Futility Closet Podcast #006: Texas Camels, Zebra Stripes, and an Immortal Piano

Hosted by Greg and Sharon Ross, Futility Closet is a celebration of the quirky and the curious, the thought-provoking and the simply amusing. This podcast is an audio companion to the popular website that catalogs more than 7,000 curiosities in history, language, mathematics, literature, philosophy, and art. In each episode we explore intriguing finds from our research, share listener contributions, and offer a contest in which listeners can match their wits.

The 1850s saw a strange experiment in the American West: The U.S. Army imported 70 camels for help in managing the country’s suddenly enormous hinterland. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll see how the animals acquitted themselves in an unfamiliar land under inexperienced human masters.

We’ll also learn a surprising theory regarding the origin of zebra stripes; follow the further adventures of self-mailing ex-slave Henry “Box” Brown; ask whether a well-wrought piano can survive duty as a beehive, chicken incubator, and meat safe; and present the next Futility Closet Challenge. (See show notes for the episode.)

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