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Stopwatch Cinema


High Noon unfolds in real time. You can time the events on your watch.


Standing shoulder to shoulder, all the people in the world could fit on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Toil and Trouble

Recipe for “flying ointment”:

  • 1/2 oz. soot
  • 1 oz. pork fat
  • 1 oz. hemlock
  • 1 oz. deadly nightshade
  • 1 oz. wolfsbane

Allegedly such recipes were obtained by torturing accused witches, who said they used the ointment to fly to the Sabbat. More likely the mixture induced hallucinations; maybe that amounts to the same thing.

Try, Try Again


The Russians’ “tsar tank” (above) didn’t work in World War I, and their “winged tank” (below) didn’t work in World War II.

No matter. “Failure is not falling down,” runs an Asian proverb, “but refusing to get up.”


In a Word

n. hypothetical second Earth on the opposite side of the sun

Science Marches On

Thinking they had found a Viking settlement, a team of experts spent months in 2003 excavating a platform of slabs in Marion Garry’s garden in Fife, Scotland.

They finally realized it was a patio from the 1940s.

Archaeologist Douglas Speirs admitted to ignoring an old television remote found during the dig.

“Looking back now,” he said, “that probably wasn’t the best approach.”

Tall Tale


When Magellan reached Argentina in 1519, he was in for a shock:

One day we suddenly saw a naked man of giant stature on the shore of the port, dancing, singing, and throwing dust on his head. The captain-general sent one of our men to the giant so that he might perform the same actions as a sign of peace. … He was so tall that we reached only to his waist, and he was well proportioned …

The navigator’s account says the man was “10 spans high,” which would be 7 foot 6; later European explorers reported natives up to 15 feet tall.

These legends persisted for 250 years before they were debunked, and they left one permanent legacy: Patagonia means “land of the big feet.”

Piece of the Pie

A 2003 survey of Domino’s Pizza managers in Washington D.C. found that Dec. 13, 2003, the day Saddam Hussein was captured, was the biggest day of the year for tips.

Dear Diary

The world’s longest diary is kept by Robert Shields of Dayton, Wash. Since 1972 he has spent four hours a day typing a record of everything that happens to him. Sample:

July 25, 1993, 7 a.m.: I cleaned out the tub and scraped my feet with my fingernails to remove layers of dead skin.

He stores the diary, now 38 million words long, in more than 80 cardboard boxes.

Bone and Garden

The Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic is decorated with 40,000 human skeletons.

“If life must not be taken too seriously,” wrote Samuel Butler, “then so neither must death.”