Archive for March, 2015

March 30, 2015

David Miscavige

ron and david

David Miscavige (b. 1960) is the leader of the Church of Scientology. He was an assistant to church founder L. Ron Hubbard (a ‘Commodore’s messenger’) while a teenager, and rose to a leadership position by the early 1980s, becoming Chairman in 1987. He is lauded within Scientology for obtaining recognition as a tax-favored charity by the IRS, issuing restored and corrected editions of Hubbard’s works, and undertaking a program of new or remodeled churches and related facilities.

His official title is Chairman of the Board of Religious Technology Center (RTC), a corporation that controls the trademarks and copyrights of ‘Dianetics’ and Scientology. During his tenure, a number of allegations have been made against Miscavige, including claims of forced separation of family members, coercive fundraising practices, harassment of journalists and church critics, and humiliation of church staff members. He has also been accused of physically assaulting his staff. He has denied the majority of these claims, often criticizing the credibility of those who bring them.

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March 28, 2015



A Notel, also called Notetel, is a type of portable media player made in China which is popular in North Korea. The device has USB and SD ports, can play DVDs and EVDs (Enhanced Versatile Discs, which are physically identical to DVDs but use a different file format), and contains a radio and TV tuner. The name is a portmanteau of ‘notebook’ and ‘television.’ In China, Notels are no longer popular as of 2015, but sell well in the provinces that border on North Korea, where scarce internet and frequent power outages, as well as their ease of concealment make them very useful.

Notetels have been popular in North Korea since around 2005, significantly facilitating the extension of the ‘Korean Wave’ (‘Hallyu,’ the increase of the popularity of South Korean pop culture) into the communist country. After an earlier crackdown that caused black market prices to drop, the devices were legalized in December 2014 (however, they require a license and the government monitors their use). As of 2015 they are available in some government stores as well as on the black market (Jangmadang ) for around 300 Chinese Yuan (ca. US$ 50), and are present in about half of all households.

March 26, 2015

The Truman Show Delusion

truman by Gary Neill

The Truman Show delusion, informally known as Truman Syndrome, is a type of persecutory/grandiose delusion in which patients believe their lives are staged plays or reality television shows. The term was coined in 2008 by brothers Joel and Ian Gold, a psychiatrist and a neurophilosopher, respectively, after the 1998 film ‘The Truman Show,’ about a man who discovers he is living in a constructed reality televised globally around the clock. Since he was in the womb, all the people in Burbank’s life have been paid actors.

The concept predates this particular film. It was based on a 1989 episode of the ‘Twilight Zone,’ ‘Special Service,’ which begins with the protagonist discovering a camera in his bathroom mirror. This man soon learns that his life is being broadcast 24/7 on TV. Author Philip K. Dick has also written short stories and, most notably, a novel, ‘Time Out of Joint’ (1959), in which the protagonist lives in a created world in which his ‘family’ and ‘friends’ are paid to maintain the delusions.

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March 25, 2015

Basic Bitch

ugg life

Basic bitch (or simply ‘basic’) is a slang term in American popular culture used to pejoratively describe people who like popular, mainstream products or music. Interpretations of the term vary and its use has been criticized for being an overly vague and a misogynistic insult. Their male counterparts are usually termed ‘basic bros.’

The term was created by comedian Lil’ Duval in 2010. Over the next two years, it appeared in several American rap songs. In the songs ‘Hard in the Paint’ by Tyga and ‘I’m a Human Being’ by Lil Wayne, the singers insist that they are not basic bitches, while in the song ‘Basic Bitch’ by The Game, the singer warns others to avoid basic bitches because they are ‘fake.’ In 2011, rapper Kreayshawn debuted her song ‘Gucci Gucci,’ which included the chorus: ‘Gucci Gucci, Louis Louis, Fendi, Fendi Prada … basic bitches wear that shit so I don’t even bother.’

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March 24, 2015



Postdiction [pohst-dik-shuhn], also known as retroactive clairvoyance, is an effect of hindsight bias (the tendency to perceive events that have already occurred as having been more predictable than they actually were) that explains claimed predictions of significant events, such as plane crashes and natural disasters. In religious contexts it is frequently referred to by the Latin term ‘vaticinium ex eventu,’ or ‘foretelling after the event.’

Through this term, skeptics postulate that many biblical prophecies (and similar prophecies in other religions) appearing to have come true may have been written after the events supposedly predicted, or that their text or interpretation may have been modified after the event to fit the facts as they occurred.

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March 23, 2015



Yaeba [yah-ey-bah] is a term used to describe human teeth, especially upper canines, with an uncommonly fang-like appearance. In Japan it is perceived as a sign of youthfulness. For that reason, undergoing a body modification procedure to produce such an appearance for cosmetic purposes is gaining popularity among Japanese females

Cosmetic alterations to teeth have been practiced for centuries among many cultures throughout the world. In some cultures sharpening teeth is seen as a rite of passage for adolescents into adulthood.

March 22, 2015

Experience Machine


poor yorick

The Experience Machine or Pleasure Machine is a thought experiment put forward by philosopher Robert Nozick in his 1974 book ‘Anarchy, State, and Utopia.’ He describes a choice between everyday reality and an apparently preferable simulated reality as a refutation of ethical hedonism, the idea that people have the right to do everything in their power (that doesn’t infringe on others) to achieve the greatest amount of pleasure possible to them.

If the primary thesis of hedonism is that ‘pleasure is the good,’ then any component of life that is not pleasurable does nothing directly to increase one’s well-being. This is a view held by many value theorists (who study how, why, and to what degree people value things), but most famously by some classical utilitarians (who believe that the morally best action is the one that makes the most overall happiness or ‘utility’ (usefulness). Nozick argues that if he can show that there is something other than pleasure that has value and thereby increases our well-being, then hedonism is defeated.

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March 20, 2015

Pascal’s Mugging


In philosophy, Pascal’s mugging is a thought experiment demonstrating a problem in expected utility maximization. A rational agent should choose actions whose outcomes, when weighed by their probability, have higher utility. But some very unlikely outcomes may have very great utilities, and these utilities can grow faster than the probability diminishes. Hence the agent should focus more on vastly improbable cases with implausibly high rewards. The name refers to Pascal’s Wager (an argument by French mathematician Blaise Pascal that the potential cost of not believing in God is higher than the cost of believing), but unlike the wager does not require infinite rewards. This removes any objections to the dilemma that are based on the nature of infinity.

British philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s: ‘The greatest good for the greatest number’ formed the foundation of utilitarianism, which says that the morally best action is the one that makes the most overall happiness or ‘utility’ (usefulness). Pascal’s mugging points out that in extreme case this philosophy can fail. The term for this problem was coined by artificial intelligence researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky in the ‘Less Wrong’ internet forum and his original example was: ‘Now suppose someone comes to me and says, ‘Give me five dollars, or I’ll use my magic powers from outside the Matrix to run a Turing machine that simulates and kills [trillions of] people.’ Even though the chance of this actually happening is negligible, the threatened outcome is so large a rational agent must accede to the demand.

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March 17, 2015

Information Explosion

as we may think

The information explosion is the rapid increase in the amount of published information or data and the effects of this abundance. As the amount of available data grows, the problem of managing the information becomes more difficult, which can lead to information overload. The earliest use of the phrase seems to have been in an IBM advertising supplement to the ‘New York Times’ published on April 30, 1961, and by Frank Fremont-Smith, Director of the American Institute of Biological Sciences Interdisciplinary Conference Program. Techniques to gather knowledge from an overabundance of electronic information (e.g., data fusion may help in data mining) have existed since the 1970s.

Since ‘information’ in electronic media is often used synonymously with ‘data,’ the term ‘information explosion’ is closely related to the concept of ‘data flood’ (also dubbed ‘data deluge’), the ever-increasing amount of electronic data exchanged per time unit. The awareness about non-manageable amounts of data grew along with the advent of ever more powerful data processing since the mid-1960s. By August 2005, there were over 70 million web servers. Two years later there were over 135 million web servers. According to ‘Technorati,’ the number of blogs doubles about every 6 months with a total of 35.3 million blogs as of April 2006. This is an example of the early stages of logistic growth, where growth is approximately exponential, since blogs are a recent innovation. As the number of blogs approaches the number of possible producers (humans), saturation occurs, growth declines, and the number of blogs eventually stabilizes.

March 16, 2015

Blue Skies Research

pasteur quadrant

Vannevar Bush

Blue skies research is scientific research in domains where ‘real-world’ applications are not immediately apparent. It has been defined as ‘research without a clear goal’ and ‘curiosity-driven science.’ It is sometimes used interchangeably with the term ‘basic research.’ Proponents of this mode of science argue that unanticipated scientific breakthroughs are sometimes more valuable than the outcomes of agenda-driven research, heralding advances in genetics and stem cell biology as examples of unforeseen benefits of research that was originally seen as purely theoretical in scope. Because of the inherently uncertain return on investment, blue-sky projects are politically and commercially unpopular and tend to lose funding to more reliably profitable or practical research.

Raytheon founder Vannevar Bush’s 1945 report, ‘Science: The Endless Frontier,’ made the argument for the value of basic research in the postwar era, and was the basis for many appeals to the federal funding of basic research. The 1957 launch of Sputnik prompted the United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research to sponsor basic science research into the 1960s. By the 1970s, financial strains brought pressure on public expenditure on the sciences, first in the UK and the Netherlands, and by the 1990s in Germany and the US.

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March 15, 2015

Galápagos Syndrome

big in japan


Galápagos syndrome‘ (‘Garapagosu-ka’) is a term of Japanese origin, which refers to an isolated development branch of a globally available product. The term is a reference to similar phenomena Charles Darwin encountered in the Galápagos Islands, with its isolated flora and fauna, which were key observations in the development of Evolutionary Theory. The term was originally coined to refer to Japanese 3G mobile phones, which had developed a large number of specialized features and dominated Japan, but were unsuccessful abroad. The term arose as part of the dialog about Japan’s position as an island nation, and related anxiety about being isolated from the world at large. A derived term is ‘gara-kei’ (‘Galápagos cellphone’), used to refer to Japanese feature phones, which remain popular despite the emergence of smartphones.

The term has since been used for similar phenomena in other markets, such as the outdated usage of magnetic stripe for credit cards in the US, as everywhere else has moved onto using EMV smart cards. ‘It has been claimed that the indigenous American automotive industry has suffered from the Galapagos Syndrome – its products have evolved separately from the rest of the world.’ ‘The Galapagosization of Japan continues. A shocking two-thirds of the country’s white-collar workers said they didn’t want to work abroad…ever.’

March 14, 2015

Wrap Rage

frustration free

Wrap rage, also called package rage, is the common name for heightened levels of anger and frustration resulting from the inability to open hard-to-openpackaging, particularly some heat-sealed plastic blister packs and clamshells. People suffer thousands of injuries per year, such as cut fingers and sprained wrists, from tools used to open packages and from packaging itself, and in some cases damage the items they are trying to free from packaging. Easy-opening systems are available to improve package opening convenience.

Packaging sometimes must be made difficult to open. For example, regulations dictate that some over-the-counter drugs have tamper resistance to deter unauthorized opening prior to the intended customer and be in child-resistant packaging. Other packages are intentionally made difficult to open to reduce package pilferage and shoplifting. Hard plastic blister packs also protect the products while they are being shipped. In addition, using transparent plastic allows customers to view products directly before purchasing them.