London’s Great Smog of 1952

fog of London

In 1952, weather conditions led to a massive smog descending on and gathering over London. Visibility was less than 30 centimeters (12 in), the air was black with coal and pollution, and the usually bustling city ground to a standstill. By the time the smog had cleared, 4,000 people had died from exposure to the pollution, and another 8,000 would die in the following weeks from complications. The smog would lead to increased awareness of the problems of pollution over city centers.

London has long had something of a romantic relationship with their fog. Our image of the Industrial Revolution often involves people wrapped in long trench coats, making their way through the pea soup that’s settled over the streets, barely pushed back by the gas lamps that line the sidewalk. That’s not an old image, either; in 1952, a smog settled over London that not only stayed for four days, but led to the deaths of more than 12,000 people.

On December 5, 1952, several factors came together in what would be a deadly mix. A prolonged cold spell meant that people were firing up their home heating units, meaning smoke was pouring from every residential chimney in earnest and for days, more smoke was added to the already heavy output that was gushing from factories across the city. A relatively new phenomenon was also adding to the problem—cars. An anti-cyclone was hovering over the area, keeping the smog from rising off the city. The wind that normally would have helped disperse the smoke had died, and smoke kept building up until the city turned black.

At the height of the event now dubbed The Great Smog, visibility was so bad that it was impossible for people to see their own feet. Cars were abandoned in the street as people sought shelter indoors, although they were no better off. People were so distracted by the fog that many lost track of friends and family members, whom they would later find had died in what they thought was the safety of their own homes.

Some did make it to hospitals—on foot, as even the ambulance services had stopped running. Nurses recount admitting patients whose lips had turned blue, patients who were struggling to breathe against the suffocating smoke. In the four days that the smog had settled over the city, about 4,000 people suffocated. For many fairly healthy individuals, the smog was survivable—but among the dead were children, the elderly, and chronic smokers whose lungs and respiratory systems were already comprised.

Schools closed, and so did airports and train stations. Buses stopped running, and among the first to die were the cattle that were on sale at the Smithfield Market. When they were butchered, it was found that their insides had turned black from the smoke and their meat was unusable. People’s clothes were permeated; even underwear turned black.

Winds came on the fourth day, and cleared out much of the smog. For many, the damage was already done, though, and another 8,000 people would die in the following weeks from smog-related illnesses.

The Great Smog of 1952 wasn’t the first time the city had been halted by smog and coal tar in the air. In December of 1873, the death toll was about 40 percent higher than usual because of the smog that settled over the city. Other smogs happened in 1880, 1882, 1891, and 1892, most severe around areas where there was a heavy concentration of factories and, consequently, workers.

After The Great Smog of 1952, legislation was passed to begin eliminating coal use in factory and residential fires. Originally, paraffin was used in place of coal, but the deadly event led to a long-lasting awareness in the city of the potential impacts of pollution.

The Most Influential Candy Bars

milky-way
Milky Way
When this bar debuted in 1923, it was the first to take inspiration from a real dessert: the milky way malted milkshake. (That’s right—it was not named after the galaxy.)

baby-ruth
Baby Ruth
When this bar launched in 1921, its makers claimed it was named after President Grover Cleveland’s daughter Ruth (who had died 17 years earlier at the age of 12). But at that time, the more obvious association was with new Yankees star Babe Ruth, making this the first candy bar to profit from the success of a public figure—even though he wasn’t being compensated.

crunch
Nestle Crunch
Prior to this bar’s introduction in 1937, candy-bar fillings were somewhat rich: nuts, caramel, etc. By using dirt-cheap puffed rice, however, Nestle helped mainstream the notion that candy could be almost anything you put into chocolate—an idea that brought candy-bar prices down and spawned treats like Krackel .

cadbury
Cadbury Milk Chocolate
The Cadbury family’s idyllic factory village in Birmingham, England—where these bars were created in 1897—helped inspire Milton S. Hershey’s own facility in Pennsylvania. “It was a sort of social utopia,” explains Deborah Cadbury, a family descendant and author of Chocolate Wars. “The Cadbury brothers as Quakers were the first to really look after their employees and provide pensions and security of employment and a living wage.”

Chicken Dinner Candy Bar Wrapper
Chicken Dinner
This bar, which debuted in 1923, was the first chocolate bar to be marketed as nutritious; advertisements touted the nut-packed treats as “candy made good.” Though Sperry’s Chicken Dinner was discontinued in the 1960s, its success helped spawn the power bar industry, paving the way for brands like Clif and Luna, whose bars offer vitamins alongside hearty doses of chocolate, caramel and more.

Snickers
More than 80 years after its launch in 1930, this Mars bar is world’s best-selling international confection. And although it may not have revolutionized candy-bar taste or distribution, it’s unparalleled at selling itself: its star-studded ad campaign “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” helped sales hit around $3.5 billion in 2012, outpacing M&Ms, Reeses and Kit Kat. Also, says Kimmerle, it helps that Snickers offers the holy trinity of confection: nougat, caramel and peanuts—coated in chocolate.

Nestle Chocolate Bar 1940s
Nestle Milk Chocolate
Prior to this bar’s introduction in 1875, bar-form cocoa was bitter, chewy and dark. And chocolatiers couldn’t sweeten it with regular milk, as the liquid invited mildew growth. By adding the condensed milk pioneered by Henri Nestlé for infant formula, however, Swiss chocolatier Daniel Peter solved that problem—his product was smoother, sweeter and had a longer shelf life. That breakthrough paved the way for almost every modern-day chocolate bar, including Hershey’s, Lindt and Godiva.

Hershey’s Milk Chocolate
Nestlé may have invented milk chocolate, but Hershey’s made it mainstream. By building his factory right in the middle of dairy land—and using local milk to amp up production volume—Milton Hershey powered an unparalleled distribution network, says Sweet Tooth author Kate Hopkins, turning chocolate into an American obsession. Since its first bar debuted in 1900, Hershey’s has become one of the world’s most recognizable brands: its treats fed soldiers during World War II; its ad campaigns were revered; and now, there’s a $23.5 million museum dedicated to its legacy.

kit-kat
Kit Kat
Beyond being the first candy bar to be marketed around sharing, which helped turn chocolate into a social snack, Kit Kat was also the first to gain a global following. Whereas Hershey’s and Cadbury cornered different markets with similar products, the wafer-filled Kit Kats launched in both Europe and the U.S. before entering Australia, Asia and Africa—paving the way for other blockbuster bars like Snickers and Butterfinger.

Burger King and McDonald’s Pay Fast Food Workers $20 an Hour in Denmark

Imagine a world where fast food workers can pay their rent and utility bills, plus buy their children food and clothes. Well, you don’t have to imagine it because, such a place exists. It’s called Denmark.

A New York Times article on Tuesday [3] chronicled the life of a Danish fast food worker named Hampus Elofsson, who works 40 hours a week at a Burger King in Copenhagen, and makes enough not only to pay his bills, but to save some money and enjoy a night out with friends. His wage: $20 per hour. Yep, you read that right. The base wage in Denmark is close to two and a half times what American fast food workers make.

Elofsson’s pay is the kind of wage that Anthony Moore, a shift manager in Tampa, Florida can only dream about. He earns $9 an hour for his low-level management job, or about $300 per week, and like half of America’s fast food workers, he relies on some form of public assistance to make up the difference between that wage and barely eking out a living.

“It’s very inadequate,” Moore, a single father of two young daughters, told the Times. He gets $164 in food stamps for his daughters. “Sometimes I ask, ‘Do I buy food or do I buy them clothes? . . . If I made $20 an hour, I could actually live, instead of dreaming about living.”

Of course, in America, fast food workers and their advocates aren’t even dreaming about $20 per hour. They are asking for $15 per hour, and the fast food industry, as well as conservative economists and politicians are scoffing at that, and fighting any pay increase tooth and nail.

What Danish fast food workers have that their American counterparts do not is a powerful union, and fast food franchise owners who are willing to make a little less of a profit, though they still do make a profit. Denmark is also a much smaller country, with a higher cost of living and a huge social safety net. And yes, a fast food burger is a little more expensive in Denmark than here in America.

Martin Drescher, the general manager of HMSHost Denmark, the airport restaurants operator, told the Times: “We have to acknowledge it’s more expensive to operate. But we can still make money out of it — and McDonald’s does, too. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be in Denmark.”

He also said: “The company doesn’t get as much profit, but the profit is shared a little differently. We don’t want there to be a big difference between the richest and poorest, because poor people would just get really poor. We don’t want people living on the streets. If that happens, we consider that we as a society have failed.”

Can you imagine?

The Healthy Watermelon

Watermelons

Watermelons originated in southern Africa, from where they spread thousands of years ago to the Nile Valley. In recorded history, seeds of this fruit have been discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamen. The Bible mentions watermelon as food consumed by the ancient Israelites.

Watermelon spread north to the Mediterranean and Europe with early Moors. They were carried as far east as China, which is today the largest producer of watermelon. Some have posited that watermelons were introduced to the Southern US by African slaves, but they were discovered being cultivated from the northern to southern states by Native Americans as early as the 1500’s. There is some debate today as to whether watermelons are a fruit or a vegetable.

The consumption of lycopene, contained most plentifully in watermelon at its peak ripeness, has been demonstrated to increase bone health. The amino acid citrulline in watermelon converts to another amino acid – arginine – in our kidneys and other organs, and in preliminary laboratory studies has been shown to assist the cardiovascular system, and possibly help lower body fat.

Surprisingly, watermelons are not just a refreshingly sweet, thirst quenching fruit, but are actually abundant in nutritional benefits, from vitamins and minerals to phytonutrients. They’re rich in vitamins A, C and B-complex compounds such as thiamin, riboflavin and pyridoxine. Watermelons afford a wealth of beta-carotenes, as well as folate, pantothenic acid, the amino acid citrulline and antioxidants lycopene, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin. They also contain anti-inflammatory phenolic compounds, which include both lycopene and tripterpenoid. They’re plentiful in the minerals potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, with trace amounts of selenium, iron and even calcium. The seeds of the fruit offer a wealth of nutrients as well, and should not be overlooked! Because watermelon is so nutrient rich, it’s a great juice for fasting, cleasnsing and weight loss.

Watermelon provides a rich resource of electrolytes and is void of cholesterol and nearly absent of fat, while offering a modest amount of fiber and protein, and as little as 48 calories per cup.

Daniel Webster’s Lost Chances

daniel webster

Daniel Webster had two chances to become president via the vice presidency. In 1840 the Whig party nominated William Henry Harrison for president and Harrison offered the vice presidency to Webster. Webster turned it down and Harrison died after a single month in office; his death would have made Webster president.

Eight years later Webster competed with Zachary Taylor for the Whig party’s nomination. Taylor won and invited him to be his running mate, and Webster again shunned the office, saying, “I do not propose to be buried until I am really dead and in my coffin.” Taylor won the White House and died 16 months afterward, which again would have made Webster president if he’d accepted.

Related: In the election of 1880 James Garfield simultaneously won the presidency, retained his seat in the House, and won a Senate seat — he’d been elected to all three offices at once.

Old Friends

Two elderly couples had been friends for decades, and, like clockwork, would meet once a month for dinner.

It was always the same routine, they would meet at one couples house, and after dinner the women would go to the kitchen to clean up and catch up (yeah, it’s sexist, but remember, they were raised in different times) and the men would go to the living room for some catching up of their own.

The one guy says “So, you guys do anything fun recently?” The other guy thinks about it for a moment and then replies, “Yeah… we saw a movie last week that was pretty good”.

The first guy then says, “Really? What was the name of it? Maybe we could see it, too!”

The second guy thinks for a moment and then says, “Oh jeez, my memory is so bad these days… it’s on the tip of my tongue…” And then he says, “Hey, what’s the name of those red flowers? You know, the ones with the long stems and thorns?” And the first guy replies, “You mean a rose?”

“Yeah, yeah – a rose. That’s it!” And over his shoulder he yells, “Hey, Rose! What’s the name of that movie we saw last week?”

The Explosion of Civilization

Reconstruction of Sumerian city of Ur

Reconstruction of Sumerian city of Ur

Graham Hancock, in his famous work “The Fingerprints of The Gods” argues that certain civilizations around the globe showed these signs of unusual intelligence in their architecture, science and writing systems. Intelligent human civilization extends much farther than we originally believed. The following is a presentation of some of the strange aspects of humanity that have been long forgotten, while remembering that our ancestors left us artifacts in the form of incredible structures and monuments that we are meant to decode and decipher. If the human story is a work in progress, let these monuments serve as important points to consider in the revision of this story. The monuments left behind by our ancestors would have had to coincide with their level of development given the time period; which calls for a revision of the human timeline. These historical anomalies raise questions about our collective history, and indicate how much remains to be discovered.

Human prehistory marks a time before records were kept, a time when, for several thousands of years, Cro-Magnons roamed across the planet, possibly forming small groups and living in primitive societies. The context of this strange condition changed again, approximately 15,000 years ago. When we compare the crudeness and primitive nature of Cro-Magnon side by side with the achievement of humans in the last 15,000 years, the gulf between the two widens considerably. We maintain the belief that human advancement and achievement follows a linear path upwards; each new civilization being more advanced and intelligent than the last. Just as we see jumps in advancement from one species to another.

From Neanderthal to Cro-Magnon, we see entire civilizations emerge out of nowhere with advancements in the sciences that have only recently been discovered. Several ancient civilizations across the world show an advanced level of astronomy and mathematics. As the Babylonian empire began to emerge 2500 years ago, one of their chief astronomers, Kidinnu, was able to map the annual movement of the sun and the moon that remained unchallenged until 1857, when astronomer Peter Andreas Hansen charted the arc of these celestial bodies to an error margin of only nine seconds.

Babylonian almanac

Babylonian almanac

During the Shang Dynasty of China, spanning between 1700-1100 B.C, a solar calendar known as the Ssu-Ten contained months that carried a precise length of 29.53055106 days, meaning leap years were taken into consideration and accounted for. An even earlier Chinese text, known as the Huang Ti-Ping King Su documented the Earth as a body which floated in space. Similarly, Greek scholars Permenides and Empedocles were quoted separately, stating “the moon illuminates the nights with borrowed light”. Over the last 10,000 years or so, modern humans were in possession of knowledge that suggests extraordinary intelligence. What pushed early human societies over the edge, leading them to acquire such incredible knowledge at such an early stage? From the examples noted above, this was not an isolated incident, causing only one part of the globe to develop these skills. This level of “pre-advancement” was widespread, slowly changing the context of human history.

Oracle bones

Oracle bones

Sumer is recognized as the cradle of man’s modern origins; the world’s first advanced civilization. Out of this region sprung an incredibly advanced high culture at approximately 3800 B.C. Located in the southern region of what is present day Iraq, the Sumerian civilization literally “exploded” with cultural firsts and incredible human achievements. Sumer was also known as Shinar, and was situated between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. This region came to be called Mesopotamia, from the Greek word meso meaning ‘middle’, and potamia meaning ‘rivers’. The two rivers would be instrumental in allowing this early civilization to flourish, making commerce and trade possible.

City of Sumer

City of Sumer

Mesopotamia was situated within the Fertile Crescent, where the geography, climate and presence of water encouraged the growth of agriculture. The Sumerian civilization was preceded by an earlier culture known as the Ubaid. The Ubaid were of an unknown origin, most likely comprised of the scattered tribes surrounding the two great rivers. Culture branched out into several disciplines with surprising levels of advancement. Astrology, botany, zoology, mathematics, and law would make up some of Sumer’s greatest achievements. Medicine and pharmacology were widely practiced. The first houses made out of bricks were found in this region. Sumer even had a working system of mythology, and a fully developed history of its own culture. At a time when hunter-gatherer societies were prevalent across the globe, the Sumerians were developing advanced legal codes and calculating astronomy at an intermediate level. One of the world’s first written forms sprung out of this region.

Cuneiform tablets

Cuneiform tablets

Sumerian civilization recorded their knowledge in a language known as cuneiform, consisting of narrow triangular shaped lines arranged in various patterns. The Sumerian alphabet contained pictograms – symbols that conveyed ideas and concepts in a way similar to oriental languages. This differed from phonetic values that are strung together to form words, like English. Writings were engraved on wet clay tablets which were baked and preserved. Over 500,000 of these clay tablets have been discovered, highlighting the breadth of knowledge this civilization possessed and the lengths to which they attempted to preserve it.

Sumerian civilization also developed unique landmark structures called ziggurats. These were pyramid shaped structures, hundreds of feet high; this method would predate the Gutenberg printing press by 2500 years. This high culture spanned a total of three separate dynasties, with the last one beginning at approximately 2100 B.C. This civilization brought forth two of the world’s first cities; Uruk, followed by Eridu. Both cities would act as blueprints for the new concept of the city, which would act as concentrations of skilled trades and arts. In these cities, craftsmen, writers, doctors, mathematicians and lawyers would for the first time in history, be able to exchange their services. The smaller city states of Sumer eventually underwent unification, becoming part of the Babylonian civilization that would span across the entire Mesopotamian region.

ziggurat reconstruction

ziggurat reconstruction

Aside from agriculture, medicine and commerce, the Babylonians had an impressive understanding of astronomy. Their knowledge of the stars and celestial bodies were compiled into clay tablets, which would indicate the movement of constellations and the behavior of the sun in relation to the moon. Important events such as equinoxes and eclipses were also accounted for. A collection of Babylonian scientists compiled their knowledge of the movement of the stars, their movements and constellations into a work known as the MUL.APIN, meaning “the plough”, which was the name given to the document’s first constellation. The origin of the document dates back to 1370 B.C.

An equally impressive document named the Enuma Anu Enlil is a number of astrological tables that not only accounted for eclipses and celestial events, but was also used as a system of prophecy. Though their methods may have involved some elements of superstition, their methods of calculation were far from primitive. Babylonian astronomy and mathematics utilized a unique system of calculation based on multiples of the number 60 known as the sexagesimal system. Babylonian scientists were able to calculate measurements as precise as one sixtieth of one degree, otherwise known as one arc minute.

The Babylonian civilization is distinct in that it set two very distinct precedents in our collective human history. Firstly, it set the standard for what constitutes a modern civilization, and its pursuit of astronomy would mark the first known instance that humans would actively observe and collect data on phenomena outside of their immediate physical surroundings. In essence, this was a coming of age for our species. But there is a broader question at hand. What are the prerequisites for civilization? Do they simply appear out of nowhere, the way that the Cambrian Explosion produced new lifeforms? Also, what does early civilization tell us about our relationship to other humans and our relationship to ourselves?