A Comorian stamp expressing the country's relationship to the "most beautiful fish"
A Comorian stamp expressing the country’s relationship to “the most beautiful fish”

Somehow I missed the existence of the African country of The Comoros. It’s some islands north-west of Madagascar.

For a country that has a population of about 800,000 (with about half below the age of 15), the government is exceedingly developed:

Around 80 percent of the central government’s annual budget is spent on the country’s complex electoral system which provides for a semi-autonomous government and president for each of the three islands and a rotating presidency for the overarching Union government.

This bloat is likely a direct result of the fact that the country has had at least 20 coups (or attempted coups) since its independence from France in 1975. It had its first peaceful democratic transfer of power in 2006.

The Comoros is also home to a large population of coelacanths1. In fact, the genome of the fish was sequenced from a Comorian specimen. Related, Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer describes her discovery of the species amusingly:

I picked away at the layers of slime to reveal the most beautiful fish I had ever seen.

Etymology: contemplate, govern

Romulus and Remus looking at birds
Romulus and Remus looking at birds

The word “contemplate” comes from the Latin contemplari, derived from con- (“with”) and templum (“temple”). A templum was originally an open space used to observe birds in the practice of augury:

Unlike in Greece where oracles played the role of messenger of the Gods, in Rome it was through birds that Jupiter’s will was interpreted.

The word “govern” comes from the Greek κυβέρνηση, meaning “to steer, pilot a ship”. Interestingly, “cybernetics” has the same root. It was originally coined in 1948 by Norbert Wiener to mean “the study of control and communication in the animal and the machine” but was later altered to refer to the study of systems that regulate and produce themselves. Note the lack of any mention of “technology”.

Fascinating aside from Wikipedia: In Norbert Wiener’s PhD dissertation (1912),

he was the first to state publicly that ordered pairs can be defined in terms of elementary set theory. Hence relations can be defined by set theory, thus the theory of relations does not require any axioms or primitive notions distinct from those of set theory.

Incarceration in Greenland

The prisoner population per 100000 people for each country country
The prisoner population per 100,000 people for each country

I came across the above map on Wikipedia showing the incarceration rate (number of prisoners per 100,000 people) for each country. Greenland caught my eye since its rate is much higher than Denmark, which it’s part of. It turns out that incarceration in Greenland is quite interesting:

The Greenlandic prison system runs with a uniquely open model. Prisoners must report to prison between 9:30pm and 6:30am each day, but may go to work, visit relatives and complete errands while in the community. They also may hunt with firearms if they are escorted by a prison guard. Prisoners have keys to their own cells, as this is regarded as a form of privacy. A failure to attend prison will result in 7 days in solitary confinement once the escapee returns. […] There are presently 160 places in the Greenlandic prison system.

A tangent: I made a simple plot showing the population of the largest city throughout history. You can hover over points to see the name of the respective city.