Deciphering the codes of everyday life: car tyre codes, telegraph abbreviations, the hazardous substance Fire Diamond, and North American train whistle codes.
Wadi al-Salaam, the Valley of Peace, in Iraq is the largest cemetery in the world; more than five million people are buried there.
Someone (not Will Rogers) once joked that “When the Okies left Oklahoma and moved to California, they raised the average intelligence level in both states.” This quirk of statistics has some surprising implications for cancer survival rates.
New Zealand entomologist George Hudson proposed modern daylight saving time so that he could catch more bugs.
The famed Baroque artist Caravaggio painted his masterwork while on the run from Rome, as an accused murderer and a Knight of Malta. When the knights expelled him from the order, they did so beneath that same painting.
The Mimizuka monument in Kyoto, Japan, is full of Korean noses. It is a hanazuka, a nose tomb.
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.
Biblical necromancers, illustrated demons, the first vampire, and the bloodthirsty Medieval battle between the vices and the virtues.
A billion years ago or longer, a photosynthesising bacterium found its way into a proto-plant cell. The bacteria and the cell became symbiotic, each helping the other to survive and thrive. All land plants today are descended from that chance meeting.
Music notation gives you a record of exactly how to play a piece of music. But how do you write a record of a dance?
Almost the entire population of Whittier, Alaska, lives in a single building.
Was the word “orange” first applied to the colour or the fruit? Was “Turkey” first a bird or a country? Was “duck” first an action or an animal? “Organ” the instrument or “organ” the body part?
During World War II, around 7000 Allied pilots and soldiers stranded behind enemy lines were smuggled back to the United Kingdom via a secret network of escape routes. [2 of 2]
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 ancient ant species lost for half a century, the fatherless ants with the fewest chromosomes of any living thing, the two rules of the ant automaton, and the most painful ant stings in the world.
How do you solve Zeno’s paradoxes of motion? If you’re Diogenes the Cynic, you walk it off. [1 of 2]