When the City of Oslo demolished Gustav Vigeland’s house, they offered him a new one. In exchange, he promised all of his future artwork to the city. For the next twenty years he created 212 remarkable sculptures.
In 1596, German astronomer David Fabricius noticed a star that seemed to appear, disappear, and then reappear months later. It was unlike anything seen before: not a supernova, not a pulsar, but something new – Mira, the miracle star.
Up until the 1980s, scientific consensus held that stomach ulcers were caused by stress and spicy food. Australian scientist Barry Marshall thought differently, and to test his theory he drank a cup of bacteria.
Is modern thought more advanced than the Greeks and Romans? Most people fall on the side of “duh, of course,” but in 16th century France the debate between the Ancients and the Moderns was fierce.
Three minutes of chess, then three minutes of boxing, then back to chess. Of all the hybrid sports out there, this might be my favourite.
A government that employs soft power aims to coerce rather than control – to build influence with other nations through non-violent means. For the government of Thailand, this approach includes restaurants.
Sailing around the end of South America, you steer around what you think is Cape Horn. But instead of open ocean there’s a surprise island dead ahead. You’re about to be shipwrecked thanks to the False Cape Horn.
In the early 17th century, the German artillery master Franz Helm suggested attaching a bomb to the back of a cat, in the hope that it would run into a fortified town and set it on fire. This sounds like a terrible idea.
News flash: Jesus Christ didn’t die on the cross; instead, he fled to Siberia and then on to Japan. Don’t believe me? Well, go visit the Tomb of Jesus in Shingō, talk to some of his descendants, and then tell them they’re wrong.
Olivier Messiaen was one of the most prominent classical composers of the 20th century, and his most famous work – the Quartet for the End of Time – was first performed in a POW camp in Germany.
NASA famously freeze-dried ice cream so that astronauts could enjoy it in space. But this method of food preparation actually dates back hundreds of years: the South American chuño, or freeze-dried potato, remains edible for decades.
102 years ago, a tiny junior college was founded in Deep Springs Valley in eastern California. Despite having under 30 students at a time, alumni have received three MacArthur “genius grants,” two Pulitzer Prizes, and an Emmy award.
For a period of about four thousand years, during the Neolithic Subpluvial, the Sahara was green. Rivers, lakes, trees, savanna, and pre-historic societies flourished in this wet period.
Most people know that smallpox was the first disease that we have completely eradicated in the wild. But what was the second, and what does it have to do with Egyptian plagues, measles, and cattle?
From 1878 through to his death in 1934, Willy Clarkson was king of the wigmakers of London. He provided disguises to Scotland Yard (and was rumoured to have supplied Jack the Ripper also), theatre actors, and Virginia Woolf.
Can mathematics be beautiful? Mathematicians often describe proofs in aesthetic terms – they are elegant, sublime, ineffable; in a word, they are beautiful.