Laika, the first space dog, died in orbit. But the next two – Belka and Strelka – survived. One of Strelka’s puppies was gifted to John F. Kennedy… but not before it was fully scanned for secret listening devices.
On December 9, 1968, a team led by computer scientist Douglas Engelbart ran a 90 minute tech demo at a San Francisco conference. This “mother of all demos” introduced the world to the computer mouse, windows, hypertext, and collaborative document editors.
A large enough kite can lift someone off the ground. So, of course, several inventors and aeronauts tried to find a military application for such man-lifting kites.
Several mammals, including rodents and bears, hibernate over the cold winters. But at least one bird does so as well.
In the 1960s and 1970s, both the United States and the Soviet Union explored “peaceful” applications of nuclear weapons: excavating earth for lakes and canals, geological research, and extinguishing gas well fires.
Tiny Broadwick was the first person to intentionally jump out of a flying airplane without being tethered to something.
The US state of Nebraska is landlocked; all the states around it are also landlocked; and all the states around them are also landlocked. And yet, the Governor of Nebraska can grant residents the honorary title of Nebraska Admiral.
In 1976, twenty-six children riding in a California school bus were kidnapped at gunpoint and hidden inside a truck that was buried in a quarry. Twenty-seven hours later, after sixteen hours underground, they escaped.
In 1869, some samurai and their families set up a colony in California. Although it only lasted two years, it was the first permanent Japanese settlement in the United States.
When asked why we have no proof of extraterrestrial life, the Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard joked that Martians were already among us… they just called themselves Hungarians.
Disney’s Robin Hood features a song about the “Phony King of England.” That song is based on an old (and very bawdy) English folk ballad about “The Bastard King of England.”
In 1978 a cache of five hundred film reels was discovered under an ice rink in Dawson City, Yukon. These buried reels included the only copy of films that had been lost for decades.
The blues music genre at its core is about hardship, oppression, and suffering. But it took Screamin’ Jay Hawkins to sing about that real pain down inside.
When it launched in 1980, CNN was the first 24-hour news channel in television history. It has been running non-stop since that launch. But what happens if the world ends? Well, CNN plans to go out in style.
For more than fifty years, Norbert Pearlroth sat in the reading room of the New York Public Library main branch every weekday from noon until 10pm. Unknown to almost everyone, he was researching one of the 20th century’s great sources of facts and trivia.
On May 10, 1849, New Yorkers rioted over who was the better Shakespearean actor, the English performer William Macready or the American Edwin Forrest.