Rock-Cut Architecture

You think your job’s bad. This was carved by hand from solid rock.

India has more than 1,200 such structures, the earliest dating to 8000 B.C.

“The Tomatina”

The world’s largest food fight takes place each year on the last Wednesday in August, when the town of Buñol, Spain, holds its annual tomato festival. Local trucks dump more than 100 metric tons of overripe tomatoes into the streets, and there’s a general free-for-all among up to 25,000 people.

Reportedly, when it’s over, rivers of tomato juice up to 12 inches deep run through the town, and area fire engines hose down the streets.

This has been going on since 1944, and apparently it has no political or religious significance — they do it just for fun.

Problem Solved

What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?

It can’t happen. If a force is irresistible, then by definition there’s no such thing as an immovable object (and vice versa).


There are 3 letters in the Italian word for 6, sei.

There are 4 letters in the Italian word for 8, otto.

There are 5 letters in the Italian word for 10, dieci.

There are 6 letters in the Italian word for 12, dodici.

Love Before Baseball

Did 12th-century chaplain Andreas Capellanus have a time machine? His treatise The Art of Courtly Love sounds surprisingly familiar:

Throughout all the ages, there have been only four degrees in love:
The first consists in arousing hope;
The second in offering kisses;
The third in the enjoyment of intimate embraces;
The fourth in the abandonment of the entire person.


“It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value.” — Arthur C. Clarke


If you visited Spain in January 2000, you needed a tin umbrella: Chunks of ice weighing up to 6.6 pounds fell out of a cloudless sky for 10 days.

No one knows how the ice formed. The chunks resembled hailstones, but no thunderstorm was present.

Planetary geologist Jesus Martinez-Frias dubbed the stones megacryometeors, and more than 50 have been recorded since the Spanish fall. The largest, in Brazil, weighed 485 pounds.


This is a sirrush, a curious creature that keeps turning up in Babylonian art. Basically it’s a dragon with a cat’s forelegs and an eagle’s talons. Strangely, it was depicted that way consistently for centuries, while other mythological animals went through sometimes drastic evolutions.

The German archaeologist Robert Koldewey, who discovered this bas-relief on the Ishtar Gate in 1902, believed that the sirrush might have been a real animal. For one thing, he pointed out, it’s depicted among ordinary animals, including lions and aurochs. For another, a biblical text refers to a “great dragon or serpent, which they of Babylon worshiped.”

After some research, Koldeway decided the best match was the iguanodon, a dinosaur with birdlike hind feet. Ancient civilizations are known to have unearthed fossils, so possibly the Babylonians had found the remains of an iguanodon or of a monitor lizard. Or, much more speculatively, perhaps some dinosaur lines still survived 2400 years ago in Central Africa — where bricks have been found similar to those in the Ishtar Gate.

Finger Fumblers

If you don’t speak, you can’t misspeak, right? Not so: American Sign Language has the equivalent of tongue twisters, known as finger fumblers.

One example is “good blood, bad blood” — which is hard to say in speech or sign.

Sasha Spesivtsev

In 1996, a pipe broke in an apartment building in the Siberian town of Novokuznetsk. The plumber traced the leak to the flat of Sasha Spesivtsev, who lived with his mother and a dog. He knocked, but no one answered, so he broke open the door.

The flat was an abattoir. The walls were covered with blood, and bowls in the kitchen contained pieces of human bodies. In the bathtub was a mutilated, headless body, and in the living room were a human rib cage and a 15-year-old girl, mutilated but still alive. She survived for 17 hours, long enough to tell police what had happened.

Spesivtsev’s mother had lured three girls into the apartment, where he raped and beat them, killed one and forced the other two to cut her to pieces, which the mother then cooked for dinner. The dog killed the second girl.

Spesivtsev was captured trying to rape a woman in another apartment, and he was eventually put to death. His diary records the murders of 19 girls; the Russian authorities suspected him of 12 more but ran out of money to investigate.