Ever see a set of mushrooms growing in a near-perfect circle? Or an arc of dead or dark grass on a green field? Folklore calls it the elf ring or fairy ring, but it actually has a very reasonable biological explanation.
Up until 2012, 1% of the population of Greenland lived in the same apartment building.
Up until the 15th century, you could apparently walk from India to Sri Lanka. Rama’s Bridge is a short chain of limestone islands and shoals with a very fraught religious and political history.
The Emeco 1006 Navy chair was originally designed to survive a torpedo hit. In continuous production since 1944, it has found a second life as the go-to chair for interrogation scenes in film.
Knitting is hundreds of years old, but similar techniques are even older: sprang dates back to 1400 BCE at least, and nålebinding as far as 6500 BCE.
I say, after brekkers do you want to see if Tollers from the Bodder wants to play some rugger or soccer for eccer? This “er” slang abbreviation came from Oxford University, where it has been in use since the 19th century.
We all know that chocolate chip cookies are the best thing since sliced bread. But what is older than sliced bread? Well, the list is long: Betty White. Sidney Poitier. The ex-pope.
Some time more than 200 years ago, a dog or wolf in China or Siberia got cancer. It was a strange type of cancer: the cancer cells were contagious. That cell line is still alive today, and will probably be alive forever.
There are more than 150 million European starlings in North America. We have two men to blame for this: Eugene Schieffelin, and maybe William Shakespeare.
In World War II, it was standard practice to add nonsense phrases to coded messages in transit, in order to thwart decryption efforts. One of those phrases accidentally changed the course of the largest naval battle in history.
Fleas are not an obvious topic for poetry. And yet it is the core of both the shortest poem in the English language and the dodgiest erotic poem ever written by a cleric of the Church of England.
“I want a bean feast” announces Veruca Salt in the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. I used to think this was just another of her random demands, but it turns out that a bean feast is a real thing.
World War II saw the first widespread use of inflatable tanks. The whole point of a tank is protective armour. Why would you want to make an inflatable one?
August 29, 1911: a man walked out of the hills near Lassen Peak and introduced himself as the last survivor of the Native American Yahi people. Contemporaries branded him “the last wild Indian,” but we will never know his true name.
The gambler’s fallacy is the belief that random independent events “even out” over time. In Monaco in August 1913, this belief cost casino gamblers millions because of an extraordinary streak at a roulette table.