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15 Ambitious Plans to Colonize the Moon

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Wikimedia Commons

Back in 1638, clergyman John Wilkins wrote an entire science fiction book devoted to the prospect of a lunar voyage. In Discovery of a World in the Moon, he proposed different methods of traveling to the Moon—including an idea where “large birds might be trained to carry the traveller aloft.” Contrary to many other astronomers in the 17th century, Wilkins insisted that the Moon was made of solid matter that human beings could walk and live on. Since Wilkins’ radical proposal, many others have followed in his footsteps by dreaming of ways we could live on the moon.

1. Electromagnetic Cannons

In 1954, science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke proposed the idea of constructing a lunar base with inflatable modules covered in lunar dust for insulation. These modules—similar to igloos—would be equipped with an inflatable radio mast, algae-based air purifiers, and nuclear reactors. Clarke even went so far as to predict the use of electromagnetic cannons to blast cargo to interplanetary ships in space.

2. The Lunex Project

In 1958, the U.S. Air Force researched an expedition plan called the Lunex Project, which called for the 1967 deployment of a 21-airman underground lunar base and was expected to cost $7.5 billion.

3. Floating Moon Base

Amid beliefs that the Moon was comprised of mile-deep dust oceans, John S. Rinehart wrote an essay proposing floating Moon bases in 1959. His idea involved creating vessels that could float in the dust oceans within half-cylinders that linked different areas. The pathway would be created with a micrometeoroid shield to protect travelers.

4. Project Horizon

Also in 1959, the Army Ballistic Missile Agency presented the U.S. Army with plans for a Lunar Military Outpost, which would be manned by 12 soldiers and was predicted to cost somewhere around $6 billion. The outpost would be situated somewhere near the Eratosthenes crater or the Montes Apenninus mountain range, and would even be equipped with nuclear warheads and modified Claymore mines to guard against overland attacks. Soldiers would command lunar vehicles to haul cargo, explore the surface of the Moon, and rescue people in distress; a parabolic antenna would be used to communicate with Earth.

5. Sub-Surface Colonies

In 1962, two engineers—John DeNike and Stanley Zahn—published a possible lunar base model in Aerospace Engineering. They believed that the ideal location would be within the Sea of Tranquility, a large crater on the Moon’s surface that later became the site of first Apollo lunar landing in 1969. Most of the lunar base, operated by 21 crewmembers, would be linked by underground tunnels beneath the Moon’s surface to guard against radiation poisoning.

6. Lunar Farming

Currently, NASA is researching farming methods for Moon colonies and astronauts on lengthy missions. These crops would have a dual purpose: the plants would provide astronauts with a healthy diet and also replace toxic carbon dioxide with oxygen. But growing crops on the Moon is obviously nothing like farming on Earth; scientists must figure out the perfect combination of light, temperature, and carbon dioxide to grow plants outside of Earth’s atmosphere. NASA is currently studying varieties of radishes, lettuce, and green onions within plant growth chambers where samples are grown hydroponically using nutrient-enriched fluid inside hydroponic chambers.

7. The Lunar Noah’s Ark

Scientists at the European Space Agency believe that the Moon is a perfect place to store human DNA in the case of a global disaster. While some scientists have been collecting the DNA of endangered species for years, others are beginning to entertain the idea of collecting human DNA for future research or creating unique organisms. If these DNA samples were stored on the Moon in a dry, cold, and protected environment, they could last for thousands of years—so if an asteroid, nuclear war, or a widespread virus wiped out most of humanity, DNA samples would be stored safely on the Moon to continue the human race.

8. Lunar Observatories

Many astronomers have discussed the possibility of constructing a lunar observatory on the Moon’s surface, which would give them a far better view of the universe than what they can currently see from Earth. Since the Moon does not have an atmosphere, wind or clouds would not blur the view from a telescope. Even better: If scientists could place a telescope on the far side of the Moon (the side that constantly faces away from the Earth), radio interference would completely disappear. However, astronomers are quick to point out that the Moon (especially the far side) is an extreme environment that is not easily inhabitable.

9. The International Park

On November 5 of this year, Popular Science published an article about why we should consider making the Moon an international park. It’s been almost 45 years since Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin first set foot on the Moon—and now that space exploration and lunar colonies are closer to becoming a reality, some believe that the world should establish boundaries for the Moon’s use, and that the historic sites of the Apollo lunar landings need to be preserved for future generations. This past summer, Congress reviewed a bill to eventually nominate the landing locations as a UNESCO World Heritage site. This bill, however, could conflict with the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. Accepted by 101 countries, the treaty declares that “no nation can claim the Moon as sovereign territory,” which is an official prerequisite for nomination.

10. A Stepping Stone for Future Colonies

Some astronomers argue that lunar colonization could serve as a model for future colonies on other planets. While NASA has simulators that mimic life on the surface of the Moon, these simulators do not compare to the firsthand experience that astronauts would gather from living on the Moon. Every experience, whether good or bad, would affect and improve future technology and safety standards for other colonies.

11. Lunar Lava Tube Outpost

In 2010, scientists discovered a lunar lava tube—a giant hole in the Moon’s surface covered with a thin layer of lava. Scientists believe that this thin sheet of lava could protect inhabitants from extreme temperatures and meteorite impacts. The lava tubes are stable structures within the Moon that have been carved out by lava flows, volcanic eruptions, or seismic activity.

12. Moon Capital

Also in 2010, the Moon Capital Competition created a contest to encourage designers to create potential models for a lunar habitat. Ideally, the habitat would be an underground commercial center that could support 60 staffers. The competition encouraged contestants to create designs that could be self-sufficient with food supplies and regenerative life support. The models were designed as multi-faceted sites that could sustain commercial, scientific, and technological development. Within the capital, several different activities could take place, including growing food, manufacturing equipment for labs and vehicles, and prospecting for minerals.

13. Lunar Space Elevator

As colonies grow and develop on the Moon’s surface, transportation will need to develop accordingly. Some scientists have put forth the idea of a lunar space elevator, which would act as a docking station. This station would allow cargo and important supplies to be more easily transported between Earth and the Moon. For instance, astronauts could mine materials from a lunar well and lift them by elevator to a convenient docking station. The materials could then be picked up and carried back to Earth. Scientists also argue that the space elevator would reduce launch costs for vessels traveling from Earth to the Moon. These benefits could aid in future space exploration.

14. U.S., Japanese, and Russian Moon Colonies

Similar to the space race that dominated the 1960s, countries are racing to develop the first manned lunar base. In 2006, Japan announced its goal of building a lunar base by 2030. Satoki Kurokawa from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency explained that their Moon base would be essential for the development of robotics.

In 2007, Russia announced a similar plan: they would establish a permanent base on the moon by 2025. Unlike Japan, however, Russia’s goal focuses more on lunar tourism. Most of the revenue for Russia’s space agency has come from space tourist flights. Tickets were priced at $30 million and at least five wealthy adventurers have purchased those tickets for space travel.

During the 2012 election, even Newt Gingrich proposed the construction of a lunar colony—although most Americans determined his plan was too far-fetched. Gingrich declared that by 2020, an American base would be built on the Moon’s surface.

15. Lunar Boom Town

Lunar Boom Town is “a set of strategic engineering simulations intended to help interested parties and organization with research and education efforts"—essentially, an open-source platform where participants can discuss and refine issues associated with Moon colonization. Business plans created so far for a Lunar Boom Town include air plants, chicken farms, casinos, and even a McDonald’s.

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12 Surprising Facts About Bela Lugosi
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On October 20, 1882—135 years ago today—one of the world's most gifted performers was born. In his heyday, Bela Lugosi was hailed as the undisputed king of horror. Eighty-five years after he first donned a vampire’s cape, Lugosi's take on Count Dracula is still widely hailed as the definitive portrayal of the legendary fiend. But who was the man behind the monster?


To the chagrin of his biographers, the details concerning Bela Lugosi’s youth have been clouded in mystery. (In a 1929 interview, he straight-up admitted “for purposes of simplification, I have always thought it better to tell [lies] about the early years of my life.”) That said, we do know that he was born as Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó on October 20, 1882 in Lugoj, Hungary (now part of Romania). We also know that his professional stage debut came at some point in either 1901 or 1902. By 1903, Lugosi had begun to find steady work with traveling theater companies, through which he took part in operas, operettas, and stage plays. In 1913, Lugosi caught a major break when the most prestigious performing arts venue in his native country—the Budapest-based National Theater of Hungary—cast him in no less than 34 shows. Most of the characters that he played there were small Shakespearean roles such as Rosencrantz in Hamlet and Sir Walter Herbert in Richard III.


The so-called war to end all wars put Lugosi’s dramatic aspirations on hold. Although being a member of the National Theater exempted him from military service, he voluntarily enlisted in the Austro-Hungarian Army in 1914. Over the next year and a half, he fought against Russian forces as a lieutenant with the 43rd Royal Hungarian Infantry. While serving in the Carpathian mountains, Lugosi was wounded on three separate occasions. Upon healing from his injuries, he left the armed forces in 1916 and gratefully resumed his work with the National Theater.


In December 1920, Lugosi boarded a cargo boat and emigrated to the United States. Two years later, audiences on the Great White Way got their first look at this charismatic stage veteran. Lugosi was cast as Fernando—a suave, Latin lover—in the 1922 Broadway stage play The Red Poppy. At the time, his grasp of the English language was practically nonexistent. Undaunted, Lugosi went over all of his lines with a tutor. Although he couldn’t comprehend their meaning, the actor managed to memorize and phonetically reproduce every single syllable that he was supposed to deliver on stage.


The year 1927 saw Bela Lugosi sink his teeth into the role of a lifetime. A play based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker had opened in London in 1924. Sensing its potential, Horace Liveright, an American producer, decided to create an U.S. version of the show. Over the summer of 1927, Lugosi was cast as the blood-sucking Count Dracula. For him, the part represented a real challenge. In Lugosi’s own words, “It was a complete change from the usual romantic characters I was playing, but it was a success.” It certainly was. Enhanced by his presence, the American Dracula remained on Broadway for a full year, then spent two years touring the country.

Impressed by its box office prowess, Universal decided to adapt the show into a major motion picture in 1930. Horror fans might be surprised to learn that when the studio began the process of casting this movie’s vampiric villain, Lugosi was not their first choice. At the time, Lugosi was still a relative unknown, which made director Tod Browning more than a little hesitant to offer him the job. A number of established actors were all considered before the man who’d played Dracula on Broadway was tapped to immortalize his biting performance on film.


The recent Twilight phenomenon is not without historical precedent. Lugosi estimated that, while he was playing the Count on Broadway, more than 97 percent of the fan letters he received were penned by female admirers. A 1932 Universal press book quotes him as saying, “When I was on the stage in Dracula, my audiences were composed mostly of women.” Moreover, Lugosi contended that most of the men who’d attended his show had merely been dragged there by female companions.   


Released in 1931, Dracula quickly became one of the year's biggest hits for Universal (some film historians even argue that the movie single-handedly rescued the ailing studio from bankruptcy). Furthermore, its astronomical success transformed Lugosi into a household name for the first time in his career. Regrettably for him, though, he’d soon miss the chance to star in another smash. Pleased by Dracula’s box office showing, Universal green-lit a new cinematic adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Lugosi seemed like the natural choice to play the monster, but because the poor brute had few lines and would be caked in layers of thick makeup, the actor rejected the job offer. As far as Lugosi was concerned, the character was better suited for some “half-wit extra” than a serious actor. Once the superstar tossed Frankenstein aside, the part was given to a little-known actor named Boris Karloff.

Moviegoers eventually did get to see Lugosi play the bolt-necked corpse in the 1943 cult classic Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. According to some sources, he strongly detested the guttural scream that the script forced him to emit at regular intervals. “That yell is the worst thing about the part. You feel like a big jerk every time you do it!” Lugosi allegedly complained.


It’s often reported that the two horror icons were embittered rivals. In reality, however, Karloff and Lugosi seemed to have harbored some mutual respect—and perhaps even affection for one another. The dynamic duo co-starred in five films together, the first of which was 1934’s The Black Cat; Karloff claimed that, on set, Lugosi was “Suspicious of tricks, fearful of what he regarded as scene stealing. Later on, when he realized I didn’t go in for such nonsense, we became friends.” During one of their later collaborations, Lugosi told the press “we laughed over my sad mistake and his good fortune as Frankenstein is concerned.”

That being said, Lugosi probably didn’t appreciate the fact that in every single film which featured both actors, Karloff got top billing. Also, he once privately remarked, “If it hadn’t been for Boris Karloff, I could have had a corner on the horror market.”


In 1935, Lugosi was named Honorary President of the Los Angeles Soccer League. An avid fan, he was regularly seen at Loyola Stadium, where he’d occasionally kick off the first ball during games held there. Also, on top of donating funds to certain Hungarian teams, Lugosi helped finance the Los Angeles Magyar soccer club. When the team won a state championship in 1935, one newspaper wrote that the players were “headed back to Dracula’s castle with the state cup.” [PDF]


Lugosi's fourth wife, Lillian Arch, claimed that Lugosi maintained a collection of more than 150,000 stamps. Once, on a 1944 trip to Boston, he told the press that he intended to visit all 18 of the city's resident philately dealers. “Stamp collecting,” Lugosi declared, “is a hobby which may cost you as much as 10 percent of your investment. You can always sell your stamps with not more than a 10 percent loss. Sometimes, you can even make money.” Fittingly enough, the image of Lugosi’s iconic Dracula appeared on a commemorative stamp issued by the post office in 1997.


The role of Count Dracula in this 1948 blockbuster was nearly given to Ian Keith—who was considered for the same role in the 1931 Dracula movie. Being a good sport, Lugosi helped promote the horror-comedy by making a special guest appearance on The Abbott and Costello Show. While playing himself in one memorable sketch, the famed actor claimed to eat rattlesnake burgers for dinner and “shrouded wheat” for breakfast.


Toward the end of his life, Lugosi worked on three ultra-low-budget science fiction pictures with Ed Wood, a man who’s been posthumously embraced as the worst director of all time. In the 1953 transvestite picture Glen or Glenda?, Lugosi plays a cryptic narrator who offers such random and unsolicited bits of advice as “Beware of the big, green dragon who sits on your doorstep.” Then came 1955’s Bride of the Monster, in which Lugosi played a mad scientist who ends up doing battle with a (suspiciously limp) giant octopus.

Before long, Wood had cooked up around half a dozen concepts for new films, all starring Lugosi. At some point in the spring of 1956, the director shot some quick footage of the actor wandering around a suburban neighborhood, clad in a baggy cloak. This proved to be the last time that the star would ever appear on film. Lugosi died of a heart attack on August 16, 1956;  he was 73 years old.

Three years after Lugosi's passing, this footage was spliced into a cult classic that Wood came to regard as his “pride and joy.” Plan 9 From Outer Space tells the twisted tale of extraterrestrial environmentalists who turn newly-deceased human beings into murderous zombies. Since Lugosi could obviously no longer play his character, Wood hired a stand-in for some additional scenes. Unfortunately, the man who was given this job—California chiropractor Tom Mason—was several inches taller than Lugosi. In an attempt to hide the height difference, Wood instructed Mason to constantly hunch over. Also, Mason always kept his face hidden behind a cloak.


Although Lugosi resented the years of typecasting that followed his breakout performance in Dracula, he asked to be laid to rest wearing the Count’s signature garment. Lugosi was buried under a simple tombstone at California's Holy Cross Cemetery.

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The First Known Uses of 6 Common Typographic Symbols
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Many of the most common symbols on our keyboards have fascinating origin stories. Some, such as the zero, we now take for granted—yet the idea of denoting an absence of value was not present in Western mathematics until introduced from the East. Other symbols, such as the hashtag or at-sign, had a variety of uses until the internet ushered in a new way of communicating and fixed them with the meanings we know today. Below are six examples of the first known usage and subsequent history of some of the most common typographic symbols.

1. AT SIGN // @

The @ (or at-sign) is usually dated to 1536 in a letter from a Florentine merchant, Francesco Lapi, who used it to mean a unit of wine called “amphorae.” But a Spanish researcher claims to have found an even earlier usage in a 1448 document, where the symbol also referred to a unit of measurement (even today, Spaniards call the @ symbol arroba, which is also a unit of weight, and some other Romance languages have similar dual meanings). Either way, the researchers think that the symbol then moved to Northern Europe, where it eventually gained the meaning of “at the price.” Other explanations have also been offered, but whatever the exact root of the symbol, its meaning eventually became known as shorthand for at, and it was generally used in written financial transactions—for example, in noting “Bob sells James 4 apples @ $1.”

The sign had largely fallen out of use by the early 1970s, when computer scientist Ray Tomlinson was working at what is now BBN Technologies, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Tomlinson, who was working for the government on a forerunner of the internet, was trying to figure out how to address messages sent from one computer to another when he noticed the little-used @ on his computer keyboard, and used it to send a prototype email. This precedent was soon adopted as the internet developed, and the at-sign is now, of course, central to our lives.

2. ZERO // 0

The absence of a value is a complex concept, one that many ancient civilizations struggled with. The idea of a zero ultimately came to the West from the mathematicians of India, where, as in a few other cultures, zero was initially used as a placeholder, for example to indicate a lack of units, as in the number 101.

The earliest surviving usage of a zero in India has been traced to an ancient mathematical text known as the Bakhshali manuscript, which is held at Oxford’s Bodleian Library. In September 2017, radiocarbon dating indicated that the manuscript was produced as early as the 3rd or 4th century—providing us with the first known usage of zero some 500 years earlier than previously thought. As Oxford’s Bodleian Library says, “the symbol in the Bakhshali manuscript is particularly significant for two reasons. Firstly, it is this dot that evolved to have a hollow centre and became the symbol that we use as zero today. Secondly, it was only in India that this zero developed into a number in its own right, hence creating the concept and the number zero that we understand today."

The manuscript itself was discovered buried in a field in 1881 in what is today Pakistan. Written on 70 delicate leaves of birch bark, historians think it represents a training manual for Silk Road traders, teaching them concepts of arithmetic.

3. HASHTAG // #

Hashtag on an old typewriter key

The origin of the hashtag (or pound sign as it's traditionally known in the U.S.) comes from scribes writing shorthand for the Latin libra pondo, which translates as "pound by weight." The abbreviation they used was lb, which was sometimes misread as 16. So, scribes took to drawing a line through the top of the two letters, which over time developed into the now familiar #. In the 1960s, the pound sign was chosen by Bell Laboratories to be a function key on their newly designed telephone keypad. (The Bell Labs team fondly nicknamed the symbol the “octothorpe,” possibly in honor of athlete Jim Thorpe.) Fast-forward to 2007, when early Twitter users wanted to be able to group and filter their feeds, so developer Chris Messina suggested they appropriate the method used in IRC (Internet Relay Chat) whereby users employed the pound sign or "hashtag" to signpost what they were chatting about. (Programmers knew the symbol as the hash, which was now being used to "tag" content.) This simple method soon caught on, and today the hashtag has become indelibly linked to the rise of social media.

4. ELLIPSIS // …

Originally, periods of silence were marked textually with a series of hyphens, but today the symbol of choice is the , a.k.a. the ellipsis. Dr. Anne Toner of Cambridge University spent years researching the ellipsis and finally discovered what she thinks is its first use—an English translation of Roman dramatist Terence’s play Andria printed in 1588. Although the play used hyphens instead of dots, the general idea caught on rapidly. (Toner notes that although there are only four “ellipses” in the 1588 translation, there are 29 in the 1627 version.) By the 18th century, dots started to replace the dashes, which an assistant professor from Southeastern University suggests may be connected to a medieval piece of punctuation called subpuncting or underdotting, which generally indicated something was incorrectly copied.


Ampersand symbol on an old metal block

The ampersand originated in Latin when the word et (meaning and) was written in cursive script as a ligature (in which one or more letters are written together as a single glyph). One of the earliest examples was found daubed in graffiti on the walls of a house in Pompeii, where it was preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE. By the 8th century the ampersand became a recognizably distinct character, but the word ampersand did not come into use until the late 18th/19th century, when English school children would recite "and per se and" meaning “and by itself means and” to help remember the symbol (per se being Latin for "by itself"). One of the most thorough investigations into the typographic history of the ampersand comes courtesy of German graphic designer Jan Tschichold, who in 1953 published The am­persand: its ori­gin and de­vel­op­ment, in which he collected numerous examples of the ampersand from the 1st century onwards, visually charting its developing form.

6. PLUS SIGN // +

A variety of ceramic plus signs

The plus sign used for addition in mathematics likely derives from a shorthand ligature for the Latin et meaning “and” and was probably in use for a long time before a surviving example appeared in print. One candidate for the earliest surviving usage is in French philosopher and polymath Nicole Oresme's Algorismus proportionum, a manuscript handwritten between 1356 and 1361, although scholars debate whether it's a true plus symbol. The first use of a plus sign in a printed book is more definitive, and can be found in a 1489 edition of Johannes Widmann’s Mercantile Arithmetic. Widmann also uses the minus sign for the first time in print in this volume—although both plus and minus signs relate not to addition and subtraction but to surpluses and deficits in business accounting. After this usage, the plus sign began to appear more frequently in German mathematical texts, and first appeared in an English text in 1557 in Robert Recorde’s The Whetstone of Witte—which also introduced the equals sign.


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