Category: History Page 2 of 3

Bayesian Thinking: If You Want To Be A Critical Thinker You Need To Understand This Concept

It is the middle of the Cold War. Tensions are high and the United States wants to be ready to retaliate against any Soviet nuclear strike or do a first strike if needed.

In order to be able to have the capability to react fast, General Thomas S. Power initiates an operation called “Chrome Dome”, which has B-52 bombers armed with thermonuclear weapons continuously flying on a set route reaching certain points close to the Soviet border.

As part of this operation, early on the 17th of January 1966, a B-56G bomber of the United States Air Force, takes off from the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina. It is carrying 4 hydrogen bombs.

At 10:30 local time, over the coast of Spain, it begins a routine refuelling with an air tanker plane.

However there is a misunderstanding and as the procedure is about to begin, the tanker plane collides with the fuselage of the bomber, causing the bomber’s left wing to snap off. A huge explosion destroys the air tanker and severely damages the bomber.

All people aboard the air tanker, as well as some aboard the bomber die instantly. The rest of the crew of the bomber manage to parachute to safety.

The wreckage falls to the ground near a small village on the coast called Palomares. The nuclear bombs land nearby as well.

Three of the bombs are recovered relatively quickly (two are partially damaged however and cause nuclear leaks on the ground), but the fourth is nowhere to be found.

The guys searching for the bomb look at the evidence and decide that it had probably been blown over the sea by the wind and so is probably lying somewhere at the bottom of the Mediterranean.

They are facing a dilemma. If damaged, the bomb could cause great harm. If undamaged, it could fall into enemy hands. Cost what it may cost, it needs to be found.

What to do?

Put yourself in their shoes. There are some things that you do know.

A tail plate of the parachute was recovered, leading to the high probability that the bomb’s parachute probably deployed.

You have a probable eye witness account. A local fisherman says he saw the bomb enter the water. He points out the location where he saw it.

You also have a detailed map of the seabed in that area.

Enter John P. Craven.

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The Question Of Morality: How Would You Act If The Circumstances Were Different?

I have recently binge watched Amazon’s new alternate reality sci-fi series called “The Man in the High Castle”. It’s an awesome show based on an old Philip K. Dick novel of the same name.

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It is set in an alternative version of 1962, one where the Axis powers won the war and North America (and the rest of the world) is divided between Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany. The territory of the old USA is split between the Greater Nazi Reich, which controls the East Coast, and the Japanese Pacific States on the West Coast. Separating them is a small sliver of territory called the Neutral Zone.

Season 2 will be released soon and the excited fan boy that I am, I have been trying to Google any news concerning this momentous occasion.

Recently a new trailer came out for the upcoming season. It showed some snippets of action from Season 2 and ended with a quote:

Most people are different, depending if they’re hungry, safe, or scared.

This got me thinking again. It’s something I have reflected on before. It often happens that people get criticized for certain courses of action that they had undertaken under specific circumstances. However who is the other person to judge if they haven’t been in the same situation and in the same circumstances? Would another person react in the same way or differently?

This is a question that goes at the heart of morality. Is a good man based on character or is a good man based on circumstances?

Many of us would like to think that we would always uphold the moral high ground under any circumstances. But would we?

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The Indiana Jones Method For Learning Foreign Languages

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You have no doubt heard the story of the Trojan War. The Illiad and the Oddysey are two of the most enduring and influential works of literature in the Western world.

They were created by Homer, an ancient Greek poet, most likely based on accounts passed down orally for generations. Even 3 thousand years after the supposed events took place, they remain well-known to myriads of people from around the world.

For a long time, it was thought that these stories were works of pure fiction. Yet there were always people who thought that they were based on real events, real people and real places. One of these believers was Heinrich Schliemann.

The Life of Heinrich Schliemann

Heinrich Schliemann was a true rags to riches story, a man of German origin who grew wealthy by being a shrewd businessman. However today he is most remembered as an archaeologist.

He was a real-life Indiana Jones, travelling the world, living through many adventures and discovering great ancient treasures.

As a kid, he grew up on stories of the Illiad and the Oddysey and the great adventures that the heroes of these tales had to go through. Unlike most other people who listened to these stories, he took them at their word. To him, Troy was a real place which was now buried somewhere on the Aegean coast of Turkey. He decided that he was going to find it.

What is not so well-known is that he was also a great linguist who managed to master many languages. Wherever he travelled, he tried to learn the local language. He would often write in his diary in different languages, which resulted in him keeping his diary in at least 12 languages.

What is most remarkable is that he managed to do this in a world without quick travel, without the internet and starting off as a poor errand boy.

Schliemann’s Language Learning Method

He simplified the process by developing a method that he applied consistently. Supposedly the system that he developed allowed him to learn any language in around 6 weeks.

He applied this method every time he was about to learn a new language. When he couldn’t find one of the elements of this method, he always came up with a work-around.

The main elements of the method consisted of constant writing in the target language, reading out loud in it, and trying to get as much native input as possible.

He was a self-directed learner and one of the main elements of this learning were books in the target language. The key to this was one little book: “The Adventures of Telemachus”.

This book talked of the adventures of Telemachus, the son of Oddyseus and his quest to find his father. Since it was set in the times of the Trojan Wars, the subject matter was very interesting to Schliemann and never grew old. He ended up memorizing the story in the book by heart.

When he would start learning a new language, he would always try to track down a copy of that book (or some other book that he had read previously in another language and knew the story well) in his target language.

That way, he could compare the two texts and learn new words and grammar structures by reading along in a new language, as well as in a language he already knew.

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The Man In The Arena – Teddy Roosevelt’s Most Inspirational Speech

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;

but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,

and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

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In 1910, Theodore Roosevelt travelled to Paris and while there, delivered a very powerful and inspirational speech on what is really important in the world.

In the speech, he praised the virtue of hard work and of trying. For him, it is not the end result that is the most important, but the process that goes into it.

It does not matter if you win or lose, but you need to try. Oftentimes in the modern world, people laugh at those who fail, yet they themselves sit on the sidelines and do not try at all.

If you want to succeed, you need to roll up your sleeves and go down into the arena, to fight your struggles like an ancient gladiator, and not sit around complaining and not doing anything. If you fail, just get up and try again!

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How A Contrarian Idea Gains Traction: The Incredible Story Of James Hutton

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It is 1785. A young man is hurrying on the streets of Edinburgh, a bit late for his work appointment. On his right-hand side, he has a magnificent view of Edinburgh Castle, perched high up on a rock.

He admires the view, but thinks nothing of how that rock atop which the Castle sits was created. As far as he is concerned, the Earth is 6 thousand years old. That is the common dogma of his age and not to be questioned.

Yet not far away, a slightly-built man close to entering his 6th decade of life, is working on a theory that contradicts all this “knowledge”. In time, it will change our whole understanding of this world and usher in a new era of science.

However in 1785, that new era is still far off.

The name of the slightly built old man is James Hutton. He was a polymath who tried his hand at many different things, but his life’s work was centered around rocks and geology. His passion was to go around and observe natural phenomenon, which led him to form some very original theories.

By 1785, he felt ready to share these theories with the world. Being a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a gathering of some of the finest minds of the 18th century, provided him with a natural place to do this.

On the 7th of March of that year, his friend Joseph Black read out a part of the theory and on the 7th of April, Hutton himself presented his theory. This was followed by another presentation on the 4th of July.

Hutton’s ideas were revolutionary. He proposed that the land formations on Earth undergo natural processes which are the same now as they were in the past.

This had wide implications for humanity’s notions of the structure of our universe:

“The result, therefore, of our present enquiry is, that we find no vestige of a beginning,–no prospect of an end.”

What he presented was met by utter disbelief and turned into hostile criticism. He was accused of going against the established order of things, of being an atheist, of lacking logic.

Hutton decided to go back and try to find further evidence for his assertions and to better defend his thesis. For the next few years, he travelled around Scotland, examining different rock formations, trying to find further proof for his theories.

In 1795, equipped with numerous examples to illustrate his points, Hutton published a huge book on geology. It met with little success.

Two years later, Hutton died without having his theory gain wider acceptance. In fact, it seemed that his opponents had won the day and his ideas were on their way to obscurity.

Yet today they form the fundamental basis of our own understanding of how our planet evolved. How is that possible? How did ideas that were almost stamped out, succeed in gaining dominance? And how come Hutton himself wasn’t able to do it?

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Operation Anthropoid: The Story Of The Most Daring Secret Mission Of World War 2

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If you had seen the movie “Casablanca”, you might remember the scene in the cafe where the German officers start singing a German song. To hush them down, the brave Czechoslovak resistance leader, husband of the Scandinavian bombshell Ilsa (played by Ingrid Bergman) starts singing the Marsellaise. Right after that, everyone else joins in.

The film was made in 1942 and one of the most heroic characters there, is a Czechoslovak resistance fighter who is trying to smuggle himself out of Nazi-controlled territories in order to continue his struggle. This guy was a fictional character, however the year 1942 was also the setting of probably the most daring act of resistance during the entire war. And this was real!

The act was codenamed Operation Anthropoid and resulted in the assassination of one of the most-feared Nazi leaders, Reinhard Heydrich. This was the guy who organized the Final Solution and planned the extermination of all the Jews from Europe.

Just like the movie, the heroes of this story were Czechoslovak resistance fighters.

The scene is this: Hitler is on a roll. His armies have crushed all opposition and control most of continental Europe. The German armies are going from one victory to another in the East against the Soviets and an invasion of Britain is imminent.

In the middle of the continent lies the city of Prague, formerly the capital of the Czechoslovak Republic, the only democracy in Central Europe before the war, and now the seat of the government of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, completely controlled by the Nazis.

Before the War, Czechoslovakia was one of the continent’s economic powerhouses and had a very strong military industry, especially producing heavy machinery and tanks. It was sacrificed by the UK and France in order to appease Hitler, but that just made him even stronger.

By occupying the country, he took over its military equipment and added it to his own army (almost half the German tanks that attacked France in 1940 were formerly from the Czechoslovak army).

Many Czechoslovak military personnel escaped the country and installed themselves in places like the UK, France or the Soviet Union, in order to fight the Nazis and free their country. The Czechoslovak government-in-exile was located in London and so were much of the forces of the Czechoslovak army-in-exile.

However the situation in their homeland was dire. The country was occupied by the Nazis, who were crushing any forms of opposition. The exile authorities were determined to shake things up.

Striking at the heart of the Nazi machine, at one of its leaders, could galvanize the population and wake up the resistance, which was losing any hope of success at this point. After a long discussion, it was decided that the target of this operation would be Heydrich, one of the most feared men in the Nazi Reich.

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How To Be A Badass Like The Zaporozhian Cossacks

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In 1615, a fleet of 80 Zaporozhian Cossack boats, called chaiky, slipped into the harbor of Constantinople and razed the entire area around the harbor to the ground. This was the culmination of a hundred years of naval raids that the Cossacks were conducting against various ports of the Ottoman Empire.

At that time, the Ottoman Empire was the most powerful state in Europe and was on the offensive on all fronts. That did not deter the Cossacks. They were fearless and in subsequent years conducted a few more raids on Ottoman ports. The bigger the challenge, the more likely they were to attempt it. The Zaporozhians were not afraid to take risks, even doing things that seemed impossible.

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The year following that raid on Constantinople, they raided the port of Trebizond. The Ottoman Sultan sent a fleet to the mouth of the Dnieper River in order to try to destroy their fleet. However in a show of the ultimate “f*%k you,” the Cossacks who were returning from their successful raid decided to turn around and once again attacked Constantinople. They caused a lot of havoc, even rampaging through the official palace of the Sultan himself.

Brave warriors who cherished their freedom

The Ukrainian Cossacks were brave warriors who cherished their freedom. They had a strict code of honor and valued courage above all else. A Venetian envoy once compared them to the Spartans, only more drunk:

This republic (the Zaporozhian Sich) could be compared to the Spartan, if the Cossacks respected sobriety as highly as did the Spartans.

The Cossacks learned how to endure many hardships from early on. Their code of honor preached that they always needed to help a friend in trouble. They would often sacrifice themselves in order to save others. Their skills and abilities in horsemanship and with different arms (swords, guns) were legendary.

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Become A Hero: Russian Folktales Can Teach You How To Be A Man

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If you want to live in a country and understand its people, you need to have an understanding of the stories that they grew up with. Whether these are folk tales, fairy tales, or movies, they leave an impact on the psyche of the individual person. They serve as a reminder of the traditions, as well as the moral values that the majority of the population holds dear.

Russia, and the surrounding countries of eastern Europe like the Ukraine or Belarus have a rich history of different folk traditions, among which the telling of folk tales and heroic epics is preeminent. Many of these traditions are shared between the three countries, while others exist only in some particular regions. These stories have been recounted from one generation to another. Many a grandson spent his nights sitting on his grandfather’s knee, listening to these wonderful tales, sparking his imagination with messages of courage and valor.

Russian folklore is based on old pagan Slavic mythology, mixed with newer Christian beliefs and historical events. Together with stories about princes, giants, and Baba Yagas (witches), you catch glimpses of mythical cities, powerful enemies, and old wise men with magic powers. These stories not only reflect the beliefs and history of the various peoples who tell them, but also serve as a way to impart moral lessons to the succeeding generations.

Old Heroes Could Kick Ass

One of the most well-known characters of the old heroic tales is Ilya Muromets. Ilya was a big guy, who however suffered from various illnesses as a kid, which left him unable to walk. So until the age of 33, he spent most of his life sleeping on an oven. Then one day, he is miraculously cured by two old wise men. From that day forward, he turns into a powerful warrior and goes on to perform many outstanding deeds, including saving the city of Kiev from invaders.

His story takes place in the era of the Kievan Rus, but mixes in various different time periods. Some parts of the tale recount historical events that happened in the 9th century, while others deal with events that happened in the 12th century. So just like a medieval James Bond, Ilya Muromets always stays the same age through various eras, battling enemies and slaying dragons.

His story can also serve as an inspiration for young men growing up, since Ilya transformed himself from being an incapacitated cripple to a bogatyr, a fighter and the savior of a nation. His courage, strength and willpower were meant to be an example to help instill these qualities in the younger generation.

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Madman Or Genius? The Man Who Wrote The Book On Chivalry

There was a country in which it happened that there lived a wise Knight who had long maintained the Order of Chivalry and who, by the strength and nobility of his great courage and wisdom, had ventured his body in various wars, jousts and tournaments. Because he thought in his heart that he would not live much longer — as one who, by the course of nature, had long been near his end — he chose a hermitage for himself. For age had weakened the natural strength within him so that he no longer had any power nor strength to wield arms as he was accustomed to do. Therefore, he left all his inheritance and riches to his children and made his dwelling place in a great forest abundantly provided with water, large trees and fruit-bearing bushes of various kinds.

Thus starts the “Book of the Order of Chivalry”. The basic premise of the first chapter is the story of a knight who has become old and who decides to become a hermit and spend the rest of his life in contemplation. This fable is fiction, but it does have certain parallels to the life of the author of the book: Ramon Llull.

Llull was not a knight, but a medieval Catalan writer, philosopher, logician, and theologian, a Renaissance Man a few centuries before the Renaissance. Today, he is best remembered as one of the first writers in the Catalan language and one of the first writers of novels in Europe.

This short description, however does not give justice to the wide range of the man and his interests. His significance and story surpasses mere words and enters the world of legend, for he left a powerful, but controversial legacy that has remained influential throughout the ages.

The life of Ramon Llull

Ramon Llull’s real life story begins in the High Middle Ages, during the times of the Reconquista. He was born in 1232 on the island of Mallorca into a family of Catalonian colonists. After the conquest of the island from the Muslims, many Christian families from the mainland began moving there. Llull’s family was one of them, immigrating to the island from Barcelona.

At the beginning of his adult life, Llull spent some time as the chief administrator of the royal household, but also as a troubadour, a wandering poet. He was married and had a family, but also spent a lot of his time chasing other women. He was a real ladies man, who composed poems and songs in order to win their hearts.

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However one day, he had an epiphany. He supposedly saw visions of Jesus Christ. After that day, Llull swore to change his life, and become a real man going his own way. He abandoned his wife and family, stopped chasing other women, and became a Franciscan monk, spending the next 9 years in solitude. Ramon Llull chose the path of a hermit, just like the protagonist of the first chapter of his book on chivalry.

Knighthood and chivalry

Unlike the protagonist of his story, Llull never became a knight, and did not even strive to become a knight. However he saw the importance of the order of knighthood. For Llull, knights formed the backbone of society. They were the ones who were supposed to ensure law and order among people. The knight was a warrior, scholar and commander, and chivalry was his code of conduct.

They had a special purpose in life and had to be prepared to fit the part. The description in the book gives a forceful commentary on knights and their roles. They are almost superheroes, the select few with a mission and duty to hold society from falling apart. Out of the mystical past the order of knighthood and chivalry arose:

When charity, loyalty, integrity, justice and truth grew weak in the world, then there began cruelty, injury, disloyalty and falseness. Thus error and trouble came into the very world where God had planned for man to know, love, serve, fear and honor Him. Fortunately, however, no sooner had laxness in enforcing the law first arisen than fear in turn caused justice to be restored to the honor in which she was formerly held. Therefore, all the people were divided by thousands. Out of each thousand there was chosen a man more notable than all the rest for his loyalty, his strength, his noble courage, his breeding and his manners.

That man, one out of a thousand, became a knight, sworn to protect the weak and become a pillar of his community. For Llull, the knights were examples of moral virtues that served as inspirations for others. They not only protected the society through the force of arms, but through their personal conduct served as moral icons to be emulated.

The exceptional nature of his courage has caused a Knight to be picked out from among all other men, who are beneath him in service. Therefore, exceptional habits and upbringing are also appropriate to a Knight. For extraordinary bravery may not achieve the high honor of chivalry without selection also based on virtues and good habits. Thus it behooves a Knight to be well-stocked with good habits and manners. Every Knight ought to know the seven virtues which are the source and root of all good habits and are the path to everlasting heavenly glory. Of these seven virtues, three are called “theological” or “divine” while the remaining four are “cardinal.” The “theological” ones are faith, hope and charity. The “cardinal” ones are justice, prudence, temperance and fortitude.

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Knights had to not only take care to work their bodies and their outward skills, but they also needed to work their minds and spirits:

If the practice of knighthood were, in fact, more a matter of physical strength than of inward resolve, the Order of Chivalry would be concerned much more with the body than with the soul. And if that were so, the body would be more excellent than the soul, but that is obviously false. Thus inner courage cannot, when it is functioning properly, ever be vanquished or overcome by any mere man.

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