23 - Beyond the pale

Beyond the pale is an English expression for anything beyond the limits of the law or of accepted morality. The aforementioned ‘pale’, far from being a symbolic separator, at one time was a very real barrier: it separated the area of Ireland under English control from the (larger) part of the country where fierce Celts still held sway unopposed.


This Pale – also known as the English Pale – existed in the 14th and 15th centuries, and came to signify the entire area covered (a region with a radius of about 35 kilometres) rather than the barrier itself. The barrier consisted of a fortified ditch and a rampart, behind which the Anglo-Irish were constantly fearful of Gaelic incursions. One is reminded instictively of the Green Zone in Baghdad, or the separation wall in Israel… I found a nice map of the English Pale (with the 4 traditional provinces of Ireland) here


Other Pales at some point included the region around Calais, when that city in the North of France was held by the English; and the Pale of Settlement in the western part of Tsarist Russia – the only part of the Empire the Jews were allowed to settle their shtetls in.




​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

What is the Japanese blood type theory of personality?

In some Asian countries, what's in your blood determines who you are.

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
Mind & Brain
  • In Japan and South Korea, there is a common belief that blood types determine character much in the same way Western countries believe in the zodiac.
  • While there's little scientific evidence to back up the claim, the blood type theory of personality remains wildly popular.
  • However, how this theory came to be has its roots in a dark history.
Keep reading Show less

This is the best (and simplest) world map of religions

Both panoramic and detailed, this infographic manages to show both the size and distribution of world religions.

(c) CLO / Carrie Osgood
Strange Maps
  • At a glance, this map shows both the size and distribution of world religions.
  • See how religions mix at both national and regional level.
  • There's one country in the Americas without a Christian majority – which?
Keep reading Show less

Is this why time speeds up as we age?

We take fewer mental pictures per second.

Photo by Djim Loic on Unsplash
Mind & Brain
  • Recent memories run in our brains like sped-up old movies.
  • In childhood, we capture images in our memory much more quickly.
  • The complexities of grownup neural pathways are no match for the direct routes of young brains.
Keep reading Show less