The Tradition and Method of Selecting a New Pope

Vatican-SmokeMurder, bribery, and nepotism were the primary ways in which a pope would enter or exit the papacy prior to the 12th century. It was during the 12th century that cardinals who were senior clergy in Rome, Italy created what they referred to as a “college” to act as a council which would regulate the elections of future popes. This system became referred to as the “conclave” which refers to the practice of a “private meeting assembly of cardinals for the election of a pope”. The term “conclave” was chosen because of the Latin term “con” with means “with” and the Latin term “clavin” which means “key”, more literally translating to “locked room” as cardinals would be locked away to avoid the interference of outside politics. As of 1274 A.D., all papal elections are held in secret, adhering to this strict tradition in an attempt to remain unbiased. Elections are held again and again until a 66% majority is achieved at which point white smoke is released to signify that the council has reached a decision. The election ballets from each voting round are burned so that the election is completely anonymous and private, even for those who are present in the meeting. It is this burning which creates the iconography of the smoke being released to signify a decision. In the Middle Ages, cardinals added damp straw to the ballots which created black smoke to signify that a pope had not yet been chosen. White smoke was created by burning the paper alone, but during the modern day, chemical additives are added to ensure the white smoke color is as unambiguous as possible

The Oldest Artwork in Human History

Chauvet-Cave-artwork

Near the Ardeche River (pronounced “arr-desh”) in southern France, less than 0.5 kilometers away, 3 explorers set out a few days before Christmas in 1994. While seeking drafts of air emanating from the ground which would point to the presence of caves, these explorers found a subtle airflow which was blockaded by rocks. The explorers found a narrow shaft which was cut into the cliffside, so narrow in fact that their bodies could just barely squeeze through it. Deep inside the cave the explorers stumbled upon the oldest known cave paintings in human history, twice as old as any other artistic depiction made by human hands. The cave itself had been perfectly sealed for tens of thousands of years which is why this 32,000 year old artwork was found in pristine condition. In honor of the lead discover Jean-Marie Chauvet (pronounced “zhan mah-ree sho-vee”), the cave was named “Chauvet Cave”. The French Ministry of Culture controls all access to the cave, an intervention which was rapidly implemented as this discovery was immediately understood as an enormous scientific find, perhaps one of the greatest anthropological and artistic discoveries ever made. Scientists and art historians are typically the only members of the public permitted access to Chauvet Cave, with archeologists, paleontologists, and geologists being the most common interdisciplinary teams provided entry

The Comparison of Medieval Gunpowder Explosives toward Modern Day Plastic Explosives

plastic-explosiveDuring the modern day, soldiers use plastic explosives to blast through walls, similar to that of the gunpowder powered cannons of antiquity, but different in the sense that they can be directly applied and finely controlled. Despite these differences, the principle of both weaponry remains the same which is to create a powerful burst of kinetic energy to smash apart solid structures. Soldiers with explosive expertise during the modern day plant explosives in a lowercase “i” or “t” shape format by separating the explosives with a gap in the middle. This design ensures the explosive will blow a hole in the top and the bottom of the blast site, as well as the sides in some instances, leveraging the physics of the shockwaves produced to disrupt the wall and weaken it in the middle. Explosive experts don’t attach plastic explosives at the bottom of walls for two distinct reasons, the first being because the foundation upon the other side of the wall which cannot be viewed has the potential to be higher than the foundation facing the impending soldiers, which means that the explosives would be blasting into solid ground soil which is much less effective than blasting into walls made of concrete or otherwise, and the second being that explosives close to the ground create rubble directly next to the hole created, making forced entry more difficult, especially under siege conditions with active enemy combatants attempting to stop the breach. The main difference between Medieval gunpowder and modern day plastic explosive is the amount of material required to produce the same effect as plastic explosives are an entire order of magnitude more powerful than gunpowder, with 2 kilograms of plastic explosive equating to multiple barrels of gunpowder. Explosives are categorized as either “high explosives” or “low explosives” with high explosives having the front of the chemical reaction travel faster than the speed of sound and low explosives having the front of the chemical reaction produced travel slower than the speed of sound. To provide comparison, modern day C4 plastic explosives have a detonation velocity of 8,092 meters per second whilst gunpowder has a detonation velocity of just 171 – 631 meters per second

The Translation and Cultural Meaning Behind the Traditional Cantonese Chinese Lunar New Year Greeting

Chinese-Lunar-New-Year

The Cantonese phrase “gung hay fat choy” which is said during the Chinese Lunar New Year does not translate to “Happy New Year” as is commonly believed, rather it translates to “wishing you to be prosperous in the coming year” and is in reference primarily to finance as this is viewed as one of the most, if not the most, important consideration when starting a new year within Chinese culture

Captain James Morgan and the Rum Named After Him

Captain-James-MorganThe tiny island of Île à Vache, Haiti (pronounced “eel ah vash”) was the location Captain Henry Morgan decided to setup a base of operations to harass the French and Spanish who controlled the mainland. The British, French, and Spanish fought furiously 300 years ago for the spoils which came along with the conquer and colonization of the New World. Captain Morgan lives on in modern culture as the Captain Morgan rum manufacturer takes its image and name from this famous British privateer

The Hijacking of Matt Furie’s Pepe the Frog Character by the Fringe Political Movement of the Alt Right

Matt-Furie-Pepe-the-FrogThe Pepe the Frog character and meme rose to ascension during the presidency of Donald Trump because of the 4Chan.org website which was created by Christopher Poole. Poole’s system leveraged Darwinian survival as the base for his new forum system in which posts with a lot of traction would float to the top, allowing even more people to become exposed to them, and posts which had little traction sinking to the bottom where they would inevitably die out. This method of selection and rejection is immensely conducive to creating memes as users, overwhelmingly adolescent males, would compete upon 4Chan to create the most bizarre and outrageous memes and replies possible. 4Chan exacerbates this behavior by allowing users to remain anonymous and therefore able to express opinions and/or ask questions or provide answers to material which they normally would not engage in conversation in, during their day to day life, for fear of retribution for deviating outside of typical social convention. Pepe the Frog became a meme circulated almost exclusively upon 4Chan as the other major social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.) did not observe spikes in content related to this meme due to the user base that uses these platforms being unaware of it as 4Chan is a relatively obscure online forum. Pepe the Frog eventually became adopted by those within society who did not feel marginalized, people who visited 4Chan in search of Pepe the Frog memes, rather than for communication with 4Chan members, which ascended Pepe the Frog into popular culture. Those who initially propelled Pepe the Frog into the counter culture of 4Chan felt overlooked and as a direct result, this marginalized group started to produce increasingly offensive content related to Pepe the Frog, with the hope that it would deter others from using the meme which was believed to be exclusively reserved as a 4Chan character, despite having been stolen from the original artist Matt Furie, who created the character in 2005 for his comic book publication Boys Club, a storyline about 4 friends, including Pepe the Frog, who spent time together. Pepe the Frog was depicted upon 4Chan as a member of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, crashing into the World Trade Towers, with tattoos of German Nazi and white supremacist symbols etc. (e.g. swastika, Celtic cross, 14/88 which refers to Adolf Hitler etc.). These derivative depictions and memes began to become widely circulated upon 4Chan and other websites found online, as Pepe the Frog displays both innocence in his depiction but also malevolence while engaging in horrific acts (e.g. abhorrently forcing a gas mask onto an unfair, stereotypical characterization of a Jewish person). It is Pepe the Frog’s smile while performing these actions which allowed his popularity grow online as virtually any despicable act could be depicted as a joke because of the juxtaposition between Pepe the Frog and the victim being attacked. This emboldened those making these offensive memes as the work started to become viewed as hyperbole and comical, which acted as a defense for creating new content as those engaged believed that their work could always be interpreted and defended as satire, therefore free of scrutiny from authorities or those who reject the Alt Right ideology (e.g. law enforcement investigating a hate crime etc.)

The Italian Concept of Caffè Sospeso

Italian-suspended-coffeeIn Italy, cafes often allow customers to purchase a suspended coffee, which is a drink paid for and donated to be consumed by a future customer at no cost, referred to as a “caffè sospeso” which means “suspended coffee” in Italian. This act of charity and humanitarianism does not allow the purchaser to know who consumes their donation, and does not allow the receiver to know who provided it, as the barista decides who should receive said gift. This act of kindness started in the 1930’s when poverty was rampant in Europe, as it was believed that a coffee provided at no charge revitalized an individual and made their entire day better, more so because of the act itself, rather than the coffee or money involved

The Ancient Lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt

Lighthouse-of-AlexandriaThe Lighthouse of Alexandria was one of the original 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. Standing more than 350’ tall, the Lighthouse of Alexandria and was clearly observable to passing ships sailing up to 50 kilometers away. Originally built in 280 B.C., after guiding ships into the port and city of Alexandria for 15 centuries, the Lighthouse of Alexandria collapsed in 1323 due to a series of earthquakes which leveled the structure and caused it to tumble into the Mediterranean Sea. The Citadel of Qaitbay (pronounced “kate-bay”), a 500 year old fortress, now sits at the site of the once standing lighthouse with many of the stones within this structure, pieces of the original Lighthouse of Alexandria, installed after being dredged up from the ocean floor. Although the Lighthouse of Alexandria was originally designed to safely bring ships into the port of Alexandria, the Citadel of Qaitbay acted in opposition as a repellent centuries later, designed to keep enemies (e.g. Ottoman Turks) out of Egypt. No ship was permitted the privilege of docking in the Alexandria harbor without forfeiting all books on board for a short period of time until they could be translated and/or copied outright by scribes

Ancient Roman Emperor Julius Caesar’s Contribution to Time Keeping

Julius-CaesarThe month of July is a derivation of the name, “Julius Caesar”. The ancient Romans opted to rename “Quintilis”, the original name for July which means “fifth month” in Latin, to “July” after Caesars death because this was the same month that he was born. The Julian calendar, a western calendar used until 1582 when the Gregorian calendar supplanted it, is also attributed to Caesar as the Roman year had only 355 days and required an extra month be added, every 3 years. The ancient Romans repeatedly made the same calculation errors and continually found seasons out of synchronization with the actual calendar date observed. With the help of a few Roman scientists, Caesar removed the pre-Etruscan 10 month solar calendar in favor of the 365 day year calendar named after himself. The Roman calendar started on March 25, but was moved to January 1 with the advent of the Gregorian calendar