Correcting A Historical Myth

The statement "To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize" is often falsely attributed to Voltaire, the French philosopher during the Enlightenment in the 1700s. The statement is actually much, much younger. It comes from an essay by a racist, neo-Nazi, Holocaust denier, and white separatist American named Kevin Strom which was first published in 1993.

A New History of How Humans Settled the Caribbean

For decades it was believed that the Caribbean islands were settled in a stepping-stone fashion by Amerindians migrating north from South America. This would mean that the southernmost islands were settled first, then each next northern island in succession, as the Amerindians moved north into the Caribbean.

After reviewing 2,500 radiocarbon dates from 55 islands, researchers are now telling a different story. Trinidad, the closest island to South America, was indeed the first to be settled around 7,000 years ago. But humans did not settle next in the next northern island. Instead, the radiocarbon dates point to a more ambitious migration: they rode currents north across open sea to Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Hispaniola. Once the larger islands were settled, there was no migration for thousands of years, until people slowly filled in the rest of the habitable land in the Caribbean by following the chain of islands southwards.

A Sordid Presidential Story

Nan Britton, the mistress of US President Warren Harding throughout his time in office, came public in 1927 claiming that he was the father of her daughter, Elizabeth. Harding had died in 1923 and was not around to contradict her anymore. It also did not help that Harding had never had children with his wife, despite her having a son by a prior marriage. Unsurprisingly skepticism about Nan's claim was rampant. Nan maintained her story until her death in 1991. Finally, in 2015, DNA testing was done to settle things once and for all. The DNA found that Harding had indeed fathered Elizabeth. She is now his only known child, and her children are Harding's only known descendants.

Would Not Want To Get Hit By This

This fine stone carving was slipped onto a wooden shaft to form a mace, a sophisticated club used for war. Since it is such a fine example of stone carving, we do not know if it was intended to see battle, or if it was always for ceremonial uses. From Peru's Salinas culture on the northern coast. Circa 200 BCE - 100 CE.

Indigenous Woman and Child in Peru

This image appears to date around the 1930s and 1940s, and has been used for a number of book covers. But it was impossible to find the original photographer and credit.

Tracking Time

The Chehalis (Sts'Ailes) people live in southwest Canada and have a rather unique way of keeping track of time. They begin their year with the arrival of spawning chinook salmon (generally October in the western Gregorian calendar). Then they count 10 months from that point, using lunar months, which is generally around 280 days. There is then an uncounted period. The Chehalis have around 70 uncounted days each year until the next chinook salmon appear.

The Wisdom of Crowds

In 1907, Francis Galton famously found that when a crowd were asked to guess the weight of an ox, the average value of their responses was surprisingly accurate. Galton's experiment found the average was within 1 percent of the ox’s true weight. By canceling errors across individuals, the mean response often proves more accurate than individual estimates. This only works if all individuals are allowed to guess independently. If people hear an estimate, it becomes their mental basepoint, and answers then range around that first estimate.

Know Their Names

The MOSFET (metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistor, or MOS transistor) was invented at Bell Labs in 1959, and it is the basis for much of modern electronics. It is now the most manufactured device in history. You probably own hundreds of MOSFETs, in computers, appliances, phones, even lamps. MOSFET was invented by Egyptian-American engineer Mohamed M. Atalla and Korean-American engineer Dawon Kahng.

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    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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