The little-known origin story of the 2022 Nobel Prize in physics
In November 1949, Chien-Shiung Wu and her graduate student, Irving Shaknov, descended to a laboratory below Columbia University's Pupin Hall. They needed antimatter for a new experiment, so they made their own, using a machine called a cyclotron. Their evidence suggested that pairs of photons from particle collisions remained polarized at right angles to each other, as if somehow connected, even at a distance. In 2022, the Nobel Prize committee honored experimental work on entanglement by three physicists, who had each produced increasingly convincing evidence for the phenomenon by ruling out one alternative explanation after another until, finally, entanglement was the only conclusion left standing. Historians agree that Wu's experiment was the first to document entangled photons. Yet Wu, who died in 1997, was not mentioned.
An evil dictator who hardly anyone talks about
When we think of evil people in history, we often think of characters like Hitler, or Stalin, or Vlad the Impaler. We don’t normally think of Leopold II of Belgium. Yet over the course of his rule, it’s estimated that he is responsible for the deaths of anywhere from 1 to 15 million people. For the most part, those people were the Congolese, who were subject to Leopold II’s ruthless colonialism. Leopold II was a firm believer in that a country’s greatness was strongly correlated to its oversea colonies. Then in 1884 at the Berlin Conference, under the excuse of bringing “civilization” and “the benefits of Christianity” to the African natives, the other European powers granted Leopold II 770,000 square miles of land to do basically whatever he wished. It was to be his own personal colony/property. He named his territory the “Congo Free State.”
The epic saga of a disastrous 1961 film version of the Iliad with Marlon Brando
Edward Jay Epstein writes about his attempt to film a version of the Iliad starring Marlon Brando: "As it happened, my cousin David Rockower knew the civilian administrator at the 442nd Army Reserve unit in New York, Mario Puzo. So I paid Mario $50 to jump the queue. He would take me over the next five years to places I otherwise would not have seen, such as an illicit high-stakes poker game in Hell’s Kitchen; a bookie parlor in the Bronx; and a Mafia-favored restaurant on Mulberry Street in lower Manhattan. When he told me he was a writer for magazines like Stag, I told him I desperately needed a screenwriter for the Iliad. A deal was struck to kill two birds with a single stone: Mario would slip me out of my reserve unit in such a way that it would not interfere with my activities as a movie producer; I would pay Mario $400 for a forty-page shooting script for the battle scenes."
Musicians who almost joined different bands
In 1966, drummer Keith Moon was approached by former Yardbirds member Jimmy Page. Following the original Yardbirds' break-up, Page wanted to create a supergroup consisting of himself, former Yardbird Jeff Beck, Moon, and his fellow Who bandmate, John Entwistle. Page had wanted this line-up to be known as The New Yardbirds. When presented with the idea, Moon was quick to voice his disapproval of it. Telling Page that the idea of The New Yardbirds will “go down like a lead balloon.” To highlight how bad an idea he thought it was, Moon changed the word “balloon” to “zeppelin,” the biggest balloon of all. Moon also advised Page to start afresh and move on from The Yardbirds name. Page took Moon’s advice, and two years later, Led Zeppelin as we know it was born.
Was Ernest Hemingway trans-gender?
Jack Molay writes: "Ernest Hemingway is know as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Hemingway is also known as one of the most macho male authors of the time. Yet, there is overwhelming evidence that the great author was some shade of transgender. Before we start: I am using the term "transgender" in its most common meaning here, i.e. as an umbrella term for all kinds of gender variance. We cannot know how Hemingway would have identified today, in a time that is a bit more forgiving towards queer and trans people than the world Hemingway lived in. However, I will argue that given all the time they spent on trying to come to the bottom of their own gender variance, this was much more than a "fetish" (even if Hemingway, like most people, had their kinks). What we are facing here is a more fundamental nonbinary or transgender identity."
The man who repossesses multimillion-dollar airplanes
When banks need to repossess a jet from a bankrupt company or a loan-defaulting mafioso, they call Ken Hill, one of America’s only airplane repo men. Usually, the process goes smoothly enough: He’ll slap a seizure notice on the aircraft, look over the logbooks for mechanical issues, weasel his way inside the cockpit, and fly it off into the sunset. But this time, the planes’ lendee, a disgruntled flight school operator, was on-site — and drunk as all hell. As Hill prepped the planes, the man charged toward him with a 2×4 and started swinging. “I had to have a complete knee replacement because of that,” says Hill. “But I still got both airplanes out of there.” One of America’s only airplane repo men, he’s spent more than 2 decades flying all over the world on behalf of banks, reclaiming aircraft from broke businessmen, crumbling corporations, and drug lords.