Nan Wua: A Buddhist Temple in South Africa

The Nan Wua Temple, located near the little village of Bronkhorstspruit in the Gauteng Province of South Africa, is the largest Buddhist temple anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere.


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The American Lion (Yes, America Once Had Wild Lions)

If you could have wandered across the United States in the area that is now the Great Plains 15,000 years ago, you may have mistaken it for the African Serengeti. Elephants, camels, horses, cheetahs . . . all would be roaming across the vast savannahs of North America.  And the most impressive of all would have been the North American Lion.


Fossilized skull of Panthera atrox, the North American Lion, on display at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

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Florida’s Invaders — Red-Eared Slider

Florida is the land of invasive species. Because of our status as a center for the importing of exotic pets and houseplants from overseas, and our neo-tropical climate, we have been invaded by everything from kudzu plants to Burmese pythons. One of our most common invasives is a brightly-colored aquatic turtle called the Red-Eared Slider. Extremely common in the pet trade, the Slider has been introduced around the world, prompting some biologists to label it as “The Reptilian Norway Rat”. It is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as one of the “100 Most Invasive Species in the World”.


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“Ida”: The Most Complete Known Fossil Primate

In 2009, an extraordinary fossil was unveiled for the world by an international team of scientists working in Norway. Named “Ida” (pronounced “eeh-dah”) after the daughter of one of the scientists, the two-square-foot fossil was breathtaking in its level of preservation–individual hairs could be distinguished, the entire skeleton was there with only one leg missing, even the stomach contents could be seen.

Yet this remarkable fossil quickly became the center of a debate and controversy over the underground private fossil trade, the role of the media in modern science, and the dividing line between hype and scientific discourse.


The Ida fossil on display, in a climate-controlled case at Oslo University’s Natural History Museum.

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Japan’s WW2 Submarine Aircraft Carrier

In January 1942, Japan was riding high. It had control of most of the Pacific, and its attack on the US Navy at Pearl Harbor had been a severe blow. But Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander of the Japanese Navy, knew that he had not won yet. He needed some way to take the battle to the American mainland, to terrorize the American people and convince them that negotiating a peace was preferable to a long and bloody war.

The method he chose to attack the US mainland was one of the oddest ships ever built–the aircraft-carrier submarine.


Seiran bomber on display at the Smithsonian collection.

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Forgotten mysteries, oddities and unknown stories from history, nature and science.