‘The answer is because we virtually must, to gain access to the laboratory of human experience. When we study it reasonably well, and so acquire some usable habits of mind, as well as some basic data about the forces that affect our own lives, we emerge with relevant skills and an enhanced capacity for informed citizenship, critical thinking, and simple awareness. The uses of history are varied. Studying history can help us develop some literally “salable” skills, but its study must not be pinned down to the narrowest utilitarianism. Some history—that confined to personal recollections about changes and continuities in the immediate environment—is essential to function beyond childhood. Some history depends on personal taste, where one finds beauty, the joy of discovery, or intellectual challenge. Between the inescapable minimum and the pleasure of deep commitment comes the history that, through cumulative skill in interpreting the unfolding human record, provides a real grasp of how the world works.’
– Peter N. Stearns (1998) Why Study History? American Historical Association Continue reading →
The names Honda and Toyota derive from Japanese words for different kinds of rice field.
The longest palindrome in the Oxford English Dictionary is ‘tattarrattat’. James Joyce used it in Ulysses: ‘I knew his tattarrattat at the door.’
Each of us is surrounded by bacteria that are released from our bodies; everyone’s personal microbial cloud is unique.
An animal the size of an elephant could evolve to an animal the size of a sheep in 100,000 generations, but for an animal the size of a sheep to evolve to the size of an elephant would take 1.6 million generations.
The United States Library of Congress was founded in 1800, making it the oldest federal cultural institution in the nation. It is also the largest library in the world, with more than 164 million items on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves.
The Library receives some 15,000 items each working day and adds approximately 12,000 items to the collections daily. The majority of the collections are received through the Copyright registration process, as the Library is home to the U.S. Copyright Office. It is no surprise therefore that its collection is impressive. The Library houses: Continue reading →
‘Commonly found in the more fevered corners of political ideology are the various fallacies of danger – those forms of argument that seek to stave off decision by conjuring up all manner of horrors that precipitate change might lead to (or, conversely, the disasters that delay will engender). The 19th-century political thinker and reformer Jeremy Bentham called this “the hobgoblin argument” since it warns of mythical horrors lurking unseen by all but the one kind enough to point them out to us.’
– “Can you spot a rhetorical fallacy?” The Guardian, 13 September 2013
8 Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.
‘Having planted the subversive thought — that forbidding Adam to eat from one tree lest he die, and from another lest he live forever, is absurd and contradictory — Hobbes was forced to imagine alternative scriptures and even alternative punishments and alternative eternities. His point was that people might not obey the rule of men if they were more afraid of divine retribution than of horrible death in the here and now, but he had acknowledged the process whereby people are always free to make up a religion that suits or gratifies or flatters them. Samuel Butler was to adapt this idea in his Erewhon Revisited. In the original Erewhon, Mr. Higgs pays a visit to a remote country from which he eventually makes his escape in a balloon. Returning two decades later, he finds that in his absence he has become a god named the “Sun Child,” worshipped on the day he ascended into heaven. Two high priests arc on hand to celebrate the ascension, and when Higgs threatens to expose them and reveal himself as a mere mortal he is told, “You must not do that, because all the morals of this country are bound around this myth, and if they once know that you did not ascend into heaven they will all become wicked.”‘