Week in Review: Signs of the End Times

As you may have heard, scholar Bernard Lewis recently announced in the Wall Street Journal that August 22, 2006 would be the end of the world. Or, more precisely, that if a man did come around on that date, he'd probably be the president of Iran:

This year, Aug. 22 corresponds, in the Islamic calendar, to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427. This, by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to "the farthest mosque," usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back (c.f., Koran XVII.1). This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world. It is far from certain that Mr. Ahmadinejad plans any such cataclysmic events precisely for Aug. 22. But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind.

So, it didn't happen. Deep breath. But did you notice all the other signs of the apocalypse this week, right here on mental_floss?

* All the waters that were in the river turned to blood. And the fish that were in the river died, and the water stank.

* My very earthly mother just served us nine pizzas, and we mourned.

* The hound of hell appeared, dressed for the occasion.

* Little baseball-playing children swore as the Yankees swept the Sox. (I'm from Boston. This is apocalyptic.)

* There were phantoms, there were fires on the road, and the white man Chinese women dancin'. (Not a Leonard Cohen fan? Here's the reference.)

* The "destroy another fetus" part of that Cohen song became (at least partially and theoretically) moot.

* The planet was rocked by 244 earthquakes.

* "Suddenly the sky turned blood-red "“ there were tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city."

* There were plagues of frogs and snakes.

* Religious fervor peaked as an organ sounded a rumbling bass note.

* And women wept.

Enjoy your weekends; we'll see you Monday, assuming that the planet's still here by then.

A Very Brief History of Chamber Pots

Some of the oldest chamber pots found by archeologists have been discovered in ancient Greece, but portable toilets have come a long way since then. Whether referred to as "the Jordan" (possibly a reference to the river), "Oliver's Skull" (maybe a nod to Oliver Cromwell's perambulating cranium), or "the Looking Glass" (because doctors would examine urine for diagnosis), they were an essential fact of life in houses and on the road for centuries. In this video from the Wellcome Collection, Visitor Experience Assistant Rob Bidder discusses two 19th century chamber pots in the museum while offering a brief survey of the use of chamber pots in Britain (including why they were particularly useful in wartime).

A Tour of the New York Academy of Medicine's Rare Book Room

The Rare Book Room at the New York Academy of Medicine documents the evolution of our medical knowledge. Its books and artifacts are as bizarre as they are fascinating. Read more here.


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