November 4, 2012

Invasive Albion disorder: only 10% of countries have never been invaded by Britain

Filed under: Africa, Americas, Asia, Books, Britain, Europe, History, Pacific — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:21

In the Telegraph, Jasper Copping explains why all those taunts about “perfidious Albion” are at least 90% deserved:

Every schoolboy used to know that at the height of the empire, almost a quarter of the atlas was coloured pink, showing the extent of British rule.

But that oft recited fact dramatically understates the remarkable global reach achieved by this country.

A new study has found that at various times the British have invaded almost 90 per cent of the countries around the globe.

The analysis of the histories of the almost 200 countries in the world found only 22 which have never experienced an invasion by the British.

Among this select group of nations are far-off destinations such as Guatemala, Tajikistan and the Marshall Islands, as well some slightly closer to home, such as Luxembourg.

The analysis is contained in a new book, All the Countries We’ve Ever Invaded: And the Few We Never Got Round To.

Stuart Laycock, the author, has worked his way around the globe, through each country alphabetically, researching its history to establish whether, at any point, they have experienced an incursion by Britain.

H/T to Colby Cosh for the link.

Even “Biblical views” change over time

Filed under: Health, History, Religion, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:39

An older post, but still rather informative:

The ‘biblical view’ that’s younger than the Happy Meal

In 1979, McDonald’s introduced the Happy Meal.

Sometime after that, it was decided that the Bible teaches that human life begins at conception.

Ask any American evangelical, today, what the Bible says about abortion and they will insist that this is what it says. (Many don’t actually believe this, but they know it is the only answer that won’t get them in trouble.) They’ll be a little fuzzy on where, exactly, the Bible says this, but they’ll insist that it does.

That’s new. If you had asked American evangelicals that same question the year I was born you would not have gotten the same answer.

That year, Christianity Today — edited by Harold Lindsell, champion of “inerrancy” and author of The Battle for the Bible — published a special issue devoted to the topics of contraception and abortion. That issue included many articles that today would get their authors, editors — probably even their readers — fired from almost any evangelical institution. For example, one article by a professor from Dallas Theological Seminary criticized the Roman Catholic position on abortion as unbiblical. Jonathan Dudley quotes from the article in his book Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics. Keep in mind that this is from a conservative evangelical seminary professor, writing in Billy Graham’s magazine for editor Harold Lindsell:

    God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: “If a man kills any human life he will be put to death” (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22-24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense. … Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.

Christianity Today would not publish that article in 2012. They might not even let you write that in comments on their website. If you applied for a job in 2012 with Christianity Today or Dallas Theological Seminary and they found out that you had written something like that, ever, you would not be hired.

At some point between 1968 and 2012, the Bible began to say something different. That’s interesting.

Even more interesting is how thoroughly the record has been rewritten. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

Remembering the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Railway

Filed under: Cancon, History, Railways — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:13

My friend John Spring is sharing some of his vast collection of railway film and photos with Canrail Video, and they’ve posted this excerpt of footage on the railway, including some of the last runs under steam on the TH&B:

TH&B Steam from the collection of John Spring. Copyrighted material ©2012 Canrail Video Productions. All rights reserved. You can however, link to this show from your site. This video will be shared for a short time only. You can view is and other John Spring films on future Canrail/Green Frog productions in the near future.

For more information on the railway, check the TH&B Railway Historical Society page or the Yahoo group (full disclosure: I founded the historical society, although I’m not currently active with the organization). I’m also the moderator for the discussion group.

The last of the Vulcan bombers to be grounded

Filed under: Britain, History, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

The RAF took the Vulcan bomber out of service in the 1980s, and the last flying example of the aircraft has been kept up by a trust organization since 2005. The trust has concluded that they can’t afford the necessary repairs to keep the aircraft airworthy:

They were once the UK’s most potent nuclear deterrent and were on standby for a role in the Cuban missile crisis.

But in recent years there has been just one that kept the flag flying for the Vulcan Bombers.

XH558 is the final airworthy aircraft of its type and has been admired by thousands of people each year at air shows as a result.

But soon it too could be grounded like all those before it.

The “tin triangle”, which is more than 50 years old, needs “challenging modifications” to both wings which the trust that owns it has decided cannot be funded.

The Leicestershire-based Vulcan To The Sky trust, which bought the aircraft in 2005, says escalating costs and limited engine life mean soon it will be confined to the runway for limited displays.
[. . .]

The XH558 is now used to woo the crowds at air shows but keeping the 52-year-old aircraft in working order is a constant challenge for the engineers who work on her.

Chief engineer Mr Stone said he has had to have “words” with some of the pilots over the years who have pulled manoeuvres and airborne stunts which have made him “almost fall off his chair” as he watched from the ground.

Rethinking software patents

Filed under: Business, Law, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Software patents are becoming a clear and present danger to innovation:

The basic problem being that there are so many patents, covering so many things, that the system is in danger of eating itself like Ourobouros.

    When Dan Ravicher of the Public Patent Foundation studied one large program (Linux, which is the kernel of the GNU/Linux operating system) in 2004, he found 283 U.S. patents that appeared to cover computing ideas implemented in the source code of that program. That same year, it was estimated that Linux was .25 percent of the whole GNU/Linux system. Multiplying 300 by 400 we get the order-of-magnitude estimate that the system as a whole was threatened by around 100,000 patents.

    If half of those patents were eliminated as “bad quality” — i.e., mistakes of the patent system — it would not really change things. Whether 100,000 patents or 50,000, it’s the same disaster. This is why it’s a mistake to limit our criticism of software patents to just “patent trolls” or ”bad quality” patents. In this sense Apple, which isn’t a “troll” by the usual definition, is the most dangerous patent aggressor today. I don’t know whether Apple’s patents are “good quality,” but the better the patent’s “quality,” the more dangerous its threat.

It’s near impossible to develop new software when there are so many such patents out there. Further, even if you tried to get clearance (or signed up to licenses and so on) to use them it would be near impossible.And we do need to recall what the purpose of a patent system is. No, it isn’t to provide and income to those who create inventions. That’s only the proximate aim: the ultimate aim is to maximise the amount of invention and innovation.

The economics of patents accepts that there is a tradeoff here. Yes, we’d like people who come up with useful new things to make money. Because that incentivises people to work on coming up with interesting new things to all our benefit. However, we also want people to be able to create derivative innovations and inventions. If our protection of the original inventors is too strong then we limit this. What we want is a system that hits the sweet spot, of encouraging the maximum amount of both, original and derivative. The problem of course being that to encourage one we weaken the incentives to do the other, either way around.

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