French magician Ivan Chabert was famous in the 19th century CE for his feats with heat: sitting in an oven, putting melted lead in his mouth, and bathing his feet in molten metal.
You’ve probably heard of tone deafness, the inability to distinguish small differences in musical tones. Some people have beat deafness: they don’t have rhythm.
Georges Méliès accidentally created 3D film in 1903, nineteen years before the première of the first deliberate one.
According to special relativity, something can happen both before and after something else – depending on the observer’s frame of reference.
Honey takes on the chemical properties of nectar gathered by bees. This fact turns out to be quite useful if you’re fighting the ancient Romans.
When the British colonise your country and exile your king, what do you do? If you’re a queen mother of the Ashanti Empire, you start a war.
The US Navy loves their abbreviations: JAG, SEAL, NCIS, SECNAV, USLANTFLT… but the best has to be ADCOMSUBORDCOMPHIBSPAC. The Soviets also loved their abbreviations: НИИОМТПЛАБОПАРМБЕТЖЕЛБЕТРАБСБОМОНИМОНКОНОТДТЕХСТРОМОНТ!
In 1941 Disney animators went on strike in an attempt to unionise. Walt Disney fought back with speeches, fists, firings, and Dumbo.
In simultaneous play, a chess master competes against multiple opponents at the same time. In 1951, International Master Robert Wade began such an exhibition match with 30 teenage schoolboys from Moscow. He would not win one game.
How do you measure ocean flow? One sverdrup equals a million cubic metres of water per second. All of the world’s rivers emptying into the ocean is 1.2 sverdrups; the largest current in the world is more than a hundred times larger.
In the late 17th century CE, Prince Rupert’s drops were some of the most confusing objects known to science: an extremely tough glass teardrop that will disintegrate if its tail is even slightly damaged.
The best dictionary entry in history appeared in some editions of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable: “Zymurgist (noun). Brewer. The last word in dictionaries.”
In ancient art from Europe to India a particular artistic motif frequently appears: a male or female figure grabbing two wild creatures, one in each hand. These are the Master and Mistress of Animals.
There are more than 300 sign languages in use in the world today. When signers of different languages meet, how do they communicate?
The Darb-e Imam shrine in Iran contains an early and exciting example of non-periodic tiling that was only mathematically appreciated five hundred years later.