Tony’s Favorites

In the early 6th century BCE the Babylonians captured Jerusalem and Judah. Many of the Jewish inhabitants were exiled to Babylon in a time now called the Babylonian Exile. Most of those who were exiled were the literate upper class. It is in this time while in exile that the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament were written down in a form we know today. These books were a combination of stories about the history of the Jewish people and its laws. The laws were a combination of old and newer laws which were all ascribed to Moses to give them equal weight. The laws like the Sabbath and kosher laws were likely to have been written and enforced as a way for the people to retain a national identity while in exile. The stories of Moses bringing the Hebrews out of exile in Egypt and the many other stories of homeless peoples were meant to give hope to the exiles that they would also one day go back home. Editors note: I have listened to several courses on the Old Testament which describes many of these stories but this is the first course where I felt that the professor gave a reasonable explanation for the ‘why’ of the Torah. By placing the writing of the Torah in context with the situation of what was actually happening to these people at this time in history the professor gave a good theory which makes historical sense. She also gave other background material during the lecture which strengthened this argument. I felt this was one of those real AHA moments in my understanding the ‘why’ of one of the most influential books ever written.

There is no evidence that Martin Luther actually pinned his 95 Theses to a church door in 1517. This myth has become so widespread that it is often incorrectly quoted as fact by most people. (Great Courses – The Renaissance, Reformation and Rise of Nations)

It is a myth that Rome sowed the earth of Carthage with salt after Carthage was defeated. (Great Courses – The History of Ancient Rome)

The rising sea level is due to a combination of TWO issues. About 2/3 is caused by the melting of the land ice the polar regions. However as the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases the ocean temperature also increases. This means that the density of the water decreases which causes thermal expansion of the water. The thermal expansion of the oceans is responsible for about 1/3 of the rising sea level. (Great Courses – Oceanography)

Every school kid learns that Ponce de Leon was known for exploring Florida looking for the Fountain of Youth. Unfortunately the school books are wrong. Ponce was governor of Puerto Rico and was ousted by a group that included Diego Columbus (Christopher’s son) and someone named Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes. After Ponce died Oviedo wrote an account of the America’s where he made up tales Ponce in his ‘search’ in order make him appear foolish. A couple points: Is is better to be known through history for something foolish you didn’t do or is better to be ‘unknown’?. If the history that we teach our children is wrong on such a well known ‘fact’ of history, how sure are we of any of our facts of history. (Smithsonian Magazine – June 2013)

It is estimated that 91% of all marine species have not yet been identified. (Magazine – Smithsonian July 2013)

In chaotic systems very small nudges can create very large changes. The F-16 fighter was the first military plane to use this theory. This plane was purposely created to be unstable, This actually allows it to be more maneuverable in the air. However, it is so unstable that a pilot cannot fly it. The plane relies on computers to make the constant split-second corrections to maintain stability while in the air. Since a pilot must rely on the computer to fly the plane the computer is quadruple backed up. (The Great Courses – Chaos)

According to Second Samuel 21:19 Goliath was killed by Elhanan who was one of David’s soldiers. (The Great Courses – The Old Testament)

When the United States entered WWII the British sent over a high level team to the US to discuss strategy’s to win the war. It was a great advantage to not have to use interpreters during this process. Or was it????? At one point the British were considering a particular topic and told the Americans they wanted to table the discussion on that topic. The Americans vehemently protested and said they did not want to table that issue. A rather testy exchange ensued for a while before they realized they wanted the same thing. The term ‘tabling a topic’ to the British meant bringing it up for discussion while the Americans used the same term to mean dropping discussion of a topic. (Book – The Second World War Volume III – Winston S, Churchill)

In the mid 1700′s the English practically bankrupted themselves with war costs. 60% of their normal income went just to pay for the cost of their debt. This is was caused Parliament to pass the hated Stamp Act in the American colonies. (The Great Courses – The History of the United States)

Horsetails were one of the first plants to evolve. However, hundreds of millions of years ago they could be 3 feet in diameter and 100 feet tall. (The Great Courses – Major Transitions in Evolution)

At the beginning of the 21st century there were two elderly widows who married elderly Civil War veterans when they were very young and they were still collecting pensions from the Civil War. (The Great Courses – The History of the United States)

The L. Frank Baum story ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is really an allegory of the 1896 US Presidential election. The Tin Woodsman is the Industrial worker, the Scarecrow is the farmer, the Cowardly Lion is William Jennings Bryan and the Wizard is William McKinley. There are several interesting web sites that deal with more of the “who’s who” and “why” of the story. VERY interesting. (The Great Courses – The History of the United States)

In the late 1600′s Scotland thought that it needed to join the rest of Europe in economic pursuits in Africa and the New World.  One Scot came up with the idea to establish a colony at the Isthmus of Darien which today is called Panama. The idea became so popular the one quarter of the entire liquid assets of Scotland were invested into the Company of Scotland to pursue this goal. The first group to reach this land found it very inhospitable but refused to send back discouraging news which created a second expedition that did not reach the New World until after the survivors of the first expedition had already abandoned the site. There were also a couple other ‘small’ issues. This area was already claimed by the Spanish and King William II who was also King of England never cared about Scotland and refused to antagonize the Spanish over this issue. The second expedition which had attacked and defeated a small Spanish fort in the area was eventually defeated by a larger Spanish force and the entire venture was a disaster for Scotland. (Book – Scotland: The Story of a Nation – Magnus Magnuson)

North and South America were joined at Panama around 3-4 million years ago. When this happened the waters of the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean were no longer able to mix freely. The easterly winds in the north and south which would carry the water vapor from the Pacific to the Atlantic are stopped by the Rockies and Andes while the westerly winds from the Caribbean are still able to carry water vapor from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This causes the Atlantic Ocean to be more salty than the Pacific Ocean by about 1 part per 1000. While this doesn’t sound like a lot it is enough to create the great ocean current carrying water from the Caribbean north to the north Atlantic then south and around Africa to the Indian Ocean and then into the Pacific and then in a similar route back through the Indian and back into the Atlantic Ocean. (The Great Courses – The Physics of History)

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