The streets of Rome are a little quieter today as thousands of locals have chosen to skip work and head for the hills after a huge earthquake was predicted to hit the Italian Capital some time today by a well-known Italian seismologist, over 30 years ago!
Raffaele Bendandi was a self-taught scientist who believed that earthquakes were caused by the gravitational influence of the Sun, Moon and other planets. Though he never attempted to provide proof for his theories, which he believed were intuitively correct, Bendandi scored a number of notable successes in 1910s and 1920s that led to him being feted as “the man who can predict earthquakes” and made a Knight of the Crown of Italy by Mussolini (who also banned him from making public predictions). Because of this ban, Bendandi made no further earthquake predictions until the 1970s, when he successfully forecast the 1976 quake that hit Friuli, Italy.
Bendandi also claimed to have detected another planet, which he named Faenza, orbiting closer to the Sun than Mercury, but, like his science of ‘seismogenics’, his findings are roundly dismissed by modern scientists as imaginative but nothing more.
That he even made today’s prediction is a matter of dispute. Many sources claim that the prediction comes from dates written on notes found after his death and do not give a specific event or location at all, and even among Bendandi’s dedicated following, there is argument as to whether he predicted the Rome quake is due today or in 2511.
Still such is the reputation of Bendandi, who died in 1979, that as much as 18% of city employees are reported to have called in sick today, and many stores are closed and shuttered. (BBC News).
I'm certain every reader of this blog could happily spend hours at The Skeptic's Dictionary, whose mission since 1994 has been to explore "Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions."
A would be bank-robber in Austria was foiled in his robbery attempt when the bank closed early for a staff training session. The man came equipped with a Barack Obama mask and gun but was stopped at the first hurdle when the locked door refused to open for him. Staff inside initially thought it was part of the training or a joke, and their laughter aggravated the criminal until he eventually fled empty-handed (Digital Spy).
More successful were the thieves that managed to steal several US landmarks, including the Palace of Fine Arts, USS Pampanito and Ghirardelli Square. Models of course, part of an exhibition of Mark and Jannet Benz’s Lego creations on display at the Palo Alto Museum of American Heritage, and worth several thousand dollars. A reward of $500 has been offered by the Benzes (SF Weekly).
But if Jan and Mark are thinking of upping their home security, they should perhaps avoid following the example of Alexander Skopintsew of Primorye in Russia, who decided to deter intruders by planting homemade landmines around his garden. He was inevitably found out when a trespasser was injured when setting off one of these devices, and charged with possession of illegal weapons, receiving a suspended sentence (ABC News).
Of course another alternative might be to have nothing worth stealing. Perhaps something similar occurred to retired lorry driver Ken Strickland, who amassed a collection of over 3000 watering cans, each meticulously documented. Sadly Mr. Strickland died last month aged 78, bequeathing the entire assortment to his niece, who is at a loss as to what to do with them and may in fact sell them on behalf of a charity. One watering can however will not be up for sale, it contains her uncle's ashes (Metro).
Meanwhile hundreds of other women up and down the UK might be feeling a little let down this Monday, after British department store Debenhams recorded a 76% surge in sales of their range of “anatomy boosting” underwear for men ahead of Valentine’s day. Turn around is fair play, I say (Reuters).
Palestinians and Jews may be bitter enemies, but according to Tsvi Misinai this shouldn't be the case because Palestianians are actually long-lost Jews. The Times summarizes the gist of the theory (which isn't original to Misinai):
Palestinians with whom Israel is at war are, in fact, descendants of Jews who stayed on the land when the Roman legions sent most of their countrymen into exile 2,000 years ago... Gradually, these people lost their ethnic identities, converting first to Christianity under Byzantine rule and then to Islam, as power in the land changed hands and rulers sought to homogenise the population, either through force or the offer of social privilege and tax incentives.
Apparently there are closer genetic matches between Palestinian and Jewish communities than between Palestinians and surrounding Arab communities. So who knows, the guy may be right. But even if he is, it probably won't make any difference to the fighting over there.
The theory, argued by Prof. Ferenc Szasz of the University of New Mexico, is that modern rap music derives from the ancient Caledonian art of "flyting", in which rival poets hurled obscene rhyming insults at each other. From the Telegraph:
Scottish slave owners took the tradition with them to the United States, where it was adopted and developed by slaves, emerging many years later as rap. Professor Szasz is convinced there is a clear link between this tradition for settling scores in Scotland and rap battles, which were famously portrayed in Eminem's 2002 movie 8 Mile.
The more conventional theory is that the roots of rap music trace back to ancient West African poets called "griots". From Wikipedia:
the griots of West Africa were delivering stories rhythmically, over drums and sparse instrumentation. Because of the time that has passed since the griots of old, the connections between rap and the African griots are widely established, but not clear-cut. However, such connections have been acknowledged by rappers, modern day "griots", spoken word artists, mainstream news sources, and academics.
Actually, given the big gap in time between these two possible origins and the emergence of rap in the 1970s, both theories sound a little iffy to me.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
Chuck is the purveyor of News of the Weird, the syndicated column which for decades has set the gold-standard for reporting on oddities and the bizarre.
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