birthday of the USS Holland, history meets math and big data, Bugatti Devillars

Submarine Holland (later USS Holland) hauled out at Greenpoint, Long Island, 1899.

Submarine Holland (later USS Holland) hauled out at Greenpoint, Long Island, 1899.

On April 11, 1900, the U.S. Navy acquired its first submarine, designed by Irish immigrant John P. Holland.

Propelled by gasoline while on the surface and by electricity when submerged, the Holland served as a model for modern submarine design. By the eve of World War I, the Holland and Holland-inspired vessels were a part of large naval fleets throughout the world.

This was news to me. I realized there were experiments with submersibles as early as the 17th century, but I did not know the Navy had a realively modern submarine as early as 1900 ( the Navy’s very first sub was the 1862 Alligator). The Holland itself was actually in operation much earlier, it was originally laid down as Holland VI, and launched on 17 May 1897.

Simplified inboard profile drawing, published in “Scientific American”, Volume 45, January-June 1898.

Simplified inboard profile drawing, published in “Scientific American”, Volume 45, January-June 1898.

Mathematicians Predict the Future With Data From the Past

Turchin — a professor at the University of Connecticut — is the driving force behind a field called “cliodynamics,” where scientists and mathematicians analyze history in the hopes of finding patterns they can then use to predict the future. It’s named after Clio, the Greek muse of history.

These academics have the same goals as other historians — “We start with questions that historians have asked for all of history,” Turchin says. “For example: Why do civilizations collapse?” — but they seek to answer these questions quite differently. They use math rather than mere language, and according to Turchin, the prognosis isn’t that far removed from the empire-crushing predictions laid down by Hari Seldon in the Foundation saga. Unless something changes, he says, we’re due for a wave of widespread violence in about 2020, including riots and terrorism.

The prediction for 2020 is not an unreasonable scenario. The U.S. might do better than some places. The world as a whole is not doing a few things very well. We’re not preparing adequately for global warming which is putting pressure on fresh water supplies and food. Many western economies are still in love with the pixie dust of the Austrian school of economics and austerity. That puts a lot of pressure on the working class. I feel like I’m living out a Kafkaesque nightmare when I see millionaires on TV complain about taxes, and worse yet, Congress and the media paying attention to what they say. The same is true for Europe.

Turchin takes pains to emphasize that the cycles are not the result of iron-clad rules of history, but of feedback loops — just like in ecology. “In a predator-prey cycle, such as mice and weasels or hares and lynx, the reason why populations go through periodic booms and busts has nothing to do with any external clocks,” he writes.

Turchin has some interesting things to say, but he seems lacking in the history of economics and some other social science basics. Modern booms and busts have a lot to do with external clocks. This last recession could have been avoided or much less severe if some basic regulations were in place or the ones we had were better enforced. We could have a government program like the Manhattan Project for renewable energy and closing the loop on the decadent levels of materials waste – that would create jobs and make people feel more optimistic.

Bugatti Devillars

A 1929 Bugatti Devillars, photographed in 1930, France. Image courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France. I was reading a news story about a new Bugatti concept car and just started looking around at old Bugatti models and came across this. The woman could pass for Daisy Buchanan, so a reminder of that era just in time for Great Gatsby fever when the new movie version opens late spring – May I think. There is no known photographer for the photo, it was in their archives labeled as a press photo.

One last bit of history, The Death of FDR

On April 12, 1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt, 63, President of the United States serving his fourth term, died of a cerebral hemorrhage in his cottage at the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation.

Vice President Harry S. Truman took the oath of office as President at 7:09 P.M., in the Cabinet Room in the White House. Chief Justice Harlan F. Stone of the Supreme Court administered the oath.

This is funny, Laptop stolen in London sends ‘spy’ photos from Iran. The laptop is sending pictures of the thieves back. One shows a woman playing with a dish cloth on her head.