Posts tagged ‘Law’

June 19, 2012

Iron Law of Wages

wage slave

The Iron Law of Wages is a proposed law of economics that asserts that real wages always tend, in the long run, toward the minimum wage necessary to sustain the life of the worker. The theory was first named by Ferdinand Lassalle in the mid-nineteenth century.

Karl Marx attributed the doctrine to Lassalle (notably in ‘Critique of the Gotha Programme’), crediting the idea to Thomas Malthus in his work, ‘An Essay on the Principle of Population,’ and the terminology to Goethe’s ‘great, eternal iron laws’ in ‘Das Göttliche’ (‘On the Divine’).

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April 12, 2012

Stand-your-ground Law

george zimmerman

A stand-your-ground law states that a person may use force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of a threat, without an obligation to retreat first. In some cases, a person may use deadly force in public areas without a duty to retreat. Under these legal concepts, a person is justified in using deadly force in certain situations and the ‘stand your ground’ law would be a defense or immunity to criminal charges and civil suit. The difference between immunity and a defense is that an immunity bars suit, charges, detention, and arrest. A defense permits a plaintiff or the state to seek civil damages or a criminal conviction.

More than half of the states in the United States have adopted the Castle doctrine, stating that a person has no duty to retreat when their home is attacked. Some states go a step further, removing the duty of retreat from any location. ‘Stand Your Ground,’ ‘Line In The Sand,’ or ‘No Duty To Retreat’ laws thus state that a person has no duty or other requirement to abandon a place in which he has a right to be, or to give up ground to an assailant. Under such laws, there is no duty to retreat from anywhere the defender may legally be. Other restrictions may still exist; when in public, a person must be carrying the firearm in a legal manner, whether concealed or openly.

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March 14, 2012

Metcalfe’s Law

metcalfe network

Metcalfe’s law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system. First formulated in this form by George Gilder in 1993, and attributed to Robert Metcalfe in regard to Ethernet, Metcalfe’s law was originally presented, circa 1980, not in terms of users, but rather of ‘compatible communicating devices’ such as telephones.

Only more recently with the launch of the internet did this law carry over to users and networks, in line with its original intent. The law has often been illustrated using the example of fax machines: a single fax machine is useless, but the value of every fax machine increases with the total number of machines in the network, because the total number of people with whom each user may send and receive documents increases. Likewise, in social networks, the greater number of users with the service, the more valuable the service becomes to the community.

March 13, 2012

Amdahl’s Law

amdahls law

Amdahl’s law, named after computer architect Gene Amdahl, is used to find the maximum expected improvement to an overall system when only part of the system is improved. It is often used in parallel computing to predict the theoretical maximum speedup using multiple processors. The speedup of a program using multiple processors in parallel computing is limited by the time needed for the sequential fraction of the program. For example, if a program needs 20 hours using a single processor core, and a particular portion of 1 hour cannot be parallelized, while the remaining promising portion of 19 hours (95%) can be parallelized, then regardless of how many processors we devote to a parallelized execution of this program, the minimum execution time cannot be less than that critical 1 hour. Hence the speedup is limited up to 20x.

Amdahl’s law is often conflated with the law of diminishing returns (the tendency for a continuing application of effort or skill toward a particular project or goal to decline in effectiveness after a certain level of result has been achieved). Amdahl’s law does represent the law of diminishing returns if you are considering what sort of return you get by adding more processors to a machine, if you are running a fixed-size computation that will use all available processors to their capacity. Each new processor you add to the system will add less usable power than the previous one. Each time you double the number of processors the speedup ratio will diminish, as the total throughput heads toward the limit. This analysis neglects other potential bottlenecks such as memory bandwidth and I/O bandwidth, if they do not scale with the number of processors; however, taking into account such bottlenecks would tend to further demonstrate the diminishing returns of only adding processors.

February 3, 2012

Indiana Pi Bill


The Indiana Pi Bill is the popular name for bill #246 of the 1897 sitting of the Indiana General Assembly, one of the most famous attempts to establish scientific truth by legislative fiat. Despite that name, the main result claimed by the bill is a method to square the circle, rather than to establish a certain value for the mathematical constant π (pi), the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. However, the bill does contain text that appears to dictate various incorrect values of π, such as 3.2.

The bill never became law, due to the intervention of a mathematics professor who happened to be present in the legislature. The impossibility of squaring the circle using only compass and straightedge, suspected since ancient times, was rigorously proved in 1882 by Ferdinand von Lindemann. Better approximations of π than those inferred from the bill have been known since ancient times.

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January 5, 2012

Betteridge’s Law of Headlines


Betteridge’s Law of Headlines is an adage that states, ‘Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word ‘no.” It is based on a point made by journalist Ian Betteridge about sensational headlines that end in a question mark: ‘The reason why journalists use that style of headline is that they know the story is probably bullshit, and don’t actually have the sources and facts to back it up, but still want to run it.’ The maxim trends towards being universally true because of a simple principle of headline writing: if a story has enough sources to have a high chance of accuracy, a headline will be assertive. If sources are weak, or only a single source is found, headline writers will hedge their bets by posing the headline as a question.

It was among UK journalist Andrew Marr’s suggestions for how to read a newspaper if you really want to know what is going on: ‘If the headline asks a question, try answering ‘no.’ Is This the True Face of Britain’s Young? (Sensible reader: No.) Have We Found the Cure for AIDS? (No; or you wouldn’t have put the question mark in.) Does This Map Provide the Key for Peace? (Probably not.) A headline with a question mark at the end means, in the vast majority of cases, that the story is tendentious or over-sold. It is often a scare story, or an attempt to elevate some run-of-the-mill piece of reporting into a national controversy and, preferably, a national panic. To a busy journalist hunting for real information a question mark means ‘don’t bother reading this bit.”

September 28, 2011

Ugly Law

ugly bag

From the late 1860s until the 1970s, several American cities had ugly laws making it illegal for persons with ‘unsightly or disgusting’ disabilities to appear in public. Some of these laws were called Unsightly Beggar Ordinances. The goal of these laws was seemingly to preserve the quality of life for the community, similar in spirit to current homeowners association regulations and by-laws: ‘No person who is diseased, maimed, mutilated or in any way deformed so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object or improper person to be allowed in or on the public ways or other public places in this city, or shall therein or thereon expose himself to public view, under a penalty of not less than one dollar nor more than fifty dollars for each offense.’

Many states’ ugly laws were not repealed until the mid 1970s. Omaha repealed its Ugly Law in 1967. Columbus withdrew its in 1972. Chicago was the last to repeal its Ugly Law as late as 1974. The recantation of Ugly Laws were tied to the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 where certain rights were granted to people with disabilities: ‘Individuals with disabilities are a discrete and insular minority who have been faced with restrictions and limitations, subjected to a history of purposeful unequal treatment, and relegated to a position of political powerlessness in our society, based on characteristics that are beyond the control of such individuals and resulting from stereotypic assumptions not truly indicative of the individual ability of such individuals to participate in, and contribute to, society.’

September 27, 2011

Stigler’s Law of Eponymy

Alois Alzheimer by Nicholas Wade

Stigler’s law of eponymy [uh-pon-uh-mee] is a process proposed by University of Chicago statistics professor Stephen Stigler in his 1980 publication of the same name. In its simplest and strongest form it says: ‘No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer.’ Stigler named the sociologist Robert K. Merton as the discoverer of ‘Stigler’s law,’ consciously making ‘Stigler’s law’ exemplify Stigler’s law.

For example: Alzheimer’s disease, though named after Alois Alzheimer, had been previously described by at least half a dozen others before Alzheimer’s 1906 report which is often (wrongly) regarded as the first description of the disorder. Historical acclaim for discoveries is often allotted to persons of notoriety who bring attention to an idea that is not yet widely known, whether or not that person was its original inventor – theories may be named long after their discovery.

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March 6, 2011

Son of Sam Law

A Son of Sam Law is a law designed to keep criminals from profiting from their crimes, such as by selling their stories to publishers. These laws authorize the state to seize money earned from such a deal and use it to compensate the criminal’s victims. In certain cases a Son of Sam law can be extended beyond the criminals themselves to include friends, neighbors, and family members of the lawbreaker who seek to profit by telling publishers and filmmakers of their relation to the criminal. In other cases, a person may be barred from financially benefiting from the sale of a story or any other mementos pertaining to the crime—if the criminal was convicted after the date lawmakers passed the law in the states where the crime was committed.

The first such law was created in New York after the Son of Sam murders committed by serial killer David Berkowitz. It was enacted after rampant speculation about publishers offering large amounts of money for Berkowitz’s story. The law was invoked in New York 11 times between 1977 and 1990, including once against Mark David Chapman, murderer of musician John Lennon. Critics disputed the law on First Amendment grounds. It was argued that “Son of Sam” laws take away the financial incentive for many criminals to tell their stories, some of which (such as the Watergate scandal) were of vital interest to the general public.

January 17, 2011

Parkinson’s Law of Triviality

Parkinson’s Law of Triviality (also known by the expression ‘color of the bike shed’) is British author, C. Northcote Parkinson’s 1957 argument that organizations give disproportionate weight to trivial issues. Parkinson compares a committee’s deliberations on a nuclear power plant to deliberation on a bicycle shed:

A nuclear reactor is so vastly expensive and complicated that an average person cannot understand it, so they assume that those working on it understand it; even those with strong opinions often withhold them for fear of being shown to be insufficiently informed. On the other hand, everyone understands a bicycle shed (or thinks he or she does), so building one can result in endless discussions because everyone involved wants to add his or her touch and show that they have contributed.

August 4, 2010

Godwin’s Law


Godwin’s law is a humorous observation made by Mike Godwin in 1990 which has become an Internet adage. It states: ‘As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.’ In other words, given enough time, all discussions —regardless of topic or scope —inevitably wind up being about Hitler and the Nazis. Also the poster who mentioned Nazis loses all debates/discussions they had in said topic, and their insults are nullified. Godwin’s law is often cited in online discussions as a deterrent against the use of arguments in the widespread reductio ad Hitlerum form.

The rule does not make any statement about whether any particular reference or comparison to Adolf Hitler or the Nazis might be appropriate, but only asserts that the likelihood of such a reference or comparison arising increases as the discussion progresses. It is precisely because such a comparison or reference may sometimes be appropriate, Godwin has argued that overuse of Nazi and Hitler comparisons should be avoided, because it robs the valid comparisons of their impact. Although in one of its early forms Godwin’s law referred specifically to Usenet newsgroup discussions, the law is now applied to any threaded online discussion: electronic mailing lists, message boards, chat rooms, and more recently blog comment threads, wiki talk pages, and social networking sites.