Between the 8th and 11th century (the Viking Age), Europe saw significant technological advances, not all of them Scandinavian – the Anglo-Saxons, Frisians and Franks were equal players. To understand these changes, we have to see them in the context of increasing contact between Scandinavia, the British Isles, and continental Europe – in which the Vikings were key players. Technological innovations such as the potter’s wheel and the vertical loom transformed not only the types of products being manufactured in Viking settlements, but also the scale on which they were produced.
Technological developments emerged as people came together in growing coastal trading centres and market towns. The world was rapidly becoming more joined-up during this period than at any time since the heyday of the Roman Empire. Trade fostered international links across the North Sea, Baltic and beyond, and similar developments were happening as far afield as the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. This was a period in which people began to live and work in entirely new ways, and technological change was both a cause and an effect of this.
While many Viking artefacts of the period are familiar, the complex methods that lay behind their manufacture are less well-known. Each involved a specialised set of skills, tools and raw materials, which meant craftspeople were reliant not only on a market for sale, but also on a well-organised supply chain. This is why the development of specialist crafts, of growing urbanisation, and of long-distance trade are intimately connected.
Before any other human discipline, even before the dawn of mankind its self, design was a practice passed down from generation to generation of early humans. Today, everything that has been designed–space ships, buildings, pyramids, weapons, clothing , artwork, everything–can be traced back to a single designed object. The first designed object: the Acheulean hand axe.
The Acheulean hand axe does not look like an “axe.” There’s no handle, and no metal. It could be called the “Acheulean pointy hand rock,” because it is just a rock that has been chipped and shaped, usually into the form of a tear-drop.
The first American pilot's license went to William P. MacCracken, Jr., the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Aeronautics. Apparently it was offered to Orville Wright, but he wasn't flying at the time and declined.
Some say the Laurel Canyon music scene began when Frank Zappa moved to the corner of Lookout Mountain and Laurel Canyon Boulevard in the late 1960s. Former Byrds bassist Chris Hillman recalls writing “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” in Laurel Canyon in 1966 in his house, on a steep winding street with a name he doesn’t remember. The Doors’ lead singer Jim Morrison reportedly wrote “Love Street” while living behind the Laurel Canyon Country Store. Michelle Phillips lived with John Phillips on Lookout Mountain in 1965 during the Mamas and the Papas’ heyday. Books and documentaries have mythologized and romanticized this woodsy canyon nestled behind Sunset Boulevard in the Hollywood Hills. Still, misconceptions continue.
What is undeniably true is that from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s some of the most melodic, atmospheric, and subtly political American popular music was written by residents of, or those associated with, Laurel Canyon—including Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Chris Hillman, Roger McGuinn, J. D. Souther, Judee Sill, the Mamas and the Papas, Carole King, the Eagles, Richie Furay (in Buffalo Springfield and Poco), and many more. They made music together, played songs for one another with acoustic guitars in all-night jam sessions in each other’s houses. Many of those houses were cottages with stained-glass windows, and fireplaces that warmed the living rooms in the chilly L.A. nights. They took drugs together, formed bands together, broke up those bands, and formed other bands. Many of them slept with each other. The music was mislabeled “soft rock” or “folk rock,” especially in the Northeast, where critics panned it as granola-infused hippie music—too “mellow” and too white. But in truth, it was an amalgam of influences that included blues, rock and roll, jazz, Latin, country and western, psychedelia, bluegrass, and folk. It certainly was a forerunner of today’s “Americana.”
GREENE: That's Amit Peled. And the piece of wood he's talking about is a centuries-old cello once owned by his idol, the late, great cellist Pablo Casals. As a child, Amit listened to Casals' music on cassette, again and again. And as he told us on yesterday's program, the late maestro's wife loaned him Casals' cello after some probing interviews. We wanted to hear more today about what it was like to first take that cello out of the case.
PELED: Your dream is, OK, I'll take this cello, and I'll put the bow and it will sound like the most amazing cello I remember from that tape cassette from my childhood. But I took it out, and it was like an old man saying to me, why are you bothering me? Let me keep sleeping. What are you doing? And I could smell his pipe. Casals would teach with his pipe on. And the ashes would fall into the cello. He wouldn't care. He loved the cello, but he would just - full of ashes. And you know people who smoke pipe. You smell the pipe through them all the time.
PELED: And I could smell it. The cello was alive in that sense but was dead musically.
GREENE: After some restoration, it is now alive. And he played it for us in our studios.
Some years ago the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (the doomsday clock group) did a science & history piece about nuclear secrets hit men
one of the stories
From 24 January to 4 February 1944, Heisenberg traveled to occupied Copenhagen, after the German Army confiscated Bohr's Institute of Theoretical Physics. He made a short return trip in April. In December, Heisenberg lectured in neutral Switzerland. The United States Office of Strategic Services sent former major league baseball catcher and OSS agent Moe Berg to attend the lecture carrying a pistol, with orders to shoot Heisenberg if his lecture indicated that Germany was close to completing an atomic bomb. Heisenberg did not give such an indication, so Berg decided not to shoot him, a decision Berg later described as his own "uncertainty principle”
Lyndon Johnson has been credited with almost single-handedly pushing and pulling Congress to pass huge pieces of legislation -- the Great Society. Julian Zelizer's new book The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society notes history was more complex than the simple story of a mythically powerful and saavy LBJ. An excerpt appears in Slate.
The committee chairmen were shocked but not moved by Kennedy’s assassination. When Johnson called on the nation to fulfill Kennedy’s agenda in order to honor the life of the martyred leader, congressional conservatives responded with stolid indifference. When Johnson took office, liberalism was in bad shape, fragile and ineffective, beset on all sides by powerful enemies. If Johnson was going to persuade Congress to pass his policy wish list, he would have to change the power structure that reinforced the conservative stranglehold on the legislative process.
Despite the nostalgia many feel today for the Congress of the 1960s—wishful memories of an institution where it was easier to pass legislation—the truth is that until 1964 Congress was seen as a dysfunctional branch of government, where southern Democrats and Republicans regularly brought the legislative process to a complete standstill. The short period in which Congress enacted most of the Great Society programs was more an aberration than the norm in those years.
The second myth about the 1960s has to do with presidential power. Much of the history written about the Great Society in this period presents it as the product of Lyndon Johnson’s brilliant legislative prowess—how he wielded the power of the presidency to force legislators to vote for legislation they had long vehemently opposed. “Johnson left huge footprints wherever he stepped,” wrote the historian Bruce Schulman, “overwhelming nearly everyone who crossed his path and achieving more than nearly any other American politician.”