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Five Strange Cracks in French Society
Despite the levelling force of the Revolution, France is still very diverse - often in weird and surprising ways
All French towns of above a certain size, in any of the six corners of the country, have a Place de la République at their centre, and an Avenue Charles de Gaulle in its vicinity. France’s 101 départements are numbered alphabetically – and there once was a plan to make them all perfectly rectangular (#159).
Since the French Revolution, over two centuries ago, a rationalist vein has been coursing through France's administrative politics - towards homogeneity and centralisation. The French version of Anytown, as described above, is one patent result.
And yet in some ways France remains a very unhomogenised country. “These maps illustrate the perdurating cultural diversity of contemporary France, in spite of a long-time process of cultural unification,” writes Olivier, who sent in these maps from Tours (capital of département number 37, Indre-et-Loire).
Even though standard French has by now replaced most of France’s regional languages, that vanished linguistic diversity remains a good marker for cultural variation within France. The southern third of the republic was once the domain of a rival romance language, the so-called Langue d’Oc (or Occitan), so called after its word for ‘yes’ (oc). This area was (and is) more ‘mediterranean’ in outlook than the northern rest of France, where the Langue d’Oïl (i.e. French, or its dialects) was spoken.
To this binary view should be added the other, non-romance language areas of France, in the north (Flemish), east (German), south (Basque) and west (Breton). Another linguistically distinct region is the small area around Perpignan, where another romance language – Catalan – is spoken.
Each of these five maps, taken from the 1997 edition of Géographie Première, a schoolbook by Rémy Knafou, slices up metropolitan France in surprising ways, but also every time reflecting, in some way, the divisions described above.
Map  compares the household money spent on butter and oil; with most money spent on butter in the north and west (blue) and most spent on oil in the south (light orange).
Map  shows between 90 and 100 litres of beer per inhabitant imbibed in the north and east, with less than half of that in most of the country, but especially in the south. See the entry on Europe’s alcohol belts (#442) for a similar take on regional differences in alcohol consumption.
Map  reveals how many members pétanque clubs have per thousand inhabitants. The game was conceived in Provence, and its name derives from the Occitan pès tancats, meaning ‘anchored feet’. In keeping with its southern origin, it is 10 times more popular in the Occitan swathe across the south of France than in the north, northeast and northwest.
Map  charts the dominant roof type throughout much of the south (and, surprisingly, in the northeast): flat roofs with curved tiles.
Map  details the popularity of bicycle clubs. The sport of the Tour de France is most popular in Brittany, but also adjacent areas inland (darkest red), and quite popular throughout most of central and northern France (orangey red). The areas least likely to cycle are scattered throughout the north, northeast, east, southeast, and south.
Many thanks to Olivier for sending in these maps.
Strange Maps #446
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Got $55 million lying around? If so, you might be able to score a spot aboard the International Space Station starting 2024.
- NASA awarded a contract to startup Axiom Space to attach a "habitable commercial module" to the International Space Station.
- The project will also include a research and manufacturing module.
- The move is a major step in NASA's years-long push to privatize.
Image: Axiom Space<p>But first, space-tourist-hopefuls would have to pass through physical and medical exams, and 15 weeks of expert training. After that, the trip sounds pretty comfy:</p><p>"There will be wifi," Suffredini <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/09/style/axiom-space-travel.html" target="_blank">told the New York Times</a> last year. "Everybody will be online. They can make phone calls, sleep, look out the window. [...] The few folks that have gone to orbit as tourists, it wasn't really a luxurious experience, it was kind of like camping. [...] Pretty soon we're going to be flying a butler with every crew."</p>
A render of the ISS tourist experience.
Image: Axiom Space<p>In a blog post, NASA wrote:</p><p>"Developing commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit is one of <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-opens-international-space-station-to-new-commercial-opportunities-private" target="_blank">five elements</a> of NASA's plan to open the International Space Station to new commercial and marketing opportunities. The other elements of the five-point plan include efforts to make station and crew resources available for commercial use through a new commercial use and pricing policy; enable private astronaut missions to the station; seek out and pursue opportunities to stimulate long-term, sustainable demand for these services; and quantify NASA's long-term demand for activities in low-Earth orbit."</p>
NASA's push to privatize the ISS<p>When a Russian rocket launched the first module of the ISS into space in 1998, NASA expected the space station to operate for about 15 years. But the agency has extended the life of the ISS twice, with funding currently set to expire in 2024. NASA spends between $3 and $4 billion per year operating and shuttling astronauts to and from the station. That's a decent chunk of the agency's $22.6 annual budget. What's more, the "major structural elements" of the ISS are certified only through 2028.</p><p>Meanwhile, NASA has been eyeing other projects, namely: putting humans back on the moon in 2024 and establishing a lunar presence. So, to save and redirect money, the agency has been starting to hand over the aging space station to the private sector, which could use it for commercial research and space tourism.</p><p>But some have questioned the move to privatize the ISS, including NASA's own inspector general, Paul K. Martin.</p><p>"An obvious alternative to privatization is to extend current ISS operations," Martin wrote in a <a href="https://oig.nasa.gov/docs/CT-18-001.pdf" target="_blank">2018 report</a>. "An extension to 2028 or beyond would enable NASA to continue critical on-orbit research into human health risks and to demonstrate the technologies that will be required for future missions to the Moon or Mars."</p>
Image: Axiom Space<p>Martin noted that "research into 2 other human health risks and 17 additional technology gaps is not scheduled to be completed until sometime in 2024," meaning that any slip-ups in the process would mean such research might go uncompleted. He also wrote that it's "questionable" whether the private sector could turn a profit on the ISS without "significant" government funding. The Institute for Defense Analyses, a federally funded research and development center, <a href="https://docs.house.gov/meetings/SY/SY00/20180517/108302/HHRG-115-SY00-Wstate-LalB-20180517.pdf" target="_blank">also found</a> that it "is unlikely that a commercially owned and operated space station will be economically viable by 2025."</p><p>The implication is that, if the ISS is handed over to the private sector, taxpayers could end up indirectly supporting space tourism for the ultra-rich. Whether that's worth any of the research benefits that might come from the ISS post-2024 is anybody's guess.</p><p>As the ISS enters its final years, China <a href="http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-10/17/c_138479514.htm" target="_blank">plans</a> to complete construction of a manned space station in 2022.</p>
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- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
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