Awesome, Astounding and Anomalous: Our Best Stories You Might Have Missed This Week


The new article "How the U.S. Secret Service Works" details the role, history and missteps of the federal agency. OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images
The new article "How the U.S. Secret Service Works" details the role, history and missteps of the federal agency. OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images

Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction, like when people share memories of events that never happened, or a university professor stumbles across a load of undiscovered old letters by mathematician Alan Turing. Read on for those stories and more in this installment of our best podcasts and articles of the week.

The Awesome

If you're celebrating Labor Day this weekend, there's a good chance you'll soon be chowing on grilled food. What better time to listen to a podcast about barbecue? Hosts Josh and Chuck get to the meaty heart of the cooking tradition in a new episode of the podcast Stuff You Should Know.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took some pretty astonishing pictures of dunes on the red planet covered with icy carbon dioxide. Maybe not the snow we were hoping for, but it creates an undulating pattern on the surface of Mars that is nonetheless fascinating. Read about and see an image of the frosty dunes here.

In a rapidly changing natural landscape, humans are often stuck scrambling to maintain the balance of important ecosystems. But despite our massive contributions to environmental problems, we're still pretty resourceful: Take, for example, BirdReturns, a program by The Nature Conservancy that provides much-needed temporary wetlands to migratory shorebirds. Learn how farmers are leasing out their rice paddies to give birds a place to stop and eat in this article.

The Astounding

Sure, the U.S. Secret Service has the word "secret" in its name, and there's a ton of stuff it keeps under wraps. But there's still a lot you can learn about the agency dedicated to protecting the president and investigating financial crime. Find out about the history and operation of the Secret Service in this new in-depth article.

Many people have likely fantasized about finding valuable historical memorabilia or expensive antiques when cleaning out old junk from the attic or garage. But one professor at the University of Manchester hit the jackpot when shuffling through an old filing cabinet — he found dozens of letters from renowned mathematician Alan Turing's later years. Read about the surprising discovery here.

Butter has had its fair share of haters. But the dislike that the Roman Catholic Church had for butter went far beyond the aversion that some folks have toward dairy and saturated fat — the church even banned butter on fast days. As you'll find out in this article, the butter ban had far-reaching effects in Europe that many people, including the German monk Martin Luther, weren't too happy about.

The Anomalous

Memory is imperfect, and the mind often muddies reality. One particularly odd phenomenon, though, occurs when people share the same inaccurate memory — that "The Berenstain Bears" was spelled as "The Berenstein Bears," for instance. Freaked out that this is even a thing? Listen to Stuff to Blow Your Mind hosts Robert and Christian discuss the Mandela Effect and shared false memories in a recent episode of the podcast.

The seas have provided the setting for many unsolved mysteries. A recent article by writer Kate Kershner recounts one such enigma, the case of a ship that was found adrift off the coast of Canada with its sails set and food still on the kitchen table ... but the crew was nowhere to be found. Years later, the curious case is still wide open. Read the article and listen to the episode of Stuff You Missed in History Class detailing more strange ghost ship encounters here.

Thanks to a macabre legal loophole created by technicalities of geography and jury, a small section of Yellowstone National Park called the "Zone of Death" is the perfect place to commit murder and get away with it. A recent episode of the podcast Stuff They Don't Want You to Know explores this weird and tiny section of the U.S. and the law. Listen to it here.