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Buying a New Sultan

Before Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror of the Ottoman Empire dies, he tells his Grand Vizir that he wants his younger son, Cem, to rule instead of his older son, Bayezid. When the Sultan dies, the Grand Vizir moves the Sultan's body to Constantinople to give the younger son the opportunity to get there first to claim the throne but Bayezid shows up and is crowned king. The fighting begins. Bayezid offers to buy the throne from his half-brother to the tune of $436,000 in modern currency. Cem turns the deal down. After a fierce battle, Cem is captured by Christians and turned over to the Pope who threatens to release Cem if the Ottomans should attack the Christians. Bayezid pays the Pope 120,000 crowns (equivalent to the Pope's entire revenues in a year), the Spear of Longinus (that was used to pierce the side of Jesus as he hung from the cross) 100 slaves and an annual payment of 45,000 ducats which is around $6 million dollars (as of November 2014). Problem solved. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
It is obvious that the Ottoman Turks have a lot of money on hand. A lack of good financing was the chronic problem of the Eastern Roman Empire. The old Greek Emperor began under-capitalized and could never pay his bills. He would debase his currency which spurred the creation of the Venetian Ducat and the Florin as a standard of payment. (It's like demanding that international transactions be paid in dollars which can be difficult to come by if your local currency is being debased on a weekly basis.) When the word gets out that you don't pay your bills, things get MORE expensive... not less. That is because there is a real possibility that one might not get paid, so the risk gets built into the price. Even though the Ottoman Turks are covering the same basic region that the Eastern Roman Empire once did, their costs are a lot less and they are on the upswing. People are willing to back a winner and they will offer a discount to reap those rewards.

Columbus: A Fortunate Mistake *

There is no "flat earth society" amongst the educated at this time. Most people believe that the Earth is a sphere but they disagree as to how big a sphere it is. Christopher Columbus believes that the Earth is 18,000 miles in circumference. (It is actually, around 24,900 miles measured along the equator.) The scientist and mapmaker, Paolo Toscanelli, is firmly in the camp that believes that Asia is just a hop, skip and a jump away, so he writes a letter to the Portuguese who have been looking for a route around Africa and a second letter to Christopher Columbus including a map that shows Cathay (that is, China) just 3,000 miles west of Europe. Columbus is convinced that the voyage is worth trying. The Portuguese will disagree and turn down Columbus's proposal but they will pass him on to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain. [7] [8] [9]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
This is where science gets it really, really WRONG but it turns out better than one could expect. It's sort of like going to the Moon in a redesigned ICBM missile guided by a computer that is less powerful than a kid's pocket calculator. What kind of knucklehead would do that? Well... the United States did that in the 1960s because it was competing with the Soviet Union over which political system was best for mankind. The science of the the 60s was not advanced, but the attempt to reach the Moon spurred research that has changed our lives today. In 2014, going to the Moon should be a cake walk. President Obama has set a goal for Mars, but so far, the USA can't even send people into near orbit any more. Despite all we can do as a survival community one thing is certain... this ball of dirt has an expiration date. Setting aside a belief in man-made global warming or a religious end-of-days scenario, the end is not near. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not in our lifetimes. Not even in our great, great grandchildren's lifetimes but SOME time. We explore the unknown because ultimately, TRYING TO DO SOMETHING is substantially different from THINKING about doing something. [10] [11] [12] [13]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1481, Wikipedia.

See Also


* The asterisk in the section header indicates that it was read on the podcast.
  1. Gold Price for 850,000g of silver is $436,484.97 (2014). Retrieved on 2 November 2014.
  2. Mehmed the Conqueror - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 2 November 2014.
  3. Sultan Cem - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 2 November 2014.
  4. Bayezid II - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 2 November 2014.
  5. Akçe - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 2 November 2014.
  6. Malanima, Paolo (2009). Pre-Modern European Economy: One Thousand Years (10th-19th Centuries) - Google Books. Retrieved on 2 November 2014.
  7. "Columbus, Christopher", Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology. Houghton Mifflin, 70-73. ISBN 0385177712. “He gained a knowledge of mapmaking and, very fortunately, gained just enough misinformation to believe with Poseidonius that the earth was no more than eighteen thousand miles in circumference. This was reinforced by a map by Toscanelli, with whom he was in contact in 1481.” 
  8. "Toscanelli, Paolo", Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0385177712. “His lone claim to fame, however, and his chief service to science, consisted of a mistake firmly held. He believed that Asia lay three thousand miles west of Europe and drew up a map [...] He showed this to Columbus and that was all Columbus needed.” 
  9. Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  10. Ackerman, Spencer (January 3, 2012). White House Denies CIA Teleported Obama to Mars. Wired.com. Retrieved on 9 December 2014.
  11. Knowing (2009). IMDb.com (2014). Retrieved on 9 December 2014. “M.I.T. professor John Koestler links a mysterious list of numbers from a time capsule to past and future disasters and sets out to prevent the ultimate catastrophe.”
  12. Sunshine (2007). IMDb.com (2014). Retrieved on 9 December 2014. “A team of international astronauts are sent on a dangerous mission to reignite the dying Sun with a nuclear fission bomb in 2057.”
  13. Siceloff, Steven (April 15, 2010). NASA - President Outlines Exploration Goals, Promise. nasa.gov. Retrieved on 9 December 2014. “And by 2025, we expect new spacecraft designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first-ever crewed missions beyond the moon into deep space. We'll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history. By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow. And I expect to be around to see it.”

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