Author Archives: Melissa

Math or Maths?

Travis T. asks: Why do Americans say “math” and other English speaking countries say “maths”? Aluminium or aluminum, zee or zed, and removing u’s from certain words or not- among the many discrepancies between American and British English, perhaps none conjures as much religious fervor as math vs. maths. So which one is correct? Well, really neither is technically more […]

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The Bizarre Story of the Sex.com Heist

In 1983, Paul Mockapetris proposed a distributed database of internet name and address pairs, now known as the Domain Name System (DNS).  This is essentially a distributed “phone book” linking a domain’s name to its address, allowing you to type in something like todayifoundout.com instead of the IP address of the website.  The distributed version of this system allowed for […]

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Mark Twain’s Hilarious “Thoughts on the Science of Onanism”

Through the latter half of the 19th century, Mark Twain was on a mission to attack pretense with satire. One of his most hilarious, if completely scandalous and by many standards inappropriate, works was a lecture he gave to The Stomach Club in 1879 about masturbation titled, “Some Thoughts on the Science of Onanism.” During the 19th century, medical practice […]

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The Curious Case of the Campden Wonder

On the 16th of August, 1660, an approximately 70 year old William Harrison walked toward the village of Charingworth, about two miles from Chipping Campden, with the intention of collecting rent for his employer, the Lady Viscountess Campden. When he failed to return home, Harrison’s wife sent out their servant, John Perry, to find him, but neither man returned that […]

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Timothy Evans, Derek Bentley, Ruth Ellis and Banning the Death Penalty

Timothy Evans was no saint and there was good reason for the police to suspect him of murdering his pregnant wife and baby daughter. He and said wife, Beryl, had a long history of angry quarrels including witnesses stating that the couple occasional came to blows with one another. Seemingly a constant source of argument was Beryl being upset with […]

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What Ever Happened to Miss Cleo the TV Psychic?

Felix H. asks: Where did Miss Cleo disappear to? For those unfamiliar, around the turn of the century no psychic was more famous than the purportedly Jamaican-born Miss Cleo (née Youree Dell Harris) representing the Psychic Readers Network (PRN). Appearing on late-night infomercials, Miss Cleo hooked her audience with a combination of charisma, Tarot card readings, concerned looks, and imperatives […]

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Why Does the New Year Begin on January First in Many Countries?

Jamie asks: Why is New Year’s day January 1st? Because Julius Caesar said so. Early Roman Calendar Since long before Caesar’s time, date keeping was dicey. In fact, the 355-day Roman calendar that immediately preceded Caesar’s Julian, worked on a four year cycle where every other year, an additional month was inserted between February (Februarius), the last month of that […]

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The Curious Case of the Fruit That Transforms Sour to Sweet

Growing on tall shrubs with dense foliage, the small, red, mildly sweet berries known as miracle fruit seemingly magically can turn sour flavors sweet. The plant that produces the berries, Synsepalum Dulcificum, is native to West Africa, where the fruit was traditionally used to sweeten palm wine and make soured cornbread more palatable. Growing best in acidic soil in tropical […]

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What Caused the Red Rain of Kerala?

Between July 25 and September 23, 2001, the people of the southern India state of Kerala witnessed, on numerous occasions an extraordinary sight: blood colored rain. Although most reports limited the color of the rain to that striking red that resembled blood, some people also reported seeing green, black and even yellow rain as well. Eye-witnesses also reported that accompanying […]

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