Archive for September 24th, 2010

September 24, 2010


Helium-3 (He-3) is a light, non-radioactive isotope of helium with two protons and one neutron. It is rare on Earth, and is sought for use in nuclear fusion research. The abundance of helium-3 is thought to be greater on the Moon (embedded in the upper layer of regolith by the solar wind over billions of years) and the solar system’s gas giants (left over from the original solar nebula), though still low in quantity.

Its existence was first proposed in 1934 by the Australian nuclear physicist Mark Oliphant. Helium-3 is proposed as a second-generation fusion fuel for fusion power uses. Tritium, with a 12-year half-life, decays into helium-3, which can be recovered. Irradiation of lithium in a nuclear reactor — either a fusion or fission reactor — can also produce tritium, and thus (after decay) helium-3.

September 24, 2010



Minecraft is a ‘sandbox game’ where players mine and build in a randomly generated 3D world. Hostile monsters roam the environment at night, forcing players to build fortifications. Mining uncovers ores in the ground, which can be crafted into useful items such as chests, minecarts and tracks, and buckets. There are also plants and animals, which can be farmed and hunted for other resources. The game features a free classic mode where players have unlimited resources, and is available as an alpha release for €9.95.  As of September 23rd 2010, it has surpassed 760,000 registered users and 208,000 purchases.

It is currently in development by Markus Persson, aka ‘Notch.’ The gameplay is inspired by Dwarf Fortress, RollerCoaster Tycoon, Dungeon Keeper, and especially Infiniminer. Players must devise methods of building functional and navigable structures that can withstand the nightly assault from various monsters. The player’s short reach and short jumping ability forces players to plan structures carefully, lest they trap themselves or fall to their death during construction. More advanced players can create complex traps and mechanisms using the game physics as well as primitive electrical circuits and logic gates.

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September 24, 2010

Shaggy Dog Story

In its original sense, a shaggy dog story is an extremely long-winded tale featuring extensive narration of typically irrelevant incidents, usually resulting in a pointless or absurd punchline. These stories are a special case of yarns, coming from the long tradition of campfire yarns. Shaggy dog stories play upon the audience’s preconceptions of the art of joke telling. The audience listens to the story with certain expectations, which are either simply not met or met in some entirely unexpected manner.

A boy owned a dog that was uncommonly shaggy. Many people remarked upon its considerable shagginess. When the boy learned that there are contests for shaggy dogs, he entered his dog. The dog won first prize for shagginess in both the local and the regional competitions. The boy entered the dog in ever-larger contests, until finally he entered it in the world championship for shaggy dogs. When the judges had inspected all of the competing dogs, they remarked about the boy’s dog: ‘He’s not so shaggy.’

September 24, 2010

Reagan Doctrine

The Reagan Doctrine was a strategy orchestrated and implemented by the United States under the Reagan Administration to oppose the global influence of the Soviet Union during the final years of the Cold War. While the doctrine lasted less than a decade, it was the centerpiece of United States foreign policy from the early 1980s until the end of the Cold War in 1991. Under the Reagan Doctrine, the U.S. provided overt and covert aid to anti-communist guerrillas and resistance movements in an effort to ‘rollback’ Soviet-backed communist governments in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Most notably, the mujahideen in Afghanistan and the contras in Nicaragua.

The doctrine was designed to serve the dual purposes of diminishing Soviet influence in these regions, while also potentially opening the door for capitalism (and sometimes liberal democracy) in nations that were largely being governed by Soviet-supported socialist governments. However, since the September 11 attacks, some critics have argued that, by facilitating the transfer of large amounts of weapons to various areas of the world and by training military leaders in these regions, the Reagan Doctrine actually contributed to ‘blowback’ by strengthening some political and military movements that ultimately developed hostility toward the United States, such as al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

September 24, 2010



Raggare (a Swedish word roughly corresponding to the English term ‘pick-up artist.’) refers to a subculture found mostly in Sweden and parts of Norway, Finland, Denmark, Germany and Austria. Raggare are closely related to the greaser subculture of the U.S. and are known for their love of hot rod cars and 1950s American pop culture. Pontiac Bonnevilles of the 1960s are particularly popular among raggare.

Considered by some a menace to society, but more often seen as an amusing group of outsiders, raggare culture lives on in Sweden, but in many ways it is still viewed in a negative light. Because of its mostly rural roots, retro-aesthetics, and unusual (for Swedes) pro-American stance, raggare are often (in urban areas and in pop-culture) seen as uneducated,  with poor taste and a low-brow attitude towards sex.