The Bizarre History of X-Ray Records and Early Music Piracy

Thanks to the internet's amazing capacity for self-recycling, articles about Soviet pirate recordings made of X-rays pop up frequently in my feeds. These popular, widely-shared posts explain how, in the 1950s and 60s, music fans in the Soviet Union fabricated bootlegged recordings of banned western music—and they used… » 8/19/14 3:35pm 8/19/14 3:35pm

These GIFs From The Smithsonian Archives Make History Come To Life

The charm of a perfect looping image cannot be denied. Old timey illustrations are delightful nostalgia inducers. Pair 'em together and hot damn: That is a recipe for sure-fire internet love. Drawing from seemingly endless stores of digitized archives, the Smithsonian Libraries have been posting original gifs on their » 8/14/14 8:20pm 8/14/14 8:20pm

A Forgotten Einstein Model of the Universe Describes the Big Crunch

Way back in 1931, Albert Einstein visited the U.S. for three months. Inspired by meetings with Edwin Hubble, he began thinking about the Universe differently, writing a paper in four days to get down his thoughts—and now, those first scribblings have been translated into English for the first time. » 8/14/14 5:30am 8/14/14 5:30am

The Palestine conflict history explained in one absurd animation

This animated short by Nina Paley—in the tradition of the best Monty Python music skits—might not be an orthodox history lesson, but it's an accurate depiction of the horrible 6,000-year bloodshed in the region of Palestine, with dozens of tribes and nations fighting each other to claim ownership of that land. » 8/07/14 8:17pm 8/07/14 8:17pm

I Prefer Watching These Heavily Slurred Versions of American History

Drunk History is in many ways the best show on television at the moment. You get the LOLs of absurdist sketch comedy while arming yourself with enough History Channel-quality Fun Facts™ to make you sound smart the next day. At the same time, it feels like hosting a party in your living room—one that inevitably ends… » 8/04/14 8:00pm 8/04/14 8:00pm

Marie Curie's century-old radioactive notebook still requires lead box

Marie Curie made some of the most significant contributions to science in the 20th century. And as most people already know, she did so at a great cost to her own health. What most people probably don't know, however, is that the radiation levels she was exposed to were so powerful that her notebooks must now be kept… » 8/04/14 2:52pm 8/04/14 2:52pm

Scientists reveal the secrets of mysterious ship found under 9/11 ruins

Scientists have found the secrets of the old ship unearthed in 2010 under the ruins of the Twin Towers. First, the large vessel—buried under 22 feet (6.7 meters) of soil and wreckage—was built around the same time the Declaration of Independence was signed. There's more—but there's also one big mystery left unsolved. » 7/29/14 6:09pm 7/29/14 6:09pm

There's an Actual Piece of the Wright Flyer Inside Bremont's New Watch

Starting in 2010, Bremont has been paying homage to significant moments in the history of technology with a unique line of watches that includes the Codebreaker which celebrated the work of the WWII Enigma machine crackers. Now the watchmaker is honoring the Wright Brothers' achievements with a new timepiece that… » 7/24/14 10:26am 7/24/14 10:26am

Watch How American Cities Grew Through Thousands of Historic Maps

Good thing it's almost the holiday weekend and you don't need to be productive because the USGS just launched a heck of a time-wasting website. Now you can explore cities through beautiful old maps, some dating all the way back to 1884. But here's the best part: You can mix and match many maps to tell your own… » 7/02/14 6:00pm 7/02/14 6:00pm

The Aloof Blackjack Player Who Created Our Digital World

Every digital device you use operates on a string of ones and zeroes, the binary "yes/no" decision at the foundation of modern computing. It's a concept so fundamental to our modern day that we rarely stop to wonder where it came from. But it's all the work of one man: Claude Shannon, whose fascinating story you've… » 6/28/14 8:00pm 6/28/14 8:00pm

If Einstein Had Never Been Born, Would We Still Have Nuclear Weapons?

Albert Einstein and his equation E=mc² are famously connected to the modern atomic age. But as nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein writes in this counterfactual account of history, the great physicist mattered less than you'd think in the invention of the nuclear bomb. » 6/28/14 9:00am 6/28/14 9:00am

How WWI Bombs Shattered Bedrock and Changed the Geology of France

Every once in a while, we're reminded of World War I's awful legacy: Trenches that run like gashes through the French countryside, craters in farmland, the iron harvest. These scars are even deeper than we might imagine. Bombs actually shattered bedrock and created the bizarre, dimpled landscape of modern day Verdun. » 6/13/14 4:40pm 6/13/14 4:40pm

How Two Women Made Your Watch Glow in the Dark

On December 21, 1898, Marie and Pierre Curie discovered the radioactive element radium (in the form of radium chloride), extracting it from uraninite. They first removed the uranium from the uraninite sample and then found that the remaining matter was still radioactive, so investigated further. Along with the barium… » 6/13/14 5:15am 6/13/14 5:15am