Archive for November 10th, 2010

November 10, 2010

A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates

random digits

A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates is a 1955 book by the RAND Corporation. The book, comprising primarily of a random number table, was an important 20th century work in the field of statistics and random numbers. It was produced starting in 1947 by an electronic simulation of a roulette wheel attached to a computer, the results of which were then carefully filtered and tested before being used to generate the table. The book was one of the last of a series of random number tables produced from the mid-1920s through the 1950s, after which the development of high speed computers allowed faster operation through the generation of pseudorandom numbers rather than reading them from tables.

The RAND table was an important breakthrough in delivering random numbers, because such a large and carefully prepared table had never before been available. In addition to being available in book form, one could also order the digits on a series of punched cards. The main use of the tables was in statistics and the experimental design of scientific experiments, especially those which employed the ‘Monte Carlo method,’ a class of computational algorithms used in cryptography.

November 10, 2010



Xerostomia [zeer-uh-stoh-mee-uh] is the medical term for the subjective complaint of dry mouth due to a lack of saliva; sometimes colloquially called pasties, cottonmouth, drooth, doughmouth or des (like a desert). Xerostomia can cause difficulty in speech and eating. It also leads to halitosis and a dramatic rise in the number of cavities, as the protective effect of saliva’s remineralizing the enamel is no longer present, and can make the mucosa and periodontal tissue of the mouth more vulnerable to infection.

Notably, a symptom of heavy methamphetamine use usually called ‘meth mouth’ is largely caused by xerostomia which is worsened by the fact that methamphetamine at recreational doses can cause tight clenching of the jaw, bruxism (compulsive grinding of the teeth), or a repetitive ‘chewing’ movement like the user is chewing without food in the mouth.

November 10, 2010


Meta (from Greek: ‘after,’ ‘beyond,’ ‘with,’ ‘adjacent,’ ‘self’), is a prefix used in English to indicate a concept which is an abstraction from another concept, used to complete or add to the latter. In epistemology, the prefix meta is used to mean about (its own category). For example, metadata are data about data (who has produced them, when, what format the data are in and so on). Similarly, metamemory in psychology means an individual’s knowledge about whether or not they would remember something if they concentrated on recalling it.

Another, slightly different interpretation of this term is ‘about’ but not ‘on’ (exactly its own category). For example, in linguistics a grammar is considered as being expressed in a metalanguage, or a sort of language for describing another language (and not itself). In Greek, the prefix meta- is generally less esoteric than in English; Greek meta- is equivalent to the Latin words post- or ad-. The use of the prefix in this sense occurs occasionally in scientific English terms derived from Greek. For example: the term Metatheria (the name for the clade of marsupial mammals) uses the prefix meta- merely in the sense that the Metatheria occur on the tree of life adjacent to the Theria (the placental mammals).

November 10, 2010

FNG Syndrome


The term ‘Fucking New Guy‘ (FNG) is a derogatory term for new recruits, made popular by US troops in the Vietnam war. Every unit had an FNG, and the term was used across all unit types, from front line combat through to support and medical units. The term was not gender specific; female personnel could be FNGs as well.

FNGs were an important part of the group dynamic of US units in Vietnam and their treatment had at its core an overall sense of ‘us’ (those with experience of the war) and ‘them’ (those who were back in the United States). As one soldier said, FNGs were ‘still shitting stateside chow.’ It was in combat units that the FNG was truly ignored and hated by his colleagues. An FNG in a combat unit was ‘treated as a non-person, a pariah to be shunned and scorned, almost vilified, until he passed that magic, unseen line to respectability.’

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