Interstate 19 is a highway running from the Tucson, Arizona to the Mexican border. It is unique among American highways: the signs are in metric.
In 1924 Nikolai Vavilov, a Russian / Soviet scientist, identified the geographic regions where crops were first domesticated: the Vavilov Centres of Diversity.
What are the practical limits of computation? Hans-Joachim Bremermann theorized a computer the size of the world, as old as the world. It could process 10^93 bits.
Where do old spacecraft go to die? Into a graveyard orbit, or into the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Continents move – we know this. The Atlantic is growing thanks to the expansion of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. But in the future the ridge may start subducting. And with it, the Atlantic may become an inland sea.
In the 1930s there was a reliable and accurate way to find out if you were pregnant or not. But you had to kill a rabbit.
The hobble skirt was an unfortunate fashion trend in the early 20th century. Women’s skirts were tied very tight at the hem, preventing them from running or even walking fast – hence the nickname “speed-limit skirt.”
Mammals make milk – it’s one of their defining features. But certain birds (including pigeons, doves, and albatrosses) do as well.
“That that is is that that is not is not is that it it is” – add punctuation, and this sentence transforms from babble to sense. But, depending on which punctuation you add, it can make four different sentences.
After years of toil and study, the Seven Wardens call you to attend a sacred ritual. At that ceremony, you swear a secret vow and are awarded a ring of iron. Classical cult? Medieval guild? Nope, you’re now a Canadian engineer.
Everyone in Japan knows that people with Type AB blood are creative, intelligent, and untrustworthy. Wait, what?
In the long history of war, there are almost no conflicts between cavalry and navy. But in 1795, there was. And the cavalry won.
In the early 1970s, Frede Møller-Kristensen stole US$50 million worth of rare books from Denmark’s Royal Library – it was one of the most expensive book thefts in history. He was eventually caught, but only because he died.
Trees first evolved some time in the Devonian and Carboniferous periods. Before trees, the largest organisms on land were Prototaxites. A metre wide, eight metres high … and a fungus.
The Taiwanese legislature has a bit of reputation for violence. I’m not talking about bad words here, but actual fists flying, hair pulling, biting, and headbutts.
In 1992, an earnest New York Times reporter asked Megan Jasper, a former receptionist for Sub-Pop Records, for slang used by the nascent grunge scene. There was no such slang… so she made it up. And they printed it.