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60

Early hand grenades looked like that: The word "grenade" originated in the Glorious Revolution (1688), where cricket ball-sized iron spheres packed with gunpowder and fitted with slow-burning wicks were first used against the Jacobites in the battles of Killiecrankie and Glen Shiel (Specimen made from glass, French, ca. 1740)


51

Architecture: Roman Cement Concrete was widely used throughout antiquity by the Persians, Egyptians, Assyrians, and Romans. The Romans technique in creating concrete allowed them to build the Pantheon, Colosseum, aqueducts, and spectacular baths (big ones, awesome ones). Amazingly many structures built with this Roman Cement are still standing. The recipe ...


47

According to Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel, one of the first steps from a hunter-gatherer society towards civilization is agriculture. While agricultural societies appeared all over the world, the old world had a more suitable environment, especially with regards to the grains and large animals that lived there. The old world had wheat, which is ...


43

An enlisted Naval serviceman was paid anything from $80 to $213/month, depending on rank and service. I can't find a clear US record, but the Canadians had the lowest (non-training) telegraphist grade as an Able Seaman, and this seems to be at the E-3 level; so by analogy say $100/month. To make it directly comparable to civilian pay we need to account for ...


31

Cavalry sabres (a.k.a. Shashkas) were still widely used in the Russian Civil War (1918-1922) and appear in many books on that period. This weapon is primarily associated with Cossacks even though it was standard equipment in the Russian and later Soviet army. The Russian Wikipedia article claims that Shashkas were still used by the cavalry in the Second ...


26

That depends on what you mean by 'socks'. Hesiod (Greece, ~700 bce) recommends that farmers line their boots with felted wool for extra insulation. That wool layer could be considered the first sock, and it was commonly available to people who weren't particularly rich. When the Romans invaded northern Europe (ie, Gaul), they started wearing sewn foot ...


24

It did exist but no one is sure what it was. The making of such was split between different orders and each only knew how to make the next step in the chain. It was delivered via tubes and could be "thrown" towards the enemy. Some of those were man-portable, other were ship bound. Sometimes, you could find it in jars. The best guess is that it was a ...


23

Personally, I don't think anything ever went particularly "wrong" with India. They only fell behind the civilizations of Western Europe, not the rest of the world. So the proper question to ask here is what suddenly went right with heretofore backward Europe. To my mind the answer to this question is clear: The printing press. Nearly overnight Europeans had ...


22

It would be very interesting to see a chart of rate of innovation over time in western civilization. Of course, this begs the question of what is "innovation". Do you count number of inventions? Do you give more weight to inventions that would have long lasting significance through history? Or ones that may have been less influential but providing a huge ...


20

I believe that the last use of sword in Western military were cavalry sabres used in cavalry charges alongside revolvers. Those were used in the Crimean war and in the USA Civil War. So we are talking mid-19th century. After the USA Civil War automatic rifles made cavalry obsolete (or nearly so) so I do not think you will find any more examples. ...


20

The Wikipedia entry on the book is pretty thorough. Guns, Germs, and Steel is definitely controversial, because Diamond is writing from the perspective of an evolutionary biologist, and essentially is arguing that history is if not wholly determined by geography, at least heavily influenced by it. From the Wikipedia entry: Guns, Germs and Steel met with ...


19

I'm afraid I know nothing about which pre-Columbian cultures had any metalworking, but I can answer why metallurgy was, in 1492, very rare in the Americas but widespread in Eurasia. Paraphrasing liberally from Guns, Germs and Steel, which I happen to be reading at the moment, Native American peoples were largely hunter-gatherers. Metalworking, like any ...


18

As it is, all three are interesting for being completely different methods of achieving a high quality of steel. Equally interesting is that they are each of high quality in different ways. As for Tamahagane, the iron that was available in Japan was actually very poor compared to that found in Europe. It had a characteristically low carbon content, and the ...


18

One possible term for the situation you described is technological lock in. This is more commonly associated with the development of sustainable energy (vs cheap oil), so it is probably not the specific name you were looking for. It does however refer to a similar situation where non-optimal (for a given definition thereof) technology becomes dominant, and ...


17

Quite the contrary as Rodney Stark pointed out in The Victory of Reason - the Catholic church itself promoted most of the societal conditions that allowed the Middle Class to take hold, and in so doing also promote the nurture of science and industry. Chief among these were personal property rights (stemming from the idea that we were God's stewards) and ...


17

Your basic premise is incorrect. Email did not develop in tandem with the Internet; the Internet simply made it available to the masses. The use of "electronic mail" actually predates the Internet by a considerable margin. Electronic mail was used on ARPANET as far back as the 70's. The first standards were were proposed as early as 1973 (RFC 561). ...


16

All the mathematical works of Hypatia of Alexandria for example were lost. From the secondary sources we do have, she was an amazing mathematician. Her death could be argued as the end of the classical times and the decent into the Dark Ages...


16

Toledo steel was a very good steel, comparable to mainstream contemporary ones. It is based mostly on the content of the material and way of hardening. Now the best European steel for blades is not Spanish, but Swedish V10. With Damascus there is a wide-spread fallacy. What is now called "true damascus" - blades based on the way of smithing of two or more ...


16

The grenades in Michael Borgwardt's answer are probably the earliest European examples, but in China they go much further back. Fireworks based on a bamboo, clay or paper shell filled with an explosive mixture (a precursor of gunpowder) came into use as far back as around 600-700 BC (Tang Dynasty). The Chinese kept improving fireworks and also developed ...


14

Computer? The Antikythera mechanism device for computing eclipses. Nothing much like it appears in history until Charles Babbage created his machines in the 1800's. The following BBC special further explores the device. Probing the secrets of the Antikythera Mechanism (Preview) The Antikythera Mechanism as it is known, is regarded as the ...


14

The Smithsonian lists a couple of competitors including Samuel P. Langley, and Sir Hiram Maxim. Wikipedia has a reference to competing claims. Langley was paid by the government; he may be the individual you're remembering, although I can't immediately find any evidence of the depression.


14

The Anglo-Zulu war comes to mind. The story of the (fictional) movie Zulu (from 1964) happens during this war, showing the advantage of fighting spears with guns.


14

In Dutch this is known as wet van de remmende voorsprong, which has been translated to Law of the handicap of a head start on Wikipedia. The page has a few examples similar to yours. That a page with such an awful name exists plus the number of discussions I find about how to translate the Dutch phrase makes me think that there is no exact name for this ...


14

They also introduced decimal angle measures (100 degrees in the right angle, each degree is 100 minutes. This explain why the kilometer was originally defined as it was: it is one decimal minute of the Earth's meridian, like the nautical mile is one ordinary minute of the same). I can name three reasons why the decimal system for time did not survive. ...


12

The book is well written and well explained; Jared Diamond actually takes real pain to explain that his theories are not implacable and must not be taken as a 100% reliable blueprint for predicting success or failure of any civilization (even if we could actually define what "failure" means for a civilization). The book, though, attracted criticism because ...


12

The argument for Heisenberg being intentionally incompetent is that he made two "incorrect" choices in which path to follow. He selected heavy water as the reactor moderator, even though it is very unusual and requires a big plant to make it. He selected plutonium as the fissile material, even though it doesn't occur in nature and have to be created in ...


12

No, even according to the report you link the Germans did NOT create DU rounds. It states explicitly, a few pages after the paragraphs you quote, that This is the only German round known to have the restriction "practice firing prohibited." Why* Remember, German uranium was as rofined; it was not "depleted uranium" as we know it. I am skeptical ...


12

I believe the first "programmable" devices in common industrial use were the big industrial power looms in England in the late 18th and early 19th century. The Jacquard loom in 1801 was the first to use punched-cards for its programming. Way over in Ukraine, Russian Semen Korasakov saw the potential of these cards for information storage and retrieval, and ...


12

The Spanish invasion of the Aztec Empire, as you mentioned, is one of the best examples. I'd just like to to mention it again, because although the Aztecs eventually fell to the Spanish forces, it wasn't without a stiff fight - indeed, the Spanish probably would have never even gotten a foothold on the continent without some seriously roguish tactics such ...


11

World War One was at the dawn of the modern military age. Military leaders had to adapt to new technologies with new strategies. Near the beginning of the war, soldiers would just stand up out of their trenches and shoot each other. Later, elaborate tactics and new technologies were employed. The battle of Vimy Ridge details the adoption of no less than six ...



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