The World is Beautifully Strange...

... and I love writing about it! I always keep a chunk of my writing week open for unusual pursuits of inquiry, because well, why wouldn't I? Here's a selection.

The dark history of the American beard

The history of personal grooming isn't just the story of how we humans once gussied up for a night on the town. Ancient Egyptians melted fragrant wax cones on their heads not just to smell (and look) awesome, but also to curry favor with the god of perfume, Nefertum, who was the guy you talked to if you wanted to live a long and happy life. In the 1500s, English aristocrats would dye their hair bright red and keep their skin ghostly pale. Sure, this bold fashion move was a smart way to curry favor with Queen Elizabeth I (who happened to be very fond of red) but it was also reputedly a way for Church of England followers to separate themselves visually from Catholics across Europe, who were predominantly dark-haired.

Anton LaVey: The truth about the Church of Satan founder

There are many different kinds of evil. Of course, you've got your just plain nasty black-on-black evil, like serial killers and tacky gold-chain wearing despots. Then you've got crazy evil (eating a firefly) and senseless evil (axing Firefly). And of course, let's not forget that there's a whole library of lesser quasi-evils: mildly foul deeds of infamy like sticking gum under public library desks or sneaking almond milk into an innocent person's coffee.

What's the difference between magma and lava?

Admit it: you've obviously heard of both "magma" and "lava" when it comes to that hot stuff you saw at the end of Lord of the Rings. You know it's spicy enough to melt evil rings that can inexplicably conquer Middle Earth through the power of invisibility. But if you're being honest, you might not be clear on the difference between the two terms. Well, good news Frodo: we're here to keep you from embarrassing yourself in front of all them elves.

Darkest TV moments from the '00s

It's easy to remember TV shows of the '00s as a relentless rainbow of upbeat, primary-colored tales about people being there for one another, especially when the rain starts to pour. However, that televisual happy-scape of yesteryear (okay, less than 20 years ago) was actually speckled through with its fair share of dark 'n' dreary moments. The seedy televisual underbelly of the not-so-nice double-oughts had something mean, gritty, or just plain not cool for everyone — from grueling reality sho

The life and death of Harry Houdini

Born into complete poverty and obscurity, by the time he died, Harry Houdini had become one of the most recognized magicians, escape artists, and stage performers of all time. Throughout his lifetime, he'd devise a library of new magical techniques that would forever change how stage-magic was done. Along the way, he also forged the prototype for a new kind of magician — a prestidigitator who made his craft real and relatable outside of the stage.

What would happen if there were no moon?

The human race has an odd relationship with the battered, lonely space-bauble lazily circling our planet. It means many different things to our night-sky gazing species, from being a convenient source of romantic mood-lighting, to offering a glimmer of hope that a world made entirely of cheese may truly exist. We've even made computer games about the thing. But setting our love affair with Earth's largest natural satellite aside, what would happen if it

Do spiders sleep?

Spiders aren't the kind of critters you can easily sneak up on, and for the 75 percent of our species who find spiders repugnant or terrifying, it's often this constant watchful alertness they find most disconcerting. Well, that and the myth they'll crawl into your mouth when you're asleep. So that leads us to the slightly weird question: do spiders sleep? Dr. Barrett Klein, Associate Professor of Biology with the University of Wisconsin, explains that sleep is relatively common across the inse

Frozen treasures found in the depths of Antarctica

Antarctica is a remote enough chunk of the Earth as it is, but the speckle of tiny Antarctic islands surrounding the continent is ridiculously remote. Some of these islands are almost impossible to get a plane to fly over, let alone land on. One such speck on the map is Saunders Island, lying around 1,000 miles off the eastern edge of Antarctica's frigid coastline. Researchers analyzing high-resolution South Pole satellite imagery spotted something unusual about Saunders Island — or more specifi

How Heavy Metal Fans Are Smarter Than Many People Think

There’s a certain stereotype associated with the “metalhead.” It’s not especially favorable, let’s be honest. “Not too smart, kind of aggressive and more than a bit antisocial” about sums it up.Turns out, this perception is pretty much the opposite of what the research actually tells us. Metalheads are, statistically speaking, more likely to be intellectually and emotionally smart, more likely to have a complex appreciation for music and ar

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