The Airphibian: The Car That Flies

Since the 1920’s, futuristic scifi novels and films depicted humans zipping around sky cities in flying cars. Several dreamers even produced designs for cars that could be converted into airplanes and vice versa. The first of these to be certified by the FAA was the “Airphibian”, the brainchild of an amateur designer who taught himself aeronautics from a book.


The Fulton FA-3-101 Airphibian, on display at the Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy Center.

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Florida’s Invaders–Hydrilla

Florida is the land of invasive species. Because of our status as a center for the importing of exotic pets and houseplants from overseas, and our neo-tropical climate, we have been invaded by everything from kudzu plants to Burmese pythons. One of our invasive plants is Hydrilla, an aquatic plant that came to us via the aquarium trade. It is listed as one of the “100 Most Invasive Species in the World” and has been called “The Perfect Aquatic Weed”.


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Yuri Gagarin: First Human in Space

The development of human space flight was one of the pinnacles of human technological advancement and one of humanity’s greatest achievements. But the “Space Race” was not motivated by science or by the humanitarian drive to explore new worlds–it was motivated by global Cold War politics between the United States and the Soviet Union. Perhaps that is why most people in the US today do not remember that the first human in space was not an American, but was a Soviet Air Force Senior Lieutenant named Yuri Gagarin.


Gagarin’s spacesuit, on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

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Wild Florida–Lubber Grasshopper

The Lubber Grasshopper is likely to be the biggest grasshopper you will ever see–and it certainly is the largest grasshopper in the United States. At a length of over three inches and with bright splashes of orange, yellow, red and green, Lubbers are certainly eye-catching. They are also extraordinarily bold, walking around in plain sight in open areas like lawns, parks, or sidewalks.


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Oslo: The Fram Museum

By the first years of the 1900’s, most of the earth had been explored.  One exception, however, were the polar regions. In the equivalent of the Apollo moonshots, large organized expeditions raced each other to be the first at the poles, and these adventures were breathlessly reported by the press of the day to an eager public.

One of these explorers was Roald Amundsen, from Norway.


The Fram, on display in Oslo, Norway.

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Erich Hartmann: The Real Top Gun

The highest-scoring American ace in history was Richard Bong, who had 40 air victories flying P-38 Lightnings in the Pacific Theater during World War Two. The most famous of the  air aces, the “Red Baron” Manfred von Richthofen, had 80 air victories during the First World War. But the highest-scoring air ace of all time remains largely unknown to most Americans, perhaps because he flew for the Nazis. Erich Hartmann, flying a Messerschmitt Bf-109 on the Russian Front in the Second World War, scored an incredible 352 air victories, making him the most successful fighter pilot in history.


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Forgotten mysteries, oddities and unknown stories from history, nature and science.