Prior to standardization, the measurement of length designated “the foot” was a different size depending on which country or region you were in. Notable variants included the Prussian foot, the Rijnland foot (which became the Cape foot used in South Africa), and the Chinese mathematician’s foot.
Georges Perec wrote a 300 page novel without using the letter ‘e’. It’s a mystery, of course: friends gather at a country manor, but one of their number (A. Vowl) is missing. The title of the book is itself a pun: A Void.
Farmers remove weeds from their crops. But they miss the weeds that look like crops. Over time, these weeds come to mimic the crops around them. And in some cases, they become crops themselves.
In World War I, the major front for the Italians – in alliance with the Allied powers – was the Isonzo River, between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Over the course of three years they fought twelve major battles for control of this area, now known as the First through Twelfth Battles of the Isonzo. Half of the Italians that died in the war died here.
Since the 19th century, the “most significant and worthy” actor in the German-speaking theatre world carries the Iffland-Ring.
Jacques Collin de Plancy’s 1818 book Dictionnaire Infernal contained a list of demons, part of a long tradition of grimoires and demonology texts. What made it stand out were the illustrations.
Inge Lehmann analysed seismographs from large earthquakes (in particular the 1929 Murchison earthquake in New Zealand) and concluded that the Earth must have a solid inner core. She was right.
How do you grow a pizza? On a pizza farm. It’s shaped like a pizza, and grows all the ingredients of a pizza – a different ingredient in each “slice” (wedge) of land. Wheat, tomatoes, pigs, cows… It’s educational, and also delicious.
One of the Dead Sea Scrolls was written on copper rather than papyrus or parchment – and it’s a treasure map. None of the treasure has been found, but given that the scroll probably dates back a couple of thousand years it is unlikely to ever be found.
A variant of chess thought to have been played as early as the 11th Century in Europe, dice chess involves rolling dice to determine which pieces you are allowed to move.
In 1971 a plane was hit by lightning and crashed into the Amazon rainforest. Ninety-one people died, but one survived: Juliane Koepcke. She trekked through the forest for eleven days and made it out alive and well.
One of many programming languages designed for aesthetic or comedic reasons, Shakespeare writes code in the form of Shakespearean plays. Variables are declared in the dramatis personae, Acts and Scenes are goto labels, dialogue becomes code, and so on.
The Great Wall of Gorgan in Iran is 195km long, making it the second-longest wall in history behind the Great Wall of China. Built by the Sasanian Empire in the 5th or 6th Century to keep out (probably) the White Huns, medieval tradition also connects it with Alexander the Great and his legendary Caspian Gates.
Traditionally, the bodily remains of saints are venerated as relics. But Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, which means no bodily remains… er, remain. Except for one.
James Eads How, known as the Millionaire Hobo, founded a series of “colleges” to house, feed, and educate the hobos of America.