Monthly Archive: July 2014

The Tale Of Bach And The Fistfight

One of the best-known classical composers, Johann Sebastian Bach created some of the most beautiful pieces of music in history. Maybe that’s why it’s hard to imagine this guy rolling around in the dirt, exchanging blows with an irate musician. But that’s exactly what happened when Bach insulted a music student by the name of Johann Geyersbach, a bassoonist with an awful temper.

The Most Shocking Sex Documentary In American History

Mom and Dad was a 1945 sex docudrama by producer Kroger Babb. It claimed it had shocking content such as footage of a live birth. To make sure there was sufficient media chatter about the movie’s shocking and health-threatening qualities, a theater owner in Philadelphia interfered with the ventilation for the theater to help audience members to pass out. It subsequently became one of the most successful movies of all time.

The Theory That Says Some Depressed People Might Be Right

In traditional psychology, it’s believed faulty thinking can keep people stuck in depression or cynicism. For instance, a depressed individual may worry an inordinate amount about future events, distort facts in a negative way, or be chronically pessimistic. In this psychological school of thought, the only way to truly escape the “blues” is to change the depressed person’s habits of thinking. While that might be the leading perspective, there is another theory, known as depressive realism, which suggests that mild to moderately depressed people don’t suffer from “faulty” thinking at all but instead see the world as it really is.

The Doctor Who Thought Your Nose Was Connected To Your You-Know-What

Wilhelm Fleiss might have been a doctor, but he had some pretty weird ideas about the human body. This 19th-century physician thought the nose was hooked up to the genitals and caused all sorts of sexual, physical, and mental problems. Fleiss also believed these nose-related illnesses (which he dubbed “nasal reflex neuroses”) could only be cured by surgery . . . a belief which ended badly for a woman named Emma Eckstein.

The Woman Who Changed New York Politics (As A Man)

Throughout the 19th century, Tammany Hall was one of the most important political organizations of a booming city—New York. It was a time when women were restricted to duties relating to the home and children, so it’s not surprising that the discovery that one of Tammany Hall’s most vocal—and loved—members, known around town as a solid, hard-working, learned man, was actually a woman. His own daughter didn’t even know about her father’s secret, and sadly she never accepted it, either.

When Germany Tried To Turn Seawater Into Gold

Fritz Haber was one of Germany’s great scientific minds during World War I. He had already made invaluable contributions to the war effort, so when Germany was facing an overwhelming debt and had no gold to speak of, they turned to their prodigal son. Haber delivered by creating a complicated electrochemical process that he thought would extract gold from seawater. Before the process could really get underway, though, Haber discovered a massive error in his calculations that ended his plans for a very different economic path for Germany.

All The Different Kinds Of Lightning

Throughout the centuries, lightning has been mistaken for many things, from UFOs to the spirits of the dead. There are so many different kinds of lightning that it’s not surprising that sometimes people just don’t recognize it for what it is. In addition to the most common lightning that accompanies thunderstorms, there’s also the ball lightning that many see as a UFO, the jellyfish-like red sprites, blue jets that are more often seen from the sky than from the ground, and the rather disturbing dark lightning, that you may have been hit by without knowing it.

The Uzbek Scholar Who Discovered America Centuries Before Columbus

Abu Raihan al-Biruni was born in what is now Uzbekistan and spent most of his life in Central Asia, miles from the sea. Arguably the greatest scholar of his era, his work on the Earth’s circumference led him to realize that there must be another large landmass to the West—and that it must be inhabited. He died in 1048, more than four centuries before Columbus set off, confidently expecting to sail to Asia.

Why Eyeballs Don’t Freeze At Subzero Temperatures

If our hands, toes, noses, and other body parts are susceptible to freezing and getting frostbitten, it might seem unusual that our eyeballs can survive the cold totally unprotected. But, unlike other bodily extremities, the eyes are constantly pumped with a strong supply of warm blood—even in the coldest situations. Furthermore, our eyes are nestled rather deeply in our heads where bone, tissue, and fat also help keep them warm. Essentially, it’s virtually impossible for the eyes to freeze as long as they are inside a warm, functioning body.