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Punkin chunkin (also called Pumpkin Chunkin' and pumpkin chucking) is the action of hurling a pumpkin in a competition by mechanical means over distances greater than those of other competitors. Pumpkin chunkin' competitions, formal and informal, exist throughout the United States in the autumn, and often occur when pumpkins are harvested. Also, a European Championship is held in Bikschote, Belgium each year, and has been held there each year since 2004. In order of increasing effectiveness, the devices include compound slingshots, catapults, trebuchets, and pneumatic air cannons. A pneumatic air cannon named 'Big 10 Inch' holds the current world record by firing a pumpkin 4,623.43 feet (1,409.224 meters) during the 2009 Pumpkin Chuckin' competition in Utah. In September 2010, the 'Big 10 Inch' team returned to Utah and fired a pumpkin 5,545.43 feet (1,690.247 meters) - this shot is still pending certification by Guinness World Records. The range achieved by devices greatly depends on their mass, shape, and size; the yield limits, stiffnesses, pitch, and elevation of the hurler; and the wind speed. Some pumpkin chunkers grow special firm pumpkins for use as a projectile, since sabots are often prohibited in competitions. These special pumpkins are often not good for eating. A usual rule is that the pumpkin must remain whole after leaving the device for the chunking to count. Pumpkins that burst after leaving the barrel intact are referred to as "pumpkin pie in the sky". Science Channel currently owns the television broadcast rights to the World Championship Punkin' Chunkin' contest, and airs it on tape delay on Thanksgiving Day. Brad Sherwood hosts the one-hour program. The previous year's contest is shown around Halloween and sporadically throughout the year. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]



ULTra (Urban Light Transit) is a personal rapid transit system developed by ULTra PRT, (formerly known as Advanced Transport Systems). The first public system using ULTra has been constructed at London's Heathrow Airport, and has now opened to the public. To reduce fabrication costs, the ULTra uses largely off-the-shelf technologies, such as rubber tyres running on an open guideway. This approach has resulted in a system that ULTra believes to be more economical; the company reports that the total cost of the system (vehicles, infrastructure and control systems) is between 3 million and 5 million per kilometre of guideway. In the case of ULTra, the guideway can consist of as little as two parallel rows of concrete barriers, similar to the bumpers found in a parking lot. The vehicle uses these for fine guidance only; it is able to steer itself around curves by following the barriers passively. No "switching" is required on the track either, as the vehicles can make their own turns between routes based on an internal map. Since the vehicles are battery powered, there's no need for electrification along the track. Instead the vehicles recharge when parked at the stations. As a result, the trackway is similar in complexity to a conventional road surface - a light-duty one as the vehicles will not vary in weight to the extent of a tractor-trailer. Even the stations are greatly simplified; in the case of ground-level tracks, the lack of any substantial infrastructure means the vehicles can stop at any kerb. Stations at Heathrow resemble a parking lot with diagonal slots, with a rain shield similar to the awnings at a gas station. The electric-powered vehicles have four seats, can carry 500-kilogram payload, and are designed to travel at 40 kilometres per hour (25 mph) at gradients of up to 20-percent, although the company has suggested limiting operating routes to 10-percent gradients to improve passenger comfort. The vehicles can accommodate wheelchairs, shopping trolleys and other luggage in addition to the passengers. Construction of the guideway was completed in October 2008. The line is largely elevated, but includes a ground level section where the route passes under the approach to the airport's northern runway. Following various trials, including some using airport staff as test passengers, the line opened to public usage in May 2011. At that time it was described as a passenger trials. As of September 2011 it is fully operational and bus service between the business parking lot and Terminal 5 has been discontinued. The developers expect that users will wait an average of around twelve seconds with 95-percent of passengers waiting for less than one minute for their private pod which will travel up to 40 kilometres per hour (25 mph). If the pilot project is successful, BAA have indicated that they will extend the service throughout the airport and to nearby hotels using 400 pods. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]



The Christmas Island red crab, Gecarcoidea natalis, is a species of terrestrial crab endemic to Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean. Although restricted to a relatively small area, it is estimated that up to 120 million red crabs may live there, making it the most abundant of the 14 terrestrial crab species on Christmas Island. Christmas Island red crabs eat mostly fallen leaves and flowers, but will occasionally eat other animals, including other red crabs if the opportunity arises. The carapace is up to 116 millimetres (4.6 in) long, rounded, and encloses the gills. The claws are usually of equal size, unless one becomes injured or detached, in which case the limb will regenerate. During that time, it will be the smaller of the two. The male crabs are generally larger than the females, while adult females have a much broader abdomen and usually have smaller claws. The broader abdomen of the female Christmas Island red crab only becomes apparent in the third year of growth. Christmas red crabs live in burrows, in order to shelter from the sun. Since they still breathe through gills, the possibility of drying out is a great danger for them. They are famous for their annual migration to the sea in order to lay their eggs in the ocean. During the migration, the crabs cover the highway routes to the coast so densely that they can be seen from the air. Volunteers shovel the crabs off the roads and, although no harm is intended, some of the countless millions of crabs inevitably get injured. Early inhabitants of Christmas Island hardly ever mentioned these crabs. It is possible that their famous large population size was caused by the extinction of the endemic Maclear's Rat, Rattus macleari in 1903, which may have kept the crab's population in control. An exploding population of the yellow crazy ant, an invasive species accidentally introduced to Christmas Island and Australia from Africa, is believed to have killed 1520 million red crabs in recent years. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]





Fort Ticonderoga is a large eighteenth-century fort built at a narrows near the south end of Lake Champlain in upstate New York. The site controls a river portage alongside the mouth of the rapids-infested La Chute River in the 3.5 miles (6 kilometers) between Lake Champlain and Lake George that was strategically important during the 18th-century colonial conflicts between Great Britain and France, and again to a lesser extent during the American Revolutionary War. At stake were commonly-used trade routes between the English-controlled Hudson River Valley and the French-controlled Saint Lawrence River Valley. The importance of the site was further amplified by terrain, both lakes were long and narrow oriented north-south, as were many the many ridge lines of the Appalachians with the orientation as far south as Georgia creating the near-impassable mountainous terrains to the east and west of the Great Appalachian Valley which the site commanded. The French, who called it Fort Carillon, constructed the fort between 1755 and 1758, during the French and Indian War. The fort attained a reputation of impregnability during the 1758 Battle of Carillon when an attack by 16,000 British troops near the fort was repelled by 4,000 French defenders. In 1759, the British returned, and drove a token French garrison from the fort merely by occupying high ground that threatened the fort. During the American Revolutionary War the fort again saw action in May 1775 when it was captured in a surprise attack by the Green Mountain Boys and other state militia commanded by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold. Americans held it until June 1777, when British forces under General John Burgoyne again occupied high ground above the fort and threatened the Continental Army, leading it to withdraw from the fort and its surrounding defenses. The only direct attack on the fort took place during the British occupation of the fort in September 1777, when John Brown led 500 Americans in an attempt to capture the fort from about 100 British defenders. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]



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