Tag Archives: History

Finding North America’s lost medieval city

A thousand years ago, huge pyramids and earthen mounds stood where East St. Louis sprawls today in Southern Illinois. This majestic urban architecture towered over the swampy Mississippi River floodplains, blotting out the region’s tiny villages. Beginning in the late 900s, word about the city spread throughout the southeast. Thousands of people visited for feasts and rituals, lured by the promise of a new kind of civilization. Many decided to stay.

At the city’s apex in 1100, the population exploded to as many as 30 thousand people. It was the largest pre-Columbian city in what became the United States, bigger than London or Paris at the time. Its colorful wooden homes and monuments rose along the eastern side of the Mississippi, eventually spreading across the river to St. Louis. One particularly magnificent structure, known today as Monk’s Mound, marked the center of downtown. It towered 30 meters over an enormous central plaza and had three dramatic ascending levels, each covered in ceremonial buildings. Standing on the highest level, a person speaking loudly could be heard all the way across the Grand Plaza below. Flanking Monk’s Mound to the west was a circle of tall wooden poles, dubbed Woodhenge, that marked the solstices.

Source: Finding North America’s lost medieval city | Ars Technica

When we think about Native American culture in North America, we rarely think about cities, because by the time Europeans arrived there weren’t any. But that wasn’t always the case. This is a really amazing long read by someone who joined a dig this year on one of these great lost cities. A city that was built over multiple times, and reinvented.

Sit back, dive in, and let your imagination full grasp what it would have been like 1000 years ago in America.

A record player in a car, what could go wrong

What’s the connection between the Beatles’ George Harrison, boxing legend Muhammad Ali, and Chrysler cars? The Highway Hi-Fi: a vinyl record player that just happened to be the world’s first in-car music system. It appeared 60 years ago this spring, in 1956, and should have been a smash hit. It was innovatory, a major talking point, arrived as the car market was booming as never before, and it came with much press hype. It also had the backing of a leading motor manufacturer. What could possibly go wrong?

Source: Forgotten audio formats: The Highway Hi-Fi | Ars Technica

It’s a fascinating story, made even more so because basically proprietary formats and copyright tangles killed it so quickly.

Exploding-whale day: the 45th anniversary

Today, reportedly, is the 45th anniversary of the famous exploding whale. The event was documented in this KATU television report, in 1970: The announcer summarized, firsthand, the fallout: “However, everyone on the scene was covered with small particle of dead whale.” Now, people have built an entire business, or at least a web site, on…

Source: Exploding-whale day: the 45th anniversary

The Exploding whale video was the first video I ever watched on the internet, some 20 years ago. It perfectly captures many elements of what the internet is. A thing that’s educational, bizarre, a bit gross, and a cultural flash point all at once.

The Story of Hōkūleʻa

Embedded in the story of Hōkūle’a and the culture that created her is the story of a 2000-year-old relationship with special islands and the sea. It is a story that was almost lost, and was close to extinction. But ultimately it is a story of survival, rediscovery, and the restoration of pri…

Source: The Story of Hōkūleʻa

This I learned from an episode of the Commonwealth Club: there is a boat, sailing around the world, without instruments (no sextants / clocks). They are using traditional Polynesian navigation which is about wave patterns, cloud patterns, and animals at sea.

 

Ball Aerospace

Yesterday I was listening to an episode of the Common Wealth Club on the B612 foundation. They are fund raising $200M to build a space telescope to detect and track all the asteroids that are big enough to destroy a city.

All of that is really interesting, and a very cool effort. However in doing research this morning I learned another amazing fact.

screenshot_137

 

Ball Aerospace is the private company that will build the telescope. They built the Kepler space telescope for NASA, and are doing the James Web space telescope as well. I’d heard of them, but until google this morning, I’d never seen their logo. Which I know… from all the canning jars my mom used when I was a kid.

From Wikipedia:

1956, Ball formed Ball Brothers Research Corporation to produce goods and services for the aerospace sector. This was converted to a wholly owned subsidiary, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., in 1995.

Who knew that one of the top aerospace companies has it’s origins in making glass jars. Not I, until today.

Timeline of the far future

This wikipedia page is just great, and includes such hits as:

1 million Highest estimated time until the red supergiant star Betelgeuse explodes in a supernova. The explosion is expected to be easily visible in daylight.[11][12]
1.4 million Gliese 710 passes within 1.1 light years of the Sun, potentially disturbing the Solar System’s Oort cloud and increasing the likelihood of a comet impact in the inner Solar System.[13]
10 million The widening East African Rift valley is flooded by the Red Sea, causing a new ocean basin to divide the continent of Africa.[14]
11 million The moon Phobos collides with the surface of Mars.[15]

Makes you think in a slightly longer time frame than what’s for dinner on Tuesday.

Happy Imbolic

Ever wonder where Groundhog day comes from? Notice that it’s about 1/2 way to Spring?

We are now halfway between the Winter Solstice (December 21) and the Vernal or Spring Equinox (March 20).  It’s called a cross-quarter day is known as Imbolc (or some variation of that spelling) in the Celtic world  It’s also a modern Neopagan celebration and part of the Wheel of the Year.

Imbolc is most commonly celebrated on February 2 (same as Groundhog Day and Candlemas on the Christian calendar) but it actually occurs, according to the position of the Sun on the ecliptic, at 11:20 pm EST on Thursday, February 3 this year.

This cross-quarter day has been known since antiquity – a 5,000 year-old Neolithic passage tomb at the Hill of Tara in County Meath, Ireland has an alignment with sunrise on Imbolc.  The word Imbolc comes from the Celtic i mbolg or “in the belly” referring to pregnant ewes who soon give birth to spring lambs.  It was viewed as the start of spring (even though snow may yet be on the ground), a time for weather prognostication, and to watch for animals emerging from their winter dens (sound familiar?  Groundhog Day has its roots in similar Germanic pagan beliefs).

Read the rest over at Hudson Valley Geologist.