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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.
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Researchers dramatically improve the accuracy of a number that connects fundamental forces.
- A team of physicists carried out experiments to determine the precise value of the fine-structure constant.
- This pure number describes the strength of the electromagnetic forces between elementary particles.
- The scientists improved the accuracy of this measurement by 2.5 times.
The process for measuring the fine-structure constant involved a beam of light from a laser that caused an atom to recoil. The red and blue colors indicate the light wave's peaks and troughs, respectively.
Scientists at Washington University are patenting a new electrolyzer designed for frigid Martian water.
- Mars explorers will need more oxygen and hydrogen than they can carry to the Red Planet.
- Martian water may be able to provide these elements, but it is extremely salty water.
- The new method can pull oxygen and hydrogen for breathing and fuel from Martian brine.