Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Torching the Modern-Day Library of Alexandria


(The Atlantic) – James Somers:

Somewhere at Google there is a database containing 25 million books and nobody is allowed to read them. …

theatlantic 2017/04 523320

Burning Library of Alexandria

Hidden Figures


(Guardian Books) – Margot Lee Shetterly:

Before a computer became an inanimate object, and before Mission Control landed in Houston; before Sputnik changed the course of history, and before the NACA became NASA; before the supreme court case Brown v Board of Education of Topeka established that separate was in fact not equal, and before the poetry of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech rang out over the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Langley’s West Computers were helping America dominate aeronautics, space research and computer technology, carving out a place for themselves as female mathematicians who were also black, black mathematicians who were also female. For a group of bright and ambitious African American women, diligently prepared for a mathematical career and eager for a crack at the big leagues, Hampton, Virginia, must have felt like the centre of the universe. …

theguardian 2017/feb/05 hidden-figures

Margot Lee Shetterly: Hidden Figures

History, Probability, and Miracles


(Κέλσος) – Matthew W. Ferguson:

As I discuss in my article “When Do Contemporary or Early Sources Matter in Ancient History,” all of our knowledge of the historical Jesus (including the reports of his resurrection) comes down through ancient texts. There is absolutely no archeological evidence at all for Jesus. None of the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection can be tested by the methods of forensic science (though, a similar event could still hypothetically be recorded by forensic science today, despite there being no evidence of such a thing). Furthermore, we have no eyewitness sources for Jesus of any kind (discussed here) and all of the textual sources that discuss his resurrection are not historical in their genre (discussed here). Instead, all we have for investigating Jesus’ resurrection is religious scripture (particularly biased Christian scriptures), which is far from our most reliable kind of evidence. Likewise, as is shown with the example of Tacitus’ phoenix above, historians cannot take paranormal reports in such ancient texts at face value, without consideration of broader scientific background knowledge.

Instead, a method is needed that can situate these claims within our broader background knowledge of the world, in order to determine the likelihood of whether such events could have really taken place within it.  …

celsus history-probability-and-miracles

Tyrants, Dictators, and Demagogues


(FTB) – Mano Singham:

The election of Donald Trump, whose autocratic tendencies are more visible than those of previous presidents, has resulted in greater appearance of words like dictator, tyrant, and demagogue in news and political commentary. In the classical Roman and Greek worlds these words originally had more benign meanings. They only later developed pejorative connotations as a result of the actions of some of those to whom the labels had been applied. …

singham tyrants-dictators-and-demagogues

Philipp Foltz: Pericles delivers his funeral oration in front of the Assembly

Politicizing Science vs. Ben Franklin


(Starts With A Bang!) – Ethan Siegel:

Bertrand Russell: “When Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod, the clergy, both in England and America, with enthusiastic support of George III, condemned it as an impious attempt to defeat the will of God.” …

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Lightning strikes wind turbines

The Ghosts of Cambodia’s Killing Fields


(Guardian::long read) – :

Can Angelina Jolie’s Khmer-language film – with an all-Cambodian cast and crew – help a nation to confront the horrors of its past? …

theguardian 2017/jan/11 cambodia

Angelina Jolie and Sareum Srey Moch

The Day We Discovered the Universe


(Discover Blogs::Out There) – Corey S. Powell:

All across the sky, observers had documented intriguing spiral nebulae, swirls of light that resembled ghostly pinwheels in space. The most famous one, the Andromeda nebula, was so prominent that it was easily visible to the naked eye on a dark night. The significance of those ubiquitous objects was a mystery, however. …

outthere 2017/01/02 the-day

Moon and Andromeda galaxy

Fire and Ice Sank Titanic


(The Independent) – Rachael Pells:

Rarely seen images of the Titanic before it left Southampton have furthered researchers’ theory that a fire may have been the root cause of the 1912 disaster. …

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Willy Stöwer: Untergang der Titanic

Women Who Revolutionized Astronomy


(Atlantic Science) – Jenny Woodman:

At the turn of the 20th-century, assistants at Harvard’s observatory took to mapping the stars and paved the way for women in science. …

theatlantic 2016/12 509231

Dava Sobel: The Glass Universe

Barbados, Brexit, and Independence


(The Guardian Comments) – Gary Younge:

Barbados is nearing its 50th anniversary as Britain, its former coloniser, enters uncharted waters. But what does independence mean in a globalised world? …

theguardian 2016/nov/26 barbados

The Queen and Prince Philip in Barbados, February 1966