patricia Reber, Washington Pie has been around since at least 1850, when a jelly-filled version made an appearance in Mrs. Putnam’s Receipt Book. Why call it a pie when it’s actually a cake? Blame the equipment: In the mid-19th century, home cooks often baked layer cakes in pie tins. As a result, many referred to cakes baked in pie tins as “pies.” At one point, Washington Pie was so popular that shallow, round baking pans were often referred to as “Washington Pie plates.” The pie that’s a cake owes its moniker to American president George Washington. In the 1800s, it was a fairly common practice to name special-occasion desserts after presidents: there was Washington Pie, of course, but there were also (Grover) Cleveland Cakes, (John) Taylor Cakes, (Andrew) Jackson Jumbles, and so on. The naming convention may have been a way for the female homemakers of the era to establish a sense of participation in national politics before American women earned the right to vote in 1920. Women could choose to bake a dessert named for a preferred political candidate during an election, or show their patriotism on Washington’s birthday, made a federal holiday in 1879, or Independence Day by honoring one of the Founding Fathers in cake form. There’s also a second, very different, version of Washington Pie, which was made primarily in bakeries in the Washington, D.C., area. This style—whose name likely stems from its place of origin—does involve pie crust, though it doesn’t eschew cake entirely. It was essentially a bread pudding made from leftover cakes, baked inside a double crust pie shell in a square tin. It was cheap, filling food, and provided a way for professional bakers to use up otherwise unsellable odds and ends. It’s hard to pinpoint the origin of that iteration, but it at least pre-dates the Civil War, according to newspaper records. While the bread-pudding version of Washington Pie seems to have faded away around the turn of the century, its layer-cake counterpart evolved. Variations included fillings ranging from applesauce to plain custard to cream with lemon extract. But by World War II, these recipes also disappeared. By 1955, when a reader wrote to The Washington Post in search of a recipe for the dessert, no one could satisfy the request. So why did this dessert, which was once so common that, as Washington Post columnist John Kelly wrote in 2017, “just about everyone in Washington—nay, in the country—knew how to make [it],” disappear? There’s no one, obvious answer. It’s possible that, American tastes simply shifted toward richer, more decadent desserts, like brownies, Boston Cream Pie, and layer cakes made in the Betty Crocker style. Patricia Reber notes that there may even be “Washington Pies” floating about but with new names.“Certainly a cake named pie was old-style,” she says. “Layer cakes with jelly are still made in the South, with other names like Jam Cake or Smith Island Cake.” Similar desserts are still popular in other countries, like the United Kingdom’s Victoria Sponge or Australia’s Lamingtons, though neither is directly related to Washington Pie. Whatever the reason for its disappearance, Washington Pie is easy enough to recreate in the modern kitchen, and it’s worth it. It’s the kind of cake that’s perfect to throw together in the evening so that the jam can soak into the layers overnight. It makes a fine breakfast, and a perfect mid-afternoon snack. And if you have leftovers, it’s easy to transform half of a cake into the other version of Washington Pie, which might be the more delicious iteration. The custard interior has a kick of tartness from the cake’s jam filling, and the added lemon zest pairs perfectly with the crisp, crumbly pie crust. Washington Pie (Layer Cake Version) For the layers: 4 eggs 1 ⅓ cups white sugar 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 cup flour Juice and zest from half a lemon For the filling: 6 ounces of tart raspberry jam For the topping: Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting 1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare two round, shallow 8-inch pans (you can use pie tins if your cake pans have high sides) by coating them with butter and flour, then set aside. 2. Separate the eggs. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the yolks with sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest. 3. Sift together the flour and baking powder, then sift into the egg yolk mixture and beat until just combined. 4. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt to soft peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the rest of the ingredients. 5. Divide the mixture evenly into the prepared pans and bake for 25 minutes. The cakes will have risen slightly and will be lightly golden when finished. 6. Cool the layers completely, then spread the bottom layer with a thick, even layer of raspberry jam. Top with the second layer, and dust with confectioner’s sugar. This cake is best served after it has sat overnight, and is excellent with whipped cream. Washington Pie (Pie Crust Version) For the crust: 4 prepared pie crusts (You’ll need this much dough to fully line a standard loaf pan.) For the filling: ½ 8-inch layer cake, cut into cubes ¼ cup raisins ¼ cup chopped walnuts or pecans 3 eggs 2 cups milk Zest of one orange ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon ½ teaspoon ground ginger ¼ cup sugar 1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line a standard 8 ½-inch by 4 ½-inch loaf pan with pie crust and chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling. 2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake cubes, raisins, and chopped nuts. 3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, orange zest, cinnamon, ginger, and sugar. Pour over the cake cube mixture and soak for 10 minutes. 4. Fill the pie crust with the soaked cake cubes and remaining custard, then top with an additional layer of pie crust and crimp the edges. Make four to six diagonal slashes in the top crust. 5. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the filling is set but still has a bit of a wobble. Cool in the loaf pan, then turn out and cut into slices. View the full article
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