The More Things Change | Issue 23

The More Things Change | Issue 23

16-22 September

This week, various governments get up to typical government things.

17 September, 1863: Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, a Dutch scientist known as the “Father of Microbiology,” wrote a letter to the Royal Society describing a bunch of tiny little things he saw down his homemade microscope. He called these “animalcules,” and they are known today as protozoa. For all that van Leeuwenhoek was very secretive about the way his microscopes were made, they worked pretty well: he was the first person to describe the existence of single-celled organisms (a discovery that was met with great scepticism, as such things often are). He was also the first to observe bacteria, sperm, and the pattern of muscle fibres, which was not too bad for a guy who was technically a draper by trade.

20 September, 1954: In a stunning display of government efficiency, New Zealand’s very own Mazengarb Report published its findings just ten days after finishing all its hearings. The report was officially known as the Report of the Special Committee on Moral Delinquency in Children and Adolescents, and was commissioned after an outbreak of moral panic subsequent to a few notorious criminal cases (including the one that inspired Peter Jackson’s film Heavenly Creatures). It appears that not much happened after the report was published, though, except that many postal workers complained about how much it weighed.

19 September, 1959: Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, on a visit to America, was supposed to visit Disneyland but found himself thwarted by that age-old demon, “security concerns.” Apparently he was quite put out by this, but who can really blame him: earlier in the trip he visited a supermarket in San Francisco. One can only assume it left a lot to be desired.

19 September, 1982: Internet history was made on a Carnegie Mellon University message board when a computer scientist called Scott Fahlman posted the first documented emoticons. They were :-) and :-( and were intended to help people distinguish serious posts from jokes, an skill that many Internet users still have not mastered.

17 September, 2006: The Hungarian Socialist Party got into a bit of trouble when evidence arose showing that they’d lied to win the election. The evidence in question was a tape of a private speech by the Prime Minister, in which he stated outright that his party had lied, and also swore a lot. The whole thing resulted in civil unrest and protests for the next few weeks, and ended with the resignation of a few government officials (although somehow the Prime Minister stayed put). Unsurprisingly, the party got voted out in the next election.
This article first appeared in Issue 23, 2013.
Posted 2:39pm Sunday 15th September 2013 by Jessica Bromell.