The Coso Artifact

In 1961, three prospectors in California found a sparkplug encased in solid rock.

It was originally thought to be 500,000 years old, which would put it in a class with the Kingoodie Hammer and the Dorchester Pot.

More recent investigations say the “rock” is just a concretion of iron oxide produced by the rusting plug, which may date only from the 1920s … but discoverer Mike Mikesell says he destroyed a diamond-edged blade in cutting through it.

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.