Monthly Archive: May 2014

441

Science Can’t Decide If Monkeys Can Write Shakespeare

According to the theory, an infinite amount of monkeys typing on an infinite number of keyboards for an infinite amount of time will eventually reproduce the works of Shakespeare. And because scientists apparently have an infinite amount of grant money, it’s been tried. Experiments with real monkeys and real typewriters yielded less-than-stellar results, including a large amount of monkey poop on said typewriters. Digital, virtual monkeys have fared slightly better and have indeed written Shakespeare, but other scientists have derided the way in which the text was pieced together.

7,147

High Heels Were Originally Made For Soldiers

Well before it was a fixture of women’s fashion, the high-heeled shoe was used in the 16th century by Persian soldiers on horseback. The shoes gave the soldiers stability in the stirrups so they could use their bow and arrows more efficiently. Later, in 17th-century Europe, the shoe caught on as a fashion statement for the aristocracy. Around the 1630s, women started adopting masculine fashion trends, and this is when women began wearing high heels.

361

When The US Fought A Deadly Battle With No One

The Second World War’s Alaska campaign is ruefully called the “Forgotten War,” but there is one monumental blunder that all involved are surely happy was forgotten. That blunder was the “Battle” of Kiska, where 35,000 Allied troops spent a week fighting for one of the westernmost Aleutian Islands . . . only to realize that Kiska was completely devoid of Japanese troops.

41

Knights’ Armor Was Much, Much Lighter Than You Think

Many movies and TV shows incorrectly depict armored knights shambling around awkwardly like metal-encased zombies. Worse, even the most heavily armored troops are often just slow-moving kill-count fodder for any hero (or heroine) with a sword or a bow. But real armor wasn’t as heavy or cumbersome as is imagined, and it was incredibly difficult to pierce or cut.

7,317

Barbed Wire Fences Were The First Rural Telephone System

In the late 19th century, the open range of the American West was carved up by barbed wire. During the same period, Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone networks were being installed in large American cities. The early telephone companies ignored low-profit rural areas, so independent ranchers bootstrapped their own system out of their existing barbed wire fences.

9,018

Everything You Know About Quicksand Is Wrong

We’ve all seen the movies where the hero (or hapless sidekick) falls into quicksand and is ever so slowly swallowed by it. Unfortunately for Hollywood, that just not how it happens. Quicksand is a mixture of sand, water, clay, and salt that doesn’t so much suck someone into a bottomless pit as it does trap them. It turns out that you won’t drown in quicksand, but pulling you out with all your appendages intact is very, very tricky.

9,925

Foxes Use The Earth’s Magnetic Field To Hunt

Quite a few animals are in tune with the magnetic field. Sharks, turtles, ants, and even cows can sense the Earth’s magnetic poles. And now Czech researcher Jaroslave Cerveny thinks foxes use the magnetic field to hunt mice that are hiding in the snow.

3,496

Telling The Difference Between Real Memories And False Ones

Separating false memories from real ones is a tricky thing; sometimes our brain creates false memories to protect itself, or, occasionally, on accident when it puts together information in such a way that it suddenly revolves around us instead of the friend we heard the story from. But science can tell the difference. The body has a series of involuntary movements that can reveal whether we’re remembering something that really happened or not, and our brain waves actually follow different patterns when they’re retrieving something we’ve actually seen, heard, or experienced and filed away for future use.

7,310

Where The Lightning Never Stops In Venezuela

From anywhere between 260 and 300 nights out of any given year, the skies over the Catatumbo River in Venezuela are lit by lightning. And not just any kind of lightning; on average, each nightly storm lasts about 10 hours, and the skies are torn by thousands of lightning bolts each night. The phenomenon has been recorded as far back as the 16th century, and it’s a unique combination of the area’s topography and mixing air currents that cause these nightly storms.

1,321

Why The Treaty Of Versailles Has A Clause About Champagne

The French take their Champagne really seriously. This is why, in most of the world, it is illegal to call your sparkling wine “Champagne.” They even had this inserted into the Treaty of Versailles. That was despite the fact that French Champagne had been saved by foreign plants shortly beforehand. However, one nation has stood up to France and has asserted its right to make Champagne, and it’s due (of course), to the League of Nations.