In March 1940 two physicists wrote a top secret memo describing, for the first time, just how to make an atom bomb.
The origins of the modern piggy bank are lost to history, but the oldest extant piggy bank comes from 12th century CE Java.
What would a country look like without banks? In 1970, all the banks in Ireland closed for half a year. In response, the Irish people set up their own exchange systems centred on (of course) pubs.
In November 1974, Richard John Bingham (the Earl of Lucan) and John Stonehouse (a British MP) both disappeared after committing serious crimes. One was soon found, but only because he was mistaken for the other.
Arktika, the second nuclear-powered icebreaker made by the Soviet Union, was the first surface ship to reach the North Pole.
Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji was so incensed at a poor 1936 performance of his epic work Opus clavicembalisticum (at that time the longest piano piece in history) that he banned it for forty years.
In 1986 the Australian Cultural Terrorists stole a Picasso from a Melbourne art gallery; they threatened to destroy the painting if the government did not create an art prize called the Picasso Ransom. The culprits were never found.
The pig toilet was once a key sanitation building in rural China, Korea, and India. It was ruthlessly efficient, combining a toilet for people with a sty for pigs.
In 1947, the British navy set off one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history in an attempt to destroy German military fortifications on Heligoland.
People with central hypoventilation syndrome, also known as Ondine’s curse, can forget to breathe.
In 1822 a white stork landed in Klütz, then a town of the German Confederation, and finally unlocked the secret of where the birds go in winter.
In 2008, a whole beach in northwestern Jamaica was reported stolen: five hundred truckloads of sand went missing and were never recovered.
According to the Platform Sutra, the fifth patriarch of Chan Buddhism held a poetry contest to determine his successor. But it became a contest for the soul of Chan Buddhism itself.
Pobeda Ice Island was first discovered in 1840. It was seen again in the 1910s, but was gone by the late 1920s. By the 1960s it was back, only to disappear again in the 1970s.
On a sidewalk in New York City is a triangle mosaic about 70cm wide. It is perhaps the smallest parcel of private land in the city, and it exists entirely because of spite.
On June 22, 1948, eight hundred and two African-Caribbean migrants arrived in Britain on the HMT Empire Windrush. Amongst this historic first wave of “reverse colonization” were the soon-to-be-famous calypsonian singer Lord Kitchener.