Monthly Archive: April 2014

The Complicated Madness Of King George III

King George III might have been a mad king, but he was mourned when he finally passed away after a decade living in isolation. It’s long been thought that he was suffering from manic-depression, but it was put forward in the 1960s that he might have had a genetic condition called porphyria. The disease causes attacks of severe pain and hallucinations, and those attacks are usually triggered by anything from sun exposure to alcohol. That something that might have been the trigger for the king has been found—the massive levels of arsenic that doctors were pumping into the troubled regent in an attempt to cure him.

The Peace Symbol Originally Meant ‘Despair’

The peace symbol is an internationally known icon representing harmony, love, and the end of war; happy things, all of them, but the origins of the symbol are much darker. The artist that originally created the peace symbol, a British designer and artist named Gerald Holtom, made it when he was lost in despair over the state of the world in 1958. He combined the semaphore symbols for ā€œNā€ and ā€œD” (referring to Nuclear Disarmament), and immediately thought of it as a person doubled over in despair.

The Man Forced To Die In Spaceflight

After being placed as captain on the USSR’s Soyuz 1 mission, cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov was launched into orbit. After inspecting his craft, Komarov found it was riddled with no fewer than 203 problems. Still, he agreed to go on the mission to save the life of the second-in-command, Yuri Gagarin.

The Weird Medieval Myth Of The Vegetable Lamb

At a time when maps still bore depictions of sea monsters, the world’s scientists, explorers, and monks alike were arguing over the vegetable lamb. And they weren’t arguing over whether or not this mythical beast existed, but whether it should be considered a plant, an animal, or both. The lamb, grown from a plant and forever tethered to it by a long stem that attached to its belly, was the subject of expedition after expedition. Sadly, none were ever found.

The Mysterious Man Who Gave Away The City Of Boston

Presenting someone with the keys to the city has always been a big deal, so it was an honor when a representative from the mayor’s office went out of his way to track down the Prince of Wales during his 1924 visit to give him the keys to Boston. The only trouble was, no one in the mayor’s office knew who this representative was, and in a time when tensions between England and Ireland were high, this caused a huge embarrassment for the Irish-run mayor’s office. The mysterious man wasn’t done yet, either, continuing to give away keys and invite guests around to the mayor’s for dinner.

One Human Race Is The Best At Digesting Plant Matter

Sushi is one of the most popular dishes in the world, but the raw seaweed and fish can often be difficult to digest, especially due to the fact that plant matter actually cannot be independently digested. Whenever you eat plant matter, microorganisms within your body help break it down. Due to their historical relationship with seaweed, the Japanese are host to bacteria that are specialized to eat seaweed. These microorganisms are not present in other humans.

Hundreds In India Ritually Starve Themselves To Death Each Year

Each year, up to 500 followers of Jainism in India starve themselves to death. As the process takes place, dozens of people gather around to wait and watch the person die. Taking the holy vow to fast until death is thought to offer salvation, by allowing followers to give up all worldly attachments, including the body. The events used to be publicized so more people could come and watch, but it’s controversial in modern society and often hidden. Sometimes police will prevent the ritual and force feed participants. Many Jains are unhappy that it’s considered suicide, and instead say it’s normal and should be treated with the utmost respect.

The Mysterious, Repeating Presidential Death Curse

The Battle of Tippecanoe was a victory for the United States government against the Shawnee Indians, but according to legend, it was also a curse. Since that battle, any president elected in a year ending with “0” died in office, a phenomenon often attributed to a hex laid on the office by the losing side at Tippecanoe. When Ronald Reagan survived his assassination attempt, it seemed like the curse had been broken. The survival of George W. Bush reinforced that notion.

The First April Fools’ Gag Was In 1698 And Used Lions

The oldest recorded April Fools’ Day prank is also one of the longest running. Unsuspecting targets are sent to the Tower of London where they’re told they are going to be privy to one of the Tower’s annual ceremonies: the washing of the lions. The tower was, of course, once home to some lions—among other wild animals—but they’re long gone. Unfortunately, not all of the prank victims are good sports about the joke.