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Anecdotes from the Archive

Heavy Guns Blast Trenches, 1915

Two Austrians with a 305-millimeter shell for a siege howitzer (the propellant was loaded separately). Image: Scientific American, April 17, 1915

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: April 17, 1915 World War I was an artillery war. In the opening days, the German army used a new variety of siege gun to blast holes in the Belgian and French forts that had been designed and built—decades earlier—to bar passage. These new guns [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

The Big Guns, 1915

A 42-centimeter German shell that failed to explode, displayed as a trophy by the French. Image: Scientific American, July 17, 1915

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: March 6, 1915 World War I was an artillery war. Even as new technology—tanks, airplanes, submarines and poison gas—changed the nature of fighting, it was the power of mass manufacturing that had the most profound effect on the conduct of war. The size and number [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Take This Shell and Shove It: The Mollusk That Became a Worm


When you think of a mollusk, you probably have something shelled, slimy, and possibly stalk-eyed in mind. But mollusks include creatures that are none of these things. In fact, there are mollusks that are wormy, be-spined, and eyeless. They are called aplacophorans, and scientists have long puzzled over their place in the mollusk family tree. [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Should We Stop Selling Nautilus Shells?


Nautilus shells are big business. The U.S. imports more than 100,000 of the iconic mollusk shells every year, according to a recent study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The shells end up online or in stores around the country, where they sell for anywhere from $15 to a few hundred dollars. But [...]

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