CLOSE

History of the World: Witnessing a Supernova

crab

On July 5, 1054, people all over the world must have been pretty stunned when a giant star bit the dust. The star had burned up its energy, collapsed in on itself and burst from the pressure. It was so bright that it could be seen all over the world - Irish, Japanese, Chinese, Arab and the Anasazi Indians in the New Mexico/Arizona area all have documentation referring to a similar incident during the same time frame. The Europeans almost definitely saw it as well, but documentation is markedly scarce - either they didn't really care or were so scared that they just didn't want to refer to it.

The explosion was so massive that scientists were able to study it 600 years later when the telescope was invented - gas and dust about seven light years from Earth could still be seen. In 1774, it was finally given a name - the Crab Nebula. Apparently someone thought it looked like a crustacean.

Picture 4.pngIt's the greatest deal in the history of history books! Our first hardback, The Mental Floss History of the World: An Irreverent Romp Through History's Best Bits, hits stores later this month, and we're so excited that we've teamed up with the fine folks at Amazon.com to give you a special deal. Pre-order the book before October 27th and we'll throw in 6 FREE MONTHS of mental_floss magazine! Just click here to get the deal now.

For more about the book, check out our FAQ.

arrow
History
A Very Brief History of Chamber Pots

Some of the oldest chamber pots found by archeologists have been discovered in ancient Greece, but portable toilets have come a long way since then. Whether referred to as "the Jordan" (possibly a reference to the river), "Oliver's Skull" (maybe a nod to Oliver Cromwell's perambulating cranium), or "the Looking Glass" (because doctors would examine urine for diagnosis), they were an essential fact of life in houses and on the road for centuries. In this video from the Wellcome Collection, Visitor Experience Assistant Rob Bidder discusses two 19th century chamber pots in the museum while offering a brief survey of the use of chamber pots in Britain (including why they were particularly useful in wartime).

nextArticle.image_alt|e
arrow
video
A Tour of the New York Academy of Medicine's Rare Book Room
5681952264001

The Rare Book Room at the New York Academy of Medicine documents the evolution of our medical knowledge. Its books and artifacts are as bizarre as they are fascinating. Read more here.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios