Chewsday-September 2nd-Why religion could meet its Waterloo

So, normally it’s a day for facts, but given I put a spin on it last week, why not do it again today? Chewsday gets a spin opinion edition this week, and up for debate today is the future of religion. To those not familiar with the title reference, in 1815 Napoleon lost his effective grip on the military rule of Europe when he was defeated at the battle of Waterloo. Almost exactly two hundred years later, religion worldwide is facing a similar fate (ya know, like being wiped out, not failing as a French emperor). In the interest of eliminating bias on the part of the reader, I am not going to reveal any of my personal beliefs in the course of this piece.

—————DISCLAIMER: all of the below thoughts are my own. No offence is purposefully wrote into my blog and I ask you , the reader, to refrain from feeling insulted by what is essentially an opinion piece———–

Mainstream religion has existed now for a couple of thousand years. As a result of this, we now see figures like over two billion people worldwide have declared themselves as Christian. On the Islamic front, we have roughly 1.6 billion. Overall, about 90% of the world describe themselves as somewhat religious. We might not consider ourselves in Ireland to have such a large religious following, but figures show we do circle in on the 90% mark (although interestingly our 10% atheist population is one of the highest by country worldwide). So, running with these basic figures, we can see that even removing any influence religion has on state or everyday life, it is indeed deeply rooted in the people of most nations.

However, a casual glance at the morning papers or the evening news is enough to show us that religion as a whole is under fire. At the moment, conflicts worldwide that are fuelled by religious beliefs (such as the situation in Gaza) are the leading stories in the media. Similarly, we see that closer to home scandals on the part of the Catholic church have called the power of religion into question, and why is it exactly that in a “secular world” religion has such an effect on the lives of pretty much everybody. In Ireland we can look at the issues of legalized marriage for sexual minorities and abortion as examples that highlight how religion in part can control the way our society progresses. It is apparent that in an increasingly liberalized and free-thinking world, religion is too archaic to survive, and by the end of even the next century we may be looking at an entirely non-religious population in at least the western world.

What is now a modern approach to spirituality and belief is having people declare that they do not belong to an organised religion, but do hold the view of a God or deity. This has been due widely to parts of the dogma or theology of a religion not agreeing with personal beliefs. Our civilized world is moving forward at a staggering rate, and thus our perceptions of those around us and on society as a whole are starting to strain from what religion has served us as fact for millennia. We see of course that the fundamental values are unchanged, such as those highlighted in the ten commandments. This is indeed a crux of many non-religious outlooks, as we can pin point these values as inherent and not at all associated to which religion we do or do not conform to. We all know murder is wrong. We all know we shouldn’t steal or lie. If religion and atheism can agree on such key topics, then why is it there is unrest about religion at all?

The problem, as usual, doesn’t lie in what we all can agree on, but rather on what we can’t-especially if what we can’t is at all influenced by religious thinking. The cusp of any religion is that there is a God. Whether he/she/it had a son on earth, or takes multiple forms, or made us all in six days doesn’t matter at that basic level. A god exists, and all life and the universe is a direct result of his/her/its work. On the opposite end, is that there is no God, and life is a happenstance of probability in a dizzyingly giant universe, in which billions and billions and billions of planets circle countless stars. From about five hundred years ago onwards, the great debate has been science vs. religion.

Much of this has been due to phenomena in the universe being labelled as God or a result of God. Science has then challenged these views and over time proved there is method in the madness, and that we can account for these seemingly crazy features of our lives. What remains at this stage of the game are the big questions. Where did we come from? What happens when we die? Do we matter? These are the bigger ones that have been left fairly unscathed as the battle of science and religion rages on.

At the moment, no matter what viewpoint we hold, we strictly do not know. We all have theories, and many are quite plausible, but frankly, we’re still a small bit in the dark. It might frighten you, but we may never know. It’s been a long fourteen billion years since things went boom, and it may hurt you to learn humanity isn’t going to be around for another fourteen billion to work it all out. That’s right. It may be unnerving, but the earth is doomed. So are our ancestors. The sun will die eventually, and with it, so will our collective scrap of life.

Back to my point, why is it religion is dying? It’s quite simple, really, but we continue to ignore it. Religion is failing not only because people think otherwise, but also because it is fixed. Fixed. Immovable. Stubborn. Whatever you call it, it’s the one common link between all the world’s faiths that we fail to recognise. Looking at Christianity, for over two thousand years it has remained near static. Everything associated with it has descended in a steady line from the teaching of the bible, and only here and there have other roots shot off to unknown territory. Islam is fairly similar. Unfortunately, for these religions and others, we have not stayed static. We, the human race, are constantly moving. Not physically, no. Our nomadic days are now over. As a society, we are sprinting ahead. Especially in the last century, our views on race, gender, employment, crime, love-anything have basically done a flip on what has gone beforehand. So to sum up, on one side you have a society whose thinking is racing downhill, and on the other side you have religion-sitting pretty at the bottom of the hill and refusing to get out of the way.

You see where I’m going with this? Yep, eventually things will collide, and realistically they already have. It won’t be pretty. I hate to predict the future, but in this case, I can tell you religion won’t win. Might rack up a long list of casualties, but it won’t come out on top. It’s like having a really infected arm. A lot of your body might really like that arm, but if it’s your survival or some pretty limb, you’ll hack that limb off in a heartbeat my friend. So instead of that future, why don’t we all take some cool antibiotics right now and keep ourselves intact? I don’t apologize to the militants on both sides of the religion debate when I label them the proverbial “bad bacteria”. There is no reason anybody can offer why in a civilized world religious belief and non-religious belief couldn’t just chill next to each other and be buds.

The problem lies in religious authority refusing to recognise how far we’ve come. I can’t really list out all the things we have to change, but here’s a little quick start list

1. Sexual minorities are people

2. Women are people

3. Other religions are people

Ya, so basically, people are people. One of the greatest idiocies in the entire fucking world can be found in the religion vs. atheism debate. We tend to not acknowledge fundamentalists. Like, as I said, I’m all cool with everyone’s beliefs, but they’re wrong. They’re really wrong and there’s far too much evidence for them to deny. Their beliefs though, so if they’re not affecting anyone, leave ’em at it. The world constantly says if you’re religious you better not be a fundamentalist. Grand, so the only choice left to religious people is to analyse, use reason, and accept what they see fit. Therein lies the problem. Another large sect of the debate (on both sides) says “you cannot pick and choose. Religion isn’t up for interpretation.” And in that one sentence, you have the entire problem that nobody at all will recognise and do something about.

1. Nobody can be a fundamentalist, because evolution and fossils

2. You can’t say Adam and eve are metaphors because you said you’re religious

Literal logic fail.

This is what the entire blog was getting to. Either we move forward and say to religion “look, you’ve done ok. You’ve also killed a tonne of people. P.S. gays aren’t sinful” and get about proper social change, or we keep slamming the same table with our head saying “Oh dam you religious people, I hate how you won’t accept our beliefs. P.S if you do you’re a hypocrite.”

Here’s the bottom line. IT’S OK TO DISAGREE WITH WHAT YOUR RELIGION SAYS. You are an autonomous person. You are the pinnacle of evolution. Oops, ya evolution happened. If there is a God, then creation of the universe gave you free will. If you have free will, you can think. If you can think you are allowed to have your own version of the story.

“But that’s blasphemy to God. God’s word is final”

Mayhaps, it may be. Let’s get is straight though, religion is man made. Jesus may have existed (historians show he probably did) and he may have been the ideal person (or, I don’t know, the actual son of God). I don’t know. I wasn’t there. But, and that’s a big but, we made Christianity after his death. We wrote the gospels (granted based on his word), but it was wrote from the hand of a living, mortal man. In 33 AD, you think people wanted to read about how we couldn’t invade places and how homosexuality was indeed normal? No, they didn’t, so they didn’t write that. They wrote what they believed and were educated enough to know. We’ve moved on since then. We’re actually smarter than them. We know things they didn’t. Name one other area of thought where it is unacceptable to challenge what is already there?

*radio silence*

I thought so.

It is unnatural to be forbidden to question your faith. It’s not what spirituality or God would be about. If you’re made in the image of a God, then you’ve been given that rationality and logic on purpose. Humanity will continue to change. Religion can literally not afford to stay still. There are millions of people everyday who live as apologists for their religion. Nobody should have to question their beliefs because of what people outside of their person do everyday.

I’m in a family. Do I agree with everything they do? No

I’m Irish. Do I think the Irish government are right about everything? No

And I don’t have to. I’m allowed be a part of those things and still think for myself.

The same goes for any religion. If you’re at the stage where you get told it’s their way or the link road (ya we don’t have highways), then it’s time for the organisation (NOT you) to change. Some two thousand year old book doesn’t have to right to tell you you’re only allowed into the club if you dress accordingly. This is 2014. If religion doesn’t accept that social change happens, there’s an ABBA sized Waterloo heading its way.


Chewsday-August 26th-The Debunking Edition

Nice to put a spin on old concepts, so this week I’ll take a break from the facts and hit on some common misconceptions. Below are two that spring to mind as I write

1. Humans only use ten per cent of their brain

How this made it into mainstream thought at large, I do not know. I’m not here to go research on why people are wrong, just here to tell them that they are. At any one time, it is true that humans only use certain parts of their brain. This is perfectly fine. Our brains are divided up into lobes each of which has areas generally connected to certain functions, senses etc. Therefore, when going about your day-to-day life, your brain (the part we commonly consider the brain is the cerebral cortex) combines relevant areas with more primitive nerve tissue in the brainstem and the lower central nervous system, and as a result we have movement, sensation and so forth. The new movie Lucy and Limitless before that both touch on this subject and aim to show that pharmaceuticals could somehow enhance that and allow for all areas of the brain, or “hidden areas” if we really want to get the fake science out here, could be accessed, thus improving our ability to be charming like Bradley Cooper or be a role model like Scarlett Johannson.

Of course, under no circumstances would it be even feasible to be activating large areas of the brain to carry out most of the body’s function. Even higher thought and emotion have defined pathways and can be approximated to certain areas, showing that even our newly acquired functions (and when I say new that is obviously relative) don’t need us to turn on all the lights in the proverbial house at the same time. Activating large parts of the brain’s electrochemical circuitry does remind me of one REAL life phenomenon. We call it epilepsy, and it isn’t Bradley Cooper.

If people are really so fascinated as to “access those hidden areas”, then I’m sorry to say you’ll be disappointed. You can, however, make great use of what is there, and tweak it for your desires. Things like muscle memory, priming, conditioning and memory retrieval are all real life possibilities, and can have their proof traced to exact neural pathways. Using drugs to modulate the electrochemical side of the brain is as real as Chewsdays, but expanding that to say we could find a drug that could harmonise the entire central nervous system into performing not only in perfect tandem with other parts but also at some advanced level without basically killing you from the contradictory effects is only a dream, I’m afraid.

2. Loads of people out there just have “natural” or “inherited” intelligence

Nothing is worth shaming more than hearing “they get it all from their father” or “And their mother is a doctor”. Granted, as with almost everything based on proteins, intelligence does have some link back to our genes. Some research shows a figure of 50%. No, it doesn’t mean that half your intelligence is from your parents, but it does mean is that half of the differences in people’s intelligence could be genetically related. That being said, you have to wonder when we have this solid figure to work with, why is it we overlook the other portion so much, especially since it’s the only one we have any effect over. Of course, I’m talking about environment. Environment ranges from your relationship with your parents, to how your school runs, to well..the actual environment, Basically, if you know it’s not mapped out in the genetic code, it’s environment. In the modern world, we strive to find peculiarities. We aim to look for odd things, or things that don’t fit the norm. That is why the media and society as as whole is constantly obsessed with the concept of a genius. A genius, if played correctly by the media, can be a shining example that somewhere back the line the ole’ intelligence gene (actually had to write that term) fell into place. After that point, no matter what circumstances a child grows up in, they are destined for greatness.

Sound familiar. Well, plausibly, it can happen. Depending on which area of intelligence an inherited factor could pertain to, it is conceivable a person could show up on our radars if they followed the right path. From a biological point of view, however, the figures don’t add up. With only very small fractions of people having an IQ of even >130 (so ya know, take it easy with the amount of 170s out there), it is far more likely any perceived intelligence is based in environment and not in genetics. I once read a quote on cancer causing genes that went like “genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger”. Perhaps it is poignant here also. After all, even with an inherited level of genius, things have to fall into place during childhood for this to emerge. The “naturally smart” quip fails to explain how people far down the dubious IQ ladder can outperform their counterparts higher up in social, academic, emotional or business settings in any shape or form. Commitment to education or determination in training easily outweighs most of the genetic abnormalities of intelligence people could be born with. And both these concepts are the roots of environment.



Chewsday-August 19th

One thing that always makes for a good fact is weird stories surrounding those in the public eye. This week, I went digging to find out which celebrities/stars have made a weird name for themselves. The following two are only some of my results.

It’s hardly surprising that footballers make it on the list as people who leave us pondering just what on earth were they thinking. In today’s world, with finances just as crucial as three points on a Saturday, contract signings can become a source of amusement.When footballer Stefan Schwarz signed for Sunderland in a record transfer for the club in 1999, it was explicitly written into his contract that he was forbidden from travelling into space.

Sunderland were worried that Schwarz, a well known space entusiast, would be tempted to accompany one of his advisers, who had tickets for one of the planned upcoming commercial tourist flights into space that were then scheduled for 2002. In the end, by the time Schwarz ended his playing career with Sunderland in 2003, only two paying tourists had actually flown in space, and regular tourist flights into space are yet to become a reality.

Jockey Frank Hayes holds the dubious distinction of being the only jockey to have won a race while dead. In 1923, he suffered a heart attack mid-race while riding at Belmont Park in New York. By the time the horse, Sweet Kiss (a 20 to 1 long shot) crossed the line in unexpected triumph, Hayes was dead – although he managed to stay in the saddle. Hayes’ death was not discovered until Miss Frayling and race officials came to congratulate him shortly after the race. It was theorised that the fatal heart attack was probably brought on by Hayes’ extreme efforts to meet the weight requirements, possibly followed by the excitement of riding to the front of the pack. After the discovery of Hayes’ death, all further post-race regulations were waived by the Jockey Club, the result being declared official without the customary formality of weighing in. Hayes, dressed in his colorful racing silks, was buried three days later.

Chewsday-August 12th

On this day in 1860 Klara Polzl was born in the Austrian village of Spital. Less than thirty years later, she would give birth to Adolf Hitler.

Klara Polzl had several children during her life, but only Adolf and his sister Paula would survive into adulthood. Klara Hitler first discovered a lump in her breast in 1905, two years after her husband’s death, but initially ignored it. After experiencing chest pains that were keeping her awake at night, Klara finally consulted the family doctor, Eduard Bloch (a Jew), in January 1907. Dr. Bloch told Adolf that Klara had a small chance of surviving and recommended that she undergo a radical surgery. The Hitlers were devastated by the news. Klara underwent the mastectomy at Sisters of St. Mercy in Linz whereupon the surgeon, Dr. Karl Urban, discovered that the cancer had already moved to her chest. Dr. Bloch informed Klara’s children that her condition was terminal.

For the next 46 days (from November to early December), Dr. Bloch performed daily treatments of experimental chemotherapy. Klara’s mastectomy incisions were reopened and massive doses of iodoform soaked gauze was applied directly to the tissue to “burn” the cancer cells. The treatments proved to be futile and Klara died at home in Linz from the toxic medical side effects. Despite her death, Adolf pledged his gratitude forever to their family doctor. Even as late as 1937, he inquired about his well-being. During the start of World War II, Bloch asked Hitler for help, and was allowed emigrate to the United States after being protected from the Gestapo. Klara Hitler may have gave birth to Adolf Hitler, but her death caused the life of one Jew to be saved.

On this day in 30BC, Cleopatra died. Regarded as one of the most influential leaders in history, the Pharoah met her end under debated circumstances. Some argue she used a cobra known as an asp to bite her, putting her body into a paralysed state which eventually led to death. Others suggest after her capture she was murdered. Most historians agree Cleopatra killed herself, rather than face public humiliation in Rome for her defeat. Her husband, Marc Anthony, had killed himself with his own sword after hearing she was dead. Realising this wasn’t true, he was brought to her, where he died. Cleopatra’s son by Caesar was killed shortly after.

Chewsday-August 5th

On this day in 1944 possibly one of the greatest escape attempts by POWs occurred near Cowra, News South Wales, Australia. It was the largest prison escape of World War II, as well as one of the bloodiest. During the ensuing manhunt, four Australian soldiers and 231 Japanese soldiers were killed. The remaining escapees were captured and sent back to prison.

By August 1944, there were 2,223 Japanese POWs in Australia, including 544 merchant seamen. There were also 14,720 Italian prisoners, who had been captured mostly in the North African Campaign, and 1,585 Germans, mostly naval or merchant seamen. Although the POWs were treated in accordance with the Geneva conventions, relations between the Japanese POWs and the guards were poor, due largely to significant cultural differences. A riot by Japanese POWs in New Zealand, in February 1943, led to security being tightened at Cowra. Eventually several machine guns were installed to augment the rifles carried by the guards, which was composed mostly of old or disabled veterans or young men considered physically unfit for frontline service.

In the first week of August 1944, a tip-off from an informer at Cowra led authorities to plan a move of all Japanese POWs at Cowra some 400 km to the west. The Japanese were notified of the move on 4 August. At about 2 a.m. the following night a Japanese ran to the camp gates and shouted what seemed to be a warning to the sentries. Then a Japanese bugle sounded. A sentry fired a warning shot. More sentries fired as three mobs of prisoners began breaking through the wire, one mob on the northern side, one on the western and one on the southern. They flung themselves across the wire with the help of blankets. They were armed with knives, bats, clubs studded with nails and hooks, etc.  Within minutes of the start of the breakout attempt Privates Hardy and Ralph Jones manned the No. 2 Vickers machine-gun and were firing into the first wave of escapees, but they were soon overwhelmed by the sheer weight of numbers and killed. However, Private Jones managed to remove and hide the gun’s bolt before he died. This rendered the gun useless, thereby preventing the prisoners from turning it against the guards. 359 POWs escaped. Some prisoners, rather than escaping, attempted or committed suicide, or were killed by their countrymen. Some of those who did escape committed suicide, or were killed, to avoid recapture. All those still alive were recaptured within 10 days of the breakout.

On this day Harry Houdini, world famous escape artist, also performed a rather commendable escape. Houdini’s second variation on Buried Alive tests was an endurance test designed to expose mystical Egyptian performer Rahman Bey, who had claimed to use supernatural powers to remain in a sealed casket for an hour. Houdini bettered Bey on August 5, 1926, by remaining in a sealed casket, or coffin, submerged in the swimming pool of New York’s Hotel Shelton for one hour and a half. Houdini claimed he did not use any trickery or supernatural powers to accomplish this feat, just controlled breathing. He repeated the feat at the YMCA in Worcester, Massachusetts on September 28, 1926, this time remaining sealed for one hour and eleven minutes. Houdini believed that his experiment could serve as an example for miners who were trapped in shafts with limited oxygen. He said that it was important not be overwhelmed when faced with a lack of oxygen.

“The important thing is to believe that you are safe, don’t breathe deeply and don’t make any unnecessary movements,” he remarked.

The underwater coffin experiment would be Houdini’s last great escape. The famed magician died two months later, on Halloween, from peritonitis due to a rupture in his appendix. He suffered the injury when a McGill University student named J. Gordon Whitehead punched him in the stomach to test his abdominal muscles.


Chewsday-July 29th

Today is World Tiger day. With the numbers of tigers across the world dwindling at a rapid rate, so much so that six of the eight recognised subspecies are now considered endangered, we take a look at one of the world’s most fascinating animals. One of the newest ways to study animals is to measure physiological attributes. Bite force has been researched across a large number of species, including the tiger. The Bengal tiger, which roams parts of India and Nepal, has a bite force of a staggering 1050 psi. While this pales in comparison to the agreed world record of circa 7700 for the Saltwater crocodile, this number represents the largest among big cats and the second for carnivorous mammals. For reference, it is suggested a human has a mere force of 150 psi, making it roughly seven times weaker than a tiger bite. Tigers have the largest canines at nearly three inches.

Tigers prefer to hunt large prey by ambush. If you look at a tiger, it is less likely to attack, as it has lost the element of surprise. In some locations in India, people traditionally wear a mask on the back of their head while walking through forests to prevent tigers from pouncing from behind. Some tigers develop a taste for human meat by chance and continue to hunt. One female tiger was infamously known as “Champawat tiger” and was responsible for over four hundred deaths in the early 1900s. The tiger began her attacks in a region of Nepal close to the Himalayas during the late 19th century, with people being ambushed by the dozen as they walked through the jungle. Hunters were sent in to kill the tiger, but she managed to evade them. Eventually, the Nepalese Army was called in. Despite failing to capture or kill the tiger, soldiers managed to force the tiger to abandon her territory and drive her across the border into India, where she continued her killing activities. She eventually grew bolder, and began killing people in broad daylight and prowling around villages. Life across the region grew paralyzed, with men often refusing to leave their huts for work after hearing the tiger’s roars from the forest.

In 1907, the tiger was killed by British hunter Jim Corbett The tiger had killed a 16-year-old girl in the town of Champawat, and left a trail of blood and limbs, which Corbett followed. Corbett found the tiger and shot her dead the next day, a dramatic feat confirmed by about 300 villagers. A postmortem on the tigress showed the upper and lower canine teeth on the right side of her mouth were broken, the upper one in half, the lower one right down to the bone. This injury, according to Corbett, probably prevented her from hunting her natural prey.

If that had been the only mass big cat killing, Corbett would have had an easy career. It seems as the time all hell was breaking loose in Asia, as several serial killer cats were active. I’ll provide the information below, which makes for a chilling but interesting read.

Champawat tiger as above

A pair of Bengal tigers

A leopard that terrorized a pilgrim road

The Panar leopard and other stories

The Thak man-eater

Chewsday-July 22nd

Today will be an “On this day” version of Chewsday, with our facts coming specifically from the many July 22nds gone before us.

On this date in the year 1298, the most infamous battle for Scottish independence took place. Having won a decisive victory at the Battle of Stirling, Wallace and his men had caused enough of a disturbance to sway King Edward I away from his campaigns in Europe and back to England. The king assembled a force of about 15,000 (2,500 of which were cavalry), which at the time would have been considered colossal. Wallace chose to allow this army to advance into Scotland, adopting tactics to lower their morale and waste their supplies. When they turned for home, the Scottish would harass them all along the route.

Today’s our fact centers around Scotland’s tactical formation; this was to use four schiltrons. A schiltron was a group of two thousand or so spearman, each armed with a pike up to fourteen feet in length. Between the gaps then were placed archers, so that overall the formation gave formidable defense against the then standard cavalry attack that was seen in medieval warfare. In fact, for the first portion of the battle, the Schiltron actually held firm and won some losses against the English. Sadly for Wallace though, Welshmen equipped with longbows brought an end to his tight-knitted units and to his rebellion. In the movie Braveheart, the use of schiltrons is best scene paradoxically at the Battle of Stirling scene.

July 22nd was also the date that the world’s most famed bank robber was shot dead. John Dillinger was head of the Dillinger gang, who were a successful group of bank robbers that at times featured names like Baby faced Nelson. On Sunday, July 22, 1934, at 5 p.m., Anna Sage, a woman who was aware of Dillinger’s true identity and working in a brothel, told FBI agents that she and Dillinger were planning to go to the movies, and were planning to either go to the Biograph or to the Marboro theater. Purvis, a detective on the case and member of the ever-growing ‘Dillinger squad’, decided to stake out the Biograph himself. Two other agents were posted at the Marboro. Purvis was standing just a few feet away from the theater entrance when the movie let out. As Dillinger passed, he looked Purvis directly in the eyes, but made no indication of recognition of suspicion. Following the pre-arranged signal, Purvis lit a cigar. As Dillinger and the two women walked down the street, Purvis quickly pulled out his gun, and yelled, “Stick’em up, Johnnie, we have you surrounded!” Dillinger began to run, reaching into his pants pocket to draw a gun. He entered an alley just as a volley of gunfire greeted him. Four bullets hit Dillinger’s body, three from the rear and one from the front. Two bullets grazed his face just next to his left eye. A third, the fatal shot, entered the base of his neck and traveled upward, hitting the second vertebra before exiting below his right eye. Dillinger died instantly and a crowd gathered around him. It had taken the newly formed FBI years to take out ‘Public enemy number no.1″, but on July 22nd, they got ’em.

Chewsday-July 15th

This chewsday is the day preceding my 21st birthday. As a result, today I’ll give two facts on birthdays.

The song “Happy birthday to you”, which is widely popular in western culture as a feature at every party, originated from a different song composed by two American siblings. This song was “Good morning to all”. The melody and lyrics were written by two sisters – Mildred J. Hill (born 1859) and Patty Smith Hill (born 1868). Patty was a schoolteacher who developed the “Patty Hill blocks” and was a faculty member at Columbia University Teachers College. Mildred was also an educator who later on became a composer, organist and pianist. The melody was composed by Mildred and the lyrics were written by Patty, but it was originally for a classroom greeting song titled “Good Morning to All.” The song “Good Morning to All” was part of the book Song Stories for the Kindergarten which the sisters co-wrote and published in 1893.

From then on the lyrics were changed from its original form to “Good Morning to You” and then to “Happy Birthday to You.” It is still unclear who changed the lyrics that turned it into a birthday song, but it was first published in 1924 on a book edited by Robert H. Coleman. It is widely hypothesised that the children of the original class changed the lyrics themselves, so much so that the tune was picked up by the eventual (and probably unwitting) publisher. Since then, the song became popular and in 1934, Jessica Hill, another Hill sister, filed a lawsuit because of the unauthorized use of the “Happy Birthday to You” melody which clearly resembles the melody of “Good Morning to All,” the song her sisters originally wrote. Now, the Hill foundation reaps about two million dollars every year in royalties for the use of the song.

Of course, birthdays are quite special, but not uncommon. With over seven billion of us crawling all over this rock and only near four hundred days to separate us, overlap is inevitable. But what are the odds we share a birthday with a friend? Better yet, what are the odds we share the date with anybody at all? This is the underlying premise behind what is dubbed ‘the birthday problem’. By simple probability (and just sheer logic) we know that for every 367 people two of them have to share the same birthday (not leaving out our leap year babies). But what if we don’t want 100%? What if just shy of 100% would do. It turns out that when we reach seventy people the odds are 99.99%. Sounds crazy, I know. Worse again, if you assemble just 23 people, your odds are a staggering 50%! If you can cast your minds at all back to Leaving Cert (or SATs or A levels) you will remember that we must calculate 23 choose two, which actually extrapolates out to 253 combinations, which seems far more reasonable to work with. We won’t get into the nitty gritty of the numbers here, but if you like, you’re free to try your hand over

Indeed the numbers do speak for themselves, although I’m sure gathering a random group of people would be a much funner experiment. Based on the theory above, we could share our birthday with anyone, even famous people. A quick google search told me I will be celebrating tomorrow with comedian Will Ferrell and Champions League winner Gareth Bale. Comment below if you find anybody interesting you will be sharing your date of birth with?

Chewsday-July 8th

It’s World Cup semi-final day, so today it’s a fact for each of Germany and Brazil.

Germany, in this World Cup, became the first team to reach 100 World Cup matches, which arrived emphatically when they mangled the Portuguese 4-0. Although one would think, but haven’t Italy won four World Cups and Brazil are better again with five, this does not come into play. This is because Germany have reached a record 12 semi-finals (touting Brazil’s 10). Although not always coming out on top, a place in the semi-final automatically guarantees a further match, which comes in the form of the third place play-off (which in 2010 Germany won). The Germans have only failed to reach the quarters once, back in 1938, but also didn’t participate in 1930 or 1950. Brazil have now reached their 100th match also, but credit to the Germans who were first to get there.

As for Brazil, much of the talk around the World Cup has focused on the extreme poverty of Brazilian cities. That being said, Brazil are actually the most expensive team in the competition, if we run on current market value. Their total player cost cashes in at around 508 million, which narrowly slips in over Spain who are 2 or 3 million lower. So with that it’s the clash of the competition’s most expensive team, versus the team with the most World Cup matches.

We will have to see whether Klose fires home his record beating goal against Ronaldo’s own Brazil tonight.


Chewsday-July 1st

This week it’s the Round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup. In order to do it justice, we’ll give both our facts to the infamous stage where champions emerge and supposed favourites are crushed by the outsiders.

Since the World Cup began in 1930, the competition has seen controversial matches of all shapes and sizes. Back in 1966, Pele was on the losing side of a bloodbath, when a talented Portuguese side, having seen the success the Hungarians (who were a jaded team living in the shadow of a masterful 1950s side) had in dealing with the Brazil No.10, proceeded to violently foul the player for an entire ninety minutes and not even have a player dismissed. Forty years later, things were different when a passionate Zinedine Zidane bowed out of international football on the grandest stage of them all; his end coming in the form of an enigmatic headbutt to the body of Italian defender Marco Materazzi. Fairly shocking. But then what was the most violent match of them all, at least by statistical standards? Enter the Battle of Nuremberg, a round of 16 clash in the 2006 finals, played out surprisingly by the Netherlands and Portugal. Russian referee Valentin Ivanov had his hands full, having to issue a record four red cards and 16 yellow cards, setting a new record for cards shown at any FIFA-administered international tournament.

The match ended 1–0 to Portugal, with Maniche scoring in the 23rd minute. Before the goal, Van Bommell had been booked and in the eighth minute, Dutch defender Boulahrouz was cautioned for a foul which injured Ronaldo and would eventually force the substitution of Portugal’s star winger before half time. Ronaldo left in tears, and proceeded to describe Boulahrouz’s tackle as “clearly an intentional foul to get me injured.”In the meantime, Maniche had been booked for a foul on Van Bommel after 19 minutes.Costinha was sent off just before half time, the culmination of a foul and a handball. After Petit had been cautioned in the 50th minute, Van Bronckhurst and Luis Figo both received yellow cards, with Figo’s coming as a result of a headbutt. Portugal manage Luis Felipe Scolari controversially approved of the foul after Figo had been incited, “Jesus Christ may be able to turn the other cheek but Luís Figo isn’t Jesus Christ. Scolari also escaped punishment.

Boulahrouz was sent off in the 63rd minute with a second caution after fouling Figo, which sparked a melee on the touch line. Portugal’s playmaker Deco roughly fouled Dutch defender Heitinga and was booked; the Netherlands had held onto the ball after Portugal had cleared it into touch to allow a player to receive medical treatment, thus breaking one of football’s unwritten rules. Deco received his second caution and was dismissed in the 78th minute for delaying the restart after a free-kick was awarded. Philip Cocu escaped a caution for wrestling Deco to the ground in his attempt to retrieve the ball. Meanwhile, Van Bronckhurst received his marching orders. Overall, Sepp Blatter quoted on the matter saying “the referee should have gave himself a yellow card”, but later apologised.


For our second fact, we go back to 1990. It’s the second round, Italy is the scene and two nations hold their breath as it becomes clear only one team is going to emerge. And no, this fact is not about the Ireland-Romania match. While Ireland’s heroics in the second round of Italia 90 are applauded to this day, one of the surprisingly lesser known matches came in the form of a Brazil-Argentina clash. At half time, the game was stuck at 0-0, and although Brazil seemed to be controlling the play, no goal was in sight.Aan Argentinian went down injured around this time. During this interruption Branco – later to play in England with Middlesbrough – drank from a bottle supplied by Argentina’s physio Miguel di Lorenzo.Shortly afterwards, against the run of play, Claudio Caniggia scored the only goal of the game from a Diego Maradona pass, putting Argentina into the quarter-finals.

Suspicion of foul play was first raised two days later by Branco, who said he had felt dizzy and ill after drinking the water. Maradona later admitted on public TV that after he offered the water to the Brazilians, Branco was ‘falling over’ after taking free kicks. The coach Bilardo has also said “I’m not denying it happened”. So although the incident has never been proved, the suspicion remains.