Pablo Escobar’s Bloat of Hippos

pablopotamusWhen he died in 1993, Pablo Escobar was one of the wealthiest men in the entire world. He made Forbes’ list of international billionaires for seven years straight. His drug empire was worth an estimated $30 billion and, by the end of the 80’s, he supplied 80% of the worlds cocaine.

With this wealth he owned an estate in Antioquia in Columbia. This estate held a private airport, a bullring, a cart racing track, sculpture garden, a collection of dinosaur skeletons and a private zoo filled with various exotic animals including elephants, zebras, giraffes and four hippos, three females and one male.

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Why do we have Christmas trees?

treeresizedThe roots of why we put up trees in our living room and decorate them with trimmings stems from old pagan rituals and not from Christianity. German pagans used to decorate their houses with evergreen conifer tree branches during the winter solstice to remind them of the Spring to come.

The Ancient Romans also used to decorate their temples during the winter solstice at the festival of Saturnalia (the Roman predecessor to Christmas) with branches of fir trees. As they have green needles all year round, evergreen trees were used in multiple old religions around the world to symbolise eternal life including ancient Egyptians, the Chinese and Hebrews.

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The War between Margarine and Butter

Butter-SpreadMost houses today have a tub of margarine in the fridge, but what is margarine, where does it come from and how is it different to butter?

Butter is created from cream which rises to the top of milk when it sits for a period of time, this is usually gathered from cows. Through the process of churning the cream, a chemical reaction takes place which makes the cream begin to solidify and turn into butter. This process has been around for over 4000 years.

Margarine came along around 150 years ago, Napoleon III wanted a cheap butter substitute to supply to his troops and to provide to the poorer population in France. Hippolyte Mége Mouriès patented a lower priced form of butter in 1869, it was made primarily from from beef tallow (fat from cows). He named the new substance margarine from the Greek margarite meaning “pearl like” after its white, pearlescent look.

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Canned Food was Invented 45 Years Before the Can Opener

Can OpenerThe idea of storing food in airtight containers came from a French chef named Nicolas Appert, when in 1795 the French military offered a cash prize of 12,000  Francs to anyone who could help them preserve food to be transported to their soldiers on the front line. Appert, however, didn’t use metal cans, he used air tight glass bottles which he then boiled which killed any bacteria inside the container.

Appert’s method was simple and worked well, the technique spread across France and into Britain where an inventor named Peter Durand patented his own method, this time not using glass bottles but using metal cans which was granted by King George III of England in 1810. He followed the same techniques except he enclosed the food in tin cans, he arranged his cans to sail with the royal navy for 4-6 months and when opened and examined they were completely preserved.

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The Pope was once Elected by Accident

Papa_Benedictus_DuodecimusThe procedure for choosing the new head of the Catholic church has been the same for centuries, the College of Cardinals, which is currently made up of 199 cardinals of the church around the world, hold a meeting at the Vatican called the “Papal Conclave” where they separate themselves from the rest of the world, hold discussions and then vote  individually for who they would like to see as the new Pope. This process repeats itself every day until at least two thirds of the Cardinals vote in the same way, then whoever the majority voted for is named Pope.

In the past it was not uncommon for members of the College of Cardinals to waste their first vote on a throw-away candidate, someone who they considered could never be voted into the position of Pope, they did this to find out who the other cardinals were voting for to try and gauge which way the College was swaying. This wouldn’t be much of a problem today, as the chances of 132 of the cardinals all voting for someone who they didn’t want to be Pope would be fairly slim. However this wasn’t the case in the year 1334, where there were only 16 members of the College of Cardinals.

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A Chemist Accidentally Discovered Purple When Looking for a Cure for Malaria

porfuraPurple dye originally came from the mucus glands of a snail. The discovery of the dye is often attributed to the mythological Greek God; Heracles, or rather his dog, who was eating snails off the coast of the Levant and returned with a mouth stained a deep purple colour. From a biological point of view the snails use the purple mucus as a defence mechanism to spray predators and make their escape, they also use it to catch their own prey and protect their eggs.

The colour purple was incredibly rare at the time, it is unlikely that those who discovered the snails had ever seen another purple plant, animal or living thing, as such the colour was vastly sought after. However it was a very slow and costly process to create dye from the mucus produced from the snail, it required over 12,000 of the shellfish to extract just 1.5 grams of the dye, enough to colour a handkerchief. Purple quickly became incredibly valuable and even worth more than gold, by 300 BC a pound of purple dye was worth 3 times a bakers annual wage.

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In 1956 a Man Broke the Current Javelin World Record by Spinning it Around Like a Discus

javelin-usaIn 1956 a Spaniard named Felix Erausquin introduced his own technique for throwing the javelin where he would spin around on the spot and release the javelin, similar to a discus throw, this was dubbed the “Spanish Style” of javelin throwing and enabled the throwers to achieve incredible distances before it was banned almost immediately by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) for being an incredibly dangerous method of throwing.

The furthest that a javelin has ever been thrown in an official Olympic event is 104  meters which was thrown by Uwe Hohn in the 1984 Olympics, however under the spinning technique Erausquin managed to throw the javelin 112 meters, smashing this record by 8 meters! However the throw was disqualified by the IAAF and not acknowledged. At the time of the throw the world record was 83 meters with Erausquin’s throw being vastly superior.

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