Five-hundred years ago the population of Rapa Nui mysteriously lost their ability to erect Moai. No one knows for sure how this loss occurred, only that it did, and that it happened relatively suddenly. One unfinished statue if completed, would have been seventy feet tall and weighed one-hundred and fifty tons. Something went very wrong and the entire community took a giant leap backwards.
In the 1950s, the British Museum came into possession an ancient glass chalice called the Lycurgus Cup, so named for the depiction of Dionysus’s triumph over King Lycurgus of Thrace. The object stands apart because it exhibits a strange optical phenomenon. Under normal lighting, the glass appears jade green, but when lit from behind, it turns ruby red. Created during in 4th Century by those unknown the requirements needed to make it remained lost in time until 1990. Scientists using ultramodern lab equipment in a lab were able to deduce effect was created by including gold and silver particles ground up finely to about fifty manometers in diameter, or less than one thousandth the size of a grain of salt.
The Hockney–Falco thesis, developed by artist David Hockney and physicist Charles M Falco, claims that advances in realism and accuracy in Western art since the Renaissance were primarily the result of optical instruments like camera obscura, camera lucida, and curved mirrors. And not, as previously thought, solely due to the development of artistic technique and skill. The Old Masters level of accuracy would be impossible simply by ‘eyeballing it’. Not that long after discovering how to paint in such a way Dutch civilisation lost the knowledge.
Human knowledge is now stored online. But is the hardware that supports the Internet even safe? One-hundred and fifty years ago an expert solar astronomer called Richard Carrington was observing the sun from his private observatory in Surrey, England. As he was sketching a large group of sunspots two extremely bright beads of white light suddenly appeared over the sunspots. Five minutes later the white beads had gone. What became known as the ‘Carrington Event’ wan in fact a solar flare that hurtled a large cloud of charged particles towards earth. The arrival of which resulted in brilliant auroral displays around both north and south poles and even at lower latitudes near the tropics. The magnetic disturbance was also ugly. It destroyed electric telegraph systems all over the world. Wires shorted out, operators received electric shocks, and sparking discharges set fire to the paper in telegraph receivers.