(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘metre

“Always be a poet, even in prose”*…


The Knight from the Ellesmere Manuscript of the Canterbury Tales.

In the 13th century, English poetry changed dramatically. There were no battles, no pamphleteering, or Ezra Pound-style polemics, and no warring factions. Yet by the end of the century, a poetic revolution had taken place. Modern readers and writers have long since forgotten what happened back then, but poetry today would not be the same without the 13th century.

In the Middle Ages, three major languages were spoken and written in England: Latin, French, and English. English was the least prestigious but, like the others, it had a thriving literary tradition. Before c1200, there was only one way to write poetry in English, known today as alliterative verse. This is the form of poetry used in BeowulfPiers PlowmanSir Gawain and the Green Knight, and approximately 300 other poems…

The revolution of English poetry began toward the end of the 12th century, when poets writing in English invented new metres…

For centuries, alliterative metre was the only way to write poetry in English. Then, rather suddenly, it wasn’t. It’s worth remembering the 13th century as an illustration of the unpredictability of historical change and the evanescence of normal, in literature and in life.

The full story– with lots of lovely examples– at: “The 13th-century revolution that made modern poetry possible.”

* Charles Baudelaire


As we get high behind change, we might spare a thought for Snorri Sturluson; he died on this date in 1241.  A poet, historian, and politician (he was elected twice as lawspeaker at the Icelandic parliament, the Althing), he authored (among other works) the Prose Edda or (Younger Edda).

Snorri is remarkable for proposing (in the Prose Edda) that mythological gods begin as human war leaders and kings whose funeral sites develop cults (a form of euhemerism).



Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 23, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Race does not stand up scientifically, period”*…


The genetic distance between some groups in Africa, such as the Fulani of West Africa (above) and the Hazda of Tanzania, is greater than supposedly racially divergent groups such as East Asians and Europeans.

If race categories were meant primarily to capture differences in genetics, they are doing an abysmal job. The genetic distance between some groups within Africa is as great as the genetic distance between many “racially divergent” groups in the rest of the world. The genetic distance between East Asians and Europeans is shorter than the divergence between Hazda in north-central Tanzania to the Fulani shepherds of West Africa (who live in present-day Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Guinea). So much for Black, White, Asian, and Other.

Armed with this knowledge, many investigators in the biological sciences have replaced the term “race” with the term “continental ancestry.” This in part reflects a rejection of “race” as a biological classification. Every so-called race has the same protein-coding genes, and there is no clear genetic dividing line that subdivides the human species. Another reason for using the term “continental ancestry” in lieu of “race” is improved precision for locating historical and geographic origins when we look at the genome. Thus, continental ancestry allows for more genetically accurate descriptors. For example, President Barack Obama was not just the first socially “black” president. He was also the first (as far as we know) who has European and African ancestry.

In sum, racial categories now in use are based on a convoluted and often pernicious history, including much purposefully created misinformation.

It is a good time, then, to dispel some myths about genetic variation that have been promulgated by both the left and the right alike…

Setting the scientific record straight on race, IQ, and success: “What Both the Left and Right Get Wrong About Race.”

* Dalton Conley and Jason Fletcher


As we hear Bob Marley sing “One love, one heart, let’s get together and feel all right,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1795 that the first (but still provisional) official standard “metre bar” was forged in Paris.  Made of brass, its length was one ten-millioneth of the northern quadrant of the Paris meridian.

In the aftermath of the French Revolution (1789), the traditional units of measure used in the Ancien Régime had replaced; the livre monetary unit was replaced by the decimal franc, and a new unit of length was introduced– the metre.

This first prototype was short by 0.2 millimeters because researchers miscalculated the flattening of the earth due to its rotation.  Still this length became the standard– replicated in platinum– until 1889, when new, more accurate measurements were used to create a new standard metre, that gained acceptance across the world.



Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 9, 2017 at 1:01 am

From A(chilles) to Z(eno)…


Logical Paradoxes:

Armed with the laws of logic and a few simple, plausible, and apparently harmless assumptions, philosophers can construct proofs of the most absurd conclusions. These proofs can give us pause; should we believe the unbelievable? This is the power of a paradox.

This website is a celebration of such proofs. The most interesting philosophical arguments are those that proceed from undeniable premises, via inescapable logic, to incredible conclusions. When philosophy proves what is plausible it is mundane; it is only when philosophy appears to prove what is incredible that things really get interesting.

This site explains many of the classic paradoxes, including Achilles and the Tortoise, The Paradox of the Heap, and The Liar Paradox, along with some less familiar paradoxes such as The Problem of the Specious Present.

I hope that you’ll leave the site perplexed and confused.


As we muse on the immutable, we might recall that it was on this date in 1793 that the first definition was established for the metre (aka, the meter): 1/10 000 000 of the northern quadrant of the Paris meridian (5 132 430 toises of Paris, from the north pole to the equator).  The name was derived from the work of 17th Century Italian scientist Tito Livio Burattini, and his work Misura Universale, in which he used the words metro cattolico (derived from the Greek métron katholikón), “a universal measure.”  It was formally adopted by the French National Assembly in 1795, and passed in English in 1797.  (The current definition of a metre is the distance traveled by light in a complete vacuum in 1/299,792,458th of a second.)


Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 1, 2010 at 12:01 am

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