Fewer cats led to more plague bearing rats, or so the story goes

Photo by Mark Rimmel on Unsplash

People have mixed attitudes toward cats. Some people love them and some not so much. But historically speaking, the pendulum has swung much further to each extreme.

The Egyptians worshipped cats for thousands of years, associating them with the goddess Bastet. Their love for them was so well known that in the Battle of Pelusium in 525 BCE, the invading Persians painted the image of Bastet on their shields and drove cats and other sacred animals before them, hoping the Egyptians would give up rather than risk hurting the animals. …


And cases have shot up over the last 50 years

IMAGE: Budimir Jevtic on Shutterstock

A little over two hundred years ago, no one even knew hay fever existed. There were people suffering from it, but it was so rare it had gone unnoticed.

At the beginning of the 19th century, a British physician called John Bostock started to search for what caused a mysterious summer illness that had affected him every year since childhood. He scoured the UK for similar sufferers but was only able to find 28 cases.

To put that in perspective, 16 million people are now affected each year in the UK. Currently, in the West, hay fever affects between 10…


By most definitions, you have 9 or 21. And seeing dead people isn’t one of them

Photo by Solstice Hannan on Unsplash

Everyone knows you have five senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. This belief probably originates with Aristotle and his writing in De Anima, where he states these five.

A sixth one means you are psychic or see dead people. (That was a joke.)

Except, by any way you measure them, five is incorrect. You have… well, it’s debated. Part of the problem comes from how we define what a sense is. Different people will give you different answers depending on their speciality and personal definition.

The most common replies would be 9, 21 or several hundred.

First, let’s look…


They join chimpanzees and parrots in being able to pass the test

Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The famous Stanford Marshmallow Experiment was originally a study conducted in the 1970s to test self-control and delayed gratification in human children.

Animal researchers have also tried the experiment on various animals and found large-brained vertebrates and certain birds were able to pass the test. Surprisingly, cuttlefish can now be added to the list.

But what exactly is the experiment, and how did they test it on underwater invertebrates?

What is the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment?

The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment has taken a few different forms, but generally, they involve a preferred reward if the child chooses to wait. …


The stones were dismantled and then rebuilt 140 miles away

Photo by Stephanie LeBlanc on Unsplash

In the twelfth century, Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote a tale about Merlin traveling to Ireland and stealing the ‘Giant’s Dance’ — a magical stone circle. Merlin then rebuilt it in England as a memorial for the dead. While the story seems more of a myth, there has been increasing evidence that there may be some truth in it.

A century ago, a geologist called Herbert Thomas reached the conclusion that the ‘bluestones’ of Stonehenge were originally from the Preseli Hills of western Wales, 140 miles from Salisbury Plain. …


For six weeks during World War 2, a reindeer called Pollyanna lived on the HMS Trident

Polyanna and the HMS Trident. Photo credit: RN Submarine Museum

In 1941, the British and Russians were on the same side against the Nazis. Their submarines patrolled the Arctic circle, and the British often used Soviet ports for repairs. In a bizarre act of diplomacy, a fully grown reindeer was presented as a gift from the Soviet Union and ended up living on a British submarine for six weeks. It adapted well to life onboard — a little too well as it turned out.

A British captain dines with a Russian admiral

The captain of the HMS Trident, Commander Geoffrey Sladen, was invited to dinner with a Russian admiral while his vessel underwent repairs in a Soviet port.


It’s a Guinness record holder for world’s tallest unoccupied building

The Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang. Credit: Feng Li/Getty Images

In 1987, work began on the Ryugyong Hotel in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. The hotel name means ‘capital of willows’, which was also one of the historical names for Pyongyang. It was to be over 1000 feet high, have 3000 rooms, a bowling alley, nightclub and five revolving restaurants at the top. It was also due to open in 1989.

That didn’t happen.

Cut to 2021 and the hotel has yet to be finished and its nickname has become the ‘Hotel of Doom’ as well as the ‘Phantom Hotel’ and the ‘Phantom Pyramid’.


This is the incredible true story of John Daniel, who was no ordinary gorilla

John Daniel with his school mates. Photo Credit: SWNS:South West News Service

John Daniel was a young gorilla who was adopted by an English family in 1918 and brought up as a human boy in the village of Uley. He had his own room, went to school, and was fond of tea and cider.

His remarkable story came to prominence when Uley archivist, Margaret Groom, published John’s pictures in a recent book about the village.

But how exactly did this come about? And was he really just like another kid? (Spoiler for the latter question — obviously not, but more so than you would think.)

How did John Daniel end up in an English village?

The gorilla was bought from a London…


You don’t associate raccoons with Japan, but they have become a serious problem

Photo by Juan Carlos García on Unsplash

Raccoons are cute as hell. They also have a reputation for rascally behaviour. It was precisely these qualities that gave rise to their popularity in Japan, prompted by a 70s TV show.

Unfortunately, Japan now has something of raccoon problem. And it is spreading. They have already become naturalized in 44 of Japan’s 47 prefectures. They are proving to be major pests, eating crops and indigenous species such as the Japanese crayfish and the Ezo salamander. The raccoons have even damaged 80% of Japan’s temples.

Given that raccoons aren’t native to Japan, how did so many get there?

The raccoons first arrive in Japan after the success of a TV series

In 1963…


When the British invaded Iceland during WW2 everyone was very nice about it

Photo by David Forsman on Unsplash

On the 10th May 1940, the British invaded the island nation of Iceland. The invasion itself was slightly shambolic and there were fears of heavy resistance from the Germans both on the island and at sea. What actually happened was quite different.

What was the reason for the invasion?

The main reason was to keep it from the Germans. The Axis had just launched Operation Weserübung and had invaded and taken over the neutral countries of Norway and Denmark. The fear was that Iceland was next.

Iceland had previously been ruled by Denmark but in 1918 had become an independent state. It was, however, still in a…

Jason Ward

Freelance Writer, Author. Lives in Asia. www.jasonwardwriter.com Or email: thewordofward@gmail.com Top writer in History and Culture.

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