Monthly Archive: March 2015

The Strange Story Of The Real ‘Godric’s Hollow’

Lavenham, England is a colorful, crooked little town that is believed to have sparked the idea for the poem, “A Crooked Little Man.” It was also the backdrop for scenes set in Godric’s Hollow in the “Harry Potter” movies. In the 1400s and 1500s, Lavenham was one of the richest towns in Britain from wealth generated by the wool trade. As the population skyrocketed, green timber was used to build new houses quickly. However, the timber warped as it dried, resulting in houses that bent at unusual angles to give the town its fascinating nursery rhyme look.

Is There Any Way To Reliably Count The Homeless?

To get federal funding or to determine if local programs to help the homeless are working, you need to know how many homeless people are in your area. But that’s not an easy number to compute. In the US, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sends “enumerators” into the streets to actually count the homeless in sample areas as a snapshot in time. London does something similar. Most other governments don’t bother.

The Rare, Salvaged History Of The Central Lunatic Asylum

Documents from the Central State Hospital in Virginia, established in 1870 as the Central Lunatic Asylum for Colored Insane, have given researchers an incredibly rare and incredibly complete glimpse into the world of late 19th-century mental health care in the African-American community. Because hospital records were barely kept at the time—especially for African-Americans—the 800,000 documents are filling in a gaping hole in our history of mental health sciences. And some of the stories that are coming to light are pretty tragic, like the one of Edith Smith, who was admitted to the asylum simply because she didn’t have anywhere else to go.

Science Has Decided Where Guinness Tastes Best

It’s long been said that a pint of Guinness tastes better in Ireland than anywhere else in the world. Propaganda it might be, but according to a study published in the Journal of Food Science, it’s true. According to the study, in which a team sampled pints in 103 different locations, the average rating of pint-drinking experiences while in Ireland were significantly higher than anywhere else in the world.

The City Walls That Splash You Back

Maybe thermal imaging to identify drunks will take care of the problem someday, but until then, government officials in some cities are fed up with drunks (and sober people) engaging in public urination. Amsterdam has had free public urinals for decades, but there was a public backlash against open-air urinals in Gold Coast, Australia because of the locations and odor. However, Gold Coast is now considering the solution used in Hamburg, Germany: hydrophobic paint. Developed by Nissan as a water repellent for cars, hydrophobic paint used on walls is the paint that pees back.

How One Woman Rescued The Slinky From A Cult-ish Ending

Although Betty James came up with the toy’s name in 1944, her husband, Richard James, is credited with inventing the Slinky, a toy spring that walked down stairs and delighted children. This simple toy became an incredible success, but Richard James didn’t handle it well. He gave away large sums of money to questionable religious charities, then abandoned his wife and six children to join a cult in Bolivia. With the business in shambles and her family nearing bankruptcy, Betty James revived the company and built an empire, all around an inexpensive toy spring that ultimately got her inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame.

Argentina’s Completely Bogus Attempt At Nuclear Power

Following World War II, prosperous Argentina wanted a top nuclear physics program that would rival the superpowers and provide cheap, unlimited energy for the nation. Having hired Dr. Ronald Richter, an unknown Austrian/German national and nuclear physicist, they instead achieved international embarrassment, mounting debt, and a military junta replacing Juan Peron, whom Richter (a total fraud) had misled. Only in recent decades has Argentina salvaged its reputation in nuclear physics.

How To Take Your Own Funeral For A Test Drive In Japan

Various cultures approach their rituals of death differently. In the US, some Americans use prepaid funeral contracts to ease the financial burden on loved ones, although these contracts may fall short of expectations or result in outright fraud. In the Ukraine, coffin therapy may be used to prepare anxious individuals for the afterlife. But the Japanese take a more lighthearted approach with a Shukatsu festival that lets you take a test run of your death with coffins, clothes, makeup, blankets, and more.

The ‘Great Escape’ That Happened On US Soil

In 1944, a group of POWs planned a daring prison break. They’d tunnel under the fences, hike through the wilderness, and make their way to . . . Mexico. As it turns out, these particular prisoners were Nazis in the Arizona desert, and their escape involved volleyball, a canoe, and an evening at the local bowling alley.