Cyclopedia of Factoids - The Letter G

Entries written by Sam Vaknin for the Links and Factoids Study List

 

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G

Gandhi, Mahatma

Many myths abound about Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand known as Mahatma "Great Souled") Gandhi (1869-1948).

He was not born to a poor Indian family.  His father was dewan (chief minister) of Porbandar, the capital of a small principality in Gujarat in western India under British suzerainty.  He later became dewan of Rajkot.

He married at the age of 13 and was a mediocre student.  In his adolescence he defied his repressive environment by petty thieving, meat eating, smoking, and professed atheism.

Until the age of 18 He spoke very little English.  His main language was Gujarati.

He wanted to be a medical doctor - more precisely, a surgeon.  His family forced his to study law.

His first political activity was as a member of the executive committee of the London Vegetarian Society.

He went to South Africa because he couldn't find work in India.  He was a poor lawyer, in both senses of the word.  He suffered from stage fright.

The "Encyclopedia Britannica" describes his first days there:

"Africa was to present to Gandhi challenges and opportunities that he could hardly have conceived.  In a Durban court, he was asked by the European magistrate to take off his turban; he refused and left the courtroom. 

A few days later, while traveling to Pretoria, he was unceremoniously thrown out of a first-class railway compartment and left shivering and brooding at Pietermaritzburg Station; in the further course of the journey he was beaten up by the white driver of a stagecoach because he would not travel on the footboard to make room for a European passenger; and finally he was barred from hotels reserved "for Europeans only." These humiliations were the daily lot of Indian traders and labourers in Natal who had learned to pocket them with the same resignation with which they pocketed their meagre earnings."

He was about to sail to London when he read about a bill to deprive the Indians of their right to vote.  He decided to stay.  It is in Johannesburg, South Africa that his first civil disobedience ("Satyagraha") campaign was staged - not in India.

Gandhi's life was at peril many times.  He was almost lynched in Durban as early as January 1897.  He was assassinated in 1948.

He was not a pacifist.  Nor was he anti-British.  When the Boer war broke out, he organized a volunteer corps of 11,000 Indians to defend the British colony of Natal.

There is much more here:

http://dmoz.org/Society/History/By_Region/Asia/South_Asia/Personalities/Gandhi,_Mohandas_Karamchand,_Mahatma/

Gein, Edward Theodore ("Ed" or "Eddie") - WARNING! Graphic Descriptions!

Also known as The Butcher of Plainfield, The Plainfield Butcher, The Mad Butcher, The Plainfield Ghoul.

A serial killer who served as the inspiration to numerous films, among them Psycho, The Silence of the Lambs, Maniac, Three on a Meathook, Deranged, Ed Gein, The Movie, and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

He was born on August 27, 1906 in La Crosse, Wisconsin and lived with his domineering and fanatically religious mother, Augusta, and his older brother, Henry, on a 195-acres family homestead outside Plainfield, Wisconsin. His father, George, a no-good alcoholic, and much despised by Augusta, died in 1940, aged 67. His brother abruptly followed suit in 1944, aged 43 (he died in a mysterious and suspicious brush fire). Ed's mother passed away a year later, on December 29, 1945, aged 67. Ed remained all alone and subsisted on Federal farm subsidies and his occasional bouts as the community's itinerant handyman and babysitter.

After his mother died, Ed sealed the upper floor as a shrine, and lived in a single room by the kitchen. He accumulated a library of anatomy books, porn magazines, horror and adventure novels, historical accounts of the Nazi medical experiments in Auschwitz and elsewhere, and medical encyclopedias. At night, he performed rudimentary surgeries on exhumed and decomposing female bodies about whose death he learned from the obituaries in the local paper. His semi-retarded friend Gus helped him dig up the graves, including, reportedly, the body of Ed's own mother.

Even at this early necrophiliac phase, Gein kept the victims' internal organs and draped himself with the flayed skins or fitted them onto a tailor's mummy. Around the house, he wore women's panties stuffed with excised vaginas. Contrary to rumor, he did not have sex with the bodies. They smelled too bad, he explained.

Gein wondered what it feels like being a woman and fantasized about gender reassignment. He was not shy about his collections and even showed them to visitors. For many years, Ed and his shrunken heads have been the butt of morbid local jokes. Once he told a a sawmill owner named Elmo Ueeck that Mary Hogan, one of his victims, is not missing. "She is at my farm right now" - confessed Ed sheepishly. No one paid any attention to the shy recluse.

When Gus was committed to an old people's home, Ed's supply of corpses dried up. To replenish it, he proceeded to murder a string of women who were in their mid to late fifties (he denied having killed young girls who vanished without a trace throughout the area starting in 1947). Bernice Worden was dragged from her hardware store on November 16, 1957 together with her cash register and $41 in cash (Ed said he was planning to return the money, he just wanted to learn how cash registers work).

Her son, Frank, the deputy-sheriff, suspected Gein. A day later, captain Lloyd Schoephoester and the sheriff, Art Schley, found her at Gein's house, hanging upside down from a meat hook, beheaded, and gutted. Her intestines and head were discovered in a box, nails driven through her ears. Her heart rested on a plate in the living room.

A search throughout the grisly, trash and junk ridden house yielded ten preserved skins from human heads, a rug consisting of the skin from a woman's upper torso, a belt with embedded female nipples, a chair, a drum, and a wastebasket upholstered in human skin, a soup bowl made from the crown of a skull, lampshades fashioned from human flesh, a table resting on human shinbones for its legs, and a refrigerator stocked with bits of female anatomy (Ed denied the cannibalism charges levied against him). Other artifacts made of human skins (and the occasional sown-off nose) included a purse, bracelet, a sheath for a knife, and leggings. A pair of human lips were sewed onto a string (a curtain pull).

Skulls crowned the four bedposts in Gein's room. Trophies - human heads stuffed with newspapers - were pinned to the walls, flanked by nine death masks made of the original faces of dead women. A shoebox contained nine female genitalia including one painted silver (presumably his mother's). Finally, Gein peeled the breasts off one of his victims to make himself a "mammary vest". He wore it - and other garments made from human female skin - when he pretended to be his own mother.

All in all, the house and the surrounding land contained the remains of 15 bodies but Gein himself admitted that he had murdered only two - Worden and Mary Hogan, a tavern keeper on December 8, 1954. They were both shot in the head. The police found eight bodies in the local graveyard that were exhumed and mutilated by Gein. All body parts found belonged to female adults.

Gein quickly became a cult figure and the butt of moralizing folk tales and "Geiners", macabre jokes. His farm and belongings were put on the block in a much-publicized and controversial auction. On March 20, 1958, the house burned to the ground as a result of probable arson. "Just as well" - muttered Gein when he learned of the conflagration. His Ford Sedan 1949 was displayed in carnivals and fairs by an entrepreneurial businessman for many years.

Gein spent a decade in an insane asylum but finally was judged competent to stand trial. The trial started on November 7, 1968 and the jury found him guilty but criminally insane. He was committed to Central State Hospital (for the Criminally Insane) at Waupon, Wisconsin and moved in 1978 to the Mendota Mental Health Institute. He was a model patient. There he died on July 26, 1984 of cancer and respiratory and heart ailments and was buried next to his mother in the Plainfield cemetery. His grave was desecrated by vandals.

http://www.crimelibrary.com/serial_killers/notorious/gein/bill_1.html?sect=1

 

Glass

Is glass an inorganic solid material - or a highly viscous liquid?

At room temperatures, glass is an elastic solid. The source of the confusion is its unusual atomic structure. Glass indeed starts its life as a molten liquid. But when it cools, the atoms do not form crystals. Instead, they are arranged randomly, fully reflecting their distribution in the liquid. This property of homogeneous continuity is called viscosity.

So, why do some scholars insist that glass is really a liquid?

Solid glass "remembers" its previous state as a fluid. It, therefore, acts as though it were a solution - as though various materials, such as soda, lime, and silica - were added and diluted in a solvent. As opposed to most solids, pure, non-commercial, glass has low density (i.e., large interstitial spaces between its atoms). Such "holes" are typical of liquids.

Why is glass transparent if it is, indeed, a solid?

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica (2003 edition), electrons in glass molecules are confined to specific energy levels and cannot absorb and reemit photons (i.e., light). This is why visible light travels through glass unhindered. It is not absorbed. Glass molecules are so tiny compared to ordinary lightwaves that they also do not absorb them when they traverse the glass sheet.

http://www.cmog.org/

Gorky, Maxim

Maxim Gorky (1868-1936) is widely considered a Bolshevik author, closely allied with the likes of Lenin and Stalin. But this is far from the truth.

Gorky's real name was Alexei Maximovich Peshkov. He chose the pseudonym "Gorky" - "bitter" in Russian - to describe his early experiences from the age of eight as a menial worker. In his late teens he attempted suicide. The bullet pierced his lung, rendering him susceptible to Tuberculosis for the rest of his life.

Between 1899 and 1906 Gorky lived in St. Petersburg and participated in the activities of the Social Democratic Party. When it split in 1903, he, indeed, supported the Bolsheviks financially - though he never joined them formally. He was a strong critic of Lenin. Partly to avoid his wrath, he exiled himself to Capri, Italy in 1906.

Moreover, though he upheld the Bolsheviks' anti-war stance, he opposed the 1917 October Revolution (the Bolshevik coup against the post-Tsarist Social Democratic government). So damaging was his criticism of Lenin's dictatorial ways and the illegitimacy of the Bolshevik regime that his work was censored from July 1918 onwards.

Gorky left Russia in 1921 and lived in Sorrento, Italy until 1928 when he was lured back by a lavish celebration of his 60th birthday. The year after, he relocated permanently to Russia. In 1938, certain senior Soviet figures - like Nikolai Bukharin and Genrikh Yagoda - were accused of murdering him in 1936, while under medical treatment.

http://www.imagi-nation.com/moonstruck/clsc73.html

http://filine.centro.ru/Gorky/

Great Wall (of China)

In November 1998, China's Xinhua news agency announced the discovery of a previously unknown segment of the Great Wall of China in the Ordos (Maowusu) Desert in the Hui Autonomous Region of Ningxia, about 700 km (435 miles) west of Beijing. The segment's length is 25 kilometers (15.5 miles).

The current Wall is the amalgamation of fortifications built by various ruling dynasties, especially the Qin and the Ming. Including its branches and extensions, the Wall runs from east China to its west - from Shanhai Pass near the Bo Hai (Gulf of Chihli) to Jiayu Pass in Gansu province - a distance of 7,300 km (4,500 miles). Without its secondary sections, it stretches for 6,700 kilometers (4,163 miles). The Wall's average height is 10 meters and its average width is 5 meters. Only 30% of it is in good repair, according a study published in December 2002 by the China Great Wall Academy. The masonry of the Wall has been eroded by nature and recycled into newer construction by Man.

The wall can be seen from Earth orbit - but not from the moon (according to all astronauts).

http://www.travelchinaguide.com/china_great_wall/
 
http://www.walkthewall.com/

Greek Philosophers

There were so many ancient Greek thinkers that virtually every bit of modern knowledge, fact, pseudo-science and counterfact are represented.

 

Greek mathematician Pythagoras (582-500 BC) postulated that earth is round and that, together with the other planets, it is revolving around a central fire.

 

Aristarchus, a Greek Astronomer (310-250 BC), was more precise. He suggested that the earth revolves around the sun. He also suggested a correct method to calculate the distance between the two.

 

Another Greek astronomer, Eratosthenes (276-196 BC), measured the earth's circumference accurately. He used astronomical observations to calculate the difference in latitude between the cities of Syene (now Aswān) and Alexandria, Egypt.

 

Democritus (460-370 BC) invented the concept of a-toms - minute, invisible, indivisible and indestructible particles, which populate an infinite empty void (kenon).

 

http://www.tmth.edu.gr/en/aet.html

Guillotine

The guillotine was first put to lethal use on April 25, 1792, at 3:30 PM, in Paris at the Place de Greve on the Right Bank of the Seine. It separated highwayman Nicolas Jacques Pelletier's head from the rest of his body.

The device was perfected - though not invented- by Doctor Joseph Ignace Guillotin (1738 - 1814). The 'e' at the end of the noun is a later, British, addition. Ironically, he belonged to a movement seeking to abolish capital punishment altogether.

Guillotine-like implements were used on delinquents from the nobility in Germany, Italy, Scotland and Persia long before the good doctor's era. Guillotin and German engineer and harpsichord maker, Tobias Schmidt, improved and industrialized it. It was Schmidt who transformed the blade, changing it from round to the familiar form and placing it at an oblique, 45 degree, angle. The process of severing the head - the blade falling, cutting through the tissues and severing the head - took less than half a second. More than 40,000 people were guillotined during the French Revolution and in its immediate aftermath (1789-1795).

Nor was the guillotine abandoned after the French Revolution. As late as 1870, one Leon Berger, an assistant executioner and carpenter, added a spring system, which stopped the mouton at the bottom of the groves, a lock/blocking device at the lunette and a new release mechanism for the blade.

The murderer Hamida Djandoubi was beheaded on September 10, 1977, in Marseilles, France. The guillotine was never used since.

http://www.napoleonguide.com/guillotine.htm

http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa103197.htm


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