Archive for March 14th, 2012

March 14, 2012

Sloane Ranger

sloane ranger handbook

The term Sloane Ranger refers to a stereotype in the UK of young, upper class or upper-middle-class women, or men who share distinctive and common lifestyle traits. The term is a punning combination of ‘Sloane Square,’ a location in Chelsea, London famed for the wealth of residents and frequenters, and the television Westerns character ‘The Lone Ranger.’

Initially the term was used mostly in reference to women, a particular archetype being Lady Diana Spencer before marrying The Prince of Wales, when she was an aristocrat from the Spencer family. However, the term now usually includes men. Male Sloanes have also been referred to as ‘Ra Ra Ruperts’ (or, simply, ‘Rah’ for short) and ‘Hooray Henrys.’ The term Sloane Ranger has similar related terms in other countries: in France they are called ‘BCBG’ (‘bon chic, bon genre’ – ‘good style’ ‘good attitude’). The Preppy of the United States can appear similar to the Sloane Ranger at first glance, but in fact they are different in their ideologies and aspirations.

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March 14, 2012

Upper Class Twit of the Year

upper class twit

The Upper Class Twit of the Year is a classic comedy sketch that was seen on the TV show ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus,’ and also in a modified format as the finale of the movie ‘And Now For Something Completely Different.’ It is notable for its savage satire on dim-witted members of the English upper class. The sketch features horse race style commentary by John Cleese about an obstacle-course race among five stereotypical, upper-class twits (imbeciles), to determine the 127th Annual Upper-Class Twit of the Year.

The obstacles include: Kicking The Beggar (the Twits must approach a beggar with a tray and kick him until he falls over); Reversing Into The Old Lady (the Twits must get into their sports cars and reverse them into a cardboard cut-out of an old lady, then speed off; into Waking The Neighbor (the Twits must drive their cars forward and then try to wake up a neighbor (who is attempting to get some sleep) by slamming their doors, tooting their horns, etc. Finally, the Twits approach a table with five revolvers on it. The winner is the first Twit to shoot himself. The three coffins of the winning Twits are placed on the medal rostrum and medals are draped around them. Cleese ends his commentary by remarking that ‘there’ll certainly be some car door slamming in the streets of Kensington tonight.’

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March 14, 2012

And Now for Something Completely Different

monty python

And Now for Something Completely Different is a film spin-off from the television comedy series ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ featuring favorite sketches from the first two seasons. The title was used as a catchphrase in the television show. The film, released in 1971, consists of 90 minutes of the best sketches seen in the first two series of the television show. The sketches were remade on film without an audience, and were intended for an American audience which had not yet seen the series. The announcer (John Cleese) uses the phrase ‘and now for something completely different’ several times during the film, in situations such as being roasted on a spit and lying on top of the desk in a small, pink bikini.

This was the Pythons’ first feature film, of sketches re-shot on an extremely low budget (and often slightly edited) for cinema release. Some famous sketches included are: the ‘Dead Parrot’ sketch, ‘The Lumberjack Song,’ ‘Upperclass Twits,’ ‘Hell’s Grannies,’ and the ‘Nudge Nudge’ sketch. Financed by Playboy’s UK executive Victor Lownes, it was intended as a way of breaking Monty Python in America, and although it was ultimately unsuccessful in this, the film did good business in the UK. The group did not consider the film a success, but it enjoys a cult following today.

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March 14, 2012

Menger Sponge

In mathematics, the Menger [meng-ersponge is a fractal curve. It is a universal curve, in that it has topological dimension one, and any other curve (more precisely: any compact metric space of topological dimension 1) is homeomorphic to some subset of it.

It is sometimes called the Menger-Sierpinski sponge or the Sierpinski sponge. It is a three-dimensional extension of the Cantor set and Sierpinski carpet. It was first described by Karl Menger (1926) while exploring the concept of topological dimension. The Menger sponge simultaneously exhibits an infinite surface area and encloses zero volume.

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March 14, 2012

Methuselah Foundation

SENS

Methuselah

The Methuselah [muh-thoo-zuh-luhFoundation studies methods of extending lifespan. It is a non-profit volunteer organization, co-founded by Aubrey de Grey and David Gobel, based in Virginia. Activities of the foundation include ‘My Bridge 4 Life,’ a community tool designed to help people deal with the different diseases of aging; the Mprize, a monetary prize given to anyone who efficiently rejuvenates and/or extends the healthy lifespan of mice, and various collaborative projects under the umbrella concept of MLife Sciences. The foundation takes it name from the Biblical character whose name is commonly used to refer to any living organism reaching great age.

In 2003, de Grey and Gobel cofounded The Mprize (known then as the ‘Methuselah Mouse Prize’), a prize designed to accelerate research into effective life extension interventions by awarding monetary prizes to researchers who extend the healthy lifespan of mice to unprecedented lengths. Regarding this, de Grey stated in 2005, ‘if we are to bring about real regenerative therapies that will benefit not just future generations, but those of us who are alive today, we must encourage scientists to work on the problem of aging.’ The prize is currently $4 million. The foundation believes that if reversing of aging can be exhibited in mice, an enormous amount of funding would be made available for similar research in humans, potentially including a massive government project similar to the Human Genome Project, or by private for-profit companies.

March 14, 2012

Superintelligence

hal9000

marvin

A superintelligence is a hypothetical entity which possesses intelligence surpassing that of any existing human being. Superintelligence may also refer to the specific form or degree of intelligence possessed by such an entity. The highest ranges of Intelligence are evaluative. The possibility of superhuman intelligence is frequently discussed in the context of artificial intelligence. Increasing natural intelligence through genetic engineering or brain-computer interfacing is a common motif in futurology and science fiction.

Collective intelligence is often regarded as a pathway to superintelligence or as an existing realization of the phenomenon. Superintelligence is defined as an ‘intellect that is much smarter than the best human brains in practically every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom and social skills.’ The definition does not specify the means by which superintelligence could be achieved: whether biological, technological, or some combination. Neither does it specify whether or not superintelligence requires self-consciousness or experience-driven perception.

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March 14, 2012

Omega Point

phenomene humain

Omega Point is a term coined by the French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955) to describe a maximum level of complexity and consciousness towards which he believed the universe was evolving.

In this theory, developed by Teilhard in ‘The Future of Man’ (1950), the universe is constantly developing towards higher levels of material complexity and consciousness, a theory of evolution that Teilhard called the Law of Complexity/Consciousness. For Teilhard, the universe can only move in the direction of more complexity and consciousness if it is being drawn by a supreme point of complexity and consciousness.

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March 14, 2012

Accelerating Change

In futures studies and the history of technology, accelerating change is a perceived increase in the rate of technological (and sometimes social and cultural) progress throughout history, which may suggest faster and more profound change in the future. While many have suggested accelerating change, the popularity of this theory in modern times is closely associated with various advocates of the technological singularity (the emergence of greater-than-human intelligence through technological means), such as Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil.

In 1938, Buckminster Fuller introduced the word ephemeralization to describe the trends of ‘doing more with less’ in chemistry, health and other areas of industrial development. In 1946, Fuller published a chart of the discoveries of the chemical elements over time to highlight the development of accelerating acceleration in human knowledge acquisition. In 1958, Stanisław Ulam wrote in reference to a conversation with John von Neumann: One conversation centered on the ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.’

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March 14, 2012

Second Half of the Chessboard

exponential

The rice and chessboard problem is a mathematical problem: If a chessboard were to have rice placed upon each square such that one grain were placed on the first square, two on the second, four on the third, and so on (doubling the number of grains on each subsequent square), how many grains of rice would be on the chessboard at the finish? The answer is 18,446,744,073,709,551,615, which would be a heap of rice larger than Mount Everest.

This problem (or a variation of it) demonstrates the quick growth of exponential sequences. In technology strategy, ‘the second half of the chessboard’ is a phrase, coined by Ray Kurzweil, in reference to the point where an exponentially growing factor begins to have a significant economic impact on an organization’s overall business strategy. While the number of grains on the first half of the chessboard is large, the amount on the second half is vastly larger. The first square of the second half alone contains more grains than the entire first half.

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March 14, 2012

Metcalfe’s Law

metcalfe network

Metcalfe’s law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system. First formulated in this form by George Gilder in 1993, and attributed to Robert Metcalfe in regard to Ethernet, Metcalfe’s law was originally presented, circa 1980, not in terms of users, but rather of ‘compatible communicating devices’ such as telephones.

Only more recently with the launch of the internet did this law carry over to users and networks, in line with its original intent. The law has often been illustrated using the example of fax machines: a single fax machine is useless, but the value of every fax machine increases with the total number of machines in the network, because the total number of people with whom each user may send and receive documents increases. Likewise, in social networks, the greater number of users with the service, the more valuable the service becomes to the community.