I started listening to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History recently and I’m now on episode 42 dealing with the morality of dropping the atomic bombs in World War II.
If you’re at all upset by graphic descriptions of war you don’t want to listen to this or read the following which Dan quoted in the episode.
The rain of large sparks, blowing down the street, were each as large as a five-mark piece. I struggled to run against the wind but could only reach a house on the corner of the Sorbenstrasse . . . .[We] couldn’t go on across the Eiffestrasse because the asphalt road had melted. There were people on the roadway, some already dead, some still lying alive but stuck in the asphalt. They must have rushed onto the roadway without thinking. Their feet had got stuck and then they had put out their hands to try to get out again. They were on their hands and knees screaming.
Kate Hoffmeister, then nineteen, on the firestorm in Hamburg in 1943 (source)
It’s an amazing story about the efforts in 1760 to measure the distance to Venus. They had to travel far north and also south to the tropics to measure the angle of view from two known locations. Astonishing that they did this so long ago, even using the moon as a GPS, a technique that had only just been figured out.
The global positioning satellite in this case was the moon. In the 1760s science was for the first time able to predict with uncanny accuracy the moon’s exact motion in the sky years ahead of time. So some of these Venus transit pioneers, especially England’s Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne, had mastered a method by which a ship’s navigator anywhere on the Earth could observe the moon with a £8 sextant and a reference manual (costing a few shillings) — and in short order discover their exact location on the planet. The long-sought solution to the longitude problem was now easy, inexpensive and at hand. (source)
Edit: Some amazing photos of the Venus transit, as taken from the Nasa website: 1, 2, 3
Now this is interesting. podiobooks.com offer free author-read audio books. I haven’t listened to any yet but I like that the site indicated which are family friendly. You can of course give a donation to encourage the authors and keep the site running!
The interesting bit is that books are serialized as podcasts and they deliver them using a personalised feed.