This week my story research led me on a quest to find out about the mysterious Saint Kilda, origin of the Melbourne suburb of St Kilda, only to discover that no such saint ever existed.
The Australian St Kilda, it turns out, is named after a ship, the Lady of St Kilda. This ship, in turn, was named after an archipelago in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. And the Scottish archipelago was named after… a mistake.
Continue reading “Think you know St Kilda? Well…” →
One of my favourite podcasts is The Futility Closet, source of weird and wonderful historical minutiae. An episode I caught recently put me on the trail of a truly fantastic, if short-lived chapter in the development of long-distance communications: the 19th Century pasilalinic-sympathetic compass, otherwise known as the snail telegraph.
Continue reading “This week I learned: the snail telegraph” →
Just a short* post from me today, for the best of reasons – I’m busy writing! I’ve found an anthology to get excited over, which is always a great way to spark ideas – I get a lot of my inspiration from having a topic to brainstorm around. In this case, delightfully, it’s queer werewolves.
Here’s a historical titbit I’ve learned while researching my submission:
Continue reading “This week I learned: the werewolf trials of early modern Europe” →
Just a quick one this week, as it’s been a very busy week (some of the busyness might be leading to interesting things, but nothing confirmed enough yet to post about).
Some people might choose to celebrate the end of a long week by getting down at the disco. Not really my scene of choice (though I do love a dance!), but here are some party animals who look great under a bit of UV lighting.
Continue reading “This week I learned: animals in ultraviolet” →
This week, I learned about how two of the most prosaic of products have turned out to have entirely unexpected benefits. Find out why scientists and nursing instructors are big fans of prank farts, and how tootsie roll candies may have actually saved lives in the Korean War.
Continue reading “This week I learned: unlikely heroes” →
Have you ever stopped and asked yourself, “How do I know the colour I call purple is actually the same colour someone else sees when they look at purple things”?
I’ve long been fascinated by the ways different animals – and different people – live in different sensory worlds. As it turns out, we already know that not everyone sees colour the same way – how do you explain the difference between red and green to someone who’s red-green colourblind? Is the dress blue or white? – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the different sensory worlds we can live in.
Continue reading “This week I learned: rewiring our senses” →
Particularly loyal followers of this blog may remember that I wrote in my first ever TWIL post about the Swedish orchestra that plays instruments made of ice.
At the time, that was the strangest way to make music I had come across. But this week, not one but two other musical groups will vie for the title of Most Unlikely Orchestra. Which one takes the cake (or possibly, in this case, the carrot)? Let me know your pick in the comments.
Continue reading “This week I learned: making music” →
This week I learned about the website that lets you take a deep dive into the history of Amsterdam, and took a deep dive of my own into the unsettling history of a Japanese island full of bunnies.
Continue reading “This week I learned: Below the Surface and Ōkunoshima” →
Just a short one this week, because once again one of my topics of choice has ballooned out into an entire post of its own (tune in next week). For now: this week I learned about the oldest recorded dodgy businessman, and the baffling hobby of certain otters.
Continue reading “This week I learned: the Babylonian swindler and the juggling otters” →
This week I learned about the surprisingly short history of gremlins, how new technology could give your walls eyes, and about what happened when an isolated Papuan tribe met Western society’s fascination with the “primitive”.
Continue reading “This week I learned: gremlins, smart walls, and the secret life of the Korowai” →