Balloon Mail

Besieged by Prussians in 1870, Paris found a clever way to get mail to the outside world. For 20 centimes you could write a letter on a thin piece of green paper; these were collected and sent hopefully upward on unguided mail balloons. Each 4-gram postcard carried an address; the Parisians hoped that the balloons would drift to earth somewhere and that whoever found the messages would forward them.

It worked. During the four-month siege they sent up 65 balloons, and only two went missing.

A Spaceborne Time Capsule

You can write a message to future generations at the KEO project. It’ll be launched on a satellite that won’t return to Earth for 50,000 years.

Even more ambitious is the LAGEOS satellite, which will re-enter our atmosphere in 8.4 million years bearing a plaque that shows the arrangement of the continents. Let’s hope our descendants still have catcher’s mitts.

Uncorker of Ocean Bottles

In the 16th century, the English navy would put messages in bottles to send information ashore about enemy positions.

Queen Elizabeth I even created the official position “Uncorker of Ocean Bottles.” Anyone else caught opening them faced the death penalty.

“The Eye of Africa”

Early space missions that passed over the featureless Sahara were surprised to see a 30-mile eye staring up at them. No one’s quite sure what it is. It’s too flat to be a crater or a volcano. If it’s simply an uplift laid bare by erosion, why is it so nearly circular? For now they’re just calling it the Richat Structure.

People Who Have Been Cremated

People who have been cremated:

  • Neville Chamberlain
  • Wyatt Earp
  • Albert Einstein
  • W.C. Fields
  • Sigmund Freud
  • Greta Garbo
  • Adolf Hitler
  • Henry James
  • John Maynard Keynes
  • Rudyard Kipling
  • Timothy Leary
  • Nelson Rockefeller
  • Carl Sagan
  • Dr. Seuss
  • George Bernard Shaw
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley
  • John Steinbeck