Everyone thinks that their workplace is especially crazy -- their boss is the biggest creep, their co-workers are the most incompetent, their Chad from Accounting is the Chaddest, and the most Accounting -- but they're wrong. Those aren't especially crazy places to work. Not compared to ...
The Impossibly Deep, Improbably Massive Gold Mine With Its Own Secret Economy
Close to running a 5K marathon straight into the Earth's core.
That unholy mess of a pit runs up to 2.5 miles deep, and its 236 miles of tunnels house a ridiculously massive underground complex. Every day, 4,000 workers are lowered into the mine in giant, three-story, 120-person cage elevators. Due to geothermal heat, the temperatures in the lower levels of the mine can reach up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
And that's not its only similarity to a supervillain's lair.
This Mordor hellpit is already surreal enough, then you factor in the hordes of "ghost" miners -- criminal miners who have managed to enter the pit and set up shop for their share of the gold. These illegal workers have created their own shadow economy deep within the confines of the earth, trading everything from bread to sex (add "underground hell-mine prostitute" to the list of most terrifying professions on Earth). They live there, eat there, and keep their own peace ... with AK-47s and improvised beer-bottle grenades. As for the mining company's security guards, they mostly leave the ghost miners be, because the place is far too vast to police efficiently, and also ... well, we did mention the beer-bottle grenades, right?
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This little shadow society is coming to an end, though: The mine is due to run out of gold in about 7-8 years. So there's nothing left to do but return to the surface ... right?
Nope: They're digging again, trying to deepen the mine further to reach another gold deposit three miles below the crust.
This is how the Morlocks start.
The Ancient Church That Hides A Giant Supercomputer
On the outside, Barcelona's Chapel Torre Girona is just your average, old-timey deconsecrated chapel. It would barely pass for a tourist attraction in Boringville, Arizona, let alone Europe, where historic chapels are like Starbucks.
The Barcelona Supercomputing Center has made breakthroughs in multiple fields, from antigen therapy and human genome research, to astrophysics and weather forecasting. Even more impressively, it remains as yet un-smited by vengeful deities, despite the church's time-honored tradition of prosecuting the shit out of science.
Inception villains get to use it on odd days, Bond villains on even ones.
The Sphinx Observatory is perilously balanced atop a steep and narrow summit in the Alps, 11,716 feet above sea level. It houses its own extensive social and living quarters, several laboratories, a workshop, a weather forecast station, and two open terraces that are frankly just aching for some death rays. The pristine location provides unique conditions for research in a variety of disciplines, while also serving as a self-evident filter mechanism -- only the most hardcore of science nerds could reach it, let alone flourish there.
As you can probably imagine, getting to the Sphinx is an adventure all in itself. Travelers to the station make use of a special cogwheel railway line that terminates at a special elevator inside the mountain itself. And yes, of course the elevator is only accessible via frozen, blue-lit science fiction corridors.
Oceanography is the sexy science for the foreseeable future -- until the poles melt and we're left drinking our own urine for fun and profit, like Kevin Costner from Waterworld. And to better study our oceans, we have this ... ship?
That is a ship, right? At least one-eighth of one?
Not only does this boat have to be towed everywhere, but its whole interior looks like it was designed by M.C. Escher after playing Portal 2. There are pairs of sinks at right angles, tables bolted to the walls, and doors on the floors. Toilets swivel from one orientation to another.
"Oh shit, oh shit, oh ... whoops! Gets me every time!"
The Floating Instrument Platform (or RP FLIP for short) was designed back in 1962 to provide a stable, elevated platform for scientists to analyze stuff like wavelength, water acoustics, and ocean currents.
In addition to various studies on extreme sea sickness.
It rotates by pumping water in and out of its ballast tanks. Once upright, the ship is astonishingly stable, able to withstand 80-foot waves. But surely, there are better ways to do this today. High-tech ships that don't have to sink and turn everybody sideways just to-
... wait, RV FLIP is still in use? Holy shit. New goal in life: acquire this ship, tow ass to Somalia, and start professionally fucking with pirates.
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The Street Market That Gets Hit By A Train Every Day
The Maeklong Railway Market in Thailand seems like a regular ol' crowded Asian marketplace. Vendors sitting along each side of a narrow alleyway, all selling vegetables and local produce, while customers mill about the small space that remains in the middle.
Moments before it tragically derailed on those banana peels.
Eight times a day, a warning signal plays on the market's speakers, shortly before a very real and very heavy train passes right through the market, barely a couple of inches from the vendors' noses, and literally over some of their stuff.
What makes the Mekong market terrifying for the unwary visitor is the casualness of it all. Here's what the market looks like before a warning signal (which for some reason is a charming little bell instead of a siren over a choir of panicked screaming):
That beautiful lake back there? That turquoise hue is due to it being highly acidic. Clouds of poisonous gases spew from cracks in the rocks. And as if that wasn't enough, there's also an area where the sulfur gases actively burn with an eerie blue light. Go there at night, and you'll find yourself standing on a Star Trek site come to life. Albeit one that burns at 1,112 degrees Fahrenheit.
As you can imagine, the road to Ijen Crater isn't what you'd call a pleasant commute. Every day, the miners climb 9,000 feet to the lip of the volcano, then descend 3,000 feet into its crater. What on earth could possibly motivate them to make this journey day in and day out, hauling 200-pound baskets of sulfur, all in an environment literally made out of poison, acid, and flame?
You can still complain about working at Chipotle, though. Everything is relative.
Dibyajyoti Lahiri is very interested in science. But he also happens to be the most cold-susceptible person in the history of humankind, so instead of risking certain death in an expedition to the top of the Alps, he prefers writing articles from the comfortable heat and humidity of his room. M. Doyle has just quit his day job to pursue his dreams of poverty and obscurity as a writer. When not staring at a blinking cursor on a blank page and muttering "Why ... why?" he builds custom iPad reading stands out of LEGO.