Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

This is Not a Prank: 10 Events That Actually Happened on April 1

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Happy April Fool’s Day! And while today is a good day to be skeptical of any unusual news you hear, do keep in mind that, sometimes, the truth is stranger than pranks. For instance, imagine it’s 1948, and you just heard that…

1. The universe was created by some sort of bang.

That was the conclusion of a groundbreaking paper published in the April 1st, 1948 issue of scientific journal Physical Review. The paper—drably titled “The Origin of Chemical Elements”—didn’t actually use any terminology as zesty as “big bang” to describe its theory, but the idea was there. As for the term “Big Bang,” that came two years later from cosmologist Fred Hoyle…one of the theory’s most vocal critics.

2. Meanwhile, across the universe…

April 1st, 1970: The final Beatles recording session takes place at Abbey Road. However, the session only features one Beatle—Ringo—who was kind enough to provide some percussion for “The Long and Winding Road.” Ringo’s contributions took place alongside roughly 50 other instruments in a session being produced by Phil Spector. Paul McCartney hated the results so much, he officially broke up the band 10 days later.

3. “Uh, General Pickett? Your troops are getting slaughtered…”

April 1st, 1865: The Confederacy suffers nearly 3000 casualties in a decisive Union victory in the Battle of Five Forks. It’s often called the “Waterloo of the Confederacy,” but it might not have been so bad if Major General George Pickett hadn’t been enjoying a leisurely luncheon with two other southern generals, oblivious to the Confederate carnage taking place two miles away.

4. Announcing: A computer in a wooden box with 4K of memory...

…all for the catchy price of $666.66. If this sounds like a sketchy investment, keep in mind the machine was being made by Apple—founded on April 1st, 1976.   

5. Ohio man decides to go for a walk … around the world.

April 1, 1983: Steve Newman leaves his house in the town of Bethel for a 4-year journey that saw him getting mugged, pelted with stones, arrested multiple times, and attacked by boar and bison. Upon his return to Bethel on April 1, 1987, he became the first person to walk around the world solo. Unfortunately, Steve’s trek probably caused him to miss an unprecedented event in sports history…

6. A number 8 seed wins it all.

April 1, 1985: Villanova—a school that finished fourth in its own conference—defeats Patrick Ewing and the mighty Georgetown Hoyas to win the NCAA Basketball Tournament in the most famous upset in college hoops history. Villanova’s bracket-busting feat has yet to be replicated, and an eighth-seeded team has only reached the Finals once since. It was also the last college game to be played without a shot clock.

7. Same sex marriage is legalized.

April 1st, 2001: The Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize same sex marriage. The Netherlands also became the first country in the world where…

8. Euthanasia is legalized...

…on April 1st, 2002.  

9. “Neither rain, nor d’oh...”

April 1st, 2009: The USPS announced it was commemorating the 20th anniversary of The Simpsons with a 1-billion stamp run.  Alas, the stamps proved to be as popular as the Fat Elvis. Less than one third are sold, resulting in a $1.2 million loss for the USPS.  

10. Happy Cheap Trick Day!

Through the efforts of state senator Dave Syverson, April 1 is now Cheap Trick Day in Illinois, in honor of the Rockford rock legends.  Even better: The 2008 resolution was signed by a guy who knew a thing or two about cheap tricks himself … disgraced governor Rod Blagojevich.

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NASA, Getty Images
Watch Apollo 11 Launch
Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Lyndon Johnson view the liftoff of Apollo 11
Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Lyndon Johnson view the liftoff of Apollo 11
NASA, Getty Images

Apollo 11 launched on July 16, 1969, on its way to the moon. In the video below, Mark Gray shows slow-motion footage of the launch (a Saturn V rocket) and explains in glorious detail what's going on from a technical perspective—the launch is very complex, and lots of stuff has to happen just right in order to get a safe launch. The video is mesmerizing, the narration is informative. Prepare to geek out about rockets! (Did you know the hold-down arms actually catch on fire after the rocket lifts off?)

Apollo 11 Saturn V Launch (HD) Camera E-8 from Spacecraft Films on Vimeo.

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Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Utility Workers May Have Found One of Rome’s First Churches
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

The remains of what may have been one of Rome’s earliest Christian churches were accidentally discovered along the Tiber River during construction, The Local reports. The four-room structure, which could have been built as early as the 1st century CE, was unearthed by electrical technicians who were laying cables along the Ponte Milvio.

The newly discovered structure next to the river
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

No one is sure what to make of this “archaeological enigma shrouded in mystery,” in the words of Rome’s Archaeological Superintendency. Although there’s no definitive theory as of yet, experts have a few ideas.

The use of colorful African marble for the floors and walls has led archaeologists to believe that the building probably served a prestigious—or perhaps holy—function as the villa of a noble family or as a Christian place of worship. Its proximity to an early cemetery spawned the latter theory, since it's common for churches to have mausoleums attached to them. Several tombs were found in that cemetery, including one containing the intact skeleton of a Roman man.

Marble flooring
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

A tomb
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma1

The walls are made of brick, and the red, green, and beige marble had been imported from Sparta (Greece), Egypt, and present-day Tunisia, The Telegraph reports.

As The Local points out, it’s not all that unusual in Rome for archaeological discoveries to be made by unsuspecting people going about their day. Rome’s oldest aqueduct was found by Metro workers, and an ancient bath house and tombs were found during construction on a new church.

[h/t The Local]

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