Sunday, March 8, 2015

Lead, Arrows, Overbite and Skates

Five bits of trivia, because I raced through the entire season of House of Cards and have now returned to Stephen Fry’s QI.

In the 1570’s, the Spanish Duke of Alba ordered 7,000 pairs of ice skates. Prior to the requisition, the Pope had sentenced the entire population of the Netherlands to death (like Popes tended to do) because they had embraced the Protestant religion. The Spanish (of Inquisition fame) took this as their special calling. 

During the assault, a few Spanish ships became trapped in the ice and the Dutch soldiers, wearing skates, dominated the non-skating Spaniards. The Spanish attempted to overrun the country for another 30 years but even with skates, they were not successful. 

One of Edison’s most popular “inventions” isn’t a physical thing. 

His rival Bell recommended answering the telephone with the already popular Ahoy Ahoy. Edison modified the call from hunting Halloo and the exclamation Hullo! to Hello which he included in his Telephone instruction manual. 

Teeth are one way of identifying ancient skeletons as royalty. Most people have a slight overbite. Before cutlery, humans tore through meat by clamping their front teeth to the flesh and pulling. This ground down the teeth and eventually the overbite became an inline bite where the shorter teeth met each other. 

Royalty had food prepared and didn’t need to tear their meals which left the overbite.

Early pilots had difficulty navigating, particularly over areas with no landmarks.  Concrete arrows, up to 70 feet long, were put across America to assist the pilots.  

In 1933 radio communication made arrows unnecessary.

Sr. John Franklin, in 1845, led an exposition of 128 men to find the Northwest Passage. The entire party disappeared. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that the bodies were found. 

The party had left base camp taking with them button polish, handkerchiefs, a curtain rod and a writing desk. The bodies had extremely high levels of lead, which can cause irrational behavior and hallucinations. The process of canning food had recently been discovered and the lids were soldered closed with lead.

What single individual has done the most damage to the environment?

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