2-minute history of the U.S. Air Force



2-minute history of the U.S. Air Force

From Civil War era hot-air balloon spying to modern stealth fighter jets, the United States has been always been involved in achieving military air superiority during wartime. And let’s not forget that the first NASA astronauts were former Air Force fighter pilots and test pilots, as well. In terms of the entity today that is the air branch of the United States Armed Forces, the history of the United States Air Force begins as a subset of another department long before airplanes became part of the picture.

Early air force alternatives

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These days, the United States Army Signal Corps, a division of the Department of the Army, manages communications and information systems for the command and control of combined arms forces. When it was established in 1860, though, the corps played an important role in the Civil War, especially in terms of its control over military intelligence, weather forecasting, and aviation — all of which eventually became their own armed services divisions or were transferred to the control of other departments.

This was the case for the Air Force, the next iteration of which came into existence following the Civil War with the establishment by the Signal Corps in 1893 in the form of the War Balloon Company based at Fort Riley, Kansas. The next step, the Aeronautical Services Division of the Signal Corps, existed from 1907 to 1914, and was the direct progenitor of today’s Air Force. During its time, the Aeronautical Division took delivery of the military’s first powered military aircraft in 1909, and organized aviation flight schools to train its future pilots.

What department is this?

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In 1914, the United States Congress issued a statutory authorization for an Aviation Section in the Signal Corps, and this division continued as the primary organizational component of the fledgling Air Force until 1918. When the Aviation Section failed to mobilize effectively for World War I, the War Department replaced it with a department outside the signal corps, which was titled the Army Air Service.

Another shift, to the Army Air Corps, lasted from 1926 to 1941, just before the ramp up to World War II. This precipitated the final designation, when in September 1947 the United States Air Force officially became a separate military service division. This came as part of the implementation of the National Security Act of 1947, which created the National Military Establishment. Today we know it simply as the Department of Defense, which comprises the modern Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force.

Today’s ever-changing mission

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Before 1947, military aviation was divided between the other branches, with the Army handling land-based air operations and the Navy and Marines taking charge of airplane and helicopter deployments from aircraft carriers and amphibious aircraft.

Since then, technology has only continued to make the role of the Air Force more important in national security. We can take a strong sense of pride and protection when expert fighter pilots of the Air Force Thunderbirds flash overhead at an air show, flying tight formations wing to wing. Just as important for our protection these days as the roaring jets, though, are the Air Force-launched military satellites floating silently in space to help fight our next cyber wars.



The World’s Food Supply Relies On This Remote Arctic Island



The World’s Food Supply Relies On This Remote Arctic Island

Miles away, in a remote archipelago deep in the Arctic, there’s a treasure vault of seeds that might just save the world one day.

No, that’s not the introduction to a sci-fi novel. Located in the far reaches of the Arctic, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a very real thing. It houses hundreds of thousands of seeds from all around the world, including seeds for many of the world’s most important food crops.

Created by conservationists, this incredible vault was established to preserve plant seeds in the event of a global crisis. Want to learn more? Read on to learn all you need to know about this incredible project.

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What Is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault?

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The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a secure seed bank located on a Norwegian island in the Arctic named Spitsbergen. It sits about halfway between Norway and the North Pole.

The seed vault is home to a huge variety of plant seeds that are duplicates of seeds from gene banks around the world. It represents the largest collection of crop diversity on the entire planet.

Why Does It Exist?

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The idea behind the vault: If other seeds were lost during a global crisis or even because of a mistake in a lab, there would be a spare copy held in the vault. In short, the vault is like a massive backup plan, helping to protect plant diversity and food crops around the world.

A Brief History

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Who dreamed up a vault in the middle of nowhere filled with the world’s most important seeds?

It began with the Nordic Gene Bank (also known as the NGB or NordGen), which began packing up plant seeds as early as 1984 in Svalbard.

However, it wasn’t until 2008 when a three-part agreement between NordGen, the Norwegian hovernment, and the Global Crop Diversity Trust resulted in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault as we know it today.

Acting in collaboration with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, Cary Fowler, an American agriculturalist and former director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, worked hard to make this project a reality.

Interest in the project was high from the beginning. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault began receiving seeds before it even officially opened, and now it contains seeds from about one-third of the world’s most vital food crops. At the time of this writing, the seed bank has received over a million samples.

After withdrawals, the vault currently contains close to 1 million samples and has the capacity to house as many as 4.5 million samples. Currently, the collection of samples represents over 13,000 years of agriculture.

Who Is Responsible For It?

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The Norwegian Ministry for Agriculture and Food, the Global Crop Diversity Trust, and NordGen are responsible for the Vault. Funding for the Global Crop Diversity Trust is supplied from governments and foundations around the world, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

How Does It Work?

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The seeds are secured in an official way. First, they’re sealed into three-ply foil parcels then put in plastic totes and shelved in temperature-controlled storage rooms that preserve their viability and life span.

Who has access to the seeds? Not just anyone: For regular requests, researchers and breeders are to go to the original gene banks, not the seed vault. The vault is like a “break in case of emergency” reserve.

While the facility is owned by Norway, it operates like a bank with safety deposit boxes. Each donating gene bank owns its donated seeds and retains ownership of them. Donors are documented through a detailed database.

The World’s Food Safety Net

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The Global Seed Vault is an important part of our global push for food safety and sustainability. We owe a lot to these researchers and their hard work, and over time, it’s likely that we’ll end up relying on this system to produce many of the foods we take for granted today.

7 Places You Didn’t Know Were UNESCO World Heritage Sites



7 Places You Didn’t Know Were UNESCO World Heritage Sites

From national parks and natural wonders to ancient cities and historic buildings, World Heritage Sites are selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for being significant places.

As of December 2018, there are 1,092 World Heritage Sites, recognized for their cultural, historical, scientific or natural standing. Italy, China and Spain have the most sites on the list with 54, 53 and 47, respectively.

While every travel destination has some degree of importance, World Heritage Sites are legally protected, promoting their conservation.

Here are 7 places you may not have known were UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Quito, Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador


The capital city of Ecuador, Quito, was one of the first places marked as a World Heritage Site in 1978, mainly due to its pristine historic center, which UNESCO calls the “best-preserved, least altered” in all of Latin America. The integrity of the city’s original configuration is noted as one of its reasons for being included.

Ancient City of Damascus

Ancient City of Damascus

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One of seven Syrian sites on the list that are in danger due to conflict in the region is the Ancient City of Damascus. Founded in the 3rd millennium B.C., it’s one of the oldest cities in the Middle East. It has around 125 monuments from different periods of its history, including the famous 8th century Great Mosque of the Umayyads, which has thus far survived the Syrian Civil War.

Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park


Also on the World Heritage Sites “in danger” list is South Florida’s Everglades National Park, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. Home to rare and endangered species like the manatee, American crocodile and Florida panther, the Everglades itself is threatened by the “serious and continuing degradation of its aquatic ecosystem,” UNESCO announced when it re-added the park to the list in 2010.

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Rock Drawings in Val Camonica

Rock Drawings in Val Camonica


Located in northern Italy, Val Camonica has one of the world’s greatest collections of prehistoric petroglyphs. There are more than 140,000 symbols and figures carved in the rock over a period of 8,000 years. The valley, located in the Lombardy region, has petroglyphs throughout that depict themes linked with agriculture, duels and deer hunting.

Pre-Hispanic Town of Uxmal

Pre-Hispanic Town of Uxmal

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The Pre-Hispanic Town of Uxmal, Mexico was founded in the year 700 by roughly 25,000 inhabitants. It was selected as a UNESCO site in 1996 because of the layout of its buildings, dated from 700 to 1000, which reveal a knowledge of astronomy. The Pyramid of the Magician — known to the Spaniards as the Pyramid of the Soothsayer — is at the city’s ceremonial center. It is among the high points of Mayan art and architecture.

The Grand Canal

The Grand Canal


Running from Beijing in the north to the Zhejiang province to the south, the Grand Canal was added as a World Heritage Site in 2014. Construction on the vast Chinese waterway system began in the 5th century B.C. By the 13th century, it consisted of more than 2,000 kilometers of artificial waterways that link five of China’s main river basins.

Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona

Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona


Barcelona’s Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau are listed as a singular World Heritage Site, recognized as “two of the finest contributions to Barcelona’s architecture by the Catalan art nouveau architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner.”

Why did pirates wear eye patches?



Why did pirates wear eye patches?

Whenever we picture the stereotypical pirate, he’s usually wearing a long coat or striped shirt, is bearing a cutlass, and is sporting an eye patch. While the first two are easily explained as being appropriate for the period, the eye patch is an anomaly that seems more like a modern add-on to give the customary costume a unique touch.

The truth is, however, that the eye patch was part of pirate garb, but that leaves the question as to why. It’s unlikely that so many pirates lost an eye to warrant it becoming synonymous with piracy. While it’s probable that many pirates were covering a damaged eye, there is another plausible reason that may explain why the eye patch was so prevalent out at sea.

The popularity of patches

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Buy any Halloween pirate costume and there is a very good chance an eye patch is going to be included. While it’s a staple of the iconic getup, back in the days of piracy, the eye patch was believed to have had a clear purpose.

Living with a bounty on your head and enemies at every turn, pirates needed to be ready for anything. Whether day or night, if a rival ship came too close or they happened upon a settlement worth sacking, pirates had to be ready. Come nightfall, adjusting to the shift from light to dark was essential to pillaging and plundering. To prevent the night from impeding their vision, pirates allegedly used eye patches so that they would always have one eye well-adjusted to the dark.

The importance of night vision

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According to “Scientific American,” it can take the human eye up to 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness. For pirates, those 30 minutes could be the difference between being left on the ocean floor and getting a jump on incoming opposing flags.

Piracy doesn’t follow a set clock, and ships were constantly moving through the night. In the event of a confrontation, it was vital that pirates could see. On starless and moonless nights, the sea could be pitch-black. Pirates who kept one eye in the dark had an advantage over those who didn’t.

Is it plausible?

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The issue determining whether or not this reasoning is accurate is that there are no historical records to offer confirmation. There may be no evidence or pirate artifacts that support this theory, but there are real-world applications that at least give reason to believe this theory.

The team behind the “MythBusters” TV show put this idea to the test in their 2007 pirate special. Known for taking the necessary steps to create a controlled environment and mimic the original conditions, the team set up a dark room and sent in light-adjusted eyes. In the dark maze, they stumbled and had a difficult time making it to the exit.

A second dark room served as a maze for eyes that were covered for 30 minutes. This room was completed in significantly less time.

A practice beyond piracy

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To further support the notion that eye patches were used to make navigating the night easier is the fact that even the FAA recommends pilots work on their night vision. Part of the FAA Flying Handbook discusses best practices to train one’s eyes, such as avoiding sunglasses after sunset. According to the FAA, “a pilot should close one eye when using a light to preserve some degree of night vision.”

While there is a relatively long gap between the age of piracy and today, the concept remains the same. With one eye always in the dark, there is a greater chance of being able to see better regardless of how dark it might be. There may not be any solid historical evidence to support this claim, but it’s a plausible answer that gives a reason for one of life’s untold mysteries.

A historical mystery

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As cool as we may think eye patches and pirates are, it’s not enough to assume that any inference of why pirates wore them is true. While the reasoning may make sense, until some historical document or journal clearly states the purpose of eye patches, the answer will forever be an assumption.

Considering how dangerous the life of piracy was, the argument of damaged or missing eyes will always be in the shadows, as if to cast doubt on the idea that it was all about seeing in the dark.

6 Oldest Theaters in the World



6 Oldest Theaters in the World

As ancient civilizations developed, citizens grew an appetite for different forms of entertainment. Along came theater, with its many forms written to please audiences. Today, theater buffs will love learning more about the first constructions where comedies, tragedies and concerts took place. All of them are popular attractions in their own corners of the world. These are the oldest theaters in the world.

The Roman Theater of Orange, France

The Roman Theater of Orange, France

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Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1981, the Roman Theater of Orange dates back to the 1st century. It sits near the French city of Avignon, and is so well preserved that people today still attend the Chorégies festival during the summers.

Originating in 1869, Chorégies is the oldest festival in France today. The acoustic wall of the theater, which is completely intact, is the key that allows the opera and lyrical theater performances to take place with an impeccable sound.

The Theater of Mérida, Spain

The Theater of Mérida, Spain

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Built between the years 15-16 B.C.E., the Theater of Mérida was sponsored by Consul Marcus Agrippa. It could seat up to 6,000 spectators, who were divided into their social rank. Its original architecture is considered classical Roman, but later restorations introduced a melange of design and decoration.

Considered one of Spain’s (many) gems, this theater is currently used in an annual winter festival.

The Theater of Taormina, Italy

The Theater of Taormina, Italy

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The Taormina Theater, also known as the Graeco-Roman Theater of Taormina, is located in the eastern part of Sicily. It is constructed in a particularly privileged area, as visitors can see the Etna Volcano and the Mediterranean Sea while walking around the top of the theater.

Built in the 2nd century B.C.E., the theater was constructed by the Greeks and later extended by the Romans. Currently, it hosts the Taormina Arte festival every year.

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The Theater of Epidaurus, Greece

The Theater of Epidaurus, Greece

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This Greek theater is said to have the best acoustics in the world. In fact, tour guides famously have their groups dispersed throughout the theater and show them that no matter where they are standing, they will hear a match drop on the floor on stage.

Located near the town of Ligurio, the Theater of Epidaurus rests in the middle of a pine forest. It was designed by Polykleitos the Younger in the 4th century B.C.E. Archaeologists believe that he made use of the natural unevenness of the land to build it.

The Theater at Delphi, Greece

The Theater at Delphi, Greece

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Further up along the hill where we can find the Temple of Apollo, sits the beautiful Delphi Theater. Its position at the top grants spectacular views of an entire valley.

The theater was built in the 4th century B.C.E. with limestone from Mount Parnassus. Archaeologists estimate that its 35 rows held around five thousand spectators who enjoyed plays, poetry readings, musical events and various festivals that were carried out periodically in Delphi.

History also shows us that this theater was remodeled several times. The seats in the lower rows were built during the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

The Theater of Dionysus, Greece

The Theater of Dionysus, Greece

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The Theater of Dionysus was the largest construction of its kind in ancient Greece. It is located in the northern part of the Acropolis of Athens and dedicated to Dionysus, god of the wine and theater. In fact, it was tradition for worshipers to pray to him in a manner that attracted spectators. Later, these rituals became the classic tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes.

Even though this theater was built in the 5th century B.C.E., records show that it carried on being a popular venue for many centuries. In fact, around the year 407, the performance time was extended to about six hours and the entry fees were deemed expensive.

6 Ancient Maya Ruins to Explore



6 Ancient Maya Ruins to Explore

The Maya civilization dates back to 2600 BC and lasted over 3,000 years, leaving behind a legacy of amazing agricultural, architectural and scientific achievements. One of the longest lasting pieces of this legacy are the incredible structures and monuments that still exist today. Here are six ancient Maya ruins you can explore. It’s also worth noting that the term “Mayan” is generally used only to refer to the language. “Maya” refers to the people and cultures that make up the complex and diverse indigenous population.

Tikal, Guatemala

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Tikal, thought to be the capital of the Maya civilization, is located deep in the Guatemalan jungle. Because it is centered in such a lush environment and has been unoccupied for centuries, archaeologists estimate that only about 25 percent of the ruins have been uncovered. However, the ruins that have been revealed are stunning. They include six massive temples, some of which are over 200 feet tall. Be prepared for a crowd, however. Despite the location’s remote jungle location, the site draws over 100,000 visitors every year.

Uxmal, Mexico

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This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the Pyramid of the Magician, a massive monument that was built in multiple stages. In fact, Uxmal means “thrice-built” and is a reference to the long process of erecting the pyramid. At the height of its occupancy, Uxmal was the largest population center on the Yucatan Peninsula. It covers over 50 acres, and the pyramid isn’t the only impressive ruin on the premises: The famed Governor’s Palace is larger than a football field and has the largest façade of any structure in pre-Colombian Mesoamerica.

Tulum, Mexico

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Many Maya ruins are deep in the jungle, which makes them hard to access and susceptible to being reclaimed by the vegetation that slowly consumes everything in its path. That is not the case with Tulum, however, which is located on the beautiful Caribbean coastline, about 100 miles south of Cancun, Mexico. Tulum was one of the last large Maya settlements to be built and was constructed as recently as 1200 AD. As a result, the many limestone temples that remain are well-preserved and make an excellent destination to explore.

Xunatunich, Belize

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This often-overlooked ruin, which lies about 70 miles west of Belize City, is well worth the journey. It features six plazas and over 26 structures. This includes the El Castillo of Belize, which is the second-highest structure in Belize. Xunatunich was a civic ceremonial center during an era when 200,000 Maya lived in the area now known as Belize.

Copan, Honduras

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Copan is one of the oldest known cities of the Maya world, having been first occupied in 1500 BC. It is in Honduras near the Guatemalan border and is home to many altars and monoliths. There are five full plazas, one of which, the Hieroglyphic Stairway Plaza, features the longest known Maya inscription, with over 1,800 glyphs.

Chichen Itza, Mexico

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No list of Maya ruins would be complete without Chichen Itza. Chichen Itza is considered one of the seven “New Wonders of the World” and is in the heart of Mexico. Chichen Itza features the famous El Castillo, a 98-foot-high temple built between the 9th and 12th centuries. El Castillo is not only an impressive monument but is a testament to the advanced understanding of astronomy the Maya possessed. The sides of the pyramid are aligned in such a way that during the autumn and spring equinoxes the shadow cast by the mid-afternoon sun creates the appearance of a snake crawling down the side of the structure. Chichen Itza is home to Cenate Segrado, a place of worship and sacrifice for the Maya, and the Great Ball Court, the largest ball court of ancient Mesoamerica.

The Maya weren’t the only civilization to leave behind incredible ruins that you can still explore. Read more from us about the ancient world, from all corners of the globe.

The History of Hong Kong in 2 Minutes



The History of Hong Kong in 2 Minutes

The territory of Hong Kong, officially known as the Hong Kong Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, has a fascinating and tumultuous history on the world stage. While we know it today as a global hub of international trade and exotic exports, it wasn’t always this way. In fact, given its divisive history, it’s a bit surprising that it even still exists.

Hong Kong’s Origins

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The Hong Kong we know today is home to over 7.4 million people spread across 426 square miles and stands as the fourth most densely populated region in the world. But getting there was a long road, with its story beginning as far back as BCE 214.

Even then, the Hong Kong island region had been occupied by humans for thousands of years. Early settlers migrated into the region from inland China and used their knowledge of agriculture to begin farming the land. These settlers wouldn’t be independent for long, as the dominant Chinese government—the Qing dynasty—saw the value of the region and integrated the island into the fold. The Hong Kong area would change hands over the years as Chinese dynasties rose and fell, each laying new claim to the territory.

Its value came from its location: Hong Kong was situated at a strategic point between the Pearl River Delta and the South China Sea, making it an ideal port for maritime trading. This defining feature was the key driver of Hong Kong’s development over the years, particularly as the region began to draw international interest.

The Rise of International Trade

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Beginning in the early 1500s, Portuguese and European merchants began trading in Hong Kong, bringing significant prosperity to the region. This prosperity would continue over the next several hundred years, sparked by European interest in Chinese products—spices, silk, tea, and porcelain.

And while the Chinese markets didn’t care as much for European goods, there was one product that caught their attention: Indian opium. European traders funneled so much opium into the area that Hong Kong (and China as a whole) realized that they were facing a full-fledged opioid crisis.

In response, the Emperor sought to snuff out the opium trade altogether by prohibiting the trade of opium and forcing his subordinates to destroy all existing opium stockpiles. This culminated in a complete stop to all foreign trade in 1839, something that didn’t sit well with British merchants.

The Opium Wars

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The British responded to this trade embargo with aggressive military action, resulting in the First Opium War. This conflict raged for three years until the Qing dynasty surrendered, ceding control of Hong Kong to the United Kingdom in 1842.

Under new rule, Hong Kong experienced an economic upturn that greatly improved the region, aided in part by an influx of wealthy Chinese who fled to Hong Kong in the wake of the Taiping Rebellion. Unfortunately, hostilities over the opium trade weren’t resolved, and tensions between the British and the Chinese escalated to the point of a Second Opium War in 1856.

This war lasted four years, ending in another Chinese defeat, which did little to stop the expansion of Hong Kong as a port of international trade. The rapid economic growth brought on by the administrative infrastructure of British rule combined with the influx of wealthy Chinese made Hong Kong a desirable region for international investors, despite its political troubles.

This international interest would set the stage for Hong Kong as a region of great global significance, if it survived that long.

The World at War

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The beginning of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937 spelled further trouble for the region.

Although the governor of Hong Kong declared Hong Kong a neutral zone during the war, the Japanese army attacked Hong Kong on December 8, 1941—the same morning as the attack on Pearl Harbor. As a result, Hong Kong was occupied by Japanese forces for nearly four years until the British re-took control in 1945.

Hong Kong’s population suffered during this occupation, but it bounced back thanks to further influxes of those fleeing from the Chinese Civil War and those who fled from the Communist Party takeover of China in 1949. This influx of population would be a crucial part of Hong Kong’s post-war restoration.

Hong Kong’s Growth and Modernization

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In the 1950s, Hong Kong saw tremendous advancements to its infrastructure and public services. While Hong Kong’s production capabilities were limited compared to those of mainland China, Hong Kong’s diverse international population gave it an advantage in the service economy. It wasn’t long before Hong Kong established itself as a global center for shipping, finance, and trade.

But this economic growth did little to ease political tensions in the area that had been growing throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s. In the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, it was decided that Hong Kong would be returned to Chinese control when Britain’s lease ended, triggering a mass emigration of citizens concerned for the future of their civil liberties. In 1997, Hong Kong was officially transferred back to China after 156 years of British rule.

Today, Hong Kong is supposedly an autonomous entity, but there are serious concerns about Hong Kong’s being truly independent from China, as was promised in the transfer. But as we’ve seen, Hong Kong’s history is characterized by political unrest—and against all odds, the territory always seems to endure, no matter what challenges it faces.

The history of the White House



The history of the White House

The White House seems like a building that’s just always been there: as long as there’s been a United States, there’s been a White House. But that’s far from the truth. It had to be built like every other building to ever exist and its story is an interesting slice of American history.

The design

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Pierre Charles L’Enfant, a former soldier on the American side of the Revolution, was the man originally commissioned to design Washington D.C., the Capitol Building and the White House. His designs were far more ostentatious than the city and buildings we have today, with an executive mansion that was supposed to be built on a ridge overlooking the Potomac and at a scale four times the size of the house we have today. His plans never came to fruition, though, because he was fired in February of 1792 after a fight with the commissioning board.

After L’Enfant’s firing, the design of the house was turned into a contest. Irishman James Hoban submitted the winning design, one that was heavily based on Leinster House, the home of the Irish Parliament in Dublin.

Changes and influences

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Things were business as usual in the building until the War of 1812, when the British invasion and successful (at that point in the war) campaign beat American militias and brought the war to the White House’s doorstep. In 1814, the Brits torched the executive mansion, along with the rest of the city. Dolley Madison, James Madison’s First Lady, stayed in the White House up to almost the last minute, outlasting most of the city’s inhabitants, as well as her military guard. Most famously, she’s the one who saved George Washington’s enormous portrait from falling into the hands of the British. After the war, Hoban returned to rebuild the house.

That’s the most impactful event the building’s seen since the Civil War didn’t touch much of DC, despite its proximity to the Confederacy. The rest of the building’s existence has consisted of a handful of presidents and their expansions and renovations. John Quincy Adams added the North and South Porticoes, the Fillmores turned the second floor oval room into a library, and the Arthurs had Louis Tiffany redesign the east, blue, red, and state dining rooms. Taft’s expansion in 1909 created the Oval Office as we know it today, though the room itself was relocated to the southeast corner during FDR’s tenure. Teddy Roosevelt oversaw a major renovation, and it was around the same time that he coined the term “White House.”

The modern White House

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The last major renovation happened under Truman’s administration, with the rebuilding and strengthening of the White House’s foundation. That project saw a huge renovation to the building’s interior as well, and Truman gave a televised tour of the results in 1952. Most presidents and their First Ladies will also do some of their own redecorating to make the place feel more like home. After all, it’s theirs for the next four years. Eight if the public likes them.

3 Ancient Structures That Have Remained Untouched



3 Ancient Structures That Have Remained Untouched

Since the dawn of history, humans have created impressive structures that served as a record of their existence and ingenuity. Some structures like the pyramids of Giza leave us awestruck because of their engineering feats. And others like the Great Wall of China were more than just a pretty façade, but a necessary aspect of a national defense strategy.

Regardless of the stories behind why these structures were built, what matters now is that we can still experience them. And if you’re gathering inspiration for a vacation steeped in history, these ancient structures should be on your bucket list. Because of the cultural and historical importance of these structures, it is impossible to find a historical place that hasn’t been aided by modern conservation efforts.

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The Parthenon – Athens, Greece

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Today, when you think of a place of worship, you probably picture a churchtemple, or mosque designed for a monotheistic (one deity) religion. But in ancient times, pantheistic religions (worshiping multiple gods) were much more common. So, it wasn’t strange to erect multiple structures within a civilization that were dedicated to multiple deities. One of the most notable ancient pantheistic religions was in Greece. The Parthenon in Athens is a perfect example and was constructed to allow local Athenians to celebrate and worship Athena, the goddess best known for presiding over wisdom. In other words, Athena is the patron god of Athens, and the city felt it wise to honor her.

But the Parthenon as you know it today wasn’t the first version. In fact, it’s the third version (Parthenon III) that replaced two earlier structures built in 570 BCE (Parthenon I) and 480 BCE (Parthenon II). Incidentally, Parthenon II was destroyed during the Battle of Marathon around 490 BCE by the Persians. But in case you’re concerned that the current Parthenon is too modern, don’t be. It was constructed between 447 and 438 BCE.

Carnac Stones – Brittany, France

Credit: Greg Salmon / Shutterstock.com

So, the Parthenon is a fairly straightforward ancient site that doesn’t require a suspension of belief for you to enjoy it. Its architecture is in line with other buildings from that era. But there are other ancient structures in other parts of the world that defy logic and continue to confound historians and experts. The Carnac Stones in the Brittany region of France is the perfect example of an ancient structure that’s out of place with other architecture and scientific advancements of its time. Officially, the Carnac Stones were compiled sometime between 3,300 and 4,500 BCE. They’re comprised of 3,000 prehistoric stones that serve as a representation of well-known geological alignments from that era.

For years, scientists struggled to understand what the Carnac Stones meant until they stumbled across geoglyphology in 2004. Geoglyphology is a way in which an ancient culture marked its physical territory. The concept isn’t unique to Carnac as multiple ancient cultures around the world used it to outline their areas of influence. But Carnac’s version of geoglyphology is unique — often viewed as a methodology too advanced for its time. Consider that Stonehenge was erected during the same time period but was considered far easier to decipher.

Aqueduct of Segovia – Segovia, Spain

Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Every structure serves a form of functionality, but some buildings or edifices are more utilitarian than others. The Aqueduct of Segovia is one such phenomenon. It embodies the architectural style of the Roman Empire while also serving an essential purpose — supplying water to the city of Segovia. In fact, the aqueduct was so efficient that it served as a water supply from the Frio River when it was first developed during the first century CE until the 20th century.

As if that’s not impressive enough, try to comprehend the fact that this stone structure was created with little to no mortar. Today the aqueduct is just over 8.5 miles long and features an average height of nearly 100 feet. To this day, the Aqueduct of Segovia is considered one of the best-preserved representations of a Roman aqueduct. Even though the structure continued to be used well into the 20th century, it wasn’t maintained as it should be. It wasn’t until the 1970s that a serious conservation effort was launched to preserve its remaining portions. In 1985, the Aqueduct of Segovia officially became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Oldest Structures You’ll Ever See

Credit: Sven Hansche / Shutterstock.com

There are so many impressive ancient structures in the world that it was hard to narrow it down to just the three we listed here. But each of the ones we selected feature an interesting piece of trivia that you probably didn’t know until today. Whether you choose to visit these places or draft a different itinerary, we hope that you’ll appreciate the ingenuity and creativity of the ancient people who created these.

4 Things To See at Buckingham Palace



4 Things To See at Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is the official London residence of the monarch of the United Kingdom, which has been Queen Elizabeth II since 1952. The building at the core of the palace was a large townhouse built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703. It was acquired in 1761 by King George III as a private residence for Queen Charlotte, and became Queen Victoria’s primary residence in 1837. The building’s principal façade was completed in 1850 and has seen various structural additions as recently as the early 20th century. Today, it’s also a tourist attraction. Here are four things to see at Buckingham Palace (other than possibly the queen).

The State Rooms

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Each summer since 1993, the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace have opened to visitors. The proceeds were initially used to restore Windsor Castle, parts of which had been damaged by fire in the previous year. Today, they’re a part of a tour that includes many pieces from the Royal Collection like paintings from Dyck and Canaletto, sculptures by the likes of Canova, as well as rare porcelain and fine period furniture.

Clarence House

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On the palace grounds is the Clarence House, the official London residence of the Prince of Wales, currently Prince Charles (since 1958). It’s also open for public tours, where visitors get to see the formal gardens and five ground-floor rooms used for official engagements: The Lancaster Room, The Morning Room, The Library, The Dining Room, and The Garden Room. The queen’s art collection is primarily housed here, including paintings from John Piper, Graham Sutherland, and Augustus John.

The Royal Mews

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In the Royal Mews, visitors are able to see a bunch of state coaches and carriages, some of which are still used by British monarchs on special state occasions. Perhaps the most impressive and elaborate is the Gold State Coach, built in 1762 for King George III and used for every coronation since 1821. The thing is so heavy that it takes eight horses to pull it. The horses, including the famous Windsor Greys, are stabled in the Mews. The collection also includes the Australian State Coach, which the monarch drives to the state opening of Parliament; the Glass Coach, used primarily for weddings since King George V acquired it in 1910; and Rolls Royce limousines, Bentleys, and Jaguars.

Changing of the Guard

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The Changing of the Queen’s Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace is an absolute must-do for history lovers visiting London. It’s been a treasured tradition since 1660; today, it starts daily at 11:30 a.m. from April to July. It begins when a troop of the Queen’s Life Guard rides from Hyde Park Barracks and past Buckingham Palace to change the guard at Horse Guards. The group of guards done with their shifts leave the palace in formation and head down the Mall toward Buckingham Palace, often led by a marching band. It’s all quite a spectacle – and one that you should see for yourself.

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