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Stonehenge: Ancient Monument, Astronomical Observatory or Something Else?

The Rock Pillars of Stonehenge

The Rock Pillars of Stonehenge

 

Fun Facts About Stonehenge

 

  • Stonehenge is located on the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England – about 137 kilometers Southwest of London.
  • The origins of the name Stonehenge is taken from the combination of ‘stone’ and ‘henge’, a tribute to the biggest henge in Britain.
  • Though there is no specific evidence about who built the Stonehenge. It is believed that Druids, Greeks, or Atlanteans might have built the Stonehenge.
  • Stonehenge was constructed somewhere between 3100 – 1100 BCE.
  • On September 21st, 1915, C.H. Chubb purchased Stonehenge for 6,600 pounds
  • Stonehenge and its surroundings were added to the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1986 and is also legally protected by the Scheduled Ancient Monument.
  • Stonehenge is owned by the Crown and managed by English Heritage while the surrounding land is owned by the National Trust.
  • The circle was aligned with the midsummer sunrise, the midwinter sunset, and the most southerly rising and northerly setting of the moon.
  • The builders of Stonehenge have featured it in a way that it encompasses sophisticated mathematical and geometrical understandings of the framework and the structural engineering of the construction.
  • Stonehenge has a henge, or a ditch and bank, which surround the large stone circle.
  • The stones of Stonehenge were placed in such a way that they increase in size towards the centre and alternate in shape between tall, thin pillar-like stones and stones of a tapering obelisk shape.
  • Two types of stone were used for the construction of Stonehenge- the ‘bluestones’ which weighed almost four tons and were brought from 240 miles away. The other type of stone used was the ‘Sarsen’ stones which had a height of about eighteen feet and weighed twenty-five tons.
  • It is anticipated that more than thirty million hours of labor was required for the construction of Stonehenge.
  • Stonehenge is the most well known among the nine hundred stone rings which exists in the British Isles.
  • Most archaeologists believed that Stonehenge’s use had been limited to the ritual activities of different Neolithic chiefdoms before 1950. However, its use as an astronomical observatory was an equally important function of the Stonehenge.
Special thanks to www.iloveindia.com

 

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The “Spruce Goose”: Howard Hughes’ Remarkable and Enigmatic Wooden Aircraft

The Hughes Flying Boat H-4 (HK-1) Hercules a.k.a. The "Spruce Goose"

The Hughes Flying Boat H-4 (HK-1) Hercules a.k.a. The "Spruce Goose"

Fun Facts About the Spruce Goose

Names: Hughes Flying Boat H-4 (HK-1) Hercules (“Spruce Goose”)

Description: The Hughes Flying Boat is a cargo-type seaplane designed to transport men and materials over long distances. This aircraft is of a single hull, eight-engine design, with a single vertical tail, fixed wing-tip floats, and full cantilever wing and tail surfaces. The entire airframe and surface structures are composed of laminated wood (primarily birch). All primary control surfaces except the flaps are fabric covered. The hull contains two areas: a flight deck for the operating crew and a large cargo deck. A circular stairway provides access between the two decks. Below the cargo deck are fuel bays divided by watertight bulkheads.

Largest wingspan: 319 feet, 11 inches with a wing area that covers 11,430 square feet
Features full cantilever wing and tail surfaces.

Tallest aircraft: 79 feet, 3 3/8 inches

Length: 218 fee 6 ¼ inches

Record setting: Largest seaplane and largest wooden aircraft: the entire airframe is composed of laminated wood. Primary control surfaces, except the flaps, are fabric-covered. The most reciprocating horsepower ever installed in an aircraft.

Power: Eight Pratt & Whitney R-4360, 3,000 horsepower engines

Propellers: Eight, 17 feet, 2 inch diameter

Weight, Empty:
 300,000 pounds

Weight, Loaded:
 400,000 pounds (maximum take-off weight)

Capacity: 750 troops or two Sherman tanks

Normal Crew:
 18

First And Only Flight:
 November 2, 1947

Howard Hughes in the cockpit of the Spruce Goose

Howard Hughes in the cockpit of the Spruce Goose

Why built: In July 1942, the world was at war. America had just lost 800,000 tons of her supply ships to German U-boats. Henry Kaiser, famed industrialist and builder of “Liberty” ships, proposed a fleet of flying transports to safely move troops and material across the Atlantic. Kaiser approached Howard Hughes with his idea. Together they formed the Hughes Kaiser Corporation and obtained an $18,000,000 government contract to construct three flying boats.

Hughes and his team of skilled engineers designed a single hull flying boat capable of carrying 750 troops. The plans called for eight 3,000 horsepower engines, a mammoth fuel storage and supply system, and wings 20 feet longer than a football field. They called the prototype aircraft the HK-1, standing for the Hughes Kaiser design number one.

Delays and Constraints: Encountering and dealing with tremendous design and engineering problems, the Hughes team developed new concepts for large-scale hulls, flying control surfaces, and complex power boost systems. Hughes engineers created the first “artificial feel system” in the control yoke, which gave the pilot the feeling he was flying a smaller aircraft, but with a force multiplied two hundred times. For example, for each pound of pressure exerted on the control yoke by the pilot, the elevator received 1,500 pounds of pressure to move it.

The H-4 now resides at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, OR

The H-4 now resides at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, OR

Adhering to the government mandate not to use materials critical to the war effort (such as steel and aluminum), the Hughes team constructed the Flying Boat out of wood. Hughes perfected a process called “Duramold” to create almost every part of the plane. Originally developed by Fairchild Aircraft Company, Howard Hughes purchased the rights to use Duramold in large aircraft. The Duramold process is a plywood-like series of thin wood laminations, with grains laid perpendicular to each other. Workers permeating the laminations with plastic glue, then they shaped and heated the pieces until cured. The result is a material that many engineers agree is both lighter and stronger than aluminum.

All of the research and development that went into the new seaplane delayed the construction process. In mid 1944, Henry Kaiser withdrew from the project, and Hughes took personal responsibility for all facets of the flying boat’s design and production. He renamed the gigantic seaplane H-4, representing his aircraft company’s fourth design.

After the war’s end in 1945, criticism of the project mounted. The Flying Boat prototype had exceeded the government’s funding allowance and the U.S. Senate formed an investigation committee to probe alleged misappropriation of funds. Hughes invested $7,000,000 of his own into the project to keep it going. While Hughes testified before the investigative committee in Washington, D.C., the Hughes team assembled the Flying Boat in the Long Beach dry dock. After his interrogation, Hughes was determined to demonstrate the capability of his Flying Boat. He returned to California and immediately ordered the seaplane readied for taxi tests.

Proof of Concept: On November 2, 1947, a crowd of expectant observers and newsmen gathered. With Hughes at the controls, the giant Flying Boat glided smoothly across a three-mile stretch of harbor. From 35 miles per hour, it cruised to 90 during the second taxi test when eager newsmen began filing their stories. During the third taxi test Hughes surprised everyone as he ordered the wing flaps lowered to 15 degrees and the seaplane lifted off the water. He flew her for a little over a mile at an altitude of 70 feet for approximately one minute. The short hop proved to skeptics that the gigantic craft could fly!

 

Special thanks to www.sprucegoose.org

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The Brooklyn Bridge: Iconic Landmark and Part of the New York Experience

The Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge - an iconic landmark in human ingenuity

Fun Facts About the Brooklyn Bridge

  • In 1802, NY State Legislature received petition to construct a bridge over the East River as an alternative to the many ferry services that operated at the time, including the Nassau, part of the Fulton Ferry Line (named after Robert Fulton).
  • The construction of the Brooklyn Bridge started in 1869 and took 14 years to complete.
  • In 1869, President Ulysses S. Grant, signed the bill to approve the Brooklyn Bridge Plan.
  • The Organization chartered to build the Brooklyn Bridge was named The New York Bridge Company.
  • At the time many saw the construction of such a large bridge as a folly.

    Wilhelm Hildenbrand and John Augustus Roebling

    Wilhelm Hildenbrand and John Augustus Roebling

  • The driving force behind the whole project, John Augustus Roebling, was a German immigrant who had worked for the Prussian government as a bridge and road builder. He launched the idea of building a bridge across the East River after he had taken a ferry across the river that ended up stuck in the ice.
  • Assisting Roebling with the bridge design was architect Wilhelm Hildenbrand.
  • Roebling would never get to see the bridge he had designed: on July 6th, 1869, at the Brooklyn Fulton Ferry Slip, his foot was crushed while determining the exact location of the Brooklyn-side bridge tower. Although his toes were amputated, he would die 16 days later from Lockjaw (an infection) at the age of 63.
  • Roebling wasn’t the only one to lose his life during the construction: 20 of the in total 600 workers died while working on the bridge.
  • The son of John Roebling, Washington Roebling, took over the leadership of the project but he suffered from the caisson-disease as a result of the works on the pillars of the bridge and was on his deathbed during the inauguration.

    Washington Roebling

    Washington Roebling

  • On opening day, May 24, 1883, about 150,000 people crossed the bridge.
  • The opening day ceremony was presided over by President Chester A. Arthur and Governor Grover Cleveland.
  • Roebling had not just made a bridge that looked incredibly strong, it also turned out to be just as strong in reality. A mesh of cables of which the four strongest have a diameter of 11 inches are anchored in the ground and keep the bridge from collapsing. But even if the four strongest cables would snap, the other cables would still be sufficient to support the bridge. Roebling even claimed that the bridge wouldn’t collapse without any cables, it would merely sag.
  • But even after the inauguration, many New Yorkers were not convinced the bridge was safe. So as to prove the doubters wrong, P.T. Barnum led a caravan of circus animals – including a herd of 21 elephants – across the bridge in 1884.
  • Initial Bridge Toll – 1 cent on Opening Day; 3 cents thereafter
  • The Brooklyn Bridge ranks as one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century and remains one of New York’s most popular and well known landmarks.
  • The impressive bridge spans the East river between Brooklyn and Manhattan and stretches for a length of 5989 ft, about 1.8 km. The length between the large towers is 1595.5 ft (486 meter). This made the Brooklyn bridge the world’s largest suspension bridge at the time.
  • The most noticeable feature of the Brooklyn Bridge are the two masonry towers to which the many cables are attached. The towers with large gothic arches are 276 ft tall (84 meter), at the time making them some of the tallest landmarks in New York.
  • Roebling claimed that the monumental towers would make the bridge a historic monument. He was proven right when the bridge officially became a national monument in 1964.
  • An elevated pedestrian path not only gives you the opportunity to cross the river without being bothered by the traffic that rushes past a level below, but it also offers a great view of the bridge’s towers as well as downtown Manhattan’s skyline. The views alone attract millions of visitors to this bridge each year.
  • Brooklyn, founded by Dutch settlers in 1636, was an independent city until 1898 when Brooklyn decided in a close vote to become a borough of New York. At that time the Brooklyn bridge had connected the two cities for 15 years.
Special thanks to  www.aviewoncities.com and www.endex.com

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