Monthly Archive: September 2013

The Cold War Spies Who Gathered Soviet Poop

Operation Tamarisk was a joint espionage operation undertaken by the UK, US, and France. The plan called for the secret gathering of Soviet documents by going through their trash cans, as well as their toilet systems. Due to embargoes, the Soviets began using discarded official documents as toilet paper. In addition to papers, the spies also retrieved amputated Soviet limbs from the same containers.

The Day That Washington, D.C. Was Crippled

On January 13, 1982, Washington, D.C. was left practically helpless when a pair of disasters — a plane crash and a subway derailment which occurred within half an hour of each other — choked off air, rail, and automotive routes out of the city. Thousands of people were left stranded in the winter chaos.

Most Planets In Our Galaxy Don’t Orbit Stars

Our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains anywhere from 200 to 400 billion stars. Astronomers are finding that a large number of these are like our Sun, with planets in orbit around them. Most people, asked to imagine what an alien planet may be like, would see it whizzing around a parent star. For decades, that was the consensus of astronomy. Recent research, however, suggests that rogue planets flying around interstellar space, free from any stars, outnumber the number of stars in our galaxy by 100,000 to 1. Even if every star in the Milky Way had as many planets as are in our solar system, there would still be 12,500 rogue planets for every planet in an orbit.

The Earliest Surgery (Was A Total Quack Job)

Trepanning is a surgical operation in which a hole is made in the patient’s skull, usually with a drill, especially in modern surgeries, in order to relieve pressure or swelling on the brain. Evidence has been found to suggest it was conducted as early as 10,000 years ago, making it one of the earliest surgeries performed by humans. There are still those who believe it has benefits, like increasing blood flow, but there is no scientific evidence to back up their claims.

Muammar Gadhafi’s Amazonian Guard

Among other strange personality quirks of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi was his retinue of female bodyguards. Despite their beauty and smart attire, these women were trained killers, often called upon to perform grisly acts of violence and self sacrifice for their leader.

The Horrifying History Of The Pregnancy Test

Though they seem ubiquitous, lining the shelves of every pharmacy, home pregnancy tests are a truly modern innovation, only available since the mid-1970s. In the years prior, pregnancy was determined by injecting a woman’s urine into mice and rabbits, which were then dissected to see the results. Frogs were used later: They would go into ovulation within hours if the result was positive.

The Squealing Pig Organ Of King Louis XI

According to Nathaniel Wanley, author of “The Wonders of the Little World” (1678), on the order of King Louis XI, one of the world’s more sadistic and weird musical instruments was created. The pig organ, invented by the Abbot of Baigné, created tunes by poking pigs in the rump to make them squeal. Reportedly, the “concert” made the king smile.