Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Numbers Station

Numbers stations (or number stations) are shortwave radio stations of uncertain origin. In the 1950s, Time magazine reported that the numbers stations first appeared shortly after World War II. Numbers stations generally broadcast artificially generated voices reading streams of numbers, words, letters (sometimes using a spelling alphabet), tunes or Morse code. They are in a wide variety of languages and the voices are usually female, although sometimes men's or children's voices are used. Evidence supports popular assumptions that the broadcasts are used to send messages to spies. This usage has not been publicly acknowledged by any government that may operate a numbers station.

It has been reported that the United States uses numbers stations to communicate encoded information to persons in other countries. According to the notes of The Conet Project, which has compiled an impressive number of recordings of these transmissions, numbers stations have been reported since World War I. If accurate, this would make numbers stations among the earliest radio broadcasts.

It has long been speculated, and was argued in court in one case, that these stations operate as a simple and foolproof method for government agencies to communicate with spies working undercover. According to this theory, the messages are encrypted with a one-time pad, to avoid any risk of decryption by the enemy. As evidence, numbers stations have changed details of their broadcasts or produced special, nonscheduled broadcasts coincident with extraordinary political events, such as the August Coup of 1991 in the Soviet Union.

Although no broadcaster or government has acknowledged transmitting the numbers, a 1998 article in The Daily Telegraph quoted a spokesperson for the Department of Trade and Industry (the government department that, at that time, regulated radio broadcasting in the United Kingdom) as saying, "These [numbers stations] are what you suppose they are. People shouldn't be mystified by them. They are not for, shall we say, public consumption.

These stations still operate and exist in numerous countries around the world. You can listen to samples from The Conet Project here: Addionally, many websites are dedicated to finding and sharing these stations. Check them out if you have some radio equipment. - Josh


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Narrative of the Life of James Allen

Published in 1837, there is hardly a more curious treasure in the Athenæum Library than a little volume, bound in what seems a grayish leather, curious not only in itself, for it is the deathbed confession of a highwayman (robbing late travelers on the highways), but more curious by reason of its binding---in the skin of its author. Known as anthropodermic bibliopegy (the practice of binding books in human skin), was not unknown at the time.

Peter Low, had come to Boston from London, where his father and grandfather were in the book business. Here he was engaged in bookbinding, for the Old Corner Book Store and other clients. The skin used for binding Walton's book came from Massachusetts General Hospital on the very day of his death. Walton was a Jamaica mulatto, and the skin, taken from his back, had been treated to look like a gray deer skin. Peter Low had not realized at first the precise nature of the material placed in his hands. By the time his day's work was done, however , he was in great distress of mind and, and nightmares filled the night that followed.

Because of its age, the book is in the public domain and is freely available on the Internet:

Upon special request, the book is viewable at Boston Athenæum Library.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Indiana Vacation!

Well, it’s finally that long-awaited time of year for me. I’m on vacation this week so as a result I’ll be taking a break from sharing and weird and interesting article from Wikipedia. It seems most of you subscribers live in Indiana so I lieu of that weekly article here are some random Indiana curiosities. While the following aren’t Indiana vacation destinations, they are certainly weird or interesting and worth checking out if you have the chance.

Medical history Museum - Indianapolis
The museum maintains a collection of scientific artifacts from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in a completely authentic setting. Constructed in 1895 and inaugurated in 1896, the nineteen-room Pathological Department Building, as it was then called, is equipped with three clinical laboratories, a photography lab, teaching amphitheatre, autopsy room, and library. The most notable part of their collection is the room full of preserved human brains in jars. The brains come from patients suffering from various mental illnesses.

Our Lady's Chapel in the Meadow - Edinburgh
The chapel is located at camp Atterbury. The interior is painted with frescoes and is only the size of a small bedroom. Camp Atterbury was created in 1941 and was used to train US forces before being shipped to Europe during the war. The camp later served as a POW interment camp for 10,000 German and Itiallan POWS. Upon request, the POW’s were given permission on build a chapel on the grounds. Due to the shortages during the war, the prisoners could only use materials scrounged up in the immediate area. The chapel fell into disrepair in after the war, but was restored in 1987

The LST Ship Memorial (LST-325) - Evansville
An LTS (Landing Ship, Tank) is a is a ship that was designed to land on beaches. The flat bottom design allowed easy offloading of tanks and other armored vehicles. The LST-325 measures 300 feet long and is the It is the only remaining operational WWII LTS out of the original 1000. This particular LTS was part of the invasion on the beaches of Normandy. Later, it was donated to the Greek navy until a group of retired military men vied to have the ship returned to the US and relocated to Evansville. It now serves as a floating museum on the Ohio river.

Crown Hill Cemetery - Indianapolis
The historic 555 acre Indianapolis cemetery is largest non-government cemetery in Indiana and the third largest in the United States. It is estimated that 82% of those who lived in Indianapolis prior to 1825, and who stayed here, are now buried at Crown Hill. Among those buried are many notable historic figures: John Dillinger, Charles Fairbanks, Benjamin Harrison, Caroline Harrison, Col. Eli Lilly, Thomas Marshall, James Whitcomb Riley, Booth Tarkington, and others. Daily tour are offered.

The Blue Monkey Sideshow
The Blue Monkey Sideshow is a Indianapolis-based traditional vaudeville sideshow with a modern edge and a humorous twist. Complete with authentic sideshow banners, live music, platform and sound. They feature contortion, knife throwing, juggling, sword swallowing, glass walking, and other sideshow favorites – all with a lovely and humorous presentation. I highly recommend checking out one of their shows when they are in town.

Providence Health Care Center - Jasper
The shrines on the grounds were constructed with tens of thousands of geodes from a small farm in Helton, IN. The construction was lead by Father Tad Sztucko in the 1960s and took almost a decade to complete. Father Thad wanted re-create the peaceful, spiritual setting of Loures. The care center was a home of the mentally handicapped at the time (these individuals were typically otherwise neglected by society). The entire project was made without blueprints, "just inspiration". On a side note, Father Thad participated in wedding me to my lovely wife.

Shoe Tree - Milltown
Since the early 1960's , people have been tossing old pairs of shoes into this tree. There is no agreement as to how the
tree started, but the collection of shoes has certainly grown over the years. The tree survived a lightning strike a few years back, although some of the shoes were melted to branches.

The Blue Flash - Bruceville
Bruceville,IN resident John Ivers built his own personal rollercoaster from scratch in his backyard in 2001. It’s 188 feet long, 20 feet tall, and is the world’s only self-built 360 degree corkscrew coaster in the world. "I'm not engineer educated," John said. "A lot of it was trial and error. I just thought one day, 'Man, a roller coaster coming down the side of that shed would be pretty neat." John said that the project was simply, "something fun in the backyard for the kids". And, yes, you can ride if you ask.

Ropkey Armor Museum - Crawfordsville
Fred Ropkey's museum created from his private collection is home to a multitide of military tanks, fighter planes, aterially boats, jeeps, combay boats, motorsycles, and cannons from WW1, WW2, Korean way, Vietnam was, and desert storm. He even has a shuttle module from a NASA space flight. All of his collection is in working order. He even leases parts of his collection out for movies. You may have seen some of his collection. Tn The Blues Brothers, Tank, The Siege, or Mars Attacks.

* Additional information for these entries was provided by “Indiana Curiosities”:

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Linnaeus' Flower Clock

Linnaeus' flower clock was a garden plan hypothesized by Carolus Linnaeus that would take advantage of several plants that open or close their flowers at particular times of the day to accurately predict the time. He called it specifically the Horologium Florae (lit. "flower clock"), and proposed the concept in the 1751 publication Philosophia Botanica. He may never have planted such a garden, but the idea was attempted by several botanical gardens in the early 19th century, with mixed success. Many plants exhibit a strong circadian rhythm, and a few have been observed to open at quite a regular time, but the accuracy of such a clock is diminished because flowering time is affected by weather and seasonal effects. The flowering times recorded by Linnaeus are also subject to differences in daylight due to latitude: his measurements are based on flowering times in Uppsala, where he taught and had received his university education.