Counter-factual History.

What might have been had the Romans developed the steam engine? By the late 3rd century AD, all of the essential elements for constructing a steam engine were known to Roman engineers: steam power – Hero’s aeolipile, the crank and connecting rod mechanism in the sawmills and marble quarries, the cylinder and piston in metal force pumps, non-return valves in water pumps and gearing in water mills and clocks. Suppose that the Roman Empire emerged, as it did, from the crisis of the third century with all its administrative and military institutions changed, bureaucratic, rigid, and constantly geared for war, with its capital no longer in Rome but in Constantinople – and with steam power. (Such a development might have occurred not in Italy, but in the Eastern Empire – the stirrup was first put into wide use there, and reserves of coal and other minerals are available without deep mining in, for example, Dacia, Moesia and Thracia – present-day Romania and Bulgaria.)

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What might have been

ESC 2010

120 million viewers all over Europe (mostly) watched the finals of the 55th annual Eurovision Song Contest, live from Oslo, Norway, last night. As usual, there was satisfaction and grumpiness, depending on which camp one was cheering for, but overall it was a big, colourful, fun party. According to veteran UK commentator Sir Terry Wogan, ‘Eurosong’ is not a contest at all. It’s a music fair; a gathering for European countries to showcase and celebrate their music to the rest of the continent. There is an element of competition thrown in, to keep things interesting, but deep down it’s a party, meant to be fun and not taken seriously.

For the record, here are the results, including snippets from the top performances of the evening, for the Sunday recreation of the rest of the world.

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