In the 9th century CE, a town in what is now Nigeria produced the most masterful bronze artefacts in the world.
When Taiwanese baseball player Chin-Lung Hu hit a single in a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks he fulfilled a promise made in a comedy sketch seventy-one years before.
For more than 1700 years, mithridate and theriac were Europe’s ultimate medicines. A concoction of up to sixty-four ingredients – including cinnamon, turpentine, and poppy – they were supposed to neutralise any poison or plague.
Emerson Romero was a deaf Cuban-American silent film star who lost his job when sound came to cinema – so he invented closed captioning.
When a samurai received a new katana, the sharpness of the sword could be tested by attacking a random civilian or (after that was banned) by slicing a criminal or corpse.
António de Oliveira Salazar served as prime minister and dictator of Portugal for 36 years. Following a head injury he was removed from office, but no-one told him and he died two years later still believing himself in charge.
The Parents Music Resource Center was formed to fight obscenity in popular music. The parental warning labels were their doing. Musician and notorious non-conformist Frank Zappa fought back the only way he could: with music.
Italian publisher Franco Maria Ricci, inspired by fabulists Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino, built the largest maze in the world.
The ruler of Medieval Venice was chosen by an exceptionally complex ten-step process of alternating random lots and elections.
In 1922 violinist Lev Tseitlin founded an orchestra according to Soviet principles of collective responsibility: it had no conductor.
Five US presidential elections (so far) have elected presidents who received fewer votes than one of their opponents.
The body of famed astronomer Tycho Brahe was dug up twice (in 1901 and 2010) to find out what killed him. The conclusion: he died of excessive politeness.
In 1931 Australia, Amy Crocker discovered two worker ants from a new and strange species: Nothomyrmecia macrops. Despite extensive searches, more were not found for another forty-six years.
Winston Churchill invented an adult romper suit and then wore it everywhere during World War II.
The classic horror film Nosferatu was nearly lost forever because of Bram Stoker’s widow.