Submit a link Features Reviews Podcasts Video Forums More ▾

1,200 year old telephone

This ancient Peruvian telephone was unearthed in the 1930s by Baron Walram V. Von Schoeler, "a shadowy Indiana Jones-type adventurer."

The gourd-and-twine device, created 1,200 to 1,400 years ago, remains tantalizingly functional — and too fragile to test out. “This is unique,” NMAI curator Ramiro Matos, an anthropologist and archaeologist who specializes in the study of the central Andes, tells me. “Only one was ever discovered. It comes from the consciousness of an indigenous society with no written language.”

We'll never know the trial and error that went into its creation. The marvel of acoustic engineering — cunningly constructed of two resin -coated gourd receivers, each three-and-one-half inches long; stretched-hide membranes stitched around the bases of the receivers; and cotton-twine cord extending 75 feet when pulled taut—arose out of the Chimu empire at its height.

There’s a 1,200-year-old Phone in the Smithsonian Collections (Via Daily Grail)

Sometimes, you misplace your Moon dust

The University of California, Berkeley recently found 20 vials of Moon dust in an archival warehouse. Apparently, these were all loaned research samples that should have been returned to NASA more than 40 years ago. This is not the only institution to suffer from the same problem. At least 12 states had (and then lost) collections of small Moon rocks. Minnesota found theirs last year in a display case at the state Veteran Services Building, crowded into a cluster of lesser memorabilia, including an 8th-place award in a shooting competition. It could happen to anybody. Maggie

Photos and ephemera from the Hindenburg

The Hindenburg disaster happened 75 years ago this month. In this incredibly fascinating video, Cheryl Ganz, the chief curator for the National Postal Museum, talks about the photographs, letters, and maps collected by Hindenburg passenger Peter Belan.

Belan was on the Hindenburg when it burst into flame. In fact, he took a whole roll of photos from the doomed ship as it came in for a landing, photos that haven't ever been published before. You'll see some of them here. Belan's pockets and suitcase are the source of some of the only surviving examples of Hindenburg passenger documents, including receipts and a map of the ship's last route.

In particular, I absolutely love the Belan photographs. There's something very modern about them, or maybe just about the act of photographing a setting right before it becomes infamous. These shots make it easy to imagine a parallel-universe Belan twittering the disaster as it happened.

Read more about the Hindenburg disaster at Smithsonian

The last space suit on the Moon

This is the space suit worn by Apollo 17 commander Eugene Cernan, the last human being to set foot on the Moon.

Side note: I knew these suits were heavy. I had not realized how heavy. With 26 layers of material in the suit, a portable life-support system strapped on, and other mechanical systems attached, the whole thing weighed in at 185 pounds on Earth.

Via Smithsonian