In 1980 three men placed a bomb packed with 450kg of dynamite in a Nevada hotel, hoping to collect a three million dollar ransom.
The historian A. Roger Ekirch has argued that in Medieval Europe, and in many places prior to the Industrial Revolution, people would habitually wake up for an hour in the middle of the night.
When a human dies, they go through several distinct stages. In order: pale, cold, stiff, mottled, putrefied, decomposed, skeletonized.
Leia and Luke crash land on Mimban, are arrested by stormtroopers, fall in with a pair of drunk aliens, escape, float on giant lily-pads, then chop off Darth Vader’s arm. This is the official 1978 novel sequel to Star Wars.
In 1946 Simeon II, the last person to bear the title “tsar,” was deposed and exiled from Bulgaria. Fifty years later, he returned and was elected prime minister.
Samuel Beckett wrote one of the shortest performed plays in the world on the back of a postcard. The first staging still managed to mess it up.
A tree in New Zealand grows downwards-facing spikes for the first 15 or 20 years of its life; this is thought to be a remnant defence against gigantic now-extinct birds.
Want to be on the radio? Try saying this first: “The seething sea ceased to see, then thus sufficeth thus.”
Several bird species have been implicated in the spread of wildfire in Australia.
The sci-fi author and pacifist H. G. Wells invented one of the first miniature war games.
Most stars are part of galaxies, but some are hurled out of their usual orbits by supernovae, galactic collisions, and black holes. These are the runaway stars, some of the fastest stars known.
In 1917 a 2,200-strong posse kidnapped 1,300 striking miners from Bisbee in Arizona, loaded them into trains, and sent them to New Mexico. The sheriff then sealed off all the entrances to Bisbee and began purging the town.
Three people can lay claim to being the first person born in Antarctica: the first born in Antarctic waters, the first born on an Antarctic island, and the first born on the Antarctic mainland.
When he arrived in London in 1850, Obaysch was the first hippopotamus in Europe for more than a millennium.
There is a courtyard gallery in the Palazzo Spada in Rome that is designed to fool the eye. It looks like it should be 37 metres long, but in fact it’s only 8 metres in total.