1912: Piedra Movediza falls. Tandil lies in the southeast portion of Buenos Aires Province, Argentina. The town was founded in 1823 and today, almost 111,000 people live there. The name comes from a Mapuche word, the Mapuche being the indigenous inhabitants of south-central Chile and southwestern Argentina. Their word for falling, tan, and their word for rock, lil, are placed together to form the name of the town and the surrounding hills.
Piedra Movediza, “Moving Stone” was a local attraction. The 300 ton rock was precariously balanced on the edge of hill. It was said to slowly, imperceptibly move back and forth. While it was impossible to detect any motion with the naked eye, people would come to the site and place a glass object, usually a bottle, under the fulcrum of the rock only to find it shattered later in the day. The rock was such an important part of the local history, it remains as part of the town’s flag to this day.
No one really knows exactly what happened on this day as there were no witnesses to the event. There is speculation that vandals were present. There is a possibility that all the broken glass may have played a roll. Some say that quarry workers were tired of the people coming to look at the rock and they may have destroyed it in order to rid them of the tourists. And there is the possibility that explosions at the quarry may have cause enough vibration to actually tip the balance. Whatever the reason, the rock fell at some time between 5 and 6 PM. It crashed to the bottom of the hill and split into two pieces.
Some efforts were made to replace the rock. In May 2007, engineering students created a replica rock and placed it in the same spot. They were unable to actually recreate the mysterious moving rock and had to cement their replacement into place so it does not rock back and forth. There are other balanced rock in the area, such as El Centinela. These formations, while interesting and unusual, do not have the teetering effect known at Piedra Movediza.
If you are in the country, you should notice landmarks – that is, objects which help you to find your way or prevent you getting lost, such as distant hills, church towers, and nearer objects, such as peculiar buildings, trees, gates, rocks, etc. – Robert Baden-Powell
Geologists have a saying – rocks remember. – Neil Armstrong
We humans are here because nothing can be perfect. There always have to be some living things that are unsatisfied, itchy, trying too hard. If it was all just animals and rocks and lettuce, the gods wouldn’t feel like they had enough to do. – Miranda July
Rocks and waters, etc., are words of God, and so are men. We all flow from one fountain Soul. All are expressions of one Love. – John Muir
1874: The Claimant is guilty of perjury. Roger Tichborne was heir apparent in his aristocratic family. He was supposed to have been killed in a shipwreck in 1854 but his mother remained hopeful he had managed to survive. Rumors stated he had made it to Australia and she advertised there in hopes of finding her son. A claimant came forward in 1866. Thomas Castro had been working as a butcher in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. His manners and bearing belied his claim to being a future Baronet but he gained enough support to finance a trip to England. Lady Tichborne immediately accepted him as her long, lost son while the rest of the family worked to expose the interloper as a fraud. During pre-trial questioning, it was posited the Claimant was really Arthur Orton, son of a butcher from Wapping in London.
Roger was the first son of the 10th baronet. His parents did not get along and Roger and his mother lived in Paris while the father and younger son lived in England. Roger was brought back to England to complete his education. After school, Roger accepted a commission with the 6th Dragoon Guards. Seeking adventure, he eventually left on a private tour of South America. He went missing while sailing to Jamaica and was presumed dead by everyone but his mother. A claimant was found in Australia, moved to Sidney and eventually made his way to England, eating everything in his path. His weight was up to 210 in Sidney and up to 250 when he reached England. Lady Tichborne was in Paris, and so the claimant made his way there.
The Claimant was supported not only by his mother, but others in the communities where he had lived prior to his disappearance. However, he neither spoke nor understood French, his first language as a child, nor did he speak with any accent. Lady Tichborne died in 1868 and with it went his strongest support, both emotional and financial. A 1871 civil case was heard and the Claimant was found to have committed perjury and was sent to Newgate prison. There, the Claimant used the popular press to increase his chance at acquittal. A new trial was held. It began on April 21, 1873 and ended on this day. It took 188 court days, one of lengthiest in British history.
Throughout the court case, he was consistently referred to as the Claimant and no name was used. Edward Kenealy took his case and was hostile in his treatment of witnesses and the bench. The laws of the time denied the Claimant to testify on his own behalf. Despite the long trial, the jury took only 30 minutes to deliver a verdict and guilty of perjury. The jury also condemned Kenealy for his behavior for which he would later be disbarred. The Claimant served ten years, lost 148 pounds while in prison, and years later confessed to being Arthur Orton which he almost immediately recanted. He died in poverty and anonymity.
The man who lost himself still walks in history, with no other name than that which the common voice of his day accorded him: the Claimant. – Douglas Woodruff
Bee to the blossom, moth to the flame; Each to his passion; what’s in a name? – Helen Hunt Jackson
Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering. – Theodore Roosevelt
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. – William Shakespeare
1964: Italy requests help to save an iconic landmark. The Torre di Pisa, or as we call it, the Tower of Pisa, has been leaning since before it was even fully constructed. The freestanding bell tower is part of the cathedral built in the Italian city and known worldwide for its distinctive tilt. It is the third oldest structure in Pisa’s Cathedral Square with only the Cathedral itself and the Pisa Baptistry older. Groundbreaking took place in 1173 but there was inadequate foundation for the structure. The ground on one side was too soft to support the weight of the tower.
It took 199 years to built the tower. Work began during a period of military success and therefore, local prosperity. When the work on the second floor began, the tower began its slow and inexorable tilt. The structure, which eventually rose 184 feet into the sky, was built on just a ten foot deep foundation set into unstable subsoil. After the tilt began, construction was halted for nearly a century partly because the area was involved in several battles/wars and partly because new idea were needed to stop the tilt. If the building had been continued uninterrupted, the tower would have toppled for sure. The settling of the subsoil gave it some chance to remain standing.
When building began again, the idea to stop the lean was to build the rest of the floors with one side taller than the other. The tower itself is therefore, bent. Construction work continued apace until once again, war intervened. The seventh floor was completed in 1319 and the bell chamber was finally added in 1372. There are seven bells in the tower, one for each major tone and the last was installed in 1655. Since its completion, many attempts have been made to keep the tower from complete collapse. On this day, the government requested the help from the world to preserve the landmark, but to keep its distinctive tilt.
A multinational task force was formed to work on the problem. Engineers, mathematicians, and historians gathered together to preserve all aspects of the UNESCO Historical tower. The softer ground on one side remained a considerable problem and many solutions were proposed. It was decided to add 800 tons of lead counterweight to the raised end of the base. The bells were also removed to help lessen the weight. A third measure, removing 1,342 cubic feet of soil from underneath the raised end, was done after cables were placed at the third level and anchored to hold the tower in place. The tower was successfully straightened by 17.7 inches and returned to the 1838 position. In 2008, it was announced the stabilization was so successful for the first time in history, the tower has stopped moving.
I’ve been to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It’s a tower, and it’s leaning. You look at it, but nothing happens, so then you look for someplace to get a sandwich. – Danny DeVito
Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility. – Saint Augustine
Be as a tower firmly set; Shakes not its top for any blast that blows. – Dante Alighieri
The whole imposing edifice of modern medicine is like the celebrated tower of Pisa – slightly off balance. – Prince Charles
1971: UN Secretary-General U Thant signs a proclamation. John McConnell was born in 1915 in Davis City, Iowa. His father was a traveling Pentecostal evangelist and John grew up with a strong commitment to making the world a better place. He spent his life on causes. He and Albert Nobell, a chemist who worked making plastics, noticed how damaging industry was to the ecological balance of Mother Nature. McConnell advocated for peace on Earth, even during the darkest days of World War II. When Sputnik was launched, he wrote an article for the peaceful exploration of space.
His environmental concerns grew throughout the late fifties and sixties. His Christian upbringing led him to believe humans had a duty to take care of Spaceship Earth for future generations. In October 1969, a National UNESCO Conference was held in San Francisco and John first proposed a global holiday to celebrate Earth, all her life and beauty, and to foster peace among all her inhabitants. Earth Day won strong support in San Francisco and the first celebration of the Day was held there on March 21, 1970. In June of that year, McConnell created the Earth Day Proclamation for worldwide use. It was signed by 36 world leaders. U Thant was one of the signatories.
U Thant was from Burma and was the Secretary-General of the UN from 1961 to 1971 after Dag Hammarskjold was killed in a plane crash. U Thant was the only candidate the US and the USSR could agree on and he took office amid the Cold War super powers animosity. He brokered many different agreements between categorically opposed factions during his terms in office. On this day, he was able to create a worldwide day for peace and understanding between humans of any place and their world. John McConnell’s idea had spread around the globe.
The spring equinox Earth Day is celebrated around the world and has been acknowledged at the United Nations with ringing of the UN Peace Bell. While some of the predictions from the early years have been averted, today we are still in a precarious position on the planet. There are issues of rising populations and destruction of the natural environment to support all the people. There are issues with extinctions of many species, but thankfully not nearly as bad as had been predicted. There was a prediction the world would suffer a new ice age. Instead, we have been dealing with issues of global warming and threat of rising waters drowning out much of the coastal regions of the world. Earth Day will be celebrated in 2017 on April 22.
When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. – John Muir
He that plants trees loves others beside himself. – Thomas Fuller
For 200 years we’ve been conquering nature. Now we’re beating it to death. – Tom McMillan
The earth is what we all have in common. – Wendell Berr
1866: The Calaveras Skull is found by miners. Working Calaveras County, California mines at a depth of 130 feet below the surface, miners discovered a skull beneath a layer of lava. They were able to get their find to Josiah Whitney who was, at the time, the State Geologist of California as well as a Professor of Geology at Harvard University. The year before, Prof. Whitney had published a paper on the co-existence of early humans, mastodons, and elephants. He was delighted to have this physical proof of his theory and he officially announced his confirmation of authenticity at a meeting of the California Academy of Sciences later in the year. He was certain Pliocene age (about 2.5 to 5.3 million years ago) humans were residing in North America which would make them the oldest humans on the continent.
While Prof. Whitney was sure of the veracity of the skull, other were not. In a San Francisco newspaper, a reporter claimed to have been told the skull was a practical joke. This was ignored. In 1879, Thomas Wilson, also of Harvard, ran a flourine analysis (the first time the test was used on human bone) and claimed the skull to be of far more recent provenance. While generally claimed as a hoax, Whitney refused to relinquish his belief as did his successor at Harvard, FW Putnam. Putnam, in an effort to find the truth, traveled to Harvard in 1901.
Putnam was told that in 1865 a Native American’s skull had been dug up from a local burial site and planted in the mine specifically to be found by later miners. Putnam allowed the story may or may not have been true and it was impossible to tell for sure if the skull was fake or not, but he was still sure it was the real thing. Others who found the usefulness of the ancient skull convenient for “proving” their philosophical or religious beliefs also claimed the skull was authentic. Just to further complicate matters, it was later found the skull in question was not even the original skull given to Whiney.
Around the same time Putman was traveling in California, William Henry Holmes of the Smithsonian Institution was also studying the skull. He determined the plant and animal fossils found along with the skull were, in fact, genuine. But the skull was not. It was not even feasible, according to Holmes, to believe that a human skull would be so unchanged after millions of years and would so closely resemble today’s human skull. The skull was declared, with some finality, to be a hoax. Apparently, the miners there did not really like Prof. Whitney, finding him a stuffy Easterner. They were delighted to have been able to trick the revered scientist. Radiocarbon dating in 1992 found the skull to be about 1,000 years old.
It may be impossible ever to determine to the satisfaction of the archaeologist the place where the skull was actually found. – FW Putnam
To suppose that man could have remained unchanged… for a million years, roughly speaking… is to suppose a miracle. – William Henry Holmes
In a secular age, an authentic miracle must purport to be a hoax, in order to gain credit in the world. – Angela Carter
Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge. – Carl Sagan
1582: Inter gravissimas is issued. The papal bull was written in Latin and Pope Gregory XIII was setting forth the way to realign the calendar with the actual orbit of the planet. The Catholic calendar used older methods to determine the dates for some feasts, most notably – Easter. In order to accurately place the celebration for Christ’s triumph over death, there were three things that needed to be restored. The first of these was the correct placement of the northern vernal equinox or the first day of spring. The next calculation needed was the proper identification of the “14th day of the moon” or as we would call it, the full moon. After these two pieces of information were available, the next Sunday after this full moon after the vernal equinox would be Easter.
The Council of Nicaea was held in summer of 325. At that time, March 21 was when the sun was aligned with the equator as it moved northward into the summer solstice. Since a year is not actually 365 days long, calculations had been made by the older calendar to create a more accurate time table. But the year is also not exactly 365.25 days long either and the planet had drifted away from the original location over 1200 years earlier. Not only is there a problem with the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, but the Moon’s orbit around the Earth isn’t exact either. So the new calendar would make the full moon actually occur at the time of the full moon which removed “four days and more” of further drift. This would realign Easter with where it was originally found in 325.
The new calendar would simply change the numbers of the date. Pope Gregory had no authority over the entire globe, but Catholic countries were mandated to update their calendars in October of 1582. Thursday, October 4 was followed by Friday, October 15. This realigned the old style calendar with the solar year. However, other countries/places around the world were using a variety of other calendars. In fact, even today, there are many different ways to compute the date and many places have more than one calendar in use. The Gregorian calendar is almost universally recognized as the most accurate, but religious and national calendars remain in use for internal reasons, as well.
The longer it took to accept the new solar calendar, the greater the change in the dates. Between the years 1900 and 2100, a change of 13 days would be needed to upgrade a Julian calendar to a Gregorian. Russia finally accepted the “new” calendar in 1918 although they had changed their new year’s day to January 1 in 1700 whereas Great Britain and the British Empire took until 1752 for that to take place (it had been on March 25 prior to that). Even now, there is some confusion when giving a date. Some places add OS or NS to the date, to let the reader know if the Julian (OS) calendar or the Gregorian (NS) date is being used. Extending the dates backwards creates a proleptic calendar and is confusing so should be used only with great caution.
Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. – Charles Richards
Tomorrow is only found in the calendar of fools. – Og Mandino
I don’t wait for the calendar to figure out when I should live life. – Gene Simmons
Ethics and equity and the principles of justice do not change with the calendar. – D. H. Lawrence
1739: Richard Palmer is unmasked. He was born in Essex, England and baptized on September 21, 1705. He was the fifth of six children in his family. His father was a butcher and innkeeper and it is sometimes told the son followed, at least at first, in his father’s footsteps. He had some rudimentary education and eventually married. He opened his own butcher shop but eventually found other ways to make a more lucrative living. He joined up with an Essex gang of deer poachers, a criminal endeavor rampant in the area. The gang had to find a way to get rid of the deer meat and having a butcher join in was a way to sell off the goods without drawing too much attention. While this worked for a while, Richard eventually left the butcher trade and took up with a more criminal lifestyle. He also changed his name at some point from Dick Turpin to Richard Palmer.
Within a few years, the makeup of the gang had changed dramatically with many of the members captured or moved away. Turpin moved on to robbery and began invading the homes of the local wealthy farmers. The gang members moved near London and began breaking and entering there. Their attacks were quite violent when homeowners would not reveal where their money was hidden. Rewards were offered for their capture, starting at £10 and working their way upwards. Many of the group were caught in this manner, but Turpin remained elusive.
With most of the gang members in custody, Turpin turned to what he is most famous for. Highway robbery became his new venture. He and some new associates attacked those moving along the highways of rural England. They were accomplished horse thieves as well as powerful riders and able to approach targets with impunity due to the legendary violence associated with Turpin’s attacks. While trying to capture Turpin, one of the posse was shot and eventually died. Turpin was charged with his murder, but stories were confusing and often contradictory.
While travelling around the country under his assumed name, he was caught and eventually sent to York Castle to await trial for more minor crimes. While there, he wrote a letter to his brother in law but when it arrived, the man refused to pay the delivery charge, stating he knew no one at York Castle. He may have truly been loath to pay or he may have been trying to distance himself from his criminal family. The letter was taken to a post office where James Smith, who had taught Turpin to write years ago, recognized the handwriting. He alerted the authorities and was taken to York Castle where he was able to identify the man held there as the man wanted for murder. He received a £200 reward (about £29,000 today). Turpin was executed, but became a legend after the fact.
Make your educational laws strict and your criminal ones can be gentle; but if you leave youth its liberty you will have to dig dungeons for ages. – Michel de Montaigne
Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves. What is equally true is that every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on. – Robert Kennedy
Squeeze human nature into the straitjacket of criminal justice and crime will appear. – Karl Kraus
The criminal is trying to solve his immediate problems. – Naguib Mahfouz
1909: The Great White Fleet returns to Hampton Roads, Virginia. US President Theodore Roosevelt sent 16 Navy battleships along with a larger contingency of ancillary vessels on a world tour, circumnavigating the globe. They left on December 16, 1907 with their hulls painted white, the Navy’s peacetime color. The ships were decorated with gold scrollwork and there was a red, white, and blue banner on the bows of the ships. In 1891, after decades of conflict, France sent a fleet of ships to Kronstadt, Russia. The mission was peaceful and threatening. The large contingency of ships and the implied threat of more to come was not lost on Tsar Nicholas II and a treaty was soon signed.
Roosevelt theorized a fleet this size simply sailing around the world would increase goodwill toward America, striving to become a world power. The ability to muster such a fleet to visit many countries and harbors during peacetime would also serve as an indication of the growing importance of the nation’s powerful armed forces. The triumph of America in the Spanish-American War had the US now in possession of Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. This was not the first time Roosevelt had sent an impressive US naval presence. He sent eight battleships to the Mediterranean Sea during a diplomatic crisis between France and Germany in their dispute over Morocco. Europe may have already taken notice of the US, but Roosevelt was also hoping to impress Japan, after their defeat of the Russian fleet in 1905.
The President wished to let the world know the US Navy was able to be anywhere. This seemed to have worked, at least in part. Another benefit of showcasing this massive peacetime endeavor was to help the ships and men practice both sea and battle worthiness as a fleet and to use that practice in developing later classes of ships for the upgrading Navy. The trip around the world was to help the ships with all manner of at sea experience including navigation, communication, power supply, and fleet maneuvering. There was, of course, some dissention. The Navy brass was worried about deploying ships for so long and so far away from home. The long voyage would also take a toll on the ships themselves which would need maintenance when they reached the west coast.
At the time of the trip, the Panama Canal was not yet operational and the ships had to pass through the Straits of Magellan. This was an as yet, unprecedented operation for the US Navy. The ships had to sail from a variety of points before coalescing into the Great White Fleet. However, all the planning was worth it as thousands came to see the ships anytime they entered any port city. The 14-month voyage covered 43,000 nautical miles and made twenty port calls on six continents. The 14,000 sailors brought their Fleet safely around the world, impressing both foreign nationals and the folks back home.
It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious. – John Paul Jones
A good Navy is not a provocation to war. It is the surest guaranty of peace. – Commodore George Dewey
The Navy has both a tradition and a future–and we look with pride and confidence in both directions. – Admiral Arleigh Burke
In my opinion, any navy less than that which would give us the habitual command of our own coast and seas would be little short of useless. – John C. Calhoun
1677: Benedito de Espinosa dies. We know him as Baruch Spinoza. He was a Dutch philosopher of Sephardic Jewish/Portuguese origin and born in the Dutch Republic. His family had moved to Amsterdam after the Portuguese Inquisition began forcing conversions on the Iberian peninsula. These exiles found acceptance in Amsterdam and were proud of their heritage, survival, and community. The senior Spinoza was a successful merchant as well as active in the local synagogue. The port city also brought many ships in and along with their products for sale came an influx of people, ideas, and experiences. This helped to foster a city of tolerance.
Spinoza grew up speaking Portuguese but also knew Hebrew, Spanish, Dutch, and Latin. He may have also spoken French. He had a traditional Jewish upbringing and educational opportunities. He may have been headed towards becoming a rabbi but at the age of 17, when his older brother died, he quit school and joined the family importing business. At the age of 20, he was learning Latin from a former Jesuit who was a radical democrat who may have been responsible for introducing his young pupil to scholastic and modern philosophy, up to and including the heretical Rene Descartes. After the senior Spinoza died, Baruch went to teach at his Jesuit mentor’s school.
It was at this time that Spinoza became acquainted with many other Christian religions as well as anti-clerical belief systems. He slowly broke away from his Jewish beliefs and eventually was expelled from the Jewish community as a heretic. He spent the rest of his life writing and studying as a private scholar. He was able to publish only one work under his own name during his lifetime, Descartes’ “Principles of Philosophy”. He kept working on what would become his masterpiece work, published posthumously, Ethics.
In his famous book, he posited that God did exist but was abstract and impersonal. He was opposed to Descartes’ mind-body dualism but also disagreed with other anti-Cartesian philosophies. Spinoza believed in strict determinism, today rather akin to quantum mechanics. Spinoza rationalized that everything in Nature, that is everything that exists, is one Reality or one substance and there is only one set of rules which govern all. He saw God and Nature as two names for the same thing. Reality is perfection and anything we find imperfect is due to our lack of understanding. Our inability to understand is because the universe is vast and complex but our striving to understand more and better is our salvation.
All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.
Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.
The endeavor to understand is the first and only basis of virtue.
Ambition is the immoderate desire for power. – all from Baruch Spinoza
1472: King Christian I of Norway cannot pay his daughter’s dowry. The Orkney Islands are an archipelago off the northern tip of Scotland. The Shetland Islands are even farther north and both are part of what is today called the Northern Isles and part of the United Kingdom. The Vikings had taken over the region after the Gaels, Picts, Celts, and Scots had all tried their hand at living there. The Vikings used the islands as a way station before heading farther south to raid and plunder coastal Europe. The Norwegians took over the islands by 875 and they remained under Norway’s rule, at first via Earls of Norway and then under the King himself.
By the mid-1400s Denmark and Scotland were in a feud over taxation of the Hebrides, another group of islands off the coast of Scotland. The King of France suggested the daughter of the King of Denmark and Norway (they were united at the time) marry the son of the King of Scotland. In July 1469, Margaret (13), daughter of Christian, married James (18), son of King James II. The Norse king was a bit short of cash. Margaret’s dowry was 60,000 Guilders. Christian was to pay 10,000 Guilders and put up Orkney as collateral for the rest. But the King could only come up with 2,000 Guilders and the Shetland Islands were then also added as further collateral.
Christian was unable to come up with the money he owed to the Scottish rulers and on this day the lands were taken over by Scotland. Neither Danes nor Norwegians accepted the fact their lands were taken and they attempted to fight the annexation for many centuries. However, since the lands had been put up as collateral and the debt had not been paid, there was legal basis for the Scots taking them over. The islands remain under Scottish/British control to this day.
Margaret’s marriage to the King of Scotland was not an entirely happy one. She simply did not care for the man. She joined the marriage bed solely for the purpose of procreation and did have three sons to carry on the line. She was much more popular than her husband and she has been described as better fit to rule than the actual king. Margaret died at Stirling Castle in July 1486 at the age of 30. There were rumors her husband had poisoned her. While these were probably false, they did not endear the man to his countrymen. James III died in 1488 either in battle or while trying to escape. James IV succeed his father to the throne and is generally accepted at the most successful of all the Stewart monarchs.
A currency serves three functions: providing a means of payment, a unit of account and a store of value. Gold may be a store of value for wealth, but it is not a means of payment. You cannot pay for your groceries with it. Nor is it a unit of account. Prices of goods and services, and of financial assets, are not denominated in gold terms. – Nouriel Roubini
The payment for sins can be delayed. But they can’t be avoided. – Shawn Ryan
Everybody loves to spend money at least some of the time – because everybody loves the stuff you can buy with it. The key to the pleasure level of any transaction is the balance between the pain of the payment and the reward of the purchased object. – Jeffrey Kluger
I’ve learned that when someone does something very kind and refuses payment, giving them an engraved Swiss Army knife is never refused! – Christine Lavin