Once a week.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
74 - The United States of Stellaland
Nowadays, the southern tip of Africa is dominated by a single state, the Republic of South Africa (punctuated by Lesotho, one of the world’s few enclave-states). But starting about a century and a half ago, when the usurping British were pushing the Dutch-originated Afrikaners inland, the eastern part of the RSA’s present territory was littered with a number of Boererepublieke (‘boer’ means ‘farmer’, but became synonymous with white, Afrikaans-speaking and anti-British).
\nThese republics were later annexed by the British, after two Anglo-Boer Wars at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. The largest and best-known of these republics became constituent provinces of the Union of South Africa (later Republic of South Africa): the Orange Free State, Transvaal and Natal. But there were also smaller Boererepublieke that just disappeared off the map, including the intriguingly small and short-lived United States of Stellaland (1882-1885).\nStellaland owes its existence to the war between the Batlaping and the Korannas, black tribes that had both hired white mercenaries. David Massouw, leader of the Korannas, had promised the Boers homesteads if they helped him win the war. After the war ended in July of 1882, these homesteads were granted to exactly 416 white farmers, who thereafter considered themselves ‘free citizens’ and formed the independent republic of Stellaland on July 26, 1882.\n
The name was chosen to refer to the comet that was visible in the sky at the time of the decisive battle (although Stella is Latin for ‘star’, not for ‘comet’). The capital city was called Vryburg (‘Freetown’), on a place known to the Tswana as Huhudi (‘Running Water’). First and only president was Gerrit Jacobus van Niekerk (1849-1896). Stellaland expanded to include the neighbouring boer republic of Goosen. The two nations were known collectively as the United States of Stellaland.\nStellaland aspired to be united with the big boer republic to the east, Transvaal. The British government, then in control of the formerly Dutch Cape Province, objected to the westwardly expansion of Transvaal, and decided to invade. An expeditionary force under Sir Charles Warren entered the territory in February 1885, and it was formally annexed to British Bechuanaland on September 30, 1885.\nDuring Apartheid, the area around Vryburg was a ‘white’ island in the (nominally) independent Bantustan of Bophutatswana. Since 1994, when the RSA’s administrative divisions were reorganised following the end of Apartheid, the area is part of the North West Province of the RSA. Today, the name ‘Stellaland’ is still used to refer to the area around the villages of Vryburg, Stella and Reivilo.\n
Stellaland has had three different flags in its short existence, the first being the state emblem on a green background, the second a six-pointed white star on the same green and the third an eight-pointed white star on a field split vertically between green (left) and red (right). One of the reasons for this diversity is that apparently the president’s wife had to make all those flags herself, and didn’t always have the right material to copy a previous design.\n
This map taken from the Wikipedia page on Stellaland.\n
The idea of 'absolute time' is an illusion. Physics and subjective experience reveal why.
- Since Einstein posited his theory of general relativity, we've understood that gravity has the power to warp space and time.
- This "time dilation" effect occurs even at small levels.
- Outside of physics, we experience distortions in how we perceive time — sometimes to a startling extent.
Physics without time<p>In his book "The Order of Time," Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli suggests that our perception of time — our sense that time is forever flowing forward — could be a highly subjective projection. After all, when you look at reality on the smallest scale (using equations of quantum gravity, at least), time vanishes.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If I observe the microscopic state of things," writes Rovelli, "then the difference between past and future vanishes … in the elementary grammar of things, there is no distinction between 'cause' and 'effect.'"</p><p>So, why do we perceive time as flowing <em>forward</em>? Rovelli notes that, although time disappears on extremely small scales, we still obviously perceive events occur sequentially in reality. In other words, we observe entropy: Order changing into disorder; an egg cracking and getting scrambled.</p><p>Rovelli says key aspects of time are described by the second law of thermodynamics, which states that heat always passes from hot to cold. This is a one-way street. For example, an ice cube melts into a hot cup of tea, never the reverse. Rovelli suggests a similar phenomenon might explain why we're only able to perceive the past and not the future.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Any time the future is definitely distinguishable from the past, there is something like heat involved," Rovelli wrote for the <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/ce6ef7b8-429a-11e8-93cf-67ac3a6482fd" target="_blank"><em>Financial Times</em></a>. "Thermodynamics traces the direction of time to something called the 'low entropy of the past', a still mysterious phenomenon on which discussions rage."</p>
The strange subjectivity of time<p>Time moves differently atop a mountain than it does on a beach. But you don't need to travel any distance at all to experience strange distortions in your perception of time. In moments of life-or-death fear, for example, your brain would release large amounts of adrenaline, which would speed up your internal clock, causing you to perceive the outside world as moving slowly.<br></p><p>Another common distortion occurs when we focus our attention in particular ways.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If you're thinking about how time is <em>currently</em> passing by, the biggest factor influencing your time perception is attention," Aaron Sackett, associate professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas, told <em><a href="https://gizmodo.com/why-does-time-slow-down-and-speed-up-1840133782" target="_blank">Gizmodo</a></em>.<em> "</em>The more attention you give to the passage of time, the slower it tends to go. As you become distracted from time's passing—perhaps by something interesting happening nearby, or a good daydreaming session—you're more likely to lose track of time, giving you the feeling that it's slipping by more quickly than before. "Time flies when you're having fun," they say, but really, it's more like "time flies when you're thinking about other things." That's why time will also often fly by when you're definitely <em>not</em> having fun—like when you're having a heated argument or are terrified about an upcoming presentation."</p><p>One of the most mysterious ways people experience time-perception distortions is through psychedelic drugs. In an interview with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/apr/14/carlo-rovelli-exploding-commonsense-notions-order-of-time-interview" target="_blank"><em>The Guardian</em></a>, Rovelli described a time he experimented with LSD.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It was an extraordinarily strong experience that touched me also intellectually," he said. "Among the strange phenomena was the sense of time stopping. Things were happening in my mind but the clock was not going ahead; the flow of time was not passing any more. It was a total subversion of the structure of reality."<br></p><p>It seems few scientists or philosophers believe time is completely an illusion.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"What we call <em>time</em> is a rich, stratified concept; it has many layers," Rovelli told <em><a href="https://physicstoday.scitation.org/do/10.1063/PT.6.4.20190219a/full/" target="_blank">Physics Today</a>.</em> "Some of time's layers apply only at limited scales within limited domains. This does not make them illusions."</p>What <em>is</em> an illusion is the idea that time flows at an absolute rate. The river of time might be flowing forever forward, but it moves at different speeds, between people, and even within your own mind.
The world's 10 most affected countries are spending up to 59% of their GDP on the effects of violence.
- Conflict and violence cost the world more than $14 trillion a year.
- That's the equivalent of $5 a day for every person on the planet.
- Research shows that peace brings prosperity, lower inflation and more jobs.
- Just a 2% reduction in conflict would free up as much money as the global aid budget.
- Report urges governments to improve peacefulness, especially amid COVID-19.
The lush biodiversity of South America's rainforests is rooted in one of the most cataclysmic events that ever struck Earth.
- One especially mysterious thing about the asteroid impact, which killed the dinosaurs, is how it transformed Earth's tropical rainforests.
- A recent study analyzed ancient fossils collected in modern-day Colombia to determine how tropical rainforests changed after the bolide impact.
- The results highlight how nature is able to recover from cataclysmic events, though it may take millions of years.