If Europe’s average temperatures had remained a few degrees cooler after the last glacial period 10,000 years ago, the existence of Doggerland would have been a reality in human history. What impact would it have had on events as we know them?
2018-11-29: The storied Knights of Malta shaped the Maltese capital of Valletta into a ‘city for gentlemen’, but how much longer can chivalry survive in the modern age?
In 1944, during the height of the Second World War, Roosevelt was given a memorandum by Henry Morgenthau, the Secretary of State, stating Morgenthau’s proposal on how to treat the inevitably defeated Germany. The first half of the plan, regarding territorial divisions, appeared rather less harsh than what ended up happening: Germany was to lose East Prussia, the Saar region, half of Silesia and was to be divided into three parts.
Morgenthau, in order to remove what he saw as the ‘problem of Europe’, demanded the complete destruction of Germany as a state. The entire nation was to be completely stripped of all industrial output: any industrial plant or facility, no matter how small, was to be dismantled or scrapped, mines were to be dismantled and wrecked. People with technical knowledge were to be ‘encouraged’ to migrate as far as possible.
Morgenthau had proposed that the entire country be reduced to a Medieval condition. Roosevelt enthusiastically backed the idea.
For two long years, Germany starved under the rebranded Morgenthau Plan and the Allies dismantled most traces of heavy industry from Germany.
General Lucius Dubignon Clay said: There is no choice between being a communist on 1,500 calories a day and a believer in democracy on a thousand.
For two years, Lucius Clay and his backers fought against JCS 1067. Their efforts were finally rewarded on 10 July 1947, with the repealing of JCS 1067 and its replacement by JCS 1779, focused on European economic recovery. On the same day the ‘Morgenthau Boys’ collectively resigned.
The horror of the Morgenthau Plan and its thirty million dead, supported to varying degrees by Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Churchill and many others, and halted by the efforts of Lucius Clay, George Marshall, Cordell Hull, Henry Stimson, Anthony Eden, Lewis Douglas, Lewis H. Brown, Mackenzie King, Herbert Hoover and many other forgotten heroes, was finally no more.
2018/10/02: Chile had invaded Peru in 1881 for a seemingly unlikely prize: nitrogen fertilizer. Twenty years earlier, the great European powers and the United States had come to the brink of global war over three tiny islands off the coast of Peru covered in mountains of nitrogen-rich guano. Why would anyone come to blows over piles of bird crap? Because nitrogen gave these countries the power to feed their growing populations. Peruvian guano was, as one historian put it, “worth more than all the gold shipped back to Europe in the Spanish treasure galleons.”
Nitrogen is everywhere. It makes up 80 percent of the air you’re breathing. On its own, it has no real value. But if it’s combined into a molecule with another element, like hydrogen or oxygen, it becomes something that can react with other chemicals. In this “fixed” state, plants can use it to build proteins. Our bodies use those proteins, in turn, to build muscles, bones, DNA, and babies.
But back in the 19th century, fixed nitrogen was limited. In the early 1800s, the English scholar Thomas Malthus warned of famine as population growth began to overtake farm production. Then settlers discovered the guano islands and nitrate mines of South America, and fertilizer-laden clipper ships streamed around Cape Horn back to Europe, giving farmers bumper crops and feeding a baby boom.
Britain’s population quadrupled over the next 100 years. Then in 1908, as South American nitrogen was beginning to run low, the chemist Fritz Haber discovered a way to take the inert nitrogen in air and turn it into the reactive forms plants and animals use. “Haber opened the faucet for nitrogen to flow from the air to the living world,” wrote geographer Ruth DeFries. Instead of waning, populations continued to boom.
This breakthrough solution created a crisis as large as the one it solved. Since Haber’s discovery, humans have nearly doubled Earth’s natural flow of fixed nitrogen, overwhelming the capacity of ecosystems to remove it. The resulting buildup is poisoning the planet’s waterways, creating a crisis some consider even more threatening than the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Now, for the first time in over a hundred years, there’s a potential solution. A pack of startups is racing to market with a means of fixing nitrogen without polluting the Earth. One of them, Pivot Bio, just garnered a $70 million vote of confidence in a funding round led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the coalition of big-name billionaires — Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Richard Branson — hoping to power climate change-beating innovation.
Pivot Bio CEO Karsten Temme and senior scientist Sarah Bloch in a grow room where bright lights make sunglasses necessary. Nathanael Johnson
“Pivot Bio is addressing one of the largest sources of GHGs on the planet,” said Carmichael Roberts, a Breakthrough investor, in a press release. He noted that the Berkeley, California-based biotech might earn a fortune by “disrupting the $200 billion fertilizer market.”
Next year, Pivot plans to start getting farmers nitrogen-fixing bacteria — which efficiently delivers fertilizer to crops, no fossil fuels required. Farmers will spritz seeds with a liquid probiotic as they bury them in the ground. Another startup, Azotic Technologies based in England, is racing to bring a different bacterium to market around the same time. Intrinsyx Bio — a spin-off from a company that supplies NASA with bacteria and other critters for experiments — plans to put yet another bacterium on the market in 2020. And at least one other, the Bayer-backed Joyn Bio, is just ramping up. If any of them is able to provide a viable alternative to the international fertilizer industry, it could be the most significant environmental breakthrough since Haber figured out a way to synthetically release nitrogen from its natural bonds.
The Earth's electrified upper atmosphere (the ionosphere) experiences a lot of natural variation, changing with the days and from season to season. The ionosphere can also be affected by certain big events, including solar flares, volcanic eruptions, lightning—and the massive bombs dropped on Germany during World War II. Those bombings produced shockwaves strong enough to weaken the ionosphere right near the edge of space.
That's the conclusion of a new study by University of Reading researchers, just published in the journal Annales Geophysicae. More than a historic curiosity, the finding matters because ionospheric disturbances can disrupt key communications technology, including GPS systems, radio telescopes, and radio communications.
The air raids conducted by both the Germans and Allied forces in the 1940s were designed to take out critical industrial and political infrastructure—and if civilians happened to be in the line of fire, so be it. (The Allied bombing of Hamburg in 1943 reportedly left 45,000 dead.) Intensifying the fear of dying among residents was as key to the strategy as the physical destruction wrought by the massive bombs dropped. The largest bombs, weighing as much as 10 tons, were powerful enough to blow the roofs off buildings, sending intense shockwaves not just through the streets but into the skies above.
2018/09/10: The current standards call for studying the U.S. as an exceptional country with ideals based in “personal freedom, the inherent nature of citizens’ rights, and democratic ideals.” These were written around the same time that the controversy erupted over the revised Advanced Placement United States History standards, which involved multiple states threatening to drop the course and the Republican Party issuing a statement condemning the revision.
The challenge with the traditional American Exceptionalism theory is that the more you learn about United States history, the harder it is to defend. It’s hard to defend the idea that the United States has an exceptional record of standing for inherent citizens’ rights when you learn about American history in the era of Japanese internment camps.
The reality is that there is a fundamental duality underlying American political history, and until we fully acknowledge this duality in current public school curriculums, our classrooms will continue to offer only a partial glimpse into the past. This is not an either/or proposition — America is exceptional — but just in ways that have done both good and bad.
We can trace this duality in American history to a conundrum that dates back to the very founding of the United States: When the leaders of the Revolution chose to seek independence, they launched a movement that espoused conservative ideals, but which used radical means to achieve them. Here, I am using “conservative” in the nonpolitical sense — the goal of the leaders was to return to American colonial society as it was before the increased interference of the British crown.
2018/09/25: the Parthenon marbles were a single work of art that should not be divided. Wouldn’t it be bizarre, he argued, if the head of Michelangelo’s David was in the British Museum and the body in the Uffizi Gallery? As Greeks have been saying for years, at the moment the Parthenon marbles are like a family portrait in which loved ones are missing.
One of the arguments most frequently made against returning the marbles is that the British Museum is a museum for the world hosting global treasure. By comparison, the one in Athens is insultingly portrayed as simply a national museum – despite the millions of tourists who visit the cradle of western civilisation every year. But to my mind Brexit makes such an argument totally redundant.
Can the British Museum really lay claim to being a museum for the world when the British government has jettisoned freedom of movement in its Brexit negotiations? I think not. Send the Parthenon marbles back to Athens, and they are free to be viewed by any of the citizens of the European Union who should choose to travel there, free from restrictions.
The Chinese wheelbarrow - which was driven by human labour, beasts of burden and wind power - was of a different design than its European counterpart. By placing a large wheel in the middle of the vehicle instead of a smaller wheel in front, one could easily carry three to six times as much weight than if using a European wheelbarrow.
The one-wheeled vehicle appeared around the time the extensive Ancient Chinese road infrastructure began to disintegrate. Instead of holding on to carts, wagons and wide paved roads, the Chinese turned their focus to a much more easily maintainable network of narrow paths designed for wheelbarrows. The Europeans, faced with similar problems at the time, did not adapt and subsequently lost the option of smooth land transportation for almost one thousand years.
The story we have been telling ourselves about our origins is wrong, and perpetuates the idea of inevitable social inequality.
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The history of Queen Elizabeth II's family is shrouded in mystery: citing the results of DNA tests as well as hereditary genetic disease, experts suggest that the House of Windsor has no rights to the British throne.
Scientists are a famously anonymous lot, but few can match in the depths of her perverse and unmerited obscurity the 20th-century mathematical genius Emmy Noether.
An interactive series of maps show possible new additions to the world's list of independent nations.
Albert Einstein's diaries reveal starkly racist sentiments well into middle age. The BBC reports that he disliked China most of all: "industrious, filthy, obtuse people" about whom "it would be a pity if [they] supplant all other races. For the likes of us the mere thought is unspeakably dreary." On Egyptians: "Levantines of every shade...
Scouting provides young people with opportunities to participate in programmes, events, activities and projects that contribute to their growth as active citizens. Through these initiatives, young people become agents of positive change who inspire others to take action.
There are now twice as many people as 50 years ago. But, as EO Wilson has argued, they can all survive - in cities