Archive for April, 2015

April 30, 2015

World Currency

wocu

world currency

World currency normally refers to a currency that is transacted internationally, with no set borders, but an alternative definition refers to a hypothetical single global currency or supercurrency, such as the proposed ‘terra’ or the ‘DEY’ (Dollar Euro Yen), produced and supported by a central bank which is used for all transactions around the world, regardless of the nationality of the entities (individuals, corporations, governments, or other organizations) involved in the transaction.

Advocates of a global currency, notably famed economist John Maynard Keynes, have argued that such a currency would not suffer from inflation, which, in extreme cases, has had disastrous effects for economies. In addition, many argue that a single global currency would make conducting international business more efficient and would encourage foreign direct investment.

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April 29, 2015

United Federation of Planets

selfsealing stembolts

The United Federation of Planets, usually referred to as ‘the Federation,’ is an interstellar federal republic composed of planetary sovereignties depicted in the ‘Star Trek’ science fiction franchise. Formed in 2161, the planetary governments voluntarily exist semi-autonomously under a single central government based on the Utopian principles of universal liberty, rights, and equality, and to share their knowledge and resources in peaceful cooperation and space exploration.

The Federation is described a post-capitalist, libertarian, constitutional republic, which was composed of more than 150 member planets and thousands of colonies spread across some 6,000,000 cubic light years of the Milky Way Galaxy by 2373. The social structure within the Federation is classless and operates within a moneyless ‘New World Economy.’ It is described as stressing, at least nominally, the values of universal liberty, equality, justice, peace, and cooperation. The Federation also maintains its own quasi-militaristic and scientific exploratory agency, known as ‘Starfleet’ which handles many other governmental processes, sometimes with no other agency’s influence, such as border defense and diplomatic relations.

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April 28, 2015

Anti-proverb

fruit fly by Emily Grandin

An anti-proverb or a ‘perverb’ is the transformation of a standard proverb for humorous effect. Paremiologist (proverb scholar) Wolfgang Mieder defines them as ‘parodied, twisted, or fractured proverbs that reveal humorous or satirical speech play with traditional proverbial wisdom.’ They have also been defined as ‘an allusive distortion, parody, misapplication, or unexpected contextualization of a recognized proverb, usually for comic or satiric.’

To have full effect, an anti-proverb must be based on a known proverb. For example, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, quit’ is only funny if the hearer knows the standard proverb ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’ Anti-proverbs are used commonly in advertising, such as ‘Put your burger where your mouth is’ from Red Robin. Anti-proverbs are also common on T-shirts, such as ‘Taste makes waist’ and ‘If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.’

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April 27, 2015

Satyagraha

Charkha

gandhi

Satyagraha [suht-yuh-gruh-huh] is a term coined by Mahatma Gandhi to describe his particular philosophy and practice within the broader overall category generally known as nonviolent resistance or civil resistance. It loosely translates as ‘insistence on truth’ (Sanskrit: ‘satya’ ‘truth’; ‘agraha’ ‘polite insistence,’ or ‘holding firmly to’) or ‘truth force.’

He deployed satyagraha in the Indian independence movement and also during his earlier struggles in South Africa for Indian rights. Satyagraha theory influenced Nelson Mandela’s struggle in South Africa under apartheid, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaigns during the Civil Rights Movement in the US, and many other social justice and similar movements. Someone who practices satyagraha is a ‘satyagrahi.’

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April 23, 2015

War Before Civilization

noble savage

War Before Civilization: the Myth of the Peaceful Savage’ is a 1996 book by Lawrence H. Keeley, an archeology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who specializes in prehistoric Europe. The book deals with warfare conducted throughout human history by societies with little technology. In the book, Keeley aims to stop the apparent trend in seeing civilization as bad. According to Keeley, modern western societies are not more violent or war-prone than (historical) tribes. He conducted an investigation of the archaeological evidence for prehistoric violence, including murder and massacre as well as war. He also looked at nonstate societies of more recent times. It has long been known, for example, that many tribes of South America’s tropical forest engage in frequent and horrific warfare, but some scholars had attributed their addiction to violence to baneful Western influences.

He makes three conclusions which the ‘New York Times’ wrote were unexpected: ‘The most important part of any society, even the most war-like ones, are the peaceful aspects such as art; neither frequency nor intensity of war is correlated with population density; and societies frequently trading with one another fight more wars with one another.’ The Times said that ‘the book’s most dramatic payoff is its concluding explanation for the recent ‘pacification of the past’ by scholars,’ that ‘…revulsion with the excesses of World War II has led to a loss of faith in progress and Western civilization…’

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April 22, 2015

Stingray Phone Tracker

metadata

dont spy on me

The StingRay is an IMSI-catcher (International Mobile Subscriber Identity), a controversial cellular phone surveillance device, manufactured by the Harris Corporation. Initially developed for the military and intelligence community, the StingRay and similar Harris devices are in widespread use by local and state law enforcement agencies across the US. Stingray has also become a generic name to describe these kinds of devices.

The StingRay has with both passive (digital analyzer) and active (cell site simulator) capabilities. When operating in active mode, the device mimics a wireless carrier cell tower in order to force all nearby mobile phones and other cellular data devices to connect to it. The devices can be mounted on cars, airplanes, helicopters, and unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as carried by hand. They are primarily used for surveillance, but can also conduct denial of service attacks (radio jamming).

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April 21, 2015

Project Blue Book

ufos by paul r hill

Project Blue Book was one of a series of systematic studies of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) conducted by the United States Air Force. It started in 1952, and it was the third study of its kind (the first two were projects ‘Sign’ in 1947 and ‘Grudge’ in 1949). A termination order was given for the study in 1969. Project Blue Book had two goals: To determine if UFOs were a threat to national security, and To scientifically analyze UFO-related data. Thousands of UFO reports were collected, analyzed and filed.

As the result of the ‘Condon Report’ (1968), which concluded there was nothing anomalous about UFOs, Project Blue Book was ordered shut down in 1970. Ultimately, Project Blue Book stated that UFOs sightings were generated as a result of: hysteria, fraud, hoaxes, and misidentification. The Air Force continues to provide the following summary of its investigations: ‘There was no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as ‘unidentified’ were extraterrestrial vehicles.’ 

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April 20, 2015

Turnspit Dog

turnspit by Sarina Nihei

In medieval and early modern kitchens, the spit was the preferred way of cooking meat in a large household. A servant known as the ‘spit boy’ or ‘spit jack’ sat near the spit turning the metal rod slowly to cook the food evenly. Mechanical turnspits (‘roasting jacks’) were later invented and were first powered by dogs on treadmills (and then by steam power and mechanical clockwork mechanisms, and presently by electric motors). The Turnspit Dog was a short-legged, long-bodied dog bred to run on a wheel, called a ‘turnspit’ or ‘dog wheel.’

It is mentioned in ‘Of English Dogs’ in 1576 under the name ‘Turnespete.’ English naturalist William Bingley’s ‘Memoirs of British Quadrupeds’ (1809) also talks of a dog employed to help chefs, known as the ‘Kitchen Dog,’ the ‘Cooking Dog,’ the ‘Underdog,’ and the ‘Vernepator.’ In Swedish zoologist Carl Linnaeus’ 18th century classification of dogs it is listed as ‘Canis vertigus’ (‘spinning dog’). The breed was lost since it was considered to be such a lowly and common dog that no record was effectively kept of it. Some sources consider the Turnspit a kind of Glen of Imaal Terrier, others make it a relative of the Welsh Corgi.

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April 19, 2015

Block Chain

decentralized

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, an online payment system secured by cryptography, released by the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009. The system is peer-to-peer; users can transact directly without needing an intermediary. Transactions are verified by network nodes containing a public ledger called the block chain. Bitcoin nodes use the block chain to distinguish legitimate Bitcoin transactions from attempts to re-spend coins that have already been spent elsewhere. Bitcoin ‘mining’ is a record-keeping service. Miners keep the block chain consistent, complete, and unalterable by repeatedly verifying and collecting newly broadcast transactions into a new group of transactions called a ‘block.’

A new block contains information that ‘chains’ it to the previous block thus giving the block chain its name. It is a cryptographic hash (scrambled code that represents the block). Miners compute the hash functions to verify them for the network, a task that is intentionally designed to be resource-intensive and computationally difficult so that the number of blocks found each day remains steady.  Mining is also the mechanism used to introduce new coins into the system: Miners are paid transaction fees as well as a ‘subsidy’ of newly created coins. This both serves the purpose of disseminating new coins in a decentralized manner as well as motivating people to provide security for the system.

April 17, 2015

Terry Gross

Terry Gross by Greg Williams

Terry Gross (b. 1951) is the host and co-executive producer of ‘Fresh Air,’ an interview format radio show produced by ‘WHYY-FM,’ the flagship National Public Radio (NPR) station in Philadelphia. The show is broadcast nationally by NPR. Gross has won praise over the years for her low-key and friendly yet often probing interview style and for the diversity of her guests. She has a reputation for researching her guests’ work largely the night before an interview, often asking them unexpected questions about their early careers.

Gross grew up in a Jewish family in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in communications from SUNY, Buffalo. She began a teaching career, but said that she was ‘totally unequipped’ for the job, and was fired after only six weeks. Gross began her radio career in 1973 at ‘WBFO,’ a public radio station in Buffalo, where she had been volunteering. In 1975, she moved to WHYY-FM in Philadelphia to host and produce ‘Fresh Air,’ which was a local interview program at the time. In 1985, the show went national, being distributed weekly by NPR. It became a daily program two years later.

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April 16, 2015

Mosquito Alarm

buzz off

teen buzz

‘The Mosquito’ or Mosquito alarm is an electronic device used to deter loitering by young people by emitting sound at high frequency that older people have lost the ability to hear. It has two frequency settings, one of approximately 17.4 kHz that can generally be heard only by young people, and another at 8 kHz that can be heard by most people. The maximum potential output sound pressure level is stated by the manufacturer to be 108 decibels. The range of the sound is 140 feet with the sound baffle, and 200 feet without. 

The sound can typically only be heard by people below 25 years of age, as the ability to hear high frequencies deteriorates with age (a phenomenon known as presbycusis). Crafty teenagers turned the sounds into a mobile phone ringtone, which could not be heard by older teachers if the phone rang during a class. Mobile phone speakers are capable of producing frequencies above 20 kHz. This ringtone became informally known as ‘Teen Buzz’ or ‘the Mosquito ringtone’ and has since been sold commercially.

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April 15, 2015

Active Traffic Management

Smart motorway

Active traffic management (ATM, also known as, ‘smart lanes’ or ‘managed motorway’) is method of increasing peak capacity and smoothing traffic flows on busy major highways. Techniques include variable speed limits, hard-shoulder running (use of the shoulder as a travel lane during congested periods) and ramp-metering (traffic lights at entrance ramps regulating the flow of incoming traffic). Drivers are alerted to changing conditions by overhead, electronic signs.

It is currently in operation in Birmingham, England. The scheme had initially been criticized by some due to possible safety and environmental concerns, however a Highways Agency report into the first six months of the scheme showed a reduction in the number of accidents and the system was expanded to other highways in the UK. It is seen as a less expensive alternative to widening a road.

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