|Theresa Kachindamoto UN Women|
Today's selection -- from Franklin Pierce by Michael F. Holt. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 -- an act which compelled states to return escaped slaves from another state -- had infuriated citizens in the northern states like few legislative acts in American history. Then came the Democratic Party's Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which allowed those two territories to determine the question of slavery by popular vote, in apparent abrogation of the Missouri Compromise of 1820. This caused all political hell to break loose, with many Whigs and Northern Democrats departing from their respective parties over the issue, and new parties like the Free Soilers formed specifically to protest this expansion of slavery. These coalesced in 1854 into a new party, which called itself the Republican Party, but some Whig stalwarts like Abraham Lincoln rebuffed overtures to join:
"A diverse conglomeration of new political coalitions emerged to compete with the Whigs for the anti-Democratic [party] vote [caused by the Kansas-Nebraska Act]. Within two years these newcomers would send the venerable Whig Party to its grave. A crucial facet of nineteenth-century political life can help the modern reader understand how this could happen. After all, today's major parties, the Democrats and Republicans, appear almost invulnerable to challenges from new parties. But that invulnerability is largely attributable to the fact that state governments print the ballots voters cast, punch, or mark, and the same governments control the access that parties have to those publicly printed ballots. Thus challengers to the major parties must jump through hoops, usually by collecting signatures on petitions, to get on the ballot so that people might have a chance to vote for them. In the nineteenth century, however, governments did not print and distribute ballots. That was the job of the political parties themselves. In effect, this system meant that all that was needed to launch a new party was access to printing presses and enough volunteer manpower to distribute its ballots at the polls. That was the scenario in the extraordinarily tumultuous elections of 1854-55 in which the northern electorate repudiated [the Democratic Party].
|the Palkiya Haveli was restored and turned into a hotel|
It's beyond black-out. As in, if the English had had curtains made out of Vantablack, the Nazi bomber pilots would have thought they were still flying over the Channel ~ or maybe into a black hole (if they had known what a black hole was). It's blacker than black, and all because of little carbon nanotubes (as in, "vanta," or "vertically aligned nanotube array") that trap visible light, which bounces around between them until only 0.035 percent remains. And now, there's a spray paint version of the amazing material. Imagine the possibilities in art, design, and architecture: https://www.1843magazine.com/design/his-dark-materials
|'Windy Day, Auxerre,' by Chaïm Soutine ca. 1939 The Phillips Collection|
as if a road could be otherwise but geometry
defies the man who is lost on the road that
the trees want to reach and reach down
to his walking on
along a verticality that defies
the requirements of normative perspective
and so he will reach, and the trees against chalk—
the gesture of the arm extended is central
to all Soutine's work be it a branch or an ache
or a split of the face, going off. In this case
can you say that a man is lost just because
you cannot distinguish him from the background.
|Science Photo Library|
"We are, at least from the standpoint of DNA, more microbial than human. That’s a phenomenal insight and one that we have to take seriously when we think about human development," says National Institute of Mental Health director Tom Insel. Mark Lyte, of Texas Tech University's Health Sciences Center, has been studying the links between our gut microbes and our brain for three decades: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/28/magazine/can-the-bacteria-in-your-gut-explain-your-mood.html
|first up, Sandra Matz|
|Hayat Khan, 8 Muhammed Muheisen, AP|
|Gullakhta Nawab, 6 Muhammed Muheisen, AP|
|Manuel Piñeiro Losada, left, with Che Guevara, right|
|California red-legged frog Edgar Ortega|
An amusing little quiz (eight questions long) from the National Wildlife Federation purporting to uncover the species closest to your heart ~ your patronus, if you will. It's educational, too. Apparently, I'm a California red-legged frog, which I found out is the largest native frog in the Western U.S. Unfortunately, it's also number four on the list of America's most threatened frogs, a distinction that started with the California gold miners, who ate them almost to oblivion, and continues today, thanks to the invasive American bullfrog and habitat destruction: http://blog.nwf.org/2016/03/quiz-whats-your-wildlife-personality/?s_email_id=20160308_MEM_BGV_MembershipMonth_WildlifePersonality_MEM|STBot
Today's selection -- from Indian Summer by Alex Von Tunzelmann. The moment of India's 1947 independence from Britain and the accompanying partition of India sparked a civil war between Hindus and Muslims in which hundreds of thousands and perhaps even millions perished. In this partition, India was divided into two nations -- the Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan (which is now the two countries of Pakistan and Bangladesh). As part of this division, millions of Muslims were relocated from the new India to Pakistan and millions of Hindus were relocated from the new Pakistan to India, a massive operation scarred by destruction and death. It was the largest mass migration in human history:
"On a warm summer night in 1947, the largest empire the world has ever seen did something no empire had done before. It gave up. The British Empire did not decline, it simply fell; and it fell proudly and majestically onto its own sword. It was not forced out by revolution, nor defeated by a greater rival in battle. Its leaders did not tire or weaken. Its culture was strong and vibrant. Recently it had been victorious in the century's definitive war.
"When midnight struck in Delhi on the night of 14 August 1947, a new, free Indian nation was born. In London, the time was 8:30 p.m. The world's capital could enjoy another hour or two of a warm summer evening before the sun literally and finally set on the British Empire.
"The Constituent Assembly of India was convened at that moment in New Delhi. ... Two thousand
|the Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey KW|
|Blue Mosque KW|
So there is a method to the madness! “ 'If there’s no interaction between primes, that’s what you would expect,' says [Stanford number theorist Kannan] Soundararajan. 'But in fact, something funny happens.' Despite each final digit appearing roughly the same amount of the time, there’s a bias in the order in which these final digits appear. A prime that ends in 7, for example, is far less likely to be followed by a prime that also ends in 7 than a prime that ends in 9, 3 or 1." Intriguing, yes, but here's my favorite part: "The discovery of the final digit bias has 'no conceivable practical use,' says Andrew Granville, a number theorist at the University of Montreal and University College London. 'The point is the wonder of the discovery' ": https://www.sciencenews.org/article/mathematicians-find-peculiar-pattern-primes?tgt=nr
|Sydney, Australia, celebrates the event it started at a recent Earth Hour|
"Earth Hour is a worldwide grassroots movement uniting people to protect the planet, and is organised by WWF. Engaging a massive mainstream community on a broad range of environmental issues, Earth Hour was famously started as a lights-off event in Sydney, Australia in 2007. Since then it has grown to engage more than 7000 cities and towns worldwide, and the one-hour event continues to remain the key driver of the now larger movement." This year, it is being celebrated on Saturday, March 19, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.: https://www.earthhour.org/celebrating-earth-hour
Trust mental floss to come up with St. Patrick's Day facts that, for the most part, are not that well-known. The first one: "We Should Really Wear Blue. St. Patrick himself would have [had] to deal with pinching on his feast day. His color was 'St. Patrick's blue,' a light shade. The color green only became associated with the big day after it was linked to the Irish independence movement in the late 18th century." Memorize these and impress and astound your new friends at the local pub: http://mentalfloss.com/article/55599/15-delightful-facts-about-saint-patricks-day
Blue through the window burns the twilight;
Heavy, through trees, blows the warm south wind.
Glistening, against the chill, gray sky light,
Wet, black branches are barred and entwined.
Sodden and spongy, the scarce-green grass plot
Dents into pools where a foot has been.
Puddles lie spilt in the road a mass, not
Of water, but steel, with its cold, hard sheen.
Faint fades the fire on the hearth, its embers
Scattering wide at a stronger gust.
Above, the old weathercock groans, but remembers
Creaking, to turn, in its centuried rust.
Dying, forlorn, in dreary sorrow,
Wrapping the mists round her withering form,
Day sinks down; and in darkness to-morrow
Travails to birth in the womb of the storm.