Biomedical research uses immortal cell lines such as HeLa to test treatments and examine biological mechanisms. But sometimes those cell lines are not what everyone thought: they have been invaded.
The farcical elections of North Korea; the electoral candidate who was the only one on the ballot, won a quarter of a million votes, and still lost; the electoral error caused by cosmic rays; and the ridiculously circuitous election of the Doge of Venice.
In the mid-20th century, Austin Wiggin’s mother predicted that her son would have daughters, and those daughters would form a famous band. He did, and they did, in the most surprising way possible.
Laika, the first space dog, died in orbit. But the next two – Belka and Strelka – survived. One of Strelka’s puppies was gifted to John F. Kennedy… but not before it was fully scanned for secret listening devices.
On December 9, 1968, a team led by computer scientist Douglas Engelbart ran a 90 minute tech demo at a San Francisco conference. This “mother of all demos” introduced the world to the computer mouse, windows, hypertext, and collaborative document editors.
During the December 2001 riots in Argentina, the country went through five presidents in just two weeks.
A large enough kite can lift someone off the ground. So, of course, several inventors and aeronauts tried to find a military application for such man-lifting kites.
The oldest drinkable wine in the world; the oldest living rose in the world; why we had to leave the Earth to find the oldest Earth rock; and the oldest river that still flows.
Several mammals, including rodents and bears, hibernate over the cold winters. But at least one bird does so as well.
Every Indian flag in India is made in one small south Indian village.
In the 1960s and 1970s, both the United States and the Soviet Union explored “peaceful” applications of nuclear weapons: excavating earth for lakes and canals, geological research, and extinguishing gas well fires.
Habeas corpus formally entered English law because of a parliamentarian’s fat joke in 1679.
Tiny Broadwick was the first person to intentionally jump out of a flying airplane without being tethered to something.
The Quran contains several mysterious letters, no-one is quite sure why; the Islamic concept of moderation, expressed as “best, middle, centred, balanced”; the order of chapters in the Quran; and the cats of Islam.
The calendar date February 30th has happened just once in history: in Sweden in 1712.
The US state of Nebraska is landlocked; all the states around it are also landlocked; and all the states around them are also landlocked. And yet, the Governor of Nebraska can grant residents the honorary title of Nebraska Admiral.
The Japanese kotatsu combines a table, a heater, and a layer of comfortable blankets.