Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Humanities/2012 September 21

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September 21

Majority number of seats in Chamber of Deputies

What is the number that a political party in Italy needs to win in order to become a majority government? — Preceding unsigned comment added by 70.29.33.92 (talk) 01:11, 21 September 2012 (UTC)

A majority is always 50%+1. Always. So, for any parliamentary body, divide the membership by 2, add one to that answer, and that's it. Chamber of Deputies (Italy) states that the body has 630 members. 630/2 = 315, so a majority is 316 seats. You can do the same math for every parliamentary body in the world. --Jayron32 03:50, 21 September 2012 (UTC)
Strictly speaking, a majority is sometimes 50%+1/2. --Trovatore (talk) 04:04, 21 September 2012 (UTC)
Well, it takes any number greater than 1/2 of the total. For an odd number, it is impossible to split the group down the middle. For example, in the U.S. House of Representatives, there are 435 votes, so a majority in that case is 218 votes, with the rest being 217. --Jayron32 04:09, 21 September 2012 (UTC)
It can be a bit more complicated than this. A parliament might require a supermajority for some kinds of votes, some members might not normally vote, and you have to take into account what happens in the event of a tie. For example, the British House of Commons has 650 members, but 4 of these are the Speaker and Deputy Speakers, who don't vote (except as a tiebreaker), and 5 more are currently held by Sinn Fein who have a longstanding policy of abstentionism, so in practice, a majority is 321 (I think?). There are also parliamentary bodies that work on a consociational basis---that is, decisions have to be agreed by sufficient members representing different communities. For example, in the Northern Ireland Assembly, members are designated as "nationalist", "unionist", or "other", and many votes require both a 60% majority and 40% support from both unionist and nationalist members (this system is applied to any vote if 30 or more members ask for it). 81.98.43.107 (talk) 21:20, 21 September 2012 (UTC)
All interesting stuff. But the q was about forming a majority government, not about the passage of bills. The previous answers were spot on, I believe. -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 23:14, 21 September 2012 (UTC)
But what's a majority government? As per our article, this normally refers to one of two things 1) A government which under ordinary circumstances has enough members to avoid being defeated by a motion of no confidence (or perhaps more accurately a government which is assured of Confidence and supply) OR 2) A government which under ordinary circumstances has enough members to pass ordinary legislation (at least in one house if the system is bicameral). The tie breaker thing is somewhat irrelevent (you will take in to account if they have to vote when determining the majority) but any members who never take their seats, as well as any requirement for a supermajority or some additional requirements than a majority of seats; even for ordinary legislation. Nil Einne (talk) 07:14, 23 September 2012 (UTC)
How about sticking to the core definition: A majority government is a government formed by a governing party that has an absolute majority of seats in the legislature or parliament in a parliamentary system. An absolute majority in any legislature is 50% + 1. That is the Alpha and Omega of the matter. -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 11:03, 23 September 2012 (UTC)
Another Toronto-based IP asked a similar question last weekend, about the Knesset.[1]Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:31, 21 September 2012 (UTC)

What should I write for more specific citations of this text?

I found this website as I was researching Wan hu. I would like to cite the 1909 source and Ron Miller's book in the Wan Hoo article, but I don't know how to write the citation.--124.172.170.233 (talk) 02:39, 21 September 2012 (UTC)

Question, have you actually seen a copy of the two sources, or are you simply relying on the livejournal.com webpage for your information (If the latter, see our policy: WP:SAYWHEREYOUGOTIT...it is very poor practice to cite something you have not actually read). Blueboar (talk) 03:49, 21 September 2012 (UTC)
That why I need to make sure those to resources exist and say what is said in the text. The best I can reach so far is the amazon page of ron miller's book and a preview of page 244 of Scientific American[2].--124.172.170.233 (talk) 06:57, 24 September 2012 (UTC)
does the page 243 contain such information about Wang Tu as said in the livejournal article?--124.172.170.233 (talk) 09:29, 24 September 2012 (UTC)

Can anyone identify this 'barbarian-warrior' engraved artwork?

I came across this image the other day: [3]. Does anyone know anything about this little engraving? Is it historical? I suspect it likely is, but I'm not certain. What's the story behind it? Is it Anglo-Saxon? Scandinavian? What does it represent? Is it part of a larger piece of art? It makes me think of something out of the era of Beowulf, and it sure seems similar to our picture of the recreation of the Sutton Hoo helmet: File:Sutton Hoo helmet reconstructed.jpg.--Brianann MacAmhlaidh (talk) 06:06, 21 September 2012 (UTC)

The book cover is the german language version of Bernard Cornwell's novel Sword Song, which is part of his The Saxon Stories series; set in 9th century Saxon Britain. So, presumably, the image is related to that. --Jayron32 06:28, 21 September 2012 (UTC)
Thanks Jayron32. Here's a cover of another one of his German-language books of the same series: [4]. I recognise the helmet in this one - it's an historical piece, from Scandinavia, we actually have a picture of it here: File:Helmet from a 7th century boat grave, Vendel era.jpg. That makes me think the warrior-engraving is historical too.--Brianann MacAmhlaidh (talk) 07:14, 21 September 2012 (UTC)
Here it is, I think. Seems to be from an engraved bronze plate found in Öland. - Karenjc 08:06, 21 September 2012 (UTC)
Thank you! Ever since the question was asked I knew that I'd seen it before, and that it was Scandinavian, but I just could not find it either online or in my books. I hate it if my brain demonstrates how semi-functional it really is... --Stephan Schulz (talk) 08:11, 21 September 2012 (UTC)
Cool thanks everyone! From searching about on GoogleBooks, it seems like the engravings date to the 6th century.--Brianann MacAmhlaidh (talk) 09:05, 22 September 2012 (UTC)

Another Lou Gehrig's disease ?

Hello to all L.H. (Learned Humanitarians) ! I know the SLA (we call it here in France "maladie de Charcot", for the great alienist who studied it) , but what is "the other Lou Gehrig’s disease" Homer mentions shyly in The Falcon and the D'ohman ? (cf http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/The_Simpsons/Season_23#The_Falcon_and_the_D.27ohman) . Thanks beforehand for your answers, & t.y. Arapaima (talk) 08:56, 21 September 2012 (UTC)

There is no "other Lou Gehrig's disease". That's the joke. Gabbe (talk) 09:45, 21 September 2012 (UTC)
To expand a bit on what Gabbe is saying: the episode in question is making fun of the long-standing inside joke that the show has never revealed where "Springfield" is located (though I have seen two fairly decent analyses done which claim that it could be either Springfield, Oregon or Springfield, Kentucky, those are still just idle speculation). The exchange is meant to highlight the fact that Springfield doesn't "exist" to the outside world. The joke about the "other" Lou Gehrigs disease is just an absurdist little joke, perhaps to highlight the fact that Springfield is such a distinct place that it has it's own diseases. --Jayron32 17:45, 21 September 2012 (UTC)
Thanks a lot Gabbe & Jayron. My grand-son told me The Simpson "were not for my generation" , & I wonder if he wasn't right...Or maybe I will stay with the epsiodes with Abe Simpson, we understand each other OK...T.y. Arapaima (talk) 06:47, 24 September 2012 (UTC)

Duchess of Windsor

I know someone who says he was brought up in a house in South Florida that used to belong to the Duchess of Windsor. I find no reference in her history of ownership of a house in Florida. Do you know of any such reference and if she, perhaps, owned any of the original Faberge Eggs? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Wagon1944 (talkcontribs) 15:16, 21 September 2012 (UTC)

See this: 1916 - Granted a stipend, following the death of Grandmother Warfield. Departs in the spring for Pensacola, Florida, where she meets U.S. Navy pilot Earl Winfield “Win” Spencer, Jr.; they are married that fall in Baltimore. The couple settles in naval housing in Pensacola. And yes, she seems to have had one or more Faberge Egg--Tagishsimon (talk) 15:59, 21 September 2012 (UTC)
But she wouldn't have owned that specific house, since it was naval housing - presumably on a military base owned by the US Government.
If the couple moved to private housing later on...well, in much of North America at that point in time it was common for the husband to be the sole legal owner of the marital home with the wife holding dower rights (basically, the right to not have her residence sold without her permission), but I don't have a clue as to what Florida's laws were or whether joint ownership was common (or possible) in Florida in the 1916-1927 period. --NellieBly (talk) 17:27, 21 September 2012 (UTC)

Were Native American tribes able to start fires before Europeans arrived?

Also, this may not be easily answered, but did Native American settlements form near natural hot springs to any great degree, or were they not particularly attractive to them? Thanks. Vranak (talk) 23:52, 21 September 2012 (UTC)

Yep. See Native American use of fire. HiLo48 (talk) 01:06, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
Beat me by a minute on the fire question, but here's the hot spring one: Native Americans and hot springs. Mingmingla (talk) 01:09, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
Not only were they capable of fire, they were capable of creating vast city states — more populous than any in Europe at the time — with complex metallurgy and agriculture, and were quite adept at forest management (through the use of fire). They were in many ways quite on par with Europeans. What they lacked were long-range sea faring technology, gunpowder, steel, and the inborn resistance gained from living near many types of domesticated animals for many thousands of years. The technological disparities between the Old and New Worlds at the point of contact are somewhat exaggerated by the fact that the Native civilizations faced immense population crashes on account of the diseases picked up inadvertently through the conquest, which had a devastating effect on the major "civilized" societies that were there. (It is even theorized that the subsequent decline in forest burnings after the population die-offs in the New World contributed to the Little Ice Age.) Highly recommended reading: Charles Mann's 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus and 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, both of which are very fun reads and will open your eyes quite a lot to what is currently thought about the populations of the New World and the consequences of the "Columbian Exchange". (I only assume eye-opening is necessary given your initial question, which suggests a deep ignorance of actual Native American technological sophistication.) --Mr.98 (talk) 01:50, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
Not complex metallurgy. They used native metals but did not have smelting or alloying. Rmhermen (talk) 02:33, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
The South Americans (i.e. the Inka) did have smelting and alloying. Discussed at Metallurgy in pre-Columbian America. --Mr.98 (talk) 13:15, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
I'll second Mr. 98's recommendation for Charles Mann. He's fantastic; 1491 is really eye-opening. Besides Tenochtitlan, which he links above, there were other large cities even in North America, most notably Cahokia. The Mississipian culture was as urban as any culture in Europe at its height, but it collapsed for unknown reasons. Until and during the first few years of European settlement, Native American villages and towns along the east coast of North America were quite settled and sizable, but diseases move faster than people, and the impression that the Europeans got of the Americas as terra nullius was largely because many Native Americans died off before they were ever met. For example, Plymouth colony was settled exactly where it was because the land had previously, as recently as a decade before, been the site of a large settled town of the Patuxet tribe. It was wiped out by diseases, probably caught from European fisherman who set up temporary outposts on the shores of North America decades prior to any permanent colonization. New England today is much heavier forested than during the pre-colonial times, because most of it was heavily cultivated farmland by the Native Americans. It was slowly reclaimed by the forests only because there was a gap of several decades between when the Indians died out and the Europeans started clearing it again. Native Americans probably had a much more advanced culture and technology than is in the popular conception. --Jayron32 03:24, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
If you liked 1491, you'll love 1493. It's considerably better in my opinion, both as a work of writing and a work of history. I made the mistake of reading 1493 first and then felt that 1491 was tepid and slow by comparison. But both are good; it's just that 1493 is really, truly excellent. --Mr.98 (talk) 13:16, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
I did enjoy it quite a bit when I read it. --Jayron32 15:57, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
Adding another yes! about 1493—I'm about halfway through and have found every chapter very interesting and about every other truly fascinating, about things I had never known about but which had and continue to have major effects. The chapter on malaria amazed me. I had no idea. Pfly (talk) 21:25, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
Living near many types of domesticated animals would have been no help preventing dying from disease as the disease resistance would have been to different diseases. Living near many types of domesticated animals didn't help the Europeans from disease when they travelled to the tropics. The Amerindians didn't have the horse or an equivalent and didn't invent the wheel.
Sleigh (talk) 03:43, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
It's more complicated than that. Native American immunity was genetically far more limited in part because of the founder's effect. I'm unsure whether exposure to additional pandemics earlier on would have helped that, but I wouldn't be surprised if the relative lack of such things didn't encourage a change in the status quo. They also lacked the cultural experience that comes with exposure to pandemics — things like quarantine. It's plausible that if they had more exposure to such things their societies wouldn't have totally collapsed in the way that they did, that the death rates would have still been impressive but not catastrophic. --Mr.98 (talk) 13:15, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
Amerinds did have the wheel http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=amerindians+wheeled+toys&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8 μηδείς (talk) 05:16, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
What most of them didn't have is good roads, and without those, wheels are of limited use. Hence the travois. StuRat (talk) 05:24, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
They had the wheel as a miniature toy, not as a practical transportation device. Of course, without draft animals, about the only feasible load-bearing use of the wheel would be in wheelbarrows...
StuRat -- The usefulness of wheels isn't always dependent on roads. The wheel apparently had a strong impact on the way of life in the eastern Ukraine and southern Russia ca. 3000 B.C., an area where there were no cities or real roads. Later the chariot revolutionized ancient warfare without being confined to roads... AnonMoos (talk) 06:16, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
Many of the great South American empires did have excellent roads. Anyway, the wheel is fine and good, but they managed to build massive empires without them, so holding up the wheel as some sort of gold standard isn't totally sensible. They certainly knew the principle of wheels. --Mr.98 (talk) 13:15, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
The OP might do well to look at the article on the book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. The author believes that early humans may have harnessed fire 1.8 million years ago. Even though that claim is a little controversial, sources in that article will tell you that the first definite evidence of hearths is 250,000 years old. This is way before Native Americans reached their continent. (12,000 years ago?) So humans had fire long before they spread all over the globe. Australian Aboriginal people, who arrived on that continent at least 40,000 years ago, appear to have used fire right from the time of their arrival. HiLo48 (talk) 05:22, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
Consider the teepee, which is designed with a hole at the top, so the smoke from the fire inside can vent out. StuRat (talk) 05:26, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
I was about to respond to Mr. 98 to disabuse him of the notion that "they were in many ways quite on par with Europeans", but since many others have made similar points, I'll just post here. It's true that the technological disparity was smaller than what scholars used to believe, and certainly smaller than what the OP seems to believe, but the most advanced Amerindian societies in 1491 AD were primitive compared to even the oldest European/Asian civilizations. Absolutely no Amerindians invented the wheel as a method of transportation, even though they built plenty of roads on which it would have been useful. Nobody domesticated draft animals. Nobody used metal for any purpose other than cosmetic, with the exception of gold, which is easy to identify and doesn't need to be smelted, cast, forged, tempered, or alloyed. Writing, one of the most basic tenets of civilization, was only invented in a small Mesoamerican region and never spread beyond that. Compare this state of development to that of Bronze Age Sumer, the first human civilization, which developed the wheel 7000 years ago, bronze working 6000 years ago, and writing 5000 years ago. Actually, you can read about any of the Eurasian cradles of civilization; not one of them failed to develop bronze-working or writing from very early on.
To illustrate just how important writing is, we know virtually nothing about any pre-Columbian Amerindian society because they (aside from Mesoamericans) never developed writing, and couldn't record their histories, discoveries, culture, etc. By contrast, every Eurasian empire had writing. The Spanish conquistadors would have been familiar with the history of the Roman Empire and of Athens, which collapsed 1000-2000 years before their own time, whereas the Americans had little idea about events happening only a few hundred kilometers away and less than a generation ago.
Mr. 98 compares the populations of Mesoamerican vs. European cities, but is Kinshasa more developed than New York simply because it has more people? Europe is not a fair comparison for the Old World anyhow; if we're only to compare "the best" from the New and Old Worlds, the Old World representative should be China. In terms of population, sophistication, technological development, or virtually any other factor, Tenochitlan couldn't compare with Tang dynasty China, and probably pales in comparison to even the Han dynasty. --140.180.242.9 (talk) 19:31, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
To be fair, however, there is a minimum level of technology and civilization needed to maintain an urban center. The basic definition of urban is people not involved in subsistance farming, and the more populous a city, the more sophisticated things like agriculture, infrastructure, and administration needs to be to support that city. Yes, there is not a perfect correlation between population size and development level, but that also doesn't mean that the existance of large conurbations is not, all by itself, an indication of a certain level of advanced civilization. After all, civilization means roughly "the act of living in cities". --Jayron32 22:40, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
They civilize left, they civilize right
Till nothing is left, till nothing is right
They civilize freedom till no one is free
No one except — by coincidence, me --Ben Rumson
--Trovatore (talk) 22:44, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
You were born under a wand'rin' star. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 05:09, 23 September 2012 (UTC)