Geek Month in Review: June 2013

By JB Sanders

Summer, summer, summer…

That’s Not a Train
When the US Army wants an overland train that doesn’t need tracks in 1950, they build this.

Clockwork Automaton from the 1500’s
It’s a clockwork monk, who prays, does his rosaries and kisses his bible.

Lost Egyptian City Uncovered
And not from the “sands of time”, either. It was a major port city near Alexandria and was submerged centuries ago during an earthquake. It’s now below water. They’ve discovered it 13 years ago, and have been steadily uncovering statues, shipwrecks, anchors and tablets. Plus some mummified cats — so you know it’s Egyptian! Spectacular photos and some raw underwater video included.

The Sun Still Hasn’t Set on the British Empire
No, really. There are enough British Overseas Territories that it’s still the case that the sun doesn’t set on British soil. Kind of makes you wonder if it was a colonial land grab, or the monarchy made some kind of sketchy deal with a Faerie Lord that they’d give up their throne if the sun ever set on their Empire, and then set about making sure it would never, ever happen.

Geekiest Location on Earth?
It’s immediately recognizable to just about everyone on Earth — well, ok, except those few who haven’t seen the Star Wars movies. See photos of the outdoor set used to film Star Wars (1976) as it looks today.

Original Series Star Trek, New Episodes (sort of)
So a bunch of people got together to fill a hole that’s been there in SF fandom for decades: the final two seasons of Star Trek’s “Five year mission”. They’re showing online, of course, because this is the 21st Century, but otherwise, it’s right out of the 1960’s — lighting, makeup, effects, story-line. Take a look.

Bomb Shelter Found in Backyard from 1961
Inside: perfectly preserved (mostly) examples of typical household products, and some really old issues of Analog magazine to while away the hours. Fun discovery to stumble across in your back yard, huh?

Boating in Lakes of Not-Water
What would it be like to paddle on a lake of mercury? Not as cool as you’d think, especially if you’re in an aluminum boat.
Best quote: “Liquid tungsten is so hot, if you dropped it into a lava flow, the lava would freeze the tungsten.”

The Voynich Manuscript — Again
Ah, the Voynich Manuscript — variously described as a hoax that won’t stop hoaxing, a masterpiece of alchemical knowledge (which no one can read) and a book of herbal remedies written by a madman (or woman). Well, some linguistic scientists have run a statistical analysis of the language in the book and concluded that although they haven’t yet deciphered it, the text appears to be a real language of some kind. The article also has some nice higher-res pictures of the book.

If the Sky Was More Interesting
It would also be a little more terrifying. An artist’s conception of what the sky would look like if various planets were as close to Earth as the moon is now.

Secret Societies, Airships and Coded Notebooks
This article has everything! So some artist found the notebooks of a man who died in 1923 in a junkshop in 1969, and realized that the detailed drawings and coded notes were — amazing! Was the guy crazy? A secret genius? A member of a secret society of airship designers? Or was he the earthly representative of a an alien entity?

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog: