After the publication of Elephants on Acid (around 2007), I decided that it would be a good idea to have a website to help promote the book. Something where I would feature some content from the book, as well as post new stuff related to weird science.
Most of the good domain names (including, at the time, ElephantsOnAcid.com) were already taken. So I ended up creating a site at MadScienceMuseum.com.
I added some content to the site, and then, after a while, I stopped. The site lay dormant, without updates, and largely without visitors.
Fast forward to the present. It recently occurred to me that it was stupid to keep paying to keep MadScienceMuseum.com online when hardly anyone visits it, and all the content on it would be perfectly appropriate for WU, which does have visitors.
So I'm getting rid of the "Mad Science Museum" and migrating all the content over to WU. It'll be a slow process, but if you notice me doing additional posts about weird science stuff, that's the reason.
I can learn little personally about Adolf Heilborn (1873-1941). But his book THE OPPOSITE SEXES caused a bit of a stir when it appeared in 1927, given that he described the female human as the missing link between ape and male human. Naturally, there was, um, a little pushback.
Back in 1969, air-pollution researcher Alfred Hulstrunk had arrived at the pessimistic conclusion that pollution levels were getting so bad that within 10 to 15 years every man, woman, and child would need to wear a breathing helmet to survive outdoors. And within 20 years, he predicted, everyone would have to live in domed cities.
Part of the problem, Hulstrunk believed, was all the stuff that society produced, such as "plastic beer containers that can be burned instead of just discarded." When burned, the beer cans added to air pollution. He noted, "Aesthetically you improve your area so that you don't have beer cans along the road, but now you are breathing beer cans."
Therefore, Hulstrunk had prepared for the future by designing an air pollution survival suit "to prevent inhaling beer cans or any other matter."
When I first saw this headline I thought it was talking about weird school kids, and I was definitely intrigued. What it was actually about was interesting, but not as interesting as an article about freaky kids luring octopuses into their gardens would have been. But I still like the headline.
The wikipedia article on Oxford anthropologist Arthur Thomson (1858-1935) notes that he's best remembered for formulating Thomson's Nose Rule, which states that ethnic groups from cold climates tend to have thinner noses than groups from hot climates.
Apparently he's not remembered for his "Women Are Like Apes" theory, which he presented to a meeting of the Royal Academy of Sciences in 1927. The basis of this theory was that, "woman's legs are usually shorter, and her arms longer, than man's" — and this, Thomson felt, made women more ape-like.
I was curious whether Thomson was actually correct about female body proportions, and after some googling I've concluded that he probably was — at least about women (on average) having shorter legs as a proportion of their total height than men do. See, for instance, this article by a designer of bicycles for women, which says that's the case.
Our knowledge of how frogs get sexy together continues to expand. It used to be that we knew of only six frog mating positions, but now a seventh has been added to the repertoire, thanks to the efforts of University of Delhi researchers who "spent a few dozen nights filming the sex lives of Bombay night frogs."
The new position, which involves no genital contact, is called the "dorsal straddle":
The male frog straddles the female from behind using a branch or leaf to brace himself while he deposits his sperm on the female's back. The female lays her eggs, which are fertilized by the sperm trickling down her backside.
Godfried Bueren of Germany declared that there were areas on the sun cool enough to support human life. He offered 25,000 marks to anyone who could prove him wrong. So the Hamburg Astronomical Society sent him a list of reasons why he was wrong. When Bueren refused to pay, the society took him to court. In 1953, the court ordered him to pay up.
Palm Beach Post - Mar 22, 1953
More info in Time - Feb 23, 1953:
Through years of spare-time dabbling in such occult sciences as prophecy and mental telepathy, Godfried Bueren, 70, a West German patent attorney, never lost his amateur enthusiasm for astronomy. Finally, he announced, he had learned something that professional astronomers don't know. The sun, asserted Herr Bueren is a hot, hollow sphere, a million miles in diameter; inside its fiery shell floats a cool core, 600,000 miles thick and lush with vegetation. What's more, he had 25,000 marks ($5,945) that said he was correct about the sun.
When Herr Bueren announced his startling theory, most scientists shrugged it off. But the German Astronomical Society accepted the challenge. Said Hamburg Observatory Director Otto Heckmann: the society would like to keep such "silly ideas" from attracting too much attention. Besides, the society needed the money.
Like schoolmasters marking a poor student's test paper Dr. Heckmann and a couple of scientists sharpened their pencils and set to work on Herr Bueren's theory. The sun's corona does blaze at approximately 1,000,000° C., they conceded, but who can believe that the enormous heat is caused, as Herr Bueren also insisted, by cosmic particles striking the sun's outer atmosphere? Why shouldn't the same particles bombard the earth and set it glowing? And did Herr Bueren really believe that sunspots are gaping holes in the sun's shell, opening on to a cool black core where plant life changes heat into chemical energy, thus lowering the temperature? Pure nonsense, said the scientists. As for heat-reducing plants: Dr. Heckmann & Co. pointed out that science knows of no plants that use up all the energy available to them.
A Bueren-picked jury of West German scientists studied the astronomical society's arguments and solemnly announced the the Bueren solar theory had been demolished. His bald pate flushed with anger, the sun-gazing patent attorney refused to pay. "People who want to cash in on the money," he cried, "do not even pay attention to what I have to say."
But Dr. Heckmann and colleagues, having paid attention to the prize offer, sued Bueren in the Osnabruck court. "Science cannot always say what is correct." they argued, "but we have advanced so far as to be able to say what is wrong."
Last week, despite Herr Bueren's dark mutterings that his professorial jury had been intimidated, the court found the sun's core legally hot, ordered him to hand over the 25,000 marks plus a year's interest at 4% and court costs.
June 1988: Australian researcher Peter Hepper reported in the medical journal The Lancet that fetuses often appeared to learn to recognize the theme tune of their mother's favorite soap opera. As a newborn baby, hearing this tune would then calm them down.
He tested this hypothesis by playing the theme tune of the Australian soap "Neighbours" to a group of newborns whose mothers watched the show. Upon hearing it, he reported, six of the seven babies promptly adopted a "quiet alert state."
Gravitz wasn't actually doing this himself, but he reported that back in the early 20th century (and presumably earlier as well) creating warts was a popular pasttime among girls in the Swiss canton of Vaud:
Charles Baudouin, a contemporary Swiss, noted that the canton or province of Vaud, in which Lausanne is located, was well known for its large number of lay wart healers. It was also possible for a patient to employ a prescription for the treatment of warts without consulting one of these folk healers. "In these cases, autosuggestion is seen in all its beauty. Prescriptions pass from village to village and hamlet to hamlet. Some of them are incredibly quaint. For example, to cause warts, the subject goes out one evening, moistens the tip of the finger, looks at a star, and simultaneously applies the wet finger-tip to the other hand. The operation is repeated, the finger being freshly moistened with saliva each time, while the subject counts, 'one, two, three . . .' up to the number of warts desired. Now, wherever the moistened finger-tip has been applied, a wart duly appears."
He noted that such practices were a form of amusement among the Vaudois girls who derived pleasure from passing their own warts on to someone else. "A ribbon is tied around the affected hand, and is knotted as many times as there are warts on the hand; then the ribbon is dropped on the highway. Whoever picks it up and unties the knots, will get the warts, and the original owner of the warts will be cured."
Books Selected and endorsed for Pure Weirdness by Your WU Team
Who We Are
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.
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.