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10 Strange and Wonderful Boat Races

The races are strange, but the title refers to the boats. With a little ingenuity, you can build a boat, loosely defined as a "flotation device," out of anything!

1. Beer Can Regatta

The Beer Can Regatta is an annual event at Mindil Beach organized by the Lions Club of Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. The participating boats are all made of beer or soda cans! The highlight of this year’s regatta, held Sunday, was the appearance of Extravacans, an enormous motor-powered boat constructed of 30,000 cans! A new category was created for the much bigger “superboat,” which it won as the only entry. In the main race, called The Battle of Mindil, the winner was The Flying Posties. There were other races and competitions in various categories. As you can see here, it is customary to slow down one’s competition by any means available. Photograph by Brad Fleet.

2. Homemade Watercraft Race

The New Paltz Regatta is for homemade boats of all kinds. This year's race took place on April 29th in New Paltz, New York. The annual event began in 1955 when it was launched by the the Delta Kappa Fraternity of SUNY (State University of New York). Now the race is open to anyone, and accompanies a downtown festival. The only rules are that the boats must be human-powered and homemade.

3. Minimal Regatta

The 21st Annual Schooner Wharf Bar Minimal Regatta was held in Key West over Memorial Day weekend. These boats are made of a sheet of plywood, a couple of 2x4s, and duct tape. A few other insignificant materials are allowed, but the results are always good for a laugh. Prizes were given for boats that won the race, boats that sank, creative designs, best costumes, and other categories. See pictures of the event.

4. Concrete Canoe Championship

SUN_0133

The building of canoes out of concrete began as a challenge for engineering students to design a boat to demonstrate the principles of physics. However, this exercise grew into an exercise in designing better materials; i.e. improving concrete. Intramural competitions began in the 1960s, which expanded to competitions between schools in the 1970s. The American Society of Civil Engineers sponsors a nationwide Concrete Canoe Competition. The winner of the 2012 championship was California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, for the third year in a row. Photograph by Flickr user Student Design and Experiential Learning Center.

5. Pumpkin Paddling

Damariscotta Pumpkinfest

Several communities stage autumn events in the sport of Pumpkin Paddling, in which you make a boat out of a giant pumpkin and race against other pumpkin boats. One of the biggest competitions is the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta in Damariscotta, Maine. The pumpkinfest has contests for growing, decorating, and carving pumpkins, but the regatta is the biggest draw. Watch a video to see how it’s done. Photograph by Flickr user Chiot’s Run.

6. Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race

Many years ago, Simon Thackray dreamed of floating down a river on a Yorkshire pudding. That eventually led to a 1999 event in which people built boats out of Yorkshire pudding. Now it's an annual event in Brawby, North Yorkshire, England, sponsored by The Shed. The boats are constructed of flour, water, and eggs, and given a good coat of shellac to make them fairly waterproof. Watch the boats in action in this news report.

7. Solar Splash World Championship

Teams from 15 schools competed in the Solar Splash World Championship race at George Wyth State Park in Waterloo, Iowa. Crossing the finish line first does not guarantee a win in this race: technical inspections, design, and craftsmanship are among the several parameters that count toward a win. The winning team came from Istanbul Technical University. See a promotional video about the event.

8. International Regatta of Bathtubs

La Regate des Baignoires (The International Regatta of Bathtubs) is held every August in Dinant, Belgium. The boats must contain a bathtub and no motor, but beyond that, creativity is the word. Prizes are awarded for "beauty, novelty, and representation of the town" as well as who manages to cross the finish line first. Photograph by Julien Dolhet.

9. Milk Carton Boats

The Milk, Bread, and Honey Festival is an end-of-August tradition in Jelgava, Latvia. One of the biggest events of the festival is the Milk Carton Boat Race, now in its tenth year. Last year, 36 human-powered boats made completely of milk cartons raced, and also competed for prizes in the most original and funniest crew competitions. The event aims to promote both dairy consumption and recycling.

10. Cardboard Boats

Card-Tiki 2010

The building of cardboard boats originated in 1962 at Southern Illinois University as an exercise in engineering design. The idea spread, and now many regattas are organized under the supervision of The Great Cardboard Boat Regatta. They'll even give you tips on building your own boat out of cardboard. The picture above is from a cardboard boat race in 2010 in Hollywood, Florida. Photograph by Flickr user Experiment 33.

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Design
Forget Horns: Some Trains in Japan Bark Like Dogs to Scare Away Deer
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In Japan, growing deer populations are causing friction on the railways. The number of deer hit by trains each year is increasing, so the Railway Technical Research Institute has come up with a novel idea for curbing the problem, according to the BBC. Researchers there are using the sound of barking dogs to scare deer away from danger zones when trains are approaching, preventing train damage, delays, and of course, deer carnage.

It’s not your standard horn. In pilot tests, Japanese researchers have attached speakers that blare out a combination of sounds designed specifically to ward off deer. First, the recording captures the animals’ attention by playing a snorting sound that deer use as an “alarm call” to warn others of danger. Then, the sound of howling dogs drives the deer away from the tracks so the train can pass.

Before this initiative, the problem of deer congregating on train tracks seemed intractable. Despite the best efforts of railways, the animals aren’t deterred by ropes, barriers, flashing lights, or even lion feces meant to repel them. Kintetsu Railway has had some success with ultrasonic waves along its Osaka line, but many rail companies are still struggling to deal with the issue. Deer flock to railroad tracks for the iron filings that pile up on the rails, using the iron as a dietary supplement. (They have also been known to lick chain link fences.)

The new deer-deterring soundtrack is particularly useful because it's relatively low-tech and would be cheap to implement. Unlike the ultrasonic plan, it doesn’t have to be set up in a particular place or require a lot of new equipment. Played through a speaker on the train, it goes wherever the train goes, and can be deployed whenever necessary. One speaker on each train could do the job for a whole railway line.

The researchers found that the recordings they designed could reduce the number of deer sightings near the train tracks by as much as 45 percent during winter nights, which typically see the highest collision rates. According to the BBC, the noises will only be used in unpopulated areas, reducing the possibility that people living near the train tracks will have to endure the sounds of dogs howling every night for the rest of their lives.

Deer aren't the only animal that Japanese railways have sought to protect against the dangers of railroad tracks. In 2015, the Suma Aqualife Park and the West Japan Railway Company teamed up to create tunnels that could serve as safer rail crossings for the turtles that kept getting hit by trains.

[h/t BBC]

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architecture
5 Scrapped Designs for the World's Most Famous Buildings
Ker Robertson, Getty Images
Ker Robertson, Getty Images

When an architect gets commissioned to build a skyscraper or a memorial, they’re usually not the only applicant for the job. Other teams of designers submit their own ideas for how it should look, too, but these are eventually passed over in favor of the final design. This is the case for some of the world’s most recognizable landmarks—in an alternate world, the Arc de Triomphe might have been a three-story-tall elephant statue, and the Lincoln Memorial a step pyramid.

GoCompare, a comparison site for financial services, dug into these could-have-been designs for Alternate Architecture, an illustrated collection of scrapped designs for some of the most famous structures in the world, from Chicago's Tribune Tower to the Sydney Opera House.

Click through the interactive graphic below to explore rejected designs for all five landmarks.

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