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This popular actor appeared in over 1000 feature films during the 1930s through the 1950s, including several classics, performing alongside the likes of Jimmy Stewart, James Cagney, Judy Garland, and Bette Davis—but was uncredited in most of them. Why didn’t he squawk about it?
Actually, he probably did—because this actor happened to be a raven. Animal trainer Curly Twiford rescued the month-old chick in 1936 from an abandoned nest in the Mojave Desert. He named him Jimmy, and raised him indoors so he’d be comfortable around humans. In hopes that directors would want to use him in their films, he spent two years training his brilliant bird to type, light cigarettes, put coins in piggy banks, operate a cash register, flip magazine pages, open letters, deal a hand of poker, ride a tiny motorcycle (!), understand a few hundred English words, and speak 53 of them.
Throwing shade in 140 characters may be all the rage these days, but nothing can replace a good old fashioned word-of-mouth “Oh no, he didn’t!” Sometimes, it even inspires a popular cocktail.
What’s the world’s largest musical instrument? If you guessed a massive organ somewhere, you’re on the right track. It is an organ, but you won’t find it in a church, or even above ground. It’s the “Stalacpipe” organ in Luray Caverns, Virginia.
Luray explorers had been tapping stalactites (those pointy cave ceiling things) throughout the huge limestone cave for years to make eerie echoes. In 1954, cavern visitor and organ enthusiast Leland Sprinkle envisioned an organ that would play more tuneful music by tapping stalactites with rubber-tipped pistons. Leland tested more than 2,500 stalactites before he found 37 that matched musical notes (and cheated a little by shaving some down to size). How does it sound? Just as spooky as you’d imagine—an uncanny ringing from an unseen source deep underground. Leland acted as the cave’s resident organist for years, until they decided to turn it into a player piano—like it wasn’t creepy enough already.
Artiphon Musical Instrument | $299
In 2018, SpaceX sent Elon Musk’s red Tesla into orbit (complete with a dummy driver dubbed “Starman”), launching renewed buzz about the strange, offbeat, and downright surprising stuff humans have sent into space. Since the beginning of the Space Race, hundreds of unusual objects have been propelled into the unknown for the sake of science (or sometimes just for fun). Choosing the weirdest really wouldn’t be fair to the rest, so here’s a rundown of our top ten extraterrestrial odds and ends:
In the last decade of her long reign, Queen Victoria noticed that “Empress of India” was part of her job description. So, she did the only sensible thing: Brought an Indian advisor into her inner circle and ordered that a mango be shipped from India (a six-week voyage) just to taste the fabled fruit. This quirky royal request is dramatized in the film Victoria & Abdul, starring Dame Judi Dench and Bollywood heartthrob, Ali Fazal. Want to know how to tell when your mango’s fit for a queen? Ali offers a guide.
Before you snatch a swan from London’s River Thames to keep as your pet, consider something first. Besides getting the graceful feathered animal through customs, you’d also be stealing from her royal highness, Queen Elizabeth II. By prerogative power, the “Seignor of Swans” (aka the Queen) owns every swan in open waters within England and Wales. It’s a peculiar statute that dates back to medieval times, when the birds were considered a delicacy and served on dinner tables of the super wealthy. They don’t eat them anymore, but being the animal lover she is, the Queen just can’t let them go. She even participates in a royal “Swan Upping.” Every third week in July, Elizabeth—or rather her team of “upping” experts—gathers all unmarked swans, tags them, and sets them free. Is your dream crushed? Don’t let this stop you! Should you become close friends with the sovereign, she might grant you ownership of your own royal swan. It may be worth sticking your neck out.
Swan Slippers | $34