Posts Tagged ‘History’

Home-made life insurance, the Apollo way

27 Jul
apollocovers.jpgOf all the places I never expected to learn anything cool about the Apollo astronauts, number one would have to be the blog run by ("For many years we have provided buildings and contents insurance for home owners, landlords and business premises.") I mean, it doesn't exactly promise a light, zippy read, does it? But it delivers one, and this week's post on "The Apollo Astronauts' Fascinating Insurance Covers" actually is fascinating. It details the extraordinary measures taken to provide financial security for families of the Apollo crews, who were literally uninsurable: Before every flight, from 11 to 16, the crews would autograph and leave behind a number of commemorative post cards, the idea being that, should the flight end in an untimely fashion, the cards' value would skyrocket. ("No pun intended," notes brightly.) It's a weird, unexpected look into a neglected corner of our history in space. (Via Coudal.)


Oldest Written Document Discovered in Jerusalem

12 Jul

Archaeologists have dated this clay fragment, found in Jerusalem, to the 14th Century B.C. It’s the oldest known example of written language:

The fragment that has been found is 2×2.8 centimeters in size and one centimeter thick. Dated to the 14th century B.C.E., it appears to have been part of a tablet and contains cuneiform symbols in ancient Akkadian (the lingua franca of that era).

The words the symbols form are not significant in themselves, but what is significant is that the script is of a very high level, testifying to the fact that it was written by a highly skilled scribe that in all likelihood prepared tablets for the royal household of the time, said Prof. Wayne Horowitz , a scholar of Assyriology at the Hebrew University Institute of Archaeology.

Link via reddit | Photo: Hebrew University photo/Sasson Tiram


When Propaganda Backfires

08 Jul

Blonde Bombshells

(image source:

The Plan: During WWII, Axis powers attempted to wage psychological warfare against the Allies in a highly unusual way. They’d fly over enemy camps and drop pictures of buxom ladies on the troops. The twist? Most of the women were pictured in passionate embraces with strange men.

The Hope: According to German officials, the drops were meant to get GIs thinking about their wives and girlfriends back home-specifically, thinking about them being unfaithful. Axis propaganda wasn’t always so convoluted, though. Sometimes the Germans simply dropped pictures of scantily clad women posed over quotes such as “You can enjoy this if you surrender.”

The Disappointment: Surprise! Apparently, giving out free pictures of sexy women isn’t the best way to demoralize soldiers. Far from being upset, the GIs began collecting the pics and using them as pinups.


(Image Source: Flight’s Image of the Day)

The Plan: Soviet leader Joseph Stalin wanted to spread the message of communism far and wide, so in 1934, he enlisted the ANT-20, a massive aircraft with a wingspan of more than 200 feet.

The Hope: In addition to its jaw-dropping size, the plane contained multiple radio stations, a photo lab, and even a printing press for distributing leaflets midair. But the best thing about the plane (from a propaganda point of view) was its loudspeaker. Known as the “Voice from the Sky”, the sound system was so powerful that it could broadcast speeches and songs to the public from hundreds of feet in the air.

The Disappointment: Unfortunately for Stalin, the plane’s lifespan didn’t match its wingspan. In 1935, a fighter plane crashed into the giant aircraft during a demonstration over Moscow, killing 45 people. But that didn’t stop the propaganda from living on. Soviet officials quickly blamed the crash on the fighter pilot, Nikolai Blagin, and a new word, Blaginism, was introduced into the Russian language. It translates to “a cocky disregard of authority.”


(Image source: Awful Library Books)

The Plan: In 1975, President Ford signed the Metric Conversion Act, and the United States embarked on a full-fledged campaign to join the rest of the world in using meters and grams.

The Hope: The federal government tried to get Americans on board by pumping tons of money into the effort. It funded metric-touring posters, pamphlets, and TV spots-including a series of animated shorts by the same team that did “Schoolhouse Rock.”There was even an answering service set up to help confused citizens.

The Disappointment: It turns out that citizens weren’t exactly rushing to borrow 225 grams of sugar from their neighbors or ask the grocer for 3.79 liters of milk. In 1982, President Reagan cut the campaign’s funding. Instead, he supported “voluntary metrication.” lettiing Americans choose whether or not they wanted to embrace the new measuring scheme. (They chose not to.)


The above article was written by Maggie Ryan Sandford. It is reprinted with permission from the Scatterbrained section of the July-August 2010 issue of mental_floss magazine.

Be sure to visit mental_floss‘ entertaining website and blog for more fun stuff!


Zeughaus Museum: The Worlds Most Extensive Collection of Historical Weaponry

03 Jul

Home to close to 30,000 pieces of historical weaponry, the Zeughaus Museum in Graz Austria represents the area’s rich military heritage. The museum’s collection includes guns, swords, and armor, including this complete set of armor for a horse.


From the Upcoming ueue, submitted by lannaxe96.


Old Cigarette Ads: Doctors, Nurses, And Rock Hudson Say It’s Good For You [Badvertising]

10 Oct

Man, cigarettes were awesome in the past, if these old ads collected by Stanford University are to be believed. They calmed your nerves so you'd stop humming nervously! They soothed your throat! They made you a movie star and helped you capture animals on your big game hunt! We don't know what tobacco was made of before the mid-80s, but no wonder everyone smoked.

Or maybe it was just ridiculous advertising. Check out Stanford's full collection for more stunners like the ones below.

"Not a Cough in a Carload" [Stanford University via WeirdNewsFiles via Neatorama]


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