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Halley's Comet and Death from the Skies! *

Using Sir Issac Newton's orbital equations, Edmond Halley connects the sightings of a comet in the years 1456, 1531, 1607, and 1682 and declares them all the same comet returning every 75 to 76 years. He predicts that the next appearance of the comet will be in the year 1759. Halley will be long dead by then, but his fellow astronomers will be waiting. On December 25th, 1758 the comet will be spotted by an amateur astronomer and the comet will reach its closest approach to the Sun on March 13th, 1759. Informally it will become known as Halley's comet and in 1759 it will be made official. [1] [2] [3] [4]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The obvious significance of this prediction was that it provided proof of the validity of Newton's orbital equations. The non-obvious significance is that comets became predictable chucks of debris flying through the sky instead of the fearsome harbingers of doom. Finding one that showed up at predictable times meant that comets were simply part of nature, no more mystical than the planets, the Sun and the Moon. In the modern day such periodic visitors have become a source of fear once more. In 1910, people were certain that the tail of Halley's comet would brush the Earth's atmosphere and destroy all life, but we lived. The extinction of the dinosaurs was the result of an asteroid impact. Could we survive an impact with an asteroid when the dinosaurs could not? Some of us could... maybe. Luckily, the likelihood of such an impact is very, very small. [5] [6] [7] [8]

The New Virginia Slave Code

The laws concerning indentured servitude are well-defined in England, and what to do with the bastards born of such people is well-defined in England. It isn't pretty but it is established in custom and law. This is not true for Virginia slavery but it really hasn't been a problem until now. With the increase in African and Indian slaves, there are some legal questions. Indians and African slaves usually are not Christians and mulatto children are a new problem. Is that child supposed to be baptized? Is there a time limit to their bondage like there is for English bastards of indentured servants? The Virginia legislature has decided that slaves are the same as real estate, and not the same as indentured servants with a lifetime contract. Thus, a slave master is allowed to correct and punish a slave and if that "correction" results in the death of the slave, it is not considered murder. The mulatto children of such slaves (that is... the children created between slaves and non-slaves) are to be treated like slaves. [9] [10]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Remember that English indentured servants were treated like virtual slaves and the only difference seems to have been that real slavery was for life and a real slave had no right to redress in court. (Indentured servants rarely did well in court, so they had to have an ironclad case or it went badly for them, but at least they stood a chance.) Virginia had a 30% death rate from disease for indentured servants, so Virginia farmers were forced to offer a few "perks" to at least give the appearance that the servants would do better in Virginia than if they stayed in England. West African slaves and Indian slaves had no such leverage with Virginia farmers. Mulattoes fell into a gray area and that is why Virginia had to clarify the law as the slave population grew.

A Few Notable Mentions *

* The first town of the Carolina Province is incorporated. It is called "Bath" and it will serve as its capital for now.
* The capitol building in Williamsburg, Virginia is completed.
* Sophia of Hanover (Germany) is made a naturalized citizen of England. This makes her the heir apparent to the throne of England, but she will die two months before Queen Anne passes away and Sophia's son will become King George the 1st.

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1705, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. "Halley's Comet". The Dublin Penny Journal (Dublin Penny Journal) 3 (131): 216. December 31, 1834. http://www.austinlibrary.com:2138/stable/30004322. Retrieved January 7, 2016. 
  2. D. W. Hughes; P. H. Fowler; Bernard Lovell; D. Lynden-Bell; P. J. Message; J. E. Wilkinson (September 30, 1987). "The History of Halley's Comet [and Discussion"]. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Mathematical and Physical Sciences (Royal Society) 323 (1572): 349-367. http://www.jstor.org/stable/37959. Retrieved January 7, 2016. "Before his time, comets were regarded as evil omens, the precursors of doom, disaster, disease and the death of kings. Their physical nature, chemical composition and orbits were unknown. Isaac Newton showed the world how to calculate the orbit of a comet; Edmond Halley applied this technique to the data of twenty-four comets. He proved that one comet was periodic and as such was predictable.". 
  3. Edmond Halley - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 7 January 2016. “In 1705, applying historical astronomy methods, he published Synopsis Astronomia Cometicae, which stated his belief that the comet sightings of 1456, 1531, 1607, and 1682 related to the same comet, which he predicted would return in 1758. Halley did not live to witness the comet's return, but when it did, the comet became generally known as Halley's Comet.”
  4. Halley's Comet - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 7 January 2016. “The confirmation of the comet's return was the first time anything other than planets had been shown to orbit the Sun. It was also one of the earliest successful tests of Newtonian physics, and a clear demonstration of its explanatory power.[26] The comet was first named in Halley's honour by French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in 1759.”
  5. Alex Shrugged notes: Changes in the period of the comet's orbit is caused by gravitational disturbances as it passes the orbits of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
  6. Gould, Stephen Jay. Dinosaur in a Haystack: Reflections in Natural History. Harmony Books. 0517703939. ISBN 0517703939. 
  7. Stephen Jay Gould 'Dinosaurs in the Haystack' Essay. stephenjaygould.org (1992). Retrieved on 7 January 2016. “We now come to the central irony that inspired this essay. So long as Darwin's gradualistic view of mass extinction prevailed, paleontological data, read literally, could not refute the basic premise of gradualism--the 'spreading out' of extinctions over a good stretch of time before the boundary, rather than a sharp concentration of disappearances right at the boundary itself. For the geological record is highly imperfect and only a tiny fraction of living creatures ever become fossils. As a consequence of this imperfection, even a truly sudden and simultaneous extinction of numerous species will be recorded as a more gradual decline in the fossil record.”
  8. Plait, Philip. Death From The Skies!: The Science Behind the End of the World. Penguin Books. ISBN 9780143116042. 
  9. Africans in America, Part 1 - Virginia's Slave Codes. PBS.org (2015). Retrieved on 8 September 2015. “All servants imported and brought into the Country...who were not Christians in their native Country...shall be accounted and be slaves. All Negro, mulatto and Indian slaves within this dominion...shall be held to be real estate. If any slave resist his master...correcting such slave, and shall happen to be killed in such correction...the master shall be free of all punishment...as if such accident never happened.”
  10. Billings, Warren M. (January 1991). "Law of Servants and Slaves in Seventeenth-Century Virginia, The". Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, The (Virginia Historical Society) 99 (1): 45-62. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4249198. Retrieved January 8, 2016. "In England a bastard, although child to no one and child to everyone, differed from an illegitimate colonial mulatto in important ways. The former was both Christian and English, meaning that while he might be bound, he could not be enslaved. In Virginia such children were routinely baptized and put into service. They could not be held past their thirty-first birthdays.". 

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