In the 1950s, as part of the nuclear energy craze, gardeners exposed seeds or seedlings to gamma radiation in order to induce beneficial mutations. In the UK, seeds were mailed out to enthusiasts to grow. Many of the plants died, or got weird growths, as you would expect. Some, however, thrived.
Prior to standardization, the measurement of length designated “the foot” was a different size depending on which country or region you were in. Notable variants included the Prussian foot, the Rijnland foot (which became the Cape foot used in South Africa), and the Chinese mathematician’s foot.
Georges Perec wrote a 300 page novel without using the letter ‘e’. It’s a mystery, of course: friends gather at a country manor, but one of their number (A. Vowl) is missing. The title of the book is itself a pun: A Void.
Farmers remove weeds from their crops. But they miss the weeds that look like crops. Over time, these weeds come to mimic the crops around them. And in some cases, they become crops themselves.
In World War I, the major front for the Italians – in alliance with the Allied powers – was the Isonzo River, between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Over the course of three years they fought twelve major battles for control of this area, now known as the First through Twelfth Battles of the Isonzo. Half of the Italians that died in the war died here.
Since the 19th century, the “most significant and worthy” actor in the German-speaking theatre world carries the Iffland-Ring.
Jacques Collin de Plancy’s 1818 book Dictionnaire Infernal contained a list of demons, part of a long tradition of grimoires and demonology texts. What made it stand out were the illustrations.
Inge Lehmann analysed seismographs from large earthquakes (in particular the 1929 Murchison earthquake in New Zealand) and concluded that the Earth must have a solid inner core. She was right.
How do you grow a pizza? On a pizza farm.
One of the Dead Sea Scrolls is a treasure map.
Dice chess is a Medieval variant of chess in which you roll dice to determine which pieces you are allowed to move.
On Christmas Eve 1971, a plane out of Lima crashed into the Amazon rainforest. Ninety-one people died, but one survived.
Shakespeare is a programming language designed to look like one of the bard’s plays.
The Great Wall of Gorgan in Iran is 195km long, making it the second-longest wall in history behind the Great Wall of China. Built by the Sasanian Empire in the 5th or 6th Century to keep out (probably) the White Huns, medieval tradition also connects it with Alexander the Great and his legendary Caspian Gates.
Traditionally, the bodily remains of saints are venerated as relics. But Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, which means no bodily remains… er, remain. Except for one.