May 3, 2022

Preparedness Paradox

y2k

The preparedness paradox is the proposition that if a society or individual acts effectively to mitigate a potential disaster such as a pandemic or other catastrophe so that it causes less harm, the avoided danger will be perceived as having been much less serious because of the limited damage actually caused.

The paradox is the incorrect perception that there had been no need for careful preparation as there was little harm, although in reality the limitation of the harm was due to preparation. Several cognitive biases can consequently hamper proper preparation for future risks. Continue reading

May 2, 2022

Accidental Discovery

Author and researcher Royston Roberts has said that various discoveries required a degree of genius, but also some lucky element for that genius to act on.  Author Richard Gaughan wrote that accidental discoveries result from the convergence of preparation, opportunity, and desire.

Major everyday discoveries that were helped by luck in some way include products like vulcanized rubber, teflon, nylon, penicillin, cyanoacrylate (Super Glue), the implantable pacemaker, the microwave oven, Scotchgard, Saran wrap, Silly Putty, Slinky, safety glass, the propeller, artificial snowmaking, stainless steel, Perkin’s mauve (one of the first synthetic dyes), and popsicles. Most artificial sweeteners have been discovered when accidentally tasted, including aspartame and saccharin. Continue reading

April 27, 2022

Edge Sorting

Edge sorting

Edge sorting is a technique used in advantage gambling where a player determines whether a face-down playing card is likely to be low or high at casino table games by observing, learning, and exploiting subtle unintentional differences on the backs of the cards being dealt.

Applied by poker player Phil Ivey and subsequently challenged in court by the casino in which he did so, the UK High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court ruled that the technique, which requires the player to trick the dealer into rotating specific, high-value cards, is cheating in civil law, and that a casino was justified in refusing payment of winnings. This ruling would not be applicable if the player simply took advantage of an observed error or anomaly in the deck for which he was not responsible. Continue reading

April 26, 2022

Ramen

Momofuku Ando

Ramen is a Japanese adaptation of Chinese wheat noodles. One theory says that ramen was introduced to Japan during the 1660s by the Chinese neo-Confucian scholar Zhu Shunsui who served as an advisor to Tokugawa Mitsukuni after he became a refugee in Japan to escape Manchu rule and Mitsukuni became the first Japanese person to eat ramen. Most historians reject this theory as a myth created by the Japanese to embellish the origins of ramen.

According to historians, the more plausible theory is that ramen was introduced to Japan in the late 19th or early 20th century by Chinese immigrants living in the Yokohama Chinatown. According to the record of the Yokohama Ramen Museum, ramen originated in China and made its way to Japan in 1859. Early versions were wheat noodles in broth topped with Chinese-style roast pork. There are many related, Chinese-influenced noodle dishes in Japan. Continue reading

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April 20, 2022

Terminal Lucidity

Deathbed phenomena

Terminal lucidity, also known as ‘rallying’ or ‘the rally,’ is an unexpected return of mental clarity and memory, or suddenly regained consciousness that occurs in the time shortly before death in patients suffering from severe psychiatric or neurological disorders. This condition has been reported by physicians since the 19th century.

Several case reports in the 19th century described the unusual condition of an improvement and recovery of the mental state in patients days or weeks before death. English physician William Munk, for instance, in 1887 called the phenomenon ‘lucidity before death.’ Continue reading

March 27, 2022

Hyperpop

A. G. Cook

Hyperpop is a loosely-defined music movement and microgenre, characterized by a maximalist or exaggerated take on popular music. Artists tagged with the label typically integrate pop and avant-garde sensibilities, drawing on tropes from electronic, hip hop, and dance music.

The microgenre reflects an exaggerated, eclectic, and self-referential approach to pop music and typically employs elements such as brash synth melodies, Auto-Tuned ‘earworm’ vocals, and excessive compression and distortion, as well as surrealist or nostalgic references to 2000s Internet culture and the Web 2.0 era. Continue reading

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March 21, 2022

Show Trial

Moscow trials

show trial is a public trial in which the judicial authorities have already determined the guilt or innocence of the defendant. The actual trial has as its only goal the presentation of both the accusation and the verdict to the public so they will serve as both an impressive example and a warning to other would-be dissidents or transgressors.

Show trials tend to be retributive rather than corrective and they are also conducted for propagandistic purposes. When aimed at individuals on the basis of protected classes or characteristics, such trials are examples of political persecution. The term was first recorded in 1928. Continue reading

March 13, 2022

Geek Show

Nightmare Alley

Geek shows were an act in traveling carnivals and circuses of early America and were often part of a larger sideshow. The billed performer’s act consisted of a single geek, who stood in center ring to chase live chickens. It ended with the performer biting the chickens’ heads off and swallowing them.

The geek shows were often used as openers for what are commonly known as freak shows. It was a matter of pride among circus and carnival professionals not to have traveled with a troupe that included geeks. Geeks were often alcoholics or drug addicts, and paid with liquor – especially during Prohibition – or with narcotics. Continue reading

March 6, 2022

Kremlinology

Alexander Zinoviev

Kremlinology is the study and analysis of the politics and policies of the Soviet Union while Sovietology is the study of politics and policies of both the Soviet Union and former Communist states more generally. These two terms were synonymous until the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In popular culture, the term is sometimes used to mean any attempt to understand a secretive organization or process, such as plans for upcoming products or events, by interpreting indirect clues.

During the Cold War, lack of reliable information about the country forced Western analysts to ‘read between the lines’ and to use the tiniest tidbits, such as the removal of portraits, the rearranging of chairs, positions at the reviewing stand for parades in Red Square, the choice of capital or small initial letters in phrases such as ‘First Secretary,’ the arrangement of articles on the pages of the party newspaper Pravda and other subtle signs to try to understand what was happening in internal Soviet politics. Continue reading

February 14, 2022

Dixie Mafia

Pete Halat

The Dixie Mafia is a criminal organization composed mainly of white Southerners and based in Biloxi, Mississippi, operating primarily throughout the Southern United States since at least the 1970s. The group used each member’s talents in various crime categories to help move stolen merchandise, illegal alcohol, and illegal drugs.

Unlike members of the American Mafia, the members of the Dixie Mafia were not connected by family or country of origin. They were loosely connected individuals of many nationalities with a common goal – to make money and wield control over illegal moneymaking operations by any means, including influence peddling, bribery of public officials, and murder. Continue reading

February 6, 2022

Raining Cats and Dogs

Rain of animals

The English-language idiom raining cats and dogs is used to describe particularly heavy rain. It is of unknown etymology. One possible explanation involves the drainage systems on buildings in 17th-century Europe, which were poor and may have disgorged their contents, including the corpses of any animals that had accumulated in them, during heavy showers.

This occurrence is documented in Jonathan Swift’s 1710 poem ‘Description of a City Shower,’ in which he describes: ‘Drowned puppies, stinking sprats, all drenched in mud, Dead cats and turnip-tops come tumbling down the flood.’ Continue reading

January 25, 2022

Hot Mic

We begin bombing in five minutes

hot mic is an error in which a microphone is switched on or remains on, especially without the speaker realizing, allowing unintended listeners to hear parts of conversations not intended for public consumption.

Such errors usually involve live broadcasting in radio or television, and sometimes material is recorded and played back via media outlets. Hot mic events can cause embarrassment for the person or organization involved, sometimes resulting in serious confrontations and employment termination. Continue reading