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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Stuck in the present? You could try asking the past what to do…

Monday, 22 September, 2014

Stumped by a present day problem? Contemporary advice for a contemporary issue not cutting it? Maybe it’s time to take a leaf from our forebears’ books, and try out ideas from the past.

So to get you started, some old school advice, from 1595, for doing well at school:

Make no noyse nor use any meane, whereby thou maiest disturbe thy schoolefellowes: much lesse thy schoolemaster. Be a patterne of good manners, industry, curtesie, and obeying thy Master unto all in the Shoole. So shall thy praise be great, and thy profit greater.

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Queen Elizabeth I, the boy queen?

Friday, 19 September, 2014

English Queen Elizabeth I, a male imposter, not a woman? Now there’s an attention catching… thought. The line of thinking goes as follows.

As a child Elizabeth was sent away from London, to keep her isolated from the plague outbreak. She nonetheless contracted the disease and died. Fearing the worst, that is execution, her minders dressed up a local boy, to masquerade as Elizabeth, and managed to fool the King, Henry VIII, when he travelled to see her.

Of course there was no choice but to maintain the supposed charade, and the same boy, still impersonating the deceased Elizabeth, later ascended the throne.

So when “she” stood at Bisley manor, in the dimness of an oak-beamed hall lit by latticed windows, it was not so surprising that the king failed to realise he was being duped. He had no reason to suspect his daughter had been ill, after all, and he himself was tired and in pain. But after he left later that afternoon, the hoax began in earnest. Parry and Lady Ashley realised that if they ever admitted what they had done, the king’s fury would be boundless. They might get out of the country to safety, but their families would surely be killed. On the other hand, few people had known the princess well enough to be certain of recognising her, especially after an interval of many months. This boy had already fooled the king, the most important deception. Meanwhile, there was no easy way to find a female lookalike, and replace the replacement. As the courtiers buried the real Elizabeth Tudor in a stone coffin in the manor grounds, they decided their best hope of protecting themselves and their families was to teach this Bisley boy how to be a princess.

Sounds more like a storyline from Blackadder if you ask me, but who knows.

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Did the Roman Empire set the stage for population growth?

Monday, 15 September, 2014

Actually there’s nothing in this Futurity article directly suggesting that, but the tipping point, or threshold, for the rapid rise in the world’s population, can be traced back to Roman times, rather than perhaps the Industrial Revolution:

“The industrial revolution and public health improvements were proximate reasons that more people lived longer,” says Aaron Stutz, an associate professor of anthropology at Emory University. “If you dig further in the past, however, the data suggest that a critical threshold of political and economic organization set the stage 1,500 to 2,000 years ago, around the start of the Common Era.”

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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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