I come across a lot of ideas that are interesting. This is the list, sometimes with links.

Sir John Bennet Lawes

FRS (December 28, 1814–August 31, 1900) was an English entrepreneur and agricultural scientist. He founded an experimental farm at Rothamsted, where he developed a superphosphate that would mark the beginnings of the chemical fertilizer industry.

John Bennet Lawes was born at Rothamsted in modern-day Harpenden near St Albans, Hertfordshire, the only son of John Bennet Lawes, owner of the Rothamsted estate of somewhat more than 1000 acres (4 km²) and lord of the manor of Rothamsted. He was educated at Eton College and at Brasenose College, Oxford. Even before leaving Oxford in 1832, Lawes had begun to interest himself in growing various medicinal plants on the Rothamsted estates, which he inherited on his father’s death in 1822. About 1837 he began to experiment on the effects of various manures on plants growing in pots, and a year or two later the experiments were extended to crops in the field. One immediate consequence was that in 1842 he patented a manure formed by treating phosphates with sulphuric acid, and thus initiated the artificial manure industry. In the succeeding year he enlisted the services of Joseph Henry Gilbert, with whom he carried on for more than half a century those experiments in raising crops and feeding animals which have rendered Rothamsted famous in the eyes of scientific agriculturists all over the world. In 1854 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, which in 1867 bestowed a Royal Medal on Lawes and Gilbert jointly, and in 1882 he was created a baronet.

In the year before his death Lawes took measures to ensure the continued existence of the Rothamsted experimental farm by setting aside £100,000 for that purpose and constituting the Lawes Agricultural Trust.

Tera Preta

The story goes that in 1542, while exploring the Amazon Basin near Ecuador in search of El Dorado, Spanish conquistador Francisco de Orellana began checking the area around one of the Amazon’s largest rivers, the Rio Negro. While he never found the legendary City of Gold, upon his return to Spain, Orellana reported the jungle area held an ancient civilization — a farming people, many villages and even massive, walled cities.

Later explorers and missionaries were unable to confirm Orellana’s reports. They said the cities weren’t there and only hunter-gatherer tribes roamed the jungles. Orellana’s claims were dismissed as myth.

Scientists who later considered Orellana’s claims agreed with the negative assessments. The key problem, they said, was large societies need much food, something Amazonia’s poor soils are simply incapable of producing. And without agriculture, large groups of people are unable to escape a nomadic existence, much less build cities.

The properties of terra preta are amazing. Even thousands of years after creation, the soil remains fertile without need for any added fertilizer. For those living in Amazonia, terra preta is increasingly sought out as a commodity. Truckloads of the dark earth are often carted off and sold like potting soil.

Chock-full of charcoal, the soil is often several meters deep. It holds nutrients extremely well and seems to contain a microbial mix especially suited to agriculture.

Thus far, despite great effort, scientists have been unable to duplicate production of the soil. If researchers can ever uncover the Amerindians’ terra preta cocktail recipe, it will help stop the environmentally devastating practice of slash-and-burn agriculture in the Amazon jungle. Terra preta’s benefits will also be exported across the globe.

Famagusta, Cyprus

During the second phase of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus of 14 August 1974 (referred to by Turks as the Cyprus Peace Operation), the Mesaoria plain was overrun by Turkish tanks and in two days the Turkish Army was in Famagusta. The town had been completely evacuated by its Greek population who fled before the invading army and after the town had been bombed by the Turkish air force.

Unlike other parts of Turkish-controlled Cyprus, the Varosha section of Famagusta was sealed off by the Turkish army immediately after being captured and remains in that state today. The Greek Cypriots who had fled from Varosha were not allowed to return, and journalists are banned. It has been frozen in time with department stores still full of clothes, now many years out of fashion, and hotels empty but still fully equipped. Swedish journalist Jan-Olof Bengtsson, who visited the Swedish UN battalion in Famagusta port and saw the sealed-off part of the town from the battalion’s observation post, called the area a ‘ghost town’. He wrote in Kvällsposten on September 24, 1977),

“The asphalt on the roads has cracked in the warm sun and along the sidewalks bushes are growing [...] Today, September 1977, the breakfast tables are still set, the laundry still hanging and the lamps still burning [...] Famagusta is a ghost-town.”

Turkish Cypriots continue to live north of Varosha, especially in the walled city. These sections of Famagusta remain vibrant with many fascinating buildings. The city is also home to the Eastern Mediterranean University.

Night soil

is a euphemism for human feces. “Night soil” is produced as a result of a waste management system in areas without community infrastructure such as a sewage treatment facility, or individual septic disposal. In this system of waste management, the human feces are collected in solid form.

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