Archive | History

The British-American coup that ended Australian independence

Prime minister Gough Whitlam watches ACTU president Bob Hawke drink beer from a yard glass Melbourne, Australia, 1972. Photograph: News Ltd/Newspix/REX

Prime minister Gough Whitlam watches ACTU president Bob Hawke drink beer from a yard glass Melbourne, Australia, 1972. Photograph: News Ltd/Newspix/REX

via The Guardian:

Across the media and political establishment in Australia, a silence has descended on the memory of the great, reforming prime minister Gough Whitlam. His achievements are recognised, if grudgingly, his mistakes noted in false sorrow. But a critical reason for his extraordinary political demise will, they hope, be buried with him.

Australia briefly became an independent state during the Whitlam years, 1972-75. An American commentator wrote that no country had “reversed its posture in international affairs so totally without going through a domestic revolution”. Whitlam ended his nation’s colonial servility. He abolished royal patronage, moved Australia towards the Non-Aligned Movement, supported “zones of peace” and opposed nuclear weapons testing.

Although not regarded as on the left of the Labor party, Whitlam was a maverick social democrat of principle, pride and propriety.

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Brooklyn’s Gangster Graveyard

By Whit Andrews via Flickr (cc by 2.0)

By Whit Andrews via Flickr (cc by 2.0)

via The Daily Beast:

On a sprawling, idyllic cluster of rolling hills in an otherwise industrial section of New York City, history’s finest and most notorious have been laid to rest.

Green-Wood Cemetery should have its own ZIP code. Covering nearly 500 acres in the middle of Brooklyn, the land of the dead feels a world away from the skyscrapers of Manhattan, visible in the distance from the hilltops.

Visitors are greeted by a looming gothic gate, the kind used to signify that important residents lie behind its spires. The cemetery is home to 560,000 dead. In past lives, the area served as the location of the Battle of Long Island during the Revolutionary War. Once the first dead were interred in 1838, it became the country’s second biggest tourism attraction thanks to its scenic and fashionable burial grounds. In the 1860s there were more sightseers than entombed residents, as 500,000 visitors flocked there per year.

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How Hard Is It To Steal An Atom Bomb?

In 2012, an 82-year-old Nun easily broke into one of America’s most secure weapons facilities. In 1982, inspectors discovered that a massive hyper-secure vault used to store nuclear weapons had an unlocked back door next to a public road. In 1997, one of Russia’s top generals claimed that almost a hundred bombs were missing and unaccounted for.

This week, Science Faction takes a look at the jaw-dropping history of Nuclear Security blunders in ‘How Hard Is It To Steal An Atom Bomb?’

(Information is drawn primarily from released Oversight reports and Congressional hearings – Full list of sources at the end)’

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1980: America’s First Extraterrestrial Election

By exoimperator via Flickr (CC by-sa 2.0)

By exoimperator via Flickr (CC by-sa 2.0)

via The Daily Beast:

In a democracy, an idea ceases to sound crazy once every candidate in an election has accepted it. By that measure, 1980 is the year Americans embraced the possibility that humans might not be the only intelligent life forms in the universe. That’s because both that year’s presidential candidates, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, reported having life-changing encounters with unidentified flying objects at some point in their lives.

The following is a summary of what we know about Presidents Carter and Reagan’s close encounters of the third kind and how these episodes affected their views on our place in the cosmos:

In 1969, state senator Jimmy Carter was preparing to give a speech in rural Georgia when an associate called his attention to something floating low above the horizon. There he claims he saw a luminous object change colors several times then vanish into the night sky.

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Vlad the Impaler Was Not the Inspiration for Stoker’s Dracula

Vlad_Tepes_002

via io9:

It’s one of those so-called facts that everyone knows: Bram Stoker’s character Count Dracula was loosely based on Vlad the Impaler. But while there’s no doubt that Stoker took the name from Vlad III’s patronymic, it’s doubtful that the Impaler was actually the basis for the famous vampire.

Who Made The Vlad-Dracula Connection?

It certainly makes sense that scholars and other readers have connected Count Dracula with the Wallachian warlord Vlad III, nicknamed “Vlad Tepes” or, in English, “Vlad the Impaler.” After all, Vlad III was a member of the House of Drăculești, and is one of a handful of historical figures whose title is rendered as “Voivode Dracula” in English-language texts. And the fictional Dracula does share one key biographical detail with his historical namesake: they both fought against the Turks during their mortal lives. But how did these two connections turn Vlad III into the supposed basis for Count Dracula?

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Anthropology unlocks clues about Roman gladiators’ eating habits

anthropology

via Phys.org:

Roman gladiators ate a mostly vegetarian diet and drank ashes after training as a tonic. These are the findings of anthropological investigations carried out on bones of warriors found during excavations in the ancient city of Ephesos.

Historic sources report that gladiators had their own diet. This comprised beans and grains. Contemporary reports referred to them as “hordearii” (“barley eaters”).

In a study by the Department of Forensic Medicine at the MedUni Vienna in cooperation with the Department of Anthropology at the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Bern, bones were examined from a gladiator cemetery uncovered in 1993 which dates back to the 2nd or 3rd century BC in the then Roman city of Ephesos (now in modern-day Turkey). At the time, Ephesos was the capital of the Roman province of Asia and had over 200,000 inhabitants.

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50 Years of the Jetsons: Why The Show Still Matters

jetsons-title-slate-sm

via The Smithsonian:

Although it was on the air for only one season, The Jetsons remains our most popular point of reference when discussing the future.

It was over 50 years ago that the Jetson family first jetpacked their way into American homes. The show lasted just one season (24 episodes) after its debut on Sunday September 23, 1962, but today “The Jetsons” stands as the single most important piece of 20th century futurism. More episodes were later produced in the mid-1980s, but it’s that 24-episode first season that helped define the future for so many Americans today.

It’s easy for some people to dismiss “The Jetsons” as just a TV show, and a lowly cartoon at that. But this little show—for better and for worse—has had a profound impact on the way that Americans think and talk about the future. And it’s for this reason that, starting this Friday, I’ll begin to explore the world of “The Jetsons” one episode at a time.

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Why Aristotle Deserves A Posthumous Nobel

aristotle

via The Daily Beast:

Shortly before his death in 1882, Charles Darwin received a letter from a physician and classicist named William Ogle. It contained Ogle’s recent translation of Aristotle’s The Parts of Animals and a brief letter in which he confessed to feeling “some self-importance in thus being a kind of formal introducer of the father of naturalists to his great modern successor.”

Aristotle is not typically remembered as the father of naturalists, but Darwin acknowledged a line of intellectual descent. “I had not the most remote notion of what a wonderful man he was,” Darwin wrote of Aristotle in his reply to Ogle. “Linnaeus and Cuvier have been my two gods, though in very different ways, but they were mere school-boys to old Aristotle.”

A fascinating new book by the evolutionary biologist and science writer Armand Marie Leroi claims that Aristotle fully deserves Darwin’s high praise. In The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science, Leroi argues that Aristotle developed many of the empirical and analytical methods that still define scientific inquiry.

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Panic over Ebola echoes the 19th-century fear of cholera

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
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By Sally Sheard, University of Liverpool

On October 19 an inspector sent north from London to Sunderland reported a long-awaited arrival: the first British case of cholera. It was 1831 and as part of a second pandemic cholera had again progressed from its Bengal heartland through Europe, before reaching the Baltic ports. It was only a matter of time.

Broadsheet warning in 1831. Wellcome Library, London, CC BY-NC-SA

The British public, informed by newspaper reports, were acquainted with the symptoms: profuse watery diarrhoea, severe abdominal pain and often death within a matter of hours. In advance of its arrival in Russia thousands fled from the cities. In Poland it was killing one in two victims. And unlike today, where oral rehydration solution can prevent dehydration and shock, there was no effective treatment.

Cholera was (and is) caused by vibrio cholerae bacteria and spread by poor sanitation and unsafe drinking water.… Read the rest

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