Monthly Archive: February 2016

The First American-Made Map Was Made By A Counterfeiter

Abel Buell made the first map illustrated, published, and copyrighted by an American. It was 1784, and the forger and counterfeiter (turned mapmaker) was in between adventures, the sort of adventures that usually ended up with him on the wrong side of the law. His first brush with the law ended with his forehead branded and his ear cropped, but he would still go on to build a machine for minting coins (this one was legal), a cotton mill, and a foundry, alongside his work as a mapmaker. He died penniless, but a copy of his map would sell for $1.8 million decades later.

The Mystery Of Newton’s Possible Vandalism

Robert Hooke has a whole host of scientific credits to his name, but he’s far from a household name. Certainly, he’s not as well-known as Sir Isaac Newton, who went head to head with him over the laws of gravity. Hooke laid the groundwork for the theory, by all accounts, and even though Newton did all the math, he refused to give Hooke the credit Hooke felt he was due. When Hooke later died and Newton became president of the Royal Society, it’s entirely possible that he destroyed (or at least left on the curb) the only portrait of Hooke ever to exist.

How Eating Pickles Might Help Battle Anxiety

If you suffer from social anxiety, new research suggests that there might be a safer alternative to any medication that can be prescribed, and it’s found in your fridge. Fermented foods like pickles, yogurt, and sauerkraut contain probiotics that seem to act in much the same way as some prescription medications do, altering the brain’s neurotransmitters. Studies found that students who frequently ate fermented foods were less likely to suffer from social anxiety, even when their high scores on the neurotic scale suggested they should be more prone to it.

The 20th-Century Con Man Who Made Millions Off Sir Francis Drake

By the time Oscar Hartzell died, he had conned around 80,000 people out of untold millions of dollars, and he did it by claiming that the true heir to the estate of Sir Francis Drake had made him the recipient. He only needed the money to settle the estate, so he sold shares to investors, saying they would reap the rewards later if they helped him out. The rewards never did come, of course, but people continued to send him money even after he was convicted of mail fraud and deemed mentally incompetent.

The Difference Between Albinism, Leucism & Isabellinism

The different types of albinism all have to do with the body’s inability to produce melanin, leading to white, gray, or cream-colored hair and skin (but not necessarily red eyes). Leucism occurs when color pigments are produced in a lower amount than normal, and normal skin, fur, or feather patterns and textures remain. Isabellinism happens when normally dark-pigmented areas develop as a sort of washed-out grayish-yellow, and it’s supposedly named for an archduchess who refused to remove her underwear for three years.

When San Francisco Was Ruled By A Vigilante Justice Committee

In the 1850s, San Francisco was awash with crime. From murderers and thieves to corrupt politicians, it wasn’t a pleasant place. Spurred on by first a robbery and then the assassination of a newspaper editor, thousands of citizens, merchants, and businessmen banded together to form the Committee of Vigilance. Two committees—one in 1851 and the second in 1856—would take it upon themselves to clean up the city and prosecute and hang criminals. State militias were called in, but the committee ultimately disbanded voluntarily.

The Woman Driven Insane By Shakespeare

Delia Bacon, a literary genius and scholar in her own right, became convinced that Shakespeare wasn’t the one who wrote all the works that bore his name. The real author, she claimed, was Sir Francis Bacon, and he had written at the behest of a secret society that was operating in opposition to the English monarchy. Her 682-page book said the works were riddled with codes and anagrams, but no one really took her seriously even after the book was published. Her attempts at finding Bacon’s “evidence,” left behind in Shakespeare’s tomb, ended when she was committed to an asylum.

The Attack Of The Tornado Fungus

Apophysomyces trapeziformis is a fungus that’s usually harmless where humans are concerned. But throw a massive tornado into the mix, and things get really nasty, really fast. In May 2011, a tornado “injected” several Mississippians with the normally benign fungus, leaving them with some truly horrific results.