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  • Papal Sorceror? July 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Papal Sorceror?

    ***Thanks to an old friend of the blog, Stephen D. for this one*** Urban VIII (obit 1644) was one of the most exquisitely cultured popes ever to sit on the throne of Peter. He is famous today for being the man who brought Galileo to Rome to rap his knuckles very hard: but that is […]

    Halley’s Comet and the Generations! May 12, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
     Halley's Comet and the Generations!

    ***Dedicated to Larry who got me interested in this and provided, through his emails and forwards, much of the information*** It recently struck Beach that Halley’s comet would be a perfect measure of the continuity of knowledge in ancient and medieval civilizations. After all, here is a comet that returns every 75 (and a bit) […]

    Tree Rings and Supernovas and a Red Cross in Anglo-Saxon England June 29, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Tree Rings and Supernovas and a Red Cross in Anglo-Saxon England

    ***Dedicated to Larry and Wade who sent this one in*** In early June a report came in from Nagoya University (Japan) that tree rings on the island showed evidence of a massive radiation blast in 774/775 of our era. This interested Beachcombing not the slightest as he doesn’t do radiation or tree rings. But this […]

    Thomas Digges and the Telescope June 10, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Thomas Digges and the Telescope

    ***Dedicated to Larry who sent this one in*** Thomas Digges (1595) is one of those footnotes in history who perhaps deserves a page, a chapter or even a book to himself. An Elizabethan military engineer, Digges also wrote on astronomy and translated Copernicus into English and, fundamentally for the present argument, he pushed the use […]

    Immortal Meals #8: The Ash Wednesday Supper May 12, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Immortal Meals #8: The Ash Wednesday Supper

    Giordano Bruno (pictured badly) was a sixteenth-century philosopher with a thing about infinity. Giordano also had an infinite capacity to create irritation. Indeed, his travels around Europe have a fascinating pattern of greeting, slighting and sprinting. Typically, GB is obliged to leave his last home in a hurry because of offence caused to the church […]

    Flying to the Moon on Geese December 5, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Flying to the Moon on Geese

    Beach has heard rumours over the years of Domingo Gonsales’ strange voyage to the moon in the early seventeenth century [1620s], carried thither by a flock of enormous geese. But it was only this morning that he finally settled down to read DG’s adventures: perhaps inspired by the equally fantastic Zambian moon programme. For those […]

    Boethius’s Astronomy: Did it Exist? October 4, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Boethius's Astronomy: Did it Exist?

    Beach has always had a thing about Boethius (obit 525). Boethius penned the great Consolation of Philosophy, a strangely affecting study of human priorities, while waiting for his execution. Boethius hovers between Neo-Platonism and Christianity: he is, in some senses, the missing link between the two religions. Then Boethius also  wrote books that do not […]

    Joy Riding on the Moon October 3, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Joy Riding on the Moon

    ***This post is dedicated to Larry who pretty much wrote the whole thing himself*** Autumn flu continues, but Larry K came to the rescue this morning saving Beachcombing from having to think too hard or even, if truth be told, from dragging himself out of bed. Beach can do no better than quote from Larry’s […]

    Meteor Destroys Pub September 25, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern

    Several months ago Beachcombing became interested in incidents of meteors intervening in history or, at the very least, scaring the eeby jeebies out of humankind. He was particularly interested in the way that the perception of meteors changed in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. This text comes from the key period when scientists […]

    Converting Martians May 31, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Converting Martians

    ***This post is dedicated to Ypres Soup*** When scientists speculate today about whether intelligent life exists on other worlds the  questions that come up reflect typical modern preconceptions: Will they like us? Will they dress like us? Will they eat us? Etc etc. And these questions have changed little since the late nineteenth century when […]

    William Herschel and Trees on the Moon May 23, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    William Herschel and Trees on the Moon

    Born in Hanover,  but living in Britain for most of his adult life, William Herschel (obit 1822) was a celebrated astronomer in the century after Newton. WH has crossed Beachcombing’s radar not just because of his great achievements – discovery of Uranus etc – but because of some of his more curious speculations. For centuries, […]

    Total Eclipse February 12, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Total Eclipse

      A reader – Moonman to friends – has written in to remind Beachcombing of the old ‘cover thy face’ trick whereby ‘the civilised’ with knowledge of an eclipse, show their power over the elements by ‘ordering’ the sun to disappear in the presence of the unenlightened. Beachcombing knows this trick from Hergé’s Prisoners of […]

    Dragons and Hairy Stars in Early Ireland September 30, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Dragons and Hairy Stars in Early Ireland

    Beachcombing knows that there is a fashion for exaggerating the achievements of the medieval Irish. So let Beachcombing be emphatic. The early Irish did not have a table of elements. They did not talk of words like ‘relativity’ or ‘displacement’. They did not make clones or drop atom bombs. However, recent research has suggested that […]

    Life on Mars and Other Stories September 14, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Life on Mars and Other Stories

    Beachcombing has always had a bit of a thing about Percival Lowell (1855-1916) word-smith, Orientalist (author of Noto, 1891) and Ivy League rebel. And of all Lowell’s accomplishments none stand as high in Beachcombing’s estimation as Lowell’s  theories on Mars set out in three books – all happily now available in pdf form: Mars (1895), Mars […]

    Bat-men and New York, 1835 July 31, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Bat-men and New York, 1835

                    Beachcombing alluded in a recent post to the danger of misinformation in a world that had less instantaneous communications than our own. After all, if Beachcombing flies from London to Washington DC today and asserts, on arrival, that the French island of Corsica has sunk beneath the […]

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