Monthly Archives: March 2014

Dating glacial periods

One way to determine when glacial periods existed in the past is to look at fossils and determine the ratio of Oxygen-16 and Oxygen-18. Oxygen-18 is an isotope (type) of Oxygen with 2 more neutrons in the nucleus of the Oxygen atom. We know the current ratio and when a glacial period occurs the more common Oxygen-16 gets trapped in the ice leaving the oceans Oxygen-18 enriched. This can be measured in the fossils from sea creatures and when these fossils are dated we learn when glacial periods existed in the past.

(The Great Courses – A New History of Life)

Was Churchill right?…(yet again)

Even though Operation Anvil (the invasion of southern France at the same time as Overlord in Normandy) was cancelled the Allies decided to carry it out later as Operation Dragoon. After Rome was secured in Italy then Allied troops from this theater were used for this invasion a couple months after Overlord. The purpose was to draw German troops from Normandy and to allow the Allies from the south of France to fight their way north to join Eisenhower’s troops. Winston Churchill was vehemently against this plan but was overruled. ¬†Churchill contends that because of this operation German troops were able to be withdrawn from Italy and were sent to fight in Normandy which was the exact opposite effect that was desired. He also contends that if the Allied troops had stayed in Italy they could have defeated the Germans faster and could have beat the Russians to Vienna. This would have created completely different spheres of influence in post-war Europe.

(Book – The Second World War – Winston S. Churchill)

The quote that never was

The most famous quote attributed to Voltaire is¬†“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. The problem is that he never said or wrote it. It was written in an early 20th century biography about him. However he did spend 11 months in the Bastille after an affair with a French Protestant caused a scandal. The Bastille was not the horrible dungeon depicted in movies and Voltaire started many of his most famous writings while he was there.

(The Great Courses – Voltaire and the Triumph of Enlightenment)

Amazing soliderity

Through most of the years that John Marshall was the Supreme Court Chief Justice all the Justices would live together in one place while the Court was in session. They would spend their evenings together talking over the cases to come up with a decision. They also had a full supply of wine which the Chief Justice was especially fond of drinking. The decisions would almost always be unanimous. A normal yearly caseload of 20-30 cases would usually have no more than one or two cases with a dissenting opinion and most of the opinions would be delivered by the Chief Justice.

(Book – John Marshall – Jean Edward Smith)

Shhhh…maybe they still don’t know

During WWII the Japanese had a submarine called the I-400. It was 400 feet long which was twice the length of a German U-Boat. It also held three aircraft with folding wings that could be launched by catapults. It’s crew was trained to attack the Panama Canal. The Allies had agreed to share with the Russians all Japanese military technology so when the I-400 and its sister vessels were seized by the United States they were scuttled so that the Russians would not learn the secrets of these advanced vessels. The wreck of the I-400 was recently found half a mile beneath the surface of the pacific, southwest of Oahu by a manned submersible.

(Magazine – Archaeology March/April 2014)