Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Jul 1, 2020 in Stuff You Should Know

A New Name for Rhode Island

Did you know that the real name of Rhode Island isn’t just . . . Rhode Island? It’s actually “The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.” For the past several decades, residents have pushed to have the second part of the state’s name removed, due to its historical connection to the enslavement of African Americans. Last Monday, Governor Gina Raimondo signed an executive order removing the remainder of the official name from all official state documents—everything from employee paychecks to parking tickets. The state’s Web site will also be permanently changed to reflect the new, shortened name.

The name change isn’t necessarily a popular idea: ten years ago, the proposal to change the name permanently was put on the ballot and soundly defeated by voters. Those who are against changing the name point out that, historically, Rhode Island was founded by an abolitionist and that at the time, the word “plantation” meant a new settlement. It didn’t necessarily reference the enslavement of African Americans.

But those who are in favor of the name change note that by the middle of the 1700s, Rhode Island had a higher percentage of enslaved people than any other northern colony. In fact, Rhode Island had become a key point in the North American economy of enslavement. In her speech, Governor Raimondo referenced the pain and trauma that many Rhode Islanders feel as a result of the name’s association with enslavement.

Rhode Island’s state Senate has already passed a resolution to put this issue to another vote this November. The House is expected to support this measure. 

Dig Deeper Use Internet resources to research the history of your state’s name. Did you learn anything that might be viewed as controversial? Explain.

Deadly Earthquake in Mexico

It sometimes feels like 2020 is the year when anything that can go wrong does go wrong. This was especially true in Mexico last week, when a deadly earthquake killed at least six people, injured about two dozen more, and damaged more than five hundred structures–among them, two hundred homes and 21 hospitals.

The 7.4-magnitude earthquake was centered in the southern part of the state of Oaxaca on the Pacific Coast, and its effects could be felt hundreds of miles away. The nation’s capital, Mexico City, saw buildings sway because of the quake. The earthquake began last Tuesday at around 10:30 am. 147 aftershocks were reported by noon. By Wednesday morning, there were 1,571 aftershocks reported.

Surprisingly, the quake caused very little serious structural damage. Hundreds of homes were affected, but only about thirty of them were seriously harmed. Four archaeological monuments collapsed, and an oil refinery caught on fire. But the tsunami that the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned residents about never happened.

Major earthquakes are not unusual in Mexico. This is because Mexico is situated where two tectonic plates, or slabs of the earth’s crust, meet. One plate (the Cocos plate) is sliding underneath the other (the North American plate), which is a process called “subduction.” This friction between the two plates releases a lot of energy and can cause earthquakes and tsunamis.

Dig Deeper Mexico experienced another deadly quake in 2017. Write a short paragraph describing that disaster. If you don’t remember what happened, use Internet resources to learn more.

Pulling the Plug on Segway

Before there were electric scooters in most U.S. cities, there was the Segway Personal Transporter. The PT is a small, one-person self-balancing platform with two wheels and a handle. It has been around for nearly twenty years, but last Tuesday, the company announced that it will not be making any more after July 15.

profile view of a woman riding a Segway (personal transportation vehicle) on a city sidewalk
The Segway PT is no longer being manufactured. Credit: Aaron Roeth Photography

When the Segway Human Transporter was first introduced in 2001, its ambitious goal was to change transportation forever. While the PT (as it later came to be called) was popular with security, law enforcement, and tourism companies, it never really caught on in a big way. In fact, only 140,000 of them have been sold since 2001. Their expense has been part of the problem. They cost between $6,000 to $10,000 each. The company also met with several hurdles along the way, such as the recall of about 6,000 PTs in 2003 (resulting from people falling after the machines’ batteries ran low). Then there was a series of high-profile PT injuries, such as George W. Bush falling off a PT in Maine. In 2010, the company’s owner, Jimi Heselden, died when he fell off a cliff when he tried to make way for a dog walker while riding his PT.

The company was bought by a Chinese rival company called Ninebot in 2015, though the PTs have continued to be manufactured in New Hampshire. More recently, the popularity of more affordable electric scooters have hurt the PT’s success. Many police departments and urban tourism companies have switched over to this cheaper option. As a result, the PT now makes up less than 1.5 percent of Segway’s annual revenue, and the company has finally decided that it’s time to pull the plug.

Dig Deeper Where does the word “Segway” come from? If you don’t know, use Internet resources to help you figure out the answer.