Tag Archives: World’s first

When were elephants first used in war and how far were they effective?

The military potential of the elephant was recognized by generals thousands of years ago. Elephants were the first tanks, for in ancient warfare they served a function similar to that of armour today; the generals of ancient India fashioned their tactics around the deployment of war elephants.
The Indian armies were composed of four divisions — cavalry, chariots, infantry and troop-carrying elephants. Ridden by lancers and bowmen, the elephants were shielded with heavy leather, their tusks were tipped with spikes, and sometimes the pachyderms were even trained to wield swords with their trunks making them an altogether terrifying weapon.
Understandably, armies opposing elephants for the first time tended bo break and run at the sight of these animals. However, there was a catch to the effective use of elephants in war: Once the opposition learned that elephants panicked easily, means of thwarting the beasts were quickly devised. Fire, concerted discharge of arrows, and mobile cavalry all served to counter an assault by elephant troops. Once burned, stung by a rain of arrows, or frightened by horsemen dashing among them and jabbing them with lances and swords, elephants were as likely to stampede through their own army as through the ranks of enemy.
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When and where were playing cards invented?

Playing cards have been traced back as far back as 800 AD, when they were popular in India, and from there they seem to have spread both east and west. Playing cards are said to have come in Europe when the Crusaders learned about them from the Saracens. The ancient packs of cards varied widely in different countries. Some of them had as many as then suits, as in India, where the suits symbolized ten incarnations of their God Vishnu. Modern four suits, clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades, were meant to portray a three-foil leaf, diamonds, hearts and swords. Spade comes from the Italian word for sword. The court cards, or face cards, at first consisted of only masculine figureheads, as the early card games were supposed to be a sort of play warfare, in which women had no part. The double-headed court cards came into use in about the 13th century, to avoid the risk of revealing information about one’s hand by turning the face card.
The pack as we know it, with four suits of thirteen cards, is thought to symbolize the year of fifty-two weeks divided into lunar months, or perhaps to symbolize a pack of hounds, which also consists of fifty-two members. At one time the four kings were supposed to represent Charlemagne, David, Alexander and Julius Caesar. In fact the symbolism attached to playing cards has been extensive.
The history of card playing has a dark side. For centuries cards have been employed in gambling games. To most people, however, they furnish pleasant and harmless entertainment, and there are endless variations of games that may be played with them.

Additional reading:
Playing card (Wikipedia)

Which was the world’s first communication satellite? (Echo-1)

In 1960, the USA’s space agency NASA launched a balloon-shaped satellite, Echo-1 (photo, below). It took up an orbit comparatively close to Earth, about 1600 kilometers up. Once in position, it grew to a diameter of 30 meters (100 feet), by inflating its own balloon made of a plastic material called Mylar. The Mylar had a reflective coating of aluminum. Radio signals beamed from Earth to  Echo-1 bounced off the Satellite’s surface and could be received on the  Earth far from the original transmission.
NASA’s Echo-1 successfully transmitted voice, music and pictures between the USA and Europe, but in 1968 it disappeared from the sky.

Additional reading:
Project Echo (Wikipedia)

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When was the ship’s distress signal SOS/Save Our Souls used for the first time?

It is believed that British ocean line Titanic was the first ship to send the SOS. But it is not so. The first SOS message was sent by the American steamer Azaohoe in August 1909 when it was disabled due to a broken propeller shaft. Though SOS stands for ‘Save Our Souls’, the letter SOS was chosen simply because the Morse Code for them (three dots, three dashes, three dots) was easy to remember and transmit.
Before the SOS was used as a distress call, the CQD was in wide use. The first ship to send out a CQD was the White Star Liner Republic, which sank due to collision with the liner Florida off Nantucket on January 23, 1909. The Republic’s English radio operator, Jack Binns, became an international hero for sending out, with emergency power, this first ship-radio distress call.

Additional reading:
SOS (Wikipedia)

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Which was the world’s first newspaper? When did it begin?

The newspaper in its modern form is usually regarded as beginning in 1566, when the government of Venice, Italy, issued written news-sheets and exhibited them in the streets. Anyone was allowed to read them on payment of a small coin called Gazetta. On this account the news-sheets were called gazettes, and they became so popular that they were printed. Soon after the date mentioned, gazettes were issued in most of the big cities of Europe. The first English newspaper was the weekly news, published in London in 1622. But in this paper and its successors down to 1641 only foreign news was printed.

While newspapers in the modern sense are thus less than four centuries old, something corresponding to the newspaper was found in the ancient world. Accounts of the doings of the imperial armies of Rome were sent to generals in command in all parts of the empire. These Acta Diurna, or Daily Doings as they were called, were communicated by the generals to their officers. Farther back still, items of news, generally about kings or battles, were carved in stone in prominent places in Babylonian and Assyrian cities. These may almost be regarded as the origin of the news paper as a record of events. Probably the oldest newspaper in this sense is the Siloam Inscription, discovered in 1880 in the rocky aqueduct of the Pool of Siloam at the southeast end of Jerusalem. The characters are those of an early form of the alphabet used by the Phoenicians, Hebrews and Moabites. The language is Biblical Hebrew. The inscription is of the period of the Hebrew monarchy. It dates back to at least 700 B.C., and is one of the oldest Hebrew inscriptions known. It may be called the Jewish newspaper of Isaiah’s time, and perhaps even of Solomon’s time.

More reading:
Newspaper (Wikipedia)

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Which country was the first to start selling bottled mineral water?

France is the place where the concept of mineral water has originated. The hot water springs of Vichy in France are a major tourist attraction. The odorous water from these springs was believed to have the chemical properties to cure skin diseases. A French businessman surmised that if the water can cure skin diseases then it could also be helpful for curing diseases related to the stomach. This thought led him to start the business of selling hot spring water in bottled form under the brand name Vichy. The water, however, had a pungent taste.

Today a French multinational company sells mineral bottled water under the brand name Evian, in many countries of Europe. Evian is also exported worldwide on a large scale. There’s one peculiarity that makes Evian different from other conventional bottled water brands. Evian directly bottles the water from a natural spring of the Alps Mountain. Considering the purity of water, there is no need to either distill it or add any other minerals. The only process done is to fill the water in bottles, seal it, label it and sell it directly in the market.

More reading:
Mineral water (Wikipedia)
Bottled water (Wikipedia)

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Is it true that Egyptians made the first perfect calendar?

Yes. If we look at the history of the calendar then it is seen that Egyptians made the first attempt to chalk out a perfect calendar. The Egyptians were knowledgeable enough to know that the Earth moves along an orbit in space around the Sun. They counted each day of the year and got a total of 365 days. They divided the year into 12 months and decided that each month would have 30 days. According to this, the total days of the year came to 360. There was a difference of 5 days. To accommodate these days in a calendar year they simply added the remaining five days to the last month.

The final calculation was still incorrect since a year is the time taken by the Earth to complete one circle round the Sun and that is equal to 365.25 days, and not exact 365 days. They had not taken into account the 1/4th day that remained. The Egyptians perhaps did not realize this fact. As a result, as the years succeeded one another, their calendar started going wrong. The mistake was only of 1/4th day. Nevertheless, after a lapse of many years this small mistake snowballed into a huge one.

More reading:
Egyptian calendar (Wikipedia)
List of calendars (Wikipedia)

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Which country was the first to use paper money as medium of exchange?

Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention – and so it was in the case of paper currency. The idea of using paper instead of coins probably occurred to the brainy Chinese in AD 812.

The usage of such currency became quite widespread during the Sung Dynasty. (See photo.) It seems that the invention came about to prevent theft. When members of the Imperial Court were regularly bringing bags of money to the emperor’s treasury their horses were weighed down with all the coins, so they were easy targets for bandits lying in wait. They couldn’t gallop away from an ambush. Introduction of paper money solved that problem. It was as light as the paper it was printed on. The emperor’s horsemen carrying paper money could easily gallop away at high speed at the first sign of trouble. Later, the Chinese began the printing of multicolor currency notes with a blue background, a circle design in vermilion and notations in black. This complexity of printing, together with specially manufactured paper, made forgery difficult.

More reading:
Banknote (Wikipedia)
Currency (Wikipedia)

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Who created a worldwide craze for motorcycles? From which country it started?

The credit for creating a worldwide craze for motorcycle goes to Japan – especially to the Japanese engineer named Soichiro Honda (see photo). Just as scooter was innovated as an affordable vehicle for the common man in postwar Europe, Honda concentrated on the motorcycle. He inspired Kawasaki, Yamaha and Suzuki to follow him in this field.

At the end of the Second World War a large stock of two-stroke engines made for the use in various naval craft and submarines was laying idle unused. Soichiro Honda purchased these engines for the price of scrap. Thereafter making bicycles on stronger frames in his workshop and fitting two-stroke engines he converted them into motorcycles. From such a small beginning Honda Motor Company’s multi-national business commenced.

Additional reading:
Soichiro Honda (Wikipedia)
Honda (Wikipedia)
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