Archive for April, 2020

April 30, 2020

Payot

Shaving in Judaism

Payot [pey-oht] is the Hebrew word for sidelocks or sideburns. Payot are worn by some men and boys in the Orthodox Jewish community based on an interpretation of the Biblical injunction against shaving the ‘corners’ of one’s head. Literally, ‘pe’ah’ means ‘corner, side, edge.’

There are different styles of payot among Hasidic, Yemenite, and Chardal (Zionist Israeli) Jews. Yemenite Jews call their sidelocks ‘simonim,’ literally, ‘signs,’ because their long-curled sidelocks served as a distinguishing feature in the Yemenite society (differentiating them from their non-Jewish neighbors).

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April 26, 2020

Zombie Satellite

LES-5

zombie satellite is a satellite that is no longer under human control due to an extended malfunction. At the end of their service life, the majority of satellites suffer from orbital decay and are destroyed by the heat of atmospheric entry. Zombie satellites, however, maintain a stable orbit but are either partially or completely inoperable, preventing operators from communicating with them.

One of the oldest known zombie satellites is Transit 5B-5, which was launched in 1965 as part of the Transit system. Also known as NAVSAT or NNSS (for Navy Navigation Satellite System), it is one of the first satellite navigation systems (or satnav). Transit 5B-5 is nuclear powered and still in a stable polar orbit, though operators are unable to control it.

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April 20, 2020

Dueling Scar

Academic fencing

Dueling scars have been seen as a ‘badge of honor’ since as early as 1825. Known variously as ‘Mensur scars,’ ‘the bragging scar,’ ‘smite,’ or ‘Schmitte,’ dueling scars were popular among upper-class Austrians and Germans involved in academic fencing at the start of the 20th century.

Among university students, it was seen as a mark of their class and honor. It is an early example of scarification (body modification) in European society. The practice of dueling and the associated scars was also present to some extent in the German military.

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April 16, 2020

Tensegrity

Skylon by George Morrow

Tensegrity [ten-seg-ri-tee], tensional integrity or floating compression is a structural principle based on a system of isolated components under compression inside a network of continuous tension, and arranged in such a way that the compressed members (usually bars or struts) do not touch each other while the prestressed tensioned members (usually cables or tendons) delineate the system spatially.

The term was coined by inventor Buckminster Fuller in the 1960s as a portmanteau of ‘tensional integrity.’ The other denomination of tensegrity, floating compression, was used mainly by the constructivist artist Kenneth Snelson. Shorter columns or struts in compression are stronger than longer ones. This in turn led Fuller to make claims that tensegrity structures could be scaled up to cover whole cities.

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April 15, 2020

Pumpernickel

rugbroed

Pumpernickel [puhm-per-nik-uhl] is a typically heavy, slightly sweet rye bread traditionally made with sourdough starter and coarsely ground rye. It is often made today with a combination of rye flour and whole rye grains.

Some mass produced pumpernickel in North America may incorporate natural colorants such as molasses, caramel color, coffee, or cocoa powder among others to imitate the various shades of brown of traditional German pumpernickel, which is derived from long baking times and the maillard reaction (a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars).

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April 9, 2020

Lies, Damned lies, and Statistics

How to Lie with Statistics

Lies, damned lies, and statistics‘ is a phrase describing the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments. It is also used colloquially to doubt statistics cited to prove an opponent’s point.

The phrase derives from the full sentence, ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.’ It was popularized by Mark Twain and others, who mistakenly attributed it to the British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli. The true originator is uncertain, but it has, at times, been attributed to an anonymous writer in mid-1891 and later that year to English politician Sir Charles Dilke.

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April 7, 2020

Terpene

Entourage effect

Terpenes [tur-peens] are a large and diverse class of organic compounds (carbon-based chemicals), produced by a variety of plants, particularly conifers (evergreens), and by some insects. They often have a strong odor and may protect the plants that produce them by deterring herbivores and by attracting predators and parasites of herbivores.

Terpenes have gained public awareness through the growth and education of medical and recreational cannabis. Organizations and companies operating in cannabis markets have pushed education and marketing of terpenes in their products as a way to differentiate taste and effects of cannabis. The entourage effect, which describes the synergy of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other plant compounds, has also helped further awareness and demand for terpenes in cannabis products.

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April 4, 2020

Saturday Night Special

Raven Arms

Rohm Gesellschaft

Saturday night special is a colloquial term for inexpensive, compact, small-caliber handguns of perceived low quality. Some states define these junk guns by means of composition or material strength. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, they were commonly referred to as ‘suicide specials.’ Although the term implies such a gun is for use in crime, studies show that criminals prefer high-quality guns, in the largest caliber they can easily conceal.

The legal definition of a ‘junk gun’ usually specifies the materials used in its manufacture, targeting zinc castings, low melting points (usually 800 degrees Fahrenheit), powder metallurgy, and other low-cost manufacturing techniques. Nearly all guns made this way are chambered for low-pressure cartridges. The low-strength materials and cheap construction result in poor durability and marginal accuracy at longer ranges, but as most of these guns are sold for use in self-defense, accuracy and durability are not primary design goals.

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