A soldier’s room left untouched since he left for the front line

Thursday, 23 October, 2014

A touching memorial, surely, to Hubert Rochereau, a French soldier who died in Belgium in April 1918, during the first World War, the room at the house where he grew up has been preserved – just as he left it – by his parents, then later, other owners of his home.

Even though Rochereau’s family sold the house in 1935, the sale agreement specified that his room not be altered in anyway for five hundred years. Although no subsequent owner has any real legal obligation to adhere to this stipulation, the current occupiers of the house seem happy to abide by the request.

The parents of the young officer kept his room exactly as it was the day he left for the battlefront. When they decided to move in 1935, they stipulated in the sale that Rochereau’s room should not be changed for 500 years. “This clause had no legal basis,” said the current owner, retired local official Daniel Fabre, who showed the room to the Nouvelle République newspaper. But nevertheless he and his wife, who inherited the house from her grandparents, have respected the wishes of Rochereau’s parents and will continue to do so.

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Can you name the first woman to fly around the world solo?

Wednesday, 22 October, 2014

In 1964, Jerrie Mock, a mother of three living in Columbus, Ohio, piloting a single engine Cessna 180 aircraft, became the first woman to fly solo around the world, yet the chances are you’ve not heard of her

But the last 50 years have produced no Hollywood movie, no legend, and, until recently, not so much as a statue of Mock in her small hometown. Elsewhere in Ohio – the so-called birthplace of aviation – the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton doesn’t include her. Committee members who vote for inductees, according to one who added Mock to the ballot in 2003, don’t recognize her name.

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Executed for theft but not murder? Once upon a time, yes, it seems

Tuesday, 21 October, 2014

The justice system’s perception of the seriousness of an offence looks to have changed over the centuries, for instance execution appeared to be an acceptable penalty for petty theft, at least in Britain, in the seventeenth century, according to a study of transcripts of old court cases that were tried at London’s well known criminal court, the Old Bailey.

The records of the Old Bailey, London’s central criminal court, tell the tale of one John Randal, who was tried on Sept. 9, 1674. He was charged “with two Indictments, one for Fellony for stealing several pieces of Plate, and other Goods…, and the other for Murder, Killing his House-Keeper.” That his theft and his murder were described and tried together was natural for a world where the protection of property was a virtue at least on par with the promotion of human happiness. Nearly a hundred years later, in 1769, William Blackstone argued that it is quite reasonable to execute someone convicted of stealing “a handkerchief, or other trifle, privately from one’s person,” even though other crimes that involve goods of higher value are punished less severely.

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The smartwatch, based on the codex rotundus… or bookwatch?

Tuesday, 14 October, 2014

Codex rotundus

The arrival of what is effectively a smartphone you wear on your wrist, in watch style, caused a splash a month or so ago, but how about the codex rotundus, a circle shaped book, about nine centimetres across, that almost looks like it could be worn as a watch, as wearable technology.

And dating from the late fifteenth century, on top of that. How old hat does this make that smartwatch look then?

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Krakatoa, a volcanic eruption that reverberated around the world

Friday, 10 October, 2014

The 1883 volcanic eruption on the Indonesian island of Krakatoa didn’t just wreak havoc in its more immediate vicinity, the sound of the tremendous explosion circled the world for four days, or at least its ever decreasing remnant, that became too quiet to be heard by people, did:

Closer to Krakatoa, the sound was well over this limit, producing a blast of high pressure air so powerful that it ruptured the eardrums of sailors 40 miles away. As this sound travelled thousands of miles, reaching Australia and the Indian Ocean, the wiggles in pressure started to die down, sounding more like a distant gunshot. Over 3,000 miles into its journey, the wave of pressure grew too quiet for human ears to hear, but it continued to sweep onward, reverberating for days across the globe. The atmosphere was ringing like a bell, imperceptible to us but detectable by our instruments.

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The Cosmonaut’s survival kit, but for survival where exactly?

Thursday, 9 October, 2014

Cosmonauts on Soviet Soyuz spacecraft flights were issued with survival kits that included among other things, pistols and ammunition, fishing gear, compasses, knives, medical kits, and fire starters. And not for use on some inhabited alien planet they may have chanced upon mind you, but planet Earth…

The pistol was intended to scare off “wolves, bears, tigers, etc.” on the event of a crash landing. Later Soviet survival kits expanded to include fishing tackle, improved cold suits, royal blue knit caps with the Cyrillic initials of each cosmonaut (shades of The Life Aquatic) and “ugh boots” lined with fur.

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Preserving cylinder recordings for future generations

Tuesday, 7 October, 2014

A little over one hundred years ago people were listening to recorded music on phonograph cylinders. Disc records were also around, and for a time the two formats competed with each other, before records eventually won out.

Thanks to the efforts of the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project however, not all phonograph cylinder recordings have been lost in time, and a growing collection of such music has been converted to MP3 format for our listening pleasure today.

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A list of popular writers in 2000… selected by people living in 1936

Thursday, 2 October, 2014

In 1936, a US magazine, The Colophon, asked its readers to name ten authors whose work would still be highly regarded by the end of the twentieth century. Unfortunately those polled were a little off the mark, but if you’re looking for some new reading ideas, then the ten authors they did nominate might make for a good starting point.

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Tracing the origins of storytelling back to… ancient campfires

Tuesday, 30 September, 2014

Sitting around campfires in the evenings, after a day of hunting, collecting, or farming, allowed our ancient ancestors the opportunity to talk about matters that were not quite so vital to day-to-day survival, and this is when storytelling began to emerge and develop.

A study of evening campfire conversations by the Ju/’hoan people of Namibia and Botswana suggests that by extending the day, fire allowed people to unleash their imaginations and tell stories, rather than merely focus on mundane topics.

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We played mile high tennis and have the photos to prove it

Tuesday, 23 September, 2014

Tennis game, aircraft wing

There’s playing tennis, and then there’s playing tennis on the top wing of a biplane, at an altitude of one kilometre or thereabouts. I wonder how long a rally might last on such a narrow… court?

Via Historical Pics.

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