A last-minute injunction blocked the live stream and recordings of the same-sex marriage court case Perry v. Schwarzenegger. So Dustin Lance Black took the trial transcripts and made a play reenacting the whole case.
In World War I, phenol was a key ingredient in aspirin, explosives, and phonograph records. German agents secretly redirected Thomas Edison’s excess phenol supply to prevent it being used for British bombs.
It’s theoretically possible to swim across North America from the Pacific to the Atlantic, thanks to a strange creek in north-west Wyoming.
In 1962 the United States detonated a nuclear bomb in outer space over Hawai’i. It caused an artificial aurora in the sky over Honolulu – and another one over Samoa, more than four thousand kilometres away.
In 1966 a New York TV station played a 17-second loop of a blazing fireplace accompanied by Christmas music. It was, and is, a huge success.
Earl Muntz was an American businessperson who made a fortune chopping unnecessary bits out of TV sets. He may have also coined the term “TV” and certainly named his daughter “Tee Vee” too.
April 26, 1920, two astronomers publicly debated the structure of the cosmos. Is the Milky Way everything there is, or is it just one of many “island” universes?
In 1859 a dispute over a single pig led to a military standoff between the United States and the United Kingdom. The conflict would eventually draw in George Pickett (of Pickett’s Charge), Henry Robert (of Robert’s Rules of Order) and Kaiser Wilhelm I.
One Sunday in 1987, two Chicago TV broadcasts were hijacked by someone with a Max Headroom mask, a voice modulator, and an odd sense of humour. He was never caught.
Steve Reich’s piece Piano Phase involves two pianos playing the same melody simultaneously at slightly different speeds.
In the early 20th century, Ben Reitman was a hobo, a doctor, and a doctor for hobos.
In 1919, a construction firm led by J. D. McMahon got investors to commit huge amounts of money for a skyscraper in Wichita Falls, Texas. They thought it would be 480 feet high… but they got 480 inches instead.
Up near the Arctic Circle, the best waterproof parkas are made out of guts.
Cartographers will sometimes insert fake locations in order to catch plagiarism of their maps. But sometimes those fake locations then become real.
Slim Gaillard had one of the more remarkable lives of the 20th century: when he wasn’t inventing words or writing songs about cement mixers he was jamming with Charlie Parker, running bootlegged whiskey in a hearse, or wowing Jack Kerouac in On the Road.