And the life expectancy of working class Romans was?

Tuesday, 31 May, 2016

Some people appeared to live in great comfort during Roman times, but for others, especially those who kept the cog wheels turning as it were, that looked to be far from the case. For one thing, the life expectancy of such people was just thirty years. Compare that with ages sometimes approaching seventy, for other Roman citizens.

“The bones are the earthly remains of poor, working-class Romans, taken from commoners’ graves, and display high incidences of broken and fractured bones, chronic arthritis and high incidences of bone cancer,” medical historian Valentina Gazzaniga told The Local. “What’s interesting is that the average age of death across the sample group was just 30, yet the skeletons still display severe damage wrought by the extremely difficult working conditions of the day.”

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Is a marching music composer the greatest ever rock musician?

Monday, 30 May, 2016

Ask a room full of people which rock musicians of the last fifty to sixty years will be remembered in the distant future, and I’m guessing, from the numerous suggestions made, that everyone might eventually agree on about half a dozen names that would fit the bill.

Would it surprise you then, that just one person, a composer of marching music, named John Philip Sousa, might be the only person who is recalled? If nothing else, it’s an intriguing thought.

Marching music is a maddeningly durable genre, recognizable to pretty much everyone who has lived in the United States for any period. It works as a sonic shorthand for any filmmaker hoping to evoke the late 19th century and serves as the auditory backdrop for national holidays, the circus and college football. It’s not “popular” music, but it’s entrenched within the popular experience. It will be no less fashionable tomorrow than it is today.

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No advances in vacuum cleaner technology since 1910

Wednesday, 25 May, 2016

Well this is disappointing, it seems latter day vacuum cleaners are no more effective than their counterparts, that date from the early years of the twentieth century.

“A vacuum cleaner from 1910 would clean the rug just as well as a modern vacuum cleaner from today,” says Tom Gasko, one of America’s foremost vacuum cleaner historians and the curator at the Vacuum Cleaner Museum at Tacony Manufacturing in St. James, Missouri.

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Visualising the evolution of pop music from 1956

Thursday, 5 May, 2016

A look, and listen, at how pop music evolved… based on top ten hits as charted by Billboard, from 1956 through to today.

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Is it time to make Penny Farthing racing an Olympic sport?

Wednesday, 4 May, 2016

Penny Farthing races at the Herne Hill Velodrome, in the south east of London, in 1928. I lived for a short time in Tulse Hill, the suburb neighbouring Herne Hill, but was unaware of its presence, or that it was one of the oldest track cycling venues in the world.

But how about those bikes, hey? Look at them go. It’s time to introduce Penny Farthing racing as an Olympic sport, I think.

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A latter day obituary for William Shakespeare

Wednesday, 27 April, 2016

Better late than never I guess… The New York Times obituary for William Shakespeare, as if it were written at the time of his death though.

Over the course of three decades, Mr. Shakespeare rose from working-class obscurity in Warwickshire to become one of England’s foremost playwrights and poets – acclaimed for his penetrating insights into the human character, his eloquent, flexible and infinitely expressive verse; and his readiness to burst the bounds of the English language (drawing on a vocabulary of more than 25,000 words).

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The trailer for The Founder, the story of Ray Kroc and McDonald’s

Tuesday, 26 April, 2016

We all know that brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald founded the famous hamburger restaurant that bears their surname, but it was Ray Kroc, an Illinois business man, who oversaw the concept’s expansion across the US, and then overseas, and it is his story that is the subject of John Lee Hancock’s latest film, The Founder.

This could make for interesting viewing, if the trailer is anything to go by. What is it that they say… you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs?

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We could never run out of history, there’s too much of it

Friday, 22 April, 2016

Histography, an interactive timeline that spans the history of the universe, from the point of view of certain of the inhabitants of Earth that is, from the Big Bang, straight on through.

Note: you require either the Chrome, or Safari, web browsers to view this page.

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An animation of the Titanic sinking in real time

Wednesday, 20 April, 2016

This is a curious production, an animation running for two hours and forty minutes, that depicts the sinking of the Titanic in real time, starting from when it struck the iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean.

I didn’t look at the whole clip, but the detail is impressive though, and harrowing. You can read more about the project here.

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The story of the number zero is far from a story about nothing

Tuesday, 19 April, 2016

Of all the numbers, in their infinite abundance, it could be argued that zero has the most interesting story.

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