Monday, 18 May, 2015
An analysis of music that charted in the Billboard Hot 100 in the fifty years between 1960 and 2010, reveals that there were three significant periods of change in modern popular music:
There were three periods of rapid change. The first is from 1963 to 1964 – the period of the British Invasion. Though this appears to be the smallest, that is probably an illusion caused by there being few previous quarters to compare it with. The second is in the early 1980s. The third is around 1991. These revolutions do all correspond with times musical critics would have said change was happening (classic rock, new wave, and hip-hop respectively), but this analysis suggests other apparent novelties, such as the punk of the 1970s, were not the revolutions that their fans might like to believe.
I think hip-hop was responsible for the change, or revolution, of the early 1990s, rather than say grunge, and Nirvana, though the genre is not be underestimated, but three ground-shifts over fifty years seems low to me.
history, music, statistics
Friday, 15 May, 2015
Here’s a blast from the past… The Unisex, Omnisexual Purity Test, something I remember taking, or beginning to take, in 1999. I don’t know how many people would have completed the test, given it consists of five hundred questions, but it likely gets right to the core of one’s modesty when that happens.
There is now a slightly easier to take version of the test. In the late 1990s we had to record our answers on paper. Paper? Talk about cruising the electronic frontier that was the information superhighway, hey?
history, humour, psychology
Tuesday, 12 May, 2015
Do you remember the days of yore, those wonder years of endless summers, when we used to go PLP, drink cherry soda, and spend all afternoon playing pinball at the long vanished diner along the only street in our hometown?
Nor do I, that was the generation before ours, I think, but if its the ultimate guide to pinball that you’re looking for, and aren’t we all looking for something Chatelaine, then your journey here wasn’t in vain.
These days the entertainment landscape has shifted to all-digital all-the-time, and it can leave a person thirsty for a real world waste of time. Pinball is one great solution to getting yourself out into meatspace and it’s seen a resurgence of popularity in the last few years.
games, history, pinball
Tuesday, 5 May, 2015
Former British athlete Roger Bannister officially ran the first four-minute mile in 1954. Stories however abound of people in England achieving the feat during the eighteenth century.
Given these people were often running as part of a bet, or a gamble, Peter Radford, a retired sports science professor and Olympic bronze medalist, contends their times, that were sometimes reported in news publications of the day, would have been quite accurately recorded, as relatively large sums of money were at stake.
But Radford argues that at the time of Parrott’s run, agricultural chains would have been able to measure the distance to within a few inches. And, by the late 18th Century, the best watches were extremely accurate. Even a watch that lost five seconds a day could still time a mile to within a second. Crucially, the culture of wagers gave everyone a strong financial incentive to get it right. “The two parties agreed that there hadn’t been any advantage taken by one side over the other,” Radford says. “It’s not like a diary entry where somebody said, ‘I did so and so’ and they could make up whatever they wanted.”
athletics, history, sport
Friday, 1 May, 2015
Being Friday and all…
According to the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, a collection of manuscripts, some of which are nearly two thousand years old, the people of ancient Greece and Rome strung together leaves of a shrub called Danae racemosa, or Alexandrian laurel, to make a hangover curing necklace.
There seems to be doubt as to whether these leaves were actually effective of themselves, but possibly they had some placebo like quality that helped.
The key ingredient listed to treat the hangover – the slow growing evergreen Danae racemosa – wasn’t exactly known for its medical properties. The plant was used in Greek and Roman times to crown distinguished athletes, orators and poets. Whether stringing its leaves and wearing the strand around the neck had any effect to relieve headaches in alcohol victims isn’t known.
alcohol, health, history
Thursday, 30 April, 2015
If you’ve ever needed a blood transfusion, then you ought to be especially thankful to a couple of dogs, living in England during the seventeenth century, who were involved, involuntarily I imagine, in the first known trials of the medical procedure.
The world’s first experiments with blood transfusion occurred in the mid-1660s in England. The procedure, which was first carried out between dogs, was gruesome: the dogs were tied down, the arteries and veins in their necks opened, and blood transferred from one to another through quills (most likely made from goose feathers) inserted into the blood vessels.
health, history, medicine
Tuesday, 28 April, 2015
I wouldn’t have thought that dinosaur fossils could be bought or sold ordinarily. But I imagine if someone is sufficiently financed, and determined enough, to buy them, they’ll succeed.
It seems money did change hands in the past though, in certain circumstances during the nineteenth century apparently, and this trade is the subject of an essay by Lukas Rieppel.
Rather, people haggling over the price of dinosaur bones looked to social norms from the mineral industry for cues on how to value these rare and unusual objects, adopting a set of negotiation tactics that exploited asymmetries in the distribution of scarce information to secure the better end of the deal.
dinosaurs, history, paleontology
Wednesday, 15 April, 2015
What a week it’s been hey? First up news broke that we may soon be able to learn what the lyrics to “American Pie” mean. Then we discovered that the Helvetica font had a rival, Haas Unica, that, for whatever reason, failed to fully see the light of day forty years ago.
Now it seems Brontosaurus, a dinosaur that was previously deemed not to be an actual terrible lizard, is in fact such a creature in its own right, after all.
The change in fortunes for the Brontosaurus came about after Lisbon based palaeontologist, Emanuel Tschopp, began creating a family tree of sorts for Diplodocids, the dinosaur group that Apatosaurus, the creature everyone had mistaken for a Brontosaurus, was part of, and found they actually were two distinct beasts:
Very broadly, their tree confirmed established ideas about the evolutionary relationships among diplodocids. But the scientists also concluded that Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus were different enough to belong in their own genera. Many of the anatomical differences between the two dinosaurs are obscure, Tschopp says, but Apatosaurus‘s stouter neck is an obvious one. “Even though both are very robust and massive animals, Apatosaurus is even more so,” he adds.
Brontosaurus, dinosaurs, history
Tuesday, 14 April, 2015
A lion named Leo has been the centrepiece of the distinctive Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer logo, that features at the beginning of movies produced by the US film production and distribution company, since 1957, even though the logo itself has undergone a number of alterations in the last fifty-eight years.
While Leo had a number of lion predecessors, he must be the longest serving to date, even if the roar we now hear isn’t his anymore… an electronic version was created some time ago.
design, film production, history, trivia
Monday, 13 April, 2015
The first known environmental disaster to be precipitated by humanity occurred eight and half thousand years ago, as a result of poor crop farming practices.
The crisis is however thought to have played a part in the invention of cheese, as people living in the middle east turned to farming sheep and goats, and discovered the milk of these animals would form an edible substance if it were left sitting in vessels for a certain amount of time.
The real dawn of cheese came about 8,500 years ago, with two simultaneous developments in human history. First, by then, over-intensive agricultural practices had depleted the soil, leading to the first human-created environmental disaster. As a result, Neolithic humans began herding goats and sheep more intensely, as those animals could survive on marginal lands unfit for crops. And secondly, humans invented pottery: the original practical milk-collection containers.
cheese, food, history