What’s in a name?

This article originally appeared on FIVE THôT.

Ancient Rome had running water, central heating, and representative democracy, but it didn’t have a lot of personal names. The great city had a small number of gens, noble families, and all the members of one gens, plus many of their retainers, hangers-on, even their freed slaves, used the same nomen, what we would call a surname, and there was only a small pool of prenomen, given names.

It was quite confusing. If for example you referred to Gaius Julius – that is Gaius of the Julian family – were you talking about the 3rd-century grammarian, the leader of the Batavian rebellion, or the famous statesman? Continue reading

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The Stone Age Didn’t End Because We Ran Out of Stones.

This article originally appeared on Five Thôt.

“The Stone Age didn’t end because humanity ran out of stones.”

— Ronald Bailey

We used to be afraid of something called Peak Oil. Peak Oil was the idea that oil production had reached its zenith, or would soon, and was poised to plunge; we inevitably faced a drought of the black gunk. In 2007, CNN reported:

The world has reached the point of maximum oil output and production levels will halve by 2030 — a situation that will eventually lead to war and disaster, a report claims.

The physicist Niels Bohr said, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” Some time has passed and we can see how this particular prediction has panned out. Continue reading