A World of Curiosities

Monday, May 21, 2012

Scientist and explorer John Oldale shares a wealth of fascinating facts and the unexpected stories behind them. His book A World of Curiosities: Surprising, Interesting, and Downright Unbelievable Facts from Every Nation on the Planet touches on history, travel, politics, natural history and more.


John Oldale

Comments [12]


put this guy on Brian Lehrer Show please & just let him say the same thing again. listen to the joe klein interview and you will understand this comment.

May. 21 2012 10:26 PM
JM from Manhattan

more on slaves and revolts.. from the Spartacus article in Wikipedia: "In 73 BCE, Spartacus was among a group of gladiators plotting an escape.[16]

The plot was betrayed but about 70[17] men seized kitchen implements, fought their way free from the school, and seized several wagons of gladiatorial weapons and armor.[18] The escaped slaves defeated a small force sent after them, plundered the region surrounding Capua, recruited many other slaves into their ranks, and eventually retired to a more defensible position on Mount Vesuvius.[19][20]

Mass murder of people in a group is only possible in modern times when people are starved and subject to modern armies and weaponry, such as was done during the Nazi holocaust, or the US army against Native Americans. In ancient times slaves were strong, robust men, often warriors, and keeping them at bay was not easy. 12 Romans with swords and 10,000 people ? Josephus just lost all credibility with me and seems to be more a spinner of tales and myths than a historian.. The logic just does not stand. However I can see the propaganda value a yarn like this would have to the unquestioning, but any one that thinks deeply will see this is ridiculous.

May. 21 2012 05:51 PM
rose-ellen from jackson heights

Amy -arabs comprise muslims,jews and christians .European zionists who created modern israel are not arabs but europeans-or russians or americans as Helen Thomas correctly pointed out.[Though of course if you go back far enough all ethnicities including europeans and arabs are mixed].Yes some jews were their prior to european zionists but that makes them arabs[culturally ,linguistically and historically] and of course they were eating what other arabs eat- humuus and pita-all along.Yes arabs are also in fact mixed but the language is arabic and the food is native to arabic speaking people [now called arabs though they too are mixed].To call hummus israeli food is a deliberate attempt to falsify history-as if the zionist europeans had always been there.[like your statement that there were jews there all along-yes there were some and they spoke arabic and were arabs-not israelis.]I guess over time it won't matter but it is disingenuous for a europeans colony where the colonists have taken to eating the indigenous food -to disavow that they have appropriated arab food as their own- in an attempt to erase their colonial origins[as if they had been there all along and not appropriated the land already inhabitied].That is of course the purpose of calling arab fod israeli-to rewrite history.

May. 21 2012 02:44 PM
JM from Manhattan

Come on Amy ... read up on deadly human stampedes and crowd control. This was BEFORE modern guns, Remember Spartacus? This was not an isolated event! Slave based societies had to maintain a delicate balance because just as the cops vanish in our own society, 9mm guns or not when the crowds are on a rampage like in the LA riots. Huge amounts of young able bodied men are a fore unto themselves. They wil suffer losses but they can win any battle Was Josephus a Roman trying to frighten non Romans with the shock and awe of Rome? Or was Josephus and enemy of Rome disparaging them to their critics. I think Josephus was high when he wrote that. I just dont believe this. I dont believe the Mayans and Aztecs sacrificed thousands (where are the bones?) People are not sheep. Try grabbing an enraged cat or other small animal and you wil see just how resourceful creatures can get when they ar e cornered and fighting for their lives. Slaves are strong and able bodied people, That why they are slaves. They engage in manual labor and manual labor builds muscle and bone and makes you stronger. Thats why construction workers and garbage men can usually beat the tar out of your average white collar worker in a match. Slaves work in the fields and on construction and have access to tools which they use everyday.... DEADLY tools. People are not sheep. ONly modern weapons allow one person at a distance of meters away to kill or disable large amounts of people. Logic will tell you (if you have seen the deadly results of what happens during a human stampede at a sports event) that 12 Roman soldiers with swords in a tight place would be stamped into shoe leather by 10,000 people just rushing to get out of a stadium... let alone enraged and fighting for their lives!

May. 21 2012 02:20 PM
Amy from Manhattan

JM, I don't remember the exact numbers, but Josephus describes something like a dozen Roman soldiers killing around 10,000 unarmed people with just swords. OK, they were in an enclosed area & the victims couldn't get away, but they couldn't defend themselves from a much smaller number of attackers, either.

rose-ellen, there were also some Jews living in that area all along, who may well have eaten hummus & pita, no matter which people those foods originated with. I was also surprised to hear only Lebanon & Israel mentioned. Both foods are known around a much wider region, & there's probably no way to know where they first came from. All the places named in the whole interview had migrations & conquests over history, bringing different foods & other cultural items in all directions.

May. 21 2012 02:04 PM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

Very funny bit about Viagra--who knew! (Although, not surprised).

May. 21 2012 01:50 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Could the reason that Benin's name originated in what's now Nigeria have to do w/where the empire of Benin extended that far? Maybe the people of present-day Benin are more closely related to the rulers of that empire than Nigerians are.

May. 21 2012 01:49 PM
JM from Manhattan

I never believe all these stories of human sacrifice. I see them as a justification for european religion and imperialism by spreading disinformation about native cultures and peoples to perpetuate the "savageness" of yhe people they wanted to decimate.
Thousands of slaves being killed? weather Myan or African yet .... Hebrew "slaves" revolt historically in conditions not as oppressive? I do not believe that without modern weapons you can kills thousands of able bodied people without resistance .... period

May. 21 2012 01:48 PM
rose-ellen from jackson heights

Come on leonard-present day israel was settled by european zionists who were not eating hummus or pita .Those are arab foods and by right should be designated as such[I don't know about lebanon exclusively but these foods -like the land- have been appropriated by europeans and to call pita or hummas indigenous israeli food -is as disingenuouis as this revisionist history which know treats the euopean zionists as if they had not appropriated arab lands but been there all along[eating hummuus and pita].

May. 21 2012 01:45 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I did a paper in college on the languages of Spain, & 1 of the reference books I used had a series of maps showing how the regions where different languages (from Andalusian to Galician to Catalan, in addition to Castilian, of course) were spoken shifted over history. Through all these changes, there in the Pyrenees was a small area whose border barely altered, where Basque was spoken. It really was as though it had dropped down from space.

I think today's Basque does has some words of Latin origin, borrowed from Spanish & French. I hadn't heard about the possible connections w/Ainu, although I have read that it's an Indo-European language.

May. 21 2012 01:45 PM
Stephen from Brooklyn

Just an interesting, other fact about the Basque language which you just touched on. There are countless cognates between the Basque language and the Ainu language of the native people of Hokkaido, Japan and the Sakhalin Islands of Russia!

May. 21 2012 01:33 PM
reshma from nyc

I believe the assassins were called the hashashins because they were trained and revved up to fight or kill while under the influence of hashish?

May. 21 2012 01:29 PM

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