World’s Strangest

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History of the Tailsitter Airplanes

“QUANTUM SHOT” #202(rev) Link – article by Erlend Aaseth and Avi Abrams A vertical takeoff, level flight and a tail landing – first VTOL concepts These flying wonders, so called “Tailsitter” airplanes, are truly remarkable pieces of aviation history: mainly designed in the late 1940s and early 1950s, they were essentially [...]

Doctor Who: Mangling History

Doctor Who has a long and noble history of attempting to convey history to its young viewers. It has not always been completely successful, however. Here are a few stories where they dipped into history — but didn’t get the history quite right. The Gunfighters On Doctor Who: The TARDIS arrives in Tombstone, Arizona, just as the Clanton [...]

Happy 20th Birthday, Kazakhstan!

Kristina Postnikova / Shutterstock.com The largest country in Central Asia—it’s as big as all of Western Europe combined—turns 20 years old today, and to celebrate, here’s a list of ten random facts about everyone’s favorite Kazakh-speaking ‘Stan. 1. For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan Borat, the fictional reporter invented by the English comedian Sasha Baron Cohen, [...]

Building a World

Afniel has an intriguing but simple method of drawing fantasy maps starting with absolutely nothing. She presents it as a way to get children interested in cartography, because the results look quite like real maps. Well, it might get an adult interested in world-building as well! The map shown looks a bit like western Europe, [...]

The Political Hot Potato

Vital. Maligned. Mysterious. How well do you really know the potato? During the 16th century, Europeans fell in love with a number of exotic plants from the New World. But the potato wasn’t one of them. It would take two centuries and a spectacular PR campaign for people to even consider eating the ugly vegetable. But [...]

Don’t “Chai” and “Tea” Both Mean the Same Thing?

Next time you order a chai tea from your corner coffee shop, take a moment and appreciate your killer multi-lingual skills. After all, etymologically speaking, the words “chai” and “tea” refer to exactly the same thing, just in different languages. So what’s the deal? Almost five thousand years ago, when folks in China started sipping a [...]

The Ancient and Modern Ecology of Execution

Ancient Arab swords. Note that some designs were more commonly used for decapitation, and other designs less so. Drawing: The Book of the Sword, Sir Richard Francis Burton, Chatto and Windus, London, 1884. The following is reprinted from The Annals of Improbable Research. Click to enlarge images. by Simcha Lev-Yadun, Department of Science Education—Biology, Faculty of Science [...]

The Last King of New Jersey: The Suburban Life of Napoleon’s Brother

As Napoleon Bonaparte expanded his new French Empire and conquered much of Western Europe, he doled out the spoils of war to his friends and family, whether they wanted it or not. Napoleon’s older brother Joseph, described by historians as “idealist, mild mannered, and lacking in vigor,” had wanted to be a writer, but was [...]

To Sit or Not to Sit

The following is an article from the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research. (Image credit: Flickr user Eric Rice) A Physician’s Reasons Why Men Should Stand by John Gamel Professor of Ophthalmology University of Louisville Louisville, Kentucky, USA Western Europe is abuzz with the latest flare-up in the war between the sexes, and for the moment, the women seem to be [...]

Dietribes: Ginger

• Ginger may not be the most attractive root, but it can certainly be delicious! Ginger is an herb whose root is used as a spice and, occasionally, as a medicine. It can be consumed fresh, dried, powdered or as a juice or oil, and can even work as a preservative. • Ginger is known for a sundry [...]