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11 Things Billed as the 8th Wonder of the World

Since the days of antiquity, scholars and teachers, orators and critics, guide books and travel maps have identified Wonders of the World — locations that stand as a testament to human achievement in architecture and beauty or the represent the breathtaking awe of nature in its sprawling and magnificent chaos.

Most often, these lists of wonders come in sevens. However, from time to time there is a person, an idea, a creation or an edifice that seems to dwarf those previously held conceptions. Here are 11 things throughout history that have been billed as The 8th Wonder Of The World.

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1. The Grand Canyon - Carved by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon is often called the 8th Wonder of the World for its massive scope and beauty. A major force in its preservation, Theodore Roosevelt said, "In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world."

2. Andre the Giant - By age 12, Andre Rene Roussimoff was 6'3" and weighed close to 240 pounds due to acromegaly, a syndrome that causes excessive growth hormones. Topping out at 7'4" and 540 pounds, he was billed at the 8th Wonder of the World during his time in professional wrestling.

Bonus story: In the preface to the paperback version of The Princess Bride, William Golding tells a story about the first day of filming with Andre the Giant and Mandy Patinkin. Andre was having difficulty with his lines, so Mandy reached up and slapped him across his face in a effort to have him read faster.  It worked.

3. Compound Interest - According to legend, Albert Einstein once called compound interest the 8th Wonder of the World and the "most powerful invention in human history". There is some debate about the veracity of this quote, but there remains some evidence to suggest the sentiment, if not the exact words.

4. King Kong - In the ground-breaking original version of King Kong released in 1933 (as well as the 2005 remake), King Kong was billed as the 8th Wonder of the World. In fact, the working title of the script was, you guessed it, "The 8th Wonder."

5. The Taj Mahal - Is the Taj Mahal a part of the ultimate love story? Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, in honor of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child. Using elements of Persian, Turkish and Indian architectural styles, it was constructed of white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones. Sure beats a mixtape.

6. The Astrodome - Opened in 1965 as the Harris County Domed Stadium, the Astrodome was once billed as the 8th Wonder of the World.  It was one of the first domed stadiums and influenced the next four decades of sporting event construction.

One pretty good story: In 1976, a baseball game between the Astros and Pirates was canceled due to rain. While the dome was without a leak, massive flooding prevented the umpires (and most of the fans) from reaching the park. Eventually, the game was called, but the players of both teams, who had arrived early for practice, stayed behind and ate dinner together on the field.

7. The Terracotta Army - Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, was responsible for several innovations. He oversaw the first version of the Great Wall. He created a massive national road system and unified China through a series of economic and political reforms. He was also terrified of death.

At one point, Qin Shi Huang sent hundreds of his people in search of an elixir that would grant him immortality. Most of them never returned. So, with the elusive elixir evading his grasp, the emperor created the next best thing: a massive terracotta army to protect him in the afterlife, complete with 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots and 670 horses.  The remains of this massive army were discovered in 1979 and remain an impressive collection of ancient construction and history.

8. The Empire State Building - It's easy now to forget what a massive undertaking the Empire State Building was at the time of its construction. It was the world's tallest building for 40 years, the first building to clear 100 floors and it contains 73 elevators and over 6,500 windows. Yet it only took one year and 45 days to complete.

A fun fact about the original spire on top? It was created to be the mooring mast for airships. That's right, they said they were going to dock blimps on the top of the Empire State Building. (Though according to the New York Times, "The mast camouflaged the quest for boasting rights to the world’s tallest building, an ambition to which it seemed indecent to admit.")

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9. The Palm Islands of Dubai - The United Arab Emirates has the sixth-largest oil-reserves in the world. Thanks to $1 trillion in foreign investments, it is a massively rich country and Dubai has emerged as a global business hub and tourist destination. One of the city's projects is The Palm Islands, an artificial archipelago that is currently under construction in the Persian Gulf. Although the worldwide credit crunch has affected the undertaking, it is still being hailed as the next 8th Wonder of the World.

10. The Panama Canal - The Panama Canal has been hailed as an architectural marvel and one of the most complex engineering projects ever undertaken. It more than halved the time for a ship sailing from New York to San Francisco and has dramatically increased trade between the hemispheres. Perhaps no one, however, appreciated its intricacies more than Richard Halliburton, who swam the canal in 1928. He was charged a toll of 36 cents.

11. The International Space Station - On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy stood before Congress and announced the ambitious goal of safely sending an American to the moon by the end of the decade. The United States, shamed by Sputnik and Gagarin, was desperately looking to catch the Russians in the Space Race. Fifty years and countless geopolitical battles later, Russia (along with Canada, Japan, and the European Space Agency) is a key ally in the International Space Station, an amazing combination of technology and cooperation that we hope will open doors to the vast unexplored reaches of space.

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9 Things You Should Keep in Mind Around Someone Observing Ramadan
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To mark the ninth (and most holy) month in the Islamic calendar, Muslims around the world observe Ramadan. Often compared to Lent in Christianity and Yom Kippur in Judaism, Ramadan is all about restraint. For one month, Muslims observing Ramadan fast during the day and then feast at night.

By abstaining from food and water (as well as sex, smoking, fighting, etc.) during daylight, Muslims strive to practice discipline, instill gratitude for what they have, and draw closer to Allah. To be respectful and not annoy observers, here are nine things you should never say or do to someone observing Ramadan.

1. DON'T JOKE ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS.

A traditional iftar meal.
A traditional iftar meal.
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Although it might be tempting to joke about Ramadan being a good excuse to lose weight, it is a time for spiritual reflection and is a serious matter. Observers undertake the challenge of fasting for religious and spiritual reasons rather than aesthetic ones. And, once the sun sets each night, many Muslims prepare a hearty iftar (the meal that breaks the fast) of dates, curries, rice dishes, and other delicious foods. The suhoor (the pre-dawn meal) is often fresh fruit, bread, cheese, and dishes that are high in fiber and complex carbohydrates. So the idea of a cleanse is pretty far from their minds.

2. DON'T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS.

An Indian Muslim student recites from the Quran in a classroom during the holy month of Ramadan.
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There are approximately 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, but not all of them observe Ramadan the same way. Although most observant Muslims fast for Ramadan, don't assume that every Muslim you meet has the same methods, traditions, and attitudes towards fasting. For some, Ramadan is more about prayer, reading the Qur'an, and performing acts of charity than merely about forgoing food and drink. And for those who may be exempted from the daily fasting, such as pregnant or nursing women, the elderly, or those with various health conditions, they might not appreciate the reminder from nosey busy-bodies that they aren't participating in the traditional way.

3. SAY "RAMADAN MUBARAK" INSTEAD OF "HAPPY RAMADAN."

A sign which reads
A sign which reads "Ramadan Kareem" in Arabic is seen pictured in front of the Burj Khalifa in downtown Dubai.
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Rather than wishing someone a happy Ramadan, being more thoughtful with your choice of words can show that you understand and respect the sanctity of their holy month. Saying "Ramadan Mubarak" or "Ramadan Kareem" are the traditional ways to impart warm wishes—they both convey the generosity and blessings associated with the month. The actual party comes after Ramadan, when Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr, an up to three-day festival that involves plenty of food, time with family, and gifts.

4. DON'T BE A FOOD PUSHER.

Muslim woman saying no to an apple.
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Even if the idea of not eating or drinking all day might be unfathomable to you, don't push food onto anyone observing Ramadan. While fasting all day for a month can cause mild fatigue, dehydration, and dizziness, don't try to convince participating Muslims to eat or drink something—they are fully aware of any side effects they may feel throughout the day. Instead, be respectful of their decision to fast and offer to lend a hand with something like chores, errands, or anything unrelated to food.

5. ACCEPT THAT WATER ISN'T ON THE MENU.

Dates and a glass of water.
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Muslims who observe Ramadan don't sip any liquids during daytime. No water, coffee, tea, or juice. Zilch. Going without water is even harder than going without food, so be aware of the struggle and accept it. It's all part of the sacrifice and self-discipline inherent in Ramadan.

6. RESPECT PEOPLE'S PRIVACY.

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Some Muslims choose not to fast during Ramadan for medical or other personal reasons, and they may not appreciate being badgered with questions about why they may be eating or drinking rather than fasting. Children and the elderly generally don't fast all day, and people who are sick are exempt from fasting. Other conditions that preclude fasting during Ramadan are pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menstruation (although, if possible, people generally make up the days later).

7. BE MINDFUL OF ENERGY LEVELS.

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Eschewing food and drink for hours at a time can cause lethargy, so be aware that Muslims observing Ramadan may be more tired than usual. Your Muslim friends and coworkers don't stop working for an entire month, but they may tweak their schedules to allow for more rest. They may also stay indoors more (to prevent overheating) and avoid unnecessary physical activity to conserve energy. So, don't be offended if they aren't down for a pick-up game of basketball or soccer. We can't all be elite athletes.

8. DON'T OBSESS OVER FOOD AND HUNGER.

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One of the worst things you can do to someone on a new diet is to obsess over all the cheeseburgers, pizza, and cupcakes they can't have. Similarly, most Muslims observing Ramadan don't want to have in-depth conversations about all the food and beverages they're avoiding. So, be mindful that you don't become the constant reminder of how many hours are left until sundown—just as you shouldn't joke about weight loss, you shouldn't call attention to any hunger pangs.

9. DON'T BE AFRAID TO EAT YOUR OWN FOOD.

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Although it's nice to avoid talking about food in front of a fasting Muslim, don't be afraid to eat your own food as you normally would. Seeing other people eating and drinking isn't offensive—Muslims believe that Ramadan is all about sacrifice and self-discipline, and they're aware that not everyone participates. However, perhaps try to avoid scheduling lunch meetings or afternoon barbecues with your Muslim colleagues and friends. Any of those can surely wait until after Ramadan ends.

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