from the world's big
40 Ways to Carve Up England
On 18 September, Scotland voted to stay in the UK by 55% to 45%: a wider margin than most expected, but still close enough to warrant the constitutional re-think promised by Westminster in the run-up to the referendum.
This result will finally require an answer to the famous West Lothian Question (1): With certain matters devolved to separately elected assemblies in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, why should Members of Parliament (MPs) elected in those countries to sit in the House of Commons be able to vote on matters that affect only England?
The easy answer is of course that they shouldn't; the difficult one is how to solve that democratic paradox. One solution could be to exclude Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh MPs from debates and votes pertaining to English matters only. Another would be to keep the vote open, but to require England-only legislation to get a majority of English MPs behind it. Either solution would create two classes of MPs - hardly an elegant outcome, let alone a more democratic one.
A third option would be to create an English Parliament, provide it with similar powers as the other three assemblies, and leave residual 'federal' matters to the Westminster Parliament.To give such an assembly a fresh start, it should perhaps convene outside of London – maybe in Winchester, the ancient English capital, or in either Meriden or Fenny Drayton, two villages east of Birmingham disputing each other's claim to be the geographical centre of England.
While this would satisfy those who feel that England itself is the least-recognised, longest-suffering colony of the British Empire, the result would be a bit lopsided. England's 53 million inhabitants represent 83% of the United Kingdom's population. Placing its representative body on a par with the Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Irish Assembly would create a constitutional imbalance that would make either the English or the three smaller nations very unhappy (and quite possibly all four of them).
This could be solved by devolving central powers to English regions rather than to England as a whole. That would not just be mathematically opportune. Regionalism is a strong force in England. The attachment to city, county or region often is stronger and more tangible than the more abstract notion of nation. The economic situation is also highly divergent regionally.
But how would you carve up England? Alasdair Gunn – he of the equipopulous EU map (see #668) – explores two avenues of Anglo-fragmentation. One is to transpose the administrative units of other countries on England. The other is to imagine existing, often fairly random subdivisions hardening into political borders after power devolves down from Westminster.
Often, the administrative divisions of foreign countries are mentioned to give examples of what a devolved England might look like. However, few plans for devolution give detail on what these divisions would look like, writes Mr. Gunn in the legend of this collection of maps called If England were...
Each map shows England, subdivided into 'foreign' units of government of approximately equal population. The maps are arranged left to right, top to bottom.
England would be the equivalent of two Indian states (averaging 26 million each), or three Bangladeshi divisions (app. 18 million each). Although Sikkim, the smallest of India's 29 states, has less than a million inhabitants and 8 others have less than 10 million, its largest, Uttar Pradesh, has 200 million. Two other states – Maharashtra and Bihar – have over 100 million inhabitants. Dhaka is the most populous of Bangladesh's 7 divisions, numbering 48 million. The central coastal division of Barisal has less than 9 million.
The average administrative units of Brazil, the US and South America are fairly equipopulous – between 5.8 and 7.5 million inhabitants – with England corresponding to 7 Brazilian states, 8 American ones, or 9 South African provinces. Of course, the actual size of these units varies widely: Sao Paulo (44 million) is almost 100 times more populous than the 27th-ranking Brazilian state, Roraima (less than 0.5 million).
England would be equivalent to 10 German Länder (5.3 million each), 14 Australian states (3.8 million) or 16 Canadian provinces (3.3 million). That would be almost triple the number of states of Australia itself (24 million, 5 states), and considerably more provinces than Canada (36 million, 10 provinces).
Italian regions, Japanese prefectures and Polish voivodeships generally have pretty small circumscriptions, with England the equivalent to 18 regioni (of about 3 million each; Italy itself has 20), 19 todōfuken (circa 2.75 million each; Japan has 45), or 22 województwa (about 2.4 million each; Poland itself only has 16).
Curiously, Russian circumscriptions are even smaller – most are large in area, but thinly populated. England could fit in 30 Russian federal subjects (each counting 1.75 million inhabitants). But Tanzania's administrative divisions are even closer to its citizens. A Tanzanian region on average contains no more than 1.5 million people. Tanzania itself (46 million) counts 30. England would contain 35 Tanzania-sized regions.
Under the title Tortured Geography, Mr. Gunn proposes 27 more ways to carve up England: The administrative boundaries used by government departments, quangos (2) and other public sector authorities vary wildly, with the same names often referring to very different areas.
There is indeed very little overlap between the country's three environment agency regions, 4 public health regions, 4 HMRC (3) valuation office agencies, 5 Arts Council regions, 6 Homes & Communities Agency regions or 6 Forestry Commission areas – and that's just comparing the smallest numbers of subdivisions.
The same place could be in the North & East for one agency, in the East for another, and in the Midlands for a third. Even the most obviously standalone unit, Metropolitan London, is separate only half of the time, and otherwise attached to three different regions.The smallest set of subdivision are the counties, but even these are not confusion-free.
There are, in fact, three different types of counties, only two of which are shown here. England's historical counties, first established in Saxon times, officially haven't been abolished, but on most maps they've been replaced by either the administrative counties (as introduced by the 1972 Local Government Act) or the ceremonial counties (as defined by the 1997 Lieutenancy Act).
Some historical counties have disappeared off the map entirely. Middlesex, for instance, has been subsumed by Greater London and clings to life as a post code reference and in the names of a university and a cricket club, among others (see also #605).
And even if the name survives, the administrative and/or ceremonial county may have little overlap with the historical one. The continued confusion between these three types of county means that some places can belong to two or even three different counties, depending on which definition is used.
Administrative counties date from the 19th century but were reorganised by the 1972 Act. They reflect the altered demographic reality, re-dividing the ancient counties into local government areas more adapted to modern times and often taking non-historical names and shapes. Quite a few of these counties have already been renamed or reshaped.
The 1997 Act provided for the appointment of lord-lieutenants (i.e. the Queen's regional representatives) to what were consequently called ceremonial counties – the basis for which in most cases are the unaltered (but sometimes conjoined) administrative counties of the 1972 act. The ceremonial county of Bedfordshire, for example, also includes the administrative county of Luton.
So – what will be the face of post-West Lothian England? Will economics be the deciding factor, and will it look like the map of the 39 LEPs (4)? Or perhaps the institutional factor will decide, and it will resemble the 7 local government association regions. God forbid it should come out as the 10 European Regional Development Fund Programme areas.
Perhaps the smartest move of all might be to add another configuration to the already saturated mix and in a carefully choreographed confusion of change ensure that everything stays exactly as it was.
Strange Maps #683
 So called because it was first raised in 1977 by Tam Dalyell, Member of Parliament for West Lothian, a constituency in Scotland.
 A quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation, which exercises certain powers that have been devolved to it from central government.
 Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, a.k.a. the taxman.
 Local Enterprise Partnerships, which a few years ago replaced the Regional Development Authorities.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
A neuroscientist argues that da Vinci shared a disorder with Picasso and Rembrandt.
- A neuroscientist at the City University of London proposes that Leonardo da Vinci may have had exotropia, allowing him to see the world with impaired depth perception.
- If true, it means that Da Vinci would have been able to see the images he wanted to paint as they would have appeared on a flat surface.
- The finding reminds us that sometimes looking at the world in a different way can have fantastic results.
The study<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc3Mjc2NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTA4MDg2NH0.T-98YvLjS9mUCQkgqHyV43Q7h_JIiubrev-Fp_0j4Pg/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C38%2C0%2C579&height=700" id="58346" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="674799ba34e115a2e9a3e94c366bfc26" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The Virtuvian Man. Christopher Tyler suggests that Da Vinci used his own image as a template for the face in the drawing.
Vitruvian Man, by Leonardo da Vinci created c. 1480–1490<p><a href="https://www.city.ac.uk/people/academics/christopher-tyler" target="_blank">Professor Christopher Tyler</a> of the City University of London's optometry division analyzed six pieces of Renaissance art by or held to be images of Da Vinci, including the famous <em>Vitruvian Man. </em>By looking at the paintings, drawings, and statues and applying the same techniques optometrists use on patients, Tyler was able to conclude that the eyes of the men depicted were misaligned.</p><p> He concluded that, if the images he analyzed were truly reflective of how Da Vinci looked, that the great artist had a mild case of exotropia. </p>
How would this have helped him paint?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b221010aa7688734d4d6a41f0df5933f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/j6F-sHhmfrY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><a href="https://shileyeye.ucsd.edu/faculty/shira-robbins" target="_blank">Shira Robbins</a>, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of California at San Diego, who was not involved with the project, explained to <em><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/10/19/leonardo-da-vincis-genius-may-be-rooted-in-a-common-eye-disorder-new-study-says/?utm_term=.d3f44ed91c16" target="_blank">The Washington Post</a> </em>how individuals with exotropia often turn to additional information to help understand the world around them:</p><blockquote>"What happens in some people is when they're only using one eye . . . they develop other cues besides traditional depth perception to understand where things are in space, looking at color and shadow in a way that most of us who use both eyes at a time don't really appreciate." </blockquote><p>Dr. Robbins agrees that, if the artworks analyzed accurately depict Da Vinci, then he probably had exotropia.</p><p>If Da Vinci did have a mild form of the condition, which would allow him to focus with both eyes when concentrating and with one when relaxed, Tyler asserts that the famed artist could have viewed the world in two or three dimensions at will, showing him the world exactly as he would need to recreate it on a flat surface. Quite the superpower for an artist.</p>
Does this mean Da Vinci would have been a hack if he had normal eyesight?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc3MjY5NS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjYwOTgxOH0.eSu3YBpCuaDj59-4lzSeZ1WgwtV2ETGiWHqczzW3how/img.png?width=980" id="9c323" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="edd4e9e9d9c1156a53242df6288d7cc0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A graph showing the difference in where each eye is focused for each painting, drawing, and statue used in the study. The larger the difference, the more pronounced the exotropia is in the image.<p>Not at all. What Dr. Tyler is suggesting is that the tendency of people who have exotropia to rely on using one eye to see the world and thereby lose some depth perception allowed Da Vinci to understand better how the three-dimensional objects in the world could be translated into a two-dimensional image on a canvas. This could account for some of Da Vinci's skill in depicting shadow and subtle changes in color, since he would have relied on these details to understand the world. <br><br>His polymathic brilliance extended far beyond art, and nobody is claiming that his ideas for flying machines, tanks, or <a href="http://www.da-vinci-inventions.com/davinci-inventions.aspx" target="_blank">other inventions </a>were at all influenced by a vision problem.</p>
How can we know this? He has been dead for five hundred years.<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c26fc51b0aebbcd6905593015fec79e5"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/LRAptNtN9-A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>There are reasons to be cautious anytime we make claims about people who are long dead. In this case, we have the bonus problem that we aren't 100 percent sure that the images used are supposed to look like Da Vinci. </p><p> That is the major caveat of the idea; all of the images used as evidence of his condition are assumed to look like him. While some of the images, like the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_(Verrocchio)" target="_blank"><em>David</em> by Andrea del Verrocchio</a>, are generally agreed to be based on Leonardo the other pictures are claimed to be reflective of him based only on his statement that "[The soul] guides the painter's arm and makes him reproduce himself, since it appears to the soul that this is the best way to represent a human being." </p><p>Tyler also argues that the portraits he claims are based on Da Vinci share similarities with the images generally accepted to be portraits of him; including similar hair and facial features. This lends weight to the idea that the artist incorporated his own traits into his artwork, including his vision problem. </p><p>Leonardo da Vinci was undoubtedly one of the greatest geniuses of all time. If he had exotropia, then it was merely a minor addition to his artistic skills. It does, however, give us a literal example of how people who look at the world differently can use that vantage point to their advantage to create things we all can appreciate. </p>
Want help raising your kids? Spend more time at church, says new study.
- Religious people tend to have more children than secular people, but why remains unknown.
- A new study suggests that the social circles provided by regular church going make raising kids easier.
- Conversely, having a large secular social group made women less likely to have children.
Be fruitful and multiply<p>Scientists in the United Kingdom collected data on more than 13,000 mothers and their children. Most of them were religious, but 12 percent were not. The data included information on their church habits, social networks, number of children, and the scores those children achieved on a standardized test.</p><p>In line with previous findings that religious women have more children than secular women in industrialized countries, a connection between at least monthly church attendance and fertility was confirmed. However, religious parents showed they could avoid the pitfalls that having more children can bring. </p><p>Typically, more children in a family leads to reduced cognitive ability and height in each <a href="https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/37/6/1408/729795" target="_blank">child</a>. Some studies find that children do less well in school for each <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13524-016-0471-0" target="_blank">additional sibling they have</a>. This makes a kind of intuitive sense, as parents with more children would have to divide their time, energy, and resources among more people as families expand. One would expect that the larger families would also lead to things like lower test scores. </p><p>Despite the expectation, the children of religious parents didn't have lower scores on standardized tests. There were small positive relationships between the size of the mother's social network, the number of co-religionists helping out, and the children's test scores. However, this association was small, didn't show up in all of the testings, and was unrelated to other variables. </p> These effects might be explained by the size and helpfulness of the social networks around the more religious. Women who went to church at least once a month had more extensive social networks than those who never go or who attend yearly. These social networks of co-religious people mean that there are more people to turn to for help with child-rearing, a point also demonstrated in the data. The amount of aid women got from their fellow churchgoers was also associated with a higher fertility rate. <br> <br> Conversely, an extensive social network was associated with fewer children for secular women. This finding is in line with <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1207/s15327957pspr0904_5" target="_blank">previous studies</a> and suggests that the social networks comprised of co-religious individuals differ from those found elsewhere.
So, how quickly should I join a local religious group?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="6RrmYM8M" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="9eb4740a7d1e10108a75fd2ed627a90f"> <div id="botr_6RrmYM8M_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/6RrmYM8M-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/6RrmYM8M-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/6RrmYM8M-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The study is not without its faults, and more investigations into the relationship between fertility, childcare, ritual, and social networks are needed.</p><p>These findings all show correlation, not causation. Though it might be said the results point towards causation, various alternative interpretations of the data are apparent. The authors note that most religions are explicitly pro-natal. It is possible that religious women have internalized these values and simply choose to have more children than secular women do.</p><p>This idea is similar to a potential interpretation of why large social networks have the opposite effect for secular women. The authors suggest that, in some cases, these more extensive social networks are associated with work and exert an anti-natal influence. Again, the people who build such networks may be people unlikely to have large families under any circumstances.</p><p>However, the researchers' hypothesis endured. The help religious women get from their church-based social networks allows them to have larger families than those who lack these support systems. In some instances, these support systems also prevent the adverse effects of larger families. </p>
The community religion offers<p>As we've mentioned <a href="https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/what-is-secular-humanism" target="_blank">before</a>, religion offers a community, and a community provides social capital. As religion continues to decline in the West, the social bonds of faith communities that used to tie social communities together begin to decay. However, as has been noted by a variety of observers for the last few decades, fewer and fewer new organizations appear ready to replace religion as a source of community in our lives.</p><p>While many different organizations might offer social support that religion once provided the whole of western society, this study shows that different social circles can differently affect the people in them. This finding must be considered by those trying to find new communities to join or the authors of future research. </p><p>The community offered by religious groups provides real benefits to those who join them. As this study shows, having the support network religious community offers allows some parents to avoid pitfalls that bedevil those lacking similar support. It suggests that previous studies demonstrating that group ritual offers benefits like increased amounts of <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797612472910" target="_blank">group trust</a> and <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1069397103037002003" target="_blank">cooperation</a> are onto something and that those benefits have a variety of applications. </p><p>While this study is not without its blind spots, it offers a strong starting point for further investigations into the nature of ritual in our modern lives and how local support networks remain vital in our increasingly globalized world. </p>
Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>