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Harvard's 'Frankenstein': The 1970s Controversy Over Mixing DNA

In the 1970s, two inhuman creatures — one hairy and tall, another with orange eyes — were spotted in New England. The mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts, blamed these monsters not on unreliable testimonies, but recombinant DNA technology, then a new and promising laboratory technique.


The Origin Of Colour Bars On TV, And Other Standard Test Files 

Occasionally, we get to catch a glimpse of the hidden tests that ensure our technology-infused world runs smoothly: colour bars on TV or blocks of “lorem ipsum” gibberish text. There’s a fascinating story behind how each of these tests came to be and how they work.


The First Brand Manager Was A 1st Century Roman Glassblower 

Ennion made me. Those were the words that emerged as archeologists brushed centuries of dust off glass vessels in digs all over the classical world, again and again. But who was Ennion? And how, in the early years of the modern world, did he make so much glass?


50 Years Ago, NASA Astronauts Smuggled A Sandwich Into Space

On March 23, 1965, astronaut John Young reached into his pocket and offered his crewmate Gus Grissom a corned beef sandwich. It was in the middle of the Gemini 3 mission, and let’s be clear, they were in space. It was a silly little prank but one that, man, really pissed off Congress.


This Lost Map Changed How We Saw The World

In 1815, William Smith drew a map of the United Kingdom which transformed the scientific landscape: It laid the foundations for modern geology, and identified natural resources which would beget the Industrial Revolution. But up until last year, this first-edition copy was considered to be lost forever.


This Pigeon Guided Missile System Was (Thankfully) Never Deployed

Yesterday, in 1904, psychologist BF Skinner was born. His contribution to the world? This pigeon-guided missile system, among other things. Yes, actually.



How Big Data Busted Abe Lincoln

It’s easy to think of data journalism as a modern invention. With all the hype, a casual reader might assume that it was invented sometime during the 2012 presidential campaign.


The Sound Of A War's End, Visualised

Above we see seven seconds of an audio recording from November 11, 1918. On the left we can see three seconds of guns firing. In the middle? The official time of the ceasefire to end World War I and a sudden reprieve from the staccato of weapons blasting. On the right, the first three seconds of peace. An uneasy silence, no doubt.


Why Your Calendar Starts With Sunday

As with so many things passed down to us from antiquity, religion is the reason the calendar week starts (for many of us) on Sunday.


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