5 Historic Artifacts You Won't Believe Still Work
Unless you're talking about diamonds, Twinkies or vampires, lasting forever usually isn't in the cards. Yet all over the world -- and universe -- there are machines, engineering feats and pieces of meat that never got the memo that we all have a use-by date. If we didn't know any better, we'd think these things were actually taunting us with their tenacity.
The Light Bulb That Has Been Shining for 110 Years
In 1901, the Livermore Fire Department in California decided it was time to try that newfangled "electricity" thing all the kids were jabbering about. So they installed electrical lighting in the station, complete with modern light bulbs and everything.
And 110 years later, one of those original bulbs is still doing its thing.
"OK, now point to it; otherwise, people won't be able to tell the bulb from the ceiling."
When you look at the statistics, this is truly mind-boggling: Old-style incandescent light bulbs should only last a few thousand hours, while newer bulbs can go up to 25,000 hours with moderate use. The Livermore bulb, by comparison, has been in near-continuous use for over 110 years, and hasn't been turned off since 1976. That time period alone is well over 300,000 hours.
"Sometimes I miss the days when we fought fires instead of worshiping the Incandescent Savior."
In the early '70s, a reporter (who was apparently going through one hell of a slow news day) found out about the old bulb and started digging around. Instead of printing a half-assed article filled with light bulb jokes, he decided to go all out and contact the Guinness Book of World Records, Ripley's Believe It or Not and General Electric. When they all verified that the bulb was actually the oldest functioning one in the world, the town went nuts, even giving the bulb a police escort when it was switched between the old fire station and a new one in 1976.
"Awesome. Now, can we get some actual lighting in here so we don't have to hope all the fires start in the daytime?"
Since then, it has gained widespread attention and the media friendly, in-no-way-pompous nickname of Centennial Light.
The 2,000-Year-Old Tomb ... With Working Booby Traps
If there's anything that adventure movies have taught us, besides the importance of sports bras, it's that tombs are tricky business. Yes, they hold rich stuff and hidden pirate ships and badass skeletons sporting diamond eyes, and yes, those facts are totally scientific and not stolen from The Goonies, but they're also rigged with things that will kill you. One misstep on an ancient tripwire or floor tile, and BAM! Decapitating blades, giant spikes and crushing drop ceilings for everyone!
Of course, that's just what the movies would have us believe. In reality, the burden of countless centuries would easily obliterate such delicate designs, as wood and rope and other old-time building supplies would have rotted to dust by now. Right?
"Careful, don't step in that crossbow."
The mausoleum of the ancient Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang was discovered in the 1970s. You might have heard about the fantastic, world famous army of terra cotta soldiers found guarding it. A less known fact is that to this day, the site remains largely unexplored. This is largely because of pressing moral questions about preserving the past and a shitload of cunning booby traps that might still totally work.
Ancient writings about intricate traps and contraptions such as pressure-sensitive crossbows and murderous mini-oceans full of mercury were dismissed as fairy tales ... that is, until scientists ran probes into the tomb, just on the off chance that there was something to the legends of mercury rivers guarding the long-dead emperor. What did they find? A fire-breathing dragon! Just kidding. A lot of mercury is what they found -- at levels 100 times the natural rate. The scientists couldn't help but think there might be something to the ancient warnings.
Would you build a mountain-sized tomb without throwing in some booby traps?
But what about the automatic crossbow contraptions? Those would be long rusted by now, right? Nope -- other weapons excavated in the tomb were coated with something called chromate, which made them rust-resistant. So it only makes sense that the hair-trigger crossbows were also coated with the stuff, since they were the ones guarding the emperor and all. And according to science, "it is highly likely that the automatic crossbows may function well even after thousands of years."
After this find, the excavation staff was naturally pretty reluctant to venture farther into the tomb. They were still willing to do some further research, perhaps eventually going as far as opening the tomb itself. However, the Chinese government flipped out at the idea and, presumably not wanting to become the first nation to host a reenactment of the opening scenes of Raiders of the Lost Ark, vetoed further excavations. This ban lasted until 25 years later ... and even today, archaeologists must remain well away from the tomb itself, probably so that a giant rolling rock doesn't crush them.
Or that the woman already inside doesn't shoot them.
The "Temporary" Dam ... Built 2,000 Years Ago
In the second century, the Indian Chola government decided that a local river needed to be dammed to divert water for irrigation. However, due to the river diverging on the decided spot, the area was particularly prone to floods. So before they could actually get around to building a real dam, a rough, makeshift stone-block version was hastily constructed for the oncoming rainy season, with the reasoning that they would build a new one in about 20 years when this one inevitably failed.
However, like so many government-funded projects, the construction of a better dam was delayed again and again and again. So the makeshift dam did what it could, then finally fell apart and gave the people of the plains below the gift of a watery grave.
"Daaaaaam!" Sorry, we'll stop that.
Ha, no, not really. No matter how much water came, the dam held. Decade after decade, century after century, millennium after millennium. In fact, up until the British came bossing around 1,500 years later, the supposedly temporary construct -- now known as the Grand Anicut -- was the area's only line of defense against the huge floods that attempted to kill everyone on a yearly basis. In photos, you see some modern additions to the dam, but make no mistake: The original structure is still there, doing its job.
Though we admit that those women actively laughing in the face of fate may be taking it a bit too far.
It turned out the Grand Anicut's unique "just build it however" design was, by sheer stupid luck, actually one of the best ways to build a dam, ever. It was so efficient and cost-effective that the British engineers ended up copying the designs of the ancestors of the people they were supposed to be governing.
The Twin Satellites That Refuse to Die
When satellites are sent out into space, scientists generally hope for a few good years of info before the equipment succumbs to the cold abyss and/or is eaten by Space Trolls. Few orbiting satellites get past their 10th birthday, and operating that long outside of orbit is pretty much unheard of.
Except, that is, for the Voyager program.
Seen here, giving Saturn the finger.
In 1977, NASA launched two Voyager satellites to gather data on Jupiter and Saturn. Their life expectancy was estimated to be four years, but after five had passed, the satellites just kept on trucking. People started wondering what would happen if NASA just kept them out there ... forever. So they sent Voyager 1 on a course to outer space, and Voyager 2 got a ticket to explore Neptune and Uranus.
"My only regret is that I'll never live to see my nephew, Skynet, grow into a man-bot."
Thirty-five years and 14.5 billion miles from Earth, both Voyagers are still working as well as they did the day they were launched. And although most of their current data is strictly confined to how cold and empty space is, they might still have a role to play: They are about to exit the sun's sphere of gravity, and will soon, for the first time in history, provide invaluable firsthand information about what lies beyond.
The 36,000-Year-Old Dinner
At some point, we've all stretched the scientific limits for how long food can last before it becomes inedible and/or poisonous. Meat can generally be safely kept in a freezer for a few months. Military Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), if stored properly, can last around five years. The canning process can give certain foods a shelf life of decades. And the Arctic ... well, it can apparently preserve an edible bison or woolly mammoth for a few dozen centuries. And yes, humans have eaten them.
First, let us rewind to 10,000 years ago, the time when woolly mammoths were roaming Siberia. When they died, their carcasses were lost in the permafrost. Frozen solid, they could stay preserved for thousands of years, as if they'd perished just yesterday. And as the mammoths slowly became extinct, their hulking bodies remained frozen in the hellish wastelands we now lovingly call the Arctic.
Russians just call this "marinated."
So in the 1920s, people started finding mammoth bodies with meat so well preserved as to be edible ... if you call half-rotted and definitely freezer burned "edible." Having better food available, and also common sense, the meat was reportedly fed to sled dogs.
But in the early 2000s, Russian scientists weren't as choosy or concerned with self-preservation. Feeling the urge for some sweet, sweet mammoth steak, one reckless soul carved a bit off of the plentiful mammoth carcasses they had in their cold storage and Epic Meal Timed the shit out of it.
"And with your mammoth steak, may I suggest the blood of children who died on Christmas Eve?"
The resulting banquet was perfectly edible all right, but tasted "awful" and, shockingly, not unlike "meat left too long in a freezer."
That's not to say all ancient meat tastes like ass, though. When a 36,000-year-old baby bison was found frozen in Alaska in 1979, one scientist knew exactly what to do with it. He performed a bunch of experiments ... and then calmly carved some meat out of it and made a stew, because heavy sciencing makes for a heavy appetite.
The stew was not only edible, but deemed "acceptable." So, yeah, that meatloaf you've had in the freezer since 1994? Some day, after civilization has collapsed, risen again and collapsed once more, some cyborg will heat that shit up and declare it "OK."
"Whoops! No biggie. I will eat literally any fucking thing you put in front of me."
For more things that don't know how to die, check out 5 Animals That Are Terrifyingly Hard to Kill and 7 Historical Figures Who Were Absurdly Hard To Kill.