The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 1002

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
2002 marks the millennial anniversary of what is now known as the St. Brice’s Day massacre, a long-forgotten event, dryly recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry for the year 1002.

The king that is mentioned below is King Æthelred The Unready—a Pythonesque sobriquet for an ineffectual monarch. More details on him here.

From the Chronicle:

This year the king and his council agreed that ribute should be given to the fleet, and peace made with them, with the provision that they should desist from their mischief. Then sent the king to the fleet Alderman Leofsy, who at the king’s word and his council made peace with them, on condition that they received food and tribute; which they accepted, and a tribute was paid of 24,000 pounds. In the meantime Alderman Leofsy slew Eafy, high-steward of the king; and the king banished him from the land. Then, in the same Lent, came the Lady Elfgive Emma, Richard’s daughter, to this land. And in the same summer died Archbishop Eadulf; and also, in the same year the king gave an order to slay all the Danes that were in England. This was accordingly done on the mass-day of St. Brice; because it was told the king, that they would beshrew him of his life, and afterwards all his council, and then have his kingdom without any resistance.

A particularly gruesome massacre took place at St Frideswide’s church on St. Brice’s day, November 13th, at the location where Christ Church Cathedral now stands in Oxford. The Danish community attempted to take refuge there, but the citizens burned down the church, killing most inside. More details can be found here.

The king’s “purpose” was to drive the Dane’s out of England, but it thoroughly backfired as they became so enraged that it led to a massive invasion the following year.

» Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002 | Permanent Link

The Hughes “Glomar Explorer”

Glomar Explorer
K-129, a Soviet Golf-II Class submarine, sank in the Pacific on April 11th, 1968 with a full complement of nuclear ballistic missiles on board. The CIA concocted a plan to enlist the billionaire Howard Hughes to build a ship that would be capable of lifting the sub off the ocean floor 17,000 ft. below.

It had long been known the ocean floor was littered with chunks of magnesium mixed with other useful metals. Hughes made it known that he was going to build a ship The Hughes Glomar Explorer for the purpose of harvesting these metals. Other mining companies were so taken in that they began their own deep-sea mining operations. In fact, the entire enterprise was a cover for the CIA.

In June of 1974, the completed Glomar Explore attempted to lift the ship. It was partially successful, as the sub broke apart during the operation. Only part of the sub was ultimately recovered - including the bodies of 8 Soviet sailors who were filmed being buried at sea in a bizarre ceremony. What materials were actually recovered are still classified. More details can be found here.

One wonders who the CIA could even turn to these days to pull off that sort of an undertaking. The bottom line is: they just don’t make billionaires like they used to; do pompous blowhards like Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, or geeky shut-ins like Steve Case of AOL and Michael Dell of Dell Computer even hold a candle to Howard Hughes?

» Posted: Saturday, December 28, 2002 | Permanent Link

Astronomy 2002


Here are a few of my favorite bits of astronomical news from 2002. None of these items are necessarily of profound scientific importance, but what I think they have in common is that they each revealed something marvelous and dynamic about otherwise familiar celestial objects.

Direct Evidence of the Milky Way’s Black Hole

Researchers at the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics announced the best evidence yet that a super-massive black hole exists at the core of the Milky Way galaxy. There is haunting simulation compiled from the data of observed star orbits near the galactic center here.

Over 10 million stars are located within a light year of the galactic center; but even at that density, the average distance between stars is around 50 billion miles—10 times the distance to Pluto. Space is a big place.


In June, observers from Cal Tech in Pasadena announced the discovery of the largest Kuiper belt object known. They gave the object the name Quaoar. It’s the largest object discovered in the solar system since Pluto, and is greater in volume than all the other 50,000 known asteroids combined.

Moon’s Youngest Crater

Astronomers may have found the impact site of the source of a flash on the moon that was photographed in 1953. Stories at The BBC and

In 1999, during the Leonid meteor shower, an observer in Texas saw the flash of what may have been an impact on the moon, but this has yet to be verified.

» Posted: Saturday, December 21, 2002 | Permanent Link

The Geochron


Scientists from the University of Quebec recently announced the discovery of the oldest volcanic rocks ever found. The 3.825 billion year old rocks were discovered near Husdon Bay.

While these rocks may place a limit on the minimum age of the Earth, they can’t accurately date when the Earth itself was formed. Radiometric dating techniques though can be used to arrive at a surprisingly specific figure.

Dating at this time scale is based around the decay of various isotopes of uranium into lead: 238U to 206Pb, with a half life of 4.47 x 109 years, and 235U to 207Pb, with a half life of .707 x 109 years.

The decay curves of these isotopes relative to the stable isotope 204Pb can be used to form a linear equation, called The Geochron. The slope of this equation gives an age of the Earth of 4.55 ± 0.07 x 109 years.

These equations are fully developed in this excellent overview by Prof. Stephen A. Nelson of Tulane University.

» Posted: Monday, December 16, 2002 | Permanent Link