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article-imageDefying gravity on the beach of Sydney in 1937 (via State Library of New South Wales)

Gravity got you down? Fight back! Gravity varies around the world, and you can actually weigh less in some places. Some locales feature high-tech equipment to let us fly or float. Some fool us into mistaking which way is up. Here is a this list of places where you can beat gravity using technology, trickery, and terrain.

 

TECHNOLOGY

Indoor Skydiving
Las Vegas, Nevada, United States and other tourist spots

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Indoor skydiving in Los Angeles (photograph by Boris Dzhingarov)

If you really want to tell gravity to shove off, the best way is to float on air. You can do just that in Sin City. Right on the Strip, you’ll find a room where you can don protective gear and float in mid-air — with the help of an engine from a DC-3. The propellor blows air up and you ride on the currents, protected from the blades by a cage. Similar indoor skydiving facilities exist in dozens of touristy places around the globe.

The Vomit Comet
The Atmosphere

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Astronauts in the "Vomit Comet" (1959) (via NASA

There are practical reasons for defying gravity, and one of those is to train astronauts. The idea is pretty simple: fly faster than gravity. A 727 flies parabolas in the air at speeds greater than terminal velocity, giving you the exact effect of zero gravity for a few minutes at a time. The movie Apollo 13 was filmed in the aptly-nicknamed "Vomit Comet." The official name of the aircraft is "Reduced gravity aircraft."

Jet Ski Jet Packs

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Jetlev in action (photograph by Robert Neff)

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article-imageMeasuring the singing sands at Kelso Dunes in California (photograph by Trevor Cox)

Plenty of guidebooks have photographs of stunning views and extensive texts on the sites to see, but rare are the resources for sound tourists. Trevor Cox, a professor of acoustic engineering at the University of Salford in the UK, recently published a book on his expeditions to the sonic destinations of the globe.

"I had this idea that it would be interesting to think about places to explore, to take your ears on holiday, to hunt for the most remarkable sounds in the world," Cox told Atlas Obscura. The Sound Book: The Science of the Sonic Wonders of the World released earlier this year by W. W. Norton & Company, follows Cox from Great Britain to a road trip across the United States to obscure corners of the world as he experiences singing roadsbooming sand dunes, Mexico's Mayan Kukulkan Pyramid with its odd chirping effect, and other reverberations, echoes, and sound curiosities both subdued and grand. 

You can hear some of these discoveries at his Sound Tourism: A Travel Guide to Sonic Wonders site set up prior to the book as a way to crowdsource and investigate the greatest sound wonders on Earth. We're not quite to an Instagram for sounds where people would capture the clinking of brunch forks or wash of waves beneath a glorious sunset like we now do impulsively with images, but there is YouTube with its horde of vacation videos that Cox used as a resource. 

"Overall this was about awakening our listening and picking out things everyday in our travels to listen to," he said. He also focused on sounds that were unexpected or unintended, steering away from instruments (although with exceptions for the unusual, such as the Great Stalacpipe Organ built from 37 stalactites) and spaces designed for acoustics like concert halls. However, he took his over two decades of experience in acoustic engineering as a starting point, for example the knowledge of the acoustics of a curved room to look for buildings with a similar shape that may have been built for something completely separate from sound. 

 

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Made into legends through books, comics, movies, songs, and TV specials, Bonnie and Clyde have lived on nearly 80 years after their deaths as a Depression era Romeo and Juliet. Brandishing high-powered machine guns and driving the newly invented Ford V-8s, Bonnie and Clyde are mythologized as Robin Hoods for the poor and destitute who had been failed by the American political and financial institutions.

article-imageClyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker (via Library of Congress)

But what is the real story behind Bonnie — a girl from Cement City, Texas, a small industrial town three miles west of Dallas — and Clyde — a young man of 5-foot-6 with dark, wavy hair and tattoos on his arms that included a heart-dagger and the letters “U.S.N.” from a failed attempt to enter the Navy as a teenager?

Growing up in Dallas in the back room of his father’s filling station, Clyde’s first brush with the law came in 1926 when he was arrested for automobile theft as a result of neglecting to return a rental car. While these charges were dropped, Clyde was arrested again only three weeks later with his brother Buck — who would later initially refuse to join the Barrow gang during the height of its notoriety — for possession of a truck full of stolen turkeys.

article-imageThe Barrow filling station (all photographs by the author)

By 1930, Clyde was incarcerated in the Eastham Prison Farm on a 14-year term for automobile theft and robbery. Known as the “Murder House” or “The Bloody Ham,” Eastham was notorious for its tough working and living conditions, as well as guards who would beat inmates with trace chains and perform random spot killings, all of which was substantiated by the Texas state legislature and the Osborne Association on U.S. Prisons which ranked the Texas prison system as the worst in the nation in 1935.

During his time at Eastham, Clyde transformed from petty criminal to emotionless killer when he murdered Ed Crowder, a man who had been sexually assaulting him since he entered the prison. Clyde’s drive in life wasn’t to become a famous bank robber, as he is sometimes labeled; it was to take revenge on Eastham. It was here that he enlisted future gang member Ralph Fults in a plan to raise enough money and ammunition to raid the prison farm and kill all of the guards after his release. While at Eastham, Clyde went so far as to chop off two of his toes with an ax to secure a medical release from the grueling work. Ironically, six days later, on February 2, 1932, he was granted parole by Texas Governor Ross Sterling. 

What followed was a two-year stretch that saw the Barrow gang rise into the national consciousness.

article-image1933 Wanted Poster (via Texas State Library & Archives Commission)

The first bank heist occurred in April of 1932 at the First National Bank in Lawrence, Kansas. While the Barrow gang is often thought of as prolific bank robbers, they mostly robbed mom-and-pop filling stations, feed, and hardware stores. After a failed robbery attempt and a shootout in Kaufman County, Texas, Clyde and an associate named Raymond Hamilton escaped while Fultz and Bonnie Parker were jailed in a small one-room cell in Kemp, Texas. Fults was transferred back to prison, but Bonnie spent only one night in jail and was released. Though injured and wounded several times by officers during her two-year run with Clyde, Bonnie never shot anyone but herself. In 1932 she accidentally grazed two of her toes when a weapon she was holding for Clyde discharged.

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article-imageMaroon Bells mountains on the White River (via US Department of Agriculture)

The rivers of the United States are essential to drinking water for millions of Americans and the survival of natural communities around their banks, but they are drying up and being corralled by dams and diversions. The nonprofit environmental advocacy group American Rivers released their America's 10 Most Endangered Rivers for 2014 list earlier this month outlining those waterways in the greatest danger.

The ranking was determined by the level of reliance of both humans and nature alike, the strength of the threat, and the imminence of decisions that will be impacting the rivers' future. The peril for the rivers ranges from outdated dam and fish passage systems such as at Washington's White River and California's San Francisquito Creek, to the reduction of floodplains and increase of diversions as with two giants of riverdom: the Middle Mississippi River and Upper Colorado River. Then there are development and industrial issues like the "megaload" trucks that pass by Idaho's Middle Fork Clearwater-Lochsa River creating both a visual and environmental blight, as well as the wastewater runoff polluting North Carolina's Haw River

However, at the top of the list is California's San Joaquin River. The largest river in the state gets the harrowing first place for its dated water management which has left much of it running dry, even as it provides drinking water for millions. American Rivers' mission is to raise the public profile of these rivers, which is especially essential for San Joaquin. As Scientific American reports, there are two major legislative and management decisions impending on San Joaquin, including the state's Water Resources Control Board updating its Bay Delta Water Quality Plan, along with a potentially devastating overturning of a settlement agreement for its restoration by Congress.

Below are the top 10 most endangered rivers per the American Rivers report, and their site includes information on what you can do to help protect them from deteriorating further. 

1 - San Joaquin River, California

article-imageSan Joaquin River (photograph by Richard E. Ellis)

2 - Upper Colorado River, Colorado

article-imageColorado River (via Grand Canyon National Park)

3 - Middle Mississippi River, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky

article-imageAerial view of the Mississippi River (photograph by rmadlo119/Flickr user)

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To me, you would be hard pressed to find something more charming to focus your camera lens on than dusty scenes of miniature people going about their business.

Every time I visit a model train museum, I come away with hundreds of photos of tiny people doing tiny things. Here are just a few photos from the granddaddy of model train museums, the wonderful San Diego Model Train Museum.

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