As electricity began to light our world, resistance came from curious corners. “God had decreed that darkness should follow light, and mortals had no right to turn night into day,” wrote one German newspaper. “A lamp for a nightmare,” declared a Scottish poet. And Thomas Edison, the inventor who gave us the first commercial light bulb, tried his hardest to make people fear a competitor’s form of electricity. But here’s the strangest thing of all: Edison and his ilk failed quickly; their fearmongering just never stuck, and electricity, unlike every other innovation we’ve explored on this show, easily expanded into our world. Why? To understand that, we have go way back — to the very first spark.
Pinball was banned from the 1940s to 1970s in many cities across America. New York City’s mayor made a show of bashing pinball machines with a hammer. Church ladies in suburban Chicago went on vigilante raids, ripping games out of stores. In this episode, we go through history to understand how a simple game became demonized. The answer, like pinball itself, requires us to bounce from one object to another, but ultimately falls into one big question: Is pinball a game of skill, or a game of chance?
For 500 years, a succession of kings, sultans, and businessmen have tried to ban or destroy the world’s favorite morning pick-me-up. Among their claims: Coffee makes you impotent! It destroys brain tissue! It attacks the nervous system! And most critically of all, it makes you want to take up arms against your government. In this episode, we explore exactly what coffee does to us,,, and how did it overcame the controversy to become the best part of waking up.
“One might suppose that the popular prejudice against vaccination had died out by this time,” one writer complains. It sounds like a lament from today, but in fact, it’s from 1875. Anti-vaxxers may seem like a product of our fake-news, health-hysteria modern times, but the fear that propels these skeptics is as old as the vaccine itself. How has modern medicine not shaken generations’ worth of suspicion and fear? We go back to look at two pivotal moments — the birth of the vaccine and a 1905 Supreme Court case — to understand what still motivates the anti-vaxxers of today.
For as long as chess has been around — and we’re talking 1,500-plus years — someone has tried to ban it. But why? The answer is complicated, but it begins here: For ages, global and moralistic leaders have viewed games as a threat worth quashing.
When the bicycle debuted in the 1800s, it was blamed for all sorts of problems–from turning people insane to devastating local economies to destroying women’s morals. We explore why the bicycle scared so many people, and what happens when the opposite of our fears turn out to be true.
National pride can be good… but it can also make you foolish and wet. In the 1750s, a London man took to the streets holding an umbrella—and braved jeers, rock-throwing haters, and even a cab that tried to run him over. We explore why rainy England was once so anti-umbrella, and whether that fight was really ever settled.
When the car began replacing the horse in the early 1900s, pessimists didn’t celebrate. They called it “the devil wagon,” and said its mission was to destroy the world. We explore why the horseless carriage was so scary, how it was eventually accepted, and what it can teach us about the future of self-driving cars.
In the early 1900s, recorded music was accused of muddling our minds, destroying art, and even harming babies. What was everyone so afraid of? In this episode, we dig into the early days of music and see what the hysterics properly predicted—and the benefits they never saw coming.
We like to say that things were better before. But… when was that, exactly? We go back in time to find out — exploring every moment that people claimed was a golden age, and trying to understand why, as Trump’s “Make American Great Again” slogan has shown, nostalgia is such a powerful force.