Episode #125 of the Stack Overflow podcast is here. We talk Tilde Club and mechanical keyboards. Listen now
141

My personal favorite is the early history of the lighting rod. Lightning likes to try to ground itself via the tallest, pointiest thing around. This means that because of their architecture, Christian churches have always been particular favorites of lightning. This is obviously awkward theologically, so the theology that developed was that lightning was ...


70

(Disclaimer: definition of race varies. Wikipedia offers this: "a grouping of humans based on shared physical or social qualities into categories generally viewed as distinct by society" and that is the view taken in this answer. Some of you prefer to define race by skin colour, in which case feel free to ignore Aristotle.) Racism is a very ancient concept. ...


53

Baden-Powell had been besieged in the town of Mafeking during the Second Boer War. He had formed the Mafeking Cadet Corps, which was a group of youths that supported the defending troops by carrying messages and similar tasks. This freed up men for military duties and kept the boys occupied during the prolonged siege. Back in the UK, the newspapers, had ...


52

The First World War is often identified as a turning point in men's hair length. Prior to the war, both men and women commonly kept long hair, at least in western societies (and the Far East). This became problematic during the Great War, where armies encountered severe hygiene issues fighting in the trenches. Under the unsanitary conditions of the front, ...


46

The "classification" of Jews in Nazi Germany (and occupied territories) was governed by the Nuremberg laws and based on "heritage." Basically, someone with no Jewish grandparents was considered non-Jewish; someone with one or two Jewish grandparents was considered "mixed," and someone with three or four Jewish grandparents was considered Jewish. Because of ...


40

Is this something that predates back many civilizations ago? Or is this a relatively newfound trend? In general, it is a relatively new trend of the last few centuries, and many old cultures have/had no such concept or tradition. Keep in mind that surnames in many cultures are a relatively new trend. There was no name to drop upon marriage if you didn't ...


37

Not really. Generally speaking, most European women since married in their early to mid twenties, to men in their mid to late twenties. The age gap for the commoners, i.e. the vast majority of the population, were typically not large. Unfortunately the question declined to define how much younger is "much younger" supposed to mean, but most Europeans ...


36

You can find a very detailed description of how Jews integrated into English society here. The only bit directly about the Sabbath is this: Another feature of the Jewish religion which tended to set its adherents apart was Sabbath observance. Two aspects of this were evident to the general public. First, that Jews did not trade on Saturday. H. Miles ...


35

During the 1830s and 1840s. In the twenties dueling was still common. From 1815 to 1830 Castlereagh, Canning, and Wellington were responsible in turn for the government of England, and they all fought duels. In the thirties dueling died out under the pressure of public opinion, and in 1844 the amended articles of war stated that any officer who fought a ...


35

It's obvious that having short or long hair is an identity sign for men and women respectively, more or less worldwide. No, it's not obvious, especially not in history. You may be mistaking a Western, Roman Catholic, modern behavior for something universal. The Romans were a little strange in their belief that men should shave and wear their hair short(...


33

This modern tradition has its roots in the First World War, when Japan entered on the side of the Allies following the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. Japan's entry carried an initial, overt goal of restoring the German Kiautschou Bay Concession to Chinese sovereignty. The Siege of Tsingtao, the administrative centre of the German concession, ended in the ...


33

tl; dr There were certainly laws requiring that adulterers had to wear the letter 'A' stitched upon their garments in the late seventeenth century. The letter was not required to be scarlet - just a different colour from the clothes themselves, so it would stand out. The law also applied to both men and women. However, during the time in which Nathaniel ...


32

Actually, the exact same thing happened in Brazil, but with a real uprising: Vaccine Revolt (Wikipedia). This is a matter of great discussion in Brazilian history, with most historians arguing that it was not an anti-vax revolt, but a revolt about the first mandatory thing government imposed during unstable political times.


30

"In the medieval ages, peasants used to drink beer instead of water because the plain water wasn't safe to drink... Why did this practice emerge in some countries but not others?" One really good reason is this -- it's not true in the first place. It's a myth, and a very common one. People didn't use spices to cover up the flavor of spoiled meat, either! ...


30

How often were Jews barred from academic and social clubs in the early 20th century? Feynman's experience was hardly unique: At the turn of the twentieth century, quota requirements limited Jews’ matriculation in college and forced them to compete against one another for the few spots elite colleges had reserved for such students. At that time, Jewish ...


29

There is some truth to the claims, but the numbers are extremely prima facie distorted. Especially since they are (apparently) given in terms of "households", with no immediately obvious method by which such figures were fitted to a preconception "estimated" calculated[Note 1]. Even if his numbers are accurate however, they do not necessarily reflect the ...


29

In Korea: Fan Death (dates to the 1920s) In US and Europe: Poisonous Tomatoes (dates to their discovery in the New World, but not clear if/when there were "authorities" stating the truth) Reasons cited for belief: Ill effects of acidic tomatoes leaching poisonous lead from pewter plates were ascribed to the tomatoes rather than the lead. Belief that ...


28

IANAH(*), so I can't (and won't) answer about the rest of the world, but in the XVI-XVIII centuries, colonial spaniards took race pretty seriously, dividing them in castes. Here you see a contemporary table for race categorization painted in the XVIII century, according to wikipedia. The table is pretty thorough, detailing to which caste you belonged ...


27

The Romans, and indeed the classical world in general, would've usually swam in the nude. See for instance the following depictions of naked divers, though they are not precisely Roman. Frescoes from the Etruscan Tomb of Hunting and Fishing in Central Italy. Source: The Database of Ancient Art Fresco from the Greek Tomb of the Diver in Southern Italy. ...


27

In the early middle ages or ancient times that might have been the case. But certainly not by the 19th or early 20th century - scientific/darwinist racism was in full swing by then. 17th century France had its Code Noir, and slave codes weren't unique to colonial France, so the quote you cite seems to give an unrealistic picture of attitudes at best. A few ...


26

They probably got away with it because it was not illegal to drink alcohol. In fact, the Prohibition outlawed only the "manufacture, sale, or transportation" of alcoholic drinks. No mention of consumption, which remained substantial (~50-80% of "normal"), was made in the Prohibition amendment. After one year from the ratification of this article the ...


26

The main storyline to Lucian's Αληθή διηγήματα (2nd century CE) is the war between the people of the Sun and the people of the Moon over colonization of the Morning Star. As you can probably imagine from the satire's topic, several alien life forms are mentioned. Here's a quote describing the narrator's encounter with Endymion, King of the Moon: We were ...


26

Actually, a good modern analogy might be to look at how white mainstream America views the Black Lives Matter movement currently1: open hostility from social conservatives, and a lot of patronizing disagreement on methods from Liberals and Moderates. Where the analogy (probably?) breaks down is that there were a great many conservatives who flat out wanted ...


26

It seems like this was the 'polite' gesture of greeting in ancient Sumeria, and is actually the meaning of a Sumerian phrase for greeting: She faces in the direction of the cultic activity, her right arm bent at the elbow, hand raised before the face, in a well-known gesture of pious greeting, comparable to those depicted in presentation scenes, ...


24

Basically, you've given the answer yourself in the question: handwatches were a very rare thing in Soviet Russia at the time and it is small wonder that they became the soldiers' favourite trophy, especially since handwatches were highly portable and could be kept by the soldier himself. As to why handwatches were so rare in Russia - well, that was a ...


24

Because they believed their infant would have a better chance of surviving in the desert. The child mortality rate from disease and malnutrition in Arab settlements was horrendously high, and it was believed that sending the child into the healthier environment of the desert increased the child's chance of survival. - Gabriel, Richard A. Muhammad: ...


24

From the 1930s. Mentioned on Huffington Post. The older blog referred to in the HP article is no longer available, to so prevent the same thing from happening to the HP article, here's the relevant text (no copyright infringement intended): The comic above was posted to Reddit today with the caption, “History repeats itself. Anti-vac comic from the ...


21

Very interesting. I found this explanation on geneology.about.com: In earlier times, a marriage bond was given to the court by the intended groom prior to his marriage. It affirmed that there was no moral or legal reason why the couple could not be married and it also affirmed that the groom would not change his mind. If he did, and did not marry ...


21

The practice of drinking beer instead of water was because people noticed that you would get sick less. Why was not understood until the 19th century, with the advent of modern bacteriology etc. Since we now understand that it's non-clean water that makes you sick, clean water is a high priority around the world. Clean water is always cheaper than beer, so ...


21

The short answer is he didn't, not really. By "participated more actively", your source likely just means socialisation, rather than women's rights or activity in general society. To be sure, some of his policies had a positive impact on the welfare of women, but that is more incidental than intentional. Basically, it is a bit of a stretch to describe his ...


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