If there a were a king of the dinosaurs, Dreadnoughtus was it

Friday, 12 September, 2014

At twenty-six metres in length, remember most taller people are not quite two metres in height, and weighing in at close to sixty metric tonnes, a previously unknown dinosaur, whose skeletal remains were found a few years ago in Patagonia, Argentina, has been aptly named Dreadnoughtus schrani.

As a comparison, this beast would have been seven times heavier than Tyrannosaurus rex. Luckily for us – if people had been around at the time – Dreadnoughtus was a herbivore, meaning the species wouldn’t have had much interest in humans as a food source. Heaven help any creature that did something to annoy them though.

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A non alcoholic, yet potent, amber liquid? Mad honey is its name

Friday, 12 September, 2014

Some honey produced in coastal regions of Turkey, along the Black Sea, can be possessed of a certain hallucinogenic quality, if honey bees are able to pollinate, and gather the nectar of, rhododendron flowers that grow in the area.

While adding a dollop of this so-called “mad honey” to drinks, such as tea I imagine, resulted in a buzz akin to consuming a couple of alcoholic beverages, when ingested in any reasonable quantity it can however induce nausea, blurred vision, and seizures, among other things.

Indeed, the honey, that has been a product of the region for centuries, has not only seen use as a depressant though, it has also been deployed a war weapon in the past:

Indeed, in 67 B.C. Roman soldiers invaded the Black Sea region under General Pompey’s command, and those loyal to the reigning King Mithridates secretly lined the Romans’ path with enticing chunks of mad honeycomb. The unwitting army ate these with gusto, as the story goes. Driven into an intoxicated stupor by the hallucinogenic honey, many of the flailing soldiers became easy prey, and were slain.

Interestingly, I saw a film called Bal, or Honey, a few years ago, that is set in pretty much the same part of Turkey, although I don’t believe hallucinogenic honey was featured.

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A portrait of Jane Austen by a forensic artist

Thursday, 4 September, 2014

Despite being one the most celebrated English literature authors of the nineteenth century, no one had known what Jane Austen really looked like until Melissa Dring, a freelance forensic artist, set about helping to create an accurate likeness of her for Madame Tussaud’s wax museum.

Dring was similarly unimpressed by Cassandra’s sketch – “It makes her look a little bit as if she’d been sucking lemons and it’s so totally unlike the feeling that you get from reading her books.” – but nevertheless used it as a starting place. She then spent a year consulting the many eyewitness accounts that described Jane; scouring portraits of members of Austen’s family for shared traits; even consulting a graphologist who examined Austen’s tight, cramped hand, and highlighted the writer’s private, secretive nature, her practicality, and her right-handedness. Drawing on all the available information – which, she said, was more than she normally has to go on – Dring created a composite portrait of younger Jane Austen that she felt captured the author’s physical appearance as well as her character.

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Mapping out a new understanding of the Roman Empire

Tuesday, 26 August, 2014

From small things big things one day come… the rise, peak, fall, and aftermath of the Roman Empire, as set out in forty maps.

I begin to wonder if more people would enjoy high school history courses if maps were used as a basis for teaching it?

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If you go to Japan be sure to send someone a telegram

Friday, 22 August, 2014

How to describe telegrams when there may be people here reading, who have no idea what they are? A text message that can only be sent in print format, perhaps? In earlier days much of the world’s communication was carried out by way of telegrams, but not any more obviously.

Unless you are in Japan, that is, where the mode is still in use, for a variety of reasons:

Japan is one of the last countries in the world where telegrams are still widely used. A combination of traditional manners, market liberalization and innovation has kept alive this age-old form of messaging, first commercialized in the mid-19th century by Samuel Morse and others.

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Windows 94, is that what we could call Microsoft’s first website?

Thursday, 21 August, 2014

Microsoft website, 1994

Did Bill Gates really utter the words “I don’t believe in the internet” in 1991? Whether or not the Microsoft co-founder said such a thing didn’t stop the company launching its first website just over twenty years ago though.

Maybe Gates said he didn’t believe in easy on the eye web design instead, if the inaugural front page of the Microsoft site, above, is anything to go by. Mind you, he wasn’t alone in that regard, that’s what much of the web at the time looked like.

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The combat gear of British soldiers since 1066

Tuesday, 19 August, 2014

Photo by Thom Atkinson

I was into the knights of old when I was a kid, so this photo series, by Thom Atkinson, of combat outfits worn by British soldiers from 1066 through to today, was absorbing to say the least.

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Putting a name to the place where grandpa took these photos

Friday, 15 August, 2014

The family of an Australian man, Stephen Clarke, who recently moved into a retirement home, are looking for help nailing down the locations of a stack of photos he took while travelling the world in decades past. Maybe you know some of the places that still haven’t been identified?

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How old is the oldest industrial complex? Older than you think…

Wednesday, 13 August, 2014

After taking some time to look through the History of Information it seems to me everything on Earth is older than I had previously thought. For instance the first known, so far, industrial complex dates back more than two and a half million years.

We’re sure not talking car manufacturing or the like here though, but organised production activities of some sort.

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Hit songs that ended up fading into obscurity

Wednesday, 30 July, 2014

Not all of the songs that reach the top of the music charts are destined to become classics, or end up even being remembered. In fact some of these tracks may find themselves vying for the title of most obscure of all time

Surprise. With a few exceptions, songs popular during the adolescence of people still alive today are much more popular than songs and racist comedy routines recorded during the reign of Queen Victoria.

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