The animal trials of the Middle Ages

In 1386, a large, diverse crowd gathered in the public square in Falaise, Normandy, France. They were there to witness the execution of a prisoner convicted of murder after mutilating the face and arms of a child. The prisoner wore a new suit of men’s clothes and even the hangman provided himself with a new […]

The long and short of wars

Every high school and college student has heard of the Hundred Years’ War, even if very few of us recall the circumstances or combatants. Yet while long-lasting, it doesn’t compare to the length of other wars.

On the other extreme is the little-known Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896. Essentially, it was a dispute over who got […]

The pope who wrote a bestselling erotic novel

Throughout its history, the papacy has had its fair share of reprobates. At least Pope Pius II dallied from the straight and narrow before he was ordained, let alone pope. As a literati of his time, he even wrote a bestselling erotic novel.

Enea Silvio Piccolomini (“Aeneas Silvius” in the Latin used by the educated) […]

When Pepsi was a world military power

The rivalry between Coke and Pepsi is caustic enough that the term “Cola Wars” is generally recognized in America. As part of that war, Pepsi actually acquired a flotilla of warships in 1989. So many in fact that Pepsi could have bee considered the sixth strongest military in the world at the time.

The story […]

Close encounters of the turd kind

“Defecation and urination have been bothersome aspects of space travel from the beginning of manned space flight.”

This conspicuous observation opens the second chapter of a 1976 NASA report called Biomedical Results of Apollo, which summarized what was learned from biomedical research in the Apollo missions. The report reveals the rather primitive nature of “fecal […]