Monthly Archives: August 2014

Would politics ever be the reason for an arrest?

When Socrates was put on trial the official reason was the ‘corruption of the youth’ of Athens. The Peloponnesian  War had just ended and Athens had lost to Sparta and was being ruled by a very unpopular pro-Spartan oligarchy. One of the pro-Spartan rulers was the uncle of Plato who was the most famous student of Socrates. It appears that the uncle may also been a pupil of Socrates. Could there have been a political reason for the arrest and the trial of Socrates by the Athenians?

(The Great Courses – Ancient Greek Civilization)

The new kids on the block are the easiest to blame

The first recorded official persecution of Christian s was during the reign of Nero in the first century CE. Nero had some architectural designs in mind for Rome and according to Tacitus he has some fires set in Rome to clear the way for them. Since he did not want to be blamed for the fires he decided to blame the new religious group in Rome called the Christians. The Christians at first were not persecuted for religious beliefs, they were persecuted for arson.

(The Great Courses – After the New Testament)

How would you have done it?

The QWERTY keyboard is the standard keyboard layout in use today. It was developed in the 1800’s as the typewriter was becoming more common. The keyboard layout was developed to make sure that when common letters combinations were hit on the keyboard the typewriter would not jam. So letter combinations like C-H and I-E are on opposite halves of the keyboard. It was also developed so that a demonstrator could place their fingers on the top line and type the word TYPEWRITER without moving their fingers off that line.

( The Great Courses – Complexity)

You can get too close

During the cold war American submarines were always trying to tail Soviet subs without being detected. They were trying to record Soviet submarine signatures and to figure out the sailing patterns of these submarines. This required the American submarines to be very close to the Soviet Submarines. The result of this were many minor collisions between submarines. There was one very serious collision in 1970 when the USS Tautog was watching a Soviet submarine and the Soviet submarine came down directly on top of the USS Tautog.  The sounds from the Soviet submarine did not sound good and Americans captured the sounds on tape that made it seem like the Soviet submarine sank. The Americans were able to get away and make it back to base to report. Unlike minor collisions this one had to be reported to the highest governmental levels but the US and Soviets never acknowledged the collision. After the fall of the Soviet Union the commander of that Soviet submarine acknowledged the collision and that they were almost sunk but that they did survive.

(Book – Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage – Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew with Annette Lawrence Drew)

Don’t lie while explaining a jury system

In ancient Athens small crimes were decided by juries of 501 men. More serious crimes were decided by 1001 men and the most serious crimes were decided by 1501 men (Only men were allowed on juries). Jurors received two tokens and one of them had a hole which was easily covered by your fingers. You placed one of the tokens in a box to cast your vote and the other in a discard box. NOTE: The professor for this course is Jeremy McInerney. He tells a story where he showed copies of the boxes that he got in Greece to 7th graders to explain the system. One of them asked if they were ‘real’ and he lied and said ‘yes’. One of them then asked why it had a stamp saying ‘Made In Greece’ on the side. Professor McInerney says that he promises never to tell a lie again after getting caught by that 7th grader.

(The Great Courses – Ancient Greek Civilization)

A dangerous game just for a drink

After WWII American submarines were being used in espionage against the Soviet Union. This often meant that the subs were sent into Soviet territory to listen and then slip back out into International waters. In 1957 the American submarine Gudgeon was caught in Soviet territory in the Pacific. They submerged to try and get away but the Soviet ships were onto them. As the Gudgeon was failing to get away and they could not outrun them underwater the Soviets started launching ‘light depth charges’ onto her. They would not hurt the sub but the Soviets were letting the sub know that they were caught. All American subs at this time were diesel and they could not stay under water for too long. After long failed attempts to get away the submarine had to surface for air. The crew had no idea how the Soviets would respond and prepared to destroy all secret documents. The Soviets demanded an identification and then let them sail away with the knowledge that they had been caught. This was a big embarrassment for the Americans and Admiral Jerauld Wright who was the Commander in Chief of the Atlantic fleet posted outside his office a reward of ‘one case of Jack Daniels Old No. 7 Brand of Quality Tennessee Sour Mash Corn Whisky’ for the first Commander who could prove that they had ‘worn out’ a non US or known unfriendly submarine. In May 1959 the USS Grenadier was declared the winner after it chased a Soviet submarine for 9 hours around Iceland before forcing it to surface after being ‘worn out’.

(Book – Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage – Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew with Annette Lawrence Drew)

A good reason to have a writing system

The Mycenaeans in Greece wrote in Linear B which was deciphered in the 1950’s. The collapse of this civilization occurred around 1200 BCE and writing did not appear again until around 750 BCE. The new writing was a borrowing of Semitic writings in the eastern Mediterranean. The Greeks took the symbol for a word and just used the first sound of the word to describe the sound of the letter. This formed the basis for their writing. One of the first uses of the new writing was to write down the works of Homer.

(The Great courses – Ancient Greek Civilization)

Subs and Sounds

Through WWII submarine sonar worked by sending out sound waves to find objects in the water. Because the submarines were sending out sound this made them vulnerable to being detected. It was not until after WWII that the new sonar system was starting to be used and perfected. This relied on just listening for the sound made by other vehicles in the water.

(Book – Blind man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage – Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew with Annette Lawrence Drew)

They had to come from somewhere

The best guess for the populating of Greece is that people from Anatolia (modern Turkey) moved in around 1900 BCE. This theory is supported by ceramics which have been found dating from that period and from linguistic evidence. Another interesting question concerns the gold found in some ancient tombs in the area from that period of time. Gold is not natural to the area and no one knows where they would have gotten it.

(The Great Courses – Ancient Greek Civilization)


Warlords in the 20th century

For most of the early 1920’s China was not a united country. Multiple Warlords controlled areas of the north and the Nationalists lead by Chaing Kaishek controlled a southern province. The Communist part was founded in Shanghai in 1921 and initially allied themselves with the Nationalists for a short time. In 1926 Chaing Kaishek launched the Northern Expedition to reunite China.

(The Great Courses – From Yao to Mao: 5000 years of Chinese History)