Category Archives: History

Videos: Yearly changes in human population, world history, Chinese dynasties, etc

A sampling of videos showing historical changes one frame at a time:

** Human Population Through Time

** The History of the World: Every Year

** The Spread of the Indo-Europeans

** The Early Dynasties of China: Every Year

** World War I: Every Day


Genesis: The Story of Apollo 8: The First Manned Mission to Another World

Videos: 100th launch of an Ariane V rocket sends two satellites to GEO

Yesterday an Ariane V rocket lifted off on the 100th mission of the program, sending two communications satellites towards their slots in geostationary orbit. 100th Ariane 5 launch a success, orbiting two satellites for Intelsat, SKY Perfect JSAT and Azercosmos – Arianespace

The first Ariane V launch took place on June 4, 1996. Unfortunately, the rocket exploded soon after liftoff due to a software problem.

There was another total loss on the 14th launch and three partial failures (two in the 1990s and one last year) occurred when the satellites were put into the wrong orbits and had to use their own fuel to reach the target orbits. In general, though, the Ariane V became a very reliable launcher. Failures early in launch vehicle’s launch history are the norm as seen, for example, with the two SpaceX Falcon 9 explosions (one in flight and one during a pad test).

Scott Manley gives some background on the Ariane V:

Speaking of launches, here is an essay on the fun and excitement of watching a launch: The day I caught rocket fever | The Planetary Society.


Einstein’s Monsters: The Life and Times of Black Holes

Listen to the Story of Apollo 8, when humans first left earth and orbited another world

Bob Zimmerman tells me his book, Genesis: The Story of Apollo 8, which tells the dramatic history of the first mission to send humans beyond earth orbit, is now available as an unabridged audiobook.  From the press release:

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of one of mankind’s boldest adventures, the first manned flight to another world. To mark the occasion, an audio version of the first book about the mission of Apollo 8 has been released, narrated by Grover Gardner, a legend in the ears of fans of audiobooks all over the planet.

Says Valerie Anders, wife of Apollo 8 crew member Bill Anders, “When I first read this excellent account, published before the end of the space shuttle era, I was delighted.”

Now, with the advent of high quality audio books and online merchants like iTunes and Audible, and the resonant and expressive voice of narrator Grover Garner, everyone can enjoy this recording of this pivotal moment in space history.

While more recent books have been published on the mission of Apollo 8 (most of which rely heavily on Zimmerman’s work), none has captured the impact the Apollo program had on the families of the astronauts nearly so well as “Genesis – the story of Apollo 8.” The new forward to “Genesis,” by Valerie Anders, contains a moving tribute to those pilots who never returned from their missions – not as faraway as the moon, but just as dangerous and far more frequent.


Video trailers: “The First” – Hulu TV series with Sean Penn + “First Man” – Film with Ryan Gosling

The First is a new Hulu original series starring Sean Penn about the first human mission to Mars. It will premier on September 14th. Here is the trailer:

From the caption:

The First is created by Beau Willimon (House of Cards) and stars Sean Penn. Set in the near future (2030), this groundbreaking story explores the challenges of taking the first steps towards Mars. Viewers will get an intimate look at the dedicated characters trying to reach the unknown while dealing with the psychological and physical toll it takes to achieve the impossible.


July 20, 2019 will be the 50th anniversary of the first time a human set foot on another celestial body. A start on the coming year of tributes and remembrances will be the movie First Man, starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong. It is currently set to open on October 12th. Here is a trailer:

From the caption:

On the heels of their six-time Academy Award®-winning smash, La La Land, Oscar®-winning director Damien Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling reteam for Universal Pictures’ First Man, the riveting story of NASA’s mission to land a man on the moon, focusing on Neil Armstrong and the years 1961-1969. A visceral, first-person account, based on the book by James R. Hansen, the movie will explore the sacrifices and the cost—on Armstrong and on the nation—of one of the most dangerous missions in history.

Written by Academy Award® winner Josh Singer (Spotlight), the drama is produced by Wyck Godfrey & Marty Bowen (The Twilight Saga, The Fault in Our Stars) through their Temple Hill Entertainment banner, alongside Chazelle and Gosling. Isaac Klausner (The Fault in Our Stars) executive produces. DreamWorks Pictures co-finances the film.