November 22, 2019

Luther Blissett

Q

Luther Blissett is a multiple-use name, an ‘open pop star’ informally adopted and shared by hundreds of artists and activists all over Europe and the Americas since 1994. The pseudonym first appeared in Bologna, Italy, in mid-1994, when a number of cultural activists began using it for staging a series of urban and media pranks and to experiment with new forms of authorship and identity.

From Bologna the multiple-use name spread to other European cities, such as Rome and London, as well as countries such as Germany, Spain, and Slovenia. Sporadic appearances of Luther Blissett have been also noted in Canada, the United States, Finland and Brazil. Continue reading

November 18, 2019

Plausible Deniability

Iran Contra by Martin Kozlowski

Plausible deniability is the ability of people (typically senior officials in a chain of command) to deny knowledge of or responsibility for any damnable actions committed by others in an organizational hierarchy because of a lack of evidence that can confirm their participation, even if they were personally involved in or at least willfully ignorant of the actions.

In the case that illegal or otherwise disreputable and unpopular activities become public, high-ranking officials may deny any awareness of such acts to insulate themselves and shift blame onto the agents who carried out the acts, as they are confident that their doubters will be unable to prove otherwise. Continue reading

November 17, 2019

Bromide

From Cliché to Archetype

Bromide [broh-mahyd] in literary usage means a phrase, cliché, or platitude that is trite or unoriginal. It can be intended to soothe or placate; it can suggest insincerity or a lack of originality in the speaker. It can also refer to a commonplace or tiresome person, a bore.

A now outdated usage of ‘bromide’ is a photographic print, stemming from the use of silver bromide in photographic films, emulsions and papers. Its original usage was as a chemical term, referring to bromine salts. Continue reading

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November 12, 2019

Homo Economicus

Neuroeconomics

The term homo economicus, or economic man, is the sometimes satirical portrayal of humans as agents who are consistently rational, narrowly self-interested, and who pursue their subjectively-defined ends optimally.

In game theory, homo economicus is often modeled through the assumption of perfect rationality. It assumes that agents always act in a way that maximize utility as a consumer and profit as a producer, and are capable of arbitrarily complex deductions towards that end. They will always be capable of thinking through all possible outcomes and choosing that course of action which will result in the best possible result. Continue reading

November 7, 2019

Rationality

Homo economicus

Rationality is the quality or state of being rational, i.e. agreeable to reason. Rationality implies the conformity of a person’s beliefs with their reasons to believe and of their actions with their reasons for action. When a goal or problem requires making a decision, rationality factors in all information that is available (e.g. complete or incomplete knowledge).

It is meaningless to assert rationality without also specifying the background model assumptions describing how the problem is framed and formulated. Rationality is relative: in models that optimize for personal benefit, self-interested or even selfish behavior is rational; in models that favor benefiting the group over the individual, purely selfish behavior is deemed irrational. Continue reading

November 1, 2019

Izakaya

akachōchin

An izakaya [ee-zah-ka-yah] is a type of informal Japanese pub. They are casual places for after-work drinking. They have been compared to Irish pubs, tapas bars, and early American saloons and taverns.

The word ‘izakaya’ is a compound word consisting of ‘i’ (‘to stay’) and ‘sakaya’ (‘sake shop’), indicating that izakaya originated from sake shops that allowed customers to sit on the premises to drink. Izakaya are sometimes called ‘akachōchin’ (‘red lantern’) in daily conversation, as such paper lanterns are traditionally found in front of them. Continue reading

October 16, 2019

False Equivalence

False balance

False equivalence is a logical fallacy in which two completely opposing arguments appear to be logically equivalent when in fact they are not. This fallacy is categorized as a fallacy of inconsistency.

False equivalence is a common result when an anecdotal similarity is pointed out as equal, but the claim of equivalence doesn’t bear because the similarity is based on oversimplification or ignorance of additional factors. False equivalence arguments are often used in journalism and in politics, where the minor flaws of one candidate may be compared to major flaws of another. Continue reading

October 8, 2019

Hoist With His Own Petard

Petard

‘Hoist with his own petard’ is a phrase from a speech in William Shakespeare’s play ‘Hamlet’ that has become proverbial.

The phrase’s meaning is literally that the bomb-maker (a “petard” is a small explosive device) is blown up (‘hoisted’ off the ground) by his own bomb, and indicates an ironic reversal, or poetic justice. Continue reading

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October 2, 2019

Rocket Mail

Astrophilately

Rocket mail is the delivery of mail by rocket or missile. The rocket lands by deploying an internal parachute upon arrival. It has been attempted by various organizations in many different countries, with varying levels of success. It has never become widely seen as being a viable option for delivering mail, due to the cost of the schemes and numerous failures.

The collection of philatelic material (‘stamps’) used for (and depicting) rocket mail is part of a specialist branch of aerophilately known as astrophilately. Continue reading

September 24, 2019

Firehose of Falsehood

Russian web brigades

The firehose of falsehood is a propaganda technique in which a large number of messages are broadcast rapidly, repetitively, and continuously over multiple channels (such as news and social media) without regard for truth or consistency.

Since 2014, when it was successfully used by Russia during its annexation of Crimea, this model has been adopted by other governments and political movements around the world. Continue reading

September 23, 2019

Punchline

A punchline concludes a joke; it is intended to make people laugh. It is the third and final part of the typical joke structure: set-up, premise, punch line. In a broader sense, ‘punchline’ can also refer to the unexpected and funny conclusion of any performance, situation or story.

The exact origin of the term is unknown, though the classic three-part joke format was well-established in Vaudeville by the beginning of the 20th century. Merriam-Webster dictionary pegs the first use in 1921. It has also been argued that the term’s origin is related to the British weekly magazine ‘Punch.’ Continue reading

September 17, 2019

Walking Truck

Ralph Mosher

The walking truck or Cybernetic Walking Machine was an experimental quadruped walking vehicle created by General Electric in 1965. It was designed by engineer Ralph Mosher to help infantry carry equipment over rough terrain. It alternatively bore the name of ‘CAM,’ an acronym for ‘cybernetic anthropomorphous machine,’ as seen in a segment of the Walter Cronkite–hosted documentary television program ‘The Twentieth Century’ in 1968.

As of 2019, the surviving prototype can be seen at the U.S. Army Transportation Museum in Fort Eustis, Virginia. The robot weighs 3,000 pounds and can walk up to 5 miles per hour. It was exhausting to control and, according to program lead Mosher who was the designer and primary driver, operators could only drive the walking truck for a limited time. Mosher also worked on the unsuccessful Hardiman project for GE, the first attempt to build a practical powered exoskeleton. Continue reading

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