Quick List 12: Of buried machines, ice tunnels, and stratigraphic euphoria

[Image: Photo of the Atlantic Avenue train tunnel taken by Joshua Lott for The New York Times; see below for more information].

In the interest of cleaning out a long file of recommended links, here’s a quick list of stories that I’ve otherwise missed:

—Two brothers in Louisiana are ridding their property of 40-year old levees: “In what experts are calling the biggest levee-busting operation ever in North America, the brothers plan to return the muddy river to its ancient floodplain, coaxing back plants and animals that flourished there when President Thomas Jefferson first had the land surveyed in 1804.”

—”Flu pandemics may lurk in frozen lakes,” Wired Science warns. “The next flu pandemic may be hibernating in an Arctic glacier or frozen Siberian lake, waiting for rising temperatures to set it free. Then birds can deliver it back to civilization.” I’m reminded here of the novel Cold Plague by Daniel Kalla, which I somewhat inexplicably read on a plane ride from New York to San Francisco this spring; the book’s story goes that a bottled water company has begun to ship and sell drinking water pumped from Antarctica’s subglacial Lake Vostok – a lake briefly mentioned in BLDGBLOG’s earlier interview with Kim Stanley Robinson – only to discover that a prion is in the water, causing irreparable brain damage and eventual death in everyone who drinks it… In any case, the Wired Science article quotes a scientist who “thinks migrating waterfowl regularly deliver influenza viruses to Arctic glaciers and lakes, where it becomes frozen in ice. When the ice melts, birds pick the virus up and transport it back south where it can infect humans.” Amazing. Nature’s secret virus cycles.

—While we’re on the subject of ice, check out this brief video shot inside the tunnels beneath Greenland’s melting ice sheet: “Unique video footage taken hundreds of metres inside the ice has revealed a complex subglacial network of interconnecting tunnels that carry water from the surface to deep inside the ice sheet,” we read in the Guardian. These tunnels, however, are one of the primary threats to the very existence of the ice sheet, lubricating the glacier’s accelerating slippage off of Greenland’s rocky base.

—Two cool links from Noah Shachtman’s Danger Room: “Military Scientists Explore Planet Hacking” (also see the climate change chapter of the The BLDGBLOG Book for more) and “Scientist Looks to Weaponize Ball Lightning” (perhaps the future of global warfare will look not unlike medieval sorcery, hurling lightning at one another from desert mountaintops).

[Image: Lightning storm over Boston, ca. 1967; photo courtesy of NOAA‘s NOAA’s National Weather Service Collection].

—Adventures in applied acoustics: according to a short article in Mother Jones, “Dangerous red tides that kill fish and marine mammals and are toxic, even carcinogenic, to humans, might be destroyed using bursts of ultrasound.” Audio warfare installations lining the Gulf Coast will vibrate red tides out of existence.

—Krispy Kreme doughnuts – which I was shocked to see all over Melbourne, Australia, on my visit last month – aren’t just bad for your arteries: “doughnut grease and other waste from a plant in Lorton have clogged up the county’s sewage system, causing $2 million in damage.” In fact, “The muck got so bad that a nearby pumping station began reeking of doughnuts, and a camera inserted into one of the pipes ‘got stuck in the grease, preventing inspection of the remainder of the line’.” The Lorton mentioned here is Lorton, Virginia – but I suspect they’ll start seeing the same problems Down Under

—Finally, many people will already know the story behind the discovery, in 1980, of the Atlantic Avenue train tunnel in Brooklyn, an underground viaduct that had otherwise lain abandoned beneath the city. If you don’t know it, the story is awesome. Now, however, Bob Diamond, the man who discovered the tunnel, believes that there’s yet more down there to find: “Behind a wall in the tunnel, near Atlantic Avenue and Hicks Street, he believes, there is a steam locomotive lying on its side like an abandoned toy train, in ‘pristine condition, a virtual time capsule.’ And he wants to dig it up.” I absolutely love the idea of exhuming buried machines from the surface of the city. I’m tangentially reminded of the bizarre story of the Air Loom Gang – in which an “influencing machine” controlled by British Parliament was accused of exerting mind control upon the citizenry – only re-imagining that story today, with a kind of modernday James Tilly Matthews convinced that the buried enginery of the city around him has begun to influence the thoughts of all the people he knows… He descends into the tunnels and basements of the city, armed with ground-penetrating radar, performing magnetic archaeology on every wall and floor, detecting the hulking, Lovecraftian shapes of machines whose existence other people so vehemently deny. In any case, I’m thrilled by the idea that, somewhere beneath your own apartment complex, in the stratigraphic euphoria of the city, there might be an abandoned train – in fact, there’s an earlier post here on BLDGBLOG about something remarkably similar.

(Links via delicious.com/bfunk, delicious.com/rgreco, delicious.com/javierarbona, and Steve Silberman. Previous Quick Lists: 11, X, 9, 8, etc. etc.).

3 thoughts on “Quick List 12: Of buried machines, ice tunnels, and stratigraphic euphoria”

  1. I'll tell you what's weird about krispy kreme in Melbourne was the mania that heralded their arrival here a year or two ago. People queuing overnight! For doughnuts! which are really crap… it was a really bizarre cultural fetishisation thing that I did not and do not understand.

  2. Speaking of Piltdown Man, (see your earlier post) many also think the locomotive hidden in the Atlantic Avenue tunnel is also a hoax. Since Bob Diamond acts as if the tunnel were his private preserve, he may have to fund this wild goose chase on his own.

  3. I absolutely love the idea of exhuming buried machines from the surface of the city. I'm tangentially reminded of the bizarre story of the Air Loom Gang – in which an "influencing machine" controlled by British Parliament was accused of exerting mind control upon the citizenry …

    If you haven't seen Quartermass and the Pit, it's right up your alley … 🙂

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