2 posts tagged with africa by blahblahblah.
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For forty years around the turn of the 20th century, ostrich plumes were the height of fashion, and a major industry: at its peak, ostrich feathers were, ounce-for-ounce, nearly as valuable as diamonds, so much so that £20,000 of feathers went down with the Titanic. The market for feathers was, in large part, run by Jews: Sephardi Jews exported feathers, Jews in London and New York traded them, and Eastern European Jews left Russia and Lithuania in the thousands to farm feathers, flocking to Oudtshoorn "The Jerusalem of Africa." In 1914, the boom ended, leaving many destitute and leading to anti-semitic backlashes. A brief but entertaining history of the feather trade can be read in this PDF excerpt. Some of the beautiful "Feather Palaces" of Oudtshoorn still survive, as does a small Jewish community and some vintage fashion.
The site of the world's first nuclear reactor? Gabon. About 1.7 billion years ago several deposits of uranium in Oklo, Gabon spontaneously began to undergo nuclear chain reactions fed by small drips of water. These natural breeder reactors ran for almost a million years, producing both intense heat and plutonium byproducts. Aside from the strangeness of naturally occurring reactors, Oklo provides the only existing case of how highly radioactive waste behaves over a period of tens of millions of years -- exactly the problem faced by the DOE's Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site.