Freedom to Roam

Just Wandering Around

McCoy: Free to Roam

McCoy...Dreaming of Roaming Around

Quite a few European countries have "freedom to roam" laws, allowing you to wander onto private land as much as you'd like, so long as you don't damage it or cause trouble.This seems unusual but, unlike in America, which has a lot of public land, some countries in Europe, such as Scotland, are 90% or more composed of private land; you’d be almost solely restricted to public roads there, without freedom to roam laws. Some 45% of land in Scotland is owned just by 450 or so people. without freedom to roam laws, an astonishing amount of the country would be cut off from most of the population.

Of course, there are plenty of restrictions. For example, you usually can’t freely enter a fenced field with a gate. If someone has a little forest on their land, though? G’head: absolutely wander through it, or even go mushroom hunting, foraging, or camping, depending on the specific laws of a particular country.

We have ample history behind the freedom to roam laws, even if, remarkably, many countries didn't bother to formalize these laws until recently, depending on custom, to keep access available.

Those customs date back centuries. I expect you could trace them all the way back to Medieval times, when peasants were allowed to freely use forests owned by nobles to forage, gather firewood, and graze their pigs on acorns and the like.

By and large, while most American states don't have a direct equivalent—you're well within your rights to exclude other private citizens from your land—we have a surprising amount of parallels.

In Hawaii, all beaches, no matter who owns them, are legally public beaches (excepting some military beaches and such). California and Florida have similar laws for their beaches, with a gaggle of variables. In Oregon, the entire coastline is public property, up to sixteen vertical feet above the low tide mark.

For the most part, these laws are wildly popular with just about everyone, except for a few ultra-wealthy people who'd prefer to own their own beaches. I'm not overly sympathetic to their plight.

America certainly doesn't need freedom to roam laws as far-reaching as Europe's, but really: only thanks to our large quantity of publicly-owned lands, like our National Parks and Forests. Publicly accessible lands are an important part of a healthy society.

The Yard Ramp Guy®: The Industrial Supply Chain

This week, my friend The Yard Ramp Guy describes the idea of supply chain through a prism of my favorite invention, the yard ramp.

Check out his great insight HERE.

The Frequency Illusion

Everything Old is New Again

Rinse, Dry, Repeat

The other day, one of my grandkids was telling me about a video game he’d been playing. Kids being kids in the 21st century, this was hardly an unusual occurrence, and I was only halfway paying attention. (And, um, please don’t tell Maggie; it’ll just encourage her conspiracy theory that I’m not listening.)

Then: a couple days later, a friend mentioned that their kids were playing that same game. And then I saw an ad for the game. And then I saw a news article about it. Now, this was not a new game or trendy fidget spinner-like sensation. It'd been around for a bit. So why, all of a sudden, was it appearing in my life?

It probably wasn't, actually. If I'd been paying attention, I'm sure I would have noticed this video game’s presence for some time.

The human brain tends to be extremely selective about what it pays attention to. This is sometimes known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.

Essentially, what happens is that your brain gets really excited about this new thing and starts noticing it much more often, whereas before that same brain of yours might have just dismissed it as unimportant.

The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon has one of the weirder names in psychology. Most monikers for stuff like this have to do with its discoverer or researcher, but Baader-Meinhof was a West German terrorist group in the 1970s. It's actually a nickname; the frequency illusion is the preferred name.

An anonymous poster on an Internet forum had been discussing how he'd learned about the terrorist group. The next day, he came across a gaggle of seemingly random references to Baader-Meinhof, just as the name of my grandson’s video game kept popping into my life.

If this seems like a weird brain quirk, in terms of evolution, it actually makes a lot of sense. There's way too much happening in the world for us to really pay attention to all of it, so we need filters for the important stuff. Like video games. And everything Maggie says.

The Yard Ramp Guy®: Benevolent Butterfly Effects

This week, my friend The Yard Ramp Guy is really speaking my language. His blog is all about connections and unexpected outcomes as a result of small things brought together.

Check out his great blog HERE.

On Roman Concrete

Learning from the School of Hard Rocks

Stylized painting of the Pantheon in Rome as an example of concrete that lasts.

It's Written in the Concrete

Though the Romans have a pretty impressive reputation, in many regards they weren't nearly so clever as people tend to think they were.

For example, their fabled legions, while effective early in Roman history, became rather useless toward the end: the knight was basically invented by barbarians looking to defeat Roman legions. Even after it became apparent that the legions were a tool of the past, the Romans foolishly just kept sticking with it.

However, one area in which they were unquestionably brilliant was in architecture and construction.

Much has been made of Roman aqueducts and other construction techniques, but one technology that doesn't get discussed nearly as much as it should is their concrete. Roman concrete—known as opus caementicium—is, interestingly, much more durable than modern day concrete.

We have many examples of Roman concrete that have survived all the way to today. The Pantheon in Rome (not to be confused with the Parthenon), for instance, is a concrete dome that has survived intact since 126 AD.

Even more impressive is Roman concrete's resistance to seawater. Seawater is incredibly corrosive to modern buildings, corroding and destroying them in mere decades. We're lucky to get 50 years out of modern concrete. Roman concrete, however, can survive immersion in seawater for centuries or even millennia; plenty of docks and pilings from Roman times can still be found off European shorelines.

What was their secret? Well, we don't know the exact composition of Roman concrete, but we do know one of the major secrets: they used volcanic ash instead of the fly ash we use today. When submerged in seawater, the seawater reacts with the mineral phillipsite, found in volcanic ash. Over time, a new mineral known as tobermorite forms in the cracks of the concrete. As it forms, the concrete actually gets stronger and stronger.

Roman concrete today is stronger than when it was first laid down.

Many people are trying to mimic Roman concrete today. Not only is it more durable and long lasting, but it's also cheaper and more environmentally friendly. The problem, of course, is the extremely long setting time: most builders don't want to wait long enough for Roman concrete to set.

Haste makes waste. Some people are okay with that. Roman concrete endures.

The Yard Ramp Guy®: Going Above & Beyond

This week, my friend The Yard Ramp Guy describes how his team focuses on building trust and relationships. It's healthy and refreshing to read of such a fine approach.

Check out his new blog HERE.

The Bone Wars

Marsh and Cope Have a Falling Out

The Marsh-Cope Feud

Beware of Humans

There's one field of geology notably unrepresented at the United States Geological Survey: paleontology. This seems like a fairly major omission, and it's all thanks to a series of events known as the Bone Wars.

During the Gilded Age (the last thirty years or so of the 1800s in America), paleontology was an incredibly competitive field. At the time, we collected dinosaur fossils more rapidly than ever before. Two figures stood out above all the rest—Edward Drinker Cope, of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, and Othniel Charles Marsh.

Marsh and Cope began as friends when they first met in Berlin (Germany has always been a paleontological treasure trove), but their relationship began to sour quickly. By the early 1870s, things heated up to an absurd degree. A series of mishaps, oddities, and minor snubs, along with the fundamentally incompatible personalities of the two men, irrevocably ruined things between them.

In 1873, the Bone Wars began in earnest. The first shots fired were academic ones: renaming and reclassifying species to mess with the other, publicly pointing out one another's errors, and the like.

If things had stayed like that, it wouldn't have made history the way it did; academic rivalries are, as they say, a dime a dozen. However, the confrontation escalated rapidly from there.

Marsh and Cope began hiring employees away from one another, bribing officials to advantage themselves and hurt the other, stealing fossils from one another's sites, and so on and so forth. They actively tried to destroy one another's reputations, and even turned to destroying fossils rather than letting the other get his hands on them. Financially and professionally, the rivalry eventually ruined both of them, and they never abandoned it.

The two scientists discovered 136 new species during the Bone Wars, including Triceratops and Stegosaurus. (Before then, we had only nine named species of dinosaur in North America.)

Unfortunately, the Bone Wars also did much to damage the reputation of American paleontology. It resulted in the loss of numerous fossils, the USGS losing its paleontology division, and a severe, decades-long blow to the reputation of American paleontology.

The Yard Ramp Guy®: Location, Location, Location

This week, my friend The Yard Ramp Guy tells us all about placement and location, location, location. And he uses a novel way of website strategy to reflect on the right yard ramps themselves.

Check out his new blog HERE.