Monday, 28 July 2014

Sunday trivia

Western Union: 1931
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Western Union: 1931
New York, 1931
“Western Union Telegraph Building, West Broadway. Ralph Walker, architect”
The hulking Art Deco pile now known as 60 Hudson Street, a TriBeCa landmark
Photo by Irving Underhill
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via Big Think by Nick Clairmont
“A drunk mind speaks a sober heart” is a saying often attributed to French Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jaques Rousseau, himself quite a drunk. The idea is that when we are drunk we lose our inhibitions and allow ourselves to verbalise our true thoughts and feelings.
Continue reading

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Henry James and the Jews. Yes, the novelist was prone to clumsy analogies – likening Jews to worms, monkeys, squirrels, ants. No, he was not an anti-Semite... more

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via How-To Geek
How Epic Solar Winds Make Brilliant Polar Lights 
Have you ever been curious about the science behind the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis? Then sit back and enjoy as this terrific video looks at the solar winds and atmospheric reactions that help make these awesome visual phenomena possible.

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The Stone Age Was Not Stone-Age
via Big Think by Kas Thomas
Stonehenge
A fascinating read involving science that I simply had not appreciated before today.

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Doctor, anthropologist, archaeologist: Gino Fornaciari wants to know how kings, paupers, saints, and warriors lived – and how they died… more

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Control room at the Haunted Mansion
via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow
The Haunted Mansion Backstage tumblr has outdone itself with a set of photos from about 2002 showing the control-room at the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. These are the photos I’ve dreamed of seeing all my life.
Photos of the Disneyland Mansion’s control room and corridors.

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Is Archaeology A Help Or Hindrance To Development?
by Jennifer chappell (Bircham Dyson Bell) via Mondaq.com
During recent excavation work for Crossrail, the Museum of London Archaeology ("MOLA") uncovered fourteen skeletons lying in carefully laid out rows on the edge of Charterhouse Square in Farringdon, London. The remains are believed to date back to the late 1340s and they may well be Black Death victims.
At Bloomberg Place in the City of London, MOLA continue to excavate a three acre site in the heart of the Roman city. The site is the well-known home of the Roman Temple of Mithras dating from 40 AD to the early 5th century, originally excavated in 1954 by eminent archaeologist W. F Grimes. The current archaeologists have excavated down 7 metres, removed 3500 tonnes of soil and revealed 10,000 findings from the Roman occupation.
Continue reading

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
“Plenipotentiary instrument”, “master member of the revels”, “maypole”: Oh, the creative heights a mind will scale when trying to write an erotic novel without an obscene word… more

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Study Advances New Theory of How the Brain Is Wired
in Columbia News via 3 Quarks Daily by Claudia Wallis
Speaking. Seeing. Hearing. Thinking. Remembering. Understanding this sentence and making a decision about whether or not to read on. All of this work is handled in the cerebral cortex, the deeply creased, outermost portion of the brain that is the center of all the higher brain functions that make us human. Humans have the thickest cortex of any species but, even so, it measures no more than 4 millimeters (.16 inches) thick.
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Sunday, 27 July 2014

Saturday Trivia

Desert Guns: 1937
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Desert Guns: 1937
June 1937
“Idle men attend the morning movies. There are three such movies in one block. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma”
Photo by Dorothea Lange for the Farm Security Administration
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Using Sewage To Grow Algae To Produce Biofuel
by Kecia Lynn in Big Think
The Spanish resort town of Chiclana de la Frontera can now lay claim to the world's first municipal sewage plant that purposely uses wastewater to grow algae that is then converted into clean biofuel. Carbon dioxide from sewage produces the algae, the first crop of which was harvested last month. The resulting biomass will be made into vehicle fuel, which should be ready for use by December. Right now the plant is still in a pilot stage and fairly small, but plans are to have it fully operational by 2015, growing enough algae and producing enough fuel to run about 200 cars a year.
Read it at Scientific American

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Can grief at the death of a loved one be diminished by the way we think? Is there a philosophy that can prepare us for the death of others?… more

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Gorgeous Microscopy and Visual Journalism
by Katie McKissick in Scientific American via 3 Quarks Daily
This is, visually, my favourite.

Continue reading

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via BoingBoing
Fashion trends in “swinging London of the sixties”, captured in an archival short film


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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
In 1931, Scott Fitzgerald parsed the word “jazz,” noting its progress toward respectability. “It meant first sex, then dancing, then music”… more

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Your fruits and vegetables can tell day from night – and even get jet lag
New science shows that cabbage, carrots and blueberries experience circadian rhythms, with potential consequences for nutrition
via 3 Quarks Daily and smithsonian.com by Joseph Stromberg
Read more


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Bookstore in a train-car

Here’s a mouth-watering set of photos from La caverne aux livres, a bookshop in Auvers-Sur-Oise, north of Paris. The store is in a converted train-car, and appears to be a magical wonderland. The pics were taken by the Gallifreyan Detective, and the whole set is wonderful.
Continue reading

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Mr. Chan and the Machine by Caitlin Dwyer


A tale of ink and grease. In Hong Kong, a half-century old printing press – “The Windmill” – continues to churn out pages. “It sounds like a woman gasping”… more

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Segregated headstones reach over the cemetery wall

These grave markers -- pressed up against either side of an imposing wall, with a pair of clasped hands reaching over the wall's top -- date to a time in Dutch history when Catholic and Protestant graves were strictly segregated. A Catholic and a Protestant married couple, separated in death, arranged for this unique workaround in order to rejoin one another.
Continue reading and watching


Sunday, 20 July 2014

Trivia for 20 July 2014

Some Assembly Required: 1906
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Some Assembly Required: 1906
“Great Lakes Engineering Works, Ecorse, Michigan. Steamer James Laughlin at left”
Now where’d I put that instruction sheet?
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How much pressure did it take to pop the top off Mexico’s Popocat├ępetl volcano?
On June 17 2013, the Popocat├ępetl volcano in the state of Puebla in Mexico belched out a pretty impressive looking volcanic plume. Fortunately for us, it was caught on webcam, at a town a safe distance away.
Aatish Bhatia presents a video and some very impressive maths in Wired.
Go read for yourself -- and thank whatever higher power you might believe in that we do not have lava flowing at upwards of 130mph in the UK.

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Darwin referred to humor as “a tickling of the mind.” But seriously: What actually happens in our brain when we laugh?… more

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via BoingBoing by Mark Frauenfelder
The Art of Manliness has reprinted “37 Conversation Rules for Gentlemen” from a 1875 book entitled, A Gentleman’s Guide to Etiquette by Cecil B. Hartley.
The rules are still valid!
For example:
33. When asking questions about persons who are not known to you, in a drawing-room, avoid using adjectives; or you may enquire of a mother, “Who is that awkward, ugly girl?” and be answered, “Sir, that is my daughter”.
37 Conversation Rules for Gentlemen

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Jewels from the Mud: The Elegance of Water Lilies
via Encyclopaedia Britannica by Richard Pallardy
Ponds aren’t often glamorous bodies of water. They lack both the grandeur of oceans and lakes and the racing energy of rivers and streams. They can, at their least pleasing, be stagnant and fetid, little more than lenses of water over pits of muck. Yet the langorous movement of their currents and the rich organic matter lining their bottoms support life-forms that defray their olfactory and aesthetic liabilities: the gem-like water lilies, otherwise known as the family Nymphaeaceae.
Continue reading
Water lily, Humboldt Park, Chicago. Credit: Richard Pallardy

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
In 1943, after his parents died in Treblinka, Raphael Lemkin invented a word to describe the crime – genocide – and helped to make it illegal. Why hasn’t the law worked?.. more

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How We Confuse Time and Space
via Big Think by Lee Smolin
The whole history of physics has been a history of diminishing the nature of time and diminishing the role of time. Take a very simple example. When you see something move through the air – that’s something that happens in time. And then you could take a film that you made of that and call that an experiment or call that a record of motion.
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via Gizmodo.com
What is it about humans that make us love–and hate–being lost?
Since the time of ancient Greece, we’ve been figuring out ways to entertain ourselves within extraordinarily confusing structures. There are dozens of different types of mazes: there are standard mazes, which feature “multi-route” paths; and labyrinths, which only have single routes. Then there are indoor mazes, plain air mazes, hedge mazes, corn mazes and so on.
Here's the link to a collection of 23 fascinating examples that give us a glimpse into the cultural history of getting lost–on purpose.

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The Internet was supposed to open a golden age of global interconnectedness. Instead, it’s made would-be cosmopolitans of us all… more

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No, Everything Does Not Happen for a Reason. Thank God for That.
via Big Think by Nicholas Clairmont
“Everything happens for a reason” is my very least favourite thing for someone to say. It is bad philosophy, bad theology, bad thinking, and bad advice. It manages to combine the maximum of ignorance with the maximum of arrogance.
Continue reading

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Saturday trivia (19 July)

Retarder Tower: 1942
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Retarder Tower: 1942
November 1942
“Chicago, Illinois. South classification yard seen from retarder operators’ tower at an Illinois Central Railroad yard”
Medium format nitrate negative by Jack Delano for the Office of War Information
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Color Zen is a Relaxing, Addictive Puzzle Game
via How-To-Geek
 
Are you ready to journey into an abstract world of colors and shapes? Then welcome to Color Zen, a relaxing puzzle game with no scores and no penalties for failure…just simple rules, intuitive controls, and awesome puzzles to keep you busy for hours on end.
Read all about it
NB. Costs $0.99

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Theoretical physicists, enamored of mathematical elegance, impose patterns on muddled reality. Is this a science or a genre of storytelling?… more

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Why are People Right-Handed or Left-Handed?
via How-To-Geek
Have you ever wondered why people have a preference for using one hand over the other? What is it that determines hand dominance? Is it because of evolution, is it hereditary, or due to something else? SciShow takes a quick look at the topic in this terrific video.
Why Are There Righties & Lefties? [YouTube]

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Your Beliefs Make You Healthy. You Just Need to Believe in Them
via Big Think by Andrew Newberg
Research that has shown the potential benefit of being a religious or spiritual person is a population-based answer. In other words, the overall population does a little bit better, but that has no implication for each individual.
Continue reading

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
An octopus experiences the world as bright and tasty. Or so we think. Does imagining yourself as an alien creature reveal something about your own mental life?… more

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For a Better Night's Sleep, Should Couples Sleep in Different Beds?
via Big Think by Orion Jones
In search of a good night’s rest, couples are increasingly sleeping in separate beds, according to sociological surveys and architectural ledgers of new homes being built, an increasing number of which contain two master bedrooms.
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Daily Coffee Prevents Disease, Helps You Live Longer
via Big Think by Orion Jones
Coffee_cup
Several recent health studies confirm that people who drink one to three cups of coffee per day have a lower risk of contracting certain diseases, including dementia, and are more likely to live longer than those who abstain from the caffeinated drink. “In a 2012 study of humans, researchers...tested the blood levels of caffeine in older adults with mild cognitive impairment...and then re-evaluated them two to four years later. Participants with little or no caffeine circulating in their bloodstreams were far more likely to have progressed to full-blown Alzheimer’s than those whose blood indicated they’d had about three cups’ worth of caffeine.”
Continue reading

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Is time an absolute construct or merely a matter of perspective?
The theoretical physicist Lee Smolin offers an unsettling answer… more

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Why raindrops don't kill mosquitoes
via BoingBoing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
For a mosquito, every summer storm is like a million Volkswagen Beetles falling from the sky. How do they survive the deadly deluge?
Meghan Cetera explains at Popular Science.


Sunday, 13 July 2014

Sunday trivia (13 July 2014)

Airplane Mode: 1929
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Airplane Mode: 1929
Dec. 5, 1929. Ignition interference from airplane engines on aircraft is largely a myth according to C. Francis Jenkins, Washington, D.C., inventor who has designed a radio receiving set which he says does not pick up noises from a flying power plant. In this photograph is shown Mr. Jenkins (right) and his laboratory assistant.
Video pioneer Francis Jenkins, seen here last week, and an anonymous protege who has a telegraph key strapped to his leg. By our reckoning this counts as early mobile texting. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative.
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10 Literary Restaurants for Hungry Book Nerds Around the World
via Flavorwire by Emily Temple
What’s even better than drinking while reading? Eating while reading, of course (hint: you can have a drink, too). With the news that Biblio, a book-themed eatery, was popping up in Williamsburg, Flavorwire took to the Internet to put together a guide to a few amazing-looking literary-themed restaurants from around the world. Indulge your eyes (and, if you’re close enough, your stomachs) at these bookish establishments.
06
Dublin is nearest to the UK.
See more here

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Edmund Burke: the father of modern conservatism? Perhaps. But his great political battles were thoroughly liberal causes... more

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Why Our Brains Are Hungry for Puzzles
via Big Think by Will Shortz
Shutterstock_50503615
There are general reasons why we like puzzles and then there are particular reasons why we like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and things like that. The general reason is we’re faced with problems every day in life. Most of them don’t have perfect solutions. We just muddle through the best we can and move onto the next thing. Also, there are very few things in life that we completely grasp or that are completely our own.
You drive a car, but do you really understand how the car was made? Do you understand all about how the engine works? Probably not, but all you need to do is drive. But the nice thing about a human-made puzzle is when you solve the problem, you feel a sense of satisfaction that you don’t get much in everyday life, because you’ve found the perfect answer and also you’re seeing the whole process. If you solve a crossword you know you’re carrying it through, literally from square one to the end and that gives you a sense of satisfaction that you don’t get in everyday life.

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30 of the Most Beautiful Sci-Fi Book Covers Ever Made
via Flavorwire by Emily Temple
Science fiction cover art has a bad reputation. Not without reason: much of it is pulpy, overly brash, or just plain scary — it’s kind of the name of the game. Yet there are also plenty of science fiction novels and collections that buck the trend and manage to be not only palatable to those that (for instance) love the insides but hate that naked green woman on the cover, but downright gorgeous.
From the 30 covers I have to choose just one: you can see the rest here.
christopher-priest-the-is
It wasn’t in the end a very hard decision.
The patterns and colours on the islands fascinate me.


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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Once transgressive, revolutionary, anti-authority, street art now is the establishment. Did the artists grow up or sell out? more

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Love Hormone Oxytocin Draw Us Together, Keeps Us Apart
via Big Think by Orion Jones
Through experiments, scientists are coming to a more complex understanding of how oxytocin, a brain chemical commonly referred to as the love hormone, works in long term relationships as well as initial attractions. When men in long term relationships are given doses of oxytocin, they tend to keep a greater physical distance from attractive females than do single men also given the hormone.
Continue reading

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What Makes the Mind and Brain Different?
via Big Think by Orion Jones
Brain_art
Given the power of neuroscience to fascinate the public, it might seem that the brain has given us a window into human nature. Indeed we often look to brain scan images to help us understand what chemicals are working on the brain, and therefore on the body, in conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s to drug addiction. But the brain and the mind are different frameworks.
Continue reading

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
In defence of opera. Yes, the plots are often absurd, lyrics unintelligible, stagecraft over-elaborate. Opera is extravagant. But it isn’t in decline… more

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Can Physics Save Economics?
via Big Think by Big Think Editors
When the theoretical physicist Lee Smolin was asked to join a research group to work on economics his first response was “I don’t know anything about economics”. That’s okay, said Mike Brown, the former CFO of Microsoft, “because nobody does and the whole system is about to collapse”.
Continue reading

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Saturday Spectacular for 12 July 2014

Cat Wedding: 1914
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Cat Wedding: 1914
1914
“Kittens in costume as bride and groom, being married by third kitten in ecclesiastical garb”
Holy catrimony!
Photo by Harry W. Frees
View original post
I am trying very hard not to inundate you all with cute cat photos but it is hard!

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10 Famous Literary Characters That Are Significantly Younger Than You Think
via Flavorwire by Emily Temple
When an author creates a character, he or she bestows upon this fictional person specific attributes — age, looks, certain proclivities — that may or may not be made explicit on the page. But whether the character is explained fully or not, there’s no telling what will happen when the culture at large gets a hold of him. Especially if the notoriously age-garbling film industry gets involved. Prepare to be shocked at famous literary characters that are significantly younger than you (probably) think they are.
scarlett2
Scarlett O'Hara is ??
Are you right? Check it out here

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Stink bombs and sneezing powder, that’s how Nazi thugs shut down German cinema in the 1930s. And yet Hollywood remained silent… more

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A dragon is no idle fancy
via 3quarksdaily by Morgan Meis
Tolkien was a noted scholar and linguist before he was a published novelist, labouring on the Oxford English Dictionary and then embarking upon a long career at Oxford University, where he was professor of Anglo Saxon studies and later Merton Professor of English, a chair he held until his death.
His iconoclastic 1936 lecture, “Beowulf: The Monster and the Critics”, challenged assumptions that the eighth century text should be treated purely as a historical document and not a work of art. It’s now regarded as a watershed moment in Beowulf studies. In the essay, Tolkien didn’t mince words in his disdain of fellow academics: “For it is of their nature that the jabberwocks of historical and antiquarian research burble in the tulgy wood of conjecture, flitting from one tum-tum tree to another”. He was particularly dismissive of those who ignored the importance of the poem’s monsters — Grendel, Grendel’s mother and especially the dragon that Beowulf kills, but not before he himself is mortally wounded.
more from Elizabeth Hand at the LA Times here.

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Beautiful Devotion: Illuminated Manuscripts
via AbeBooks’ Reading Copy by Beth Carswell
ill-man
First created over 2,000 years ago, illuminated manuscripts had drawings or paintings of ornate initials, borders, flowers, vines and other decoration to accompany text.
A true illuminated manuscript was made without machines.
Frequently in devotional prayer books, the most exceptional art served as a status symbol. Nowadays, original illuminated manuscripts are highly scarce. But due to the surpassing beauty of the pieces, artists have painstakingly recreated the illuminations in facsimiles and reproductions, many of which are both affordable, and unforgettable.
Be Illuminated!
There are some lovely manuscripts in the British Library.

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
What is charm? Some mysterious cocktail of wit, wisdom, worldliness, civility. But this much we know: Charm is a virtue in decline… more

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What Dr. Seuss Can Teach Us About Our Polarized Times
via Big Think by John Maeda
Sneetches2
We definitely live in an increasingly polarized world today whether it’s red or blue or it’s chocolate or vanilla, or just look at our computers. They’re binary, ones and zeros. It can be one. It can be zero. It can’t be anything in between. If you look at the history of computing there was something called ternary logic, which could be one, zero or don't care. It never really set into culture or technology, but it was always there. Why is this important?
Continue reading

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Surreal Photos of Women Dressed in Books, Butterflies, and Paper Planes
via Flavorwire by Chloe Pantazi
These stunning photographs by the LA-based fine art photographer Brooke Shaden (spotted via Faith is Torment) depict moody landscapes, harking back to the Gothic romanticism of surreal paintings. In her words, Shaden is “creating new worlds through [her] photographs”, and indeed her photos suggest something otherworldly; they conjure a warped kind of down-the-rabbit-hole experience of the world. Perhaps most compelling in these photographs are the costumes Shaden’s subjects wear, made of unconventional materials — from paper planes and flowers to actual books (and, in one, flesh) — which are reminiscent of the fashion exhibited in the Met’s 2011 Alexander McQueen retrospective, Savage Beauty.
brooke-shaden02
View the other images here

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
From Chaucer to South Park, obscenity has evolved. Consider that in the 19th century, saying the word “trousers” could get you into trouble… more

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Do science: The life you save may be your own
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
One of the people who developed the pacemaker is now 86
And he has a pacemaker

Friday, 11 July 2014

The Cyclical Behavior of Labor Productivity and the Emergence of the Labor Hoarding Concept

an article by Jeff E Biddle (Michigan State University) published in Journal of Economic Perspectives Volume 28 Number 2 (Spring 2014)

Abstract

The concept of “labour hoarding”, at least in its modern form, was first fully articulated in the early 1960s by Arthur Okun (1963). By the end of the 20th century, the concept of “labour hoarding” had become an accepted part of economists’ explanations of the workings of labour markets and of the relationship between labour productivity and economic fluctuations. The emergence of this concept involved the conjunction of three key elements:
  • the fact that measured labour productivity was found to be procyclical, rising during expansions and falling during contractions;
  • a perceived contradiction with the theory of the neoclassical firm in a competitive economy; and
  • a possible explanation based on optimising behaviour on the part of firms.
Each of these three elements – fact, contradiction, and explanation – has a history of its own, dating back to at least the opening decades of the twentieth century. Telling the story of the emergence of the modern labour hoarding concept requires recounting these three histories, histories that involve the work of economists motivated by diverse purposes and often not mainly, if at all, concerned with the questions that the labour hoarding concept was ultimately used to address.

As a final twist to the story, the long-standing positive relationship between labour productivity and output in the US economy began to disappear in the late 1980s; and during the Great Recession, labour productivity rose while the economy contracted.

Full-text Article (Complimentary)

JEL Classifications: B22, E24, E32, J24