The 10 Most Bizarre Objects That Have Fallen to Earth

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iStock

Rain, snow, sleet—we're accustomed to getting drenched or otherwise inconvenienced by precipitation falling from the skies. But occasionally, circumstances force people to deal with far more unusual threats from above. Check out 10 times the clouds parted and allowed for an almost Biblical forecast of golf balls, chains, and other things umbrellas just weren't built to handle.

1. GOLF BALLS

Golf balls are piled up on a golf course

Meteorologists have sometimes described foreboding hail storm projectiles as being "golf ball sized," but there was at least one time in history where actual golf balls rained down on an unsuspecting populace. In 1969, residents of Punta Gorda, Florida, were pelted with the sporting good staple, necessitating clean-up on streets, lawns, and gutters. No one was sure what exactly caused the incident, although some observers theorized that a nearby tornado near the Gulf of Mexico managed to scoop up balls from a course and then deposited them over the area.

2. NON-DAIRY CREAMER

Powdered coffee creamer is shown dissolving in a cup of coffee

Depending on the timing and whether you had an open container of coffee, residents of Chester, South Carolina could get their beverage flavored on the go. In 1969, a nearby Borden factory had issues with its exhaust vents. All clogged up, they wound up emitting powdered creamer into the air, which would dispense over the town and collect on surfaces to make for a milky, sticky nuisance when it got wet. Borden eventually fixed its workplace issues. (It also paid a small fine.)

3. MONEY

An assortment of euro notes is pictured

Surprisingly, this phenomenon isn't restricted to gentlemen's clubs. In 2007, a resident of Worms, Germany stopped her car to collect a small storm of paper euro notes that were swirling around her. Despite the enigmatic source of the cash, the woman felt it was best to report it to area police.

4. THE MYSTERY GLOBE

A translucent globe sits in a field

It’s been an inciting incident for many 1950s B horror movies: A mysterious gelatinous orb falls from the sky, seemingly harmless but soon to transform into a man-eating glob of alien aggression. Fortunately, no one was devoured when a large, gooey, translucent globe dropped into a resident's yard in Miami in 1958. Observers said it had a honeycomb design and pulsated as though it were alive. One brave police officer stuck a finger into it without any consequence. Before it could be studied further, the mass just dried up.

5. A CAMERA LENS

A camera lens is shown reflecting light

We're not quite sure what home insurance companies say when you file a report saying a two pound camera lens has just come crashing through your roof, but homeowner Debbie Payne probably found out. In 2011, a Canon camera lens burst through her home, leaving a cratered rooftop and other damage. Called to investigate, the Federal Aviation Administration said that such an object falling from an aircraft was possible but hard to prove. Payne lived just 200 feet from an elementary school and said she was grateful the projectile didn't land there.

6. HAZELNUTS

A pile of hazelnuts are pictured

In 1977, a British couple were strolling down a street in Bristol when the husband, Alfred Wilson Osbourne, heard a click and thought buttons had fallen off his coat. He quickly realized the clatter on the pavement wasn't a clothing malfunction but a shower of hazelnuts, which were falling down all around him. After a brief pause, another man experienced the same odd nut fall in the same spot. You'd expect a looming hazelnut tree to be the cause, but none were reported to be in the area. And even if there had been, it was March—far from hazelnut season.

7. CANDY

A candy assortment is pictured

Residents in Lake County, California were surprised to see clumps of sugar raining down over two days in September 1857. The candy portions were about a quarter-inch in size and seemingly edible: Some of the residents there made syrup from the phenomena.

8. MUD

A child in rain boots stomps through the mud

In 1901, editors of Science magazine recorded an account of a mud shower in Easton, Pennsylvania courtesy of a reader from Lafayette College who wrote in to describe the incident. "Window glasses on the western exposure of houses were covered with thousands of drops of dirty water," he wrote. Under a microscope, he observed "little membranous bags containing grains of dust." Some theorized a dust storm had mixed with precipitation to create a brown deluge of filthy rain.

9. A RED HOT CHAIN

A length of chain is pictured

Detritus from aircraft is not an uncommon source of falling objects, but it's hard to conceive of what an 18-inch length of chain would be doing in a plane. In 1959, a man named Wallace Baker was working a bulldozer in Missouri when the chain fell on his equipment. That would be plenty unusual, but what astounded Baker was the fact that the chain was so hot it was glowing. When he tried to pick it up, it burned his work gloves. No source was ever located.

10. HUMAN WASTE

A man looks up

The most unfortunate of all rain substitutes is actually not all that uncommon: Some models of airplane toilets discharge wastewater in such a way that leaking contents create freezing globs of poop that break free of the aircraft and plummet to the ground below. In 2015, a Levittown, Pennsylvania girl's Sweet 16 party was interrupted when poop showered over the festivities. Joe Cambray, the girl's stepfather, told People that "we just got done with the cake" when the feces flew.

All images courtesy of iStock

5 Controversial Facts About Melvil Dewey and the Dewey Decimal System

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iStock/TerryJ

Melvil Dewey, the inventor of the Dewey Decimal System, was born on December 10, 1851. Among other things, Dewey was a self-proclaimed reformer, so when working for the Amherst College library in the 1870s, he began to reclassify the facility’s books and how they were organized.

Though the system has gone through plenty of changes over the years, it’s still in wide use all over the world today and forever changed how libraries categorize their books. It has also caused a handful of controversies. In honor of Dewey Decimal Day, we dug into the organizational system—and its creator’s—dark side.

1. Melvil Dewey co-founded the American Library Association, but was forced out because of offensive behavior.

Melvil Dewey was an extremely problematic figure, even in his time. Though he co-founded the American Library Association (ALA), his often-offensive behavior—particularly toward women—didn’t make him a lot of friends.

In Irrepressible Reformer: A Biography of Melvil Dewey, author Wayne A. Wiegand described Dewey’s “persistent inability to control himself around women” as his “old nemesis.” In 1905, Dewey and several fellow ALA members took a cruise to Alaska following a successful ALA conference, with the purpose of discussing the organization’s future. Four women who were part of the trip ended up publicly accusing Dewey of sexual harassment—a rarity for the time. Within a year, Dewey was forced to step down from his involvement with the organization he helped to create.

2. Dewey required applicants to his School of Library Economy to submit photos.


A History of the Adirondacks, by Alfred Lee Donaldson (1921) // Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In 1887, Dewey founded the School of Library Economy at Columbia College, where 90 percent of his students were female. It was long rumored that in addition to basic information like name, age, and educational background, Dewey required that prospective female students also submit their bust sizes. While this rumor was eventually proven to be false, Dewey did ask women to submit photos, often noting that “You cannot polish a pumpkin.”

3. A Howard University librarian reorganized Dewey's original system because of its racial bias.

Dewey’s personal biases spilled over into his creation, too, and it has taken sincere effort and work to right those wrongs. In the 1930s, Howard University librarian Dorothy Porter helped create a new system to undo the racist way Dewey’s system treated black writers. As Smithsonian reported:

All of the libraries that Porter consulted for guidance relied on the Dewey Decimal Classification. “Now in [that] system, they had one number—326—that meant slavery, and they had one other number—325, as I recall it—that meant colonization,” she explained in her oral history. In many “white libraries,” she continued, “every book, whether it was a book of poems by James Weldon Johnson, who everyone knew was a black poet, went under 325. And that was stupid to me.”

In addition to charges of racism, the DDS has also been accused of being homophobic. Early editions of the system classified books on or regarding LGBT issues under Abnormal Psychology, Perversion, Derangement, as a Social Problem, or even as Medical Disorders.

4. Its 'religion' section is skewed heavily toward Christianity.

The DDS section on religion starts at 200, and no other religion besides Christianity is covered until 290. Given that there are more than 4000 religions in the world, saving a mere 10 numbers for their classification doesn’t leave a lot of room for thorough coverage or exploration. Though some changes have been made as new editions of the system have been introduced, the process of restructuring the entire 200s is a project that has yet to be undertaken.

5. Critics of the system would prefer libraries take the Barnes & Noble approach.

The Dewey Decimal System is the most used library classification system, with the Chicago Tribune estimating that more than 200,000 libraries in 135 countries use it. But it’s far from a perfect system. As such, many libraries are experimenting with other organizational techniques, and many are dropping the DDS altogether.

The main complaint that public libraries have is that the Dewey Decimal System does not make reading exciting, and that there are other ways of categorizing and organizing books that are more like that of general bookstores. By doing away with the numbers (which are hard to remember for general library patrons), some libraries are classifying books simply by category and organizing by author—a system they've begun referring to as "Dewey-lite."

6 Fast Facts About Nelly Sachs

Central Press/Getty Images
Central Press/Getty Images

Today, on the 127th anniversary of her birth, a Google Doodle has been created in memory of writer Nelly Sachs, who died of colon cancer in 1970 at the age of 78. The German-Swedish poet and playwright wrote movingly about the horrors of the Holocaust, which she narrowly escaped by fleeing her home and starting a new life in a foreign land. Here are six things to know about Sachs.

1. She was born in Germany.

Sachs was born in Berlin on December 10, 1891. As the daughter of a wealthy manufacturer, she grew up in the city's affluent Tiergarten section. She studied dance and literature as a child, and also started writing romantic poems at age 17.

2. She almost ended up in a concentration camp.

Sachs's father died in 1930, but she and her mother Margarete stayed in Berlin. In 1940, the Gestapo interrogated the two women and tore apart their apartment. They were told they had a week to report to a concentration camp, so they decided to flee the country. Swedish novelist Selma Lagerlöf, with whom Nelly had corresponded for years, saved their lives by convincing the Swedish royal family to help the two women escape to Sweden.

3. She worked as a translator.

Once Nelly and her mother reached Stockholm, Sachs began learning Swedish and ultimately took up work as a translator. She translated poetry from Swedish to German and vice versa.

4. She was nearly 60 when she published her first book of poetry.

Sachs’s first volume of poetry, In den Wohnungen des Todes (In the Habitations of Death), was published in 1947. In this anthology as well as later poems, she used religious imagery to evoke the suffering of her time and the Jewish people.

5. She won the German Book Trade's Peace Prize.

In 1965, Sachs won the Peace Prize from the German Book Trade. She shared a message of forgiveness when she accepted the award from her compatriots. “In spite of all the horrors of the past, I believe in you,” she said.

6. She won the Nobel Prize for Literature on her 75th birthday.

Sachs and Israeli writer Shmuel Yosef Agnon were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1966. According to The Nobel Prize’s website, Sachs was recognized "for her outstanding lyrical and dramatic writing, which interprets Israel's destiny with touching strength.”

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