Laika the dog was the first animal sent into orbit around Earth. Pretty amazing for a stray dog plucked from the streets of Moscow! Unfortunately for Laika, a stray dog was used because the Soviets never planned for the dog to come back. The spacecraft, Sputnik 2, was launched into orbit, tracked to check it was successful, then abandoned. Laika died after about five hours in space. Fifty-one years after her flight, in 2008, a memorial was put in place to celebrate Laika’s flight. Placed outside a military research station, the statue shows Laika perched on a rocket which transforms into a hand cupping the dog.

A Funny Legal Technicality

In the United States, a witness in court cannot speak of things they heard others say -- like "I heard Tommy say he heard Johnny say he robbed that store."  It is termed "hearsay" and is not allowed as evidence. Hearsay includes statements other people wrote, and the witness read -- like "I read his diary, and in his diary, Johnny wrote about robbing that store."

There are a number of exceptions to the hearsay rule. One of the more colorful is dying declarations. "A dying declaration is defined as a statement made by a declarant, who is now unavailable, who made the statement under a belief of certain or impending death, and the statement concerns the causes or circumstances of impending death" according to Cornell Law School. Note that if the dying declaration is about anything other than why the person is dying, it doesn't count as a dying declaration. And it isn’t admissible in an American court.

What Was It Like To Be An Ancient Mesopotamian Doctor?

A group of 2,700-year-old texts written on clay tablets by Kisir-Ashur, a medical student who lived in the Neo-Assyrian Empire at the end of the 600s BCE, reveal a lot about ancient Mesopotamian medical training, and medical theory. Kisir-Ashur described how in the earlier stages of his education, he practiced his skills on animals, then progressed to treating babies, and then finally adults. Disease was thought to have been caused by sinful or objectionable behavior by the sick person, or the result of witchcraft performed against the sick person. After the power that caused the disease was identified, it was treated with medical agents, incantations, prayers, and rituals, as well as plant-based medical treatments. Interestingly, economic and social problems were also treated by Neo-Assyrian doctors. They were thought to be caused by the same things as physical illness: bad behavior or a curse.

A Magical Disk from the 1500s

This wax disk, elaborately decorated with a pentagram, magical words, and various diagrams, was once owned by Queen Elizabeth I's magician. Dr. John Dee used this wax seal as a pedestal upon which he placed his ‘shew-stone’, a crystal ball used for ‘scrying' (spiritual visions). Dee spent much of his later life trying to commune with angels, often with Edward Kelley, a self-confessed medium. Kelley claimed he could see angels in the ‘shew stones.’ The angels communicated with Kelley by pointing at tables which contained words and symbols. According to Dee, these messages were delivered in Enochian, an angelic language that Dee subsequently transcribed into a series of books.

At a Restaurant in Nevşehir, Turkey

Circa 1970. The original caption in LIFE magazine: "The postmaster of Kojakh has lunch beneath a golden medallion of Ataturk, the ever-present national hero."  

The Song From Nowhere

You probably know the song, "House of the Rising Sun," was recorded by The Animals in 1964 and became a transAtlantic hit. But did you know it was not written by them? House of the Rising Sun is a folk song, and no one knows where it first originated.

Lincoln Was A San Marino?

The microstate of San Marino -- a constitutional republic since the 1600s, although completely surrounded by Italy and with a population of less than 50,000 people -- gave the American president Abraham Lincoln citizenship. He thanked them in 1861, and praised their republican system of government.

A Skull Cult At Göbekli Tepe?

Incisions discovered on three skulls at Göbekli Tepe appear to be evidence of am early Neolithic skull cult. The cuts were made with stone tools after the individuals died, and are too deep to have been from the knawing of animals or a scalping by humans, though other small cut marks on the skulls suggest defleshing. So the incisions were probably ritualistic. Traces of red ochre on the skulls, implying they were decorated, support the skull-cult hypothesis.

The Seaweed Roofs of Læsø Island

Once, Læsø Island off the coast of Denmark was home to a thriving salt industry. So successful was the industry that all the island's trees were chopped down to feed the salt kilns. Then the salt industry collapsed, without wood for the kilns. With no trees left to break the wind, Læsø’s villages were buried in sandstorms. The air became full of sea salt. The salt inhibited the growth of any kind of plants, even grass. Læsø, however, had plenty of eelgrass and driftwood. So the people began using driftwood to build their houses and the eelgrass was used for the roof. This small island is the only known place where seaweed is used for roofing!

Because the eelgrass are impregnated with salt, the roof does not decay easily and can survive for hundreds of years. As the roof ages, it becomes an increasingly better roof: the eelgrass solidifies into one solid mass that is not only waterproof, but fireproof as well, easily walked on without damaging the structure. Today, unfortunately, the island has been reforested. With less salt in the air, grass and other plants to take root easily in the seaweed roofs, which eventually rot and have to be removed. In the late 1700s, there were 250 homes and farms thatched with seaweed; now there are less than 20.

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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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