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Four Pieces of Land Not Worth Fighting Over (But That Never Stopped Anyone)

The Falkland Islands

Anybody who's seen Wag the Dog knows that the best way to distract the public from incompetent leadership is with a war. That was the philosophy that General Leopoldo Galtieri of Argentina took in 1982. His military junta had left Argentina in economic crisis and the people were ready to rebel. So he decided to bring everyone together by attacking, of all countries, Britain. He decided that it was time to occupy the Falkland Islands, a rocky crop of islands off the Argentine coast that, depending on who you asked, belonged to either the Argentines or the British. The islands had once provided a strategic spot for naval bases for various European countries, but Argentina had always figured the islands belonged to them after they declared independence in 1816. The British, meanwhile, took them back in 1833 and never relinquished control. The issue even came up in the UN in 1945, but it was never resolved, leaving the territory in ambiguous hands. However, the Argentines always felt a good deal of pride about their "control" of the islands (which, by this point, had little value), even stating it in the National Constitution.
Playing off these feelings, the Galtieri junta hired a group of scrap metal workers to raise an Argentine flag on the island of South Georgia. This led to a military invasion on April 2, ready for a quick takeover and subsequent celebratory parade. The Argentines had a fatal error in their plan, though; they never expected the British to actually care. But care they fighting in falkland.jpgdid, to the tune of a full-scale counter-force. The resulting battles left more than 900 soldiers dead, 649 of them Argentine. The fiasco of the "Dirty War" led to the military government being pushed out of Argentina. Meanwhile, the British celebration over the victory helped Margaret Thatcher get reelected in 1983 and partially inspired Pink Floyd's album The Final Cut.

Hans Island

hans island.jpgHans Island is a barren island so small a person could run across it in a few minutes, if there were any people on it to do the running. But it's become the center of a bitter dispute over ownership of land in the Arctic. Situated in the Kennedy Strait, it was a sticking point in 1972 negotiations over maritime boundaries between Canada and Denmark, so both countries decided to just forget about it. Then, in 1983, as the two countries were again discussing land in the Arctic, a Canadian newspaper reported that a Canadian petroleum company was doing research on Hans Island unbeknownst to both governments. This reportedly prompted the Danish minister to helicopter over to Hans Island, where he left a bottle of cognac and a flag that said "Welcome to the Danish Island."
The issue was pretty much buried until 2004, when a Canadian newspaper printed an article about Canada's plan to control all land in the North, with a brief mention of Danish warships being sent to Hans Island. The Canadians seized on this, blaming the government 0_61_arctic_hans_island.jpgfor not having a large enough military budget and not doing enough to control the Arctic waters. Canada sent a military expedition through the waters around Hans, prompting the Danes to assert that Hans Island was theirs and only theirs. The conflict has taken on more of a cultural role, prompting a series of dueling ads on Google and a lampoon Hans Island Liberation Front. Most recently, satellite imaging allowed the governments to map out the border, when they found that Hans was split right down the middle between the two countries.

A Strip of Mud in Oxfordshire, England

When Ian Fleming penned the first James Bond novel, he had no idea the very land he sat on would later be the center of one of Britain's most expensive land disputes. He probably just complained about the mud. The whole conflict started decades later, when Victor Bingham, who lived in Kiln Cottage, started chopping down trees on a 5-foot wide strip of land bordering the Fleming family's Nettlebed Estate. The Flemings claimed the trees were on their land and got a court injunction to stop Bingham. But Bingham wasn't just any neighbor- he was a member of the noble Lucan line, famous for the disappearance of Lord Lucan. In his aristocratic pride, he continued chopping down the trees, prompting the Fleming family to bring the issue to court. Finally, in 2005, a judge ruled in favor of the Flemings, ending a case that had legal fees totaling $24 thousand. Bingham vows that he'll continue fighting, though, saying that any profits he makes from selling Kiln Cottage will finance his appeal.

Gran Chaco

200px-GranChacoApproximate.jpgThe Gran Chaco is a dry region between Bolivia and Paraguay where the temperatures are hot, the people are few and the insects are diseased. But for Paraguay, the land represented the last chance for glory. Even though the region was technically under Bolivian control, Paraguay saw fit to use it to grow crops. Then, the discovery of oil in the Andes prompted many to assume there was oil in the Gran Chaco, so Bolivian president Daniel Salamanca sent in troops in 1932 to take back the region. He hadn't anticipated how determined the Paraguayans would be, though. They fought a brutal guerrilla war, whipping up national support for the war and getting military help from Argentina. Bolivia, meanwhile, sent a half-interested army of indigenous settlers who were more interested in not dying of malaria than in protecting the desert. Three years later, a ceasefire was reached, giving Paraguay control of most of the region. Meanwhile, about 100,000 soldiers had been killed and both countries were put in economic turmoil. And as if that weren't bad enough, it turns out there wasn't oil in the region after all.

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crime
4 Suspect Historical Theories for Predicting Criminality

When was the last time you looked a stranger in the face and made a snap judgment about how they behave? If you've graduated kindergarten, you know you're not supposed to. But for centuries, scientists and philosophers believed that physical traits corresponded to personality. Even Aristotle thought there was a connection between the book and its cover.

Today, physiognomy—as the study of facial features linked to personality became known—is considered a pseudoscience, but it was the first application of any science at all to criminology. Some argue that it helped pave the way for the development of forensics and tools like psychological profiling; others point out that attempts to link biology to criminal behavior are often deeply problematic, and have been used to justify discrimination against various ethnic and religious groups.

Controversial though they may be, theories linking biology to criminal behavior have not gone away. From skull shape to body types, here are some of the ways we've tried to use what's on the surface to unearth the monsters underneath.

1. PHRENOLOGY

As a young man in late 18th-century Vienna, physician Franz Josef Gall wondered why his classmates were so good at memorization while he struggled. And why did he surpass them in other areas? After noticing that those who were particularly skilled at memorization had prominent eyes, he spent years searching for a biological explanation for differences in mental characteristics. Eventually, he landed on a theory that aimed to explain all human behavior.

Gall based his theory, soon to be known as phrenology, on the notion that the brain was composed of 27 separate “faculties,” or organs, each responsible for a behavioral trait—benevolence, covetousness, arrogance, and wit, just to name a few. He believed that the size of an organ was correlated to its power and that the skull took its shape from the brain. As such, by examining the shape of the skull one could determine personality. Eventually, Gall's followers introduced the idea that people were born with their faculties in balance and were essentially good, but under- or over- development, diseases of, or damage to any of these faculties could cause an imbalance that would lead to a particular behavior.

Phrenology soon took off in Europe and then in North America. It wasn't long until Gall's acolytes were applying his principles to the study of criminality, examining the skulls of criminals for clues about their personality and publishing books and treatises that showed others how to do the same. For phrenologists, crime was a result of an overgrowth or other anomaly in a particular faculty—say, destructiveness.

By attributing behavior to a brain defect, phrenology broke with existing notions of deviant behavior. Pre-Enlightenment theory had held that such behavior was the result of “evil” or supernatural forces. During the Enlightenment, free will reigned supreme, and criminality was seen as an exercise of that will, the only deterrent for which was severe punishment. Phrenology removed free will from the equation. While those with “normal” faculties could commit crimes based on free will and should be punished accordingly, the habitually criminal were not necessarily responsible for their actions—they behaved the way they did because of mental disorder, one which could be addressed and treated. It's no coincidence that phrenologists were among the most vocal opponents of capital and corporal punishment and major proponents of rehabilitation in the middle of the 19th century.

Phrenology declined in popularity in the second half of the 19th century, although it persisted into the 20th century in some areas. For a brief moment, it was the first and most comprehensive scientific approach we had to criminology.

2. DEGENERATION

A page from Cesare Lombroso's book l'Uomo Delinquente, 1889
A page from Cesare Lombroso's book l'Uomo Delinquente, 1889

Sometimes called the “father of criminology,” Italian physician Cesare Lombroso spent much of his career examining the bodies (both dead and alive) of convicted criminals and the mentally ill. The army doctor and professor of psychiatry was struck by both Darwin's theories and the work of Italian evolutionists during the 1860s, and evolution greatly influenced his later work.

Like Gall, Lombroso experienced a “eureka” moment while making a minute examination of a human head—only in his case, it was the skull of the recently deceased thief and arsonist Giuseppe Villella. Villella had a small indentation at the back of his skull; unusual for a human, but common in some primates. Lombroso noticed the trait in a few other crooks, and theorized that criminals were in fact some evolutionary throwback to primitive humans. He began to argue that deviance was inherited in many of these “born delinquents,” and they could be differentiated from the masses by physical characteristics that he claimed resembled our primate ancestors: large jaws, jug ears, high cheekbones, bloodshot eyes, to name a few attributes. Behavioral traits like idleness and non-biological features like tattoos could also be a sign.

Lombroso ran experiments on prisoners, the insane, and even low-lifes he wrangled from Italian alleyways. He took measurements of their bodies and features and tested their blood pressure, pain resistance, and reaction to other stimuli. Over the years, he established a set of features associated with different types of crime. His theory, known as degeneration, laid the foundation for a systematic approach to crime and even punishment. Like the phrenologists, Lombroso and his acolytes argued against capital punishment for those whose degeneration was not particularly advanced but triggered by an environmental factor—they were to be treated rather than locked up.

While wildly popular during his lifetime (he even argued the merits of his theory with Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy while visiting the writer's home), Lombroso's ideas faded from prominence as sociological theories of crime became more popular at the turn of the 20th century. Besides his emphasis on a scientific approach to criminology, his legacy consists of a museum in Turin stocked with the skulls and other ephemera he collected throughout his career ... along with the good doctor's own head, preserved in a jar.

3. SOMATOTYPES

Body type is blamed for a lot these days—a propensity for obesity, jeans that don't fit quite right. But in the early 20th century, an American psychologist named William Sheldon looked a little deeper.

Sheldon examined some 4000 photographs of college students and distilled their bodies into three categories, or somatotypes: endomorphs, mesomorphs, and ectomorphs. Endomorphs were soft, round, and put on fat easily; they were also amiable, relaxed, and extroverted. Mesomorphs were hard, muscular, and broad-chested; they were also assertive, aggressive, and insensitive. Finally, ectomorphs were long, narrow, and fragile-looking; they were also more introverted and anxious. Bodies fell into a spectrum defined by the degree to which they exhibited each of these three traits.

In a study of 200 delinquent youths, Sheldon concluded that mesomorphs had the greatest predisposition for impulsive (and thus perhaps criminal) behavior. While his work was criticized for its methodology, Sheldon did attract more than a few students, some of whom modified his theory to include social pressures; for example, it was possible that society treated people with certain physical characteristics a certain way, thereby encouraging delinquency.

4. XYY SYNDROME

XYY syndrome karyotype
An XYY syndrome karyotype

In 1961, a 44-year-old man underwent genetic testing after discovering his child had Down syndrome. The test results surprised his doctor—the man had an extra Y chromosome. Over the following decades, further testing revealed that XYY syndrome, as it became known, was rather common, appearing in men at a rate of 1 in 1000.

In 1965, when a study from a Scottish institution for people with dangerous, violent, or criminal propensities reported a high frequency of XYY syndrome among its population, scientists and the media alike began to wonder if that extra chromosome somehow caused violence and aggression in men. XYY was used as a defense in the trial of a French murderer, and has been brought up in regard to the case of Richard Speck, the student nurse killer of Chicago, though he turned out not to have the extra Y. Books and TV shows featured XYY killers even into the 1990s.

But what does the science say? While men with XYY syndrome tend to be taller, more active, and have a greater chance of having learning or behavioral problems, there's been no evidence showing a decrease in intelligence or a higher propensity for violence or aggression. In fact, most XYY men are unaware of their genetic quirk and blend perfectly well into the rest of the population. While two Dutch studies did show an increase in criminal convictions among XYY men, researchers have posited that this could be explained away based on socioeconomic variables that have also been linked to the chromosome aberrations.

For now, the XYY theory remains just a theory—as well as a convenient plot device.

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Space
Astronauts on the ISS to Teach Christa McAuliffe's Lost Science Lessons
NASA
NASA

Christa McAuliffe was set to become the first private citizen to travel to space when she boarded the Challenger space shuttle on January 28, 1986. That dream was cut tragically short when the shuttle exploded 73 seconds after liftoff, killing all seven passengers onboard. Now, 32 years later, part of McAuliffe's mission will finally be realized. As SFGate reports, two NASA astronauts are teaching her lost science lessons in space.

Before she was selected to join the Challenger crew, McAuliffe taught social studies at a Concord, New Hampshire high school. Her astronaut status was awarded as part of NASA's Teacher in Space Project, a program designed to inspire student interest in math, science, and space exploration. McAuliffe was chosen out of an applicant pool of more than 11,000.

Once in orbit, McAuliffe had planned to conduct live and taped lessons in microgravity for her students and the world to see. Though that never happened, she left behind enough notes and practice videos for astronauts to carry through with her legacy 32 years later. On Friday, January 19, astronaut Joe Acaba announced that he and his colleague Ricky Arnold will be sharing her lessons from the International Space Station over the upcoming months. The news was shared during a TV linkup with students at Framingham State University where McAuliffe studied.

McAuliffe's lost lesson plan includes experiments with Newton's laws of motion, bubbles, chromatography, and liquids in space, all of which will be recorded by Acaba and Arnold and shared online through the Challenger Center, a nonprofit promoting space science education.

It will be the first time students will get to see the lessons performed in space, but it won't be the only footage of the lessons available on the internet. Before the doomed Challenger flight, McAuliffe was able to practice her experiments in NASA's famous Vomit Comet. You can watch one of her demonstrations below.

[h/t SFGate]

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