Archive for the ‘#history’ Tag
“ROSWELL, N.M. — Austrian extreme skydiver Felix Baumgartner has become the only human being to break the sound barrier outside of an airplane after skydiving from 38 km above the earth.
After much anticipation and several scrapped attempts, Baumgartner landed safely in New Mexico slightly at about 2:20 p.m. ET Sunday.
“We live to conquer fears and pursue dreams, may our attempts and accomplishments progress humankind,” Baumgartner said via Twitter after landing. “
AN : Felix Baumgartner accomplished someting historic today. He did it with calculated risk and with a team. ( The article also has a video of the jump ). I think his quote above speaks for itself . Congradulations !
via Felix Baumgartner lands safely after record-breaking Red Bull Stratos jump | World | News | National Post.
“Though it is hard to tell by visiting the Bandas today, these miniscule islands played a pivotal role in global economic history. That’s because of what grows on them: nutmeg. For centuries, the Bandas were the primary source of the world’s nutmeg, once the condiment equivalent of gold. Prized for its supposed medicinal powers, nutmeg commanded outrageous prices inEurope, and awarded outrageous profits to anyone who controlled its supply. Finding the Bandas, and the rest of the nearby Spice Islands, was the main motivation behind Europe’s age of exploration. The dream of the Bandas sent the Portuguese around the Cape of Good Hope and Christopher Columbus accidentally towards America. The British and Dutch fought over the islands, and the Dutch, the eventually victors, grew fat off its monopoly of the nutmeg trade. One famous tale shows just how valuable these islands once were. In a peace treaty after a war fought in the mid-1660s, the English let the Dutch keep one island in the Bandas, called Run, that they had claimed. As part of the settlement, the Dutch recognized British control over another small island on the other side of the planet –Manhattan.
That deal seems ridiculous to us today.New York turned into the world’s financial capital, the Big Apple of the most important economy, covered with skyscrapers, luxury apartments and some of the best museums, theaters and universities anywhere. Meanwhile, Run is a rocky backwater covered with banana palms, nutmeg trees and a cluster of huts. While New Yorkers deal in high finance and international publishing, the residents of the Bandas still harvest nutmeg as they had centuries ago. Seeds can be seen drying in the sun outside of nearly every home. There are few signs in the Bandas today of their glorious history, beyond a handful of crumbling forts. And though the locals aren’t desperately poor – how can you be, when mangoes hang heavily from trees along village walkways – they’re not getting rich off their cherished nutmeg either. Now that the spice is a common ingredient, readily found in every supermarket across the U.S. and Europe, it has lost its value and could never command the lofty prices of yesteryear.
There is perhaps no better example in history of how trade rewards and punishes. When the Bandas had a clear comparative advantage over the production of a good in heavy demand – in other words, uncontested superiority over the technology, know-how and physical facilities (the trees) needed to make highly prized nutmeg – these islands could demand astronomical prices for their output and influence the course of global trade and world history. But no comparative advantage, no matter how secure it may seem or long it may last, can be perpetuated indefinitely. Though the Dutch went to great lengths to preserve their grip on the nutmeg trade, the high prices inevitably attracted competition. The British eventually figured out how to grow nutmeg in their own empire, global production increased, and the Bandas lost their unique comparative advantage. The islands descended from the pinnacle of the global economy into the isolated, anonymity of today.
The Bandas vanished from the global economy because they never changed with changing technology and consumer tastes. As the Bandas lost their dominance in the nutmeg trade, they needed to do something else – maybe capitalize on their farmers’ extensive knowledge of nutmeg to “move up the value chain” and shift into processing it into some new, more useful product. But that never really happened. To be fair to the locals, they did not possess the power to determine their own affairs. The Dutch ruled, and they were more interested in sucking what wealth they could from the islands back to Europe than developing a healthier local economy in the Bandas. Yet even since Indonesia’s independence, little effort has been made to turn the Bandas into much more than a bunch of nutmeg groves. There is talk of encouraging a tourism industry, but it remains mainly talk. That rickety propeller plane that flew us to the Bandas can never carry in enough brave tourists to make much of a difference to the local economy.
So, you ask, why is the story of the Bandas relevant to us today?
Read more: http://curiouscapitalist.blogs.time.com/2011/12/28/what-the-banda-islands-tell-us-about-world-trade/#ixzz1i60Idq00
via What the Banda Islands Tell Us About World Trade | The Curious Capitalist | TIME.com.
“In its time and place, the ancient city of Dura-Europos had much in common with today’s most cosmopolitan urban landscapes. Religious, linguistic and cultural diversity characterized much of the city’s life for more than 500 years, starting at the outset of the third century B.C. in what is now Syria.
Greek, Aramaic, Latin, Parthian, Middle Persian and Hebrew — all of these languages were used concurrently throughout the society, according to inscriptions and graffiti uncovered by archaeologists. A temple altar epitomizes the multiculturalism: The inscription is in Greek, and a man with a Latin name and a Greek-titled office in the Roman army is shown presenting an offering to Iarhibol, a god of the migrants from the old Syrian caravan city of Palmyra.
New Yorkers would have felt at home in the grid pattern of streets, where merchants lived, scribes wrote and Jews worshiped in the same block, not far from a Christian house-church as well as shrines to Greek and Palmyrene deities. Scholars said the different religious groups seemed to maintain their distinct identities.
An exhibition of prized and quotidian artifacts from Dura-Europos, “Edge of Empires: Pagans, Jews, and Christians at Roman Dura-Europos,” is on view through Jan. 8 at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. The objects — notably art from antiquity’s best-preserved synagogue, and evocative photographs of the buried city’s excavations — are on loan from the Yale University Art Gallery.
“As a city of extraordinary cultural diversity,” said Jennifer Y. Chi, an archaeologist and the exhibition’s chief curator, “Dura-Europos has great resonance for the modern world, where multiculturalism shapes the very nature and quality of daily life.” “
via Dura-Europos, a Melting Pot at the Intersection of Empires – NYTimes.com.
“Today the potato is the fifth most important crop worldwide, after wheat, corn, rice and sugar cane. But in the 18th century the tuber was a startling novelty, frightening to some, bewildering to others—part of a global ecological convulsion set off by Christopher Columbus.
About 250 million years ago, the world consisted of a single giant landmass now known as Pangaea. Geological forces broke Pangaea apart, creating the continents and hemispheres familiar today. Over the eons, the separate corners of the earth developed wildly different suites of plants and animals. Columbus’ voyages reknit the seams of Pangaea, to borrow a phrase from Alfred W. Crosby, the historian who first described this process. In what Crosby called the Columbian Exchange, the world’s long-separate ecosystems abruptly collided and mixed in a biological bedlam that underlies much of the history we learn in school. The potato flower in Louis XVI’s buttonhole, a species that had crossed the Atlantic from Peru, was both an emblem of the Columbian Exchange and one of its most important aspects.
Compared with grains, tubers are inherently more productive. If the head of a wheat or rice plant grows too big, the plant will fall over, with fatal results. Growing underground, tubers are not limited by the rest of the plant. In 2008 a Lebanese farmer dug up a potato that weighed nearly 25 pounds. It was bigger than his head.
Many researchers believe that the potato’s arrival in northern Europe spelled an end to famine there. (Corn, another American crop, played a similar but smaller role in southern Europe.) More than that, as the historian William H. McNeill has argued, the potato led to empire: “By feeding rapidly growing populations, [it] permitted a handful of European nations to assert dominion over most of the world between 1750 and 1950.” The potato, in other words, fueled the rise of the West.
Equally important, the European and North American adoption of the potato set the template for modern agriculture—the so-called agro-industrial complex. Not only did the Columbian Exchange carry the potato across the Atlantic, it also brought the world’s first intensive fertilizer: Peruvian guano. And when potatoes fell to the attack of another import, the Colorado potato beetle, panicked farmers turned to the first artificial pesticide: a form of arsenic. Competition to produce ever-more-potent arsenic blends launched the modern pesticide industry. In the 1940s and 1950s, improved crops, high-intensity fertilizers and chemical pesticides created the Green Revolution, the explosion of agricultural productivity that transformed farms from Illinois to Indonesia—and set off a political argument about the food supply that grows more intense by the day.”
via How the Potato Changed the World | History & Archaeology | Smithsonian Magazine.
Short history and description of our alphabet and typography.
“We see it every day on signs, billboards, packaging, in books and magazines; in fact, you are looking at it now — the Latin or Roman alphabet, the world’s most prolific, most widespread abc. Typography is a relatively recent invention, but to unearth the origins of alphabets, we will need to travel much farther back in time, to an era contemporaneous with the emergence of (agricultural) civilisation itself.”
via The origins of abc | I love typography, the typography and fonts blog.
How the ‘ecosystem’ myth has been used for sinister means | Environment | The Observer.
I post this because it reflects a number of principles in the dynamic of human society :
1. That some of the actions and movements within socity today can be understood in terms of biological systems …or maybe understood ( a theory is a theory …unless it imperceptably becomes closer to reality and the truth due to repetitive and rigorous testing of the hypothesis ).
2. That sometimes we can better understand today’s thinking because it actually has roots in earlier thinking , whose authors are now gone but whose concepts are not , but persist in some morphed form or other.
3. Altruistic power is an ideal but mostly exists as an oxymoron or as a double standard …what applies to you does apply to you ( and only you ) , but what applies to you does not necessarily apply to me.
Orwell’s Animal Farm said it best ” all animals are equal…just some are more equal than others ( paraphrased ) “.