Category Archives: Articles

What was Hitler Like as a Child? And was His Grandfather Really Jewish?

While just about everyone is abundantly familiar with Adolf Hitler’s exploits in the latter half of his life, an often missed part of the once proclaimed “German Messiah’s” history is that of his childhood. So just how did this “boy like any other” grow into arguably one of the most reviled individuals in the history of humanity? Well, put on […]

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How Does Nuclear Waste Disposal Work?

31 countries currently use some form of nuclear power, with the 455 currently operational reactors generating some 393,000 Megawatts of electricity – nearly 20% of the world’s total energy production. Despite high-profile disasters such as Chernobyl, Three-Mile-Island, and Fukushima, nuclear power is actually among the safest and cleaner forms of electricity generation, placing dead-last in terms of deaths per kilowatt-hour […]

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Dissolving Gold and the Nazis

Gold. Since the dawn of civilization, we humans have been obsessed with this most divine of metals. Empires have risen and fallen over it, oceans crossed and continents conquered in search of it, the entire field of chemistry invented to try and make more of it, and – until relatively recently – the entire global economy built around it. And […]

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The Girl With the War-Winning Hair

Every day millions of Americans carefully wash, sort, and set out their recycling for collection. But while many might feel proud to be doing their bit to help save the environment, such efforts are minuscule next to the gargantuan recycling effort that accompanied the Second World War. The term “total war” refers to a state in which every facet of […]

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The World’s First Celebrity Robot

The idea of the robot – an autonomous, even sentient machine – has been around for millennia. In Ancient Greek mythology, the blacksmith god Hephaestus, whose legs were injured as a child, crafted a pair of mechanical women to help him walk. From the Middle Ages onwards, various master craftsmen constructed increasingly sophisticated clockwork automatons that dazzled and bewildered audiences […]

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The Surprisingly Long and Determined Effort to Create a Literal Flying Tank

The Great War of 1914-1918 has been described as the first “industrial war”, and saw the battlefield debut of a number of advanced weapons, including the aeroplane, poison gas, the tank, the flamethrower, and the submarine. Of these, the tank and the aeroplane would go on to completely revolutionize modern warfare. The post-war years saw great leaps in the development […]

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Why is the Universal Sign for a Hitchhiker the Thumbs Up, Held Out? And is Hitchhiking Actually Dangerous?

Sticking your thumb out to convey some meaning has seemingly been around for about as long as humans have been humaning, or, at least, as far back as written history goes. But how did the gesture come to be a signal that you’d like to hitch a ride from someone? And is hitching a ride actually dangerous? To begin with, […]

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How Much Money Do Songwriters Make (and How Do They Get Paid)?

The ins and outs of the music business are notoriously complex, with many details hidden behind closed doors, and rates subject to wide variation. In part this is understandable – both artists, streaming services and labels, strive to keep their individual contracts opaque, in part to secure for themselves the most favourable deals possible. The music business is also a […]

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Harry Houdini, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Crusade Against Spiritualism

Erik Weiss, better known by his stage name Harry Houdini, was one of the greatest entertainers in history, and among the first modern mega-celebrities. Over a 35-year career spanning the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Houdini thrilled audiences the world over with his headline-grabbing feats of stage magic and death-defying escapology, making entire elephants disappear and wriggling his way […]

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The Curious Case of the Last Witch in Britain

In the late 16th and early 17th Centuries, Europe found itself gripped by witch mania. After centuries of denying the existence of witchcraft, Church leaders incredibly came to believe that misfortunes such as plagues and crop failures were causes not by God’s will but rather individuals acting in league with the Devil. The resulting hysteria, stoked by the political turmoil […]

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That Time the United States Tested Biological Warfare on its Own Citizens

For the residents of San Francisco, October 11, 1950 started out like any other day, with thick banks of autumn fog rolling in from the bay and across the city. By the afternoon, however, it became clear that something was seriously wrong. On that day alone, eleven patients were admitted to Stanford Hospital with pneumonia, fever, and serious urinary tract […]

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The Machine that Bankrupted Mark Twain

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, aka Mark Twain, is one of the most important and celebrated American writers and wits in history. His keen observations and biting satires of 19th Century America remain beloved classics to this day, while his pithy quips will likely continue to infest our social media feeds for decades more to come. Yet despite Twain’s legendary intelligence and […]

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