The hippo-greyhound swap between Egypt and England; the telepathic snail scam; the Salvation Army’s arch enemies; and the curious appearance of a Sri Lankan bell in pre-colonial New Zealand.
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 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 infinity pool on top of three Singaporean skyscrapers, the ingenious Indonesian method for building motorway flyovers, the water puppets of Vietnam, and a very slow venomous primate.
The weeds that mimicked crops so much they became crops themselves, the culinary diplomacy of Thailand, the ice cream parlour of a thousand flavours, and the reason Hershey’s chocolate tastes like vomit.
The Tongan king who was made of wood, the sultan who disappeared into the Atlantic, the all-female autonomous religious communities (that weren’t nunneries!), and the 14th century pope who denounced modern music.
The cure for earworms, DJ Kool Herc and the birth of hip hop, the cover of Take Five that’s not in 5/4 time, and the suspicious copyright status of Happy Birthday to You.
The international light bulb conspiracy, the creative taxes (and tax evaders) of early modern England, how German employees help control their company, and the bond that has been paying 5% interest every year since 1648.
The North Korean reality show about haircuts, the impressive moves of the smallest sumo wrestler in Japan, Hong Kong’s backwards-named street, and Mao Zedong’s epic war… against sparrows.
Smallpox cultists, the half a billion neurons in your guts, androgen immunity, and the citric acid panic of 1976.
The first people born in Antarctica, the polar parka made from animal guts, the town without appendices, and a mysterious death at the South Pole.
The chemist who changed the planet’s atmosphere more than any other living thing in history; the physics of falling bullets; why two events can be both simultaneous and not simultaneous at the same time; and old people smell.
Politicians courting the violent fringe, the first mammal casualty of climate change, the largest free trade agreement in the world, and the phantom serial killer of Heilbronn.
Colombian Nadaists; the tomb-raiders whose blackmail returned Eva Perón’s body to Argentina; the 40,000km-long Incan road network; and why the largest national park, and the largest rainforest, in the European Union is in South America.
How Monet captured colour and weather in his haystacks; the proto-Escher engravings of Piranesi; the extraction of Goya’s famous Black Paintings; and the ancient artistic motif spread across Europe, the Middle East, and India.
The mysterious origins of black diamonds, the natural nuclear reactor in Gabon, the singing sand dunes, and blood rain from intercontinental cloud algae.