Firestone came out with radioactive spark plugs in 1940. The idea was that radioactive material (polonium) would improve the electrical conductivity of the spark plugs, resulting in better fuel combustion. More details from the Health Physics Historical Instrumentation Museum:
Other than the slightly improved performance when the plugs were first installed, their benefits were questionable. The short half-life of polonium-210 (138 days) meant that the enhanced performance was only temporary. It also put dealers in the uncomfortable position of having to decide what to do after unsold plugs sat on the shelf for extended periods. Furthermore, the inevitable accumulation of deposits on the surface of the plugs’ electrodes as the vehicle burned fuel would attenuate the alpha particles and prevent them from ionizing the gas.
Shaver's golf = a game to find out the smallest number of strokes with which you can shave your face.
Minneapolis Star - Aug 6, 1939
A useful aid for this game would be the "stroke-counting razor" invented by engineers at Gillette a few years ago. Using this tool, Gillette determined that the average man takes about 170 strokes to shave his face. So, in the game of shaver's golf, I guess that 170 would be considered par.
July 1993: A pro-timber group urged consumers to stockpile toilet paper in order to deplete store supplies and thereby raise awareness of the importance of wood and paper products. "You can help by buying one or two (or twenty!) cases of toilet paper," its newsletter declared.
Little did they know that, 27 years later, a pandemic would transform America into a nation of toilet paper stockpilers!
At an August 1938 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Professor Lewis F. Richardson attempted to use mathematics to predict the likelihood of war:
The professor reduced to beautiful differential equations general tendencies common to all nations — resentment of defiance, the suspicion that defense is concealed aggression, response to imports by exports, restraint on armaments by the difficulty of paying for them, and, last, grievances and their irrationality.
He concluded there was "no chance of war," which proved to be a somewhat inaccurate prediction.
Richardson viewed war instead in Tolstoyan fashion, as a massive phenomenon governed by forces akin to the forces of nature, over which individuals have little or no control. Accordingly, he ignored all those intricacies of diplomatic-strategic analysis usually pursued by political historians and turned his attention to quasi-mechanical and quantifiable processes which, he assumed, govern the dynamics of the international system of sovereign states.
Despite the eccentricity of his mathematical war-prediction model, Richardson was apparently quite influential in the history of mathematics. Wikipedia notes that he did pioneering work in mathematical techniques of weather forecasting, as well as in the study of fractals.
Henry lived until 1862 when he died in London. In his Will his estate was valued £200,000 which would be tens of millions today. The Will divided his estates between his only surviving children, namely his sons William and Edward. Henry added a final stipulation that should either of his sons grow a moustache they would forfeit their share which would revert to the other brother.
The newspapers reported this in some detail at the time, and it was still worthy of news 20 years later in 1882.
Detail from Budd's will in which he forbids his sons from ever growing mustaches
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
Our banner was drawn by the legendary underground cartoonist Rick Altergott.