That Time GE Made a One Man, Rocket Propelled Reentry Vehicle/Body Bag

The upcoming film Gravity follows the desperate escape attempts of two astronauts from a dying space station, their peril aggravated by the sight of Earth's surface so close but entirely out of reach. Of course, had they been equipped with General Electric's Manned Orbital Operations Safety Equipment, they could have simply hopped a rocket bag down to the planet and saved themselves a whole lot of trouble. Read More >>

What We Used to Think the Earth Looked Like From Space

It's nearly impossible for us to imagine how the Earth might look to someone who's only ever seen it from a local's vantage point. But thanks to the Library of Congress, we don't have to imagine, newly posted images of 19th century drawings show us exactly what humans thought the Earth looked like far before we could ever have known for sure. The Smithsonian compiled a few of them, and some of our favorites lie below. You can see the rest over at The Library of Congress here. [Library of Congress via The Smithsonian] Read More >>

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Rare Images Show How the New York Museum of Natural History Preps Its Displays

The giant mammal bones on display at New York City's American Museum of Natural History are impressive approximations of creatures that once walked the earth (and in some cases, those that still do). But equally if not more amazing? How those displays were actually assembled. Read More >>

Look at the Insane Number Layouts Our Telephones Could Have Had

The year was 1960, and phones were changing. It was the beginning of the end for rotary dialing, and buttons were the future. But engineers faced an important, looming question: what order do you put those buttons in? Read More >>

The Invisible Radar Force Field That Saved Great Britain

When you think about World War II tech, chances are your mind leaps right to the atomic bomb. But there was another less explosive tech that completely changed the defensive game: Radar. And this map outlines exactly how it saved Great Britain. Read More >>

16 Classic Films that Got Future Tech Right

You can yell, "Beam me up, Scotty!" all you want, the only thing that will happen is you'll elicit a bunch of bemused stares from passersby wondering if you've bonked your head recently. The sad fact is human teleportation devices don't yet exist in 2013, and even if they did, the tremendous lag would make it extraordinarily impractical. Such is the reality of science that it doesn't always mesh with our fantastic visions of fictional futures filled with flying cars and other implausible technologies. In other words, reality sucks compared to what we've grown up watching on television. Read More >>

This 700-Year-Old Ring Was Used to Poison Kings

Should you have happened to find yourself dining with Bulgarian royalty 700 years ago and the wine tasted a bit off, you would have been smart to put the goblet down. Bulgarian archaeologists have just discovered a medieval bronze ring explicitly designed to poison political foes — in the most discreet way possible. Read More >>

7 Up Used to Include Prescription Mood Stabilisers

Today I found out that the soft drink 7 UP used to include a psychiatric medication as one of its ingredients. Read More >>

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All Hail Histomap: 4,000 Years of History in a Single Poster

Initially published by Rand McNally in 1931, the Histomap took the form of a five foot long poster folded down into a relatively normal sized envelope and sold for a dollar (roughly 64p), or £8 in today's money. The Vault dug up an image of the envelope, and the pitch written on the outside pretty much speaks for itself. Read More >>

These Internet-Themed Crayons from the 90s Are Hilariously Dated

A long, long time ago, in a land where people had yet to even ponder words like "Reddit" and "Twitter," a bright-eyed arts and crafts company decided to embrace this crazy thing called the information superhighway. The year was 1997, and that company was Crayola. The results are absolutely glorious. Read More >>

6 Highly Dangerous “Life Hacks” From 100 Years Ago

People these days love shortcuts. The world moves at a terrifying pace, and you can either cheat your way to the top or get left behind with the "it's not the destination, it's the journey" crowd. No one wants that. Even a century ago, our ancestors were struggling with the very same problem. And their trusty neighbourhood cigarette supplier—Gallaher's Cigarettes—was ready to answer the call. Read More >>

The First Emoticons Were Used in 1881

=) -_- T_T =P ;) Oh, the emoticon. Depending on who you're talking to (or I guess texting to? messaging to?) at the moment, emoticons can be as common as some words. When did they first start showing up? Did people write letters with smileys and frowny faces? Were typewriters used to express emotion through symbols? Maybe. Apparently, the first emoticons were used in 1881. Read More >>

68 Plans For London's Hilariously Misguided Response to the Eiffel Tower

In 1889, Paris unveiled the magnificent Eiffel Tower. It was a worldwide sensation. London, meanwhile, was green with stiff-upper-lip envy. Not about to be outdone, city officials announced a competition for a grand monument of its own, and revealed 68 of the entries in a showcase catalog. Read More >>

The Insane Cancer Machines That Used to Live in Shoe Shops Everywhere

Smallish wooden podiums housing radioactive material for casual-foot X-rays, shoe-fitting fluoroscopes stared showing up in shoe stores around the 1920s. At first the X-ray wielding boxes were seen largely as gimmicks, but eventually they came to be respected as valuable shoe-fitting tools, instead of feared as the leaky cancer boxes they actually were. Into the 1950s the retrospectively horrifying nature of the things was mostly being brushed off, even in scientific studies: Read More >>

Somehow This WWII Mickey Mouse Gas Mask Was Supposed to Be Less Creepy

Sometimes parents have to explain things to their kids in more child-friendly terms. During World War II, that meant outfitting a child with a weird Mickey Mouse gas mask. Read More >>

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Taking X-Rays of Women in Corsets Was a Haunting Use of New Technology

Any tech that allows humans a new type of insight is inevitably turned on ourselves. We want to know what else we can find out from peering in on our bodies or minds in a new way. Of course, X-ray machines were pretty much used from the start for that purpose, but it's amazing to see these 1908 photos examining how a fashion trend was impacting health. Read More >>


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