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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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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.

Aug 2, 2016

George Washington has every political ideal in the country ascribed to him at one time or another. Big government. Limited government. Freedom of religion. Freedom from religion. What did he really think? What were his political principles and beliefs? Where did they come from? Find out in this episode, Buzzkillers.

Jul 28, 2016

This week’s MiniMyth takes on the Iron Maiden! No, not the heavy metal band, the “medieval torture device.” We also look at the Pear of Anguish and the Spanish Chair. Take extra pain medication, Buzzkillers, this episode rips apart a big historical myth. And the blood flows everywhere!

Jul 26, 2016

Hitler storming out of the stadium after Jesse Owens won the 100-meter dash in the 1936 Berlin Olympics is one of most enduring images we have of the tumultuous history of Nazi Germany. Hitler famously “snubbed” Jesse Owens and all African-American athletes because of his ideas of Aryan racial superiority. But did it actually happen? And did it happen the way we usually think? Find out, Buzzkillers!

Jul 22, 2016

The Venus de Milo is considered one of the most beautiful representations of ancient Greek sculpture. But she is probably more famous for her missing arms. Were they really broken off in a fight over her by zealous archaeologists? And what would she look like if her arms weren’t missing? Find out, Buzzkillers!

Jul 19, 2016

Was Amelia Earhart really an important aviation pioneer? Did she deserve all the attention she got? Hell yes, Buzzkillers! She was an aviation rock star! What she did was amazing, and an important part of her contribution to the 20th century was promoting female aviation. So the hype was worth it. But the myths and conspiracy theories about her disappearance have tended to swamp the history of her actual accomplishments and those of other early female aviators.

Jul 14, 2016

In 2010, Time magazine called the traditional school year calendar a “legacy of the farm economy.” And a few years later, National Public Radio referred to summer vacation as having its origins in an “agrarian calendar that dates back to farm cycles and harvests.” It’s always been that way, precisely so school children can be freed up to work on the farm back home. Right, Buzzkillers? Find out in today’s episode!

Jul 12, 2016

“Molly Pitcher” was the legendary water carrier who kept American soldiers hydrated and poured cool water on cannon barrels during the crucial Battle of Monmouth in 1778. But was she a real person? If so, who was she? As you’ll find out, Buzzkillers, she was more a product of the American Revolutionary Centennial celebrations in 1876 than the Revolutionary War itself.

Jul 7, 2016

Was the Liberty Bell used to announce the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776? Did get its crack from zealous and patriotic bell-ringing? Those are the standard stories, Buzzkillers. But, like the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, there’s more myth and mis-understanding in that story than actual historical fact. And most of the symbolic history of the Liberty Bell comes from the 19th century, rather than the 18th century. Proclaim Buzzkilling throughout the land!

Jul 5, 2016
[fusion_text]The bombing of Dresden on 13-14 February 1945 was one of the most destructive of the Allies’ late-war bombing campaigns over Germany. Somewhere between 22,000 and 25,000 people were killed and a famously beautiful city was leveled. It’s been called an Allied war crime, and Kurt Vonnegut’s famous novel, Slaughterhouse 5, reinforced that idea in the public mind for at least a generation. But was it a war crime? Was it unnecessary? Listen in, Buzzkillers, as Professor Phil Nash enlightens us![/fusion_text]
Jun 30, 2016

The Star Spangled Banner has been the national anthem of the United States since its founding, right? Wrong. Francis Scott Key wrote it 1814, and the song didn’t become the official national anthem until 1931, 117 years after it was written, and 155 years after the Declaration of Independence founded the nation.

Jun 28, 2016

Douglas MacArthur is one of the most famous and celebrated generals in American history. Along with Patton, however, he’s one of the most misunderstood and most mythologized. Born in the 19th century, MacArthur served in both World Wars, the Korean War, and other, less extensive US military actions. Yet he is also considered another attention hound (like Patton), sometimes overly-dramatic, and often letting his over-inflated view of his own abilities and destiny get in the way of sound judgement. In this episode we look at his career from the end of World War II  to his dismissal by Truman in 1951, and try to determine who was the real Douglas MacArthur.

Jun 23, 2016

Did Adolph Hitler really dance a little victory jig after the surrender of France in June 1940? Could such a nasty and maniacal person really show such light-hearted emotion? Turns out that high-quality film editing and special effects by the British wartime propaganda services put that little lilt in Hitler’s step.

Jun 21, 2016

Douglas MacArthur is one of the most famous and celebrated generals in American history. Along with Patton, however, he’s one of the most misunderstood and most mythologized. Born in the 19th century, MacArthur served in both World Wars, the Korean War, and other, less extensive US military actions. Yet he is also considered another attention hound (like Patton), sometimes overly-dramatic, and often letting his over-inflated view of his own abilities and destiny get in the way of sound judgement. In this episode we look at his early life and his career through World War II and try to determine who was the real Douglas MacArthur.

Jun 16, 2016

Many of us “know” that, in the Garden of Eden, Eve was tempted by a serpent to eat an apple from the tree of knowledge. She ate the apple and that led to God expelling her and Adam from the Garden of Eden. This is known as the “Fall of Man.” But was an apple responsible for Adam and Even being kicked out of the Garden of Eden and for the Fall of Man? Find out, Buzzkillers!

Jun 14, 2016

Listen, oh Buzzkillers, and you shall hear,

the true story of the Ride of Paul Revere.

Silversmith, patriot, brave man and true,

but he wasn’t the only one to carry the news.

Jun 9, 2016

The myths about the RMS Titanic, which sank on April 15, 2012, are themselves so big and numerous that we could call them titanic in their own right. In fact, they’ve lasted so long they might be considered unsinkable. Listen and learn the real story, Buzzkillers!

Jun 7, 2016

On April 24, 1925, a high school teacher named John Scopes taught a class in Dayton, Tennessee, using a state-mandated textbook that included a chapter explaining Darwin’s theory of evolution. In doing so, Scopes was in violation of Tennessee’s Butler Act, passed earlier in the year. He was arrested, tried, convicted, and fined $100. The verdict was later overturned on a technicality, but the case has gone down in history as an example of faith against science, ignorance against knowledge, and tradition against progress. But what really happened? Why was the Scopes Trial held? Find out, Buzzkillers!

Jun 2, 2016

The image of the Pony Express  is very strong in the American consciousness. Here’s what we “remember” -- a rider galloping as fast as the wind through the wild west, ignoring the elements, dodging hostile Native Americans, and delivering the mail. But that image owes more to Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show and Hollywood movies than to the history of the actual Pony Express. According to the US Department of the Interior, “Few events in U.S. western history have generated more myths and half truths than the Pony Express.”  Listen and learn, Buzzkillers!

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