In Germany, during mediaeval times, domestic differences were settled by judicial duels between man and wife, and a regular code for their proper conduct was observed. 'The woman must be so prepared,' so the instructions run, 'that a sleeve of her chemise extend a small ell beyond her hand like a little sack: there indeed is put a stone weighing iii pounds; and she has nothing else but her chemise, and that is bound together between the legs with a lace. Then the man makes himself ready in the pit over against his wife. He is buried therein up to the girdle, and one hand is bound at the elbow to the side.'
The images of the conjugal duelists come from Hans Talhoffer's Fechtbuch, 1467 (plates 242-250). [Via Wondermark]
Since readers seemed to enjoy Bill Haley's "Candy and Women," we now add another of his pre-rock'n'roll songs, which qualifies--by a couple of lines on Native Americans, and a general reckless disregard for human and animal life--for our category of pre-PC weirdness.
"Pappy wound up with four deuces, and the squaw with six papooses."
Outside it is not much to look at, little more than a discoloured rock dredged up from the sea floor. But an x-ray scan of the object, actually a pocket watch recovered from a 17th century shipwreck, has revealed that the internal mechanism has been perfectly preserved. The computer aided tomography system used was sensitive enough to pick out the tiniest details, included the engraved name of the master watchmaker, one Niccholas Higginson of Westminster, London (Gizmodo).
As if more proof were needed that they don’t build them like they used to, a UK group has started collecting donations to build the first fully working version of Babbage’s “Analytical Engine”. The original design, dating from 1837, was never completed, possibly due to a combination of the strict engineering tolerances needed and Babbage’s notoriously prickly temperament. If the final machine works as advertised, it will be very strong confirmation of the claim that Babbage designed the first general purpose, programmable computer (BBC News).
Meanwhile, in Slovenia, Borut Povse and his team are busy teaching a modern descendant of Babbage’s design to hit people. Somehow Povse has convinced six volunteers to let an industrial robot hit them on the arm with various sharp or blunt implements in an effort to determine how much pain each blow causes. Obviously this has a beneficial use in that robots can be programmed not to exceed certain levels of force near a human obstacle, but will also be of immense interest to the machines during any future robot uprising (New Scientist).
Another robot out to supplant humans is HRP-4, a gynoid (female android), that has learnt to sing by copying the inflection and expressions of a human performer, right down to the breathing. The hope is to make robots behave in a more convincingly natural way, and so overcome the so called ‘uncanny valley’. From the video, it looks like they’ve still got a way to go (Daily Mail).
If you're into ghost stories, this one seems fairly tame. In 1891, a passenger train derailed on a bridge near Statesville, North Carolina, killing approximately thirty people. The story claims that on the anniversary of the wreck, the sound of the crash and screaming passengers can be heard. A number of people come to the bridge for a chance to prove the legend each year. But this year, the story took an even more tragic turn when one of the "ghost hunters" was killed... by a train. You can read the details here.
There was an article in my local paper recently about a man who was loaning his unique car to film-makers. The article didn't include any pictures, however, so I went online to see what made the car so original. I admit that I am not much into cars, even though I love the television show Top Gear. But I know weirdness when I see it, and this car definitely qualifies. This is the 1969 Checker Aerobus (pictured). As you can see, it has four doors on each side. Back then they called it a station wagon, but it is now classified as a limousine. The Checker Motors Corporation is more famously known for manufacturing the iconic taxi cab. The Wikipedia article can tell you more (and it's worth reading).