Think and Pray the Weak Away

Boys will be boys and boys need their toys. But once boys reach a certain age, they’ll want to replace their Hot Wheels with some hot wheels, their Action Man with a real-life Barbie, and their sticks and stones with firearms. It’s the American Way. Thanks to America’s liberal gun laws, over 10,000 of its weaker residents are rooted out …

There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Car

Italian media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi began his political career in 1993, as leader of the Forza Italia party, and in 1994 he became Italy’s Prime Minister. No. In actual fact, Berlusconi had already dipped his big toe in the pool of Italian politics ten years earlier, in 1983. To ensure his election in 1984, he promised that every Italian who …

The Great Equalizer

For decades, starting in 1933, Guyatone was a moderately successful Japanese manufacturer of electric guitars and various guitar paraphernalia. Their biggest seller was the Volume Box: an effects pedal that allowed electric-guitar players to change the volume of their instrument on stage -since the sound man never got it right. The Volume Box was an oblong metal box with a …

The Sound of Intoxication

The microfauna was an instrument to collect microorganisms from the air, invented by Nikola Tesla in 1879. It worked much like a mass spectrometer. When connected to a microfauna data recorder, it enabled scientists to determine the exact composition of the air. Unlike the mass spectrometer, it did so in terms of microorganisms, rather than molecules. The microfauna was, and …

To Be or to Be Someone Else

Identity crises have been around as long as identities and crises, but they weren’t identified as a medical affliction until the early 1960s (by an unidentified psychiatrist). The official medical term was, and still is, I Want to Be Somebody Else Syndrome, but Identity Crisis sounds less silly and has become the label of choice for most psychiatrists and laymen. …

Pigtails, Duckbills and Roasted Guinea Pigs

The invention of the duckbill speculum in 1845 revolutionized gynaecology. Up until then, doctors had been using the bills of actual ducks (usually dead ones). American doctor and animal rights activist J. Marion Sims felt there had to be a better way and set out to find it. After numerous experiments on volunteers (South Carolina slaves volunteered by their owners, …

America's Next Top Model

Scientists have always relied on models -simplified renditions of reality- to help them understand, explain or predict. Over the past decades, more and more of these models have been replaced by digital versions, which are said to be more accurate and flexible. A few traditionalists remain sceptical, however, as computer models don’t always yield the desired outcomes. They still prefer …

The Sun beneath the Clouds

In 1962, Berlin astronomer Johann Dunkeldorf, a 15-year-old Wunderkind and Nobel laureate, made a shocking discovery: our sun will expire one day and then Earth will be shrouded in eternal darkness. Dunkeldorf was a unique product of the Cold War, as he had been conceived and later born in the no-man’s land between the American and Soviet zones of Berlin. …

The INTIEs of Project Alpha

After the First Consumerism Crisis and the utter failure of the HK 4250G Multi Blower in the early Seventies, Philips was getting desperate. Their engineers had run out of ideas and so had management. Out of good ideas, anyway. But sometimes bad ideas are better than none, so when one of the suits in the upper echelons of Philips proposed …