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Archive for September, 2011

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Thomas Parr, loyal subject of 10 English monarchs

Posted in Historical articles, Oddities on Thursday, 29 September 2011

This edited article about Old Parr originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 827 published on 19 November 1977.

Earl of Arundel, picture, image, illustration

The Earl of Arundel, who brought ‘Old Parr’ to the court of Charles I

Thomas Parr was remarkable for just one reason. He lived through the reigns of 10 English monarchs in his 152 years of life. Predictably he was given the nickname of “Old Parr”.

He was born at Winnington, near Alderbury, Shropshire in 1483. In the year 1500, he left home to become a servant, returning 18 years later to inherit his father’s smallholding. Here he remained for over a century.

His life went peacefully by. He was said to be a hard worker with temperate habits. At the age of 80, he married for the first time, and lived with his wife until her death 32 years later. His second marriage, to a widow, took place when he was 120.

News of this remarkable old man reached the ears of the Earl of Arundel, who was so intrigued that he went to see “Old Parr”. He also conducted investigations which satisfied him that Parr really had been born in 1483.

The Earl decided that Old Parr was such a curiosity that he should go to the Court in London so that King Charles I could see him. A special litter was constructed so that he would not be tired by the journey. In London he met the King and became a person of great interest at court. People flocked to see him and to talk to him about things which had happened during his long lifetime.

It was this attention, coupled with the change of air and diet, which brought his life to an end. On 14th November 1635, Old Parr died at the Earl of Arundel’s house.

When the Mediterranean Sea dried up

Posted in Geography, Geology, Science, Sea on Thursday, 29 September 2011

This edited article about geography originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 827 published on 19 November 1977.

Prehistoric landscape, picture, image, illustration

Seismic activity on earth 4,000 million years ago

When the US drilling ship Glomar Challenger went into the Mediterranean in 1970 on Leg 13 of a worldwide deep sea drilling project (DSDP), the scientists on board came up with some baffling results. For samples from the sea bed showed salt deposits hundreds of metres thick.

The geologists were so confused by these results that they sent a second expedition to the Mediterranean in 1975, called Leg 42A, to extract more samples. They were determined to find an explanation for the salt deposits.

They sent down seven carefully positioned probes. After examining the results, they concluded that, incredibly, the Mediterranean, millions of years ago and on several occasions, had dried out completely.

The puzzled scientists had already calculated that, if the Mediterranean were to dry out today, it would leave a layer of salt of an overall depth of only 20 metres, building up to 60 metres in the deeper parts of the sea, called basins. So salt deposits hundreds of metres thick meant that just one evaporation could not be the answer.

First, they had to be sure that evaporation was the cause. There is another way salt deposits can be formed, called precipitation. This happens when the salt content of the water reaches over 360 grammes per litre. Salt crystals then form and fall to the bottom.

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A myriad of national cheeses from milk

Posted in Animals, Farming on Wednesday, 28 September 2011

This edited article about cheese originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 826 published on 12 November 1977.

milking, picture, image, illustration

One of the first milking machines was invented in the nineteenth century

A walk around any large supermarket brings to view a huge and fascinating variety of different milk products. Cream, butter, ice cream, buttermilk, condensed milk (sweetened and unsweetened), milk powders, yoghurt and fermented milks, separated and skimmed milks – and cheese.

Cheese comes in all shapes and sizes, and its colouring can vary from creamy white to electric blue. The taste of one type of cheese can be completely different from others: it may be mild, or it may be very distinctive. Some cheese may even be totally unpleasant to some palates, for many types are so strong that only experienced cheese connoisseurs enjoy them.

Just how is this most versatile of milk products made, and how many types are to be found across the world? The methods vary from country to country, but the same basic principles always apply.

As for the number of different types? We could quite easily fill a book in trying to cover that particular subject.

The basic ingredient for making any kind of cheese is pure milk. It may well be that the milk used to make a certain variety of cheese has come from a goat, or from some other animal. Cow’s milk, though, is the most commonly used in the types of cheese that we find on our own tables.

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The inspiring Spanish heroine of Saragossa

Posted in Bravery, Famous battles, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, War on Wednesday, 28 September 2011

This edited article about Spain originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 826 published on 12 November 1977.

Maid of Saragossa, picture, image, illustration

Agostina, the Maid of Saragossa

Augustina picked her way through the rubble towards the city gate, carefully balancing the tray of drinks she was taking to the dust-choked Spanish soldiers defending it. The French were making one of their frequent attacks on the besieged Saragossa.

When she arrived she saw to her horror that every man on the battery was dead. She did not take long to realise what she must do. She pushed aside the corpses and began to man the cannon single-handed. The young girl then proceeded to pour a steady stream of white hot iron on the French lines. The Spaniards, who had been deserting their positions all along the wall, stopped to stare and marvel at her courage and unwavering accuracy. Quickly they returned to their posts and took up the battle with fresh heart.

Augustina, meanwhile, stuck to her cannon and caused havoc and devestation among the French. The word spread throughout the city that a woman was fighting with conspicuous bravery in the front line and other women rushed to help.

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Taming the tornado to harness its power

Posted in Science on Wednesday, 28 September 2011

This edited article about tornados originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 826 published on 12 November 1977.

tornado, picture, image, illustration

Taming the power of the tornado

In the Mississippi basin of America, spring and early summer are not just seasons when nature comes back to life after the cold winter. For at this time, the inhabitants of the area keep an uneasy watch on the skies, looking for a hint of an approaching tornado. This twisting, tunnel-shaped vortex of air can sweep down on a community at speeds of up to 80 km/h (about 50 m.p.h.). A tornado may hit a town for just one minute, but in that minute it wreaks enormous havoc: trees are uprooted, roofs torn from houses, cars are lifted like toys and anyone caught out in the open can find himself sucked up into the swirling mass.

There is, of course, no way in which this terrible menace can be harnessed, but the way tornadoes work has led scientists to think of how they might be produced artificially, and their power controlled so that it could be used to generate electricity.

Natural tornadoes – or whirlwinds – are formed when air near the surface of the earth is strongly heated by the sun, so that it rises rapidly and is then made to rotate by other climatic forces. Can this natural occurrence be reproduced in a man-made structure? Researchers at the Grumman Aerospace Company in the United States of America think it can, and they have already built a small test model to prove their theory.

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Mario Lanza – Hollywood’s ‘Great Caruso’

Posted in Cinema, Historical articles, Music, Theatre on Wednesday, 28 September 2011

This edited article about music originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 826 published on 12 November 1977.

Caruso, picture, image, illustration

Mario Lanza portrayed the world’s most famous tenor in The Great Caruso, by Ralph Bruce

It was midnight and Mario Lanza, the enormous Hollywood singer, was feeling peckish. There was nothing unusual in this as Lanza could eat almost continuously all day, every day.

On this occasion however, the enormous larder in his Hollywood mansion was empty and none of his favourite restaurants in Los Angeles had a free table. After telling a friend he would “die” if he could not have a meal – his sixth that day – he decided to take matters into his own hands.

He drove speedily to a well-known delicatessen on Sunset Boulevard and knocked anxiously on the door, but no-one answered. The staff had already left and there did not seem to be a nightwatchman in the shop, which was patronised by some of Hollywood’s most famous film stars.

With hunger gnawing at him, Lanza, who weighed a massive 125 kilos, strode out into the road. He turned to face the door and, hunching his shoulders and clenching his fists, charged at it. He crashed through the door as if it were made of balsa wood, and a friend who had gone with him heard him banging about inside.

Suddenly however there was a louder and more ominous noise. His forced entry had weakened part of the roof, which crashed into the shop, burying the huge singer. His friend thought he had been injured, or even killed, by the cave-in, and was about to send for an ambulance when Lanza made a dramatic reappearance. His hair and silk suit were covered with plaster and he looked as if he had been in a fight, but he was happy. He was triumphantly holding a joint of roast beef, and he immediately sank his teeth into it. “That’s better,” he declared between mouthfuls. “Now I can go to sleep on a full stomach.”

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Savonarola’s fanaticism lights the Bonfire of the Vanities

Posted in Historical articles, History, Politics, Religion on Wednesday, 28 September 2011

This edited article about the Renaissance originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 826 published on 12 November 1977.

Savonarola, picture, image, illustration

‘The Bonfire of the Vanities’ instigated by Savonarola, by Angus McBride

The worldly culture of the Renaissance was anathema to Friar Savonarola, who preached fiery sermons of repentance and a return to more Christian values

The crowd was in an ugly mood. They had gone to the church of San Marco to hear Friar Savonarola preach. Instead they could only hear drums and shouting as Savonarola’s enemies tried to drown this fire-breathing friar’s words. Now Savonarola and the crowd were jostling down a narrow street towards another church.

Suddenly a barrage of hoots, whistles and insults was flung at the fanatical throng by a crowd of children. These were the sons of those Florentines who opposed Friar Savonarola’s puritanical ideas. At once, the boys who were marching with the friar returned the insults with a vengeance – adding a few sticks and stones for good measure.

Soon a full-scale children’s battle was raging.

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The Kookaburra is cousin to the Kingfisher

Posted in Birds, Nature, Wildlife on Wednesday, 28 September 2011

This edited article about birds originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 826 published on 12 November 1977.

kookaburra, picture, image, illustration

The laughing kookaburra

Every morning, people who live in the Australian countryside wake to a wild chorus of crazy laughter. The kookaburras, or laughing jackasses, are greeting the dawn of a new day.

The name kookaburra comes from two Australian aboriginal words meaning “the bird that laughs”. But many of the people living in the Australian bush call it “the settlers’ clock” beause its curiously human hearty laughter is heard so regularly at daybreak.

Kookaburras belong to the kingfisher family. There are about ten species of kookaburra and they are found throughout Australia and New Guinea. They are all very much alike except for slight differences in size and occasional variations in colour.

The largest species of kookaburra is nearly half-a-metre from beak to tail. It has a whitish-brown head and body, with brown-speckled wings and tail.

The top of the head is brown with rather fluffy feathers. Reaching from each eye to the side of the head is a narrow brown streak, which gives the bird the quaint appearance of wearing a pair of born-rimmed spectacles.

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Sweden’s heroic king, Gustavus Adolphus

Posted in Famous battles, Historical articles, Royalty, War on Wednesday, 28 September 2011

This edited article about Sweden originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 826 published on 12 November 1977.

Gustavus Adolphus, picture, image, illustration

Gustavus Adolphus by Dan Escott

Gustavus Adolphus, born in Stockholm on 9th December, 1594, was a remarkable man in many ways. Although he was a great warrior king, his battles were fought to preserve for his country the peace which he was trying to build up after years of impoverishing warfare.

At the age of 15, Gustavus showed such remarkable administrative ability that he was allowed to govern his own duchy of Vestmanland. When, in 1611, he ascended the throne of Sweden, he immediately made plans to end the futile wars which his country had been carrying on with the Danes and Russians.

Later, Gustavus Adolphus was forced to wage war against the Poles who were threatening Sweden’s security. From these campaigns he emerged as one of the cleverest military leaders of all time.

His victories were due to his ability as a tactician and his far-seeing methods of warfare. He also reorganised the Swedish forces so that they became a model for the armies of other nations.

Among his peaceful achievements was the country’s secondary school system.

On the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War (the last attempt of the Catholic powers of Europe to stamp out the Reformation). Gustavus Adolphus and his army went to the aid of the German Protestants. By doing this they demonstrated to all European Protestants that it was possible to defy the power of the Catholic Emperor.

The Swedes entered Germany and successfully fought their way west and south, until the enemy general, Wallenstein, managed to interpose his army between the Protestants and their Saxony base.

On 6th November, 1632, the two great armies closed in battle at Lützen.

At the height of the battle as the right wing of the Swedish cavalry reformed after a successful charge, the king looked towards the centre of his army’s formation. He saw, through the mist and smoke, that his infantry were being hard pressed. Shouting a command to his men, he wheeled his horse and spurred it towards the thick of the battle.

It was the last moment of a great king. A musket ball struck him from his horse and he died with the fight raging round him, not knowing that by the end of the day his forces would have achieved a tremendous victory.

Marie Roland, heroine of the true Revolution

Posted in Historical articles, Politics, Revolution on Wednesday, 28 September 2011

This edited article about the French Revolution originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 826 published on 12 November 1977.

The Girondists, picture, image, illustration

The Girondists including Madame Roland

Among the many victims of the French Revolution was Marie Roland – a young woman who was sent to the guillotine for the part she played in a struggle for power.

Just before she was executed in Paris on 8th November, 1793, Madame Marie Jeanne Roland declared: “Oh, Liberty what crimes are committed in thy name!” For these few words which so exactly summed up the darker side of the French Revolution, she has been lastingly remembered.

Marie Jeanne Roland was born in Paris on 18th March, 1754. When she grew up she came to believe passionately in liberty and the idea of founding a new and just State in France.

In 1780, she married a government official who shared her views, and together they worked for a revolution which would bring equality to all. To this end they became leaders in the Girondist movement.

The Girondists – so-called because many of their members were from the Gironde district of Bordeaux – were opposed to the revolutionary leader Marat. A struggle for power ensued, which Marat won in May, 1793.

There followed a Reign of Terror in which the Girondists were persecuted. Among the victims was Marie Roland. She was taken to the guillotine, where she met her end with great bravery.