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On October 18, 1898, the United States officially took possession of Puerto Rico – a trophy from the recent Spanish-American War. Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and the Philippines represented the last grab of 19th-century manifest destiny – which even then was controversial.
The Philippines were granted independence after World War Two. Hawaii became a state (the 50th state) in 1959.
But Puerto Rico has been a territory ever since.
The Unincorporated Territory: The Almost-State of America
Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States of America. The term “unincorporated” means that Puerto Rico is not properly a part of the U.S. All natural-born Puerto Ricans are automatically U.S. citizens. In a series of Supreme Court decisions – known as the Insular Cases – it was decided that the U.S. Constitution extends to all territorial citizens ex proprio vigore (by its own force).
However, since Puerto Rico is not a State, it does not have voting representatives in Congress. Therefore, Puerto Ricans do not vote in national elections – including Presidential elections.
Since Puerto Ricans have no vote in Congress, Puerto Rico does not have a federal income tax on island-based income. The old “no taxation without representation” legal adage still applies! Puerto Rico still pays Social Security taxes and Medicaid.
Even without a formal federal income tax, Puerto Rico still pays some federal revenues and enjoys federal services. The FBI, the military, Department of Transportation, the EPA, etc., all have offices there. This is why the federal government can (and should) be involved in aid and recovery after hurricanes.
The Future 51st State?
In a 2012, territory-wide referendum asked two questions: (1) whether Puerto Rico should maintain its current status, and (2) if Puerto Rico should change, should it become a state, independent, or in a free association.
The results? On the first question, about 54% of the voters wanted a change in political status. On the second question, about 62% wanted statehood, 33% wanted free associated status, and only 5% wanted independence.
So barely more than half of the voters wanted a change in status, but if they did change, the majority preferred statehood.
If Puerto Rico did become a state, its population of 3.4 million would make it the 30th largest state in the nation – bigger than Iowa and smaller than Connecticut.
Will you ever see an American flag with 51 stars? The future is wide open.
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Dark Matter: The Ghost Right Next to You Is Big As the Universe
Right next to you. Right now. There is a ghost as big as the universe.
You cannot see it. No device or instrument on Earth can detect it. But it is there.
It is called dark matter.
Dark matter and dark energy comprise the majority of the universe. By the numbers, 68% of the universe is comprised of dark energy, 27% is dark matter, and only about 5% of the universe is detectable by modern science. As one NASA article said, “More is unknown than is known.”
If Undetectable, How Do We Know About Dark Matter?
Early astronomers had noticed that stars were not evenly distributed and instead seemed to form patches and “clouds.” By the early 20th century, astronomers realized that the “clouds” were actually different galaxies – which meant the Milky Way was not the whole universe.
Even weirder, these galaxies seemed to form clusters which spun around an unseen axis.
In the early 1930s, Swiss physicist Fritz Zwicky made measurements of the Coma galaxy cluster. By measuring the star density, he could estimate the total mass of the galaxies. He then measured how fast the galaxies were spinning.
But the galaxies were spinning far too quickly! They should be flying apart! But they were stable.
Galaxies Spin, So What?
Let me borrow an illustration made by Michael Brooks in his book “13 Things That Don’t Make Sense.” Imagine that you have a tennis ball on the end of a rope. Now imagine that you are spinning while holding that rope. Now the ball is spinning in a constant orbit at a constant height.
Now put a bowling ball on the end of the rope. Now imagine how fast you would have to spin to have the bowling ball fly in the same orbit as the tennis ball. You would have to spin much, much faster, right?
The greater the mass, the faster you have to spin to maintain orbit.
Zwicky noticed that the galaxies were spinning at a far greater velocity than their size would indicate. They should fly apart! But they were stable. Zwicky concluded that the galaxies were actually much, much denser – with an enormous mass that science could not detect.
Dark Matter Discovered
Zwicky couldn’t see the extra mass. It was invisible. This invisible mass was an order of magnitude greater than the visible mass! This was the first true discovery of dark matter.
Dark matter and dark energy form the majority of the universe. They cannot be seen. They do not create any measurement in the electromagnetic spectrum – and thus are not detectable by any technology that humans possess!
They are ghosts – ghosts as big and wide as the universe.
Brooks, Michael. 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of Our Time. Doubleday, 2008.
“Dark Energy, Dark Matter.” Nasa.gov. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Accessed 15 October 2017. https://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/focus-areas/what-is-dark-energy/
Fifteen Pretty Cool Facts About Pumpkins
America is pretty pumpkin-crazy from September through November. In 2012, American Studies Professor Cindy Ott wrote an exhaustive book entitled Pumpkins: The Curious History of an American Icon - which details how the pumpkin went from poor people's food to an autumn idol of Americana.
From her book, here are some facts for your pumpkin “fix.”
To celebrate the autumn holidays and seasonal cheer, there will be more “Pumpkin Blogs” in the weeks ahead…as a spice, not a new theme.
We’re still a science blog, of course.
Ott, Cindy. Pumpkins: The Curious History of an American Icon.University of Washington Press, 2012.
Hello! My name is Heath Shive, content manager at ScholarFox. I'll be the author of most of the blog posts. I'm a former geologist and currently a freelance writer. The world is complex and seemingly crazy. Good! Because when you love to learn, you'll never be bored.