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General Ignorance

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1989.  Sun Nov 23, 2003 7:50 pm Reply with quote

Oh boom and kertish on that one, Jack :-)

1990.  Sun Nov 23, 2003 7:52 pm Reply with quote

My daughter emailed me today with some funny pictures called 'What the adverts ought to say', and one of them showed a picture of the Mars Bar in 1970 and its steadily reducing size ever since. The copy line was 'A Mars a day makes fuck all difference'. Pity it's advertising, or there might be a question in that one along the lines of 'if it helped you work rest and play thirty years ago, would it make any difference now?'

1992.  Sun Nov 23, 2003 8:04 pm Reply with quote


1995.  Sun Nov 23, 2003 10:06 pm Reply with quote

We were discussing the books of Dorothy L Sayers on the 'What are you reading today?' thread on the other forum (go and post there Garrick!) and this reminds me that her background material for Murder Must Advertise was gained from her own experience of working for several years at an advertising agency.

2005.  Mon Nov 24, 2003 4:26 am Reply with quote

Jack, to go backwards a few steps, to Nelson: an interesting thing would be to know why anyone thinks he did have an eyepatch. Is he shown this way in paintings? On Nelson's column?

Also, B for Buonaparte is often depicted with his hand tucked into his weskit - presumably that's just to keep it warm? Or because he was doing a Nelson impression? Or what?

Frederick The Monk
2009.  Mon Nov 24, 2003 5:19 am Reply with quote

Regarding Thumbs and gladiators, this just in from my source in the Classics dept at Cambridge:

the last serious consideration seems to have been by Edwin Post in the American J, of Philology 13 (1982) 213-25 and everyone since has followed; conclusions are that to turn thumb DOWN is the sign of favour; the phrase pollice verso is used by Juvenal (as you rightly remembered) at Satires 3.36; there are some variations: to cover thumb with fingers (if that is how premere pollicem in Pliny NH 28.25 should be understood) might also be a sign of approval.

The classic painting (1872) Jean-Leon Gerome of the victorious gladiator (and entitled "pollice verso") seems to be mostly responsible for the misconception. (It's now I find in the Phoenix, Arizona, somehow appropriate.)

Quick modern ref: Kohne and Ewigleton, Gladiator and Caesars, British Museum Press, 2000, p. 68.

2010.  Mon Nov 24, 2003 5:56 am Reply with quote

JumpingJack wrote:
Hmm. I think, technically speaking, Kieran is wrong about that.

I'm more of an armchair physicist than an educated one, however the following couple of articles...

..appear to conclude that:

There is no clear answer to the question "Is glass solid or liquid?".

More solidly (excusing the pun) though, it appears that, in any case, glass in window panes does NOT flow. Therefore, even if glass is a liquid, this can't be proved by pointing out that glass in cathedral windows has "flowed" over the centuries, because it hasn't.

K (& K)

2179.  Wed Nov 26, 2003 11:18 am Reply with quote

Fred, what was the answer to the question in post 1501 about what you need to make a sword?

Also, on lemmings: I think most people attribute the story about mass suicides to a documentary which was faked by Disney for American TV, but I've just found it stated as a well-known fact in an encyclopedia dated 1922. So maybe there is another story ...

Frederick The Monk
2196.  Wed Nov 26, 2003 6:21 pm Reply with quote

Ah yes, I'm glad you mentioned that.

Q - which one of these don't you need to make a functional sword?

- a metal bar
- a furnace
- a hammer
- a grinding stone

was the question. The answer of course is a furnace. Whilst you need heat to create a metal bar for your standard mediaeval sword, the creation of the finished product does not require heat. Blades were actually cold hammered and ground as if you heat up a sword blade you make it brittle and inflexible. It's all to do with the size of metal crystals - cold hammering makes lots of tiny crystals which are flexible, heating encourages the growth of big crystals which make the blade brittle. So all those movie (and some doc) shots of blacksmiths forging swords in fires is a load of old trousers.

I shall go and look for some refs for this. I was simply told this by a blacksmith whom I stupidly asked to help in shooting a sequence about forging a sword in a fire - not surprisingly he laughed at me, and quite right too.

2198.  Wed Nov 26, 2003 6:52 pm Reply with quote

And B is for blacksmiths ...

2692.  Wed Dec 03, 2003 7:01 pm Reply with quote

To go back to Lord Nelson: I'm getting a deja vue about this, but I can't find it posted anywhere, so here goes:

Q: what signal did Lord Nelson instruct his signaller to send to the fleet before the Battle of Trafalgar?

(Forfeit: "England expects every man to do his duty")

A: Nelson instructed the signaller Pasco to send the message: "Nelson confides that every man will do his duty". Pasco pointed out that "expects" was in the code book so could be sent in shorthand, whereas "confides" would have to be spelt out letter by letter, and Captain Blackwood suggested that "England" be substituted for "Nelson". This is according to the account given by Lieutenant George Brown, an eye-witness.

Apparently the signal didn't go down all that well with the sailors. According to Lieutenant Ellis, a marine officer on HMS Ajax:

Jack ... did not appreciate it, for there were murmurs from some, whilst others in an audible whisper, murmured, "Do our duty! Of course we'll do our duty! I've always done mine, haven't you? Let us come alongside of 'em, and we'll soon show whether we'll do our duty."

Source: The Faber Book of Reportage, ed John Carey, 1987

2723.  Thu Dec 04, 2003 5:13 am Reply with quote


That 'Here Be Dragons' thing would make a good General Ignorance question if you can authenticate it.

Do you think it's the kind of thing FredTheMonk might know, or could find out?

2745.  Thu Dec 04, 2003 8:01 am Reply with quote

This website (see link for details), which is a specialist one for map historians, claims that there are no maps which have 'here be dragons' in English, but that there is a map which says 'hic sunt dracones'.

2753.  Thu Dec 04, 2003 8:41 am Reply with quote

Near the end of that article it raises the possibilty that even on that one map the reference is to something other than dragons:

Da Costa writes, "In this region [i.e. China, called East India on the globe] near the equatorial line, is seen 'Hc Svnt Dracones,' or here are the Dagroians, described by Marco Polo as living in the Kingdom of 'Dagroian.' These people... feasted upon the dead and picked their bones (B.II. c.14, Ramusio's ed.)" However, in his translation of Da Costa's article, Gabriel Gravier adds that Marco Polo's Kingdom of Dagroian is in Java Minor, or Sumatra, well away from the spot indicated on the Lenox Globe.

2822.  Fri Dec 05, 2003 6:14 am Reply with quote

I’m not enough of a scientist to understand the detail, but there seems to be a strong case for suggesting that the main credit for the Theory of Relativity should go not to Einstein but to the Frenchman Henri Poincaré.
[quote]A hundred years ago, Einstein and Poincaré were both working hard at one of the central problems of science, trying to find a correct theory to describe how fast particles behave in electric and magnetic fields. Poincaré had published several papers on the subject which Einstein may or may not have read. Einstein had published nothing. Two years later, in 1905, Poincaré and Einstein simultaneously arrived at a solution to the problem. Poincaré presented a summary of his results to the French Academy of Sciences in Paris, and in the same month Einstein mailed his classic paper, "Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies," to the German journal Annalen der Physik. The two versions of the solution were in substance almost identical. Both were based on the principle of relativity, which says that the laws of nature are the same for a moving observer as they are for an observer standing still. Both agreed with the experimentally observed behavior of fast particles, and made the same predictions for the results of future experiments.

…the original work on relativity and geometries of space by Henri Poincaré … was more comprehensive than the relativity of Einstein. While Einstein captured the spirit of the public in the 1915-onwards era, Poincaré died in 1912 and was less well known by the educated public yet he not only came up with relativity before Einstein, his epistemological framing was more comprehensive than Einstein’s. Had science picked up on Henri Poincaré's relativity, relativity would not have remained an esoteric scientific discipline confined to close-to-speed-of-light phenomena etc., but instead, we would be looking at the radical manner in which the relativistic view alters our perception of the world around us, and in particular puts the 'invisible' and 'imaginary' into the primacy over the material and visible….


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