Monthly Archives: October 2014

The journey from skepticism to belief

As the physicists of the world were discovering that fission could be used to split the uranium atom around 1939 scientists in Britain, France, Germany, Japan, the USSR and the United States all began to work on the possibility of making an atomic bomb. For a long time there was great skepticism among US scientists that the bomb could be made to be with a reasonable amount of atomic material but British scientists made the breakthrough calculations that convinced the US team that it could be feasible. Many scientists the in US were very resistant to make their atomic discoveries secret because the world of science had always been one of complete openness to all scientists. However as the possibility of a bomb was becoming more real the US scientists finally made all their work secret. The USSR was convinced (correctly) the the United States was working on a bomb when some of their scientists announced a very important observation and there was not a single response from a United States scientist.

Book – The making of the Atomic Bomb – Richard Rhodes)


And don’t forget the smiley face :)

LOL, OMG, BTW, BFF and my personal favorite WTF are all examples of new lingo entering the English language due to texting. Texters in all languages have their own text shortcuts based on letters, numbers and characters that make sense in their language. In Japanese saying the number 3 followed by the number 9 sounds very similar to the English words ‘Thank You’ so Japanese texters use 39 to say ‘Thank You’ in their texts…interesting that they use a text for an English Phrase which also shows the international usage of English.

(The Great Courses – Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths of Language Usage)

A short but impressive empire

The original Incan state originated around the 12th century in Peru. The Incans created their empire by conquest starting in the early 15th century and in about 100 years conquered the entire western coast of South America before being conquered by the Spanish in 1532. One of the ways the Incans controlled large populations was to displace many of them to other parts of the empire (This sounds a lot like the system the Babylonians used to control the Levant and the Jewish population during the Babylonian Captivity). Macchu Picchu was not a typical city and it was only occupied for less than 100 years starting around 1460 AD. The Incans conquered and controlled this vast empire using a small knotted string system for use in accounting but they never developed a writing system.

(The Great Courses – The Origin of Civilization)

Uranium on the edge

The nucleus of an atom contain protons and neutrons. The nucleus is held together by the ‘strong nuclear force’ but it is in opposition to an electrical force from all the positively charged protons in the nucleus which are trying to push it apart. Elements are named based on the number of protons in the nucleus and higher the nuclear number means there is a larger electrical force. Uranium is the largest natural element with 92 protons because any more protons makes the electrical force greater than the strong nuclear force. Bombarding a uranium nucleus with neutrons can eventually split it. When it splits it creates more neutrons which are used to split more of the uranium atoms which creates the chain reaction.

(Book – The making of the Atomic Bomb – Richard Rhodes)

Writing gibberish

When the Mayan civilization began its decline in the 9th century AD the use of Mayan writing also declined. Later Mayan writing on structures had Mayan written symbols but they do not make sense in the normal writing style which makes archaeologists think that those people knew the symbols but did not actually know their usage in the language.

(The Great Courses – The Origins of Civilization)

Gold, Art and Salt

During WWII the Germans stole practically every art treasure they could. Hitler got the first pick, Goering the second and so forth. Thousands or these treasures had to be transferred to Germany and were often stored in various places. There was a huge collection at Mad Ludwig’s castle in the Alps and two particularly large caches in salt mines. In one of these salt mines at Merkers was also stored practically the entire gold treasury of the Nazis. When the Allies captured that salt mine there was one trip down the shaft which held Generals Eisenhower, Bradley, Eddy and Patton. Patton noted that if the line broke there would be a lot of promotions in the works. Eisenhower was not amused by the comment.

(Book – The Monuments Men – Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter)

It was a dark and stormy night…

Edgar Allan Poe wrote three stories with Detective C. Auguste Dupin. These were “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, “The Purloined Letter” and “The Mystery of Marie Roget”. This is considered the beginning of the genre of mystery novels as we know them today.

(The Great Courses – Great American Bestseller: The Books That Shaped America)

There was no such thing as ‘a pea’.

The nouns ‘peas’ (pronounced ‘piece’) and cherrys were originally the term for a singular item. It was only after the ‘s’ started being used as a way to pluralize a noun that people dropped the ‘s’ for the singular since nouns ending in ‘s’ were considered to be plural.

(The Great Courses – Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths of Language Usage)

From bad to worse

The different treaties and relationships between the Native American tribes and the European colonists was VERY complex and continually changing. The British had the highest population and traded with the Indians for furs. The French also traded for furs and had treaties with tribes that were at war with the British tribes to assist them against the British. The Spanish also had small number of colonists and used the tribe treaties to assist them against the British and French.  All tribes used the British, French and Spanish to assist them in their disputes with other tribes. Unfortunately for the native tribes the entire balance was disrupted when the Spanish left Florida and the French eventually gave up Canada and the Mississippi valley. Now they did not have another European power to play off against the British. There was too much animosity among the tribes for them to unite against the British and they no longer had other European nation to trade for the guns and ammunition that they had become dependent on for fighting and hunting.

(Book – American Colonies – Alan Taylor)