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A Senator Learns Why Four Bottles of Gin and An Angry Mistress Don't Mix

Contemporary politicians do their best to supply us with a steady stream of scandals. But the strange case of New Jersey State Senator—shot by his mistress, Ruth Jayne Cranmer, in 1931—would grab headlines even today. This was during Prohibition, of course, but it started with lots of gin. » 7/17/15 5:40pm 7/17/15 5:40pm

We Get the Best Space Images When Scientists Pull All-Nighters

Fifty years ago today, the Mariner 4 mission sent home the first images of Mars. Today, the New Horizons probe sent home gloriously detailed photos of Pluto. Despite the intervening decades, the vibrant excitement of the mission scientists staying up all night to see that first image is exactly the same. » 7/15/15 7:30am 7/15/15 7:30am

What Did Pythagoras Mean By "All Things Are Number"?

We all know that numbers can help us understand the beauty of nature. But in this excerpt from the new book A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature’s Deep Design by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek, he shows how it goes a lot deeper than that. Did the ancient mathematician Pythagoras know something we don’t? » 7/14/15 10:30am 7/14/15 10:30am

When We Discovered Pluto, It Changed How We Saw The Solar System

On the 23rd and 24th of January, 1930, a young astronomer working in Flagstaff, Arizona, scanned a small patch of the night sky. He was taking pictures of star positions, looking for anomalies that would signal movement somewhere at the edge of the solar system. He took the pictures then set them aside, not realizing… » 7/12/15 12:00pm 7/12/15 12:00pm

Why Birth Control Dispensers Look the Way They Do

The first working model of the now-iconic birth control pill dispenser is in the Smithsonian’s history collection. It’s built out of clear plastic, paper, and double-sided tape, held together by a snap from a child’s toy, with slices of wooden dowel standing in for pills. It was created to solve a vexing problem. » 7/01/15 3:00pm 7/01/15 3:00pm

Galileo's Many Inventions Helped Redefine Our Place In The Universe

Galileo is considered one of the greatest astronomers of all time. His discovery of Jupiter’s major moons (Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto) revolutionized astronomy and helped speed the acceptance of the Copernican Model of the universe. However, Galileo is also known for the numerous scientific inventions he made… » 6/30/15 11:20am 6/30/15 11:20am

This Book Got The Author Sentenced to Three Months Hard Labor

Charles Knowlton didn’t think much of the laws of Massachusetts, at least when they interfered with his medical practice. By the time he opened a practice in the town of Ashfield, he had already been arrested in Amherst, MA for selling “infidel” books and had spent two months in the Worcester County Jail for grave… » 6/19/15 11:30am 6/19/15 11:30am

The NC French Teacher Who Was Maybe Also Napoleon's Military Strategist

The story of Peter Stewart Ney isn’t necessarily tied to a crime, but it’s so fascinating that it begs a spot among the other mysteries here. In the 18th century, Ney was a well-liked teacher in the Carolinas; at one point, he designed the seal still used by Davidson College. But was he hiding a secret military past? » 6/16/15 8:30pm 6/16/15 8:30pm

The Ancestor Of The Menstrual Cup Was More Like A Menstrual Canteen

The first modern-style menstrual cup was patented in 1932, but that wasn’t the first time inventors turned their skills to the problem of keeping bloody goo off women’s clothes. Take, for example, this little gem from 1884. It’s a menstrual cup, attached to a reservoir big enough to last for days. » 6/11/15 6:00pm 6/11/15 6:00pm