MIGHTY HISTORY
Daven Hiskey

The story of 'Murphy' from 'Murphy's law' and the amazing Dr. Stapp

The universe has been finding ways to mess with people long before Edward A. Murphy uttered his famed statement in the aftermath of Dr. John Paul Stapp strapping himself onto a rocket powered sled. One of the earliest instances of this "law" being stated explicitly happened in 1877 where Alfred Holt, in an address to the Institution of Civil Engineers, said, "It is found that anything that can go wrong at sea generally does go wrong sooner or later…"

By 1908, it had become a well-loved maxim among magicians as well, as explained by Nevil Maskelyne in The Magic Circular: "It is an experience common to all men to find that, on any special occasion . . . everything that can go wrong will go wrong…"

This was reiterated by Adam Hull Shirk in The Sphinx in 1928, "It is an established fact that in nine cases out of ten whatever can go wrong in a magical performance will do so."

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MIGHTY HISTORY
Daven Hiskey

That time a U-boat sank as a result of flushing the toilet

In the 1970s, BP oil pipeline workers came across a curious item about 12 miles southwest of Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire sitting about 86 meters under the surface- an old German U-Boat. In fact, one of the last U-Boats ever sunk in WWII. Unlike so many of its fellow subs, however, this one's demise came about owing to a sequence of events all stemming from someone flushing the toilet incorrectly… So what exactly happened here?

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MIGHTY HISTORY
Karl Smallwood

The fascinating life of the man who invented the... saxophone?

The favoured instrument of the likes of Lisa Simpsons, former President Bill Clinton, and the co-author of this article and founder of TodayIFoundOut, the saxophone has variously been described as everything from "the most moving and heart-gripping wind instrument" to the "Devil's horn." Rather fittingly then the instrument's inventor, Adolphe Sax, was a similarly polarising figure and led a life many would qualify as fulfilling all of the necessary specifications to be classified as being "all kinds of badass."

Born in 1814 in the Belgian municipality of Dinant, Sax was initially named Antoine-Joseph Sax but started going by the name Adolphe seemingly almost from birth, though why he didn't go by his original name and how "Adolphe" came to be chosen has been lost to history.

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MIGHTY CULTURE
Karl Smallwood

Here's the bizarre story of the man who 'sold the moon'

Back in the halcyon days of the 1980s, when all people of the world had to worry about was total annihilation via widespread nuclear war, an American called Dennis Hope made international news when he revealed that after exploiting a loophole in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, he had become the sole owner of our nearest celestial neighbour, the Moon. Since then, Hope has made a small fortune selling off pieces of the satellite's surface. While the media has mostly painted Hope as a harmless eccentric, if you study his story a little more closely, as we're wont to do, you'll see that Hope is actually a masterful entrepreneur and almost every aspect of his story is a carefully crafted falsehood or half truth that nonetheless has seen the man himself seemingly earn millions selling nothing more than pieces of paper.

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MIGHTY HISTORY
Karl Smallwood

That time an english dude invented a gun that fired square bullets

Considered to be little more than a historical curio today, the early 18th century Puckle Gun was nonetheless one of the most advanced firearms of its age, capable of firing one shot every 6 seconds in an era when even the most highly skilled soldier equipped with a musket typically topped out at a rate of only about one shot every 20 seconds.

Invented by one James Puckle Esq, an English lawyer and essayist, the Puckle Gun was a flintlock weapon capable of turning a man's insides into a cloud of viscera. Its most unique feature was a rotating cylinder that allowed it to overcome the inherent issue that plagued all flintlock weapons of the era — a glacial rate of fire.

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MIGHTY CULTURE
Daven Hiskey

Can sommeliers actually tell the difference between expensive and cheap wines?

Alex K. asks: Is it true that sommeliers can't tell the difference between expensive and cheap wines?

Having a seasoned tongue that can detect the subtle differences between different kinds of adult grape juice is a sure sign of class. In fact, the go-to Hollywood trope for showing that a character is refined is to give them a penchant for expensive wines. Even Hannibal Lecter, one of the most terrifying and cultured characters in film history, had a soft spot for chianti. But the question at hand today is can even the professional wine connoisseurs actually tell the difference between a Chateau Cheval Blanc 1943 and a Bota Box Chardonnay?

To begin with, it's important to understand what a person has to go through to acquire the label of wine expert, otherwise known as a sommelier. It turns out this varies considerably from absolutely no official required training at all (the label is technically originally a job title) to an extreme amount as in the case of Master Sommeliers, of which there have been less than 300 people who have managed to achieve that certification in the little over a half a century that title has been granted, making it one of the most exclusive professional certifications in the world.

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MIGHTY CULTURE
Karl Smallwood

Here are the best ways to survive falling out of a plane with no parachute

Peter E. asks: What could I do during freefall after falling out of a plane to maximize my chances of surviving?

According to the Aircraft Crashes Record Office in Geneva, between 1940 and 2008 there were 157 people who fell out of planes without a parachute during a crash and lived to tell about it. A full 42 of those falls occurred at heights over 10,000 feet (above 3,000 meters), such as the tale of 17 year old Juliane Koepcke who not only survived an approximately 10,000 foot free fall, but also a subsequent 10 day trek alone through the Peruvian rain forest with no real supplies other than a little bag of candy.

Now, while you might think surely nothing like that could ever happen to you, it turns out whether falling from 30,000 feet or a much more common 30, the same basic strategies apply. And for reference here, approximately 30 feet or about 9 meters is around the height at which you begin to be more likely to die from your injuries than survive. At heights as little as about 80 feet, only about 1 in 10 people survive and it pretty much all goes to hell from there.

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MIGHTY HISTORY
Daven Hiskey

That time British husbands sold their wives at market

While getting divorced in modern times in most nations isn't exactly a walk in the park, options at least do exist in much of the world, even in cases where one spouse would rather stay together. But this is a relatively modern phenomenon. Classically, getting divorced was almost impossible. So much so that at one point about the only way a woman could manage to get a legal divorce from her husband was to prove in court he couldn't finish the deed in bed by, if necessary, even attempting to have sex with him with court representatives standing by to observe.

Perhaps not coincidentally around the same time these impotence trials were going on throughout parts of Europe, a rather different means of divorcing one's spouse popped up in Britain — putting a halter around your wife, leading her like an animal to a local market, loudly extolling her virtues as you would a farm animal, including occasionally listing her weight, and then opening up bidding for anyone who wanted to buy her. On top of this, it wasn't uncommon for children to be thrown in as a package deal…

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MIGHTY MOVIES
Karl Smallwood

Why one of the 'most influential horror movies ever made' was a flop

Described variously as everything from "the greatest B-movie ever made" to a masterpiece of horror and suspense, John Carpenter's The Thing, which debuted on June 25, 1982, is a movie that rightfully stands amongst the likes of Alien and The Terminator as one of the most kick-ass sci-fi movies in history. The thing is, it turns out The Thing was so poorly received when it debuted that it nearly ruined Carpenter's career.

First, for anyone unfamiliar with the The Thing, the basic plot is that a shape-shifting alien organism from the depths of space crash lands in the middle Antarctica and begins brutally assimilating the denizens of an American research base. Throughout the film, in traditional horror movie fashion, the eponymous Thing slowly kills off the cast while Kurt Russell, sporting the bushiest beard of his career, tries to incinerate it with a flamethrower. Of note is the fact that the film ends on a cliffhanger, showing Russell's character staring down known hero of this Earth Keith David, as they both sit around waiting to freeze to death and come to the realization that one of them could be the Thing… The fate of neither man is made explicitly clear, leaving what happens next largely up to the interpretation of the audience.

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