The Men Who Claimed to Own Outer Space

NASA/Getty Images
NASA/Getty Images

On July 20, 1969, after more than a decade of feverishly competing against the Russians, NASA ended the space race and pulled off one of the most incredible scientific achievements of all time: They put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon, with Michael Collins attending from nearby.

Its one-time owner, A. Dean Lindsay, probably would have considered the feat trespassing.

In 1937, Lindsay turned up at a Pittsburgh Notary Public’s office with documents declaring that he owned “the property known as planets, islands-of-space or other matter, henceforth to be known as ‘A.D. Lindsay’s archapellago [sic].’” He omitted Earth from his claim, apparently reasoning that it belonged to everyone who called it home. And though he originally left Saturn and the moon for other enterprising intergalactic real estate moguls, Lindsay soon took those, too, submitting separate claims for each.

He sent his documents, and payment for officially recording his claims, to the clerk of the Superior Court in his hometown of Ocilla, Georgia. It's not clear what the clerk thought of the claims, but they were duly recorded on June 28, 1937.

Lindsay included “improvements, ways, waters, water courses, rights, liberties, privileges, hereditaments and appurtenances ... and the revisions and remainders, rents, issues, and profits thereof; and all the estate, right, title, interest, property, claim and demand whatsoever, in law, equity or otherwise, howsoever, of, in and to the same and every part thereof” of his lands, but he didn't claim the outer space surrounding the moon and other celestial bodies he claimed to own. Those areas were snapped up in 1948 by James T. Mangan, a self-help guru who declared all of outer space, minus the celestial bodies, the “Nation of Celestial Space,” or “Celestia.” He presented his “Charter of Celestia” to the Recorder of Deeds and Titles of Cook County, Illinois, who was initially flummoxed but eventually entered the charter into the record. Mangan even applied for membership in the United Nations, but was denied.

Mangan and Lindsay’s ownership claims were both thwarted when the Outer Space Treaty entered into legal force in 1967. The treaty declared that space is free for all nations to explore, and sovereign claims cannot be made.

Still, the treaty didn’t stop Dennis Hope from deeming himself the “omnipitant [sic] ruler of the lighted lunar surface” in 1980. He claimed—via a “Declaration of Ownership” sent to the U.S., the USSR, and the UN General Assembly—our moon, plus the other eight planets and their moons. Unlike Lindsay, who refused to sell even a square inch of his “land,” Hope’s sole stated intent is to cash in by selling parcels of his galactic property. As of 2013, he said he had sold 611 million acres on the moon, 325 million acres on Mars, and a combined 125 million acres on Venus, Io, and Mercury.

Hope says the 1967 Outer Space Treaty doesn’t apply to his case because it prohibits claims by nations, not individuals. But Tanja Masson-Zwaan, president of the International Institute of Space Law, told National Geographic in 2009 that the treaty prohibits claims by both nations and private citizens. “What [Hope] is doing does not give people buying pieces of paper the right to ownership of the moon,” she clarified.

The moon and the planets aren't the only celestial bodies that have been claimed. A 2015 law signed by President Obama attempted to carve out at least one area where individuals can claim rights in outer space: asteroids. According to the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, “any asteroid resources obtained in outer space are the property of the entity that obtained them.” However, other countries—citing the 1967 Outer Space Treaty—say those rights aren’t the United States’s to give.

All of this space appropriation would have been entirely unwelcome news to A. Dean Lindsay, who was thoroughly convinced that he had obtained sole ownership of all of it. “Can you believe it?” he wrote in a letter to a friend in the 1930s. “That I own the Moon and the Sun, the stars, the comets, meteors, asteroids—everything, everywhere beyond this world?”

Astrophysicist Developing Face-Touching Warning Necklace for Coronavirus Gets Magnets Stuck Up His Nose

Nothing good can result from shoving things up your nose. One astrophysicist learned that the hard way.
Nothing good can result from shoving things up your nose. One astrophysicist learned that the hard way.
RusN/iStock via Getty Images

History is full of innovators who have suffered for their ingenuity. Thomas Midgley, Jr., for example, was struck with polio and developed a pulley system to help get himself out of bed. He was strangled by the contraption. Henry Smolinski thought he had a viable prototype for a flying car made from a Ford Pinto in 1973. A wing fell off and killed him.

All things considered, Daniel Reardon got off easy. He only had to have magnets professionally removed from his nose.

Reardon, an Australian astrophysicist, is one of many innovators attempting to assist in the coronavirus pandemic. According to The Guardian, Reardon was in the process of designing a necklace that could alert the wearer when they were in danger of touching their face, one of the primary methods of transmission for viral illness. His idea was to have magnets worn on wrists that would activate a circuit on the necklace.

But then Reardon realized the electronic field in the necklace only completed its circuit without a magnetic field, meaning it buzzed constantly. Having failed in his task and growing bored, Reardon decided to play with the powerful neodymium magnets, clipping them to his earlobes and then his nostrils. This, he said, is when things went “downhill.”

When Reardon removed one set of magnets from outside his nostril, the remaining magnets inside his nose were attracted to one another. Reardon then used more magnets to try and remove them, expecting the outside pull would negate their attraction on the inside of his nose. Unable to control them, he soon found himself with multiple magnets lodged in both nostrils.

After realizing pliers only made the problem worse—they were attracted to the magnets—and that he had failed to achieve his goal of not touching his face, Reardon went to the hospital, where all of them were removed. (One nearly fell down his throat, but he managed to cough it up.) Doctors made an informal diagnosis of self-inflicted injury due to isolation and boredom.

Neodymium magnets are typically sold with cautions, as they are strong enough to “leap” toward each other from several inches or even several feet apart. Though they do not often come with explicit warnings not to shove them inside your nose, it's best avoided.

[h/t The Guardian]

Canadian Man Named Lorne Grabher Stripped of His Right to Have a ‘GRABHER’ License Plate Is Appealing the Court’s Decision

Lorne Grabher shows off his forbidden license plate.
Lorne Grabher shows off his forbidden license plate.
CBC News, YouTube

For about 25 years, Nova Scotia, Canada, was home to a vanity license plate emblazoned with “GRABHER.”

Lorne Grabher had given it to his father as a 65th birthday gift in 1991, and it eventually passed to Lorne himself. Anyone who knew the Grabhers no doubt recognized the last name, but the same couldn’t be said for one passerby, alarmed at what seemed like a blanket imperative for abduction and assault. In November 2016, the anonymous individual filed a complaint with the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, who informed Grabher that his plate would be revoked the following month.

Grabher, proud of his Austrian-German heritage and outraged at what he considered to be a violation of his rights, sued the Registrar. This past January, CBC News reported that the Nova Scotia Supreme Court sided with the Registrar, ruling that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not extend to this particular situation.

“The seven letters (‘GRABHER’) on a government-owned license plate can be interpreted as promoting sexualized violence (without full contextual information),” the court stated in its decision. “Preventing harm that could flow from such a message on a government plate must be seen as pressing and substantial.”

Though disappointed with the outcome, Grabher was determined to continue the fight, even if that meant taking the case all the way to Canada’s Supreme Court.

“I’m not giving up,” he told CBC News in January. “I’m in it for the long haul.”

True to his word, Grabher is now filing an appeal through his lawyers at Calgary’s Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms on the grounds that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does, in fact, cover personalized license plates, and there is no evidence to suggest that Grabher’s plate actually promotes sexualized violence [PDF].

While you wait for the next chapter of this epic battle of wills to unfold, check out 11 other controversial license plates here.

[h/t CBC News]

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