In 1859 a geomagnetic storm from the Sun knocked out telegraph equipment in Europe and North America and sent auroras almost as far as the equator; it was the largest such event in recorded history.
Benedict IX has to be one of history’s strangest popes. He was one of the youngest popes ever appointed, he was the pope on three non-consecutive occasions, and he’ll go down in history as the only pope to ever sell the papacy.
The speed-limit skirt; the millions of dresses made out of feed sacks; the chair designed to be torpedo-proof; and who was actually sticking a feather in their hat and calling it macaroni anyway?
The Japanese government’s secret volcano; the capital city destroyed by a volcano in 1997; the eruption that killed the creator of one of the first encyclopedias; a volcano disrupted world weather in 1808, but we have no idea which one it was.
Iron Eyes Cody portrayed Native American characters in more than 200 films and the famous “Crying Indian” TV ad. Red Thunder Cloud and Jamake Highwater presented themselves as experts on Native American culture. None of them were actually indigenous.
Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse led a French scientific expedition around the Pacific; in 1788 it disappeared without a trace. A young Napoléon Bonaparte almost went with him.
Many moons, dwarf planets, comets, and trans-Neptunian objects are covered in a kind of complex chemical sludge sometimes called “tholins.” And this sludge may be much more common throughout the universe.
Naff, butch, camp, and zhoosh are slang terms that came out of Polari, an argot from early 20th century English gay subculture.
A prehistoric pot found in Poland and a wooden slab pulled out of a Slovenian marsh are the earliest evidence of wheels in Europe.
The human chain across the Baltic states; the 1746 Scottish kilt ban; legislators and slumlords in 19th century New York battling over windows and sunlight; when the dictator of Portugal was removed from office no-one told him for two years.
The tomb of Meketre contained wooden dioramas of ancient Egyptian life; Ozymandias was a redhead; Ramesses III fought off an invasion by the mysterious Sea Peoples, and was then murdered by a conspiracy of magicians, physicians, butlers, and his wife.
Within the Luray Caverns in Virginia, United States, is an electric organ made of stalactites. It literally makes rock music.
In 1917 Bolsheviks stormed the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg. Three years later, more than a thousand actors, circus performers, and ballet dancers stormed it again.
A quine is a computer program that outputs its own source code. An entrant in the 1994 International Obfuscated C Code Contest created the smallest quine possible.
The Ethiopian and Coptic Orthodox Churches hold that Pontius Pilate, the governor who condemned Jesus Christ to death, later converted to Christianity himself, and they revere Pilate as a saint.
The Birmingham Dribbler was one of the earliest model train toys. Powered by steam, it leaked water everywhere and caused fires when it fell over.