50 Years of Highway Safety - Happy Anniversary!

In September 1959 a group of insurance companies in the U.S. got together and formed the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Their mission: "to conduct, sponsor, and encourage programs designed to aid in the conservation and preservation of life and property from the hazards of highway accidents." They appointed Dr. William Haddon Jr. as their president, and he brought with him a whole passel of research and statistics that allowed the IIHS to make model-by-model damage comparisons in vehicular crashes. Cynics are likely to point out that, to the folks at AAA or State Farm, fewer traumatic personal injuries equals smaller claims paid, and that the overall reduction in deaths and catastrophic injuries thanks to safer vehicles is just so much icing on the cake. But we're not here to analyze the IIHS's motives, we just want to see the cool stuff that has resulted once automobile safety became an issue!

Crash Test Dummies Put Cadavers Out of Work

Until the Anthropomorphic Test Device "“ that's a Crash Test Dummy to you and me "“ was invented, human cadavers were routinely used for collision testing in the automotive industry. The first Dummy was invented in 1949 for use by the U.S. Air Force to test ejection seats. "Sierra Sam," as the first model was dubbed, had articulated joints but a rigid neck and spine, so he wasn't very useful in automotive crash simulations. Mark I debuted in 1952, and he not only came equipped with ball-and-socket joints to simulate the motion of a human spine, but also computerized sensors in his skull to measure acceleration and force of impact. Most of the technological updates in Dummies were left to NASA until 1966, when the Big Three started adding shoulder restraints to some models. The automotive industry plunged in and started designing all sorts of state-of-the-art Dummies, including a variety of children's models since the dolls had to be able to simulate the many positions and situations toddlers got into during family drives, including standing on the back seat and laying across mom's lap. As a youngster, I was always fascinated by the Dummies' demonstrations of what happened when you didn't buckle up for safety:

When Seat Belts Were Strictly an Option

Before the IIHS started studying car crashes and their effects on passengers, the main concern design-wise of the automobile industry was producing a stylish car that looked good. Darned good. As a result, the majority of American cars in the 1950s and 60s were three-ton behemoths with mile-long hoods and trucks, all made of solid steel. Seat belts were still strictly an option on most models, so the consequences of a head-on collision could be particularly gruesome. Cornell University took the time to break down the events that occurred in first second of a 55 mile-per-hour typical accident into tenths of seconds. In the first tenth, the front bumper and hood collapse. During the second tenth"¦.oh heck, Jack Webb can describe it much better:

Cars that Crumple

Once passenger safety started figuring into the equation, automotive engineers approached design from a different angle, and the crumple zone was born. The crumple zone actually causes the front end of the vehicle to be more malleable; that is, unlike the solid protective barriers of yesteryear, the steel surrounding the front of your car is now designed to yield when hit head-on, so that it absorbs energy upon impact and slows down the deceleration rate within the passenger compartment. To put it more simply, take a look at this IIHS video of a 1959 Chevrolet Bel-Air smashing into a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu. One vehicle far outweighs the other, but guess which Crash Test Dummy suffers less "injury" thanks to a combination of the crumple zone, seat belts, airbags and wrap-around seat design.

The Birth of Signal 30

Depending upon when (and where) you took your driver's education class, you may be familiar with the "scare" classic Signal 30. This film featured a compilation of very graphic aftermath film footage/photos of a variety of traffic accidents. How such scenes came to be captured on film can be traced back to a case of being in the right place at the unfortunate right time. In the mid-1950s an accountant, amateur photographer and police enthusiast named Richard Wayman happened to be nearby when a fatal accident involving a motorcyclist and a train occurred. He grabbed his camera, snapped some on-scene photographs, and offered them to the Mansfield (Ohio) Police Department to aid in their investigation. The Mansfield cops were so enthusiastic in their thanks that Wayman made photographing accident scenes a hobby. During his various "shoots" he met Phyllis Vaughn, another photographer with a police scanner. The two eventually joined forces, added a 16mm movie camera to their equipment and formed the Highway Safety Foundation. Until video cameras flooded the market, the HSF's movies were the only source of real-life gore for training films.

Google Street View Now Lets You Explore the International Space Station

Google Street View covers some amazing locations (Antarctica, the Grand Canyon, and Stonehenge, to name a few), but it’s taken until now for the tool to venture into the final frontier. As TechCrunch reports, you can now use Street View to explore the inside of the International Space Station.

The scenes, photographed by astronauts living on the ISS, include all 15 modules of the massive satellite. Viewers will be treated to true 360-degree views of the rooms and equipment onboard. Through the windows, you can see Earth from an astronaut's perspective and a SpaceX Dragon craft delivering supplies to the crew.

Because the imagery was captured in zero gravity, it’s easy to lose sense of your bearings. Get a taste of what ISS residents experience on a daily basis here.

[h/t TechCrunch]

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Lucy Quintanilla/iStock
6 East Coast Castles to Visit for a Fairy Tale Road Trip
Original image
Lucy Quintanilla/iStock

Once the stuff of fairy tales and legends, a variety of former castles have been repurposed today as museums and event spaces. Enough of them dot the East Coast that you can plan a summer road trip to visit half a dozen in a week or two, starting in or near New York City. See our turrent-rich itinerary below.


59 miles from New York City

The crumbling exterior of Bannerman Castle
Garrett Ziegler, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Bannerman Castle can be found on its very own island in the Hudson River. Although the castle has fallen into ruins, the crumbling shell adds visual interest to the stunning Hudson Highlands views, and can be visited via walking or boat tours from May to October. The man who built the castle, Scottish immigrant Frank Bannerman, accumulated a fortune shortly after the Civil War in his Brooklyn store known as Bannerman’s. He eventually built the Scottish-style castle as both a residence and a military weapons storehouse starting in 1901. The island remained in his family until 1967, when it was given to the Taconic Park Commission; two years later it was partially destroyed by a mysterious fire, which led to its ruined appearance.


116 miles from Beacon, New York

William Gillette was an actor best known for playing Sherlock Holmes, which may have something to do with where he got the idea to install a series of hidden mirrors in his castle, using them to watch guests coming and going. The unusual-looking stone structure was built starting in 1914 on a chain of hills known as the Seven Sisters. Gillette designed many of the castle’s interior features (which feature a secret room), and also installed a railroad on the property so he could take his guests for rides. When he died in 1937 without designating any heirs, his will forbade the possession of his home by any "blithering sap-head who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.” The castle is now managed by the State of Connecticut as Gillette Castle State Park.


74 miles from East Haddam, Connecticut

The exterior of Belcourt castle
Jenna Rose Robbins, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Prominent architect Richard Morris Hunt designed Belcourt Castle for congressman and socialite Oliver Belmont in 1891. Hunt was known for his ornate style, having designed the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, but Belmont had some unusual requests. He was less interested in a building that would entertain people and more in one that would allow him to spend time with his horses—the entire first floor was designed around a carriage room and stables. Despite its grand scale, there was only one bedroom. Construction cost $3.2 million in 1894, a figure of approximately $80 million today. But around the time it was finished, Belmont was hospitalized following a mugging. It took an entire year before he saw his completed mansion.


111 miles from Newport, Rhode Island

Part of the exterior of Hammond castle
Robert Linsdell, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Inventor John Hays Hammond Jr. built his medieval-style castle between 1926 and 1929 as both his home and a showcase for his historical artifacts. But Hammond was not only interested in recreating visions of the past; he also helped shape the future. The castle was home to the Hammond Research Corporation, from which Hammond produced over 400 patents and came up with the ideas for over 800 inventions, including remote control via radio waves—which earned him the title "the Father of Remote Control." Visitors can take a self-guided tour of many of the castle’s rooms, including the great hall, indoor courtyard, Renaissance dining room, guest bedrooms, inventions exhibit room, library, and kitchens.


430 miles from Gloucester, Massachusetts

It's a long drive from Gloucester and only accessible by water, but it's worth it. The German-style castle on Heart Island was built in 1900 by millionaire hotel magnate George C. Boldt, who created the extravagant structure as a summer dream home for his wife Louise. Sadly, she passed away just months before the place was completed. The heartbroken Boldt stopped construction, leaving the property empty for over 70 years. It's now in the midst of an extensive renovation, but the ballroom, library, and several bedrooms have been recreated, and the gardens feature thousands of plants.


327 miles from Alexandria Bay, New York

Part of the exterior of Fonthill castle

In the mood for more castles? Head south to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where Fonthill Castle was the home of the early 20th century American archeologist, anthropologist, and antiquarian Henry Chapman Mercer. Mercer was a man of many interests, including paleontology, tile-making, and architecture, and his interest in the latter led him to design Fonthill Castle as a place to display his colorful tile and print collection. The inspired home is notable for its Medieval, Gothic, and Byzantine architectural styles, and with 44 rooms, there's plenty of well-decorated nooks and crannies to explore.


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