Tag Archives | History

The Myth of the Megalith

Eusebius@Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Eusebius@Commons (CC BY 2.0)

via The New Yorker:

Baalbek, Lebanon, is the site of one of the most mysterious ruins of the Roman Empire, a monumental two-thousand-year-old temple to Jupiter that sits atop three thousand-ton stone blocks. (The pillars of Stonehenge weigh about a fortieth of that.) The blocks originated in a nearby limestone quarry, where a team from the German Archaeological Institute, in partnership with Jeanine Abdul Massih, of Lebanese University, recently discovered what they are calling the largest stone block from antiquity, weighing one thousand six hundred and fifty tons and matching those that support the temple. Its provenance is more shadowy than one might expect of a three-million-pound megalith. Nobody seems to know on whose orders it was cut, or why, or how it came to be abandoned.

Baalbek is named for Baal, the Phoenician deity, although the Romans knew the site by its Greek name, Heliopolis.

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2 Futures Can Explain Time’s Mysterious Past

In the evolution of cosmic structure, is entropy or gravity the more dominant force? The answer to this question has deep implications for the universe's future, as well as its past.  Credit: NASA; ESA; G. Illingworth, D. Magee, and P. Oesch, University of California, Santa Cruz; R. Bouwens, Leiden University; and the HUDF09 Team

In the evolution of cosmic structure, is entropy or gravity the more dominant force? The answer to this question has deep implications for the universe’s future, as well as its past.
Credit: NASA; ESA; G. Illingworth, D. Magee, and P. Oesch, University of California, Santa Cruz; R. Bouwens, Leiden University; and the HUDF09 Team

via Scientific American:

Physicists have a problem with time.

Whether through Newton’s gravitation, Maxwell’s electrodynamics, Einstein’s special and general relativity or quantum mechanics, all the equations that best describe our universe work perfectly if time flows forward or backward.

Of course the world we experience is entirely different. The universe is expanding, not contracting. Stars emit light rather than absorb it, and radioactive atoms decay rather than reassemble. Omelets don’t transform back to unbroken eggs and cigarettes never coalesce from smoke and ashes. We remember the past, not the future, and we grow old and decrepit, not young and rejuvenated.

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Kill the Banker

Bomb in Wall Street, 1920

Bomb in Wall Street, 1920

via Vice.com:

A little violence can sometimes work to defend against predatory bankers. Consider the farmers of Le Mars, Iowa. The year was 1933, the height of the Great Depression.

A finance bubble on Wall Street had crashed the economy, the gears of industrial production had ground to a halt, and 13 million Americans had lost their jobs. Across the Corn Belt, farmers couldn’t get fair prices for milk and crops, their incomes plummeted, and their mortgages went unpaid. Seeing opportunity, banks foreclosed on their properties in record numbers, leaving the farmers homeless and destitute.

So they organized. Under the leadership of a boozing, fist-fighting Iowa farmer named Milo Reno, who had a gift for oratory, several thousand farmers across the Midwest struck during 1933, refusing to sell their products. “We’ll eat our wheat and ham and eggs” went the popular doggerel of the movement.

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13 real technologies Woody Allen (of all people) predicted in the ’70s

ecodallaluna (CC BY-SA 2.0)

ecodallaluna (CC BY-SA 2.0)

via DVice:

Back in 1973, eternally eccentric filmmaker Woody Allen made Sleeper. Set in the year 2173, Sleeper is, to date, Allen’s sole venture into overt sci-fi. A slapstick comedy, Sleeper pokes fun at other sci-fi classics, notable amongst them Fahrenheit 451 and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The political and social aspects of the film are thinly veiled 1970s sentiment, set in a dystopic inept police state.

What is truly interesting is Sleeper’s perspective on the progress of technology, 200 years from its production. While Woody Allen did not predict technological miniaturization, he did get a lot of things right. Was Woody Allen a tech prophet? Here’s a list of technologies predicted in Sleeper that already exist, 161 years ahead of schedule.

1. Sleeping Pods Not once, but twice in Sleeper are we given glimpses of long-term sleeping devices. I guess that’s appropriate, given the title.

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The insane history of how American paranoia ruined and censored comic books

secretlondon123 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

secretlondon123 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

via Vox:

One of the most hurtful things you can say to a comic book reader is that comic books are for kids.

It’s a chilling insult that the stuff they read — the stuff they love — never advanced beyond its funny-page beginnings. But it’s also — often unknown to comics fans — a blunt reminder of one of the worst things to ever happen to comic books.

Some 60 years ago, during the era of McCarthyism, comic books became a threat. The panic culminated in a Senate hearing in 1954. This, of course, isn’t to say that McCarthyism and the comic book panic were comparable in their human toll. But they share the same symptoms of American fear and a harsh, reactive response to it.

The reaction to the suspected scourge was the Comics Code — a set of rules that spelled out what comics could and couldn’t do.

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The True Practice of Binding Books in Human Skin

book fleshEarlier posts have verified that Harvard University’s library contains books bound in human skin, but in case you missed it Rob Velella has summarized what you need to know about the somewhat bizarre practice, at Atlas Obscura:

There are a few urban legends that poke up here and there that certain libraries — usually dusty, private, or academic ones which are not easily accessible by the public — hold books bound in human skin. Few of these stories turn out to be true: the “human” skin is often proven to be lamb, sheep, or deer. But Harvard University’s Houghton Library was recently surprised — and somewhat taken aback — to find one of its books was absolutely an example of the practice known as anthropodermic bibliopegy.

The book in question (pictured here courtesy Houghton Library, Harvard University), a French volume titled Des destinées de l’ameby Arsène Houssaye, is also relatively recent, dating only to the 1880s.

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America Is Built on Torture, Remember?

takomabibelot (CC BY 2.0)

takomabibelot (CC BY 2.0)

via Pacific Standard Magazine:

The release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report has sparked a great deal of outrage—and justifiably so. The details are grim and sickening: The report says that the CIA tortured innocent people, threatened to murder and rape the mothers of detainees, and used rectal feeding or, essentially, anal rape, as a punishment. The report paints a picture of heedless brutality, cruelty, and sadism.

Given the details from Abu Ghraib, and the long-known, supposedly sanctioned techniques like waterboarding, these revelations aren’t exactly surprising. But they still have the power to shock. Andrew Sullivan, who has been a bitter and committed critic of American torture, summed up the reaction of many when he suggested that readers “reflect on a president [George W. Bush] who cannot admit to being the first in that office to authorize such an assault on core American values and decency.” To numerous critics on the left and some on the right as well, the torture seems like a violation of the basic American commitment to freedom, justice, and human rights.

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Researchers use real data rather than theory to measure the cosmos

Incase (CC BY 2.0)

Incase (CC BY 2.0)

via Phys.org:

For the first time researchers have measured large distances in the Universe using data, rather than calculations related to general relativity.

A research team from Imperial College London and the University of Barcelona has used data from astronomical surveys to measure a standard distance that is central to our understanding of the expansion of the .

Previously the size of this ‘standard ruler’ has only been predicted from theoretical models that rely on general relativity to explain gravity at large scales. The new study is the first to measure it using observed data. A standard ruler is an object which consistently has the same physical size so that a comparison of its actual size to its size in the sky will provide a measurement of its distance to earth.

“Our research suggests that current methods for measuring distance in the Universe are more complicated than they need to be,” said Professor Alan Heavens from the Department of Physics, Imperial College London who led the study.

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Viking families traveled together, research shows

Frank Douwes CC BY 2.0

Frank Douwes (CC BY 2.0)

via Phys.org:

(Phys.org)—A new study shows that when Vikings moved to new territories, men and women traveled together. Erika Hagelberg of the University of Oslo and her colleagues compared ancient Norse and Icelandic mitochondrial DNA with mitochondrial DNA of modern Northwestern Europeans. They found similarities between the ancient and modern DNA suggesting women played a significant role in Viking migrations. The research appears in The Royal Society Philosophical Transactions B.

Vikings traveled long distances, establishing colonies in Iceland and many parts of Northwestern Europe. They even traveled as far as North America. It’s a commonly held belief that Viking expeditions consisted entirely of men, and that a shortage of women at home compelled Viking men to seek out women in foreign lands. Earlier genetic studies have suggested that while Viking men ventured forth to pillage and plunder, women and children stayed home.

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The 1918 Flu Pandemic: History In Photos

Historical photo of the 1918 Spanish influenza ward at Camp Funston, Kansas, showing the many patients ill with the flu (: Original source description)

Historical photo of the 1918 Spanish influenza ward at Camp Funston, Kansas, showing the many patients ill with the flu (: Original source description)

via All That is Interesting:

According to the numbers provided by the U.S. Department of Justice, over five million souls died in WWI, excluding prisoners of war or missing persons. This is admittedly an incredibly high number, but it pales in comparison to the estimated 50 to 100 million more people the world over who lost their lives to the especially virulent influenza pandemic of 1918.

With modern medicinal practice still in its infancy, many misunderstood how individuals could contract and spread this illness, and often misdiagnosed it given its similarity to the common cold. It was originally thought that a certain bacteria – Pfeiffer’s bacillus – was the culprit, though no autopsies were able to find it in any of the bodies. The virus was not isolated until 1930 – far after the Spanish Flu would wreak havoc on the world’s population, eventually taking out 3-5% of it.

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