Monthly Archive: August 2013

The Woman Who Sold The Time Of Day

In the 1800s and 1900s, before radio or reliable clocks, the only official clock in England was located at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. Ruth Belville, like her father and mother before her, would check her pocket watch against the clock located in the Observatory and then travel back to London, charging people to see what the time was. For 103 years, the Belvilles provided Londoners with an extremely accurate time, until an 86-year-old Ruth had to retire because of World War II.

The Mounties Used A ‘Fruit Machine’ To Target Homosexuals

During the 1950s and 1960s, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police felt homosexuals were a national security danger and used a machine dubbed a “fruit machine” to discover a person’s sexual orientation. It would measure the dilation of the subject’s pupils and their heart rate while they were shown pornographic images. Those determined to be homosexual were fired or demoted.

The Difference Between A Frog And A Toad

Frogs and toads are both amphibians in the order Anura with four legs and a compact body. While there are some general differences between the animals we call toads and those referred to as frogs, the distinction blurs at times. It may come as a surprise that all toads are frogs, but whether frogs should really be classified as toads warrants some question.

The Extinct Bird That Swarmed By The Billion

Up until the late 1800s, passenger pigeons traveled across America in billion-strong swarms hundreds of miles long. There were so many of them that they could flatten whole forests and strip the area free of every scrap of food. They were slowly hunted to extinction sometime around 1850 by professional hunters as a cheap and seemingly exhaustible source of food.

The Devil’s Number Is Not 666

“666,” the oft-quoted number of Satan, or perhaps his area code, is not the Mark of the Beast as most people believe. Though it’s less memorable and certainly not as cool-looking, the real number is 616, according to an ancient fragment of, you guessed it, the Bible. The fragment predates every other copy of Revelation, where John, the mysterious author, mentions the Mark of the Beast as the tattoo you’ll have to get if you want to conduct business in the new apocalyptic world.

Birds Get Really, Really Drunk

Human beings are not the only creatures in this world to drink up, sometimes spectacularly. Fruit-eating birds, namely cedar waxwings from North American woodlands, frequently encounter overripe berries with the alcohol content of strong cider. The results may be exceedingly absurd, and unfortunately, drunkenness can even lead to death for the birds involved.