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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Thursday links

October 17, 1814: the London Beer Flood killed 8 people.

Inside Notre Dame: a blow-by-blow account of the restoration process.

Here, on one sheet of paper, is a map of the entire internet as of 1973.

How to hide a billion dollars.

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include that time Columbus (using knowledge of an upcoming eclipse) tricked the Jamaicans into providing supplies, painting zebra stripes on cows to ward off biting flies, everything you wanted to know about eyebrow interpretation from the 16th century, and making a knife out of frozen human poop. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

October 17, 1814: the London Beer Flood killed 8 people

For those interested in the history of beer, the London Beer Flood (wiki) took place on October 17, 1814:

On Monday 17th October 1814, a terrible disaster claimed the lives of at least 8 people in St Giles, London. A bizarre industrial accident resulted in the release of a beer tsunami onto the streets around Tottenham Court Road.

The Horse Shoe Brewery stood at the corner of Great Russell Street and Tottenham Court Road. 

In 1810 the brewery had had a 22 foot high wooden fermentation tank installed on the premises. Holding the equivalent of over 3,500 barrels of porter ale, it was held together by massive iron rings. At around 4:30pm on 17 October 1814, storehouse clerk George Crick inspected the tank and noticed that one of the 700-pound iron hoops had slipped off the cask, but, as this occurred two or three times a year, it did not seem unusual and he thought nothing of it. Despite the tank being full and pressure from the fermentation building inside, Crick’s boss told him that no harm would ensue from the broken ring and instructed him to write a letter to another brewery employee requesting it to be fixed at a later date.
Soon after, at around 5:30pm, Crick heard a massive explosion from inside the storeroom. The tank had ruptured, releasing the hot fermenting ale with such force that the vat burst into splinters and the back wall of the brewery collapsed. The blast also set off a chain reaction, breaking off the valve of an adjoining cask and breaking open more vats, adding their contents to the flood which had now burst out onto the street.
More than 320,000 gallons of beer were released into the area. This was St Giles Rookery, a densely populated London slum of cheap housing and tenements inhabited by the poor, the destitute, prostitutes and criminals.

19th century engraving of the event
The flood reached George Street and New Street within minutes, swamping them with a tide of alcohol. The 15 foot high wave of beer and debris inundated the basements of two houses, causing them to collapse. In one of the houses, Mary Banfield and her daughter Hannah were taking tea when the flood hit; both were killed.

In the basement of the other house, an Irish wake was being held for a 2 year old boy who had died the previous day. The four mourners were all killed. The wave also took out the wall of the Tavistock Arms pub, trapping the teenage barmaid Eleanor Cooper in the rubble. In all, eight people were killed. Three brewery workers were rescued from the waist-high flood and another was pulled alive from the rubble.

All this ‘free’ beer led to hundreds of people scooping up the liquid in whatever containers they could. Some resorted to just drinking it, leading to reports of the death of a ninth victim some days later from alcoholic poisoning.

The Horseshoe Brewery at the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford 
Street. (source)
‘The bursting of the brew-house walls, and the fall of heavy timber, materially contributed to aggravate the mischief, by forcing the roofs and walls of the adjoining houses.‘ The Times, 19th October 1814.

Some relatives exhibited the corpses of the victims for money. In one house, the macabre exhibition resulted in the collapse of the floor under the weight of all the visitors, plunging everyone waist-high into a beer-flooded cellar.

The stench of beer in the area persisted for months afterwards.

The brewery was taken to court over the accident but the disaster was ruled to be an Act of God, leaving no one responsible.

The repaired Horse Shoe Brewery in 1830
The flood cost the brewery around £23000 (approx. £1.25 million today). However the company were able to reclaim the excise duty paid on the beer, which saved them from bankruptcy. They were also granted ₤7,250 (₤400,000 today) as compensation for the barrels of lost beer.

This unique disaster was responsible for the gradual phasing out of wooden fermentation casks to be replaced by lined concrete vats. The Horse Shoe Brewery was demolished in 1922; the Dominion Theatre now sits partly on its site.

Here's a brief documentary:

More here, here and here.

This is, of course, reminiscient of Boston's 1919 2.3 million gallon molasses flood, which killed 21 people

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Here, on one sheet of paper, is a map of the entire internet as of 1973

A bit of internet history, via Twitter user David Newbury (@workergnome):
Going through old papers my dad gave me, I found his map of the internet as of May 1973. 
The entire internet.
Wikipedia's slightly clearer version of the same map used by @workergnome

In the very early years of the Internet, it was the secret and very small ARPANET (wiki) - it had started in the late 1960s, with just four locations (map, right). 

Arpanet's original 4 locations, via @gadgetopia
By 1973, it had expanded to a small handful of government labs, research universities, and private companies, but still so few that the entire network could be mapped on a single sheet of paper.

Recently, Newbury found the map above among his dad’s papers and posted it online. You can find Stanford, UCLA, Utah and UCSB, the original members, but by 1973, ARPANET had expanded east, to Case Western, Carnegie Mellon, Harvard, and MIT. There are government labs, like Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and the Army’s Aberdeen Ballistic Research Lab, and private research organizations like MITRE and Xerox. 

The map Newbury found was printed in a report from the NASA Ames Research Center, which also included this map, showing the geographical spread of the network:

The network, mapped. NASA
And by 1977, there was this, which claimed it was based on the “best information obtainable”. Larger version here.

No mention of Al Gore, who's actual quote on the subject was, "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet."

via Atlas Obscura

Monday, October 14, 2019

Monday links

That time Columbus tricked Jamaicans into providing supplies using knowledge of an upcoming eclipse. Related; Columbus has been cleared of importing syphilis from the Americas to Europe.

Why Are Plastic Army Men Still from World War II?

Painting 'Zebra Stripes' on Cows Wards Off Biting Flies.

Physiognomy of eyebrows: everything you wanted to know about eyebrow interpretation from the 16th century.

The Behind-the-Scenes Quest to Find Mister Rogers’s Signature Cardigans - his mother knitted them for him, and he wore those for another 10 years after his death. They were not easy to replace.

Scientists Try to Make a Knife out of Frozen Human Poop.

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include how ancient Greeks dig a 4000-foot tunnel from both ends and met exactly in the middle (200 years before Euclid), the invention of rock, paper, scissors (and how to win), awkward Russian food art, typewriter evolution, and the ownership of the North Pole.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Physiognomy of eyebrows: lots of eyebrow interpretation information from the 16th century

1: the art of discovering temperament and character from outward appearance
2: the facial features held to show qualities of mind or character by their configuration or expression
Physiognomy (wiki) has its roots in antiquity. As early as 500 B.C., Pythagoras was accepting or rejecting students based on how gifted they looked. Aristotle wrote that large-headed people were mean, those with small faces were steadfast, broad faces reflected stupidity, and round faces signaled courage.

Physiognomy—from the ancient Greek, gnomos (character) and physis (nature), hence “the character of one’s nature”—really became popular again in 16th-century Europe, as physicians, philosophers, and scientists searched for tangible, external clues to internal temperaments.

John Varley: Sketch for ‘Treatise on Zodiacal Physiognomy’ 1828
Via the Folger: from a treatise circa 1570 devoted to physiognomy and to specific characteristics comes this analysis of eyebrow shape:

Straight brows

It is generally a good thing to hang around with people with straight eyebrows. 

The first entry describes someone with “strayghte browes”:
“he ys good and wyse trewe in harte worde and deed kepe thow in his companye,” or with modern spelling, “he is good and wise, true in heart, word, and deed. Keep thou in his company.” 
Beetle brows 

Beetle brows = goggle-eyed, shrew-like, deceivable, lime-fingered = not good.

“Byttell browes,” or beetle brows, are another story: 
“that man that ys byttell browed be ware of hyme for he ys lyke vnto the gogell yed man he ys a shrowe in in all manner of companye he ys deseuable and lyme handed be ware of hym.”
Modernized, this reads: “That man that is beetle-browed, beware of him, for he is like unto the goggle-eyed man. He is a shrew in all manner of company. He is deceivable and lime-handed. Beware of him.” Beetle-browed refers to very prominent and shaggy eyebrows; goggle-eyed refers to prominent eyes; and lime-handed refers to someone prone to pilfering.


Thomas Hill’s The contemplation of mankinde, 
contayning a singuler discourse after the art of phisiognomie 
(London, 1571) [STC 13482] includes a 
helpful image of a unibrow (Folger STC 13482, copy 1)
Unibrowed people are unsteadfast and want to eat all of your meat and drink.

Next we have a description of “the here betwine the browes and the nose,” or what we would think of as the unibrow. The unibrowed person has 
“the sygne of the graye yes he ys vnstedfaste and hontethe far and [comtethe?] good meates and drinkes nor he will not depart yf he maye.”
The passage connected to this illustration explains:
The Phisiognomer Cocles reporteth, that when the ouerbrowes appeare thicke of heares, and so plentifull or aboundaunt, that these (as the Philosopher writeth) doe discende to the beginning of the nose, and appear through the same whole formed togither: doe then signifie great adustion: and such hauing like ouerbrowes, are melancholicke, and of an euill nature: yea wicked persons, and sometimes theeues, rauishers of maydens, Murderers, but deceyuers allwayes: and to bee briefe, all vices, and wickednesse, are comprehended and knowne in those persons.
Red brows, hanging brows, and more

The whole leaf, including entries for red brows, brown hair (with straight brows), and a straight forehead.
Further down this same leaf, red brows indicate someone who is lime-handed and deceivable. Brown hair and straight brows, “not hangen but mesurable”—that is, not drooping but of moderate thickness—indicate someone of good of manners and true of heart, word, and deed. The reader is advised to remain in the fellowship of such men.
And the final eyebrow description: “hangen browes with yellow yes blacke here on his browes with white here;” that is, “hanging brows with yellow eyes, black hair on his brows, with white hair”:
That man is a stronge theff and shall be hanged
or elce slayne other eles he shall dye some
shamfull dethe for hathe of all planattes a signe
as saynte Austen sayethe, and godwyne the abbote
for the men that be borne in suche a tyme that
he shall have hys desceuynge but that clerkes
sayethe that over all thynges all mysdedes and
good prayers destroyethe wyked desceuynges.
Other entries refer to forehead types, head size, ear and nose features, hair color and length, and lack of hair altogether (“balled” men). 
It might be easy to laugh at the idea that eyebrows and other facial features could be indicative of one’s character, but physiognomy, in combination with astrology and humoral theory, was a popular pseudo-science in the early modern period, leading people to evaluate past actions and predict future behavior based on one’s visage. It remained popular at least into Victorian times. This is from The Physiognomist's Own Book: an introduction to physiognomy drawn from the writings of Lavater, from 1841:

In such a face we may search in vain, for a single expression of frankness; for the slightly projecting chin, when accompanied with small penetrating eyes, denotes the absence of sincerity. There is no display of benevolence in the oblique mouth ; and avarice reveals itself in the close-locked lips. Combine all these features, and they result in a cunning, deceitful, avaricious, and not merely firm, but stubborn old fellow. Such a man moves quick, and speaks slowly and circumspectly; for suspicion is the mainspring of his character."
Ask the Past has a passage from a similar work, dated 1562:
John Bulwer, Anthropometamorphosis
"The eyebrowes that be very heary declare folyshnes of maners and mischiefe... The eyebrowes whyche descende downe warde on the syde of the nose, and raysed vpward on the syde of the temples, and hangyng downeward on bothe sydes declare the man to be wythout shame enuious, folyshe insatiable, and lyke vnto hogges. The eyebrowes which descend crooked on the side of the nose declare the man to be witty in naughty thinges, and whan they be crooked on the out side of the eye, they signifie the man to be recreatife & merry... When the eyebrowes comme togyther, they shewe the man to be verye pensyfe and not very wyse." 
~Richard Roussat, Arcandam