In the mid-Cretaceous Period, about 90 million years ago, the earth was much, much warmer. High concentrations of atmospheric CO2 would have created much hotter global temperatures, melting polar ice sheets, and sending sea levels soaring to up to 170 meters (558 feet) higher than they are today. Which resulted in Antarctica being covered in rainforest.

An Elegant Solution To A Pesky Plague

In 1771, Moscow experienced a Bubonic Plague outbreak under the rule of Catherine the Great. It took a long time for doctors to recognize that a plague was occurring, but people knew something was happening because those they knew kept dying. The result? Without governmental guidance, people began self-isolating at home, and avoiding hospitals where they might catch the disease. There was also a riot after the governor of the city fled to his coutnry estate, and the police chief did the same.

Something had to be done, so Catherine the Great appointed her sometimes-lover Grigory Orlov to handle the plague and resulting unrest. He arrived at a city where doctors were not trusted, and no one wanted to go to hospitals, but the plague was still spreading. He needed a way to check the entire population, to separate the sick and the healthy, and do so without causing riots.

Orlov's solution was elegant in its simplicity. He announced that when people left hospitals and quarantine homes, verified by doctors to be cured, they would receive a set of new clothes and a cash benefit (married people would get 10 rubles, single people 5 rubles). People suddenly flooded hospitals, wanting to be checked by doctors so they could get the benefits. It is estimated that Orlov spent 30,000 rubles of his own money on the benefits, and there was no unrest or force needed.

Particularly helpfully, people kept going back to doctors to get re-evaluated. This helped determine the incubation period of the plague by calculating when individuals first were evaluated to when they started showing symptoms.

What The Ell?

"Ell" is a unit of measurement based on the Old English word for "arm." The unit was the length of a forearm, usually 45 inches or 1.143 m. It has fallen out of use, as have many other units of measurement based on arms:

  • digit (1/60 ell)
  • finger (7/360 ell)
  • palm (1/15 ell)
  • hand (4/45 ell)
  • shaftment (2/15 ell)
  • span (1/5 ell)
  • cubit (2/5 ell)

Ancient Hominins Shared Their Homes

The remains of three groups of hominins found at the Drimolen Cave Complex in South Africa have been dated with electron spin resonance, paleomagnetism, and uranium-lead dating, and determined to all date to between 2.04 and 1.95 million years ago. The three groups of hominins belonged to Australopithecus (the group made famous by the "Lucy" fossil from Ethiopia), Paranthropus and Homo erectus (believed to be our direct ancestors before Homo Sapiens).

In other words? Three groups of hominins lived side-by-side. It underscores that the present situation, with just one hominin species dominating across locations and climates, is historically unusual.

The Homo erectus fossil is notable on its own, too. The two-million-year-old remains studied were from a Homo erectus child. The new dating places the remains at 100,000 to 200,000 years older than any other known Homo erectus fossils.

The Curse of Tecumseh

Since 1840, every American president who was elected in a year ending in zero has died in office. The first president taken down by this bizarre pattern was William Henry Harrison, elected in 1840, who died of pneumonia a month after taking office. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln  was elected. Enough said on that. In 1880, James Garfield was elected president,  and he was killed, by the disgruntled job-seeker Charles Guiteau. In 1900, William McKinley was elected for his second term, and was also assassinated by an anarchist. In 1920, Warren Harding was elected, and he suffered a stroke after three years in office and died. In 1940, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was re-elected for a third term, and died in office in 1945 (just after being re-elected for a fourth term). In 1960, John F. Kennedy was elected, then assassinated.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected, and though he was shot at in office, he survived two terms and died of Alzheimer's decades later. The Teflon Man apparently ended the curse of Tecumseh which had killed seven presidents before him.


"Coffee-houses...have produced very evil and dangerous effects...many Tradesmen and others, do therein mis-spend much of their time, which might...otherwise be imployed in and about their Lawful Callings and Affairs; but also, for that in such houses, and by occasion of the meetings of such persons therein, divers False, Malitious, and Scandalous Reports are devised and spread abroad, to the Defamation of his Majesties Government...his Majesty hath thought it fit and necessary, that the said Coffee-houses be...put down and suppressed..."

Proclamation for the suppression of coffeehouses, issued by King Charles II of England in 1675. The new brew was popular, with at least 63 coffeehouses in London by 1660. They were a place for all classes of people to gather and talk. But this also meant they were under suspicion by the government, as places of sedition and plots. King Charles II's proclamation, however, simply caused a public outcry that was so strong the proclamation had to be removed after eleven days.

Tiny Tools Are Evidence Of Human's Early Asian Expansion

Trying to create a small, delicate drawing is more difficult than creating a simple, large drawing. In a similar way, our stone-wielding ancestors found it harder to make small, delicate stone tools than simple, large tools like axes. This is why researchers were surprised to find that by around 45,000 years ago a community in Sri Lanka had mastered such technology.

A collection of microliths (small stone tools) were found in the Fa-Hien Lena Cave in Sri Lanka. These advanced tools helped humanity's ancestors thrive despite the difficult rainforest environment by allowing them to hunt small tree-dwelling animals. And at 45,000 years old, the microliths are evidence that humanity settled the edges of South Asia earlier than was previously thought.

Watch Medieval Castles Be Rebuilt (Virtually)

London-based creative agency NeoMam Studios teamed up with architects to "re-build" seven European castles, at the height of their power and majesty. The one above is Samobor Castle, originally built in the mid-1200s for the Bohemian king Otakar II. It is now in Croatia, near Samobor city, and is apparently a popular spot for picnics. See all seven castles and read their stories

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