slumber-powered

after the sleeping comes the waking up.

Posts Tagged ‘history’

Laugh and the World Laughs

Posted by c. wagner on January 28, 2010

“Laugh and the world laughs with you; / Weep, and you weep alone” is not an ancient proverb. It is the opening two lines of the poem “Solitude” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox which was first published in 1883. Strange, but apparently true.

[found on page 60 of When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish by Martin Gardner]

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It’s more complex than I thought?

Posted by c. wagner on November 2, 2009

I always like finding things that expand my understanding. A recent blog post on the history of the American creationist movement did just that. Like so many things in history, the story is more complex than it looks before you study it. Which is pretty much par for the course with anything involving people.

Read PZ Myers summarize Ronald Numbers’ history of the creationist movement in the United States.

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Let’s take a trip back in time.

Posted by c. wagner on October 23, 2009

You’re looking at a composite image of the most distant cluster of galaxies yet observed. It’s 10.2 billion light years away from us. More than a billion light years farther away than the next most distant cluster.

You’re looking back in time as far as we have been able to see. Enjoy the view!

Read more at Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog.

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Did she have an affair with the Easter Bunny?

Posted by c. wagner on October 21, 2009

Wikipedia featured one of my favorite hoaxes on the front page today: Mary Toft and her rabbit “babies”.

Seems that Mary, after a miscarriage, began giving birth to rabbits. Or, more accurately, parts of rabbits. She was examined by a number of doctors, including some of great prominence, who declared that Mary was telling the truth. Miraculously, she was the mother of rabbit parts. Some doctors remained skeptical.

Eventually, Mary was isolated for a number of days. No more bunny bits. Under pressure, Mary confessed it was all a hoax. But that wasn’t quite the end of the story.

The public mockery which followed created panic within the medical profession. Several prominent surgeons’ careers were ruined, and many satirical works were produced, each scathingly critical of the affair. The pictorial satirist and social critic William Hogarth was notably critical of the gullibility of the medical profession.

Mary hoaxed some of the best medicine had to offer in the early 1700s. And it seems as though the profession has learned its lessons from her and other similar incidents. It’s much harder to hoax men of medicine now, but plenty of people are fooled by non-doctors making amazing claims about health and healing.

If your baloney detector goes off, it might just be a scam.

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