William Shakespeare was many things, poet, playwright, world’s greatest English language writer, the list goes on. But how about science fiction author? There looks to be an argument in the affirmative here:
Finally, Shakespeare wasn’t quite ready to retire in 1610. This was the year he wrote Cymbeline – containing, arguably, an even more tantalising allusion to the new cosmology. In this admittedly weird play, Jupiter himself descends from the heavens. Could the four ghosts that dance around the play’s hero represent the planet’s four newly discovered Jovian moons, described by Galileo earlier that year? Usher suspects so – and so does Scott Maisano of the University of Massachusetts in Boston, along with John Pitcher at Oxford, who have each written in support of the idea.
Even if we still don’t entirely understand what triggered the First World War, there are still plenty of myths and misconceptions surrounding the conflict.
For instance many people probably think soldiers serving in the trenches spent their whole period of service there, but for British troops at least, about a week and a half, per month, was the longest they would have been stationed there:
Front-line trenches could be a terribly hostile place to live. Often wet, cold and exposed to the enemy, units would quickly lose their morale if they spent too much time in them. As a result, the British army rotated men in and out continuously. Between battles, a unit spent perhaps 10 days a month in the trench system, and of those, rarely more than three days right up on the front line. It was not unusual to be out of the line for a month. During moments of crisis, such as big offensives, the British could occasionally spend up to seven days on the front line but were far more often rotated out after just a day or two.
In 1898 Serbian born US inventor Nikola Tesla stunned visitors to an exhibition at Madison Square Garden, in New York City, with a radio controlled boat. Those witnessing the demonstration of a model boat moving about a pool seemingly believed they were seeing a spectacle of magic:
Using a small, radio-transmitting control box, he was able to maneuver a tiny ship about a pool of water and even flash its running lights on and off, all without any visible connection between the boat and controller. Indeed few people at the time were aware that radio waves even existed and Tesla, an inventor often known to electrify the crowd with his creations, was pushing the boundaries yet again, with his remote-controlled vessel.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic?
Roger “Buzz” Osborne, of US band the Melvins, reckons he has picked the exact moment well known rock acts such as The Rolling Stones, Metallica, Black Flag, The Who, and – in a sense – even Jimi Hendrix, jumped the shark:
You listen to Stevie Ray Vaughan’s version of “Voodoo Child” and then you listen to Hendrix’s version, and Hendrix’s version has soul. There’s a difference. Everything is different. Hendrix gets it. Stevie Ray Vaughan is playing all the right notes, but it’s not anywhere near as good. That’s not something you can read in a book. Hendrix just had it. He had it all. He was a great singer, a great songwriter, and an unbelievable guitar player. And now he’s dead. So that’s how he blew it. It’s the biggest blowing it of all. What a dumbass.
Colour film footage of London, that was recorded in the late 1920s by British cinematographer Claude Friese-Greene, was floating around online last year. Now London based filmmaker Simon Smith has revisited the locations Friese-Greene filmed, and cut the works together, producing a then and now comparison video.
Sherman Billingsley, owner of erstwhile New York City nightclub, the Stork Club, which was apparently the place to be seen during its mid-twentieth century heyday, used a series of hand signals to discreetly communicate with his staff.
He might have been conveying messages that ranged from “bring these people another round”, to “get these people out of here”, to “the music’s too loud”, as above.
Might someone in Billingsley’s position be able to operate just as subtly via, say, text messaging, today? No, I’m not so sure about that.
The driving force behind the catastrophe that befell the world a century ago was Germany, which was looking for an excuse for a war that would allow it to dominate Europe. Yet complacency was also to blame. Too many people, in London, Paris and elsewhere, believed that because Britain and Germany were each other’s biggest trading partners after America and there was therefore no economic logic behind the conflict, war would not happen. As Keynes put it, “The projects and politics of militarism and imperialism, of racial and cultural rivalries, of monopolies, restrictions and exclusion, which were to play the serpent to this paradise, were little more than the amusements of [the Londoner's]… daily newspaper.”