86

When Monopoly Helped Allied POWs Escape In World War II

Boredom proved to be quite a problem in World War II prisoner-of-war camps, and the Germans allowed charity groups to pass on board games to the Allied prisoners in an attempt to keep them placid. A fake charity (actually M19), distributed innocent-looking Monopoly games to prisoners. Inside the board itself, the tiny hotels, and other pieces, prisoners found German money, maps printed on silk, and escape kits. These kits helped thousands of men to escape.

84

Can Science Measure Morality Or Courage?

A Belgian statistician invented the BMI scale in 1832, and he didn’t stop there. A proponent of “social physics,” Adolphe Quetelet believed that everything could be measured and compared, and that statistics was the key to unlocking the mysteries of social phenomenon. He spent years trying to develop scales for measuring things like morality and courage.

64

Your Height Could Influence How You’ll Die

A series of studies that have looked at the correlation between height and death have come across some startling statistics. While shorter people are statistically more likely to die from heart disease or stroke (possibly because of the size of the arteries), taller people have a higher chance of being diagnosed with cancer. Taller women are at a higher risk of developing blood clots than shorter ones, but many other factors—including things like lifestyle and genetics—make the whole matter incredibly complicated.

68

The Different Types Of Processed Foods (And What They Really Are)

When it comes to nutritional content and preparation, food comes in three different categories. Minimally processed foods—like fruits and veggies—have only minor things done to them such as washing, peeling, and removal of seeds or stems. Processed foods have undergone some process that changes their basic nutritional structure, like pasteurization. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, numerous processed foods are combined into ultra-processed foods, and that’s when things can get dangerous. Not all vitamins and minerals were created equally, especially when it comes to products that claim to be things like “fortified.” Studies now show that we get about 60 percent of our energy from ultra-processed foods, and almost 90 percent of that comes from added sugar.

95

Gold-Capped Teeth Have Been Around A Long, Long Time

As disgusting and un-hygienic as much of history has been, there’s one thing that many cultures have had in common—the practice of dental implants and tooth decorating. While the Maya blinged out their teeth by drilling holes and inserting minerals and stones, evidence suggests that the Celts followed the Etruscan example of sporting gold teeth. The Vikings, on the other hand, went a little simpler and just etched a series of lines into their teeth.

2,038

The Mysterious Alchemist Named Basil Valentine

Basil Valentine was supposedly a Benedictine monk born in 1394. He wrote a number of works on the medical properties of antimony (which undoubtedly killed more people than it cured) and the keys to discovering the Philosopher’s Stone, but no one’s sure who he was or if he even existed. It’s been suggested that the name is a pseudonym for other scientists and chemists of the 14th and 15th centuries, but that’s debated, too. Some of his works mention things like tobacco and the land that would become America, so we’re not even sure when these enigmatic works were written.

61

The Surprisingly Religious History Of Butter

For something that’s mostly overlooked until you make toast, butter has a rather ancient history. Much of it is the stuff of sacred religious rites and beliefs. In ancient Tibet, the bodies of lamas were boiled in butter before being embalmed, and butter lamps and sculptures celebrated the victories of the Buddha and were thought to help focus the mind during meditation. It was a part of Hindu sacrificial rituals, mentioned numerous times in the Bible, made from milk collected by mythical Icelandic milk thieves, and used by the Bretons as a currency and a medicine.

96

What Makes The Different Colors Of The Northern (And Southern) Lights?

While we’re not sure why auroras have so many different shapes, we do know what causes the different colors. When the Sun’s particles interact with oxygen, the greenish-yellow lights occur. Nitrogen causes the red, blue, and purple lights, and height has something to do with it, too. The lowest lights are the blue ones, while red lights are the highest. And there’s a fascinating variety of myths associated with the lights, from the idea that they’re the spirits of the unborn to harbingers of tragedy or good fishing.

1,984

How Galileo Advanced Science By Measuring Hell

In defiance of Church dogma, Galileo Galilei advanced our view of the universe with his heliocentric model of the solar system, making him one of history’s greatest scientists. But Galileo was also a man of his time, steeped in religious superstition. In his most bizarre investigation, Galileo took Dante Alighieri’s description of hell—Inferno—quite literally and attempted to measure its exact dimensions. While Galileo’s project may look ridiculous today, it inadvertently formed a foundation for modern science and engineering.

1,881

What Is A Cryptid, Really?

For skeptics, the idea of cryptozoology is paranormal bunk that has more to do with looking for mythical monsters than real science. In 2004, Chad Arment’s cryptozoology textbook outlined the four different types of cryptids that should be under investigation: animals outside their usual geographic range, individuals within a species that have some extraordinary characteristic, creatures that look like a species declared extinct, and creatures that are completely unlike anything accepted by science. This is an attempt to make cryptozoology a little more accepted in the scientific community and to get rid of the idea of other types of cryptids, like those whose existence is passed down in folklore and myth.