Category Archives: Articles

The Forgotten Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, Norton I


Today I found out about the largely forgotten colorful benevolent dictator of the United States and protector of Mexico, Emperor Norton I. His Imperial Majesty Joshua Abraham Norton I was born between 1811 and 1818 in England. Records of his birth date vary considerably, but it’s likely that the latter date is the correct one. His family immigrated to South […]

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The History of Circumcision


Mark asks: When did people first start cutting the foreskins off penises? Having served variously as a mark of virility, servility and gentility, circumcision has throughout the centuries, worn many symbolic hats. While anthropologists disagree as to the definitive origins of circumcision, the earliest hard evidence comes from the first ancient Egyptian mummies of considerable vintage, around 2300 BC. That […]

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The Stocks


Dan Lewis runs the wildly popular daily newsletter Now I Know (“Learn Something New Every Day, By Email”). To subscribe to his daily email, click here.. For a few centuries ending in the late 1800s, stocks were common in town centers in the United States and Europe. The device, used as a way to humiliate those who violated cultural norms […]

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The Language Made Up Entirely of Whistles


Today I found out about Silbo Gomero, the whistling language. In Spanish, “Silbo Gomero” means “Gomeran whistling.” It is a language “spoken” on La Gomera in the Canary Islands (which incidentally may have been named after dogs, and certainly wasn’t named after birds) and is made up entirely of whistling sounds. The language was used by the Guanches—the aboriginal people […]

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Nero Didn’t Fiddle While Rome Burned


Myth: Nero played music while Rome burned to the ground. The infamous phrase—“Nero fiddled while Rome burned”—has come to mean a person who is neglecting their duties, probably by doing something frivolous. Nero is painted as an emperor who didn’t care about his people, but it’s likely that he didn’t deserve such a bad reputation.  This is extremely similar to […]

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The Mystery of Gobekli Tepe


About eleven thousand years ago, in a remote corner of the cradle of civilization, Stone Age people who lacked cities, agriculture and metal tools built an enormous complex of multi-ton stone pillars called Gobekli Tepe (Potbelly Hill) in a region in modern day Turkey. The high degree of artistic skill and organizational wherewithal discovered at the site has caused the […]

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The Creator of the Nike “Swoosh” Logo was Originally Paid Only $35 for the Design


Today I found out the creator of the Nike “swoosh” logo was originally only paid $35 for it. The woman is Carolyn Davidson. At the time she created the now world famous logo, Davidson was a student at Portland State University where one of the co-founders of Nike,  Phil Knight, was teaching as an assistant professor in accounting.  On the […]

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Ben Franklin’s Interest


Dan Lewis runs the wildly popular daily newsletter Now I Know (“Learn Something New Every Day, By Email”). To subscribe to his daily email, click here.. Google the phrase “magic of compound interest” and you’ll come up with about 4 million or so results. Compound interest — which Albert Einstein may have called ”the most powerful force in the universe” — is the […]

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