The 1952 Miller-Urey experiment synthesised amino acids essential to life from inorganic materials. The experiment’s vials were then sealed, and when scientists re-examined them 55 years later they were surprised at what was inside.
A plot point in the 1986 film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home features the fictional material transparent aluminium. Around the same time, actual transparent aluminium was patented.
When did we start wearing clothes? We don’t know for sure, but the genetics of lice, prehistoric needles, and ivory carvings give us some clues.
Blackcurrants, Kinder Surprises, and haggis have all been illegal in the United States at some point.
If you want to build a Geiger counter you need to first find a shipwreck from before 1945.
The Danakil Depression in the Afar Triangle, Ethiopia, is the point where three tectonic plates diverge; has the highest average annual temperature on the planet; and Lucy, the Australopithecus fossil, was found there.
As part of a secret government project begun in 1967, the Chinese scientist Tu Youyou discovered an ancient herbal remedy that would end up saving millions of lives.
In 1953 the sci-fi author Hugo Gernsback proposed provisional patents for sci-fi writers’ hypothetical inventions. 42 years earlier, he had predicted radar, television, remote controls, solar power, synthetic cloth, and videophones.
What do bullet ants and guarana have in common? The Sateré-Mawé people of Brazil.
Cats hold a special place in Islam, reaching back as far as Muhammad’s own love of the animals.
How do you work out the function of a specific gene? Knock them out one by one and see what happens.
That band of deep blue in the sky opposite a sunrise or sunset? It’s the shadow of the planet.
Fukuoka, Japan, is home to an iconic ziggurat-like building topped by a dozen roof garden steps.
Yuri Gagarin may have been the first person to orbit the Earth in space, but Gherman Titov was the first to orbit the Earth more than once, the first to pilot a spacecraft, and the first to throw up in space.
Any attempt to categorise knowledge inevitably reinforces our cultural and epistemological biases. And nowhere is this demonstrated better than the absurd taxonomy of animals created by the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges.