Friday, September 30, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
BY CYRIAQUE LAMAR
"70 or so feet underneath London's streets lies the unused mail rail system, a hard to reach subterranean system of postal tracks, cloistered away from human eyes. That is, until a gang of intrepid urban explorers cracked a secret entrance.
After a precarious climb up a five-story drain pipe, the spelunkers at Silent UK plumbed the depths of this system, which has existed in various forms for over a century:
Originally designed using a pneumatic system in 1855, after years of testing, tunnel construction and usage its limitation began to show. The Post Office who were already unhappy with its high running costs, coupled with the fact the scheme only shaved four minutes from the delivery time by road decided in 1874 that they would no longer use the line, the Pneumatic Despatch Company being dissolved as the tunnels were closed [...] Even before the demise of the Pneumatic line, several plans had been put forward recommending a similar mail delivery system, most promoting usage of electrified lines [...]
The line was eventually finished in 1927 with the first letter through the system running on February 1928 [...] Although initially the system was a success, in its last years of service the line was continually [losing] money. On the 7th November 2002, Royal Mail announced the line had become uneconomical with losses of £1.2M a day and that they planned to close it should no alternate uses be found. This was to be the death of the Mail Rail with the line from Mount Pleasant to the Eastern Delivery Office closing on the 21st March 2003, the remaining section from the Western District Office to Mount Pleasant following on the 29th. Now it just sits there buried where light cannot reach, rusting away, the trains sleeping silently in and around the stations wanting to be used again. Sadly a dream which we all know will never come true."
Monday, September 19, 2011
Friday, September 16, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Sunday, September 11, 2011
"The Nazca Lines are a series of ancient geoglyphs located in the Nazca Desert in southern Peru. They were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. The high, arid plateau stretches more than 80 kilometres between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the Pampas de Jumana about 400 km south of Lima. Although some local geoglyphs resemble Paracas motifs, scholars believe the Nazca Lines were created by the Nazca culture between 400 and 650 AD.
The lines are shallow designs made in the ground by removing the ubiquitous reddish pebbles and uncovering the whitish ground beneath. Hundreds are simple lines or geometric shapes; more than seventy are zoomorphic designs of animals such as birds, fish, llamas, jaguar, monkey or human figures. Other designs include phytomorphic shapes such as trees and flowers. The largest figures are over 200 metres (660 ft) across.
Scholars differ in interpreting the purpose of the designs, but in general they ascribe religious significance to them. The geometric ones could indicate the flow of water or be connected to rituals to summon water. The spiders, birds, and plants could be fertility symbols. Other possible explanations include: irrigation schemes or giant astronomical calendars.
Due to the dry, windless, and stable climate of the plateau and its isolation, for the most part the lines have been preserved. Extremely rare changes in weather may temporarily alter the general designs.
After people traveled over the area by plane in the 1930s and saw the Nazca Lines from the air, anthropologists started studying them, with focus on trying to understand how they were created.
Scholars have theorized the Nazca people could have used simple tools and surveying equipment to construct the lines. Studies have found wooden stakes in the ground at the end of some lines, which support this theory. One such stake was carbon-dated and the basis for establishing the age of the design complex.
In total, the earthwork project is huge and complex: the area encompassing the lines is nearly 500 square kilometres, and the largest figures can span nearly 270 metres. The extremely dry, windless, and constant climate of the Nazca region has preserved the lines well. The Nazca desert is one of the driest on Earth and maintains a temperature around 25 °C (77 °F) all year round. The lack of wind has helped keep the lines uncovered and visible to the present day.
Archeologists, ethnologists and anthropologists have studied the ancient Nazca culture and the complex to try to determine the purpose of the lines and figures. One theory is that the Nazca people created them to be seen by their gods in the sky. Kosok and Reiche advanced a purpose related to astronomy and cosmology: the lines were intended to act as a kind of observatory, to point to the places on the distant horizon where the sun and other celestial bodies rose or set. Many prehistoric indigenous cultures in the Americas and elsewhere constructed earthworks that combined such astronomical sighting with their religious cosmology, as did the later Mississippian culture at Cahokia in present-day United States. Another example is Stonehenge in England. But, Gerald Hawkins and Anthony Aveni, experts in archaeoastronomy, concluded in 1990 that there was insufficient evidence to support such an astronomical explanation.
In 1985, the archaeologist Johan Reinhard published archaeological, ethnographic, and historical data demonstrating that worship of mountains and other water sources predominated in Nazca religion and economy from ancient to recent times. He theorized that the lines and figures were part of religious practices involving the worship of deities associated with the availability of water, which directly related to the success and productivity of crops. He interpreted the lines as sacred paths leading to places where these deities could be worshiped. The figures were symbols representing animals and objects meant to invoke the gods' aid in supplying water. But, the precise meanings of many of the individual geoglyphs remain unsolved as of 2011.
Some individuals propose alternative theories. Jim Woodmann believes that the Nazca Lines could not have been made without some form of manned flight to see the figures properly. Based on his study of available technology, he suggests that a hot air balloon was the only possible means of flight. To test this hypothesis, Woodmann made a hot-air balloon using materials and techniques that he understood to be available to the Nazca people. The balloon flew, after a fashion. Most scholars have rejected Woodmann's thesis as ad hoc, because of the lack of any evidence of such balloons.
Swiss author Erich von Däniken suggests the Nazca lines and other complex constructions represent higher technological knowledge than he believes existed when the glyphs were created. Von Däniken maintains that the Nazca lines in Peru are runways of an ancient airfield that was used by extraterrestrials mistaken by the natives to be their gods."