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Why Catalonia Will Never Get Rid of Spain
The map of Spain is tattooed into the Catalan landscape, as indelible streets and avenues
After Brexit, here’s more evidence that Europe is crumbling: Catalonia’s parliament just voted to go ahead with plans for what it calls a "unilateral disconnection" from Spain - a euphemism for breaking up on a par with "conscious uncoupling".
Spain’s constitutional court swiftly and unanimously declared the vote illegal. And the Spanish government said it may sue Carme Forcadell, the speaker of the Catalan parliament, for letting the vote go ahead at all. So Madrid won’t let Barcelona go without a fight – at least not a legal fight.
Next red letter day in Catalonia’s long, slow march towards independence is 28 September, when the Catalan parliament will hold a confidence vote that, in the words of Catalonia’s pro-separatist president Carles Puigdemont, could bring the country to "the gates of independence". That option is currently favoured by 47.7% of Catalan voters, according to the latest poll.
But whether or not Catalonia marches through those gates, in a literal sense it can never get rid of Spain: the very outline of the Spanish state is tattooed on Catalonia’s street grid – an indelible reminder of the bonds of history and geography.
To find this Spain-in-Catalonia, zoom in on Badia del Vallès, a municipality of some 14,000 inhabitants half an hour’s drive northwest from Barcelona. Badia is a new town, planned in the 1960s to house thousands of migrant labourers drawn from elsewhere in Spain to the bright lights of Barcelona.
Back then, Spain was still languishing under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, and very much a unitary state. Talk of autonomy for Catalonia, the Basque country and/or any other of Spain’s regions was tantamount to treason.
Work on Badia started in 1970 and was completed three years later. The town was officially inaugurated in 1975 by Juan Carlos, then still Prince of Asturias. A few years later, as king, Juan Carlos would help guide his country from autocracy to democracy – a course that would eventually also grant more powers to Spain’s regions.
In 1994, Badia del Vallès was incorporated and became an independent municipality. In recognition of that fact that many of the town’s inhabitants came to Badia from other parts of the Iberian peninsula, the municipal flag shows a swallow, the migratory bird par excellence. Another symbol of migration – or, more precisely, of the unitary state that Spain still was in the mid-1970s – can be found in the of the streets in the new town. The grid is laid out to resemble the shape of the Iberian peninsula, with street names to match.
On Google Maps, the shape is a bit tricky to pick up; but rotate the map a bit to the left, as shown on this map published by Madrid’s ABC newspaper, and the streets and avenues align with the shores and borders of the peninsula.
The Avenida del Mediterraneo mirrors the shape of the peninsula’s eastern coastline, the Avenida del Cantabrico (1) is named after Cantabria, on the northern coast. The ‘map’ also includes Portugal, and name-checks, location-appropriately, a Calle de Oporto and a Calle del Algarve.
Back in 'Spain', the Calle de la Bética recalls the Roman province of Baetica in southern Spain. Slightly higher up is the Calle de La Mancha, named after the region otherwise famous for its windmill-chasing knight-errant, Don Quixote. The Avenida de Burgos and the Calle de Zaragoza are named after the eponymous cities.
Not on the ABC map, but visible on Google Maps if you zoom in enough, are the Avenida Costa Brava and the Calle de Santander. To the east, where the Balearic Islands ought to be, are indeed the Calle de Menorca and the Calle de Mallorca.
The main artery, on both the ABC and Google maps, is the Avenida de la Via de la Plata, which translates, in an apparent pleonasm, as the 'Avenue of the Silver Way'. In fact, the Via de la Plata is an age-old route of pilgrimage and trade that traverses western Spain from north to south. 'Silver Way' is actually a misnomer: the name derives from the Arabic balat, which refers to the cobbled road engineered by the Romans, who called it Via Delapidata ('Paved Stone Road'). The road actually predates the Romans, and is thought to find its origin in the prehistoric tin trade.
Badia’s picture of Spain isn’t the only cartographic Gestalt hiding in plain sight, a map in the map. This blog previously discussed a Nebraska-shaped field in Nebraska (#426) and a Danish tourist attraction in the shape of a world map (#727). Not modelled on a map, but conceptually very close to Badia, is Ciudad Evita, the suburb of Buenos Aires modelled after the profile of Evita Peron (#346).
Strange Maps #793
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com.
(1) On Google Maps, which uses the Catalan-language equivalents of the street names cited here in Spanish, the Carrer del Tibidabo replaces the Avinguda del Cantabric, a name now given to a smaller street connecting the former to the Avinguda Costa Brava.
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
Join Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and best-selling author Charles Duhigg as he interviews Victoria Montgomery Brown, co-founder and CEO of Big Think.
Women today are founding more businesses than ever. In 2018, they made up 40% of new entrepreneurs, yet in that same year, they received just 2.2% of all venture capital investment. The playing field is off-balance. So what can women do?
In a recent study, researchers examined how Christian nationalism is affecting the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A new study used survey data to examine the interplay between Christian nationalism and incautious behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The researchers defined Christian nationalism as "an ideology that idealizes and advocates a fusion of American civic life with a particular type of Christian identity and culture."
- The results showed that Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior.
A pastor at the chapel of the St. Josef Hospital on April 1, 2020 in Bochum, German
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images<p>Christian nationalists, in general, believe the U.S. and God's will are tied together, and they want the government to embody conservative Christian values and symbols. As such, they also believe the nation's fate depends on how closely it adheres to Christianity.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unsurprisingly then, in the midst of the COVID‐19 pandemic, conservative pastors prophesied God's protection over the nation, citing America's righteous support for President Trump and the prolife agenda," the researchers write.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Correspondingly, the link between Christian nationalism and God's influence on how COVID‐19 impacts America can be seen in proclamations about God's divine judgment for its immorality―with the logic being that God is using the pandemic to draw wayward America <em>back </em>to himself, which assumes the two belong together."</p><p>The logical conclusion to this kind of thinking: America can save itself not through cautionary measures, like mask-wearing, but through devotion to God. What's more, it stands to reason that Christian nationalists are less likely to trust the media and scientists, given that these sources are generally not concerned with promoting a conservative, religious view of the world.</p><p>(The researchers note that they're unaware of any research directly linking Christian nationalism to distrust of media sources, but that they're almost certain the two are connected.)</p>
Predicted values of Americans' frequency of incautious behaviors during the COVID‐19 pandemic across values of Christian nationalism
Perry et al.<p>In the new study, the researchers examined three waves of results from the Public and Discourse Ethics Survey. One wave of the survey was issued in May, and it asked respondents to rate how often they engaged in both incautious and precautionary behaviors.</p><p>Incautious behaviors included things like "ate inside a restaurant" and "went shopping for nonessential items," while precautionary behaviors included "washed my hands more often than typical" and "wore a mask in public."</p><p>To measure Christian nationalism, the researchers asked respondents to rate how strongly they agree with statements like "the federal government should advocate Christian values" and "the success of the United States is part of God's plan."</p><p>The results suggest that, compared to other groups, Christian nationalists are far less likely to wear masks, socially distance and take other precautionary measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior during the pandemic, and the second leading predictor that Americans avoided taking precautionary measures."</p><p>But that's not to say that religious beliefs are causing Americans to reject mask-wearing or social distancing. In fact, when the study accounted for Christian nationalist beliefs, the results showed that Americans with high levels of religiosity were likely to take precautionary measures for COVID-19.</p>
Limitations<p>Still, the researchers note that they're theorizing about the connections between Christian nationalism and COVID-19 behaviors, not documenting them directly. What's more, they suggest that certain experiences — such as having a family member that contracts COVID-19 — might change a Christian nationalist's behaviors during the pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Limitations notwithstanding, the implications of this study are important for understanding Americans' curious inability to quickly implement informed and reasonable strategies to overcome the threat of COVID‐19, an inability that has likely cost thousands of lives," they write.</p>
Parental anxieties stem from the complex relationship between technology, child development, and the internet's trove of unseemly content.