Astral Body

Adopted by 19th-century mystical movements, the term “astral body” refers to a supposed intermediate entity between the corporeal body and the soul. It is thought by believers to stand in for one’s physical self on spiritual journeys. The idea of an astral body has been associated with various experiences said to occur midway between the celestial sphere and the physical world, such as dreams, purgatory, and near-death experiences. Some believe that astral bodies are visible in what form? Discuss

TV Dinners

A TV dinner is a frozen prepared meal, usually packaged in a disposable serving tray, that needs only to be heated before serving. Perhaps more commonly called frozen dinners or microwave meals today, TV dinners became wildly popular in the mid-1950s when they were marketed by the American food company Swanson. Though generations of Americans associate TV dinners with their titular activity—eating while watching television—they were actually given their name for a different reason. What was it? Discuss

Han Chinese Clothing

The traditional clothing of the Han Chinese people, also known as hanfu, is no longer used as everyday garb in China, but it is worn at festivals, special occasions, and cultural events. There is also a movement to revive hanfu for daily wear, in replacement of Western styles. Hanfu outfits typically consist of diagonally wrapped robes and may include several layers. How did formal hanfu garments differ for ordinary citizens, government officials, and royalty? Discuss

Terra Nullius

Sandwiched between Egypt and Sudan is a sparsely inhabited parcel of desert claimed by neither country. Known as Bir Tawil, it is one of the few examples of terra nullius—land that legally belongs to no one. Historically, much land has been taken from indigenous peoples under the pretense of declaring it terra nullius, as happened in Australia. Today, almost all land is recognized as being under the jurisdiction of someone, except for Bir Tawil and what other place? Discuss

Eusebius of Caesarea

Born circa 263 CE, Eusebius was a Greek historian of early Christianity. A bishop of Caesarea, Palestine, he may have been imprisoned during the Roman persecutions. His fame rests on his Ecclesiastical History, which preserves portions of works no longer extant. He was a staunch supporter of Constantine I’s attempts to unify Christian doctrine, and his writings include Life of Constantine. Eusebius was excommunicated in 325 CE, after being accused of espousing what doctrine? Discuss


The word “gymnasium” comes from a Greek word meaning “to exercise naked.” Its root, gumnos, meaning “naked,” is also found in “gymnosophist.” The gymnosophists were members of an ancient Hindu ascetic sect devoted to mystical contemplation. They wore little to no clothing, as they regarded it as detrimental to purity of thought. What Greek philosopher known as the founder of pure skepticism came under the influence of the gymnosophists while traveling to India with Alexander the Great? Discuss


Practiced for centuries by the natives of Indonesia, batik is a fabric dyeing method that involves applying a design to a cloth’s surface with melted wax, dying the material, and then removing the wax to reveal the pattern. Remains of clothing found in Java indicate that the same or similar patterns have been in use for about 1,000 years and are handed down in families. Certain designs were traditionally reserved for royalty. How has the process been industrialized in modern times? Discuss

The Leatherman

For more than 30 years in the mid- and late 1800s, a figure known as the Leatherman regularly walked a 365-mile route through Connecticut and New York. He was famous for his handmade suit made entirely of leather, and townspeople would save food for him in anticipation of his arrival every 34 days. He lived in caves, which he heated by building fires. Very little is known about his background. Though he was said to speak French, he communicated mostly by gestures. What name graces his headstone? Discuss

Petrified Lightning

When lightning strikes the ground, the intense heat of the current can melt dry sand and create glass. Sometimes, this happens along the path of the lightning itself, leaving a hollow, branching tube of rough, sand-caked glass where the lightning traveled. The interior of the tube is usually very smooth. Such fragments of petrified lightning are known as fulgurites. They can form deep below the surface that was struck or, more rarely, above it. How long is the longest fulgurite ever found? Discuss


An MRE—or Meal, Ready-to-Eat—is a complete, self-contained field ration provided to members of the US military. MREs are carefully developed to provide enough calories for soldiers in the field and may include condiments, utensils, and matches. They are lightweight and capable of withstanding a parachute drop. Today, MREs come in 24 varieties, some of which are reportedly more palatable than others—inspiring such nicknames as “Meals, Rarely Edible.” What is the shelf life of an MRE? Discuss