" You perceive the force of a word. He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word. The power of sound has always been greater than the power of sense...Give me the right word and the right accent and I will move the world. "
Joseph Conrad

Back in the day


Thor Heyerdahl Lands in Polynesia

Heyerdahl was a great adventurer with a background in zoology and geography. His real passion, however, lay in cultural anthropology, and he theorized that the first settlers of Polynesia were of South American origin. To support this theory, he and 5 companions made the crossing from Peru to the Tuamotu Archipelago on a primitive log raft. Heyerdahl describes the voyage in the international bestseller Kon-Tiki. Why did he deliberately burn his sailing vessel during an expedition in 1978?



The Fusor: DIY Nuclear Fusion

Originally designed by TV developer Philo T. Farnsworth as a device to create nuclear fusion, the fusor is unique in its simplicity. Instead of slowly heating plasma, the fusor simply injects "high temperature" ions directly into a reaction chamber. Still, engineers have been unable to develop a practical power source using the technology. Though hobbyists and even high school students have built small fusors, care must be taken to avoid its major radiological hazard. What is this hazard?

Born on a day like today


Mata Hari

Born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle, this Dutch courtesan, dancer, and probable spy went by the stage name Mata Hari. During WWI, she had intimate relationships with many high-ranking Allied military officers and government officials. In January 1917, French intelligence intercepted German messages about a spy that the former identified as Mata Hari. Less than a year later, she was executed by the French on espionage charges. What is she rumored to have done while standing before the firing squad?

Last updated on Thursday, 7th August 2008

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