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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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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