Sunday, April 25, 2010


Defenestration is the act of throwing someone or something out of a window. The term "defenestration" was coined around the time of an incident in Prague Castle in the year 1618. The word comes from the Latin de- (from) and fenestra (window or opening).

The act carries the connotation of forcibly or peremptorily removing an adversary, and is sometimes used in just that sense it also suggests breaking the windows in the process. Although defenestrations can be fatal due to the height of the window through which a person is thrown or throws oneself, or due to lacerations from broken glass, the act of defenestration need not carry the intent or result of death.

The term originates from two incidents in history, both occurring in Prague. In 1419 seven town officials were thrown from the Town Hall, precipitating the Hussite War. In 1618 two Imperial governors and their secretary were thrown from Prague Castle, sparking the Thirty Years War. These incidents, particularly that of 1618, were referred to as the Defenestration of Prague and gave rise to the term and the concept.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dancing Mania

Dancing mania was a social phenomenon that occurred primarily in mainland Europe between the 14th and 18th centuries; it involved groups of people, sometimes thousands at a time, who danced uncontrollably and bizarrely. Men, women, and children would dance through the streets of towns or cities, sometimes foaming at the mouth until they collapsed from fatigue.

One of the first major outbreaks was in Aachen, Germany, on June 24, 1374; the populace danced wildly through the streets, screaming of visions and hallucinations, and even continued to writhe and twist after they were too exhausted to stand. Having occurred to thousands of people across several centuries, dancing mania was not a local event.

Although no real consensus exists as to what caused the mania, some cases, may have ergot poisoning, known in the Middle Ages as "St. Anthony's Fire". It is caused by eating rye infected with Claviceps purpurea, a small fungus that contains toxic and psychoactive chemicals, including lysergic acid and ergotamine (used in modern times as a precursor in the synthesis of LSD). However, ergotism causes its victims to have visions, not to dance. The fact that large numbers of people were afflicted in mass outbursts that lasted for a few days or weeks at a time suggests that the cause of the dancing-mania phenomenon is more likely to be social than physical


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tsar Tank

The Tsar Tank was an unusual Russian armored vehicle developed in 1916–1917.

The project was scrapped after initial tests deemed the vehicle to be underpowered and vulnerable to artillery fire.

It differed from modern tanks in that it didn't use caterpillar tracks—rather, it used a tricycle design. The two front spoked wheels were nearly 9 meters (27 feet) in diameter; the back wheel was smaller, only 1.5 meters (5 feet) high, triple wheel, to ensure maneuverability. The upper cannon turret reached nearly 8 meters high. The hull was 12 meters wide with two more cannons in the sponsons. Additional weapons were also planned under the belly. Each wheel was powered by a 250hp Sunbeam engine.

The huge wheels were intended to cross significant obstacles. However, due to miscalculations of the weight, the back wheel was prone to be stuck in soft ground and ditches, and the front wheels were sometimes insufficient to pull it out. This led to a fiasco of tests before the high commission in August 1915. The tank remained in the location where it was tested, some 60 kilometers from Moscow until 1923 when it was finally taken apart for scrap.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Project Excelsior

Project Excelsior was a series of high-altitude parachute jumps made by Colonel (then Captain) Joseph Kittinger of the United States Air Force in 1959 and 1960 to test the Beaupre multi-stage parachute system. In one of these jumps Kittinger set world records for the highest parachute jump, the longest parachute drogue fall and the fastest speed by a human through the atmosphere, all of which still stand.

To test the parachute system, staff at Wright Field built a 200 ft (61 m) high helium balloon with a capacity of nearly 3 million cubic feet (85,000 m³) that could lift an open gondola and test pilot into the stratosphere.

The third and final test, Excelsior III, was made on August 16, 1960. During the ascent, the pressure seal in Kittinger's right glove failed, and he began to experience severe pain in his right hand. (See Effects of vacuum on humans.) He decided not to inform the ground crew about this, in case they should decide to abort the test. Despite temporarily losing the use of his right hand, he continued with the ascent, climbing to an altitude of 31,333 m (102,800 ft).[2] The ascent took one hour and 31 minutes and broke the previous manned balloon altitude record. Kittinger stayed at peak altitude for 12 minutes, waiting for the balloon to drift over the landing target area. He then stepped out of the gondola to begin his descent. Kittinger fell for 4 minutes and 36 seconds, setting a still-standing world record for the longest parachute free-fall. During the descent, Kittinger experienced temperatures as low as −94 °F (−70 °C). In the free-fall stage, he reached a top speed of 988 km/h (614 mph).