A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for the ‘History’ Category

[BLOG] Some Sunday links

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  • Language Hat reports on the Wenzhounese of Italy.
  • Language Log writes about the tones of Cantonese.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money writes about the costs of law school. (They are significant, and escalating hugely.)
  • Marginal Revolution reports on the problems facing the Brazilian pension system, perhaps overgenerous for a relatively poor country facing rapid aging.
  • Neuroskeptic reports on the latest re: the crisis of scientists not being able to replicate evidence, now even their own work being problematic.
  • Personal Reflections considers the questions of how to preserve the dignity of people facing Alzheimer’s.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog notes a Financial Times article looking at the impact of aging on global real estate.
  • Spacing Toronto talks about the campaign to name a school after Jean Earle Geeson, a teacher and activist who helped save Fort York.
  • At Wave Without A Shore, C.J. Cherryh shares photos of her goldfish.
  • Window on Eurasia notes growing instability in Daghestan, looks at the latest in Georgian historical memory, and shares an article arguing that Putin’s actions have worsened Russia’s reputation catastrophically.

[PHOTO] Five photos of the Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal at night

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The Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal is a huge edifice towering over its neighbourhood. I had seen it looming over Vieux-Montréal, but it was only when I tried to take a photo of the entire building that I realized its size. I had to back up to the far side of the Place d’Armes just for a single shot of the entire building in my viewfinder.

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal (1)

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal (2)

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal (3)

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal (4)

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal (5)

[URBAN NOTE] “City’s stomach offers perennial access point to Toronto’s soul”

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In The Globe and Mail, Marcus Gee writes about the import of the St. Lawrence Market, present on its current location for two centuries and hopefully here for a long while to come.

St. Lawrence Market is one of the two sites in Toronto (the other is nearby St. James Cathedral) that has been used for the same purpose since the city’s earliest days.

Generations of farmers, butchers and vegetable mongers have come down to lay out their wares. Generations of shoppers have come to fill their grocery bags. In a constantly changing city, that kind of continuity is rare and precious.

So when city hall decided to tear down and rebuild the newish market building on the north side of Front Street and replace it with something better, archeologists got a twinkle in their eyes. Here was a chance to explore the buried remnants of Toronto’s past, layer upon layer. At least five market structures have stood on the site. What traces would remain of all those years of busy commerce?

By luck, the site had never suffered a huge excavation. The ground was covered only by a layer of concrete, the floor of the modern, 1968 market building. After that structure was torn down last fall, crews got digging.

They haven’t found any priceless artifacts. They didn’t expect to. This was a market, not a pharaoh’s tomb. Instead, they found butchered bones, iron meat hooks, painted ceramics, a soda bottle and an 1852 Bank of Upper Canada half-penny token. More important, they found the remains of the various buildings of evolving style and size that stood there, each a marker of the city’s growth.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 25, 2017 at 6:30 pm

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

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  • Centauri Dreams looks at the SPECULOOS red dwarf observation program.
  • The Crux examines VX nerve agent, the chemical apparently used to assassinate the half-brother of North Korea’s ruler.
  • Dangerous Minds shares photos of the inhabitants of the Tokyo night, like gangsters and prostitutes and drag queens.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money examines Donald Trump’s tepid and belated denunciation of anti-Semitism.
  • Language Log looks at the story of the Wenzhounese, a Chinese group notable for its diaspora in Italy.
  • The LRB Blog looks at the by-elections in the British ridings of Stoke and Copeland and notes the problems of labour.
  • The Map Room Blog shares a post-Brexit map of the European Union with an independent Scotland.
  • Marginal Revolution reports that a border tax would be a poor idea for the United States and Mexico.
  • The NYRB Daily looks at the art of the medieval Tibetan kingdom of Guge.
  • Otto Pohl notes the 73rd anniversary of Stalin’s deportation of the Chechens and the Ingush.
  • Supernova Condensate points out that Venus is actually the most Earth-like planet we know of. Why do we not explore it more?
  • Towleroad notes Depeche Mode’s denunciation of the alt-right and Richard Spencer.
  • Whatever’s John Scalzi considers the question of feeling empathy for horrible people.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the thousands of Russian citizens involved with ISIS and examines the militarization of Kaliningrad.

[BLOG] Seven links on the TRAPPIST-1 system

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News of the remarkable density of planets, including potentially Earth-like planets, in the system of nearby ultra-cool dwarf TRAPPIST-1 spread across the blogosphere. This NASA JPL illustration comparing the TRAPPIST-1 worlds with the four rocky worlds of our own solar system, underlining the potential similarity of some worlds to the worlds we know like Venus and Mars and even Earth, went viral.

Supernova Condensate provided a good outline of this system in the post “A tiny red sun with a sky full of planets!”.

One interesting thing is that TRAPPIST-1 is tiny. Really tiny! It’s a class M8V ultracool red dwarf, which really is about as small as a star can get while still being a star. Much smaller and it wouldn’t be able to even fuse hydrogen. I’ve put it side by side with a few other familiar celestial objects in this image. As you can see, it’s a little bigger than Jupiter. It’s actually roughly the same size as HD189733b, a much studied hot jupiter, and noticeably smaller than Proxima, our friendly neighbourhood red dwarf. Lalande 21185 is on the larger end of the scale of red dwarfs, and is also one of the few you can actually see in the night sky (though you’ll need a dark sky to find it).

Ultracool red dwarfs really are tiny, but they’re also extremely long lived. Quietly burning stellar embers which exemplify the old saying that slow and steady wins the race. Because these little stars don’t burn their fuel too quickly, and because they’re low enough in mass to be fully convective, they can burn for trillions of years. Long after the Sun exhausts the fuel in its core, flares into a red giant and then cools silently in the darkness, TRAPPIST-1 will still be burning, providing warmth for it’s little planetary entourage.

Not much warmth, mind you. TRAPPIST-1’s handful of planets are huddling around their parent star as if it were campfire on a cold night. The entire star system would fit inside Mercury’s orbit and still have cavernous amounts of room to spare. So close are those planets, that they have years which pass by in mere Earth days. The shortest has a year which is just 1.5 Earth days long. The longest year length in the system is still less than a month.

aureliaOf course, I say Earth days, because these planets don’t have days as such. They’re so close to their parent star that they’re certain to be tidally locked. The gravitational forces are sufficiently different that they cannot rotate at all. One side constantly faces the tiny red sun in the sky, and the other side constantly faces outwards towards the cold night. It’s quite likely that the night sides of these planets may be frozen in a permanent winter night, never gaining enough warmth to thaw. Half a planet of permanent Antarctica.

Supernova Condensate was kind enough to produce an illuminating graphic, hosted at “Model Planets”, comparing the TRAPPIST-1 system to (among others) the Earth-Moon system and to Jupiter and its moons. The TRAPPIST-1 system is tiny.

The Planetary Society Blog’s Franck Marchis wrote a nice essay outlining what is and is not known, perhaps most importantly pointing out that while several of the TRAPPIST-1 worlds are in roughly the right position in their solar system to support life, we do not actually know if they do support life. Further research is called for, clearly.

Centauri Dreams’ “Seven Planets Around TRAPPIST-1” has great discussion in the comments, concentrating on the potential for life on these worlds and on the possibility of actually travelling to the TRAPPIST-1 solar system. The later post “Further Thoughts on TRAPPIST-1” notes that these worlds, which presumably migrated inwards from the outer fringes of their solar system, might well have arrived with substantial stocks of volatiles like water. If this survived the radiation of their young and active sun, they could be watery worlds.

The cultural implication of these discoveries, meanwhile, has also come up. Jonathan Edelstein has written in “We Just Got Our ’30s Sci-Fi Plots Back” about how TRAPPIST-1, by providing so many potentially habitable planets so close to each other, would be an ideal setting for an early spacefaring civilization, and for imaginings of said. If a sister world is scarcely further than the moon, why not head there? Savage Minds, meanwhile, in “The Resonance of Earth, Other Worlds, and Exoplanets”, hosts a discussion between Michael P. Oman-Reagan and Lisa Messeri talking about the cultural significance of these and other discoveries, particularly exploring how they create points of perceived similarity used as markers of cultural import.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • At Antipope, Charlie Stross wonders–among other things–what the Trump Administration is getting done behind its public scandals.
  • blogTO notes a protest in Toronto aiming to get the HBC to drop Ivanka Trump’s line of fashion.
  • Dangerous Minds reflects on a Talking Heads video compilation from the 1980s.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reflects on a murderous attack against Indian immigrants in Kansas.
  • The LRB Blog looks at “post-Internet art”.
  • Lovesick Cyborg notes an attack by a suicide robot against a Saudi warship.
  • Strange Maps links to a map of corruption reports in France.
  • Torontoist reports on Winter Stations.
  • Understanding Society engages in a sociological examination of American polarization, tracing it to divides in race and income.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes the many good reasons behind the reluctance of cities around the world to host the Olympics.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that where the Ingush have mourned their deportation under Stalin the unfree Chechens have not, reports that Latvians report their willingness to fight for their country, looks at what the spouses of the presidents of post-Soviet states are doing, and notes the widespread opposition in Belarus to paying a tax on “vagrancy.”
  • Arnold Zwicky looks at the linguistic markers of the British class system.

[PHOTO] Five photos from the Ivan Harris Gallery, Canadian Broadcasting Centre, Toronto (#cbc)

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The Canadian Broadcasting Centre‘s Ivan Harris Gallery is hidden away from the CBC Museum, behind the escalator leading to the Centre’s food court. My attention was caught by the vintage technology on display, by the RCA TK-76 A camera that enabled mobile news gathering in the late 1970s, or the Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100 that could transmit as many as ten pages of text (!) from the field.

RCA TK-76 A Electronic News Gathering (ENG) Camera)

Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100

Televisions of the 1950s

Sound mixer

Tape recorder

Written by Randy McDonald

February 24, 2017 at 1:30 pm