Professor Buzzkill

Professor Buzzkill is an exciting new blog & podcast that explores history myths in an illuminating, entertaining, and humorous way
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Professor Buzzkill



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Oct 27, 2016

We look at the story that men dressed as women to get into lifeboats escaping the sinking Titanic, which struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage to New York close to midnight on 14 April 1912. Didn’t those men know that it’s “women and children first”? I hope they weren’t Buzzkillers!

Oct 25, 2016

Super Buzzkiller Professor Philip Nash joins us to dispel myths about Hitler during World War II. We talk about strategic and operational blunders (especially Operation Barbarossa), harsh occupation policies, declaration of war against the US, and imperial overstretch. We also examine the Holocaust and Holocaust deniers, Hitler’s micromanagement, his declining health, the plots to kill him, and his eventual suicide. Join us in the Buzzkill Bunker!

Oct 21, 2016

Churchill wouldn’t be Churchill if there weren’t myths about him from the very beginning. Stories about his birth in 1874 usually include the “facts” that he was born in a closet or ladies’ room at Blenheim Palace. The birth was premature, dramatic, and rushed, according to legend. And there wasn’t time to find a more suitable room. Or was there? Find out, Buzzkillers!

Oct 18, 2016

Marco Polo was a Venetian Merchant who left Europe in 1271 at age 17, traveled all around the Mongol Empire in the time of Genghis’ grandson Kublai Khan, and then came back to Europe in 1295, age 41. But did he really go on this trip, or are the stories that he made it all up true? Professor John Giebfried enlightens us, Buzzkillers!

Oct 13, 2016

We call them “Levis,” no matter what brand they are. But maybe we should call them “Jacobs.” Blue jeans weren’t invented by Levi Strauss, but by Jacob Davis, a fellow European immigrant and tailor. Was it a story of expropriation and exploitation? Thankfully, no, Buzzkillers. Both men worked together to bring “Jacobs” to the world, and we are all grateful.

Oct 11, 2016

Laura Trevelyan from the BBC joins us to discuss to her new book, Winchester: the Rifle that Built an American Dynasty. She busts myths about the famous rifle and family, and explains its importance in American history. Recorded live in Georgetown, Washingtong DC! The first Buzzkiller who emails us - - gets a signed copy of the book!

Oct 6, 2016

The 1937 Hindenburg disaster was one of the most dramatic events of the 20th century. And it certainly was dramatically reported. But what if the report we're used to hearing was partly the result of a mechanical error in the recording equipment? What if the emotion that comes through in the "oh the humanity" quote was inadvertently enhanced through this error? Would the disaster "sound" different to us if we heard the genuine report?

Oct 4, 2016

Did radio listeners really think that Nixon won the first 1960 presidential debate, while TV viewers thought the more telegenic Kennedy won? This story is the most repeated myth in the history of presidential debates. The Professor explains why. Make sure to listen and tell us what you think about the Professor’s “presentation.”

Sep 29, 2016

The White House is called the “White House” because it was painted white to cover up the fire damage from its burning by the British army in 1814, right? Well, no. But that’s the myth that has been flying around the internet for years. Unfortunately, the story is less dramatic, but the history of the White House name is interesting. Listen up, Buzzkillers!

Sep 27, 2016

Super Buzzkiller Prof Philip Nash joins us to examine the many myths surrounding Adolf Hitler’s rise from Chancellor to the outbreak of World War II. These include: how Nazi Germany functioned; the myth of purely tyrannical dictatorship; and the myth of an efficient, orderly dictatorship. We also explore Hitler’s genuine popularity, and explain the successes of Hitler’s diplomacy and expansionism. It’s very deep and complicated, Buzzkillers!

Sep 22, 2016

Was Civil War Union General Joseph “Fightin’ Joe” Hooker’s last name the origin of the slang term for prostitute? He had a perhaps undeserved reputation as a party animal, but did that reputation actually add a new word to the language? Find out, Buzzkillers!

Sep 20, 2016

So you think you know all about Genghis Khan, the 13th century Mongol who built an enormous empire by slaughtering millions? but much of what you know is either exaggerated or just plain untrue. He was unmistakably brutal, but not as brutal as you may think. Listen to our interview with Professor John Giebfried, an expert on this period!

Sep 15, 2016

Hello again, fellow Buzzkillers. In this week’s mini-myth, we tackle Isaac Newton’s famous apple – an object we all heard about in grade school that allegedly hit Isaac Newton on the head some time in 1666, causing him to have a sudden epiphany about the universal law of gravitation. So, did Sir Isaac really discover the secrets of the heavens because of a sudden, concussive insight under an apple tree, or is this just a fruity story, embellished over time by overzealous Newtonians?

Sep 13, 2016

Super Buzzkiller Prof Philip Nash joins us to examine some of the zillion myths surrounding Adolf Hitler and his early years. We discuss the myth of his brutal childhood and youthful poverty, the complicated story of his service in World War I (and the ways in which he wrote about it later in Mein Kampf), and the myths surrounding his early political career and political activism. It’s very deep and complicated, Buzzkillers!

Sep 8, 2016

The painting Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze is one of most iconic images in the American cultural consciousness. But how accurate a depiction is it? By standing up in the boat, did George risk tipping over and falling into the icy river? Would his soldiers have laughed or panicked? Find out, Buzzkillers!

Sep 6, 2016

Everybody knows that Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, but how did he do it? Did he really paint the entire ceiling from atop a scaffold while reclining on his back? Well, not really. In some cases, the truth is even more amazing than the myth, and this is one of those cases, Buzzkillers. Not only did Michelangelo paint one of the most famous masterpieces in the history of art, he did so under great duress. Listen to find out why the painting of the Sistine Chapel is even more awesome than you thought..

Sep 1, 2016

“Ring Around the Rosie” has been a popular nursery rhyme for a very long time. Many of us learned it when we were children. But we often hear people claim that the rhyme is traceable to the time of the Black Plague, and that each line is a morbid reminder of the horrors of Bubonic disease. But was it?

Aug 30, 2016

In the Academy Award-winning film, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Colonel Nicholson is portrayed as a man who willingly betrays his country and his men for an easier ride as prisoner of war. He collaborates with his captors in order to build a railway bridge that is key to Japan's war efforts in Burma and Thailand. While the men under his command are initially intent on sabotaging the bridge, Nicholson convinces them otherwise, ostensibly in order to maintain troop morale, and to show that British engineering is superior to that of the Japanese. The only problem, Dear Buzzkillers, is that the real commanding British Colonel on the River Kwai was was nothing like the character portrayed in the movie.

Aug 25, 2016

The silk top hat was common headwear in high society from the middle of the 18th century all the way to at least the beginning of the 20th. By the middle of the 20th century, however, the top hat was in rapid decline – and many blame President John F. Kennedy for its demise. Did Kennedy break with tradition by not wearing a top hat during his inauguration – and if he did, how much did that really contribute to changing fashions? Read on and find out, Buzzkillers!

Aug 23, 2016

Who built the ancient monument, Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain in England. Merlin and King Arthur? The Devil? The Druids? And what was it used for? Religious rituals? As a solar or seasonal calendar? A burial site? Or as site of ancient healing? Find out, Buzzkillers. The Professor tells all, along with help from Spinal Tap.

Aug 18, 2016

Like most Americans, I suppose I assumed that Jesse Owens was the only African-American athlete at the 1936 Olympic Games. A new documentary, Olympic Pride, American Prejudice not only shows that there were 18 African-American athletes on the US team in Berlin, but that they were remarkably successful in winning medals and representing their country. Listen and learn, Buzzkillers!

Aug 16, 2016

The idea that the “original” Olympics in ancient Greece (which ran from 776 BC to AD 393) were only open to amateurs, void of cheating and corruption, free from commercialism, and a time of peace across Greece is just a myth. It didn’t exist in Greek mythology, though. The myth of an amateur Olympics is entirely a product of the late 19th century, when the idea of organized, regularly-scheduled games with international participation was conceived.

Aug 11, 2016

Enigma, the German World War II message encoding machine, was famously cracked by British codebreakers led by Alan Turing. But were there more people involved? Buzzkillers in Dayton, Ohio, will be very proud to hear that one of their native sons, Joseph Desch, was an Enigma hero. And Buzzkillers in Poland will welcome the fact that we’re gonna remind everyone that Polish cryptanalysts were the first to crack Enigma.

Aug 9, 2016

It’s election time, Buzzkillers! Should we pillory Hillary? Throw the Trumpster in the dumpster? Distinguished historians join me to discuss "fringe" candidates from the glorious American past. Listen in and cast your vote!

Aug 4, 2016

It’s the classic image from Hollywood movies about ancient Egypt -- slaves (usually Israelites) building the pyramids under the harsh lash of their masters. While Egyptian pyramid builders might have been harsh, relationships with their workers were much more complicated than master-slave. Recent archaeological evidence has put this old myth to rest.

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