In 1054, a star exploded. Actually, it exploded about 6000 years previous, but the light from the explosion only reached Earth in 1054. The expanding cloud of gas from this explosion is now known as the Crab Nebula, in the constellation Taurus.

At the time the light from this supernova reached Earth, the Catholic Church was the ruling political power in Europe, and their dogma, regarding any understanding of nature, was that good Christians must always defer to Aristotle, known as "The Philosopher" at the time, for any question about what was true.

This supernova was quite bright: It was visible by day for most of a month, and bright enough to read by it, at night. It was brighter than the full moon for almost two months.

This event was recorded by:

... which is why we know the year it happened.

Since heresy was such a serious, life-threatening charge, when European Christendom saw what must have been an unavoidably noticeable light in the sky, they deferred to Aristotle, who had pronounced the Universe to be "eternal and unchanging."

Hence, this obvious change in the Universe was Somebody Else's Problem - everyone pretended like it wasn't there, rather than risk excommunication for heresy by talking or writing about it. It couldn't have been invisible - even clouds would not have masked its light. But everyone acted as though it was, and it's completely missing from European records: The Emperor's New Clothes, writ astronomically.

In 1731 this event finally made the history books in Europe, when the English amateur astronomer John Bevis first noticed it in his telescope. It later became the first celestial object listed in the catalog created by Charles Messier: M1

Messier 1

Better known as the Crab Nebula, M1 was first documented by John Bevis in 1731, though it's discovery is most generally attributed to Charles Messier. Messier actually observed the Crab Nebula on September 12, 1758 while observing the comet of 1758. M1 can be found ~1° northwest of Zeta Tauri.

M1 is the only supernova remnant in Messier's catalogue, and is relatively easy to observe with minor magnification. Even with 7X35 binoculars, the Crab Nebula is easy to see. Much more substantial magnification is needed to view the individual components of the nebula. Though, in whole, M1 is roughly 11 light years by 7.5 light years, the center is a magnitude 16 pulsar that pulses every 0.033 seconds. As it is relatively small, the pulsar can be difficult to view, but it is possible view it with a 10-inch telescope in the right settings. An inner bubble of quick moving particles constrained by the magnetic field of the pulsar can be discerned easily with a 6 or 8-inch telescope from a good site. The dense outer layer ejected by the supernova is what is most commonly seen by the armchair astronomer.

Upon observation with a larger telescope, M1 appears to be broken into three segments running northwest to souteast. The southern two segments are relatively similar in size and brightness, but the northernmost segment is relatively small and dim. Along the eastern edge of the nebula, an apparent indentation opens into a filament that runs through the midsection of the nebula to the western side. A network of smaller filaments surrounds the body of the nebula, indicating the presence of strong magnetic fields. These structures were first observed in 1844, but have since been a topic of discussion, as the Crab Nebula was photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1994. It was determined that the filaments of the nebula are veiled in glowing plasma. Data from the HST also indicated that plasma pours back into the inner bubble of the nebula in regions of magnetic instability. J. Jeff Hester of Arizona State suggested that the glowing filaments of plasma form where the quickly moving material of the inner bubble of the nebula pushes on the outer bubble. For more information, read Hester et al in the January 1st, 1996 issue of Astrophysical Journal.

Apparently, M1 received its commonplace name 'Crab Nebula' in 1844 due to a drawing made from observations at Birr Castle in Ireland. The drawing in question was said to look somewhat like a horseshoe crab, though most accounts said otherwise.

M1 is the sum of the value of all the money in an economy that can be used in normal transactions. M1 is composed of currency (coins and paper money), demand deposits, and traveler's checks. M1 is money that can be exchanged in most markets for goods and services, and fulfills best the function of money as a medium of exchange.

Currency is the most obvious choice for ability to be exchanged, but interestingly enough, the most value of transactions is exchanged through demand deposits, because almost all large value transactions are not conveniently paid in cash. Think of the cost of ordering 500 tons of steel, and how much it would cost to ship the value of it in $100 bills to the supplier, and compare it with the cost of writing a check or using a debit card or a credit card.

Economists view M1 as their strictest standard of money. Some functions of money are fulfilled by types of money that aren't part of M1. M2 is another measure of money that emphasizes money as a store of value. M3 and L are also measures of money, but are not as widely used.

M1 was the class designation used for the Pennsylvania Railroad's 4-8-2 (or "Mountain") locomotives. The M1 prototype, #4700, was built by the railroad's Altoona shops in 1923. Many design features were carried over from the PRR's I1s class 2-10-0 of 1916, which had proved immensely successful in slow freight service.

The driving wheels of the M1 were 72" in diameter, which permitted the locomotives to be used in either passenger or fast freight service. After three years of testing, an order for 200 more M1 types was placed in 1926. These locomotives carried #'s 6800-6999. Most were home-built at Altoona. A further 100 engines, of a slightly improved design known as M1a, were built in 1930. These engines were numbered 6700-6799, and the original M1 was renumbered to 6699. The only visible difference between the M1 and the M1a was that the M1a had internal steam-delivery pipes to the cylinders, while the M1's were external.

The M1 and M1a types did not last long in passenger service. The PRR owned, at this time, over 600 4-6-2 types of classes K2s, K3s, and K4s, and by the mid-1930s, the GG1 electrics handled the passenger traffic east of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The M1 also rode more roughly than the K4s "Pacific", and were unable to handle the longer Limited trains without doubleheading (in all fairness, the passenger locomotive that could pull a 20-car passenger train around Horseshoe Curve by itself may never have been invented). The demand for them was greater in freight service, where they were the only freight locomotive rated at a speed greater than 50 mph.

The M1 developed about 65,000 pounds of tractive effort, with a steam pressure of 250 pounds. It was an extremely successful design, and remained the PRR's premier freight power until the arrival of General Motors F7 and GP7 diesels in the late 1940s. Some of the M1 types were downgraded to slow freight and helper service, while a handful of M1a types received a rebuild that included a further increase in steam pressure, and were re-classed M1b. By 1955-1956, the M1 and M1a engines were being retired en masse. By 1957, only 15 were still operating on PRR's Central Division, with another 30 stored serviceable.

M1b #6755 has been preserved at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, located in Strasburg, Pennsylvania.

The NORTH. That's what's on the sign.

Apart from being the astronomical designation of the Crab Nebula and the name of BMW's first supercar and several types of guns and the other things above and many more, the M1 is also a motorway. In fact it is several motorways in several different countries, but only one of them connects London to Leeds via Milton Keynes, Sheffield and various other towns and cities, only one of them has transcended its physical status as a strip of concrete into a spiritual metaphor for Britain's decline. The M1 dates from the late 1950s and was built with high hopes. It is now one of the most depressing things in the world, only slightly less so than Slough or the M25 orbital road which rings London. The M1 has service stops at Newport Pagnell and Watford Gap, two two-word invocations that cut deep into the English soul. That the M4 which links London to the West remains anonymous is testament to the creativity and bitterness of people who live north of London.

The M1 was designed in the mid-1950s by Owen Williams and John Laing, two venerable architectural firms specialising in civic structures, both of which remain in business today. The M1 was originally supposed to be three lanes wide and remains so at most places, although it will eventually be a four-lane motorway along its entire length. The first section of the M1, running from St Albans to the vicinity of Birmingham was built in just eighteen months, a massive project involving the relocation of several villages and a great deal of compensation to those farmers and landowners whose land was infringed by the construction; the motorway was opened on November 22nd, 1959, its first fatal crash occuring twenty days later. It was opened by contemporary transport minister Ernest Marples, part of Harold MacMillian's government, although the M1 had been devised in the days of Winston Churchill's post-war term, modelled on America's contemporary interstates.

The motorway was designed to pass around 14,000 vehicles per day, a figure now exceeded ten times over, a bitter-sweet figure; it is good that so many people can afford cars, that so many people like to move around, but it is bad that so many people spend so much time driving along the M1. In terms of traffic volume the M1 is third to the M25 and M6, the former a nightmarish vision of hell, the latter a surprisingly mellow road, given that it contains the infamous Spaghetti Junction, also designed by Owen Williams. The M1 was extended throughout the 1960s, the most recent additions being at the southern end in 1977 and at the northern end in 1999. It now serves to link Brent Cross and Heathrow airport (via the A406) to Leeds and beyond, for there are indeed bits of Britain beyond Leeds.

Fascinatingly, and heartbreakingly, the M1 was not originally speed-restricted. In the early 1960s very few cars could top the ton, fewer still could do so repeatedly, without having to be rebuilt in the interim. It was therefore common for celebrities and race-car manufacturers to test their new cars on the M1, most famously AC, who tested a one-off Le Mans-bound AC Cobra Coupe on the motorway in 1964. In the early hours of June 10th the car reached 185mph, attracting a great deal of publicity in the process. Britain's current speed limit of 70mph was introduced three years later, in 1967, by an MP called Barbara Castle. She denied that there was a connection between the two events, but she was an MP and thus a liar. The government lies. And twists, and lies. It takes a mighty effort to expose a single government lie, and when it is exposed the government lies again. The government is a lying snake, a worm. When it is cut in half, the two halves remain alive. The only way to kill a worm for good is to burn it. We must burn the government. Burn the government's institutions. Burn its buildings. Burn its staff. Burn it.

The M1 features in one other anecdote. The mid-70s Gerry Anderson series 'Space: 1999' included an episode called 'The Rules of Luton', an amusing title given that Luton is an unremarkable town in the middle section of England. So the story goes, the producer of the show's inferior second series and writer of that episode, Fred Freiberger, spotted the name 'Luton' on the signpost linking the A406 to the M1, and thought it sufficiently alien to use as an actual alien world.

Obviously, it's funnier if you're from Luton. It is pronounced 'Loo-ton', and not 'lutton' as some people seem to think.

Mysteriously, and deviously, the M1 does not have a third junction. It skips from junction two to junction four, a condition explained in great detail in the very first source below.

Selected sources
http://www.cbrd.co.uk/ - fascinating, if you're into Britain's highways. As a non-driver I am not at all interested in the roads except as a mine of useless information.
http://euclid.colorado.edu/~rmg/roads/m1.html - people, like you and I
http://www.freefoto.com/browse.jsp?id=2032-44-0 - it is beautiful
http://www.mkheritage.co.uk/nppm/motorway.html - it is regular to be mellow
http://www.j31.co.uk/m1.html

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