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The Mapa Cor-de-rosa: A Portuguese Empire That Never Was
This trans-African colony could have rivalled Brazil for dominance of the Portuguese-speaking world.
Philip K. Dick never found the source of the mysterious messages he received during his ‘mystic episode’ in early 1974. The science fiction writer had a few theories, though: Soviet scientists experimenting with psychotronics, the Rosicrucians , an alien satellite, even an entity called the Portuguese States of America. That putative nation, possibly similar to the US but with a Portuguese instead of an English root, had Dick obsessed with the possibility of parallel universes .
In one of those parallel universes, there exists a country called the Portuguese States of Africa, spanning southern Africa from its Atlantic coast all the way to the Indian Ocean. This country, a transcontinental Lusophone  giant perhaps to rival Brazil, is based on more evidence in this world than PKD’s possibly merely psychotic visions. It was envisaged in this Mapa Cor-de-rosa (the ‘Pink Map’).
The original version of the Pink Map was drawn up in 1886. Those were the early days of the Scramble for Africa. By 1913, no more than seven European powers  held colonial sway over almost all of Africa. Only two states remained independent: Liberia, founded in the early 19th century as a refuge for freed American slaves in the west; and the ancient empire of Abyssinia (nowadays known as Ethiopia) in the east.
In the intervening years, the colonial ambitions of Portugal and Britain clashed in the southern interior of Africa. The British master plan for a string of colonies from ‘Cape to Cairo’ finally compelled the Portuguese to venture inland from Angola and Mozambique, coastal colonies they’d held for centuries, and unite them into a grand Afro-Portuguese empire.
Lisbon sent out explorers into the projected interior of its future mega-colony. That the names Capelo, Ivens and Serpa Pinto don’t ring out like the one of their British rival Livingstone is no comment on their achievements, but rather a sign that theirs was the losing side in the tug of war over southern Africa.
Portugal attached the Pink Map to its colonial treaties with France and Germany, countries that were not involved in the area concerned - covering present-day Zimbabwe, Malawi and most of Zambia. Britain, the one country it did have to convince, was too powerful to not have its way. In 1890, London issued an ultimatum, demanding Portugal retreat from the area and abandon claims of sovereignty. Or: a break-off of diplomatic ties and, ultimately, war.
The Portuguese territory indicated on the Pink Map shown in clearer contrast, and in relation to other Portuguese holdings in Africa (Sao Tome, Guinea-Bissau, Cabo Verde). Map found here at the Federation of Free States of Africa).
King Carlos I of Portugal meekly agreed - damaging the reputation of the monarchy so irreparably that the Mapa Cor-de-rosa affair was still considered a factor 20 years later, when the Republican Revolution of 1910 overthrew the monarchy. A century on, the Portuguese still aren’t entirely over the Ultimatum. In the fighting words of the chorus to their national anthem, written in the heady days after the Ultimatum: “Às armas, às armas!/Sobre a terra, sobre o mar,/Às armas, às armas!/Pela Pátria lutar!/Contra os canhões, marchar, marchar!”  Even though the enemy remains unnamed, it's obvious to the Portuguese who they are: the perfidious British, who had stabbed their oldest ally in the back .
This episode sheds light on an earlier post on this blog, showing the size of Portugal’s colonies in relation to that of Europe . And here is a similar example of Portuguese propaganda, using the size of its colonies to mitigate its inferiority complex. Angola might not have linked up with Mozambique to create a Portuguese States of America, it’s still big enough to contain Portugal ten times over - with some room to spare.
Strange Maps #545
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com.
 A secret society founded in the early 17th century, and devoted to the study of esoteric wisdom.
 Portuguese-speaking, derived from Lusitania, the Roman province that covered most of present-day Portugal. The ‘Lusosphere’ comprises Portugal and its former colonial empire: Brazil (in America); Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe (in Africa); and East Timor and the Chinese city-region of Macau. All of these (except Macau) form the Community of Portuguese Language Countries.
 Great Britain, France, Germany, Portugal, Italy, Spain and Belgium.
 “To arms, to arms!/Over land, over sea,/To arms, to arms!/For the Fatherland, fight!/Against the cannons, march, march!”
 The 1377 Treaty of Windsor, pledging mutual support between Portugal and England, is the oldest diplomatic treaty still in force (in spite of the Ultimatum of 1890).
 Strange Maps #390: “Portugal Is Not A Small Country”.
So much for rest in peace.
- Australian scientists found that bodies kept moving for 17 months after being pronounced dead.
- Researchers used photography capture technology in 30-minute intervals every day to capture the movement.
- This study could help better identify time of death.
We're learning more new things about death everyday. Much has been said and theorized about the great divide between life and the Great Beyond. While everyone and every culture has their own philosophies and unique ideas on the subject, we're beginning to learn a lot of new scientific facts about the deceased corporeal form.
An Australian scientist has found that human bodies move for more than a year after being pronounced dead. These findings could have implications for fields as diverse as pathology to criminology.
Dead bodies keep moving
Researcher Alyson Wilson studied and photographed the movements of corpses over a 17 month timeframe. She recently told Agence France Presse about the shocking details of her discovery.
Reportedly, she and her team focused a camera for 17 months at the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER), taking images of a corpse every 30 minutes during the day. For the entire 17 month duration, the corpse continually moved.
"What we found was that the arms were significantly moving, so that arms that started off down beside the body ended up out to the side of the body," Wilson said.
The researchers mostly expected some kind of movement during the very early stages of decomposition, but Wilson further explained that their continual movement completely surprised the team:
"We think the movements relate to the process of decomposition, as the body mummifies and the ligaments dry out."
During one of the studies, arms that had been next to the body eventually ended up akimbo on their side.
The team's subject was one of the bodies stored at the "body farm," which sits on the outskirts of Sydney. (Wilson took a flight every month to check in on the cadaver.)Her findings were recently published in the journal, Forensic Science International: Synergy.
Implications of the study
The researchers believe that understanding these after death movements and decomposition rate could help better estimate the time of death. Police for example could benefit from this as they'd be able to give a timeframe to missing persons and link that up with an unidentified corpse. According to the team:
"Understanding decomposition rates for a human donor in the Australian environment is important for police, forensic anthropologists, and pathologists for the estimation of PMI to assist with the identification of unknown victims, as well as the investigation of criminal activity."
While scientists haven't found any evidence of necromancy. . . the discovery remains a curious new understanding about what happens with the body after we die.
Metal-like materials have been discovered in a very strange place.
- Bristle worms are odd-looking, spiky, segmented worms with super-strong jaws.
- Researchers have discovered that the jaws contain metal.
- It appears that biological processes could one day be used to manufacture metals.
The bristle worm, also known as polychaetes, has been around for an estimated 500 million years. Scientists believe that the super-resilient species has survived five mass extinctions, and there are some 10,000 species of them.
Be glad if you haven't encountered a bristle worm. Getting stung by one is an extremely itchy affair, as people who own saltwater aquariums can tell you after they've accidentally touched a bristle worm that hitchhiked into a tank aboard a live rock.
Bristle worms are typically one to six inches long when found in a tank, but capable of growing up to 24 inches long. All polychaetes have a segmented body, with each segment possessing a pair of legs, or parapodia, with tiny bristles. ("Polychaeate" is Greek for "much hair.") The parapodia and its bristles can shoot outward to snag prey, which is then transferred to a bristle worm's eversible mouth.
The jaws of one bristle worm — Platynereis dumerilii — are super-tough, virtually unbreakable. It turns out, according to a new study from researchers at the Technical University of Vienna, this strength is due to metal atoms.
Metals, not minerals
Fireworm, a type of bristle wormCredit: prilfish / Flickr
This is pretty unusual. The study's senior author Christian Hellmich explains: "The materials that vertebrates are made of are well researched. Bones, for example, are very hierarchically structured: There are organic and mineral parts, tiny structures are combined to form larger structures, which in turn form even larger structures."
The bristle worm jaw, by contrast, replaces the minerals from which other creatures' bones are built with atoms of magnesium and zinc arranged in a super-strong structure. It's this structure that is key. "On its own," he says, "the fact that there are metal atoms in the bristle worm jaw does not explain its excellent material properties."
Just deformable enough
Credit: by-studio / Adobe Stock
What makes conventional metal so strong is not just its atoms but the interactions between the atoms and the ways in which they slide against each other. The sliding allows for a small amount of elastoplastic deformation when pressure is applied, endowing metals with just enough malleability not to break, crack, or shatter.
Co-author Florian Raible of Max Perutz Labs surmises, "The construction principle that has made bristle worm jaws so successful apparently originated about 500 million years ago."
Raible explains, "The metal ions are incorporated directly into the protein chains and then ensure that different protein chains are held together." This leads to the creation of three-dimensional shapes the bristle worm can pack together into a structure that's just malleable enough to withstand a significant amount of force.
"It is precisely this combination," says the study's lead author Luis Zelaya-Lainez, "of high strength and deformability that is normally characteristic of metals.
So the bristle worm jaw is both metal-like and yet not. As Zelaya-Lainez puts it, "Here we are dealing with a completely different material, but interestingly, the metal atoms still provide strength and deformability there, just like in a piece of metal."
Observing the creation of a metal-like material from biological processes is a bit of a surprise and may suggest new approaches to materials development. "Biology could serve as inspiration here," says Hellmich, "for completely new kinds of materials. Perhaps it is even possible to produce high-performance materials in a biological way — much more efficiently and environmentally friendly than we manage today."
Dealing with rudeness can nudge you toward cognitive errors.
- Anchoring is a common bias that makes people fixate on one piece of data.
- A study showed that those who experienced rudeness were more likely to anchor themselves to bad data.
- In some simulations with medical students, this effect led to higher mortality rates.
Cognitive biases are funny little things. Everyone has them, nobody likes to admit it, and they can range from minor to severe depending on the situation. Biases can be influenced by factors as subtle as our mood or various personality traits.
A new study soon to be published in the Journal of Applied Psychology suggests that experiencing rudeness can be added to the list. More disturbingly, the study's findings suggest that it is a strong enough effect to impact how medical professionals diagnose patients.
Life hack: don't be rude to your doctor
The team of researchers behind the project tested to see if participants could be influenced by the common anchoring bias, defined by the researchers as "the tendency to rely too heavily or fixate on one piece of information when making judgments and decisions." Most people have experienced it. One of its more common forms involves being given a particular value, say in negotiations on price, which then becomes the center of reasoning even when reason would suggest that number should be ignored.
It can also pop up in medicine. As co-author Dr. Trevor Foulk explains, "If you go into the doctor and say 'I think I'm having a heart attack,' that can become an anchor and the doctor may get fixated on that diagnosis, even if you're just having indigestion. If doctors don't move off anchors enough, they'll start treating the wrong thing."
Lots of things can make somebody more or less likely to anchor themselves to an idea. The authors of the study, who have several papers on the effects of rudeness, decided to see if that could also cause people to stumble into cognitive errors. Past research suggested that exposure to rudeness can limit people's perspective — perhaps anchoring them.
In the first version of the study, medical students were given a hypothetical patient to treat and access to information on their condition alongside an (incorrect) suggestion on what the condition was. This served as the anchor. In some versions of the tests, the students overheard two doctors arguing rudely before diagnosing the patient. Later variations switched the diagnosis test for business negotiations or workplace tasks while maintaining the exposure to rudeness.
Across all iterations of the test, those exposed to rudeness were more likely to anchor themselves to the initial, incorrect suggestion despite the availability of evidence against it. This was less significant for study participants who scored higher on a test of how wide of a perspective they tended to have. The disposition of these participants, who answered in the affirmative to questions like, "Before criticizing somebody, I try to imagine how I would feel if I were in his/her place," was able to effectively negate the narrowing effects of rudeness.
What this means for you and your healthcare
The effects of anchoring when a medical diagnosis is on the line can be substantial. Dr. Foulk explains that, in some simulations, exposure to rudeness can raise the mortality rate as doctors fixate on the wrong problems.
The authors of the study suggest that managers take a keener interest in ensuring civility in workplaces and giving employees the tools they need to avoid judgment errors after dealing with rudeness. These steps could help prevent anchoring.
Also, you might consider being nicer to people.