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Game of Thrones — the French Baby Boys' Names Edition
On the map, the changing fortunes of French baby boys' names look like battles in a weird, unreported war.
It's 1946, and France has won the Second World War (with some help from its allies). The nation is grateful to its liberator, général de Gaulle. But that doesn't mean mothers start naming their baby boys Charles after him. That kind of thing won't come into fashion for some years yet. For now, the most popular boys' name in France is Jean. As it is in most other Christian countries. As it has been, probably since the Middle Ages (1).
But by the middle of the 20th century, things start shifting. In France and elsewhere in the West, the Empire of John is coming to an end.
For the first few years after the war, all seems well — just a few local outbreaks of Michel, contained to Normandy, Burgundy/Franche-Comté and Poitou-Charentes.
But then, in 1949, the capital falls to Alain. Nobody saw that coming. The Alainists manage to break out, but are quickly destroyed, having their last stand in Basse Normandie in 1953.
By that time, however, Patrick has taken over Paris, and Nord-Pas de Calais, and other regions. Neither of these contenders will defeat Jean, though. That honour goes to yet another surprise candidate, Philippe, who in 1955 takes Paris, and three regions north of it.
By 1957, Philippe controls a band of territory from the Belgian border to the Bay of Biscayne, with an extra foothold on the Swiss border. A year later, his territory has grown yet further, and Pascal has joined the minor contenders. Jean's domain is cut into four shrinking bits. This is the last year of his reign.
Philippe's tenure will last from 1959 to 1966, but it will not be a happy one. Naturally, he will attempt to extend his dominion over the north to the south of France.
But even as he succeeds in mopping up pockets of Jean and even the last remaining stronghold of Patrick (in Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, in 1961), Pascal re-emerges building a power base in the north, and by 1962 even besieging Philippe in the capital.
By now firmly in control of the south, Philippe counter-attacks, lifting the siege on Paris and re-establishing a territorial link with the isolated north by 1963.
Barely a year later, disaster strikes. Out of nothing, Thierry sweeps through the north and centre, also taking over two southern regions. Pascal is annihilated, but that is little comfort to Philippe, who loses the throne to Thierry in 1965.
His briefest of reigns only lasts a year. By 1966, a triumphant Philippe has confined him to Aquitaine, in the southwest. This will prove a pyrrhic victory for Philippe, who clings to power for just one more year.
The shape of things to come was already visible on the 1966 map: with Philippe and Thierry exhausted by their struggle for dominance (and with a withered Jean holding on for dear life), Christophe swept the north.
In 1967, he was crowned king. Taking one of Jean's three remaining regions, Christophe now ruled the north unopposed, except for Brittany (Philippe territory) and Paris, held by Laurent, a new pretender.
The next year, Philippe was usurped in Brittany by Stéphane, who would go on to challenge Christophe for dominance in a struggle that would last until 1974.
During all of the Christophe/Stéphane era, the former would try in vain to conquer the capital, while the latter ruled Paris for five consecutive years (1970-'74). On the other hand, Stéphane was the national overlord for only two of those eight years, against Christophe's six.
At the close of the era, Christophe held on to the Mediterranean coast, while Stéphane controlled eastern France, with added power bases in Aquitaine and Normandy/Brittany.
Three new contenders had emerged: David in the north, Sébastien in the Centre and Poitou-Charentes, and Jérôme, holding on to the Pays de la Loire and Midi-Pyrenees regions.
Philippe had been erased from the map. Jean, the former supremo, was forced to watch the struggles on the mainland from his Taiwan-like exile on Corsica.
Now begins a time of three totalitarian rulers, each successively managing to do what even old king Jean never achieved: colouring the whole mainland in their name.
The first one was Sébastien, whose period in power began in 1975, as the top dog in a fragmented France. He soon set out to create order out of chaos, wiping various competitors off the map. In 1976, Christophe was the only mainland rival left, clinging to power in Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur. For two glorious years, Jean's Corsican exile was the only blemish on Sébastien's dominance.
How quickly the fortunes of onomasty change! In 1979, Nicolas carved out one single region for himself in Sébastien-dominated France. By 1980, Nicolas had swept across the mainland, leaving only Lorraine for Sébastien. The next year, Nicolas ruled over all of mainland France.
The last, and longest-ruling totalitarian broke Nicolas's monopoly after a single year. Julien carved out a narrow band of territory in the east, reminiscent of the ephemeral Middle Francia, created at the Treaty of Verdun (843).
This time, with reverse results: The strip gobbled up the rest of France. By 1984, Nicolas found himself isolated by Julien in Lorraine, exactly as he had kettled in Sébastien there in 1980.
The next three years, France turned entirely Julienist. Only by 1988 were there outbreaks of Nicolas, Romain and Anthony — who, in the previous year, had eliminated Jean from Corsica, thus ending the last vestiges of a name-giving tradition that may have started as long ago as the Crusades.
In 1989, a new strongman emerged on the scene, one which would dominate the next six years. Kévin would also be the last totalitarian, dominating all of mainland France in 1991 and 1992.
To get there, Kévin had to eliminate tough resistance by Maxime in Basse-Normandie; Nicolas, who attempted to set up a base in the Alsace region; Anthony, in the east; and Thomas and Jérémy in the southwest. All the while, Corsica was content to remain outside the mêlée, and loyal to Anthony, as it had been to Jean before.
Taking over Lorraine in 1993, Jordan broke the unanimity. The next year, Alexandre took over Paris, and Nicolas set up shop in the northeast, southeast, and southwest. Game over, Kévin.
In the ensuing chaos, Nicolas managed to regain the throne for a single year. But his rule proved too weak, and in 1996, Thomas began the first of his six years in power.
While he did manage to destroy an outbreak of Dylans, Thomas never managed to unify the country as previous title-holders had done. He was unable to contain a rash of Quentins, who briefly took over large swathes of western France; nor could he defeat the persistent threat posted by Lucas, operating from his power base in the east.
Lucas has great stamina: he came to power in 2002, and still was top dog in 2011. But he is less successful at cashing in on his dominance. His reign is punctuated by two interregnums.
Two years into his shaky first tenure, threatened by Théo, it is Enzo who almost wipes Lucas off the map in 2004.
Slowly rebuilding in the southeast, Lucas enters into a strategic alliance with Nathan, who dominates the northeast, to defeat Enzo. Lucas returns to power in 2008, but notices too late that Nathan has ideas beyond the station allotted to him.
Launching a three-pronged attack on Lucas from the northeast, southeast and northwest, Nathan grabs the throne in 2010. But his hold on power is too precarious, and Lucas still has enough stamina to regain the top spot.
That result has been achieved at great cost. In 2011, France is a house divided against itself. Nathan holds the north, northeast, the Pays de la Loire, and Languedoc-Roussillon in the south. The aim is clear: to attack towards the centre, and unite the disparate territories in a final victory. But Enzo has similarly placed possessions, and surely, similar plans.
Lucas won't give up without a fight, and may use the newest bunch of candidates for the top job against his old enemies: Adam in Paris, Nolan in Brittany, Gabriel in Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, and Lisandru in Corsica...
Many thanks to Milan Prabhu for sharing these maps on Facebook. See an animated version here. Source: Les Décodeurs, an online behind-the-news section of Le Monde, with an excellent data visualisation segment.
Strange Maps #763
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com.
(1) The name's enduring appeal was based on the popularity of John the Baptist and John the Apostle (considered by the Church Fathers as identical to John the Evangelist). It derives from the Hebrew Yohanan ('graced by Yah') or Yehohanan ('Yahweh is gracious'). Some popular vernacular variations include Ivan (Russian and other Slavic languages); Jan, Johan(n) and Hans (German and other Germanic languages); João and Ivo (Portuguese); Jens (Danish); Juan (Spanish); Ian, Jock (Scottish); and Sean (Irish).
Inventions with revolutionary potential made by a mysterious aerospace engineer for the U.S. Navy come to light.
- U.S. Navy holds patents for enigmatic inventions by aerospace engineer Dr. Salvatore Pais.
- Pais came up with technology that can "engineer" reality, devising an ultrafast craft, a fusion reactor, and more.
- While mostly theoretical at this point, the inventions could transform energy, space, and military sectors.
The U.S. Navy controls patents for some futuristic and outlandish technologies, some of which, dubbed "the UFO patents," came to light recently. Of particular note are inventions by the somewhat mysterious Dr. Salvatore Cezar Pais, whose tech claims to be able to "engineer reality." His slate of highly-ambitious, borderline sci-fi designs meant for use by the U.S. government range from gravitational wave generators and compact fusion reactors to next-gen hybrid aerospace-underwater crafts with revolutionary propulsion systems, and beyond.
Of course, the existence of patents does not mean these technologies have actually been created, but there is evidence that some demonstrations of operability have been successfully carried out. As investigated and reported by The War Zone, a possible reason why some of the patents may have been taken on by the Navy is that the Chinese military may also be developing similar advanced gadgets.
Among Dr. Pais's patents are designs, approved in 2018, for an aerospace-underwater craft of incredible speed and maneuverability. This cone-shaped vehicle can potentially fly just as well anywhere it may be, whether air, water or space, without leaving any heat signatures. It can achieve this by creating a quantum vacuum around itself with a very dense polarized energy field. This vacuum would allow it to repel any molecule the craft comes in contact with, no matter the medium. Manipulating "quantum field fluctuations in the local vacuum energy state," would help reduce the craft's inertia. The polarized vacuum would dramatically decrease any elemental resistance and lead to "extreme speeds," claims the paper.
Not only that, if the vacuum-creating technology can be engineered, we'd also be able to "engineer the fabric of our reality at the most fundamental level," states the patent. This would lead to major advancements in aerospace propulsion and generating power. Not to mention other reality-changing outcomes that come to mind.
Among Pais's other patents are inventions that stem from similar thinking, outlining pieces of technology necessary to make his creations come to fruition. His paper presented in 2019, titled "Room Temperature Superconducting System for Use on a Hybrid Aerospace Undersea Craft," proposes a system that can achieve superconductivity at room temperatures. This would become "a highly disruptive technology, capable of a total paradigm change in Science and Technology," conveys Pais.
High frequency gravitational wave generator.
Credit: Dr. Salvatore Pais
Another invention devised by Pais is an electromagnetic field generator that could generate "an impenetrable defensive shield to sea and land as well as space-based military and civilian assets." This shield could protect from threats like anti-ship ballistic missiles, cruise missiles that evade radar, coronal mass ejections, military satellites, and even asteroids.
Dr. Pais's ideas center around the phenomenon he dubbed "The Pais Effect". He referred to it in his writings as the "controlled motion of electrically charged matter (from solid to plasma) via accelerated spin and/or accelerated vibration under rapid (yet smooth) acceleration-deceleration-acceleration transients." In less jargon-heavy terms, Pais claims to have figured out how to spin electromagnetic fields in order to contain a fusion reaction – an accomplishment that would lead to a tremendous change in power consumption and an abundance of energy.
According to his bio in a recently published paper on a new Plasma Compression Fusion Device, which could transform energy production, Dr. Pais is a mechanical and aerospace engineer working at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), which is headquartered in Patuxent River, Maryland. Holding a Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, Pais was a NASA Research Fellow and worked with Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. His current Department of Defense work involves his "advanced knowledge of theory, analysis, and modern experimental and computational methods in aerodynamics, along with an understanding of air-vehicle and missile design, especially in the domain of hypersonic power plant and vehicle design." He also has expert knowledge of electrooptics, emerging quantum technologies (laser power generation in particular), high-energy electromagnetic field generation, and the "breakthrough field of room temperature superconductivity, as related to advanced field propulsion."
Suffice it to say, with such a list of research credentials that would make Nikola Tesla proud, Dr. Pais seems well-positioned to carry out groundbreaking work.
A craft using an inertial mass reduction device.
Credit: Salvatore Pais
The patents won't necessarily lead to these technologies ever seeing the light of day. The research has its share of detractors and nonbelievers among other scientists, who think the amount of energy required for the fields described by Pais and his ideas on electromagnetic propulsions are well beyond the scope of current tech and are nearly impossible. Yet investigators at The War Zone found comments from Navy officials that indicate the inventions are being looked at seriously enough, and some tests are taking place.
If you'd like to read through Pais's patents yourself, check them out here.
Laser Augmented Turbojet Propulsion System
Credit: Dr. Salvatore Pais
A new study suggests that reports of the impending infertility of the human male are greatly exaggerated.
- A new review of a famous study on declining sperm counts finds several flaws.
- The old report makes unfounded assumptions, has faulty data, and tends toward panic.
- The new report does not rule out that sperm counts are going down, only that this could be quite normal.
Several years ago, a meta-analysis of studies on human fertility came out warning us about the declining sperm counts of Western men. It was widely shared, and its findings were featured on the covers of popular magazines. Indeed, its findings were alarming: a nearly 60 percent decline in sperm per milliliter since 1973 with no end in sight. It was only a matter of time, the authors argued, until men were firing blanks, literally.
Well… never mind.
It turns out that the impending demise of humanity was greatly exaggerated. As the predicted infertility wave crashed upon us, there was neither a great rush of men to fertility clinics nor a sudden dearth of new babies. The only discussions about population decline focus on urbanization and the fact that people choose not to have kids rather than not being able to have them.
Now, a new analysis of the 2017 study says that lower sperm counts is nothing to be surprised by. Published in Human Fertility, its authors point to flaws in the original paper's data and interpretation. They suggest a better and smarter reanalysis.
Counting tiny things is difficult
The original 2017 report analyzed 185 studies on 43,000 men and their reproductive health. Its findings were clear: "a significant decline in sperm counts… between 1973 and 2011, driven by a 50-60 percent decline among men unselected by fertility from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand."
However, the new analysis points out flaws in the data. As many as a third of the men in the studies were of unknown age, an important factor in reproductive health. In 45 percent of cases, the year of the sample collection was unknown- a big detail to miss in a study measuring change over time. The quality controls and conditions for sample collection and analysis vary widely from study to study, which likely influenced the measured sperm counts in the samples.
Another study from 2013 also points out that the methods for determining sperm count were only standardized in the 1980s, which occurred after some of the data points were collected for the original study. It is entirely possible that the early studies gave inaccurately high sperm counts.
This is not to say that the 2017 paper is entirely useless; it had a much more rigorous methodology than previous studies on the subject, which also claimed to identify a decline in sperm counts. However, the original study had more problems.
Garbage in, garbage out
Predictable as always, the media went crazy. Discussions of the decline of masculinity took off, both in mainstream and less-than-reputable forums; concerns about the imagined feminizing traits of soy products continued to increase; and the authors of the original study were called upon to discuss the findings themselves in a number of articles.
However, as this new review points out, some of the findings of that meta-analysis are debatable at best. For example, the 2017 report suggests that "declining mean [sperm count] implies that an increasing proportion of men have sperm counts below any given threshold for sub-fertility or infertility," despite little empirical evidence that this is the case.
The WHO offers a large range for what it considers to be a healthy sperm count, from 15 to 250 million sperm per milliliter. The benefits to fertility above a count of 40 million are seen as minimal, and the original study found a mean sperm concentration of 47 million sperm per milliliter.
Healthy sperm, healthy man?
The claim that sperm count is evidence of larger health problems is also scrutinized in this new article. While it is true that many major health problems can impact reproductive health, there is little evidence that it is the "canary in the coal mine" for overall well-being. A number of studies suggest that any relation between lifestyle choices and this part of reproductive health is limited at best.
Lastly, ideas that environmental factors could be at play have been debunked since 2017. While the original paper considered the idea that pollutants, especially from plastics, could be at fault, it is now known that this kind of pollution is worse in the parts of the world that the original paper observed higher sperm counts in (i.e., non-Western nations).
There never was a male fertility crisis
The authors of the new review do not deny that some measurements are showing lower sperm counts, but they do question the claim that this is catastrophic or part of a larger pathological issue. They propose a new interpretation of the data. Dubbed the "Sperm Count Biovariability hypothesis," it is summarized as:
"Sperm count varies within a wide range, much of which can be considered non-pathological and species-typical. Above a critical threshold, more is not necessarily an indicator of better health or higher probability of fertility relative to less. Sperm count varies across bodies, ecologies, and time periods. Knowledge about the relationship between individual and population sperm count and life-historical and ecological factors is critical to interpreting trends in average sperm counts and their relationships to human health and fertility."
Still, the authors note that lower sperm counts "could decline due to negative environmental exposures, or that this may carry implications for men's health and fertility."
However, they disagree that the decline in absolute sperm count is necessarily a bad sign for men's health and fertility. We aren't at civilization ending catastrophe just yet.
A year of disruptions to work has contributed to mass burnout.
- Junior members of the workforce, including Generation Z, are facing digital burnout.
- 41 percent of workers globally are thinking about handing in their notice, according to a new Microsoft survey.
- A hybrid blend of in-person and remote work could help maintain a sense of balance – but bosses need to do more.
More than half of 18 to 25 year-olds in the workforce are considering quitting their job. And they're not the only ones.
In a report called The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work – Are We Ready?, Microsoft found that as well as 54% of Generation Z workers, 41% of the entire global workforce could be considering handing in their resignation.
Similarly, a UK and Ireland survey found that 38% of employees were planning to leave their jobs in the next six months to a year, while a US survey reported that 42% of employees would quit if their company didn't offer remote working options long term.
New work trends
Based on surveys with over 30,000 workers in 31 countries, the Microsoft report – which is the latest in the company's annual Work Trend Index series – pulled in data from applications including Teams, Outlook and Office 365, to gauge productivity and activity levels. It highlighted seven major trends, which show the world of work has been profoundly reshaped by the pandemic:
- Flexible work is here to stay
- Leaders are out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call
- High productivity is masking an exhausted workforce
- Gen Z is at risk and will need to be re-energized
- Shrinking networks are endangering innovation
- Authenticity will spur productivity and wellbeing
- Talent is everywhere in a hybrid world
"Over the past year, no area has undergone more rapid transformation than the way we work," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says in the report. "Employee expectations are changing, and we will need to define productivity much more broadly – inclusive of collaboration, learning and wellbeing to drive career advancement for every worker, including frontline and knowledge workers, as well as for new graduates and those who are in the workforce today. All this needs to be done with flexibility in, when, where and how people work."
Organizations have become more siloed
While the report highlights the opportunities created by increased flexible and remote working patterns, it warns that some people are experiencing digital exhaustion and that remote working could foster siloed thinking. With the shift to remote working, much of the spontaneous sharing of ideas that can take place within a workplace was lost. In its place are scheduled calls, regular catch-ups and virtual hangouts. The loss of in-person interaction means individual team members are more likely to only interact with their closest coworkers.
"At the onset of the pandemic, our analysis shows interactions with our close networks at work increased while interactions with our distant network diminished," the report says. "This suggests that as we shifted into lockdown, we clung to our immediate teams for support and let our broader network fall to the wayside. Simply put, companies became more siloed than they were pre-pandemic."
Burnout or drop out
One of the other consequences of the shift to remote and the reliance on tech-based communications has been the phenomenon of digital burnout. And for those who have most recently joined the workforce, this has been a significant challenge.
The excitement of joining a new employer, maybe even securing a job for the first time, usually comes with meeting lots of new people, becoming familiar with a new environment and adapting to new situations. But for many, the pandemic turned that into a daily routine of working from home while isolated from co-workers.
"Our findings have shown that for Gen Z and people just starting in their careers, this has been a very disruptive time," says LinkedIn Senior Editor-at-Large, George Anders, quoted in the report. "It's very hard to find their footing since they're not experiencing the in-person onboarding, networking and training that they would have expected in a normal year."
But it is perhaps the data around quitting that is one of the starkest indications that change is now the new normal. Being able to work remotely has opened up new possibilities for many workers, the report found. If you no longer need to be physically present in an office, your employer could, theoretically, be located anywhere. Perhaps that's why the research found that "41% of employees are considering leaving their current employer this year".
In addition to that, 46% of the people surveyed for the Microsoft report said they might relocate their home because of the flexibility of remote working.
A hybrid future
In looking for ways to navigate their way through all this change, employers should hold fast to one word, the report says – hybrid. An inflexible, location-centred approach to work is likely to encourage those 41% of people to leave and find somewhere more to their tastes. Those who are thinking of going to live somewhere else, while maintaining their current job, might also find themselves thinking of quitting if their plans are scuppered.
But remote working is not a panacea for all workforce ills. "We can no longer rely solely on offices to collaborate, connect, and build social capital. But physical space will still be important," the report says. "We're social animals and we want to get together, bounce ideas off one another, and experience the energy of in-person events. Moving forward, office space needs to bridge the physical and digital worlds to meet the unique needs of every team – and even specific roles."
Bosses must meet challenges head on
Although the majority of business leaders have indicated they will incorporate elements of the hybrid working model, the report also found many are out of touch with workforce concerns more widely.
For, while many workers say they are struggling (Gen Z – 60%; new starters – 64%), and 54% of the general workforce feels overworked, business leaders are having a much better experience. Some 61% said they were 'thriving', which is in stark contrast to employees who are further down the chain of command.
Jared Spataro, corporate vice president at Microsoft 365, writes in the report: "Those impromptu encounters at the office help keep leaders honest. With remote work, there are fewer chances to ask employees, 'Hey, how are you?' and then pick up on important cues as they respond. But the data is clear: our people are struggling. And we need to find new ways to help them."
Buildings don't have to be permanent — modular construction can make them modifiable and relocatable.