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Seeking Interesting Sites When Travelling the World? 401

Posted by Cliff
from the where-do-you-want-to-go-today dept.
An anonymous reader asks: "Is there anyone besides me who likes to travel and look at engineering projects? When I first read Neal Stephenson's Wired article on his trip around the world to watch an intercontinental fiber cable being built from England to Japan (still available at HotWired) I knew this was what I wanted to do with my vacation days. Space launch sites, high-speed rail lines, container ports, technology museums - I've tried them all. Does Slashdot have suggestions for destinations, or for web sites where people share their experiences."
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Seeking Interesting Sites When Travelling the World?

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  • I'd be curious to hear which of these places you found interesting, stories from your travels, etc., etc.

    • You could always go to the Leaning Tower of Piza, as you'd be foreverafter be able to belittle other people's whack-ass engineering ideas with "Bah! That'll just end up just as broken as the Leaning Tower of Piza, and have you even seen it??"

      I love my job!

      • You could always go to the Leaning Tower of Piza, as you'd be foreverafter be able to belittle other people's whack-ass engineering ideas with "Bah! That'll just end up just as broken as the Leaning Tower of Piza, and have you even seen it??"

        If you want to really be amazed by the Leaning Tower of Pisa, read about [discover.com] the measures they've taken to prevent it from totally falling over.

  • by sphealey (2855) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:33PM (#4805509)
    You might want to take a look at the Society for Industrial Archeology [mtu.edu]. They sponser conferences and tours that do exactly this, as well as publishing several neat newsletters and journals.

    sPh

  • by drenehtsral (29789) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:34PM (#4805518) Homepage
    I'd vote for teh Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (see the everything2 node). It's cool, they have a WW2 U-Boat you can tour, the first desil-electric bullet train in the U.S., some cool airplanes, an engine from a V2 rocket, some cool old cars, a complete scale model of all the railroad connections in Chicago, and much much more...

    In general, it rules, and it's only $9 to get in for the day.
    • I second that! This was going to be my recommendation, but drenehtsral beat me to it. So I'll nominate the obvious: The Kennedy Space Center. Another place you might stop, if you're in the area, is the Boeing Everett plant [boeing.com], the largest building in the world by volume.

      • There is the huge airship hangar and stuff down in San Jose, on the same site as NASA Ames, that should also be worth a visit. Think you have to be a US citizen to get in though.
        • > There is the huge airship hangar and stuff down in San Jose, on the same site as NASA Ames, that should also be worth a visit. Think you have to be a US citizen to get in though.

          Also, directly in the shadow of a huge airship hangar at Moffett Field, is the Computer History Museum [computerhistory.org].

          Very geek-friendly, geared towards a technical audience, and not at all dumbed-down like the "kid-friendly" computer sections in "normal" museums.

          The site [computerhistory.org] says open Wednesday/Friday at 1300h, and the First and Third Saturdays of each month at 1300 and 1400h. Admittance to Moffet Field requires that you show driver's licence or other photo ID, but I don't think you have to be a US citizen.

          Upcoming lectures include Steve Wozniak on December 10th. (woot!)

    • I had a lot of fun checking out the coal mine and playing with the packet switched-network simulator. Each node on the network is a little button that you can press to take down that node. Then you watch the packets (lights projected from the ceiling) swarm around and find a new route. The Internet exhibit even had a mention of the Free Software Foundation and the EFF.
    • Don't forget those really creepy slices of human cadavers in that one stairway (those still there?).

      Chicago has a lot of GREAT museums. Also check out the natural history museum too. Great stuff.

    • ... and while you're in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, you should also be sure to check the nearby birthplace of the "atomic age" [uchicago.edu] (location of the first controlled self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction; "Where the End of the World Began!" [metafilter.com] [this last link'll have to do since I couldn't find a picture of the t-shirt I'm referring to]). It's not far at all [yahoo.com].
    • Deutsches Museum (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ToteAdler (631239)
      The Deutsches Museum in Munchin, Germany was hands down the best museum I've ever been in. They have the perfect assortment of hands on exhibits and traditional exhibts. They range from computers (peices of ENIAC), to sound (rooms explaining sound and a gallery full of musical instruments) to trains, ships, and mining. When I was in the ship gallery they had a full size canal tug (I think, yes I'm a Naval Architect but everything gets fuzzy after awhile.) It had an opening to see the inside structure and engine. While I was looking at it an employee came and started the engine! This was in the middle of a museum. I could have spent the rest of the year in there but unfourtunatly I only had a day.
      http://www.deutsches-museum.de/e_index.htm
    • a complete scale model of all the railroad connections in Chicago...

      I wish. They have a nice model railroad, but it's far, far simpler than all the rail connections in Chicago. [dhke.com]

      The Museum of Science and Industry model railroad has been around for many decades. It was "modernized" in the 1980s by the Santa Fe Railroad. Modernization consisted of doing the same things the real railroad was doing during downsizing - all the passenger trains were discontinued, cabooses were replaced by end-of-train devices, most of the industrial sidings were abandoned, the retarder yard was downsized, and container cars were introduced.

  • Sorry, no personal suggestions for you, but I'm glad to see that others found that article as enlightening as I did. It's been years since it was written, and I still find myself thinking about it and recommending it to others. Neal is a truly gifted author.
  • by saskboy (600063) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:35PM (#4805526) Homepage Journal
    Canada Science and Technology Museum [nmstc.ca]

    I went twice this year, and it has everything from trains, to boats, to satelites.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:36PM (#4805532)
    I know somebody who travelled all the way from Washington State to Europe just to ride a Talgo train. He wasn't amused when I pointed out Amtrack runs Talgos on the route from Eugene OR, through Portland and Seattle to Vancouver, BC. Had he done five minutes of research he would have already taken his trip to Japan for their high speed train. Or he could have skipped Spain and rode the Chunnel train.

    People tend to look all over the world for what they want to see or experience without looking in their own city.

    • I'm from Europe + when I was hitchhiking through the US I did the usual touresty stuff around the White House etc.

      I hardly heard a single American accent in DC!
      People will trael the world but not look at what is on there own doorstep. (I'm sure I could say the same for most cities in the world)
      Incidently, the Musiums in DC are some of the best I've ever visited....

  • So you want to spend days travelling to places and see interesting engineering projects? Sheesh. I'd be happy if I had the time and money to just go somewhere.
  • by HillBilly (120575) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:37PM (#4805543)
    Don't just look at it walk across it. Walk over it! The tour guides know their stuff, they'll tell you lots of intresting things about its contruction: why it hasn't rusted away, how it supports itself, and how many rivets were used.

    Some of the best money I have spent.
    • and at $150 a pop, boy did you spend it!

      My favorite part is that they will not let you take your own camera up there, you must buy one of their pre-shot photos if you want something to remember it by.

      All in all, a complete scam, and a very large waste of money. Go to bennelong point instead, and imho you will get a much better view of the harbor anyway, free.
    • Don't just look at it walk across it. Walk over it! The tour guides know their stuff, they'll tell you lots of intresting things about its contruction: why it hasn't rusted away, how it supports itself, and how many rivets were used.

      You can walk across on the sidewalk for free, though it's a long way up and a long way down. Not as much technical detail, but the view can't be beat. The price is right too.

      On vacation last April I also hit the radio telescope at Parkes [csiro.au], and the Siding Spring Observatory [sidingspri...ory.com.au]. Much fun. Got some great pictures of The Dish [imdb.com].

      ...laura

    • I walked over it about '98 when it was $125 / person. Was definatly worthwhile - It's a 3 hour walk up and back, including about 20 minutes hanging around at the very top of the Arch. Not a spot for people with fear of wide open spaces.

      Basically You go up in a sealed all-over coverall with radio headset and Glasses have to be attached via a restraining strap. You are to a cleverly designed guide wire that runs the whole way along, leave from the underside, walk up the top of the Arch on the South East side, across the top, and back down the South West arch

      You should go now, because PM John Howard now has it guarded 24 hours a day 7 days a week due to 'terrorist threats' made against it.

      (Personally, I think the NSW Police force are worried someone's going to steal it, and have taken a leaf from the Ankh Morpork law Enforcement Handbook)
  • They have these facilities with huge high-speed centrifuges. They use them to make baby formula I think, but maybe they're interesting nonetheless.

    Just look out for white trucks with a 'UN' logo.

    • If you're serious about it, this [comebackalive.com] might be a great resource. Came in quite handy when I visited Iraq last year to smuggle nuclear material.

  • SIA ! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lt Razak (631189) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:39PM (#4805566)
    I would check out SIA [mtu.edu]

    A group of us used to do the same thing you mentioned, and we've been to their conferences and tours. One of our friends subscribed to all their newsletters and journals, and passed them around. The ads in there alone will point you to other organizations just like it. It's amazing.

    I smiled while reading your description of awe-inspiring marvels of the world. I must say that being able to run a 5K race on the Great Wall of China was most amazing experience I've ever had.

  • Three Gorges Dam (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Artagel (114272) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:39PM (#4805567) Homepage
    1) It is a huge, huge dam. Supposed to supply something like 10% of China's electricity.

    2) Unfortunately, the Three Gorges were an artistic inspiration for centuries of Chinese artists. They will be flooded, and their beauty lost. You can still see them pretty well now, but that won't be true for long.

    So that trip is a twofer.
  • by limekiller4 (451497) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:39PM (#4805568) Homepage
    Just a thought; why not get involved with a project you're interested in and make it your job. You might not get it, but there might be some positions that involve travel that you're qualified for.

    I don't know your personal situation, perhaps you have kids or something, maybe it is entirely out of the question. But if I had a nickel for every time someone suggested something "obvious" to me that I hadn't considered before...
  • A Few Ideas (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kalidasa (577403) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:41PM (#4805589) Journal
    Three Gorges Damn - before they close it up. Until then, it will be one of the most beautiful places in the world.
    Trans-Siberian railroad. Just because.
    Lewis and Clark Bridge, St. Charles, MO / Alton, IL. See the Nova special, Superbridge, first. And close to the Gateway Arch, too.
    WTC site. Damn, that thing took hits from two jetliners and it stayed up long enough to get most (not all, alas) of the people out?
    Sears Tower, Chicago.
    Assembly building at KSC.
    The list goes on and on.
    • Gee, that's a real Freudian slip, eh? Three Gorges Dam, obviously. And the other fellow with the better posting on it hadn't hit submit yet, I think.
    • Three Gorges Damn - before they close it up.

      "Before they close it"? Is that a euphemism for "Before the dam breaks, causing unbelievable amounts of damage and human suffering"?
  • Total Solar Eclipse (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nategasser (224001) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:42PM (#4805605)
    In August of 1999 I travelled from the US to Turkey to watch a total solar eclipse. The eclipse was fantastic, as was the subsequent travel around Turkey.

    It's science, not engineering, but I recommend it just the same. Find a good one here [nasa.gov] or here [nasa.gov]
  • Worth a visit....

    The website is here [sciencemuseum.org.uk]

    The geothermal electricity plants in New Zealand are pretty cool, they runs tours and stuff. You can also check the Echelon base at Waihopai while your there too ;-)
  • by puto (533470) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:48PM (#4805653) Homepage
    I am a techno geek but i have been to Machu Picchu and it was spectacular. Egpyt is next on my list as well as Japan.

    But it is good to see things that were built so well with so little technology that survive today. Attesting to human intelligence and cunning. Give you a real good perspective on the world we live in now.

    Much prettier than an IMAX movie, plus you are outside.

    I love technology museums but the Great Wall of China would be a good thing to stroll down with my lady(plus you geeks could get some choice hentai).

    I guess my point is check out something other than the electronic.

    Puto
    • The Great Wall is truly an impressive feat, and walking on it is quite fascinating/exhilirating/impressive. I would definitely go back.

      My only concern (and the reason that I have not visited Machu Picchu) is that a lot of the tourism is damaging the site(s), and very little of the money is going to preserving them. It's a real shame that these things last hundreds or thousands of years just for us to take a trinket home and destroy them.

    • Angkor wat (Score:2, Informative)

      by jez_f (605776)
      If we are going in this vein then I would have to suggest Angkor wat, in Cambodia. It has been described as one of the most amazing structures concieved by the human mind. For something more moddern you could try the petronas towers in Malaysia. Tallest buildings in the world, even if they only let you go up to the bridge. Or a bit closer to home (if you are in the US or Canida)is the CN tower and Gloden Gate bridge A bit closer to home if you are in the UK I would say Eden and the Faulkirk Weel, not to mention the london eye. All are great enginearing feets in their own right. I am sure you will get more replys that you can see in a lifetime so I will leave it there.
    • Machu Picchu is indeed spectacular. We got there one misty morning before the tourist bus (we'd overnighted in Agua Caliente) and that added to the experience. If you're in Peru, it's also worth taking a flight over the Nazca lines -- although all the steep turns over them to get a good look got everyone in the six-seater airsick except for the pilot and me (also a pilot).

      Dunno about the Egyptian pyramids -- the one time I went through Cairo airport my layover was about a half-hour too short to do the "bus to the pyramids, get out, look at them, back in the bus, back to the airport" quickie tour (which was about two hours, as I recall).
  • Malmö bridge (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jordanda (160179)
    The Malmö bridge that spans between Sweden and Denmark is quite a sight if you happen to be in Copenhagen. The best way to see it is to take a flight from SAS and look out the window, land and jump on your connecting flight.
  • "Is there anyone besides me who likes to travel and look at engineering projects? ... Does Slashdot have suggestions for destinations, or for web sites where people share their experiences."
    I've always thought the London Underground was a great engineering achievement... Fast transit, the fares are relatively cheap, and you get black nose hairs free of charge. :^)

    Other engineering achievements I'd recommend would be the Petronas Towers [skyscraper.org] in Malaysia (these are the tallest buildings in the world right now, and they have an interesting "bridge" between them); the Hoover Dam [usbr.gov] outside of Las Vegas, NV; and the Channel Tunnel [raileurope.com]. If you have a few million to spare, you could always contact Russia to visit the International Space Station [nasa.gov]. I'm sure other Slashdotters will think up many other sights to see...
  • Does Slashdot have suggestions for destinations

    Travelling around the world sure sounds interesting. But... if you stop for a moment, like right now, look at all the items in the room where you are right now. Pick a random item. I see a plastic coffee cup. Then travel in that cup. This one came from italy. It has been designed to provide some extra grip (there's some stripes in it) - there's plenty of tiny little neat things in it that have been developed to produce that very simple item. Then, think how that item reached your desk, how many steps and people have been involved in making that item transport from the manufacturing place to this desk...kids toys are good items as well, they have lots of design in it, many of them read "produced in taiwan" atleast in our case. :)

    Well, I guess this is the poormans version :) and maybe it's time to catch some sleep :)

  • Just got back from an 11-day vacation in Italy with my sweetie, and I took the time to stop into the above-mentioned museum. It's a little out-of-the-way place on the eastern side of the plaza where the Ufizzi gallery is, basically facing the Arno river. Inside is a huge collection of early astrolabes, thermometers, telescopes, and everything else that Florentine scientists of the 13th-18th centuries used, along with copious explanations. Be sure to pick up the English manual on the second floor (assuming you speak English and not Italian, though if you're reading this then that's a pretty safe bet).

    One particular item of interest: after Galileo died, some of his students managed to scavenge the middle finger of his right hand from the corpse when it was appropriated by the Church of the time. They preserved it, and today the remains of the finger are in a little bell jar in room 6, as I recall. The irony is that the item is arranged such that as near as I could tell, it's facing the Duomo (the major cathedral in Florence) where religious figures of the day... ahem. Let's just say that it's comforting to know that, evermore, Galileo gets to give the finger to the Church. :-) Amen.
  • Really. A lot of this stuff is just where you find it -- a lot of big companies do factory tours, mine tours etc. and the local tourist info places or AAA handbooks will tell you.

    I've done tours of uranium mining and milling operations, a day-long tour of Abitibi's forest products facility (from tree farm to pulp and paper mill) in northern Ontario, an iron mine in Minnesota, a (decommissioned) nuclear facility in Idaho, the Jack Daniels' distillery in Lynchburg, etc, etc -- all as side trips on touring around the country. Various conferences often have such side trips for the early arrivers before the first day of the official conference (I did a tour of the Boeing 747 assembly facility that way.)

    I suppose in this post 9/11 era some of this stuff might be scaled back, and even before that some of the more interesting stuff required an organized group and advanced notice for clearance (e.g. the NORAD facility in Cheyenne Mountain, which I've toured). Best bet if there's something you're interested in is to ask their Public Relations office.
  • Mind the Gap. (Score:2, Informative)

    I highly recommend the London Transport Museum, [ltmuseum.co.uk] but probably not for the reasons train buffs (railfans?) would suggest. It's a spectacular repository for historical graphic design . . . .

  • Boston's Big Dig (Score:3, Interesting)

    by domsol (17540) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:55PM (#4805704) Journal
    I've done both the bridge walk and the tunnel crawl (twice for the tunnel), and I have to admit that it's just about the coolest damn thing :)

    And I'm going to get to drive on it in a month. ENVY ME!
    • The Big Dig _is_ really cool, although right now it's just a major construction project that is not quite complete. One of its drawbacks is that most aspects of it will become available for use right at the same time. By now the project has been underway for over ten years, and although it is mostly finished, a relatively small amount of it is being used. It just worked out that way because each part of the project relies on the completion of other parts.

      Since this was such a huge undertaking, the state went all-out on the PR front. The practical upshot of this is an amazing web site that changes constantly and is always interesting to look at when you have some time to kill.

      http://www.bigdig.com [bigdig.com]
  • by spoonist (32012) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:56PM (#4805714) Journal
    The Boeing Everett Factory [boeing.com] (where they build the 747, 767, and 777) is absolutely awe-inspiring.

    The Hoover Dam [usbr.gov] is deceptively MASSIVE.

    The Eiffel Tower [tour-eiffel.fr] is a whole lot of iron!

    The Leaning Tower of Pisa [duomo.pisa.it] was actually quite terrifying before they put up the railings!! (Think about walking, 10 meters up, on wet, smooth-as-glass marble at like a 15 degree angle)

    The Pyramids [pbs.org] are one hell of an engineering feat!

    And, although not human engineering, my favorite has to be Uluru [ea.gov.au]. Yeah, it looks like just a big hunk 'o rock, but when you walk all the way around it, it's quite amazing how the hues change with literally every footstep.
    • I will second the Eiffel Tower. It is a whole lot bigger in person than it is in the pictures. When I visited Paris, I only got to the lower deck because it was too windy --- and that was a hell of a long way up.

      The entire tower's only 324m, but it's such an open structure that it makes you painfully aware of every metre of it. It was quite the most vertiginous thing I've ever done. I regret that I never made it to the top.

      By the way, I should point out that this year it's 105 years old. There are twelve states in the US that old...

    • If you call them, you can get a private hard-core hard-hat tour guided by on staff engineers through parts of the dam not on the tourist tour. Freaking amazing!!!!
    • Here are some more that I thought of:

      The most tempting tech I saw was an open access panel, revealing a ton of CAT-5, in the floor of Caesar's Palace [caesars.com] in Las Vegas. To paraphrase Homer Simpson: Hmmmmmm..... networked slot machines... I really would like to know what OS they run. :-)

      The USAF Museum [af.mil] has TONS of kick ass tech.

      Someone else mentioned walking the Sydney Harbour Bridge [bridgeclimb.com].

      The Grand St Bernard [grandsaintbernard.ch] and Chunnel [raileurope.com] tunnels are cool.

      The Roman Coloseum [teatrocolosseo.it] is very impressive, especially since you can now walk inside of it!

      Some way early tech: Stonehenge [amherst.edu].

      There's an awesome museum full of armor in Innsbruck [innsbruck.at], but I don't know its name.

      Oetzi [bolzano.net] has some cool old tech too (he looks like shiny beef jerky).

  • You might consider touring places where they make things that are really big (commercial airplanes, locomotives) and things that are really small (semiconductors, watches). To see the bleeding-edge stuff you may need to visit universities.

    Another location for really big stuff is strip mines; the Germans are big (pun intended) on really huge digging machines. Also, I believe the Chunnel between England and France has on display the equipment that drilled/dug it.

    The ultimate, of course, would be a trip to the Space Station (at the moment it's both the largest and the smallest space station). More reachable is a trip to Biosphere 2, in Arizona.

  • by Bowie J. Poag (16898) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:58PM (#4805736) Homepage


    The Titan Missile museum is the only one like it in the world -- A cold-war nuclear silo open for public tours. Setting foot on the premises before 1983 would have meant you would be shot on sight.

    The rocket is still in the silo, but its been drained of fuel and the warhead disarmed. Its connected to the control room by an enormous underground corridor build out of massively reinforced steel with giant springs the size of Volkswagons to absorb the shock of a nuclear strike.

    Back during the cold war, Tucson was #6 on the Soviet Union's list of strike targets due to the fact we have a major air base, and a rather large number of defense contractors. They built the silo like a couple hundred feet underground, anticipating that it would get hit by a nuke, and still function. The operator's chair in the control room is even mounted on springs and rails, to allow the guy to do his job in the event the facility got hit. You can even sit in the chair.

    The tour includes the actual control room where launch codes were recieved, and the infamous red button & code book are kept. You can even push it..Doing so before 1983 would have meant a couple million people would die.. :) Basically, the whole installation is exactly as it was the day it was made inactive by the SALT-II treaty. Its a fuckin *scary* place to visit, because you realize our own country has thousands of these things. And its huge -- The tour lasts about an hour, to cover the entire facility from control room to silo. All the Titan missles were backfilled with concrete, except for this one.

    The tour also requires you to wear a hard-hat. You'll need it. I hit my head on a friggin support girder. :) Admission is pretty cheap, only like $6 or so. The drive there is beautiful, as is the case with most of the Southwest.

    Cheers,
    Bowie
    • > The Titan Missile museum is the only one like it in the world -- A cold-war nuclear silo open for public tours. Setting foot on the premises before 1983 would have meant you would be shot on sight.

      Cool! (Sorry, I'm a sucker for Cold War History - might I also recommend The Bureau of Atomic Tourism"> as a vacation planning site?) [atomictourist.com]

      For the Bay Area, I recommend the nearby SF-88 Nike Missile Base [nikemissile.org]. During the 60s, this was the last line of defence against incoming bombers - the entire system was dismantled after the signing of the ABM treaty, except for one site that was kept (mostly) intact for historical purposes.

      Located just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, and open a couple of days a week, you'll get to stand on the launch platform and descend into the bay where the missiles were stored. When you're not standing on the platform, they can also raise the missiles into firing position.

      The tour guides are informed and geeky - when they detect a fellow geek, most will be happy to show off the gear they've restored. Lots of analog computers, vaccuum tubes, and frighteningly-high voltages. Be sure to ask how the computers worked. You'll be amazed at the engineering.

      > The tour includes the actual control room where launch codes were recieved, and the infamous red button & code book are kept. You can even push it..Doing so before 1983 would have meant a couple million people would die.. :)

      Likewise, the control vans at the Nike Missile Base feature a Button. Pushing said button before 1973, would have taken out a squadron of incoming Soviet bombers 100+ miles away with either a conventionally-tipped or nuclear-tipped warhead, saving several million people :)

      Less than two minutes down the road the launcher at SF-88L [acme.com], is a second Nike launch site - SF-87L [acme.com]. Better known as the Marine Mammal Center [www.marinemammalcenter], it now defends cute little seals and sea otters, and is also open to visitors daily.

      The hike up to the radar platforms at SF-87C [acme.com] is a bit long, but affords a wonderful view of the Marin headlands. (In addition to some of the best views in the Bay Area, the whole area is full of historical artifacts, including abandoned artillery emplacements from the Spanish-American War, through World War I and II.)

  • by waterford0069 (580760) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @06:02PM (#4805774) Homepage

    I designed my honeymoon around a trip to the east coast of Canada so that I could see the Confederation Bridge up close, take pictures for the engineers in my family, and drive over it.

    Of course I didn't tell my wife that. She saw it as an opportunity to visit the Anne of Green Gables tourist traps and see several historical sites in the area.

    I'd call that a win-win situation.

    However, I would like to visit the sites of some engineering failures. I would love to go and scuba dive on the old Tacoma Narrows Bridge (high currents and all).

  • I detest Montego Bay Jamaica as it has been destroyed be tourism, but it does have the best restaurant on the planet, "The Pork Pit". It is nothing but a circular open thatched roof bar with stool and a little outhouse lookin shack behind it. The menu? Simple, beer, pork (1/4, 1/2, and 1 lb) and hot sauce (and brother, I do mean HOT). The bury the hog and cook it the old fashioned way.

    Damn fine eating, you should try it some time.
  • Aerospace nuttiness (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Snarfvs Maximvs (28022) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @06:06PM (#4805811)
    In my trips to Arizona I've visited a number of fantastic places:

    The Titan Missile Museum (an old missile silo):
    http://www.pimaair.org/titan_01.htm

    I would love to buy the place and move in, userfriendly.org-style.

    It's companion, the Pima Air Museum, has tons of old aircraft including an SR-71 and JFK's Air Force 1. Be sure to hit the hangers:
    http://www.pimaair.org/

    They're both around Tucson.

    The Champlin Fighter Museum has lots of great WWII and WWI stuff:

    http://www.champlinfighter.com/ It's east of Phoenix, I think.
    • The Champlin Fighter Museum [champlinfighter.com] is in Mesa, which is in the eastern part of the Phoenix metro area. Another great aircraft museum is the USAF Museum [af.mil] in Dayton, OH at Wright-Patterson AFB. They have the only surviving XB-70 Valkyrie, an X-15, Apollo 15's command module and a whole wing just for Presidential aircraft that I didn't get a chance to visit.

  • Harbours and boats (Score:5, Interesting)

    by _Spirit (23983) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @06:08PM (#4805822) Journal
    Check out Rotterdam. Do a tour of the harbor by boat, I have done it a couple of times and it's very cool. You can see all kinds of boats, from tiny merchant ships to full size oil tankers. You might see oil platforms, all kinds of factories and the flood barrier that can close of the waterways in case of, well, floods. I think there are also some tours of the container terminals and oil refineries. A good place to start might be Industrial Tourism Rotterdam [rotterdam.nl] or Tourist Office Rotterdam [holland.com].

    Having been born there has nothing to do with my enthusiasm for the place ;-)

  • It's a shame (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sc2_ct (626188) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @06:11PM (#4805837)
    When I was out at Cape Cod I was driving with my father and we passed a sign that said "Marconi..." and we went back to read the sign. We ended up getting to go to the tower where the first trans-atlantic transmission occured. The place was almost completely destroyed. There were a couple of pieces of concrete, and that was it, except for a couple of plaques and a little model. We need to take more care of our technological history, or we may eventually lose it.
    • I used to work at an old bookstore in Boston and sometimes had to take packages over to the post office between Boston Common and Chinatown.
      One day I noticed a small plaque that mentioned that the telephone had been invented there. Made me sort of sad that all they did was put up a stupid plaque.

      Cheers,
      Jim
  • ..to rule them all, er, ^H^H, ^C.

    I mean, this one book contains most of the coolest structures in the world - I myself have based many trips around visiting some of the projects mentioned in this book. It's called "The Builders: Marvels of Engineering" Published by The National Geographic Society. There's a link here [ngbooks.org]

    Doesn't look like you can buy it on Amazon - my copy doesn't even have an ISBN number - so I think you can only buy it through Nat'l Geographic. Still, at $14.95, I wouldn't complain.

  • by Niles_Stonne (105949) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @06:12PM (#4805844) Homepage
    Unfortunately, these aren't highly technical places, but they are unique and fascinating.

    The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization(UNESCO) [unesco.org] has a list of 730 sites around the world [unesco.org] that they qualify as "World Heritage Sites" - sites that are one of a kind culturally significant locations. Things ranging from The Statue of Liberty [unesco.org] to Ancient Thebes [unesco.org], and lots of others. I'm sure many of the items listed in this slashdot discussion will also show up on the list. (The Great Wall of China [unesco.org] is there too)

    I try to visit at least one UNESCO World Heritage site on every trip I take. Many of the sites are fascinating for their architecture as well as their cultural significance.

  • by dagg (153577) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @06:12PM (#4805845) Journal
    I've yet to do it... but I might do it now that I found the link to it:
    You'll drive right over the top of the accelerator if you drive between San Francisco and San Jose via I280.
    • CERN in switzerland is definately worth a visit if you can get in, especially if you get to go down one of the pits to see an experiment. Imagine: a 27 km ring of of electrons going one way, positrons going the other and big science detectors (with 80 foot long magnets and the like) to look for interesting outcomes from the collisions. They do visits on saturdays, but I dont know the process for getting in them.

      I used to work there, it was quite a laugh. People still step back when I tell them I used to work in anti-matter containment.
  • Prediction (Score:2, Interesting)

    by r_j_prahad (309298)
    Join the U.S. armed services and you may soon be able to make a high-tech vacation to Baghdad to see some of their many engineering projects... and bomb them into rubble.
  • One of the best reasources if you're just looking to go somewhere that will impress you in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list [unesco.org]. I've been ot a fair number of the places on the list (one of my goals in life is to see them all), an not one has failed to impress me. The awe-inspiring beauty of many of the natural ones, and the engineering feats of many of the historic civilizations.

    Another thing always woth checking out is practically anyting by everyone's favourite engineer-who-wants-to-be-an-architect Santiago Calatrava [calatrava.com]. Personally, I love his bridges, but pretty much everything that he builds is beautiful in appeareance, design, and functionality.

    Or just go to Japan, get a JR-Rail Pass, and try to go on every type of Shinkansen in the system. And then spend you last day at an indoor ski hill.
  • How about looking at the ways that we get food from mother earth? I grew up in the country side of New Zealand, working on farms until I went to University.

    Then, I managed a trip to Taiwan, and discovered that they have some amazing ways of farming, and is the most productive place I've ever seen. There was a fair amount of smarts that went into all of that, and I'm sure you'd find something similar elsewhere.

    Joshua
  • Come check out Boston's Big Dig.
  • There's a great exhibit on the history of communication (early telegraph to modern times) at the Smithsonian American History museum here in DC. Highlights include two (two!) Enigma machines, several sections of UNIVAC, and a bunch of neat early telegraph/telephone stuff.

    It's a really well-designed exhibit, too--they put a lot of effort into tying the technology of the time to the culture of the time. The science exhibit right next door to it is also worth seeing, as is Julia Child's kitchen, just across the hall. Heck, the whole museum is worth seeing.

  • by gwernol (167574) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @06:22PM (#4805903)
    There are a number of fascinating museums and sites in the UK that chronical the industrial revolution. Start at Ironbridge [ironbridge.org.uk] which is literally where it all started - the first industrial scale ironworks were here. Also take in the National Railway Museum [nrm.org.uk] in York which details the rise and development of the railways. The Science Museum [sciencemuseum.org.uk] in London is a more general review of science and industry, but includes some fascinating exhibits on (mainly British) science of that time. Finally - representing an earlier pivotal period - is the Greenwich Royal Observatory [nmm.ac.uk] also in London that tells the story of the development of accurate clocks that allowed global navigation and exploration.

    The UK is full of historical sites of that era, when Britain lead the world in science and industry. A historically-inclined geek's paradise.
  • in baltimore's inner harbour ==>

    http://www.charm.net/~bmi/index.html

    most everything still runs (giant lathes, printing press, etc), and the tour guides are very knowledgable.
  • Along the lines of your Stephenson reference...
    I visited the French Cable Station Museum in Orleans, Cape Cod. It was really very interesting. This is a small museum in the original building where the first French trans-Atlantic submarine communications cable (laid in 1869) connected to the U.S. They have all of the orginal equipment used to send and receive communications, including one of the earliest (I presume) A to D converters which read to and from paper tape.

    There weren't many visitors in the museum, and the elderly gentlemen who volunteered there were extremely friendly and more than willing to give an extensive tour of the place and all the equipment. I'd recommend it if you find yourself in that area. As they might say up there, "It's wicked pissah!"

    A quick search did not reveal a website for the museum, but there is a bit about it here [atlantic-cable.com].

  • The Delta Works (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mvdwege (243851) <mvdwege@mail.com> on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @06:53PM (#4806157) Homepage Journal

    If you want to see some spectacular engineering, I suggest visiting the Delta Works in the Netherlands.

    The Delta Works are basically a series of projects, culminating in the flood control barrier in the Eastern Scheldt (Oosterscheldedam), to protect the lower areas of the Netherlands against flooding.

    The impetus to build them was the great storm of 1953, where a combination of storm and high tides flooded most of the coastal regions, claiming some 1800 lives. A decision was made to improve our already impressive flood defences.

    One problem turned up however: the Eastern Scheldt. This arm of the Scheldt delta was unique in terms of its environmental value, and also home to a very lucrative arm of the fishing industry (mussels and oysters). In order to protect both the environment and business, a decision was made to put in a flood barrier instead of a regular dam.

    At its time, the Eastern Scheldt flood barrier was the most technologically advanced piece of hydrological engineering in the world, and you'll still be hard pressed to find its equal now.

    The official URL [deltawerken.com] returns an error from where I'm sitting, but a Google search on "Delta Works" returns enough English-language sites to give you an idea.

    Bonus: most Dutchmen have a fair command of the English language, so getting around should be easy. I am also a native of the area that was hit hardest, so if you need a personal guide, just drop me an e-mail.

    Mart
  • How about Hawaii? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Idarubicin (579475) <allsquiet@hotmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @06:54PM (#4806161) Journal
    Believe it or not, Hawaii has a great deal to offer the scientist and engineer.

    For big engineering, there is Mauna Kea. Several of the world's largest telescopes, sprouting like mushrooms from the top of an extinct volcano. Cough up a hundred and fifty bucks or so and you get a guided tour of the summit, as well as a ride up from the coast. And parkas--even in August it's bloody cold up there. The sunset from the top is to die for, and you're almost always above the clouds. It's like the surface of the moon--no vegetation, just dust. The guided tours also usually stop on the way down at around 10,000' and set up a smaller scope for some observing and general stargazing. Very cool.

    This is science, not engineering, but you really should go snorkelling, or SCUBA diving if you have your papers. There's a lot of interesting life just about anywhere you get into the water.

    More biology: the smallest, least settled island at the end of the chain (Kaui) is mostly rain forest. See the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and hike through the forests. The Bali Ha'i scenes from the movie version of South Pacific were shot here. Very much worth the trip, since Aloha Airlines runs very inexpensive flights between the islands. (Don't forget to take pictures of Hickam AFB when you're flying into or out of Honolulu.)

  • > Is there anyone besides me who likes to travel
    > and look at engineering projects?

    Frederik Pohl, the great science fiction writer,
    for one. He recently published a book called
    *Chasing Science* which is a guide for people like
    you (and me).

    Fred describes himself as a "science fan" and
    he's fascinated with science and technology
    as spectator sports. He's visited labs, digs,
    observatories, volcanoes, museums, and historic
    sites. He also attends technical conferences.
    Good homework for a hard-SF writer, to be sure,
    but to Fred it's pure fun.

    In the book Fred describes some possible
    destinations, tells a lot of his science-tourist
    stories, and provides lists of places to visit.
    It would be a great gift for a kid who's gobbled
    up books about his favorite science topics and
    wants to find ways to learn more.

    By the way, I really liked the Stephenson article,
    too, but "hacker tourism" is scarcely new. Here's
    something I wrote when it was first published:

    http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=1996Dec3.1333 19%40fnald.fnal.gov&oe=UTF-8&output=gplain

    Summary: Charles Babbage did it, too.

    Bill Higgins
    Fermilab
  • Having lived there for a while, my main regret is that the only time I go is when visitors come out and we take them there. Amazing place - engineering, science, often a very nifty special exhibition, and completely hands on. Great geek place.

    Also in San Fran, although suspension bridges get kinda old, is the Golden Gate. Lots of fun to walk out and feel it sway underneath you as it literally just hangs there. Plus there's a piece of the cable down by the visitor's center - huge! - amazing. Plus great photo-op of the Bay and the Marin Headlands.

    Somebody already pointed out the Stanford Linear Accelerator that runs underneath 280, south of SF.
  • Things I've loved (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Normski (36090)
    The land reclaimation projects in Holland are engineering masterpieces.
    I lived about 15m below sea level and used to look up at ships travelling
    down the nearest canal. You've got to see the Zuiderzee [wikipedia.org]
    and the Rhine delta projects.

    The Oresund [longman.com.au] bridge between Denmark and Sweden is amazing,
    completed a couple of years ago it's 16km (~ 9 miles) long.

    Back in 1999 I took the train from Amsterdam to Beijing. I went thru Berlin,
    Minsk, St. Petersburg, Moscow, along the trans-Sib [geographia.com] to Irkutsk
    then south to Mongolia and into China. It took three weeks in all with a
    couple of days stops along the way. The Russian train stays on Moscow
    time the whole way thru. I had train lag getting off! It's the Trans
    Mongolian rather than the Trans Siberian and it's more interesting
    since you get to go thru Mongolia and end up in China.

    In China I went to the Great Wall of China, altho' it is impressive I wasn't
    blown away by it. I think I'd heard too much about it already. I only
    saw one section, if you followed it for thousands of kilometers then you'd
    respect the builders a hell of a lot more....

    The Cathederal [bawue.de] in Cologne is pretty impressive.
    The attention to detail is second to none, even in places no one would
    normally look.

    and a plug for home, the 5000 year old Megalithic Passage Tomb at
    Newgrange [knowth.com] in Ireland is awe inspiring. On the morning of
    the shortest day of the year, a shaft of light shines thru an opening
    over the entrance and fills the chamber inside. It's humbling to
    think that people were making those sort of claculations so long ago...
  • The Atomic Tourist.. (Score:2, Informative)

    by sotweed (118223)
    Check out http://www.atomictourist.com

    Someone suggested SLAC. I'd add to that Fermilab, in Batavia, Illinois, not too far from Chicago. They have a circular ring (4mi circumference, I think), and a buffalo herd to keep the grass short..
  • These places have some of the tallest buildings in the world. I am not sure how close you can get to the Three Gorges Dam west of Shanghai, which is one of the largest construction projects in the world. other interesting things in those countries too.
  • Always check out the local brewery. They usually have free (or cheap) samples, plus other cool memorabilia.
  • One of the most amazing engineering feats of the 20th century is the panama canal, which I recently experienced... as I just transited my sailboat through the canal system from pacific side to atlantic side. You can see the pictures here [wherescherie.com]

    -- Greg
  • by GoNINzo (32266) <GoNINzo@[ ]oo.com ['yah' in gap]> on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @08:31PM (#4806802) Journal
    I spent a week and a half in England, mostly to study different aspects of Alan Turing. I ended up going to Bletchley Park, where the Enigma code was broken. (And was the only American there.) I also went some very cool museums and saw some physics landmarks, it was a fun time. `8r)

    Find something/person you're interested in and do some research on them. Then maybe visit their old stomping grounds. There's a lot of interesting things in the world.

    If anyone else has interest in World War 2 and cryptography, take a trip to London and take the train an hour out to Bletchley Park for the day. It was well worth it for me. VERY cool stuff. `8r) (Oh, and don't point out you're american to the tour guide, or all he'll talk about how great those american chaps are. heh)

  • Parisian Sewers (Score:2, Informative)

    by citmanual (2002)
    This will never get mod'd high enough for anyone to see it... but, I lived abroad for a couple of years and toured all over Europe and S. Africa. Motorcycling the Pyrenees, drinking beer with elephants, and exploring the castles of Prague never could compare with the wonder of the Parisian sewers. Les Musee d' le Egouts, about a block from the Eiffel Tower takes you through a live working sewer. They had a ton of cool info on how during the 19th century London and other cities had the same thing.

    It was without a doubt the coolest thing I've seen thus far. And my female companion didn't even get disgusted. Mostly grey water from sinks and whatnot anyway.

  • Porthcurno has already been mentioned in passing, but deserves a post of its own. The C&W Museum of Submariine Telegraphy in Porthcurno, Cornwall is way cool. This is the spot where many of the international cables (but not the ones to the US) landed, and the facilities were move in WWII into tunnels blasted into the cliff. The museum is mainly in the tunnels, and is really neat.

    A bonus is that the cove and beach where the cables came in is really lovely, and there's a neat open-air theatre there (unfortunately, there were no performances when I visited. The whole area is beautiful, but the facility at Lands End is so commercialized that it's sure to disappoint.

    Two other geek holy places in the general area are the site of Marconi's first transatlantic transmitting station at Poldhu, and the Goonhilly Downs (hope I didn't screw up that name) satellite receiving site that BT runs. The tour at Goonhilly is pretty lame if you're technically inclined, but the field full of big dishes is a neat site. Poldhu has no tourist facility at all, just a stunning bluff, a monmument to Marconi, and a memorial ham radio club station (unfortunately unoccupied when I was there).

    Poldhu and Goonhilly are only a couple of miles apart, so you get an interesting sense of the old and the new in radio technology.
  • by Monkier (607445) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @10:01PM (#4807338)
    Very happy I dropped in on the Deutsches Museum in Munich, some very cool stuff in there.

    A geniune mine shaft [deutsches-museum.de] dug underneath the museum, that cronicals the modernisation of mining as you progress.

    Other highlights: technical toys [deutsches-museum.de], a BWM robot [deutsches-museum.de], and the the first jet aircraft to be produced in quantity the Messerschmitt Me 262 [deutsches-museum.de]

  • My list: (Score:3, Informative)

    by wowbagger (69688) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @10:04PM (#4807357) Homepage Journal
    1) Big Brutus [bigbrutus.org], in West Mineral, Kansas - the second largest electric shovel in the world, and (IIRC) the only one still in (more or less) one piece. If you are in Branson, MO you are a couple of hours out.

    2) The Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center [cosmo.org], Hutchinson, Kansas. See where Apollo 13 and Liberty Bell were restored, and (in a couple of months) watch them restore a V2 rocket (and even help them do it!). (While here, if it isn't Sunday, get directions to The Carrage Crossing restaurant).

    3) EBR-1 [inel.gov] the world's first breeder reactor, and the first reactor to make electric power, just outside Arco, Idaho (first city to be powered by nuclear power) (while here, you can go through Craters of the Moon National Park [nps.gov], one of the places that the Apollo astronauts trained. Stay in the DK inn, and you have a good chance of staying in one of the rooms they stayed in).
    4) The Very Large Array [nrao.edu], outside Socorro, New Mexico. While here, you could also go through White Sands National Park [nps.gov].
    5) The London Bridge V2.1 [golakehavasu.com] in Lake Havasu, Nevada, where the entire London Bridge was relocated to.
    6) The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial [nps.gov] a.k.a. The Saint Lewis Arch - there is quite a museum below the arch, and I found it mind-blowing to realize that Saint Lewis is an ocean port.
    7) Mount Rushmore National Park [nps.gov] - go through the Rushmore Borglum Story [rushmoreborglum.com] for how they carved it and the tricks Borglum used to make the faces look more alive. While there, stop by....
    8) Crazy Horse Memorial [crazyhorse.org] to see such a work being created.
    9) Mesa Verde National Park [nps.gov], near Cortez, Colorado, and Walnut Canyon National Monument [nps.gov], near Flagstaff, AZ, are great examples of how people can eake out a living and build a city where you wouldn't think anybody could survive.

    Of course, just look at The National Parks Service [nps.gov] website for all sorts of cool places to go.
  • Deutsches Museum (Score:2, Informative)

    by sparkmanC (93863)
    In Munich, Germany

    This museum is HUUUUUUGE!

    It has all sorts of industrial and technological
    artifacts and exhibits, from a viking warship to a long hall of exhibits that mix two chemicals to demonstrate the reaction.

    I've heard it would take you a year to see the whole museum if you spent a minute at each exhibit. But I had fun just visiting it for one day :)
  • by EnlightenmentFan (617608) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @10:17PM (#4807436) Homepage Journal
    In the US:
    • Boston area, I would recommend the Big Dig and MIT's AI lab. Both have occasional public tours.
    • Greensburg, Kansas [roadsideamerica.com] has a geek double-header. The world's largest hand-dug well, and the world's second-largest stony-iron meteorite
    • Lowell, Mass. has a ninteenth-century mill rigged up as a national park, very interesting tour.

    There are lots of great European geek sights, but labels are almost all in local languages. Some good ones:

    • Paris has a great display on techno-history of WW I and WW II at the Invalides, [paris.org] and a fine retrospective on military medicine [paris-touristoffice.com] near Port Royal metro stop. The Cite de Science et d'Industrie sounds good, but it's kid-stuff.
    • Berlin has a tiny "Zuckermuseum", which says slavery ended only because German chemists perfected beet sugar.
    • Vienna has a wonderful clock museum.
    • The Utrecht (Netherlands) University museum has fascinating "medical curiosities" going back to 1700s or so. Also, go up inside at least one windmill, you can really see how it works.
  • by Caractacus Potts (74726) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @11:24PM (#4807767)
    One way to select vacation destinations is to become an eclipse chaser. I've seen three total solar eclipses so far. Over the last several years, there have been eclipses over the Taj Mahal, the Galapagos, Hawaii, Africa, Australia, and Madagascar, for instance. The coolest one I saw was in the middle of a rainforest in Guatemala surrounded by scared sh1tless birds, monkeys, and Mayans. I hear one's going to be over Scotland next year (I think). Sounds good to me.

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