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Posts Tagged ‘Guy Fawkes

“Eating is an agricultural act”*…

 

… at least in these post-hunter-gatherer days, it is… and therein lies the problem?

To science we owe dramatic changes in our smug self-image. Astronomy taught us that our earth isn’t the center of the universe but merely one of billions of heavenly bodies. From biology we learned that we weren’t specially created by God but evolved along with millions of other species. Now archaeology is demolishing another sacred belief: that human history over the past million years has been a long tale of progress. In particular, recent discoveries suggest that the adoption of agriculture, supposedly our most decisive step toward a better life, was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered. With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence.

At first, the evidence against this revisionist interpretation will strike twentieth century Americans as irrefutable…

Read Jared Diamond’s (1987) refutation in “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race.”

* Wendel Berry

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As we hunt and gather, we might spare a celebratory thought for “the only man to enter Parliament with honest intentions”– it’s Guy Fawkes Day.

On the eve of a general parliamentary session scheduled for November 5, 1605, Sir Thomas Knyvet, a justice of the peace, found Guy Fawkes lurking in a cellar of the Parliament building, and ordered the premises thoroughly searched.  Nearly two tons of gunpowder were found hidden within the cellar.  The authorities determine that the suspect was a participant in an English Catholic conspiracy, largely organized by Robert Catesby, to annihilate England’s entire Protestant government including King James I.  Over the next few months, English authorities killed or captured all of the conspirators in the “Gunpowder Plot,” and also arrested, tortured, or killed dozens of innocent English Catholics.  Fawkes himself was executed on January 31, 1606.

The day after Fawkes arrest, November 5, 1605 Londoners were encouraged to celebrate the King’s escape from assassination by lighting bonfires, “always provided that ‘this testemonye of joy be carefull done without any danger or disorder'”; an Act of Parliament later that year designated November 5th as an official day of thanksgiving for “the joyful day of deliverance”, and remained in force until 1859.

But as historian Lewis Call has observed, Fawkes is now “a major icon in modern political culture.”  The image of Fawkes’s face has become “a potentially powerful instrument for the articulation of postmodern anarchism” during the late 20th century, exemplified by the mask worn by V in the comic book series V for Vendetta, who fights against a fictional fascist English state, and by activists who were part of the Occupy Movement.

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Written by LW

November 5, 2015 at 1:01 am

K Kt to B3…

Fun Fact: the knight can visit each square on a chess board exactly once.

(TotH to THERE ARE SOME THINGS THAT I HATE and some things that I don’t)

As we take The Knight’s Tour, we might send bombastic birthday greetings to Guy Fawkes; he was born on this date in 1570. On the 5th of November, 1605, Fawkes was apprehended in a cellar in the Houses of Parliament in London, where nearly two tons of explosives were also found.  He was executed the following January for his role in what has become known as The Gunpowder Plot.  Fawkes has enjoyed something of a renaissance, as the mask that caricatures his visage, featured in the film V for Vendetta, has become a symbol of the “Occupy” movement.

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Written by LW

April 13, 2012 at 1:01 am

Well that changes everything…

source: Imperial College, London

As all of one’s assumptions about the future (and thus the past) seem to be weakening, two dispatches from the world of science are genuinely foundation-shaking…

First, from New Scientist (and though NS doesn’t mention it, earlier from Freeman Dyson in NYRB):

Just suppose that Darwin’s ideas were only a part of the story of evolution. Suppose that a process he never wrote about, and never even imagined, has been controlling the evolution of life throughout most of the Earth’s history. It may sound preposterous, but this is exactly what microbiologist Carl Woese and physicist Nigel Goldenfeld, both at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, believe. Darwin’s explanation of evolution, they argue, even in its sophisticated modern form, applies only to a recent phase of life on Earth.

At the root of this idea is overwhelming recent evidence for horizontal gene transfer – in which organisms acquire genetic material “horizontally” from other organisms around them, rather than vertically from their parents or ancestors. The donor organisms may not even be the same species. This mechanism is already known to play a huge role in the evolution of microbial genomes, but its consequences have hardly been explored. According to Woese and Goldenfeld, they are profound, and horizontal gene transfer alters the evolutionary process itself. Since micro-organisms represented most of life on Earth for most of the time that life has existed – billions of years, in fact – the most ancient and prevalent form of evolution probably wasn’t Darwinian at all, Woese and Goldenfeld say…

Woese can’t put a date on when the transition to Darwinian evolution happened, but he suspects it occurred at different times in each of the three main branches of the tree of life, with bacteria likely to have changed first…

As we remember that what has changed can change again, we can read the whole story here.

Second, from ArXiv and ITWire, a suggestion that we might not have as long to figure this out as we have been thinking:  entropy in the universe is much higher than previously expected; thus the “heat death” of existence as we’ve known it, much closer. As Tapecutter observes in Slashdot,

In a paper soon to be published in the Astrophysical Journal [ArXiv link, above], Australian researchers have estimated the entropy of the universe is about 30 times higher than previous estimates. According to their research, super-massive black holes “are the largest contributor to the entropy of the observable universe, contributing at least an order of magnitude more entropy than previously estimated.” For those of us who like their science in the form of a car analogy, Dr. Lineweaver compared their results to a car’s gas tank. He states, ‘It’s a bit like looking at your gas gauge and saying “I thought I had half a gas tank, but I only have a quarter of a tank.”

Happily a quarter of a tank should be good for hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of years.

As we regain our bearings, we might note that this was a bad day for revolutionaries of another stripe:  it was on this date in 1606 that Guy Fawkes was executed for his role in the Catholic Restorationist “Gunpowder Plot.”

Guy Fawkes

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