More than a thousand years before the first telescopes, Babylonian astronomers tracked the motion of planets across the night sky using simple arithmetic. But a newly translated text reveals that these ancient stargazers also used a far more advanced method, one that foreshadows the development of calculus over a…
A new study shows we’re still suckers for canny packaging of cigarette brands, especially those claiming to be slightly less bad for us than the usual variety.
In 1955, the Soviet Union tested a bomb designated RDS-37 at a missile testing site in northeast Kazakhstan. The bomb’s power had been scaled down for the test, but a relatively rare weather phenomenon gave it an unexpected, and destructive, increase in power.
Alice Hamilton was one of those people who used science to shape morality. Basic concepts like sanitation, worker safety, and proper chemical disposal exist because she proved there was no other choice. She was also one of the first to speak out about the growing threat of Nazi Germany.
Today ultraviolet lamps are used during lackluster raves. But they have an impressive history: They were first regularly used during World War I to secretly monitor spies.
Antoine Lavoisier is deservedly considered one of the great chemists in history. We might not know of his experiments if it weren’t for his wife. She became a remarkable, if unconventional, chemist herself and had one of the weirder lives in history.
The victim was a seamstress, found dead in a bean patch, strangled by her own scarf. The suspect was a local creep who insisted he had nothing to do with the crime and was far away when it occurred. How did one detective prove what really happened? With dirt.
Here’s a hint: It’s not the clock. There’s a time-keeping device in this picture that’s incredibly simple (and quite famous) but wasn’t invented until 1829.
Locusta was one of the first recorded professional chemists. She was employed by several royal Romans, and even established a school for other chemists. Here’s why it was best not to piss off either her or her students.
In the 1940s, scientists came up with a “Standard Man” or “Reference Man” to help explain what different radiation exposures would do to a human. That was expanded to the Reference Woman and Reference Child. Now there is a small group of Reference Animals. Learn what made the cut.
One present to the King of Prussia launched an industry that, if current experts are to be believed, will kill us all. Learn how a pharmacist started a factory that has caused the destruction of many, and the enrichment of a few.
Antibiotics are something that, today, are taken for granted. This wasn’t always the case. The first patient to get antibiotics shows us how an incredibly minor injury can go bad, and how the road to antibiotic use wasn’t smooth even when scientists knew it worked.
Uranium and plutonium have gotten famous, or infamous, because they are used in atom bombs. We could have been saying that about another material—one that few actually know. Learn about the material that didn’t quite make it into The Bomb.
If you think America is unpopular in the world now, listen to some of the stuff they said about the country (and continent) in the late 1700s. European scientists came up with the “Theory of Degeneracy” to explain how terrible America was.
Oh, come on. Don’t pretend you’ve never wondered.
Today we bend Clostridium botulinum to our will, forcing it to make our faces smoother and our actors less able to do their jobs. Once, though, people had no idea what caused the “sausage disease.” It took two good men and one bad dinner to let the world know what was going on.
We know Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer and poet. He was also an amateur botanist, and his interest and connections led to the discovery of the chemical you crave every single morning.
Much of the cough syrup on the shelves today owes a little something to the US Navy and the CIA. One of its main effective ingredients was developed by a project funded by both agencies. Learn why.
William Buckland was a man of many achievements—most of them poop-centered. No one would be more proud of this than William Buckland.
I’m going to show you the last thing a rabbit ever saw. It, in turn, will show you why Victorian-era people believed that a murder victim’s eyes contained a “photograph” of the person who murdered them.