10 of History’s Most Terrifying Swords

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istock

Humans have always been cooking up brand new ways to slice, dice, hack, and stab. You definitely wouldn’t want to tangle with any of the historical swords in this gallery—especially the last one.

1. The Khopesh

Believed to have evolved from either battle axes or farm implements, this intimidating weapon was used in ancient Egypt. Only the outer edge of the curved blade was sharp. The weapon was a symbol of authority, and several Pharaohs owned Khopeshes—including Ramses II and Tutankhamun, who was entombed with his. 

2. The Ulfbehrt Sword

Strong, lightweight, and flexible, Viking Ulfberht blades were forged with astonishingly pure metal called Crucible Steel. Even today’s best blacksmiths have had a hard time reproducing this material, which is much better than what's found in average medieval swords. How did Viking warriors develop such an advanced sword? The jury’s still out—though Middle Eastern trade might have helped them pick up a few technical pointers.

3. The Khanda

This weapon's tip was blunt, so it would have been bad at skewering your enemies. But India’s Khanda (introduced somewhere between 300 and 600 CE) didn’t need to: Its heavy construction made it a perfect chopping device, and some swordsmen upped the ante by giving the weapon serrated edges.

4. The Ngombe Executioner’s Sword

Back in the 19th and 20th centuries, European explorers made numerous sketches of tribal Congo residents decapitating prisoners with this ferocious-looking weapon. The extent to which their dramatizations reflect reality is debatable.

5. The Flammard

Wavy-bladed rapiers were a Renaissance staple. Flammard fanciers mistakenly believed that this undulating design could inflict deadlier wounds. The shape did provide one genuine dueling advantage, though: When an opponent’s sword ran across one, those curves would slow it down.

6. The Chinese Hook Sword

Double trouble! These weapons not only feature curved tips, but sharp, hand-protecting guards as well. The weapons were commonly handled in pairs, and, according to a 1985 issue of Black Belt magazine, "When put together, two hook swords could easily tear apart an opponent." Yikes.

7. The Kilij


The first Kilij appeared in Turkey around 400 CE. A perfect choice for horsemen, this style of saber went through several variations over the next 1400 years. In a skilled rider’s hands, this sword could mutilate those with their feet on the ground with devastating efficiency.

8. The Estoc

Armor doesn’t always guarantee safety. Renaissance swordsmen could split through the links with the estoc, a dull-edged thrusting sword designed specifically for this purpose.

9. The Zweihander

Zweihander means “two hand,” and these weapons were so large that swordsmen did indeed need two hands to wield them. According to one tale, the swords were so powerful that they could behead up to seven victims with a single stroke.

10. The Urumi

The best bladed weapons are at least somewhat flexible—but the urumi is downright floppy. When swung, it acts like a whip. A metal whip. A metal whip with two sharp edges. If that description doesn’t scare you, this demo reel should do the trick: 

Invented during India’s Mauryan Dynasty (circa 350-150 BCE), urumis have undergone plenty of variations over the centuries. Today, several blades are often attached to the same grip for added effectiveness. The constant risk of accidentally slicing yourself up makes the urumi anything but user-friendly.

8 Delicious Facts About Guacamole

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iStock

Grab a cerveza, tear open a new bag of chips, and kick back with these facts about your favorite bright green zesty spread—in honor of National Guacamole Day.

1. AVOCADOS GO BACK THOUSANDS OF YEARS.

The avocado, first known as the ahuacate, has been cultivated and eaten in Mexico, Central America, and South America as far back as 500 BCE.

2. THE AZTECS INVENTED GUACAMOLE.

When the Spaniards arrived in the New World, they discovered an Aztec sauce called ahuaca-molli; molli was the Nahautl word for “something mashed or pureed,” while ahuactl referred to testicles, or the stone fruit that reminded them of testicles.

3. AVOCADOS HAVE BEEN REBRANDED.

In the early 20th century, our favorite mashable fruit went by the unappealing name “alligator pear,” due to its bumpy green skin. The California Avocado Growers’ Exchange, a trade group, complained in a 1927 statement “That the avocado … should be called an alligator pear is beyond all understanding.” Alligator pear disappeared, and the fruit was called everything from calavo to butter pear to avocado pear before avocado finally stuck.

4. THE AVOCADO HAS FAMOUS RELATIVES.

The avocado trade group also bemoaned the more quotidian foods associated with the avocado, “an exalted member of the laurel family.” Indeed, the avocado is a member of the lauracae family, which also includes bay leaves, cinnamon, camphor, and sassafras.

5. A MAILMAN PATENTED THE MOST POPULAR AVOCADO VARIETY.

There are more than 400 varieties of avocado grown around the world, but the Hass, grown mostly in Mexico and California, is the most popular. A postal worker named Rudolph Hass purchased the seedling from a farmer in 1926 and filed a patent in 1935. The original tree stood, and bore fruit, for nearly 70 years in La Habra Heights, California.

6. CALIFORNIA DOMINATES U.S. AVOCADO PRODUCTION.

The western state accounts for nearly 90 percent of all avocados grown in the United States, with the bulk of farms centered in a five-county region of southern California.

7. MEXICAN AVOCADOS WERE ONCE BANNED IN THE U.S.

Beginning in 1914, Hass avocados were not allowed to be imported to the United States from Mexico. After a two-year debate, the USDA lifted the ban in 1997—although approved farms were only allowed to export their crops to 19 U.S. states and were still forbidden from selling in California. In 2002, the U.S. Federal Hass Avocado Promotion, Research, and Information Order was established, and today Mexican avocados are allowed in all 50 states.

8. THE BIGGEST GUACAMOLE SERVING EVER WEIGHED AS MUCH AS SOME ELEPHANTS.

A Guinness World Record was set in 2013 when a group of 450 students in Tancitaro, Michoacan, Mexico prepared a serving of guacamole that weighed 5,885.24 pounds, or almost 3 tons. Asian elephants can weigh anywhere from 2.25-5.5 tons.

This article was originally published in 2016.

10 Fun Facts About Play-Doh

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iStock

As any Play-Doh aficionado knows, September 16th is National Play-Doh Day! Let's pay tribute to your favorite modeling clay with some fun facts about the childhood play staple that began life as a cleaning product.

1. IT WAS FIRST SOLD AS WALLPAPER CLEANER.

Before kids were playing with Play-Doh, their parents were using it to remove soot and dirt from their wall coverings by simply rolling the wad of goop across the surface.

2. IF IT WEREN'T FOR CAPTAIN KANGAROO, PLAY-DOH MIGHT NEVER HAVE TAKEN OFF.

When it was just a fledgling company with no advertising budget, inventor Joe McVicker talked his way in to visit Bob Keeshan, a.k.a Captain Kangaroo. Although the company couldn’t pay the show outright, McVicker offered them two percent of Play-Doh sales for featuring the product once a week. Keeshan loved the compound and began featuring it three times weekly.

3. MORE THAN 3 BILLION CANS OF PLAY-DOH HAVE BEEN SOLD.

Since 1956, more than 3 billion cans of Play-Doh have been sold. That’s enough to reach the Moon and back a total of three times. (Not bad for a wallpaper cleaner.)

4. IT USED TO COME IN JUST ONE COLOR.

Photo of child's hands playing with Play-Doh clay
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Back when it was still a household product, Play-Doh came in just one dud of a color: off-white. When it hit stores as a toy in the 1950s, red, blue, and yellow were added. These days, Play-Doh comes in nearly every color of the rainbow—more than 50 in total—but a consumer poll revealed that fans' favorite colors are Rose Red, Purple Paradise, Garden Green, and Blue Lagoon.

5. FOR QUITE SOME TIME, DR. TIEN LIU HAD A JOB SKILL NO ONE ELSE IN THE WORLD COULD CLAIM: PLAY-DOH EXPERT.

Dr. Tien Liu helped perfect the Play-Doh formula for the original company, Rainbow Crafts, and stayed on as a Play-Doh Expert when the modeling compound was purchased by Kenner and then Hasbro.

6. YOU CAN SMELL LIKE PLAY-DOH.

Want to smell like Play-Doh? You can! To commemorate the compound’s 50th anniversary, Demeter Fragrance Library worked with Hasbro to make a Play-Doh fragrance, which was developed for “highly-creative people, who seek a whimsical scent reminiscent of their childhood.”

7. HASBRO TRADEMARKED THE SCENT.

Anyone who has ever popped open a fresh can of Play-Doh knows that there’s something extremely distinctive about the smell. It’s so distinctive that, in early 2017, Hasbro filed for federal protection in order to trademark the scent, which the company describes as “a unique scent formed through the combination of a sweet, slightly musky, vanilla-like fragrance, with slight overtones of cherry, and the natural smell of a salted, wheat-based dough.”

8. IT CAN CREATE A PRETTY ACCURATE FINGERPRINT.

When biometric scanners were a bit more primitive, people discovered that you could make a mold of a person’s finger, then squish Play-Doh in the mold to make a replica of the finger that would actually fool fingerprint scanners. Back in 2005, it was estimated that Play-Doh could actually fool 90 percent of all fingerprint scanners. But technology has advanced a lot since then, so don’t go getting any funny ideas. Today's more sophisticated systems aren’t so easily tricked by the doughy stuff.

9. IT HOLDS A PLACE IN THE NATIONAL TOY HALL OF FAME.

Unsurprisingly, Play-Doh holds a coveted place in the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York. It was inducted in 1998. According to the Hall of Fame, “recent estimates say that kids have played with 700 million pounds of Play-Doh."

10. YOU CAN TURN YOUR PLAY-DOH CREATIONS INTO ANIMATED CHARACTERS.

While Play-Doh may be a classic toy, it got a state-of-the-art upgrade in 2016, when Hasbro launched Touch Shape to Life Studio, an app that lets kids turn their Play-Doh creations into animated characters.

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