Happy New Year! A new year, another week of new Twitter #weirdscifacts!
656. Dec 29: The 1903 discovery of safety glass was literally an accident.
657. Dec 30: In the early 1900s, “glow-in-the-dark” radium condoms were actually sold! The discovery of radioactivity, particularly radium, led people to suggest it as essentially a “miracle substance”, with pretty much every use imaginable. I’ve noted in these facts before chemist Frederick Soddy’s suggestion to inhale radium as a cure for tuberculosis; putting radium on one’s junk adds a whole new cringe-factor, however. (h/t @highlyanne)
658. Dec 31: Samoa just lost a day by moving date line around itself! A nice New Year’s fact! The choice of the location of the date line has always been a convention; due to increased trade with places like Australia that lay across the date line, Samoa found it convenient to move it to be more in sync with its trading partners. (h/t @chrislindsay9)
659. Jan 01: The Catatumbo River lightning: 40k flashes of lightning per night! I had chronicled in a previous fact that Kifuka, Africa is apparently the world record holder in lightning intensity, with 158 strikes per square km per year! Why is Catatumbo not listed at the top? My guess is that the linked article is in error in referring to 40k “strikes” per night, and that all the lightning is cloud-based. Nevertheless, the intensity is so bright that it serves as a natural lighthouse! (h/t @jenlucpiquant)
661. Jan 03: c. 1805, physicist Francois Arago talked a friend out of trying (and likely succeeding) to assassinate Napoleon! This comes from Arago’s autobiography, which is so wild that I’m going to have to blog about it in the near future! This incident occurred when Arago was still in school; Napoleon demanded a “loyalty oath” from the students, and many of those who refused were drummed out of school. One of Arago’s friends who was expelled later confided to Arago that he planned to assassinate Napoleon, had trained extensively as a marksman and had picked an ambush point along the Emperor’s parade route! Arago managed to delay his friend’s plans and later convinced him to pursue other activities.