Monday, June 1, 2015

History: The Year is 1586

I've uploaded year 1586 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

The Babington Assassination Plot and Internet Security -- Mary, Queen of Scots, gets caught planning to murder Queen Elizabeth when one of Queen Elizabeth's spies tries a man-in-the-middle security breech. I talk about how that applies to modern day Internet security.

Before Galileo: The Falling Bodies Experiment -- It is probably a myth that Galileo dropped stuff off the Tower of Pisa. Anyway, two Dutch guys did it three years earlier. I also talk about the importance of having the right tools to do calculations.

You Shall Not Pass: Horatius at the Bridge -- An amazing Dutch engraving is presented this year of the ancient story of Horatius holding off the hordes while the Romans cut down the bridge behind him.

The Babington Assassination Plot and Internet Security

The Babington Plot is a conspiracy to rescue Mary, Queen of Scots, from the clutches of Queen Elizabeth the 1st, and place Mary on the throne of England. (Somewhere along the way, Elizabeth is to be murdered.) The conspiracy is complex, but a Catholic priest arranges for Sir Anthony Babington and Queen Mary to correspond using coded messages hidden in the hollowed out cork of a beer barrel. Queen Elizabeth's spymaster gets one of his spies to act as a man-in-the-middle, passing the messages along, but decodes and reads the messages first. Mary has been held a prisoner by Queen Elizabeth since 1568. It's been 18 years, and Mary thinks being the next Queen of England is a swell idea. Mary's letter will be the end of her but before that happens, Babington and his co-conspirators are caught, tried, hung but not killed, dragged through the streets on a frame for two miles and then carefully disemboweled while alive. Queen Elizabeth finds this to be too cruel so after Babington and the priest go through this gruesome process, the remaining co-conspirators are hung until dead. Queen Mary gets her turn early next year. [1] [2]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
One of the most common ways of breaching security is with a man-in-the-middle attack. Legally, your boss can have you install a company security certificate in your company web browser so that the company can scan your transactions as you make a secure connection to another web site. Just remember that if you contact your bank on your lunch hour using the company computer, that transaction will be logged too. An illegal man-in-the-middle attack occurs when a 3rd party takes advantage of a vulnerability in the security protocols to insert himself between you and... say... Twitter. This 3rd party can use your security credentials to post Tweets in your name. Congressman Anthony Weiner claimed that he was "hacked" when explicit sexual comments and pictures appeared on his Twitter account. His excuse worked until his face appeared in the photos erasing all doubt. (I've not seen the pictures but I'm told the Congressman strikes quite a pose.) Man-in-the-middle attacks continue to be a problem for Internet security. Certainly the NSA is known for this type of breech. There are ways to mitigate this problem (like encrypting all data BEFORE it goes out to the Internet) but no way to be totally free of it. [3] [4]

Before Galileo: The Falling Bodies Experiment

You'd think that the heavier the object, the faster it would fall and Aristotle would agree with you, but you'd both be wrong. Three years before Galileo performs the famous experiment of dropping heavy objects from the top of the leaning tower of Pisa, Simon Stevin and his friend, Jan, walk to the top of a church tower in the town of Delft in south Holland. They drop two lead balls, one being ten times heavier than the other, and listen for them to hit the ground. As best they can tell, there is no difference. They hit at exactly the same time. Galileo will outline a similar experiment three years later but it will not be known if he will actually drop anything from the Tower of Pisa. He simply offers it as a thought experiment. What he actually does is to measure the rolling of metal balls down an incline using a water clock which is the most consistent way to measure time in such short increments (in those days). [5] [6]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
This blew me away. I had always though that it was Galileo who figured this out, but I should have known. He had a great sense of self-promotion and public relations. Most people still believe that Galileo invented the telescope. He IMPROVED it, but did not invent it. Simon Stevin went on to publish a book outlining how to perform decimal mathematics, but the decimal point has not yet been invented, so he uses a messy series of numbers in circles. You have to see it to believe it. Imagine yourself taken back to these times with a modern high school education and a little initiative. You'd be considered a freakin' genius. It's not that these guys aren't smart enough, but it's like trying to push an elephant up a hill in a wheelbarrow. They don't have the proper tools yet to get the job done.

You Shall Not Pass: Horatius at the Bridge

The last and greatest of the Dutch engravers of the Baroque period has produced an heroic engraving: "Horatius at the Bridge." It is truly amazing. Horatius the One-eyed is Captain of the Gate of ancient Rome as the enemy horde approaches. Rome's only chance is to chop down the wooden bridge before the enemy can cross it but they've run out of time so Horatius volunteers to hold off the horde at the bottleneck while the Romans, drop the bridge behind him. He says he can do it with two more men at his side. And so he does. The bridge falls, he leaps into the river and escapes. The attack turns into a siege and the Romans are able to work out a treaty. [7] [8] [9]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
A long but engaging poem by Thomas Babington attempts to capture the drama of Horatius volunteering to hold the bridge against the hordes while shaming the generals into helping him. In part it reads...
Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the gate:
"To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his gods,
"Hew down the bridge, Sir Consul,
With all the speed ye may;
I, with two more to help me,
Will hold the foe in play.
In yon strait path a thousand
May well be stopped by three:
Now who will stand on either hand,
And keep the bridge with me?" [10]

This Year on Wikipedia

Year 1586, Wikipedia.

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