Columbus Day Should Be Abolished
A movement grows to re-examine Columbus's legacy and abolish his holiday.
Worshipping great men has been a dominant way of looking at history. As if it’s all a succession of events driven by male overachievers, those who excel at politics, waging war, exploring or thinking. These figures are canonized and their deeds studied. You can also find their sculptures all over your city or days named after them, in case you forgot how great they were. Like Columbus Day, a day that should be either renamed or no longer classified as a federal holiday.
The trouble with idolizing any human, even if one with remarkable achievements, is that they hardly ever live up to the myths about them. Especially as we try to unravel the narratives told about them and get to see the real people and their real impacts. And in the case of Christopher Columbus, a day bearing his name celebrates not only him, but a legacy of brutal colonialism and a near-extermination of an entire group of people that inhabited the Americas well before the Europeans. By honoring the fact that Columbus, and through him our whole civilization, “discovered” a land where an estimated 54 million people already lived and had societies, relegates these people to non-existence. This is basically saying - if we just don’t talk about them, they weren't there.
Columbus Day was established in 1937 to honor his “discovery” of the Americas in 1492, although Columbus’s voyage was celebrated even in colonial times. It’s essentially a celebration of former Europeans finding their new homeland in the Americas. It’s also become an unofficial Italian-American Day, a heritage celebration for descendants from Italy.
But there are risks to tie the heritage of an entire people to one man. In the case of Columbus, there is much scholarship and evidence that questions not only his accomplishments, but also the ultimate repercussions of his zeal to discover the New World. Documents from Columbus’s time portray him rather unflatteringly, as an overly ambitious man who stooped to slavery and violence against the native populations to advance his goals.
Journalist Norman Solomon found this entry in Columbus’s logbook:
“They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance.... They would make fine servants.... With 50 men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want".
History of the Indies, an important contemporary document of the times written by the Catholic priest and historian Bartolomé de las Casas offers a depiction of the region that was governed by Columbus.
Las Casas speaks of Spaniards driven by "insatiable greed" who practiced "killing, terrorizing, afflicting, and torturing the native peoples" with "the strangest and most varied new methods of cruelty”. The Spaniards “thought nothing of knifing Indians by tens and twenties and of cutting slices off them to test the sharpness of their blades. My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature, and now I tremble as I write".
While it was not all the direct doing of Columbus and the subsequent Spanish conquistadors, the fact is that 95% of the 54 million native people are believed to have been wiped out because of European arrival, which brought war and epidemic diseases. To still celebrate this man and the legacy of his arrival on the continent is shocking disrespect to both today’s Native American people and their ancestors.
There is a growing movement to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day. Cities like Phoenix, Seattle, Santa Fe and the states of Alaska and South Dakota have made the change. It is time the whole nation owned up to its past, acknowledged and respected today’s Native American people, and stopped honoring a myth.
It's just the current cycle that involves opiates, but methamphetamine, cocaine, and others have caused the trajectory of overdoses to head the same direction
- It appears that overdoses are increasing exponentially, no matter the drug itself
- If the study bears out, it means that even reducing opiates will not slow the trajectory.
- The causes of these trends remain obscure, but near the end of the write-up about the study, a hint might be apparent
Through computationally intensive computer simulations, researchers have discovered that "nuclear pasta," found in the crusts of neutron stars, is the strongest material in the universe.
- The strongest material in the universe may be the whimsically named "nuclear pasta."
- You can find this substance in the crust of neutron stars.
- This amazing material is super-dense, and is 10 billion times harder to break than steel.
Superman is known as the "Man of Steel" for his strength and indestructibility. But the discovery of a new material that's 10 billion times harder to break than steel begs the question—is it time for a new superhero known as "Nuclear Pasta"? That's the name of the substance that a team of researchers thinks is the strongest known material in the universe.
Unlike humans, when stars reach a certain age, they do not just wither and die, but they explode, collapsing into a mass of neurons. The resulting space entity, known as a neutron star, is incredibly dense. So much so that previous research showed that the surface of a such a star would feature amazingly strong material. The new research, which involved the largest-ever computer simulations of a neutron star's crust, proposes that "nuclear pasta," the material just under the surface, is actually stronger.
The competition between forces from protons and neutrons inside a neutron star create super-dense shapes that look like long cylinders or flat planes, referred to as "spaghetti" and "lasagna," respectively. That's also where we get the overall name of nuclear pasta.
Caplan & Horowitz/arXiv
Diagrams illustrating the different types of so-called nuclear pasta.
The researchers' computer simulations needed 2 million hours of processor time before completion, which would be, according to a press release from McGill University, "the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU." Fortunately, the researchers had access to a supercomputer, although it still took a couple of years. The scientists' simulations consisted of stretching and deforming the nuclear pasta to see how it behaved and what it would take to break it.
While they were able to discover just how strong nuclear pasta seems to be, no one is holding their breath that we'll be sending out missions to mine this substance any time soon. Instead, the discovery has other significant applications.
One of the study's co-authors, Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, said the neutron stars would be "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth." Understanding what's inside them would be valuable for astronomers because now only the outer layer of such starts can be observed.
"A lot of interesting physics is going on here under extreme conditions and so understanding the physical properties of a neutron star is a way for scientists to test their theories and models," Caplan added. "With this result, many problems need to be revisited. How large a mountain can you build on a neutron star before the crust breaks and it collapses? What will it look like? And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?"
Another possibility worth studying is that, due to its instability, nuclear pasta might generate gravitational waves. It may be possible to observe them at some point here on Earth by utilizing very sensitive equipment.
The team of scientists also included A. S. Schneider from California Institute of Technology and C. J. Horowitz from Indiana University.
Check out the study "The elasticity of nuclear pasta," published in Physical Review Letters.
Scientists think constructing a miles-long wall along an ice shelf in Antarctica could help protect the world's largest glacier from melting.
- Rising ocean levels are a serious threat to coastal regions around the globe.
- Scientists have proposed large-scale geoengineering projects that would prevent ice shelves from melting.
- The most successful solution proposed would be a miles-long, incredibly tall underwater wall at the edge of the ice shelves.
The world's oceans will rise significantly over the next century if the massive ice shelves connected to Antarctica begin to fail as a result of global warming.
To prevent or hold off such a catastrophe, a team of scientists recently proposed a radical plan: build underwater walls that would either support the ice or protect it from warm waters.
In a paper published in The Cryosphere, Michael Wolovick and John Moore from Princeton and the Beijing Normal University, respectively, outlined several "targeted geoengineering" solutions that could help prevent the melting of western Antarctica's Florida-sized Thwaites Glacier, whose melting waters are projected to be the largest source of sea-level rise in the foreseeable future.
An "unthinkable" engineering project
"If [glacial geoengineering] works there then we would expect it to work on less challenging glaciers as well," the authors wrote in the study.
One approach involves using sand or gravel to build artificial mounds on the seafloor that would help support the glacier and hopefully allow it to regrow. In another strategy, an underwater wall would be built to prevent warm waters from eating away at the glacier's base.
The most effective design, according to the team's computer simulations, would be a miles-long and very tall wall, or "artificial sill," that serves as a "continuous barrier" across the length of the glacier, providing it both physical support and protection from warm waters. Although the study authors suggested this option is currently beyond any engineering feat humans have attempted, it was shown to be the most effective solution in preventing the glacier from collapsing.
Source: Wolovick et al.
An example of the proposed geoengineering project. By blocking off the warm water that would otherwise eat away at the glacier's base, further sea level rise might be preventable.
But other, more feasible options could also be effective. For example, building a smaller wall that blocks about 50% of warm water from reaching the glacier would have about a 70% chance of preventing a runaway collapse, while constructing a series of isolated, 1,000-foot-tall columns on the seafloor as supports had about a 30% chance of success.
Still, the authors note that the frigid waters of the Antarctica present unprecedently challenging conditions for such an ambitious geoengineering project. They were also sure to caution that their encouraging results shouldn't be seen as reasons to neglect other measures that would cut global emissions or otherwise combat climate change.
"There are dishonest elements of society that will try to use our research to argue against the necessity of emissions' reductions. Our research does not in any way support that interpretation," they wrote.
"The more carbon we emit, the less likely it becomes that the ice sheets will survive in the long term at anything close to their present volume."
A 2015 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine illustrates the potentially devastating effects of ice-shelf melting in western Antarctica.
"As the oceans and atmosphere warm, melting of ice shelves in key areas around the edges of the Antarctic ice sheet could trigger a runaway collapse process known as Marine Ice Sheet Instability. If this were to occur, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) could potentially contribute 2 to 4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet) of global sea level rise within just a few centuries."
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