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The Secret Apartment at the Top of the Eiffel Tower

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When Gustave Eiffel designed the Eiffel Tower, he created a sky-high landmark for the public—and for himself, he included a secret apartment.

According to Atlas Obscura, the tiny apartment was perched 1000 feet in the air, providing Eiffel with a bird’s-eye view of 1890s-era Paris. He furnished the lofty abode with wallpaper, cabinets, furniture, oil paintings, and a grand piano. There was also a small adjacent room with laboratory equipment, which allowed Eiffel to conduct meteorological observations, The Independent writes.

While many elite members of the public clamored to rent the space, Eiffel shunned their exorbitant offers. Instead, he used it to greet illustrious guests like Thomas Edison (who gave him a phonograph machine as a gift), or as a quiet space for solitary reflection.

Author Jill Jonnes provides a great visual image of what an evening was like in Eiffel’s private apartment in her 2010 book Eiffel’s Tower: The Thrilling Story Behind Paris’s Beloved Monument and the Extraordinary World's Fair That Introduced It. She describes one evening that Edison and other luminaries spent in Eiffel’s aerie:

The guests settled in on the dark velvet settees trimmed in fringe. The walls, a warm yellow, were already covered with framed artistic mementos: photographs, drawings, paintings. “Eiffel has a piano there,” said Edison. “Gounoud, the composer of ‘Faust,’ played and sang, and he did it splendidly, too, despite his more than eighty years.” High above Paris, Gounoud’s music wafted forth as the guests smoked cigars, drank brandy, talked, and even sang, a magical late-summer interlude. Working quietly in the background was American artist A.A. Anderson, best known for his oil portraits, but invited by Eiffel to try to capture Edison’s likeness as best he could in a sculpted bust that would commemorate this occasion of genius honoring genius.

The apartment was closed to the public for years, but in May 2015, Condé Nast Traveler announced that it would open to visitors. You can’t stay overnight, but you can peer into the space—which contains its original furnishings, along with life-size mannequins of Eiffel and Edison—and admire the private hideaway of the famous French civil engineer and architect.

Check out some photos below:

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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National Geographic Ranks The 25 Happiest Cities in the Country
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Feeling unhappy? Maybe it's time to move. National Geographic recently released rankings of the 25 happiest cities in the U.S. The results: Eight of the 25 locations are in the Golden State, but the honor of No. 1 happiest city goes to Boulder, Colorado.

The rankings are based on 250,000 interviews conducted in 190 metropolitan areas between 2014 and 2015. The survey—developed by Dan Buettner, author of the new book The Blue Zones of Happiness, and Dan Witters, a senior scientist at Gallup—looked for data points that are correlated with life satisfaction and happiness, like whether or not you exercise, if you feel safe in your community, whether you feel like you live within your means, and whether you feel like you are reaching your goals.

A map of the U.S. showing which cities made the top 25 happiest cities index.
Courtesy National Geographic

Of course, all that isn’t necessarily the result of your geographical location. But you don’t see cities like Los Angeles or New York—where wealth is also clustered—on the list, so presumably San Franciscans are doing something a little differently.

Take a look for yourself. Here are the 25 happiest places in the U.S., according to the results.

1. Boulder, Colorado
2. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, California
3. Charlottesville, Virginia
4. Fort Collins, Colorado
5. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, California
6. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California
7. Provo-Orem, Utah
8. Bridgeport-Stamford, Connecticut
9. Barnstable Town, Massachusetts
10. Anchorage, Alaska
11. Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida
12. Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, California
13. Salinas, California
14. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida
15. Urban Honolulu, Hawaii
16. Ann Arbor, Michigan
17. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California
18. Colorado Springs, Colorado
19. Manchester-Nashua, New Hampshire
20. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California
21. Washington, D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria, Virginia/Maryland/West Virginia
22. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota/Wisconsin
23. San Diego-Carlsbad, California
24. Portland-South Portland, Maine
25. Austin-Round Rock, Texas

You can grab a copy of November’s National Geographic to read more about the world’s happiest places.

The cover of Dan Buettner’s The Blue Zones of Happiness and the cover of November 2017’s National Geographic.
National Geographic
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These LED Crosswalks Adapt to Whoever Is Crossing
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Courtesy Umbrellium

Crosswalks are an often-neglected part of urban design; they’re usually just white stripes on dark asphalt. But recently, they’re getting more exciting—and safer—makeovers. In the Netherlands, there is a glow-in-the-dark crosswalk. In western India, there is a 3D crosswalk. And now, in London, there’s an interactive LED crosswalk that changes its configuration based on the situation, as Fast Company reports.

Created by the London-based design studio Umbrellium, the Starling Crossing (short for the much more tongue-twisting STigmergic Adaptive Responsive LearnING Crossing) changes its layout, size, configuration, and other design factors based on who’s waiting to cross and where they’re going.

“The Starling Crossing is a pedestrian crossing, built on today’s technology, that puts people first, enabling them to cross safely the way they want to cross, rather than one that tells them they can only cross in one place or a fixed way,” the company writes. That means that the system—which relies on cameras and artificial intelligence to monitor both pedestrian and vehicle traffic—adapts based on road conditions and where it thinks a pedestrian is going to go.

Starling Crossing - overview from Umbrellium on Vimeo.

If a bike is coming down the street, for example, it will project a place for the cyclist to wait for the light in the crosswalk. If the person is veering left like they’re going to cross diagonally, it will move the light-up crosswalk that way. During rush hour, when there are more pedestrians trying to get across the street, it will widen to accommodate them. It can also detect wet or dark conditions, making the crosswalk path wider to give pedestrians more of a buffer zone. Though the neural network can calculate people’s trajectories and velocity, it can also trigger a pattern of warning lights to alert people that they’re about to walk right into an oncoming bike or other unexpected hazard.

All this is to say that the system adapts to the reality of the road and traffic patterns, rather than forcing pedestrians to stay within the confines of a crosswalk system that was designed for car traffic.

The prototype is currently installed on a TV studio set in London, not a real road, and it still has plenty of safety testing to go through before it will appear on a road near you. But hopefully this is the kind of road infrastructure we’ll soon be able to see out in the real world.

[h/t Fast Company]

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