The Null Device
As the 300th anniversary of the Act of Union, that forged the state of Great Britain out of Englandandwales and Scotland, approaches, a narrow majority of Scots support Scotland gaining independence from the UK, for the first time after devolution.
The survey for The Scotsman newspaper, six months before Scottish Parliament elections, will make Scottish Labour nervous, especially since it confirms recent polls showing the Scottish Nationalists making gains from Labour. If the Nationalists win power, they say that they will hold a referendum on independence within four years.Whether or not independence will happen is another matter; the fact that Scotland's oil/gas reserves are in decline means that Scottish independence would not be as severe an economic blow to the UK as it would have been a decade ago.
The question arises of what would happen were Scotland to vote for, and gain, its independence. Would England, Wales and Northern Ireland call themselves "the UK" (much in the way that Serbia and Montenegro called themselves "Yugoslavia")? What if Northern Ireland went its own way (breaking the union after which the UK was named)? I suppose Englandandwales could be referred to as "Great Britain" (the name of the island it's on), much in the way that the United States is known as "America", though as an official name it sounds unwieldy.
Of course, it's quite likely that Scottish independence may not happen and that it may be an ambit claim. Perhaps the separatists could be bought off by replacing the asymmetric, London-centric UK with a German/Australian-style federal system, in which England, Wales and Scotland are member states. The question is: where would the new British Parliament be sited?
One of the lesser-known casualties of the Age Of Terror: shoes that charge your phone batteries as you walk. Invented by Sir Trevor Roper, of wind-up radio fame, they were all ready to go, and then shoes with embedded electronic devices suddenly became deeply unpopular:
"After 9/11, anyone wearing electric shoes would look like a bomber. That's what you have to watch with any electric kit that you carry nowadays," he muses. Richard Reid, who tried to blow up a plane by carrying explosives in his heels - which made customs officials particularly nervous about footwear - has a lot to answer for.The shoes were one potential application of piezoelectric generation, which extracts energy from movements such as people walking or the vibrations of trains; plans exist to use this energy to power all sorts of things, from sensors and transmitters in railway goods cars to wireless controllers powered by button presses to MP3 players in jackets made of piezoelectric fabric:
Markys Cain, who runs the Sensor Knowledge Transfer Network at the National Physics Laboratory, hopes to see fabric that generates its own power using piezoelectric fibres woven into frequently moving joints such as elbows and knees.
Dr Swallow puts it simply: "Your iPod will run on so little power, and your trousers will contain so much."
With finger motion, Starner believed he could give a wireless keyboard enough power to transmit keystroke information to another device.
In the 1930s, Henry Ford built two planned towns in Brazil, to support rubber plantations; the towns were modelled on Michigan, all white picket fences and neat, American-style suburban sidewalks (in fact, they looked not unlike some place in Queensland). As well as harnessing Brazil's rubber resources, the project attempted to instill Anglo-American/Fordian values in their residents; in return for better pay, the residents had to work US-style hours, eat American-style food in self-service cafeterias (the last point causing a riot at one stage) and attend compulsory square-dancing social events.
Fenced in by jungle, Fordlandia was transformed into a modern suburb with rows of snug bungalows fed by power lines running to a diesel generator. The main street was paved and its residents collected well water from spigots in front of their homes--except for the U.S. staff and white-collar Brazilians, who had running water in their homes. The North Americans splashed in their outdoor swimming pool and the Brazilians escaped the sun by sliding into another pool designated for their use.
Generally, the company-imposed routine met hit-and-miss compliance. Children wore uniforms to school and workers responded favorably to suggestions they grow their own vegetables. But most ignored Ford's no liquor rule and, on paydays, boats filled with potent cachaca--the local sugar-can brew--pulled up at the dock. Poetry readings, weekend dances and English sing-alongs were among the disputed cultural activities.
Former Kalamazoo sheriff Curtis Pringle, a manager at Belterra, boosted labor relations when he eased off the Dearborn-style routine and deferred to local customs, especially when it came to meals and entertainment. Under Pringle, Belterra buildings did not contain the glass that made the powerhouse at Fordlandia unbearably hot, and weekend square dancing was optional. Alexander said Henry Ford balked at building a Catholic church at Fordlandia--even though Catholicism was the predominant Christian religion in Brazil. The Catholic chapel was erected right away at Belterra.The project was unsuccessful; humidity and malaria made life there unpleasant, rubber yields were low, and for some reason, the locals didn't see the inherent superiority of Anglo-American culture and stubbornly stuck to their customs, in defiance of the local authorities' best efforts. Ultimately, the project was sold to the Brazilian government, which has been stuck with the burden of keeping it from falling down ever since, and struggled to find uses for a transplanted piece of Michigan on the Amazon.
(via Boing Boing)
A new book by a US sociologist examines the phenomenon of bed sharing, which has, so far, been overlooked by science:
In researching his book, Dr. Rosenblatt said even though many couples said they slept better alone, they still shared a bed. "When I asked why, they looked at me as if I'd asked them why they keep breathing," he said.
The subjects he interviewed invariably had their own side of the bed, and responsibilities like putting out the cat or opening the windows before turning in. They usually had rituals like watching the television news before lights out or snuggling before falling to sleep. And they often had signals for when they wanted affection, wanted to talk or wanted to be left alone.
"How they arrived at these systems could be said to mirror their relationships," said Dr. Rosenblatt. The most successful systems were those formed out of compromise and sensitivity to the other's needs.