New Internationalist

Curiosities

Issue 229

new internationalist
issue 229 - March 1992

Questions
...that have always intrigued you about the world will appear in this,
your section, and be answered by other readers. Please address
your answers and questions to ‘Curiosities’.

Was Beethoven black?

. In addition to the sources quoted in NI 228 there is a short piece about this by Steve Moore in the Fortean Times No 59, published in 1991. Anyone wanting a copy can probably get it from SKS, 20 Paul Street, Frome, BAl 1 lDX, UK.

Moore quotes a friend of Beethoven who described him as 'short, stocky, with broad shoulders, short neck, thick head, round nose, blackish, brown complexion'.

Moore's conclusion is that 'a Negro strain introduced by the Moorish invasion of Spain may have made its way to Limbourg' which is where Beethoven ancestors appear to have originated. So, although it is not likely that Beethoven was 100 per cent black, it is on the cards that he was not 100 per cent white either.

Steven Mainwaring,
Bath, UK

Why do nomads in the Sahara wear dark colours when light colours are supposed to be cooler?

. I've heard a rumour that dark clothes create thermals which are rather more cooling than still air.

Jean Daly,
Reading, UK

What are the origins of the Panama hat?

. The Panama hat was originally made in Panama and Ecuador from the leaves of the screw-pine tree about 300 years ago. These hats are well suited to protect the wearer from the sun, and were worn for this reason by Jamaican and other workers building the Panama Canal.

David Dodman,
Kingston, Jamaica

What was the Football War all about?

. The war was about more than football as suggested in Jane Bertram's reply (NI 227). The underlying cause for the war between El Salvador and Honduras was to do with the iniquities of the 1969Central American Common Market which greatly favoured El Salvador in comparison with Honduras. The large number of Salvadorean refugees in Honduras also contributed to this war which was fought on both sides by soldiers equipped by the US.

Robert Graham,
Darlington, Australia

Awaiting your answers...

What is the origin of the terms 'left-wing' and 'right-wing'?
I have an idea that it dates back to the French Revolution. Is this so?

Alan Hunter,
Greymouth, Aotearoa

Where can vegetarians who want to be consistent get cruelty-free, quality shoes, belts and accesories?
I've tried asking local vegetarian societies but have got useless replies.

Raoul Boulakia,
Toronto, Canada

How does a fly land on a ceiling? How does a fly take off from a ceiling?

MT Gibbs,
Kempston, UK

I've heard that someone has invented a car that runs off chicken manure. Is this true?

June Keen,
Perth, Australia

What happens to the fat extracted in the production of healthy 'low fat' margarine and dairy products?

Chris Fincham,
Colchester, Essex

Big Bad World - cartoon by P J POLYP

If you have any questions or answers please send them to Curiosities,
New Internationalist, 55 Rectory Road, Oxford OX4 1BW, UK,
or to your local NI office (click here for addresses).

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