There were probably a whole bunch of people who told Alexander Graham Bell that his telephone idea was stupid, informed Karl Benz that his horseless carriage would never work, or dared Ronald McDonald to start that restaurant while still murdering every fifth child he saw (as clown law mandates). When those people (and one clown) succeeded, they must have spat directly in their critics' faces. Just like these folks ...
In 1982, Gregory Watson was a sophomore at the University of Texas, and he opted to write a term paper about constitutional amendments for a class. As part of his research, Watson discovered that an amendment proposed way back in 1789 limited congresspeople's ability to raise their own salary. But it had never been ratified, partly because it had been more or less forgotten about, and partly because Congress likes money.
OK, more than "partly" on that last thing.
Watson wrote his paper about the proposed amendment, noting that nobody had ever put a time limit on it, so technically, after nearly two centuries, it could still be ratified. The class TA gave him a C, insisting that nobody cared about an obscure old amendment proposal about congressional salaries and that the idea that it could still be ratified was crazy, no matter how much "evidence" he dug up. Watson appealed to his professor, who told him the same thing.
Now, a C grade is the kind of mark most of us aspire to see one day, but Watson took it as an insult. There was only one way to prove that he was right, and that was to ratify the hell out of that amendment. Watson began calling up state legislatures to convince them that the amendment was a good idea, and they turned out to be a lot more interested than his teachers had been. The first state Watson convinced was Maine, with others quickly following suit. In 1992, the amendment was ratified by the requisite three-fourths of states and officially became the 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, 202 years after it was presented to Congress.
Apparently, simply doing the extra credit work was asking too much.
When someone tracked down Watson's old professor to ask for her opinion, she said that she didn't even remember Watson, but was proud to have inspired him. "Inspired" isn't quite the right word, here. "Inspited" would be better. Somebody ask the Germans; we're sure they have a term for it already.
Nobel-Prize-winning biologist John B. Gurdon failed high school biology. Not just biology, in fact, but all sciences across the board -- he had the worst grades out of 250 students. Gurdon did so poorly that his grumpy old British headmaster sent home a report card strenuously recommending that his parents dissuade him from his aspirations of becoming a scientist, because "it would be a sheer waste of time, both on his part, and of those who have to teach him." He barely stopped short of suggesting a career in sign-dancing.
Sir John B. Gurdon
But he did recommend stripping, oddly enough.
Disillusioned, Gurdon went on to pick an ancient history major at Oxford instead. But it seemed fate knew something that Headmaster McCrustygrump didn't. There was a mix-up at the admissions office, and Gurdon was enrolled in a zoology course. As a postgraduate student, he became the first person in the world to clone an animal -- a frog -- proving the concept possible. Gurdon's Frankenfrog research earned himself and a colleague the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2012. And even though he won a freakin' Nobel, that shitty report card is the only thing he ever framed. He keeps it on his desk at the Cambridge. In the institute that's named after him.
After his third voyage west, Christopher Columbus had a bit of a falling-out with the Spanish crown, who imprisoned him and replaced him as Governor of the Indies with Francisco de Bobadilla. Bobadilla was kind of a terrible person (though to be fair, so was Columbus), and he hated Columbus. Almost as much as he loved all the treasure that Columbus had hoarded in the Caribbean, which Bobadilla immediately set to stealing. Or re-stealing, whatever.
"I claim this gold in the name of finders keepers!"
Eventually, Columbus was released and a deal was reached wherein Bobadilla would send all of Columbus' gold back to Spain. That didn't mean he had to like it. Bobadilla was set to lead the treasure fleet to Spain. His successor as governor, Nicolas de Ovando, personally designated a ship named the Aguja to carry Columbus's gold -- mainly because Ovando also hated Columbus (go figure!) and the Aguja was the single slowest and most pathetic ship the Spaniards had available.
While Columbus was sailing around on his fourth and final voyage, discovering new worlds and emptying said worlds of both their treasure and people, he realized a hurricane was forming. He sailed on over to Santo Domingo to take shelter, then warned Ovando and Bobadilla. Ovando not only told Columbus that he was full of shit, but further forbade Columbus from taking shelter in the harbor, and then he sent the fleet on its way.
"This is naught but a drizzle!"
But it turned out that Columbus, the guy famous for sailing, knew a little bit about sailing. While he took his ships around the island to seek cover, Bobadilla's fleet was caught in the Mona Passage when the storm rolled in. 25 ships full of gold and silver sank to the bottom, killing Bobadilla and a few more of Columbus' enemies.
While giving life to a few pirate curses.
The three or four slowest ships in the fleet survived because they lagged behind the main fleet, and thus weren't in the Mona Passage when the storm struck. Of those surviving ships, all but one had to turn around to Santo Domingo for emergency repairs. Ironically, the only ship in the fleet that was able to make it to Spain was the Aguja. The disaster worked out so well in Columbus' favor that his political enemies started accusing him of summoning the storm with witchcraft. Or dickcraft, as it were.
The ludicrously expensive Fudai Floodgate was designed to protect the titular village from a tsunami, but looks like it would hold up as well against a kraken.
This is Japan, after all.
The 51-foot wall is the handiwork of former mayor Kotaku Wamura, who set the project in motion purely due to his personal and oddly specific fear of tidal waves. When Wamura was a young boy, he witnessed a tsunami destroy Fudai, and he became absolutely determined to make sure it would never happen again. In the 1970s, he finally managed to push through a reviled plan for what was, by any standards at the time, a ridiculously sturdy and almost offensively expensive tsunami wall, which took 12 years to construct. No one was against a tsunami blockade per se; it was the absurd size of the wall they were concerned about. The 3,000 residents of Fudai couldn't help but wonder if their tiny village really justified a full-blown Kaiju wall.
But then 2011 happened. You remember, the most powerful earthquake to ever hit Japan? So powerful that it tilted the entire planet and produced a tsunami that wiped out a tragic percentage of the country? Guess which was the only village to survive practically unaffected?
Wamura's ridiculous money-pit of a wall did the one job it was designed to do, and did it marvelously. Sadly, Wamura wasn't alive to see the day he saved the town and everyone in it. Instead, a bunch of grateful villagers visited his grave to give thanks, where presumably his ghost mooned them as hard as it could.
Hiro Komae/AP via NBC News
And the words "Told you so" appeared on the floodgate written in blood.
Imagine a conspiracy theorist, and you'd probably picture someone like Gustl Mollath staring vaguely into the middle distance with his weird bug eyes. The German government agreed, which is why they had him committed to a mental hospital for paranoid delusions in 2006.
Joerg Koch/Getty Images
Shown here looking rightfully pissed off to all hell.
This was not purely for the conspiracy stuff, of course. The German vintage car restorer was also accused of domestic abuse and slashing tires and keying cars around his neighborhood. You know, stuff that crazy people do. When he was taken to court, his defense statement was full of unhinged rants about the Moon landing, former Ugandan president Idi Amin, and a secret plot by the German bank HypoVereinsbank, where his wife worked, which wanted to destroy him for his knowledge of their illegal money laundering practices. Also aliens, probably. We haven't read his statement, but come on -- aliens.
The court read as much of the 106-page document as they could tolerate before deciding not to try Mollath, and instead commit him to a mental institution. And that's where he lived for six years.
Though the rooms were comfier than the ones on the alien space ship. Allegedly.
Then, in 2012, a whistleblower leaked documents to the German media which proved that HypoVereinsbank was engaging in illegal money laundering. And sure, you're probably thinking that this is nothing but a case of a broken clock being right twice a day. If you accuse enough companies of being a front for organized crime, sooner or later you'll probably accuse one that really is. But Mollath's accusations were specific enough to show that he did in fact know what was going on. His mistake was burying his truth bombs in a conspiracy rant that would give Alex Jones fever sweats.
Not to be confused with his meat sweats, or his breathing sweats, or his-
Mollath was given a full pardon and released, and now he's never going to shut up about that Moon landing stuff.
Zachary Frey is a sophomore at Cornell University. You can read his 10 most recent articles here.
Think Nana and Pop-Pop's loving 60-year monogamous relationship is quaint and old-fashioned? First off, sorry for that disturbing image, but we've got some news for you: the monogamous sexual relationship is actually brand new relative to how long humans have been around. Secondly, it's about to get worse from here: monkey sex.
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