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September 21, 2015

Trigger Warning

trigger warnings by Nishant Choks

trigger warning

Trigger warnings are disclaimers that content contains strong writing or images which could unsettle those with mental health difficulties. Angus Johnston, a history professor at the City University of New York, said that trigger warnings can be a part of ‘sound pedagogy,’ noting that students encountering potentially triggering material are ‘coming to it as whole people with a wide range of experiences, and that the journey we’re going on together may at times be painful. It’s not coddling them to acknowledge that. In fact, it’s just the opposite.’

However, students at UC Santa Barbara passed a resolution in support of mandatory trigger warnings for classes that could contain potentially upsetting material. Professors would be required to alert students of such material and allow them to skip classes that could make them feel uncomfortable.

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June 6, 2014

Hormonal Sentience

the intelligent plant

Hormonal [hawr-moh-nlsentience [sen-shuhns], first described by nanotechnology researcher Robert A. Freitas Jr., describes the information processing rate in plants, which are mostly based on hormones instead of neurons like in all major animals (except sponges). Plants can to some degree communicate with each other and there are even examples of one-way-communication with animals.

Acacia trees produce tannin to defend themselves when they are grazed upon by animals. The airborne scent of the tannin is picked up by other acacia trees, which then start to produce it themselves to ward off nearby grazers. When attacked by caterpillars, some plants can release chemical signals to attract parasitic wasps that attack the caterpillars.

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May 21, 2014

Circular Reporting


Echo Chamber by colin raney

In source criticism, circular reporting or false confirmation is a situation where a piece of information appears to come from multiple independent sources, but in fact is coming from only one source. In most cases, the problem happens mistakenly through sloppy intelligence gathering practices, but in a few cases, the situation is intentionally caused by the original source. This problem occurs in variety of fields, including intelligence gathering, journalism, and scholarly research. It is of particular concern in military intelligence because the original source has a higher likelihood of wanting to pass on misinformation, and because the chain of reporting is more liable to being obscured.

Wikipedia is sometimes criticized for being used as a source of circular reporting, and thus advises all researchers and journalists to be wary of using it as a direct source, and to instead focus on verifiable information found in an article’s cited references. In 2008 an American student edited wikipedia in jest, writing that the coati (a small mammal in the raccoon family) was ‘also known as….the Brazilian aardvark,’ resulting in many subsequently citing and using that unsubstantiated nickname as part of the general consensus, including an article in ‘The Independent.’

November 10, 2013



Jiro [jee-roh] Ono is an 85-year-old sushi master and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 3 Michelin star sushi restaurant in Tokyo. He was the subject of a 2011 documentary, ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi.’ The film also profiles Jiro’s two sons, both of whom are also sushi chefs.

The younger son, Takashi, left Sukiyabashi Jiro to open a mirror image of his father’s restaurant in Roppongi Hills. The 50-year-old elder son, Yoshikazu, obligated to succeed his father, still works for Jiro and is faced with the prospect of one day taking over the flagship restaurant.

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October 2, 2013

Feature Creep

Feature creep by Christoph Neimann

Feature creep (also known as ‘creeping featurism’ or ‘featuritis’) is the unchecked expansion or addition of new features in a product. Such features go beyond the basic function of the product and so can result in over-complication rather than simple design. The most common cause of feature creep is the desire to provide the consumer with a more useful or desirable product, in order to increase sales or distribution.

However, once the product reaches the point at which it does everything that it is designed to do, the manufacturer is left with the choice of adding unneeded functions, sometimes at the cost of efficiency, or sticking with the old version, at the cost of a perceived lack of improvement. Another major cause of feature creep might be a compromise from a committee which decides to implement multiple, different viewpoints in the same product. Then, as more features are added to support each viewpoint, it might be necessary to have cross-conversion features between the multiple viewpoints, further complicating the total features.

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August 25, 2013


shylock by andy friedman

Shylock [shahy-lok] is a fictional Jewish moneylender in Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’ who lends money to his Christian rival, Antonio, setting the security at a pound of Antonio’s flesh. When a bankrupt Antonio defaults on the loan, Shylock demands the pound of flesh as revenge for Antonio having previously insulted and spat on him.

Meanwhile, Shylock’s daughter, Jessica, elopes with Antonio’s friend Lorenzo and becomes a Christian, further fuelling his rage. She also takes money and jewels from Shylock. During Shakespeare’s day, money lending was a fairly common occupation among Jews because usury, charging interest on a loan, was a sin for Christians at the time.

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June 13, 2013

Scare Quotes

scare quotes

air quotes

Scare quotes are quotation marks placed around a word or phrase to imply that it may not signify its apparent meaning or that it is not necessarily the way the quoting person would express its concept.

Use of the term appears to have arisen at some point during the first half of the 20th century. In books it appears as early as 1946 in ‘Southern California: An Island on the Land’ by Carey McWilliams and in the 1950s in academic literature.

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June 10, 2013

Celebrity Centres

Celebrity Centre by kirsten ulve

Celebrity Centres are Church of Scientology facilities that are open to the public but serve mostly artists and celebrities and other ‘professionals, leaders and promising new-comers in the fields of the arts, sports, management and government,’ as ‘those are the people who are sculpting the present into the future.’ The Celebrity Centre International was established in Hollywood, California, in 1969 by Yvonne Gillham, a Sea Org member who worked with L. Ron Hubbard. Since then, other centres have been established in New York, London, Paris and a number of other cities across the world.

The Church often quotes L. Ron Hubbard saying that, ‘A culture is only as great as its dreams and its dreams are dreamed by artists,’ citing this as the reason that Celebrity Centres were established — to create a good environment for ‘artists.’ Critics of Scientology point to Hubbard’s launch of ‘Project Celebrity’ in 1955 to recruit celebrities into the church, and that the centres were established as an extension of this initial purpose. The church denies the existence of policy to actively recruit high-ranking celebrities.

April 29, 2013

Reverse Racism

beer summit

Reverse racism is a term which refers to racial prejudice or discrimination directed against members of one’s own race. The term came into use as the struggle for African-American rights divided the white community.

In 1966, Hosea Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), publicly accused members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) of reverse racism in their efforts to exclude or expel whites from local government in Alabama to make room for blacks. Williams argued that SNCC’s (unsuccessful) ‘all-black’ campaign in Alabama would drive white moderates out of the civil rights movement. ‘Black racism’ was a more common term in this era, used to describe SNCC and groups like the Black Panthers.

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March 15, 2013

Saul Griffith

saul griffith


Saul Griffith is an Australian American inventor. He is best known for his inexpensive technique for making prescription eyeglasses. This method uses two flexible surfaces and a pourable resin. Saul Griffith was born into an academic family, and encouraged to question all around him, to experiment as a process of learning, and to communicate effectively.

He won a scholarship to study Material Science at the University of New South Wales where he graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor of Metallurgical Engineering. In 2000, Griffith graduated from the University of Sydney with a Master of Engineering degree. He won a scholarship to MIT Media Lab to study towards a PhD that he completed in 2004. The subject of his PhD Thesis was ‘self replicating machines.’ They were one of the first instances of artificial replication being demonstrated using real physics.

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March 5, 2013



Mat is a term for strong obscene profanity in Russian and some other Slavic language communities. Mat is censored in the media and the use of mat in public constitutes a form of disorderly conduct, or mild hooliganism (although, such laws are only enforced episodically, in particular due to the vagueness of the legal definition).

However, despite the public ban, mat is used by Russians of all ages and nearly all social groups, with particular fervor in male-dominated military and the structurally similar social strata.

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January 8, 2013

Decline Effect

decline effect by laurent cilluffo

The decline effect may occur when scientific claims receive decreasing support over time. The term was first described by parapsychologist Joseph Banks Rhine in the 1930s to describe the disappearing of extrasensory perception (ESP) of psychic experiments conducted by Rhine over the course of study or time. The term was once again used in a 2010 article by Jonah Lehrer published in ‘The New Yorker.’

In his article, Lehrer gives several examples where the decline effect is allegedly showing. In the first example, the development of second generation anti-psychotic drugs, reveals that the first tests had demonstrated a dramatic decrease in the subjects’ psychiatric symptoms. However, after repeating tests this effect declined and in the end it was not possible to document that these drugs had any better effect than the first generation anti-psychotics.

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