No, Nero did not play the fiddle while Rome burned

“Sack of Rome by the Visigoths ,410” by Joseph-Noël Sylvestre , 1890. Image source and licensing: Wikimedia Commons

A few days ago, a friend of mine called to complain about a business presentation that didn’t go as planned. He mentioned that one of the new hires made a vital mistake during the presentation, but his team leader didn’t intervene.

My friend said: “The team leader just sat during the presentation doing nothing. Kept checking his phone. Like Nero, he played the fiddle when Rome burnt. I may lose this deal.”

“I’m sorry to be a nitpicker,” I said, “But Nero didn’t play the fiddle when Rome burned. …

Aladdin was real and his story wasn’t present in the original Arabian Nights

The Flying Carpet used by Aladdin, based on a Russian folklore hero Ivan Tsarevich. Painting by Victor Vasnetsov, 1880. Image source and license: Wikimedia Commons

One of the most well-known Arabian Nights tales is Aladdin and the Magic Lamp. The tale has all the elements of a perfect fantasy story: an orphan boy who falls in love with the Sultan’s daughter, a genie in a magical lamp, and an evil sorcerer planning to destroy him.

What if I told you that this thrilling story was not present in the original Arabian Nights?

It was added later by a Frenchman in the 18th century.

You maybe asking, isn’t this a tale from the Middle East? What is a Frenchman doing here?

Hollywood has presented it as…

I managed to drop 40 pounds and 65 pounds after two major surgeries and have sustained the results since.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Losing weight is a challenge. Our bodies appear to conspire against us when we are trying to lose weight. But you know it is achievable and rewarding, as you can see the difference it makes to your life.

You feel lighter, your health and confidence improve.

But what happens when life throws you an extra challenge where you cannot use the same tools as millions of others? I faced the same after two major surgeries.

The generic weight loss advice “eat less and move more” did not work. Well, it would not work as after both the surgeries they required…

Research suggests you cannot make up for lost sleep

Photo by Leohoho on Unsplash

Mike was excited to join a Fortune 500 company after completing his MBA. After a year, I ran into him at his new job. He lacked stamina, was often sick, and had gained a considerable amount of weight.

I asked if he was getting enough sleep after seeing his bloodshot eyes. Mike slept for just 4 hours a day. He had sleep apnea and poor immunity. I could relate to him because that was me eight years ago, sleep-deprived and overworked.

What happens to our immune system when we sleep?

A good night’s sleep is vital for our immune system. Our bodies produce cytokines while we sleep. Cytokines are…

Understanding the psychology behind such stories

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

If you are a Medium member reading this, I am sure your home page has at least one story titled “Here’s How much I made last month/week/year.”

They tempt you to click on the story. Eventually you do. And before you know it, you’re being recommended more and more of these stories.

I’m still relatively new to Medium, having joined in late November 2020. However, I became addicted to these articles within the first few weeks.
The algorithms showed me more stories like this as I read more. …

An act of betrayal opened the floodgates of how information spread in Medieval times

Diamond Sutra, the world’s earliest known printed book using woodblock printing on paper. Image source and licensing: Wikimedia Commons.

“Paper is more patient than man.” — Anne Frank

Is it possible to imagine a world without books?

I’m afraid I can’t. I’m sure you share my sentiments.

Books changed the way knowledge spread and helped us evolve as humans. Knowledge destroys ignorance, and without easy access to information, the world would be a different place today.

But books were a costly affair. That changed with the invention of paper. Paper made it easy to spread knowledge. Recording information was hard until papermaking became global.

Once upon a time, the method of making paper was kept a closely guarded secret…

Our gut holds the key to the answer on why undernutrition and obesity coexist

Former first lady Michelle Obama visiting students in Virginia during lunch. Image source and licensing: Wikimedia Commons

Joy and I met in my the freshmen year of college. He was skinny and lacked energy, but he was a driven individual.

We became good friends.

He invited me to dinner at his house one day. I met his mother and noticed that, unlike Joy and his father, she was overweight. This sparked my curiosity as to why family members have different body compositions.

After a decade had passed since we graduated from college, I came across Joy’s Facebook profile. He was completely unrecognizable. The skinny, tired boy had gained weight. …

This is my second month achieving a 100% curation rate, but this time its different

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

“Here we go again, another story about how to get curated” you might be saying.

You’ve already seen tens of thousands of them.

Trust me, I am not here to tell you what you already know.

“Write a catchy headline,”Use Grammarly to copy edit,” “Edit multiple times”Write daily”, you have heard those a million times.

I’m not an authority on Medium writing, and I’ve only been writing here for four months. But twice I’ve had a 100% curation rate.

I wrote four stories in January, all of which were curated. But I thought it was a onetime incident…

Monkey Bombs, Flaming Pigs, and Weird Animal Weapons

An imagined rhinoceroses by Albrecht Dürer. Though never used in warfare, Dürer depicted the rhino having an armored plate. Image source and licensing: Wikimedia commons.

Two of my favorite series, Netflix’s Marco Polo and HBO’s Rome, were both canceled far too soon. At the start of Marco Polo’s second season, a vivid scene depicts Ghenghis Khan (pronounced Chinggis Khaan) teaching his grandsons Kublai and Kaidu a military lesson.

The Mongols had besieged a fortified city. We see Genghis, in battle armor, carrying a cute tiny swallow.

“Nested birds and well-fed dogs always return to their master, said the great conqueror. He then ties the bird to a ball of wool, lights it, and asks Kaidu to release it.

The hapless bird lets out a shriek…

A sneak peek into the actual evidence on the gladiators’ diet

Pollice Verso, a gladiator being given the thumbs down by the Roman crowd. Painting by Jean-Leon Gerome’ ,1872. Image source and licensing: Wikimedia Commons.

Is it true that the gladiators were vegetarians? On the internet, in history, and in diet forums, this has been a hot topic of discussion. The Game Changers (2018) documentary went even further, claiming that the gladiators were vegan.

I was taken aback by their claims, so I wanted to investigate further and check their authenticity.

The “story” aspect of “history” can often take precedence over reality. But this isn’t just a historical issue; we also need to look at the science behind the assertions.

Although scholars have differing opinions on the matter, it is clear that data from the…

Prateek Dasgupta, MS

Founder: . Hobbyist historian. I write on health and nutrition, science , history and higher education.

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