Oddorama

February 25, 2008

The World’s Weirdest Engineering Disaster

Didn’t anyone ever tell you that salt mines, shallow lakes and deep-earth drills shouldn’t mix? What started as a seemingly minor miscalculation resulted in a billion-gallon flood, unbelievable property damage and the upheaval of an entire ecosystem. Amazingly, this catastrophe cost no lives though it remains one of history’s most devastating engineering disasters.

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On a fateful day in 1980 a group of oil drillers were working in a shallow lake in Louisiana probing for oil. A miscalculation sent their drill straight into a large salt mine shaft below the lake’s surface. The hole started at just over a foot in diameter but rapidly widened as the water from the lake above washed away the salt around it. What started out quite simply ended in disaster that no one could have predicted.

oil-rig-disaster.jpgWorkers above on the oil platform recognized something was wrong and ‘jumped ship’ before the entire platform disappeared below their feet in a growing whirlpool – all in what was supposed to be a shallow lake! Meanwhile, in the salt mines below, workers made their way through flooded tunnels and all managed to (in some cases narrowly) make it out alive. Despite all of the chaos, no one died above or below ground.

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Before it was through, the surface whirlpool managed to suck down islands, barge docks, barges, trees, trucks, an entire parking lock and 3.5 billion gallons of water. The flow of water normally leading from the lake into Vermilion Bay was reversed as the lake refilled itself, and also created the largest waterfall in Louisiana history (over 150 feet) as water poured back into the lake. In the process, what started as a ten-foot-deep freshwater lake became a thousand-foot-deep saltwater lake!

More Sources: 1, 2, 3

January 8, 2008

5 Truly Bizarre (and Discredited) Historical Theories

From subterranean Martians to female hysteria, people have been known to believe some pretty bizarre things. What does it take to make a believable scientific hypothesis out of a strange idea like Hollow Earth theory, what suspension of believe is needed to agree with the Intelligent Design nutjobs? Apparently, not much. Here are five of the strangest examples and who knows what people will find hilariously untrue from our era in 50 years? Everyone will no doubt have other ideas for what the world’s weirdest theories are so give it a shot in the comments below!

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1. Trepanation

Ouch. In one of the oldest known medical interventions, a hole is drilled in the skull of a patient who is suffering from defects such as seizures or migraine headaches. The idea was to relieve pressure in the head which was believed to be causing the ailment. Today, trepanation is used on a very limited basis as a mechanism to access the brain for necessary surgery. Some people practice recreational or spiritual trepanation, presumably because they need modern medicine like they need a hole in the head.

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2. Female hysteria

Women in the Victorian age were said to be suffering from female hysteria when they were moody or a little more “difficult” than usual. Fortunately for them, the treatment was something called pelvic massage. We can’t laugh too hard at this one, though. Many years later, it directly caused vibrating devices to be widely available for, um, home treatment.

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3. Expanding Earth

As bizarre theories go, this one doesn’t sound that far-fetched. Expanding Earth is the idea that the planet was once a lot smaller and completely covered in one continent. If you mentally shrink the globe and try to fit the continents together like a puzzle, you could almost start to believe this theory

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