Making an International Standard Cup of Tea

From Tom Scott. As far as I can find, no-one has actually made a International Standard Cup of Tea – ISO 3103 or BS 6008 – for the internet before. Lots of people have talked about it, but that’s easy. Making one? That requires precision… and some specialist equipment. You can buy a professional tea…

The US President’s Bulletproof Railcar

From Tom Scott. US Car Number 1, the Ferdinand Magellan, sits in the Gold Coast Railway Museum in Miami. It’s 120 tonnes of bulletproof, armoured railcar: a train carriage designed to move the President of the United States around the country in safety and style. At least, it was, until other transport came along to…

The 1940s Mermaid Show That’s Still Pulling Crowds

From Tom Scott. In Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Florida, there’s a mermaid show — and there has been for 70 years. It’s one of the United States’ oldest roadside attractions, and it still does three shows a day. At least, provided the local wildlife doesn’t get in the way. Weeki Wachee Springs State Park:…

Why European Clocks are Running Slow, and British Clocks Aren’t

From Tom Scott. Many people sent me this story: it covers my favourite topics of power grids and temporal anomalies. But when the mainstream press have already covered it, how could I add something more? The answer: by adding another pet topic, Unnecessary British Patriotism. And a teasmade. Press release: https://www.entsoe.eu/news-events/announcements/announcements-archive/Pages/News/2018-03-06-press-release-continuing-frequency-deviation-in-the-continental-european-power-system.aspx Teasmade: http://amzn.to/2oYrvxb [aff. link]…

The Moiré Effect Lights That Guide Ships Home

From Tom Scott. I’d never heard of moiré effect beacons until I got an email asking me about them. It seemed like a really clever idea – but it was really hard to research. Or at least it was, until I stumbled upon one magic phrase that revealed its history. It turns out this thing’s…

Making Artificial Earthquakes with a Four-Tonne Steel Ball

From Tom Scott. In Göttingen, Germany, there’s a four-tonne steel ball that can be raised up a 14-metre tower — and then dropped in less than two seconds, crashing back to earth. It makes tiny, artificial earthquakes: here’s why. Thanks to all the team at Wiechert’sche Erdbebenwarte Göttingen! You can find out more about them…

Faceswapping, Unethical Videos, and Future Shock

From Tom Scott. I was going to tell a science fiction story about faceswapping, and mass blackmail. Then the news broke about unethical faceswapping videos, and software designed and marketed for creating them: and I realised the future had arrived faster than I thought. (This was originally a talk given at An Evening of Unnecessary…

Controlling An Airport From 80 Miles Away

From Tom Scott. London City Airport’s getting a new control tower: but it’s just going to be a large mast with 14 high-definition cameras on it. The actual tower will be 80 miles away, in the headquarters of NATS near Swanwick. It feels questionable: but is it? Thanks to all the team at NATS: you…