Raining cats and dogs and buckets and barrels and knives and forks and frogs and old women and trolls and pipes and rope

Lost in translation

How close are we to the universal translators that pepper science fiction? Will Google Translate be the technological equivalent of Douglas Adams’s babel fish? For simple sentences, the service works well. Google Translate can even master complicated documents or, at least, provide enough to make sense of the text. One the biggest test is whether the service can make sense of idioms. Would it translate the English concept of ‘raining cats and […]

Cour Carrée (Square courtyard) of Museum of Louvre, at dusk By Benh LIEU SONG (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

On this day in … 1793

The Louvre opens as a museum. In a hugely symbolic act, the leaders of the French Revolution open the doors of the former royal palace to the people. This started a precedent, with the State Hermitage opening up in St. Petersburg after the Russian Revolution and Beijing’s Forbidden City following the communist takeover of China. Today, the Louvre is home to one of the world’s greatest collections of art. It is also the […]

Atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945 by Charles Levy from one of the B-29 Superfortresses used in the attack.

On this day in … 1945

An atomic bomb is dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. It follows the destruction of Hiroshima three days earlier. The explosion unleashed the equivalent force of 22,000 tons of TNT. Nagasaki nestles in a valley surrounded by hills. This geography intensified the destructive force of the bomb. It is estimated that between 60,000 and 80,000 were killed. No one will ever know the exact figure, as the blast completely wiped out all […]

Richard Nixon's resignation speech By Ollie Atkins, White House Photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

On This Day in … 1974

Richard M. Nixon resigns as President of the United States of America. His resignation is announced in an evening television broadcast. His solemn broadcast included this explanation: Nixon’s presidency imploded in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal. By July 1974, the President faced impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives. The three articles for impeachment were for obstruction of justice, abuse of presidential powers, and hindrance of the impeachment process. Gerald Ford […]


On This Day in … 1782

George Washington creates the Badge for Military Merit (most  commonly known as the Purple Heart) to recognise singularly meritorious action. It is only awarded to three known soldiers in the Revolutionary War. It fell into disuse for 150 years until it was revived in the 1930s. The number of casualties anticipated in an American invasion of Japan during the Second World War was so high that half a million Purple Hearts were manufactured. After […]

Electric chair used in New York's Sing SIng prison

On this day in … 1890

William Kemmler becomes the first person to be executed by electric chair. He is put to death at New York’s Auburn Prison. The electric chair was intended as a more humane way of killing condemned prisoners. This first attempt did not fulfil expectations, as it appeared to fry Kemmler rather than kill him. His death gave birth to a new word – to electrocute. This portmanteau combined execute with electricity and strictly means […]


On this day in … 1962

Marilyn Monroe is found dead at her home in Brentwood, Los Angeles. She was 36. Her death sparked rumors and, since then, has developed into one of America’s most prominent and debtated conspiracy theories. Monroe was interred on three days later. Only 31 close family and friends were invited to the funeral.