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History of the World: Four Goofy Things About the Crusades

Coming soon, to a bookstore or online retailer near you: the Mental Floss History of the World: An Irreverent Romp Through Civilization's Best Bits. Around here, we like to call it "MFHOTWAIRTCBB." Until the book's October 28th release date, we're going to treat you guys to snippets from the book we find especially interesting. Today's topic: the Crusades, an excerpt right from MFHOTWAIRTCBB. Catchy, right?

Peter the Hermit

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A French priest who got harassed when he tried to visit the Holy Land and helped recruit volunteers for "the Peasants' Crusade," part of the First Crusade in 1096, Peter the Hermit lost 25 percent of his force on the way. Most of the rest were killed or captured by the Turks while he was elsewhere. Peter tried to desert when he and his Crusaders were caught in a Muslim siege of the city of Antioch, then talked the besieged Crusaders into attacking the besiegers, who promptly slaughtered them. After the Crusaders took Jerusalem, Peter went back to Europe.

Walter the Penniless

A French knight who wasn't actually broke, Walter got his name when later historians mistook his French surname Sans Avoir, as "without means" instead of as a reference to the Avoir Valley. Anyway, he co-led the Peasants' Crusade with Peter, and was in charge when most of the Crusaders got wiped out. That included Walter.

The Goose Crusade

According to Jewish historians, a fanatical group of German peasants decided in 1096 that a goose had been "blessed by God." They followed it around for a while, and along the way attacked and killed any Jews they encountered.

The Children's Crusade

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Sometime in 1212, large groups of poor people wandered around France and Germany, and the word got around that thousands of children were marching to the Holy Land. It was probably more aimless shuffling of homeless people than a crusade, but a bunch of kids apparently did show up in Marseille to seek passage to the Holy Land. Most of them ended up being sold into slavery in North Africa.

Picture 4.pngIt's the greatest deal in the history of history books! Our first hardback, The Mental Floss History of the World: An Irreverent Romp Through History's Best Bits, hits stores later this month, and we're so excited that we've teamed up with the fine folks at Amazon.com to give you a special deal. Pre-order the book before October 27th and we'll throw in 6 FREE MONTHS of mental_floss magazine! Just click here to get the deal now.

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Why Can Parrots Talk and Other Birds Can't?
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If you've ever seen a pirate movie (or had the privilege of listening to this avian-fronted metal band), you're aware that parrots have the gift of human-sounding gab. Their brains—not their beaks—might be behind the birds' ability to produce mock-human voices, the Sci Show's latest video explains below.

While parrots do have articulate tongues, they also appear to be hardwired to mimic other species, and to create new vocalizations. The only other birds that are capable of vocal learning are hummingbirds and songbirds. While examining the brains of these avians, researchers noted that their brains contain clusters of neurons, which they've dubbed song nuclei. Since other birds don't possess song nuclei, they think that these structures probably play a key role in vocal learning.

Parrots might be better at mimicry than hummingbirds and songbirds thanks to a variation in these neurons: a special shell layer that surrounds each one. Birds with larger shell regions appear to be better at imitating other creatures, although it's still unclear why.

Learn more about parrot speech below (after you're done jamming out to Hatebeak).

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