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June 9, 1938: Huang He Diversion: Largest Act of Environmental Warfare in History

By Nate Burgess

The Huang He (Yellow River) has been called “China’s Sorrow.” The name pays tribute to the millions killed by the river’s churning, muddy waters in a long history of dramatic diversions and massive floods. One of the most notable recent events in the river’s troubled history occurred in June 1938, when the Nationalist Chinese Army diverted the river to block invading Japanese troops. In both number of deaths and geographic scale, this event was the largest act of environmental warfare in modern history.

09 Jun 2009

Benchmarks: May 29, 1919: Solar eclipse "proves" relativity

By Nate Burgess

On May 29, 1919, the moon’s silhouette crept slowly over the sun, bringing premature night to observers in a broad swath of the Southern Hemisphere between South America and Africa. Few onlookers realized that this event would provide the first successful test of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.

01 Jun 2009

Benchmarks: April 26, 1986: Nuclear explosion at Chernobyl

By Carolyn Gramling

A rusting Ferris wheel dominates the skyline of Prypiat, Ukraine’s ghost town. A few kilometers away, within a massive concrete structure called the Sarcophagus, are the remnants of the worst nuclear disaster in history: the ruins of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant’s reactor number four — and about 200 tons of highly radioactive material.

24 Apr 2009

Benchmarks: March 1, 1872: "Bone Wars" heat up

By Brian Fisher Johnson

Edward Drinker Cope stood before a smoke-filled audience at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, Pa., on March 1, 1872. One of the nation’s leading paleontologists, Cope would present his latest fossil find: an extinct flying reptile he designated Ornithochirus. Certainly the piece would be recognized as a major contribution to the scientific understanding of ancient life. More importantly, Cope thought, he would receive credit as its discoverer.

27 Feb 2009

Benchmarks: January 3, 1961: Three men die in nuclear reactor meltdown

By Cassandra Willyard

Of the hundreds of thousands of caskets buried in Arlington National Cemetery, only one is lined with lead to prevent the body from leaking radiation. It holds the radioactive remains of Richard Leroy McKinley, one of three men killed when a nuclear reactor exploded in the nation’s only fatal nuclear accident.

02 Jan 2009

Benchmarks: December 3, 1984: Bhopal gas leak kills thousands

By Cassandra Willyard

On Dec. 3, 1984, Aziza Sultan woke to the sound of coughing. When she opened her eyes, she could see that the room was filled with a white haze. She heard people shouting “Run, run.” Then she too began to cough. Each breath burned her lungs.

03 Dec 2008

November 26,1872: Great Diamond Hoax Exposed

By Cassandra Willyard

On a foggy day in 1871, two men walked into the Bank of California in San Francisco. One held a rifle and the other gripped a large buckskin pouch. Both were covered in a thick layer of grime. Initially, the nervous teller took the shady drifters for bank robbers. But his anxiety turned to elation when they showed him the contents of their pouch — a shimmery bounty of diamonds, rubies and sapphires.

26 Nov 2008

Danger and wonder in Nat Geo's "Giant Crystal Cave"

Razor-sharp rocks. Deadly crevasses. Unbearable heat. Scalding water. One false step...and you’re history.

“Giant Crystal Cave,” the National Geographic Channel’s hour-long documentary on scientific exploration deep inside Mexico’s Naica Mountain is as much about derring-do and danger as it is about science. The film follows three scientists as they visit the mountain’s most famous cavern for the first time in hopes of unlocking some of its mysteries.

09 Oct 2008

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