Sunday, August 31, 2008

Air Force One

Did you know that the term Air Force One does not refer to a specific plane, but rather, a military designation?

Air Force One is the call sign for whatever Air Force plane the President of the United States happens to be on at the time. There are actually two of the familiar customized Air Force Boeing 747s that most often transport the President and are thereby known as Air Force One. Often these planes will rotate duty as Air Force One.

Other branches of the military use the same terminology. The helicopter that carries the President is managed by the US Marine Corps. Hence when the President is aboard, it goes by the call sign Marine One.

When the President rides aboard a vehicle owned by the Army, Navy, or Coast Guard - those vehicles are identifed the same way: Army One, Navy One, Coast Guard One.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

How Rare Is It?

Wow - this really blew me away...did you know that all the platinum ever mined (as in human history) would only fill up the space of a regular sized living room (about 25 cubic feet)?

Most of the world's platinum comes from South Africa and only about 130 tons of platinum is mined in the world annually - about 6% by weight of worldwide annual gold production and less than 1% of annual worldwide silver production.

It takes about 120 tons of platinum ore to produce 1 oz of pure platinum. Rare stuff indeed.

Friday, August 29, 2008

No Loo in the Bunker

During the battle of Britain in World War II, Londoners sought refuge from the relentless German air raids. To ensure continuity of government, Churchill ordered the construction of a secret bunker in the London suburbs that was able to sustain a direct bomb hit.

This bunker was codenamed "Paddock" and was the location of many of the British governments most important meetings during the midst of the attack on London. The facility was a tremendous success except for one important feature that the designers forgot to include...bathrooms.

Those in the bunker that needed to go during an air raid, including Churchill, had to get creative.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Wonderful Tomb

Can you name the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World? Ok - the pyramids...that's the easy one...know any of the others?

One of the ones that people never remember is the Tomb of Maussollos, built between 353 BC and 350 BC in the small kingdom of Halicarnassus in present day Turkey.

The word "mausoleum" actually comes from this famous Ancient World Wonder.

Maussollos, the king of Halicarnassus, decreed that his city needed many great public works. Among the great structures he ordered built was a gigantic tomb that was meant to be his final resting place, and that of his queen Artemisia. In the custom of the day, besides being Maussollos' wife, Aremisia also happened to be Maussollos' sister.

Maussollos never lived to see the completion of the great tomb, which was eventually finished some time after his death. Once built, the famous Tomb of Maussollos stood for over a thousand years. Accounts of the tomb describe it with different tiers each reflecting Persian, Greek, and Egyptian influences. The Wonder was also famous for its many statues.

Around 1500 AD crusading Hospilater knights wrote at length about the greatness of the tomb, shortly before they began dismantling it to get material needed to fortify a nearby castle.

Now only fragments of of the once great tomb exist, but descriptions of the tomb have influenced modern structures such as Grant's Tomb in New York City and Los Angeles City Hall.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The US Senate Gavel

Whenever the US Senate comes into session, the presiding officer uses the US Senate gavel to officiate.

The current gavel in use is made from ivory and was a gift to the United States from Inida in 1954.

The original Senate gavel was fashioned from wood with silver plates on each end and was is use as early as 1834. Some historians believe this first gavel was actually used by then Vice President John Adams to call the first Senate into session in New York in 1789.

This original gavel is kept in a small mahogany box along with the current gavel, and is brought out to the presiding officers desk before the Senate is called into session each day.