The History of Greek Fire

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Great article
on the “nuclear” weapon of early medieval history.

In a world where new warfare technology is adopted so quickly by so many nations, it’s hard to imagine that the method of creating a weapon as devastating as Greek Fire would be lost to the passage of time. But the recipe for this weapon was so closely guarded that within only 50 years of its invention, the knowledge was lost even to the original owners. While incendiary weapons had been in use for centuries (petroleum and sulfur had both been in use since the early days of the Christians) Greek fire was much, much more potent. Very similar to our modern napalm, it would adhere to surfaces, ignite upon contact, and water alone would not extinguish its flames.

The term “Greek Fire” was not attributed to the concoction until the time of the European Crusades. Some of the original names it was known by include “liquid fire”, “marine fire”, “artificial fire” and “Roman fire”. The latter was most probably due to the fact that the Muslims (against whom the weapon was most commonly used) believed the Byzantines to be Roman rather than Greek.

The Dutch Tulip Bubble of 1637

Another homerun from Damn Interesting:

The height of the bubble was reached in the winter of 1636-37. Tulip traders were making (and losing) fortunes regularly. A good trader could earn up to 60,000 florins in a month– approximately $61,710 adjusted to current U.S. dollars. With profits like those to be had, nothing local governments could do stopped the frenzy of trading. Then one day in Haarlem a buyer failed to show up and pay for his bulb purchase. The ensuing panic spread across Holland, and within days tulip bulbs were worth only a hundredth of their former prices. The tulip bubble had burst.

The FCC’s Indecency Ruling Roundup

WFMU’s Beware of the Blog dissects the FCC’s recent ruling on what is obscene and the fines that were handed out. They also have the pdfs of the rulings online which are entertaining if you have the time to read through some of them.

It finally happened, folks! The FCC has just released a steamy batch of decisions concerning alleged cases of indecency on television. After cooking in the ever-efficient bureaucratic easy-bake for up to 4 years, the feds made up their minds regarding pending TV complaints at long last.

We urge you to thumb through the decisions (and footnotes for added comic relief): 2004 Superbowl Halftime (aka nipplegate) | Without a Trace | Batch Decisions (aka Omnibus, including The Surreal Life 2, Billboard Music Awards, The Blues: Godfathers and Sons, The Simpsons, etc.), so that you can laugh along with us. Then cry. Here’s a wrap-up of what the FCC’s been discussing for the past year or so (your tax dollars at work)…

Not OK
– Simulated teen sex and making out (no nudity) between hetero couples, girl in bra and panties engaged in implied group sex, all during a flashback segment for a rape investigation (Without A Trace, CBS). Pricetag: $3.6 million! Because teens don’t have sex. Or get raped. Ever.

– Split-second of exposed nipple (2004 Super Bowl, CBS). Pricetag: $550,000!

– Pixelated breasts, the kissing of pixelated breasts, spanking, pixelated nude women, and Ron Jeremy’s mere presence (The Surreal Life 2, Pool Party Episode, WB). Pricetag: $27,500.

– Non-nude rape scene (Con El Corazon En La Mano, Telemundo). Pricetag: $32,500.

Bishops OK Eating Meat on St Patrick’s Day

I think they’re kind of missing the entire point of sacrifice.

Corned beef and cabbage will be on the menu tomorrow. Call it a gift from Saint Patrick.

Despite the Vatican’s prohibition against eating meat on Fridays during Lent, Catholic bishops in about one-third of the country’s 197 dioceses have issued a one-day waiver of the rule, citing the benefits of Irish American tradition and community. After all, what do you wash down with green beer if not corned beef and cabbage?

Exploding Head Syndrome

Ouch. Although when I first read the title I was expecting something a bit different.

Exploding head syndrome is a rare condition first reported by a British physician in 1988 (PMID 2899248) that causes the sufferer to occasionally experience a tremendously loud noise as if from within their own head, usually described as an explosion or a roar. This usually occurs within an hour or two of falling asleep, but is not the result of a dream. Although perceived as tremendously loud, the noise is usually not accompanied by pain.