Scotland

Galilean Relativity and the Invasion of Scotland

A few centuries ago, when Galileo (1564-1642) was trying to make a couple of points about how our world really works, one of the arguments that frequently came up in response to his ‘the earth orbits the sun’ theory was “if the earth is moving through space, how come I don’t notice?”

Not that I have much to begin with, but I don’t feel the wind constantly in my hair, I don’t get orbit-induced motion sickness, so why, Galileo, don’t I notice this movement as the earth is spinning around over 100,000 km per hour?

His answer is known as Galilean Relativity and it contains principles that have broad application in life.

Understanding Galilean Relativity allows you to consider your perspective in relation to results. Are you really achieving what you think you are?

First, an explanation of the theory.

Imagine you are on a ship that has reached constant velocity (meaning without a change in speed or direction). You are below decks and there are no portholes. You drop a ball from your raised hand to the floor. To you, it looks as if the ball is dropping straight down, thereby confirming gravity is at work. You are able to perceive this vertical shift as the ball changed its location by about three feet.

Now imagine you are a fish (with special x-ray vision) and you are watching this ship go past. You see the scientist inside, dropping a ball. You register the vertical change in the position of the ball. But you are also able to see a horizontal change. As the ball was pulled down by gravity it also shifted its position east by about 20 feet. The ship moved through the water and therefore so did the ball. The scientist on board, with no external point of reference, was not able to perceive this horizontal shift.

This analogy helped Galileo explain why we don’t notice the earth moving — because we’re at the same constant velocity, moving with our planet.

It can also show us the limits of our perception. And how we must be open to other perspectives if we truly want to understand the results of our actions. Despite feeling that we’ve got all the information, if we’re on the ship, the fish in the ocean has more he can share.

History offers an illuminating example of this principle at work.

In the early fourteenth century, two English kings (Edwards I and II) were repeatedly in conflict with Scotland over Scottish independence.

Nationalism wasn’t as prevalent as an identity characteristic as it is today. Lands came and went with war, marriage, and papal edicts, and the royal echelons of Europe spent a lot of time trying to acquire and hold on to land, as that is where their money ultimately came from.

There were a lot of factors that led Edward I, King of England, to decide that Scotland should be his. It has to do with how William the…

What Europe Might Have Looked Like If It Had Been Colonised

Article Image

What if Europe had been colonised like it has colonised the rest of the world? This is what the continent might have looked like: a map that completely ignores the history, culture and geography of the region. Boxy borders that are impractically straight and misplaced, countries that are tragically mutilated and/or hilariously misnamed.

On the Iberian peninsula, Portugal has been stood on its head: it still occupies two-thirds of the Atlantic coast, but has had to abandon the Algarve (its southern bit) while being given Galicia (the Spanish area to its north). Spain is no more, but divided into a bottom third, Andalusia; a middle bit called Castile; and a giant Catalonia, spilling across the Pyrenees into France.

Did we say France? We meant Gallia, the eastern half of our France. Gallia’s straight if slightly diagonal eastern border is boxed out to the east to include Paris, deprived of France, Gallia’s neighbour to the east. France gets most of Belgium, a good-sized chunk of Switzerland and a big bite out of northern Italy.

The rest of Italy is divided into Lombardia to the north and Italy to the south. The border between both seems to run straight through Rome, with at least the Vatican wholly Lombardian. Italy holds on to Sardinia, but Sicily is the independent state of West Lebanon.

Austria looks like a horribly disfigured amputee, but at least it gets to keep Vienna. Great Bavaria occupies most of…

Scotland’s Worst: Peter Manuel, “The Beast of Birkenshaw”

Peter Manuel’s ghastly murder spree lasted exactly one day short of two years. His first attack occurred on January 2, 1956, and his final assault took place on January 1, 1958. In those 729 days, the man know as the “Beast of Birkenshaw” committed acts of violence that still haunt the people of Scotland, even now. Like many serial killers, the true number of victims Peter Manuel claimed is unknown, but he is positively credited with 8 murders.

Manuel was born in New York City to Scottish immigrant parents in 1927. The family stayed in the U.S. for a while before they decided to return to their native Scotland when Peter was 5 years 0ld. The family settled in Birkenshaw. Manuel embarked on a life of crime from an early age, and he was well-known to police as a petty thief before he was even a teenager.

At the age of 16, Manuel began committing sexual assaults. He eventually attacked over a dozen women and was sent away to prison for 9 years for his crimes. After his stint behind bars, Manuel returned to Birkenshaw, but crime was never far from his mind. On January 2, 1956, Manuel committed his first murder. That day he stalked, attacked, raped, and murdered 17-year-old Anne Kneilands on a golf course. Manuel was questioned by police in the Kneilands murder, but his father provided him with an alibi, so he was crossed off the list of suspects. His father’s unfortunate lie kept Manuel on the street, where he went on to commit several more heinous acts.

In September 1956, Manuel committed a triple murder, taking the lives of Marion Watt, her sister Margaret Brown, and her 17-year-old daughter,…

Podcast Episode 150: The Prince of Nowhere

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:General_Gregor_MacGregor_retouched.jpg

In 1821, Scottish adventurer Gregor MacGregor undertook one of the most brazen scams in history: He invented a fictional Central American republic and convinced hundreds of his countrymen to invest in its development. Worse, he persuaded 250 people to set sail for this imagined utopia with dreams of starting a new life. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the disastrous results of MacGregor’s deceit.

We’ll also illuminate a hermit’s behavior and puzzle over Liechtenstein’s flag.

Intro:

In 1878, a neurologist noted that French-Canadian lumberjacks tended to startle violently.

Each year on Valentine’s Day, someone secretly posts paper hearts in Montpelier, Vt.

Sources for our feature on Gregor MacGregor:

David Sinclair, Sir Gregor MacGregor and the Land That Never Was, 2003.

Matthew Brown, “Inca, Sailor, Soldier, King: Gregor MacGregor and the Early Nineteenth-Century Caribbean,” Bulletin of Latin American Research 24:1 (January 2005), 44-70.

T. Frederick Davis, “MacGregor’s Invasion of Florida, 1817,” Florida Historical Society Quarterly 7:1 (July 1928), 2-71.

Emily Beaulieu, Gary W. Cox, and Sebastian Saiegh, “Sovereign Debt and Regime Type: Reconsidering the Democratic Advantage,” International Organization 66:4 (Fall 2012), 709-738.

R.A. Humphreys, “Presidential Address: Anglo-American Rivalries in Central…