Tiny warship, high-rise with a highway, the Jeopardy!-playing computer, The world's shortest street, and the Voyager gold disks

Today, we take a look at Ebenezer Place, Watson the AI system, the Voyager Golden Records, the smallest ships of the US Navy, and the Gate Tower Building.

The Gate Tower Building (ゲートタワービル, gēto tawā biru) in Fukushima-ku (in Osaka, Japan), that has a highway (an exit ramp of the Hanshin Expressway) passing through it. The fifth, sixth, and seventh floors of the 16-story office tower are hollowed around the elevated road (the two structures are actually not connected or even touching at all), while elevators, stairwells, and utilities are routed around the periphery. It seems that the unusual arrangement was a five-year compromise between the property owners and the corporation that developed the expressway, the former of which had a hard time getting a building permit in 1983, because of the planned construction of the highway.
Were I more juvenile, I would make a penetration joke. Wait...

The USS Moccasin was perhaps one of the smallest commissioned ships of the United States Navy, coming in at fourteen and a half feet in length. However, she was a tug commissioned in 1864, and as a support vessel, not usually regarded as a warship, which is an honor (probably) held by USS Dragon, a seventeen foot gunboat which saw action in the Civil War. There are many other contenders which range between 25 and 40 feet, mostly private motorboats leased during the world wars to serve as patrol boats. It's a bit funny, since the small motor launches on bigger ships (like the Iowa class battleships) were around fifty thirty to forty feet (EDIT: I wanted to note that my first number of fifty feet was gleaned from a planning study of the Iowas, and not actual production values. The original Iowas had launches just under thirty feet, and the 1980s refits gave them forty-foot boats). The current smallest, also patrol ships, are the Cyclone class, weighing in at 179 feet.
This photo of USS Betty Jane I (PC-3458) was probably taken while she was a private yacht.

We touched upon the Voyager probes last week, so it seems fitting to mention the Golden Records they carry. Because these probes have left the solar system, NASA figured that they could serve as a kind of "message in a bottle" on the remote chance they were encountered by an intelligent life form, and included the disks as a kind of time capsule message (Voyager I will come within one and a half light-years of AC+79 3888  in 40,000 years). While Pioneers 10 and 11 had small plaques that identified humans, they weren't serious attempts at communication. The records' contents include natural sounds, greetings in multiple languages, various bits of music (including Johnny B. Goode), human brainwaves, images of mathematical and physics quantities, the solar system, DNA, human anatomy, chemistry, and varied photographs of human culture. The cover includes a diagram of the phonograph record and the included stylus, as well as instructions (in binary) on speed, picture reconstruction of the images, a pulsar map that identified Earth's location, and a hydrogen atom diagram to be used as a timing benchmark. There is also a U-238 sample, which may help date the record (and unlike the controversial Pioneer plaque, no nude figures).

This is not a golden ticket that admits you to Wonka's factory, it's just the container the record was in.
NASA's explanation of what the diagrams mean.
The week before last, we we looked at Spreuerhofstraße, the world's narrowest street. Now, we can look at the world's shortest street, Ebenezer Place, in Wick, Scotland. At 2.06 m (6 ft 9 in) long, it simply connects two adjacent streets (Union and River). The building facing it (the only address on the road) was a hotel, and the owner was given the opportunity to name it in 1883, which the city recognized five years later. Looking at Google Maps, Union Street seems to terminate right by Ebenezer without connecting to Cliff Road any longer, meaning that Ebenezer Place is simply a stretch of that longer road now.

If you've watched Jeopardy! in the last few names, you are probably familiar with the names Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter (the longest longest championship streak and the biggest all-time money winner, respectively). If you watched on February 14th, 15th, and 16th, then you watched them get trashed by Watson, an invention of IBM. The only non-human to ever play the game show, Watson can be described as a computer, software, artificial intelligence; but I will use the term "system" to avoid implying it is a mere computer, mere program, or actually capable of thought. Watson's programming analyzed the answer and clue, then searched its 4 terabyte database (it wasn't connected to the internet during the show, but did previously download the entirety of Wikipedia) for the question. It would estimate its confidence in the possible responses, and then buzz in if the risk was worth the money, demonstrated by its unusual wagers. Ending the three-day exhibition with $77,147 (versus Jennings's $24,000 and Rutter's $21,600), IBM donated the million dollar prize to charity, and its human runners-up followed suit. It also played an unaired exhibition on the 28th against five members of Congress, coming in second place in one round to Representative Rush Holt (a former contestant of the show), but still winning $10,000 more than the other contestants combined in the end. For the record of each question and answer, look to J! Archive: game 1, game 2, and game 3.
Photo of our future robot overloard provided by CNN

Today has a related bonus. I've mentioned Sporcle on the first GeekDump, but it seems there is now a quiz on the topic of Wikipedia's lamest edit wars. Happy reading!

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