Sunday, May 31, 2015

History: The Year is 1585

I've uploaded year 1585 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

The First 'Pi Day' is Now Possible -- There is already a serviceable value for pi but this is the first time it is accurately calculated as an irrational number out to 6 decimal places. I also talk about the myth of a legislature passing a law that pi should equal 3. It almost happened... in Indiana.

Baby, It's Cold Outside... Hot Chocolate Comes to Europe -- The 'Food of the Gods' come to Spain. They think it is an aphrodisiac. On a cold night, maybe it is.

The Anglo-Spanish War and the Sum of Their Fears -- Queen Elizabeth signs a treaty putting boots on the ground in the Netherlands. The English have joined the 80 Years' War. The English military are complaining that the Queen is starving them, yada, yada, yada.

The First 'Pi Day' is Now Possible

Actually the first 'pi day' will be March 14, 1592 (3.141592...) but you can't have the first pi day without accurately calculating pi out to at least 6 decimal places. But other than the novelty, why should we care? OK... if you are pouring concrete for a circular base for your water tank, or if you are using an auger to drill footings, you will need to know the number of square feet of concrete to have delivered to your job site but circles and cylinders are not square. The formula to make this calculation includes pi as a constant so having a good estimate of pi makes your final answer more accurate. For a small job it probably doesn't matter but as the jobs gets bigger, the errors increase. Many people in history can claim good estimates of pi using various methods. Even the Bible can make a kabbalistic mystical claim. Archimedes made the first generally accepted estimate. However, this year pi is finally presented as an irrational number that can be calculated accurately out to 6 decimal places so now we can have pi day. The man who accomplishes this is a French amateur mathematician, François Viète. His formula is unwieldy but its a first. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
An April Fools joke goes out every once in a while about some legislature passing a law that pi should equal 3 in order to make things easier on students. While ALL of these claims are false, it almost happened in Indiana in 1897. Apparently, as the reasoning went, since pi was one of the "insolvable mysteries and above man's ability to comprehend," a few formulas were presented as proper ways to figure pi that didn't offend the sensibilities of the citizens of Indiana. Amongst the "proper" values was 3.2. Luckily, Professor C. A. Waldo of Purdue University was in attendance during the vote and pointed out their error. (And I can imagine him calling them all dunderheads.) The vote failed and science was saved. Thank you, Professor Waldo! [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]

Baby, It's Cold Outside... Hot Chocolate Comes to Europe

Hot chocolate wasn't invented in Switzerland. The word 'chocolate' comes from the Aztec name for the hot beverage they made out of the cocoa bean. Cocoa beans come from a tree that grows in the New World. The Aztecs believe it was brought down to them from the gods. Hence the scientific name for the cocoa tree translates into English as 'food of the gods'. After fermenting and drying, it is ground into a powder and made into a hot beverage which is thought to promote health. They also think it is an aphrodisiac. (Just wait until 'Lady Isabella' gets a swig of this stuff!) The Spaniards begin shipping the beans to Seville in production numbers this year. They will find the taste too bitter but mixing it with some honey or sugar makes it palatable. [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
The beans dry to a brownish-purple color. A few rare beans are white so they are at a premium. The myth that chocolate is an aphrodisiac may account for the Spaniards going through the trouble of experimenting with the taste. Given the death rate for women in childbirth at the time, it must have taken a lot of convincing to get 'Lady Isabella' to do her duty for Spain, if you know what I mean. Christopher Columbus accidentally came across the cocoa bean but he didn't know what he had. FYI, turning a cocoa bean into that powder you buy at the grocery store takes a little more work that I'm portraying here. The process wasn't discovered until 1828. Obviously the world still thinks it is worth the trouble, especially when the snow is coming down, and like the old song says, "Baby, It's Cold Outside." [19] [20]

The Anglo-Spanish War and the Sum of Their Fears

The stuff has really hit the fan now. In general, the English have been supporting the Calvinists in small ways in the Netherlands as the Dutch continue their rebellion against Spanish rule. Queen Elizabeth the 1st of England has also authorized privateers to interdict Spanish shipments of gold and goods. Despite the King of Spain's previous marriage to Elizabeth's sister, Queen Mary, and Elizabeth's coy promises (your lips say, 'No, no,' but your eyes say, 'Yes, yes') the King has had enough. After the assassination of the leader of the Dutch rebellion, Queen Elizabeth has signed a treaty offering boots on the ground and enough money to constitute 1/4th of the budget of the rebellion. Sir Francis Drake sails to the New World and sacks Santo Domingo. England has joined the 80 Years' War. [21]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
The English military were consistently whining about how much money Queen Elizabeth was spending on the Dutch rebellion while 'starving' the military at home. While fears of a Spanish naval attack were justified, it is not clear how she could have spent enough money to counter the greatest naval armada in the world at that time given her budget constraints. As a percentage of her budget, she was not starving the military at all. This simply proves the quote from Winston Churchill...
Why, you may take the most gallant sailor, the most intrepid airman or the most audacious soldier, put them at a table together - what do you get? The sum of their fears. [22] [23]

This Year on Wikipedia

Year 1585, Wikipedia.

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