15 Specters of Trivia That Frightened Us This Week
No one really knows when humans first mastered fire. Maybe we first started using flint to start fire 40,000 ago. Or maybe we first started using flint to start fire 400,000 years ago. That’s a huge difference and speaks to a huge hole in our knowledge about early humanity.
Humans were using fire even before we ever started fires, thanks to fires that started naturally. We might have been messing with those a million years before we set fires ourselves. These early fire interactions came with their own challenges. Find out about them below, along with some dubious advice about letting insects bite you.
The Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s were not the first witch trials in Massachusetts. Plymouth found one woman guilty of witchcraft earlier, but the only penalty was she had to pay a fine to the man on whom she’d cast a spell.
Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol
Staring in 1897, a Paris theater hosted live plays depicting scenes of graphic horror, such people stabbing each other’s brains. Patrons watched from private boxes because they tended to get visibly aroused.
Good News, Everyone
Spiders are getting larger. City spiders, anyway — evolutionary pressures have pushed spiders who live near people to grow bigger. This appears to be a good thing for the food chain overall.
In the 1930s, the Japanese public was interested in one high-profile murder, committed by a geisha. After killing her victim, Sada Abe cut off his genitals, then went on to routinely carry them with her, under her kimono.
The government has an official definition for raisin bread. It must contain a minimum level of raisins, naturally, and it also must contain a maximum level of egg, otherwise you must instead label it “raisin and egg bread.”
The Cape Town Zombie
After a 2018 car accident in Cape Town, paramedics declared three people dead. All of them went to the morgue. Fortunately, just a few hours later, someone checked in on the bodies because it turned out one of them was still breathing.
In the 1970s, Jim Henson had an idea for a movie called The Dark Chrysalis. Designer Brian Froud misheard the word “chrysalis” as something else and drew concept art of a crystal. The idea for The Dark Crystal developed from there.
What Could Go Wrong?
C-4 explosives are pretty explosive, of course, when you hit them with the right kind of shock wave. Otherwise, the stuff is remarkably stable. You can shoot C-4 with a gun, and it won’t detonate.
Your Big Nose
You really don’t have a good idea what your face looks like. Your conception of yourself comes from photos, and possibly selfies in particular, and the focal length of these shots creates an image different from what people see.
That Burning Sensation
According to one hypothesis, we developed as a species by sublimating the need to pee on fire. Men instinctively want to pee on sparks, due to the phallic impulse, but by holding back, they finally managed to tame fire. This idea is supported by no evidence.
This Is Your Life
In 1995, an American game show surprised a Hiroshima survivor by bringing out the guy who dropped the bomb. This wasn’t exactly a joyous reunion. The survivor did not know in advance that the Enola Gay pilot would be there, and he reacted with some distress.
In 2009, scientists heated manganese oxide with other elements to a temperature of 1,200 degrees Celsius, in hopes of developing new electronics compounds. They didn’t succeed at that exactly, but they did stumble up the most powerful shade of blue ever found.
A Man With a Destiny
Leatherman tools are not named that way because they come in iconic leather pouches. They are named for the company founder, Tim Leatherman.
In 19th-century Greece (and possibly thousands of years ago as well, according to vague historical record), doctors stitched wounds together by having live ants bite injured soldiers. Today, doctors say this is technically possible but a bad idea.
Some people who go blind don’t know it. Their brains come up with visual hallucinations to replace all lost vision. These patients have zero real visual perception but refuse to believe they can’t see.