Archive for July 18th, 2011

July 18, 2011

Kondratiev Wave

k-wave

Kondratiev waves (also called supercycles, great surges, or long waves) are described as sinusoidal-like cycles in the modern capitalist world economy. Averaging fifty and ranging from approximately forty to sixty years in length, the cycles consist of alternating periods between high sectoral growth and periods of relatively slow growth. Unlike the short-term business cycle, the long wave of this theory is not accepted by current mainstream economics.

Russian economist Nikolai Kondratiev (1892 – 1938) was the first to bring these observations to international attention in his book ‘The Major Economic Cycles’ (1925). Kondratiev was a Russian economist, but his economic conclusions were disliked by the Soviet leadership and upon their release he was quickly dismissed from his post as director of the Institute for the Study of Business Activity in the Soviet Union in 1928. His conclusions were seen as a criticism of Joseph Stalin’s intentions for the Soviet economy. As a result he was sentenced to the Soviet Gulag and later received the death penalty in 1938.

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July 18, 2011

Tiger Team

sneakers

A tiger team is a group of experts assigned to investigate and/or solve technical or systemic problems. The term may have originated in aerospace design but is also used in other settings, including information technology and emergency management. It has been described as ‘a team of undomesticated and uninhibited technical specialists, selected for their experience, energy, and imagination, and assigned to track down relentlessly every possible source of failure in a spacecraft subsystem.’ In security work, a tiger team is a specialized group that tests an organization’s ability to protect its assets by attempting to circumvent, defeat, or otherwise thwart that organization’s internal and external security. The term originated within the military to describe a team whose purpose is to penetrate security of ‘friendly’ installations to test security measures. It now more generally refers to any team that attacks a problem aggressively.

Many tiger teams are informally constituted through managerial edicts. One of these was set up in NASA circa 1966 to solve the ‘Apollo Navigation Problem. Technology at the time was unable to navigate Apollo at the level of precision mandated by the mission planners. Tests using radio tracking data were revealing errors of 2000 meters instead of the 200 that the mission required to safely land Apollo when descending from its lunar orbit. Five tiger teams were set up to find and correct the problem, one at each NASA center, from CalTech JPL in the west to Goddard SFC in the east. The Russians via Luna 10 were also well aware of this problem. The JPL found a solution in 1968; the problem was caused by the unexpectedly large local gravity anomalies on the moon arising from large ringed maria, mountain ranges and craters on the moon. This also led to the construction of the first detailed gravimetric map of a body other than the earth and the discovery of the lunar mass concentrations.

July 18, 2011

Hack Value

roomba revised by christoph niemann

Hack value is the notion among hackers that something is worth doing or is interesting. This is something that hackers often feel intuitively about a problem or solution; the feeling approaches the spiritual for some. An aspect of hack value is performing feats for the sake of showing that they can be done, even if others think it is difficult. Using things in a unique way outside their intended purpose is often perceived as having hack value. Examples are using a matrix printer to produce musical notes, using a flatbed scanner to take ultra-high-resolution photographs or using an optical mouse as barcode reader.

A solution or feat implies hack value if it is done in a way that has finesse or ingenuity. So creativity is an important part of the meaning. For example, picking a difficult lock has hack value; smashing a lock does not. By way of another example, proving Fermat’s last theorem by linking together most of modern mathematics has hack value; solving the four color map problem by exhaustively trying all possibilities does not (both of these have now in fact been proven).

July 18, 2011

Kludge

workaround

A kludge [klooj] is a workaround, a quick-and-dirty solution, a clumsy or inelegant, yet effective, solution to a problem, typically using parts that are cobbled together. The present word has alternate spellings (kludge and kluge) and pronunciations (rhyming with fudge and stooge respectively), and several proposed etymologies.

Kluge was common Navy slang in the WWII era for any piece of electronics that worked well on shore but consistently failed at sea. In aerospace design a kluge was a temporary design using separate commonly available components that were not flight worthy to proof the design.

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