Who didn’t discover America?

Since kindergarden, we’re taught that Christopher Columbus discovered America. Well, he probably did. I did too, when I first landed in La Guardia. In fact, nearly everyone seems to claim to have discovered America at some point. Some way before Christopher. It goes to a point where we could even wonder which great civilization from the past didn’t discover America.

So far, we got:

– The Vikings: that’s the easiest part, we have archaeological evidence. They were there, nearly 5 centuries before old Chris.

– The Polynesians: even if there is no direct proof, it’s now admitted that they reached the Americas more than 2500 years ago.

– The Romans: discoveries of several coins and even a bust in Mexico lead some to claim Romans sailed to America too.

– The Egyptians: We don’t know when or how, but they must have been there: some herbs which are only found on the American continent have been discovered inside mummies from 3300 years ago.

-The Arabs: According to some Chinese text, they could have reached America too… maybe in the early 12th century.

– The Irish: The legend of Saint Brendan says that he reached the Americas, in the 6th century.

– The Phoenicians: They were great sailors, so well, why not? There are a few theories about their travels to the Americas.

– The Africans: Some pretend that the Olmec culture (1200-700 BCE) is from African origin.

– The Chinese: They’re also suspected of being linked to the Olmecs, but more seriously, several old chinese coins have been found during digs, and some buddhist monks have supposedly discovered the American continent in the 5th century.

– The Greeks: based on a text by Plutarch, a Greek-Canadian scientist claims the ancient Greeks were there too.

– The Basques: These skilled fishermen might have reached the New Continent before Columbus. Maybe the Bretons too

– The Japanese: some people link the Valdivian culture (Ecuador) and the Japanese Jomon culture, talking about a possible Japanese migration.

-The Turks: They didn’t. There’s just a modern novel by Jorge Amado named “The discovery of America by the Turks”, but it was fun to mention.

– The fist natives. Or not?: Of course, the real discoverers of America are the first humans who got there, the ancestors of the actual natives. But another theory says that stone age Europeans were there first…

Even though lots of these “contacts” are either not totally proven or blatant speculation, they’re still evidence that some historical facts are also a bit speculative until we get more facts from the past. Besides, they’re great ideas for fiction stories, aren’t they?

When 16th century autonomists celebrated Robin Hood

There are small parts of history which would make wonderful backgrounds for a novel. Robin Hood has been used thousands of times as an inspiration for a golden hearted bandit rebelling against injustice, but do you know his festive celebrations were also a pretense to reinforce local autonomy against centralized royal power? Here is an academic 50-pages article on the subject:


Last smallpox victim was contaminated by the lab downstairs

Medical stories can be as scary as horror ones. The last smallpox victim was in fact a medical photographer, contaminated because of the lab downstairs was studying the illness, even though it was, in theory, eradicated.

I’ve read a few stories about deadly viruses escaping from a laboratory. But this one is real.


Moving a space station without using fuel

Rings and magnets will soon be able to move spacecrafts. Maybe not enough to reach Mars, but at least they could move satellites, or even a space station.


These children who murdered their parents

Murder stories are often quite sordid if you look into the motives and the details of the murderer’s actions. What could possibly push a young man or woman to murder their parents? Here are a few examples:


What’s hidden behing your wallpaper? A painting masterpiece?

Looking at a wall with a daub painted on it, digging a little, to find a wonderful wall art by a handful of extraordinary artists, this doesn’t happen every day. I’m sure you won’t try to remove your grandmother’s flowered wallpaper hoping to find a Picasso. But who knows what you could discover? A message from a time traveler? A sacred text which would change our perspective on the world’s history?


True horsepower: horses in a locomotive

When I imagine a world without gas, I always think of Steampunk alternative universes, where steam power would replace petrol. But why using steam when good old horses would suffice? This is an example of a real horse-powered locomotive from 1850.


Body instruments for movement-based music

Music is such a great par of our lives that I’m sometimes surprised that we didn’t invent many new musical instruments during the past 50 years. Of course, we electrified existing ones, and we got these wonderful computer-generated sounds, but couldn’t we find some other ways to play music? Maybe with our bodies, like these amazing prostheses, which reminded me of the Diva in the movie “the Fifth Element”


Sustainable new energies: do we need a new industrial revolution?

Speaker in a Stanford University seminar, Arun Majumdar explores interesting angles on new energies for a sustainable future…


Knights 101, ten little facts about chivalry

If you’re not really into Prince Charming and other fairytale knights, you might want to check a few facts about these brave knights, the real ones. Lots of them were probably stinky brutes, whose only talent resided in their aptitude to handle a sword, a horse and a spear. And you, how would your imaginary knight be?