November 30, 2020

Physics Envy

Mathematicism

The term physics envy is a phrase used to criticize modern writing and research of academics working in areas such as ‘softer sciences,’ liberal arts, business studies, and humanities. The term argues that writing and working practices in these disciplines have overused, confusing jargon and complicated mathematics to seem more ‘rigorous’ and more like mathematics-based subjects like physics.

The success of physics in ‘mathematicizing’ itself, particularly since Isaac Newton’s ‘Principia Mathematica,’ is generally considered remarkable and often disproportionate compared to other areas of inquiry. ‘Physics envy’ refers to the envy (perceived or real) of scholars in other disciplines for the mathematical precision of fundamental concepts obtained by physicists. Continue reading

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November 28, 2020

Cancel Culture

The Problem with Apu

Cancel culture (or ‘call-out culture’) is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – either online on social media, in the real world, or both. Those who are subject to this ostracism are said to be ‘canceled.’ The expression ‘cancel culture’ has mostly negative connotations and is commonly used in debates on free speech and censorship.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama warned against social media call-out culture, saying ‘People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids and, you know, share certain things with you.’ Continue reading

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November 19, 2020

Russian Political Jokes

Hammer & Tickle

Russian political jokes can be grouped into the major time periods: Imperial Russia, Soviet Union, post-Soviet Russia. Quite a few political themes can be found among other standard categories of Russian joke, most notably Rabinovich jokes (short fictional Russian stories or dialogs with a punch line) and Radio Yerevan, also known as the Armenian Radio jokes, which mocked the ‘Question & Answer’ series of the Armenian Radio.

A typical format of a joke was: ‘Radio Yerevan was asked,’ and ‘Radio Yerevan answered.’ For example: Radio Yerevan was asked: ‘Comrades, will there be war?’ Radio Yerevan answered: ‘No, but there will be such a struggle for peace that everything will be razed to the ground.’ Continue reading

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November 16, 2020

Hipgnosis Songs Fund

Merck Mercuriadis

Hipgnosis Songs Fund is a British Guernsey-registered music IP investment and song management company founded in 2018 by Canadian–American music industry executive and entrepreneur Merck Mercuriadis and co-founded by Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers, Mercuriadis’ former client.

Focused on songs and associated musical intellectual property rights, it was founded on the premise that hit songs are long-term predictable assets unaffected by economic cycles that will increase in value as the worldwide music streaming market grows. In addition to acquiring songs and songwriter catalogues, the company manages the playlist, cover, interpolation, and synchronization revenues of its IP. Continue reading

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November 15, 2020

Mentalism

Derren Brown

Mentalism [men-tl-iz-uhm] is a performing art in which its practitioners, known as mentalists, appear to demonstrate highly developed mental or intuitive abilities. Performances may appear to include hypnosis, telepathy, clairvoyance, divination, precognition, psychokinesis, mediumship, mind control, memory feats, deduction, and rapid mathematics.

Mentalists are sometimes categorized as psychic entertainers, although that category also contains non-mentalist performers such as psychic readers and bizarrists (magicians they rely heavily on wordplay). Notable mentalists include Derren Brown, Uri Geller, and the Amazing Kreskin.

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November 12, 2020

Speaking in Tongues

Agnes Ozman

Speaking in tongues, also known as glossolalia, is a practice in which people utter words or speech-like sounds that some believe to be languages unknown to the speaker.

One definition used by linguists is the fluid vocalizing of speech-like syllables that lack any readily comprehended meaning, in some cases as part of religious practice in which some believe it to be a divine language unknown to the speaker. Glossolalia is practiced in Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity as well as in other religions. Continue reading

November 10, 2020

Hyperion

Hyperion

Hyperion [hahy-peer-ee-uhn] is a coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) in California that was measured at 380.1 ft, which ranks it as the world’s tallest known living tree. Hyperion was discovered August 25, 2006, by naturalists Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor.

The tree was found in a remote area of Redwood National and State Parks purchased in 1978. The Park also houses the second tallest tree Helios, and the third tallest Icarus. Sillett estimates Hyperion to be 600 years old while others report it to be roughly 700–800 years old. The exact location of Hyperion is kept secret to protect the tree from damage. Researchers stated that woodpecker damage at the top may have prevented the tree from growing taller.

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October 28, 2020

Havana Syndrome

Electromagnetic Personnel Interdiction Control

Havana syndrome is a set of medical signs and symptoms experienced by U.S. and Canadian embassy staff in Cuba. Beginning in August 2017, reports surfaced that American and Canadian diplomatic personnel in Cuba had suffered a variety of health problems, dating back to late 2016.

A 2018 study published in the journal Neural Computation identified pulsed radiofrequency/microwave radiation (RF/MW) exposure via the Frey effect as source of injury, and noted that a microwave attack against the U.S. embassy in Moscow had been documented. Other possible causes for the injuries offered include ultrasound via intermodulation distortion caused by malfunctioning or improperly placed Cuban surveillance equipment, cricket noises, mass psychogenic illness, and exposure to neurotoxic pesticides.

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October 25, 2020

Nanny State

seat belt law

Nanny state is a term of British origin that conveys a view that a government or its policies are overprotective or interfering unduly with personal choice. The term likens government to the role that a nanny has in child rearing. An early use of the term comes from Conservative British Member of Parliament Iain Macleod in 1965 edition.

The term was popularized by the British and American tobacco industry – especially by their touring celebrity-lobbyists Bernard Levin and Auberon Waugh – and later by PM Margaret Thatcher. Some laws considered nannying at the time, such as mandatory seatbelts and smoking bans, were later accepted as common sense. Continue reading

October 16, 2020

Rotwelsch

Thieves' cant

Rotwelsch [rut-velsh] (German: ‘beggar’s foreign language’) or Gaunersprache (German: ‘crook’s language’) is a secret language, a cant or thieves’ argot, spoken by groups (primarily marginalized groups) in southern Germany and Switzerland. The language is based primarily on German.

Rotwelsch was formerly common among travelling craftspeople and vagrants. The language is built on a strong substratum of German, but contains numerous words from other languages, notably from various German dialects, including Yiddish, as well as from Romany languages, notably Sintitikes. There are also significant influences from Judeo-Latin, the ancient Jewish language spoken in the Roman Empire. Continue reading

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October 14, 2020

Fool’s Errand

Blinker fluid

fool’s errand is a type of practical joke or prank where a newcomer to a group, typically in a professional context, is given an impossible or nonsensical task by older or more experienced members of the group.

Many such errands require the victim to travel some distance and request an impossible object by name; the prank will be widely known within the peer group as an in-joke, and the person they ask for the object will play along, often by sending the victim on to make the same request elsewhere. The errand is an example of a hazing ritual, through which a newcomer gains acceptance into a group.

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October 13, 2020

Citation Needed

xkcd

Citation needed is a tag added by Wikipedia editors to unsourced statements in articles requesting citations to be added. The phrase is reflective of the policies of verifiability and no original research in Wikipedia and has become a general Internet meme.

By Wikipedia policy, editors should add citations for content, to ensure accuracy and neutrality, and to avoid original research. In June 2005, Chris Sherlock, a Wikipedia editor with the username Ta bu shi da yu, created the ‘citation needed’ template, to be added to statements without a citation that needed verification. 413,038 articles in the English Wikipedia are currently marked with the template.