Search Results for “slate.com”

October 16, 2015

Scam Baiting

419eater

419 scam by Robert Neubecker

Scam baiting is a form of Internet vigilantism, where the vigilante poses as a potential victim to the scammer in order to waste their time and resources, gather information that will be of use to authorities, and publicly expose the scammer. It is primarily used to thwart advance-fee fraud scams (e.g. ‘Nigerian Prince’ scams) and can be done out of a sense of civic duty (activism) by documenting scammers tools and methods, warning potential victims, or taking down fake websites.

A bait is very simply initiated, by answering a scam email, from a throwaway email account, i.e. one that is only used for baiting and untraceable back to the actual owner. The baiter then pretends to be receptive to the financial hook that the scammer is using, but requires increasingly ridiculous forms of security from the scammer before turning over funds. Scam baiters typically use jest in their attacks. However, some scam baiters have been accused of abject mockery, racism, and homophobia, and even scamming themselves.

October 3, 2015

Joshua Foer

Moonwalking with Einstein

Adderall Me

Joshua Foer (b. 1982) is a freelance journalist living in Connecticut, with a primary focus on hard sciences. He was the 2006 USA Memory Champion, whichwas described in his 2011 book, ‘Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything.’ Foer set a new US record in the ‘speed cards’ event by memorizing a deck of 52 cards in 1 minute and 40 seconds. His book describes his journey from participatory journalist to national champion mnemonist, under the tutelage of British Grand Master of Memory, Ed Cooke. Penguin paid a $1.2 million advance for publishing rights, and the film rights were optioned by Columbia Pictures shortly after publication.

Foer was born in Washington, DC to Esther Foer, Director of Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, and Albert Foer, the president of the American Antitrust Institute, an antitrust watchdog. He is the younger brother of former ‘The New Republic’ editor Franklin Foer and novelist Jonathan Safran Foer. Josh has organized several websites and organizations based on his interests. He created the ‘Athanasius Kircher Society,’ which had only one session, featuring savant Kim Peek and proto-astronaut Joseph Kittinger. He is the co-founder of the ‘Atlas Obscura,’ an online compendium of ‘The World’s Wonders, Curiosities, and Esoterica.’ He is also a co-organizer of ‘Sukkah City’ a Kosher architectural design competition, and Sefaria, a non-profit dedicated to building digital experiences and infrastructure for Jewish texts.

November 3, 2014

Near-death Experience

heaven help us by Alex Eben Meyer

Near-death experiences (NDE) are associated with several common phenomena such as feelings of detachment from the body, levitation, serenity, security, warmth, dissolution, and bright light. These sensations are usually reported after an individual has been pronounced clinically dead or has been very close to death. With recent developments in cardiac resuscitation techniques, the number of reported NDEs has increased. According to a 1992 Gallup poll, approximately eight million Americans claim to have had a near-death experience. Popular interest in the topic was initially sparked by psychiatrist Raymond Moody’s 1975 book ‘Life After Life,’ in which he interviewed 150 people who had undergone NDEs.

In 1981, the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) was founded and the following year began publishing the ‘Journal of Near-Death Studies,’ the only peer-reviewed journal in the field. Research from neuroscience considers the NDE to be a hallucination resulting from one or more of several conditions including cerebral anoxia (insufficient oxygen to the brain), hypercarbia (elevated carbon dioxide in the blood), or damage to the temporal lobes (which are responsible for giving meaning to events). Spiritual thinkers and an parapsychologists have long pointed to NDEs as evidence for an afterlife and mind-body dualism.

read more »

August 30, 2014

Superhuman

wim hof

Human echolocation

A superhuman is a person with extraordinary and unusual capabilities enabling feats beyond anything a layperson could conceivably achieve, even through extensive training. Superhuman can mean an improved human, for example, by genetic modification, cybernetic implants, nanotechnology, or natural evolution. Occasionally, it could mean an otherwise ‘normal’ human with purported super-abilities, such as psychic/psionic powers, levitation or flight, herculean strength, or unique proficiency at some task.

Superhuman can also mean something that is not human, but considered to be ‘superior’ to humans in some ways. This might include a robot that easily passed the Turing test (an indicator of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior) that possessed greater than human strength, which is already common in robots today. A very intelligent or strong alien could be considered superhuman. In its most basic sense it means anything beyond (typical) human capabilities, e.g. a tiger may be described as having ‘superhuman strength.’

read more »

June 17, 2014

Letter and Spirit of the Law

scalia

pound of flesh

The letter of the law versus the spirit of the law is an idiomatic antithesis (a common expression where two opposites are introduced for contrasting effect): When one obeys the letter of the law but not the spirit, one is obeying the literal interpretation of the words (the ‘letter’) of the law, but not the intent of those who wrote the law. Conversely, when one obeys the spirit of the law but not the letter, one is doing what the authors of the law intended, though not necessarily adhering to the literal wording.

‘Law’ originally referred to legislative statute, but in the idiom may refer to any kind of rule. Intentionally following the letter of the law but not the spirit may be accomplished through exploiting technicalities, loopholes, and ambiguous language.

read more »

October 28, 2013

Pharmacy Automation

robot invasion

Omnicell

Pharmacy automation is the automation of tasks performed in pharmacy: measuring and mixing powders and liquids for compounding; tracking and updating customer information in databases (e.g. personally identifiable information, medical history, drug interaction risk detection); inventory management; and dispensing of medication.

read more »

September 27, 2013

Ding Zui

Ding zui

Ding zui is the Chinese practice of hiring impostors or body doubles to stand trial and receive punishment in one’s place. The term translates as ‘substitute criminal,’ and is reported to be a relatively common practice among China’s wealthy elite. Accusations of ding zui surfaced in 2012 during the trial of Gu Kailai. The term ‘body double’ quickly became popular on Chinese Internet fora, and Chinese authorities attempted to censor related messages. Similar allegations had arisen in 2009 after the trial Hu Bin.

September 13, 2013

Kirk/Spock

kirk spock

Kirk/Spock (K/S) refers to the pairing of James T. Kirk and Spock from ‘Star Trek’ in slash fiction (erotic fan fiction), possibly the first slash pairing according to media scholar Henry Jenkins. Early on, a few fan writers started speculating about the possibility of a sexual relationship between Kirk and Spock, adding a romantic or a ‘sexual element’ to the friendship between the men.

As of 1998, ‘most’ academic studies on slash focused on Kirk/Spock, as ‘Star Trek’ was one of the most accessible titles for academics and their audience, and as the first slash pairing, K/S was developed independently from the influence of other slash fiction.

read more »

Tags:
April 9, 2013

Tastes Like Chicken

chicken hunt by Robert Neubecker

tastes like chicken

Tastes like chicken‘ is a common declaration used when trying to describe the flavor of a food. The expression has been used so often that it has become somewhat of a cliché. As a result, the phrase also sometimes gets used for incongruous humor  by being deployed for foods or situations to which it has no real relevance. As an explanation of why unusual meats would taste more like chicken than common alternatives such as beef or pork, different possibilities have been offered. One idea is that chicken has a bland taste because fat contributes more flavor than muscle (especially in the case of a lean cut such as a skinless chicken breast), making it a generic choice for comparison. Also, chicken reportedly has lower levels of glutamates that contribute to the ‘savory’ aspect of taste known as umami; processing or tenderizing other meats also lowers glutamate levels and makes them taste more like chicken.

Another suggestion, made by Joe Staton of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, is that meat flavors are fixed based on the evolutionary origin of the animal. Specifically, he noted that tetrapods (four-legged organisms) largely taste like chicken, whereas other animals usually do not. Accordingly, birds (the most numerous form of meat by type) would (in most cases) naturally taste more like chicken than mammals. Furthermore, based on evidence for dinosaurs as the ancestors of birds, reptile meat might also taste somewhat like chicken and therefore dinosaurs would most likely also taste like chicken. Seafood, however, would logically have a more distinctive flavor. Also, although mammals are tetrapods, very few mammals taste like chicken, which implies that there had been a mutation that changed their flavor on that branch of the evolutionary tree.

March 9, 2013

Smart Mob

art mob

improv everywhere

A smart mob is a group that, contrary to the usual connotations of a mob, behaves intelligently or efficiently because of its exponentially increasing network links, enabling people to connect to information and others, allowing a form of social coordination. Parallels are made to, for instance, slime molds.

The concept was introduced by author and cultural critic Howard Rheingold in his 2002 book ‘Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution.’ According to Rheingold, smart mobs are an indication of the evolving communication technologies that will empower the people. Smart mobs sometimes are manipulated by the dispatchers who control the ‘mobbing system’ (i.e., those who own the contact list and the means to forward instant messages to a group) and are induced to cause distress and aggravation to individuals who have been targeted or singled out for whatever reason. There is a tendency to keep the dynamics of smart mobbing ‘covert,’ and not to discuss such incidents on the internet.

read more »

December 6, 2012

Terrorism Market

terrorism-market

Dumb agent theory

The Policy Analysis Market (PAM), part of the FutureMAP project, was a proposed futures exchange developed by the United States’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and based on an idea first proposed by Net Exchange, a San Diego research firm specializing in the development of online prediction markets. PAM was to be ‘a market in the future of the Middle East,’ and would have allowed trading of futures contracts based on possible political developments in several Middle Eastern countries.

The theory behind such a market is that the monetary value of a futures contract on an event reflects the probability that that event will actually occur, since a market’s actors rationally bid a contract either up or down based on reliable information. One of the models for PAM was a political futures market run by the University of Iowa, which had predicted U.S. election outcomes more accurately than either opinion polls or political pundits. PAM was also inspired by the work of George Mason University economist Robin Hanson.

read more »

September 10, 2012

Amazon Tax

Amazon tax

Amazon.com has been criticized for collecting sales taxes from customers in only the five states it has a major presence in. Several states have passed or are considering ‘Amazon tax‘ laws designed to compel Amazon to collect local sales and use taxes from customers. The U.S. has no federal sales tax. In most countries where Amazon operates, a sales tax or value added (consumption) tax is uniform throughout the country, and Amazon is obliged to collect it from all customers.

Proponents argue that Amazon has a comparative advantage over brick-and-mortar retailers, and the online company is under increasing legal and political pressure from state governments, traditional retailers and other groups because of its refusal to collect sales tax in 40 of the 45 states with a statewide sales tax. Those 40 states include at least 12 where Amazon has a clear physical presence via distribution centers and wholly owned subsidiaries.

read more »