Questions for July/August 2015

Combined two months because this is late already, and I’ll be overseas in August – riding a bicycle in Moscow! My other blog www.stevethings.wordpress.com will continue to relate my travels and adventures. Meanwhile, not having done much lately, I have put all sorts of stupid stuff on it, including how to get rid of baboons from a field of corn, or how to divide a cake into 9 equal portions.

I’ve been saving these ones, because I think they are better than usual. Well, these are what you are getting. Have a go – post a comment!

  1. The Roman Army punished cowardly or mutinous legions by decimation – the killing of every tenth man. Other civilisations copied the practice – but why did the Byzantine Emperor Maurice (539-602 AD) forbid it?
  2. The Bering Strait separates Russia and America. Why did the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia carry a very long, excessively detailed entry about it?
  3. Tycho Brahe dabbled in astrology as a young man; this was an acceptable way of making money at the time. He predicted that the lunar eclipse of 28 October 1566 foretold the death of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Suleiman the Magnificent. What happened?
  4. What killed Descartes?
  5. James Lick, patron of what became the Lick Observatory with its 36-inch telescope (still the second largest refractor in the world) died during its construction; where was he buried?

For cut & paste fans:
(1) Decimation (2) Bering Strait (3) Brahe (4) Descartes (5) James Lick

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8 comments

  1. Dr Bob’s Real Answers –

    Decimation – He reckoned it lowered morale, as well as depleting the manpower of the army.

    Bering Strait – The extensive and fulsome entry about Lavrenti Pavlovich Beria was deleted when they shot him, which messed up the encyclopedia’s page numbers. (My history book says “Beria was shot, removed from office, tried, and sentenced to death”)

    Brahe the astrologer – Derision and ridicule was heaped upon poor Brahe’s head. Suleiman had already been dead for 3 weeks.

    Descartes – Pneumonia – He was used to rising at 11am, but his new partron, Queen Christina of Sweden, required him to show up for work at 5am, in the chilly Swedish winter.

    Lick’s burial – Underneath the heavy concrete pier that the Lick Telescope is mounted upon.

  2. 1. I guess it didn’t work. A legion that chose not to fight would get an automatic 10% body count, while a legion that followed orders would get losses at least double that. A risk-based approach would give “do not fight” the best survival odds. I bet Maurice changed from decimation to quintation or quartation to even the odds a bit.
    2. This one I know. It really didn’t at first. The original version had a lengthy article about the superplusgreat dude Lavrentij Berija, the mighty head of the Soviet secret policy (and other posts). After Khrushchov seized power, the encyclopedia editors decided that several pages of eulogy for Larry was not politikally korrekt, so they sent out glue-on replacement pages to those who had already bought the pedia with the updates:
    Berija: Dead guy.
    Bering strait: Very, very very interesting area. Several pages worth of interesting.
    3. The eclipse appeared. The sultan died. Not necessarily in that order. But hey, that’s a win for astrology!
    4. He stopped thinking about it. So he existed no more.
    5. Before they set lenses into the telescope, it was temporarily converted to a cannon. Lick’s ashes was placed inside a caliber 12 bronze round, fitting nicely into the original 12 inch telescope. The round was the first man-made object to exit earth’s gravity well, and landed on the moon, near Sea of Crises. The Lick crater can still be seen from earth with a telescope strong enough.

  3. 1.The Roman Army punished cowardly or mutinous legions by decimation – the killing of every tenth man. Other civilisations copied the practice – but why did the Byzantine Emperor Maurice (539-602 AD) forbid it?

    Presumably they were running out of men. Perhaps it also occurred to someone that this might have a teensy effect on whether the men wanted to continue fighting for you.

    2.The Bering Strait separates Russia and America. Why did the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia carry a very long, excessively detailed entry about it?

    Perhaps one of the typewriter keys got stuck. Or it included the correspondence between the USSR and US: “It’s ours” “Isn’t” “Is” “Isn’t” etc.

    3.Tycho Brahe dabbled in astrology as a young man; this was an acceptable way of making money at the time. He predicted that the lunar eclipse of 28 October 1566 foretold the death of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Suleiman the Magnificent. What happened?

    He went on to make a disappointing living, and everyone kept asking why he couldn’t have studied a REAL science.

    4.What killed Descartes?

    He didn’t THINK that he needed a COAT.

    5.James Lick, patron of what became the Lick Observatory with its 36-inch telescope (still the second largest refractor in the world) died during its construction; where was he buried?

    At the base of the tongue. I mean TELESCOPE.

  4. 1) Decimation
    a) he only had 9 mutineers
    b) he felt the procedure lacked X appeal
    c) he had to revise the army recruitment poster

    (2) Bering Strait
    It included a diatribe against the Tsar who sold Alaska to the US.
    (3) Brahe
    He also added in his message to Suleiman that ‘for a small fee’ he would cancel the eclipse. Thus the name change to ‘the munificent’
    (4) Descartes
    He stopped thinking (this one was too easy!)
    (5) James Lick
    Ashes incorporated into the glass?

  5. (1) Decimation: The survivors engaged in a form of dance involving swords and dressing up like Papal Guards. Maurice Dancing as it was then termed had been brought to England by a mere handful of returning crusaders, so Maurice’s crackdown didn’t stop the revival sometime around the time of Charles ll.

    (2) Bering Strait: Bering really wanted to call it Peter The Great Strait after his Tsar and chief sponsor, but had second thoughts after a marathon poker game which the Tsar lost to King Christian the Christian of Denmark. The editors of Great Soviet Encyclopedia felt the story lacked gravitas and embarked on a diatribe of their own devising.

    (3) Brahe: He collapsed into a supposed trance. “I see a major death, Beginning with ‘n”. Or ‘s’.
    Must be Nostradamus. And Suleiman. Both dead? Must be two other men!”

    (4) Descartes; It’s tempting to blame one of Maurice, Suleiman or Brahe, but it was actually an unusually mild winter for which Descartes had chosen the wrong wardrobe.

    (5) James Lick: With his guitar. The original Lick guitar is a premium collector’s item, with 99.99% of the population unaware of its contribution to the musical term ‘guitar lick’.

  6. 1.The Roman Army punished cowardly or mutinous legions by decimation – the killing of every tenth man. Other civilisations copied the practice – but why did the Byzantine Emperor Maurice (539-602 AD) forbid it?

    From a purely personal perspective have always a strong interest in the army – mainly the staying out of it part……..

    2.The Bering Strait separates Russia and America. Why did the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia carry a very long, excessively detailed entry about it?

    I’ve never seen one quite that big before, Sergei……
    Don’t be Volga Olga.

    3.Tycho Brahe dabbled in astrology as a young man; this was an acceptable way of making money at the time. He predicted that the lunar eclipse of 28 October 1566 foretold the death of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Suleiman the Magnificent. What happened?

    Six months of homeopathy and leeches will do that to a man……..

    4.What killed Descartes?

    De horse. (think about it)

    5.James Lick, patron of what became the Lick Observatory with its 36-inch telescope (still the second largest refractor in the world) died during its construction; where was he buried?

    OK guys. Telescopes almost finished so let’s calibrate it by aiming at the sun. I’ll just stand here making sure the focus is OK…….

  7. (1) Decimation
    Maurice claimed he was magnanimous. The real reason was that he couldn’t count to ten.

    (2) Bering Strait
    The entry’s author laboured the point that one could see America from the USSR, an issue of no interest to anybody until the reverse view became a political issue in 2008 thanks to Sarah Palin, who was wrongly quoted as saying she could see Russia from her house.

    (3) Brahe
    Silly Sulie carked six weeks BEFORE the lunar eclipse, meaning that brazen Brahe blew it.

    (4) Descartes
    Booze. His most famous quote was in fact bowdlerised after his death from what he really said on his deathbed, which was “I drink, therefore I am not”.

    (5) James Lick
    Buried under his telescope, alongside his dog. The inscription reads “Here lies a Lick and a Promise”.

  8. 1. Not harsh enough
    2. To bulk up the page count.
    3. He got kudos for telling the past. I guess news travelled slowly back then. He had a pet moose you know. Moose bites can be very nasty.
    4. Sex with a cold Swede.
    5. Under the telescope?

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