Friday, November 30, 2012

Positive Quiddity: Young Code Crackers

Introduction by the blog author

I’m including this story from Brown University because it is a demonstration of the flexibility of young minds. An annotated Roger Williams book included coded notes that could not be deciphered for centuries. But undergraduate students from different disciplines cracked it. Young adults who themselves think differently have special skills for seeing through camouflage.

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Reading outside the lines Brown students
are deciphering shorthand notes thought
to be work of Roger Williams
By MICHAEL P. McKINNEY, [Brown University] Journal Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE –– A code is scrawled in the margins of a 17thcentury book kept in a Brown University library. The code’s author is thought to be Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island. The shorthand symbols on page after page have remained mysteries for centuries, but now some Brown University undergraduates are cracking the code. A junior with a math concentration, a junior and senior both majoring in history, and a senior in American studies have spent four months combining disciplines to translate this sort of lost language and to divine, using historical events as a guide, what they believe one of the nation’s formative figures jotted down and why. The underlying book, "An Essay Towards the Reconciling of Differences Among Christians," which is by another author whose identity the students said is unknown, is missing the title page, but its more than 230 pages bear printed paragraphs in older English. But it’s what is written by hand above and around that print –– books within a book –– that the four students say is being revealed. "Roger Williams is writing all over this book in code –– it’s like something out of Harry Potter, but Harry Potter set in Rhode Island," said Ted Widmer, director of the university’s John Carter Brown Library, where the book has been since 1817. "It was in a language no one could speak." Lucas Mason-Brown, of Belmont, Mass., a junior with a math concentration, used a technique called "frequency analysis," which involves making a list of the symbols and determining their frequency of use to sort out their meaning. Mason-Brown said the shorthand on the book’s first 160 pages is fully translated. It is Williams copying information from another work, Peter Heylin’s "Cosmographie in Four Books," published in 1654.

Williams’ writing, according to the students, focused on various parts of Europe and made characterizations — generalizations, even — about people living there. The shorthand follows the geography that Heylin’s book presents, starting in Italy and including France, Spain, northern Europe, the British Isles and Russia. Williams’ writing also mentions Roman and medieval place names. Simon Liebling, a senior history major from Highland Park, N.J., said the students’ research suggests that Williams did the shorthand copying of text during his final trip to England so he could bring the knowledge back to America. Mason-Brown said the time of Williams’ final visit to England coincides with the publishing date of Heylin’s work. There was no Internet, no promise of finding a book in stores or libraries, no copier machines, but Williams had been trained in shorthand as a child. "This was a way for him to write extremely quickly," Liebling said. Another reason for shorthand could have included saving space, given the cost of paper, Mason-Brown said. He said the shorthand on the book’s final 20 pages is now partially translated, and the students say it appears to have a markedly different focus, one that includes mention of eunuchs and hermaphrodites. The students think that Williams might have used the back of the book to copy information from another author’s work but have not yet pinpointed what or whose it was. But it is the shorthand in the middle of "An Essay Towards the Reconciling of Differences Among Christians" that may prove most interesting –– and, so far, more difficult to decipher. Mason-Brown said he believes Williams was not copying but putting down his own thoughts in the book’s middle section. Chris Norris-LeBlanc, a junior from Pawtucket, said there are differences in the structure of the shorthand. And there is mention of a Williams contemporary, John Eliot, a Puritan who was the first to print a Bible in America, in the 1600s. The Williams project grew out of a presentation Widmer gave about a year ago to alumni gathering on campus. One of the people in the audience, Bill Twaddell, brought up the mystery book, Widmer said, and that eventually led to Widmer and some university faculty talking about what it would take to break the code. A call went out seeking students for an independent study. The students say there is a lot of work left –– more efforts to translate the shorthand and more understanding of what Williams chose to write. The research probably won’t be finished by the end of this academic year, they said. Mason-Brown and the other students, including senior Katharine Mead of Owego, N.Y., and Norris-LeBlanc meet each week or every other week, typically in a cafĂ© at the university’s student center, to go over what they’ve done and to determine the next tasks. "If this tells us anything about Roger Williams," Mason-Brown said, "it’s that he is a genuine scholar." The students said they have access to many professors who gave them lists of possible source materials to see what matched the shorthand. Another significant thing in cracking the code is the Internet. Unlike Williams’ long trip to England, the students can log on and quickly access a text held at, say, Cambridge University, according to Norris-Le-Blanc. Mason-Brown said he and the other students are still talking about what they might do with their research. "As a final project, we’re going to try to put something together," Norris-LeBlanc said.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

University of Georgia Vaccine Research

Man’s best friend: Common canine virus may lead to new vaccines for deadly human diseases
By James Hataway, November 27, 2012

Athens, Ga. - Researchers at the University of Georgia have discovered that a virus commonly found in dogs may serve as the foundation for the next great breakthrough in human vaccine development.

Although harmless in humans, parainfluenza virus 5, or PIV5, is thought to contribute to upper respiratory infections in dogs, and it is a common target for canine vaccines designed to prevent kennel cough. In a paper published recently in PLOS ONE, researchers describe how this virus could be used in humans to protect against diseases that have eluded vaccine efforts for decades.

"We can use this virus as a vector for all kinds of pathogens that are difficult to vaccinate against," said Biao He, the study's principal investigator and professor of infectious diseases in UGA's College of Veterinary Medicine. "We have developed a very strong H5N1 flu vaccine with this technique, but we are also working on vaccines for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria."

PIV5 does not cause disease in humans, as our immune system is able to recognize and destroy it. By placing antigens from other viruses or parasites inside PIV5, it effectively becomes a delivery vehicle that exposes the human immune system to important pathogens and allows it to create the antibodies that will protect against future infection.

This approach not only ensures full exposure to the vaccine but also is much safer because it does not require the use of attenuated, or weakened, pathogens. For example, an HIV vaccine delivered by PIV5 would contain only those parts of the HIV virus necessary to create immunity, making it impossible to contract the disease from the vaccine.

"Safety is always our number one concern," said He, who is also a Georgia Research Alliance distinguished investigator and member of the Faculty of Infectious Diseases. "PIV5 makes it much easier to vaccinate without having to use live pathogens."

Using viruses as a delivery mechanism for vaccines is not a new technique, but previous efforts have been fraught with difficulty. If humans or animals already possess a strong immunity to the virus used for delivery, the vaccine is unlikely to work, as it will be destroyed by the immune system too quickly.

"Pre-existing immunity to viruses is the main reason most of these vaccines fail," He said.
But in this latest study, He and his colleagues demonstrate that immunity to PIV5 does not limit its effectiveness as a vaccine delivery mechanism, even though many animals-including humans- already carry antibodies against it.

In their experiments, the researchers found that a single dose inoculation using PIV5 protected mice from the influenza strain that causes seasonal flu. Another single dose experimental vaccine also protected mice from the highly pathogenic and deadly H5N1 virus commonly known as bird flu.

This recent work is a culmination of more than fifteen years of research and experimentation with the PIV5 virus, and He has confidence that it will serve as an excellent foundation for vaccines to treat diseases in both animals and humans.

"I believe we have the best H5N1 vaccine candidate in existence," He said. "But we have also opened up a big field for a host of new vaccines."

UGA Faculty of Infectious Diseases
The University of Georgia Faculty of Infectious Diseases was created in 2007 to address existing and emerging infectious disease threats more effectively by integrating multidisciplinary research in animal, human and ecosystem health. Researchers from across the university focus on epidemiology, host-pathogen interactions, the evolution of infectious diseases, disease surveillance and predictors and the development of countermeasures such as vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. For more information about the Faculty of Infectious Diseases, see

UGA College of Veterinary Medicine

The UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, founded in 1946, is dedicated to training future veterinarians, to conducting research related to animal and human diseases, and to providing veterinary services for animals and their owners. Research efforts are aimed at enhancing the quality of life for animals and people, improving the productivity of poultry and livestock, and preserving a healthy interface between wildlife and people in the environment they share. The college enrolls 102 students each fall out of more than 800 who apply.

"Continuity" is critical in movies

Introduction by the blog author:

The continuity supervisor and continuity editing are essential for making any motion picture into a finished product that is worth viewing. This is true in spite of the fact that most of us have no idea what this continuity consists of.

About twenty years ago, Budweiser had a television commercial for Bud Dry beer. A desert landscape was shown that included a single actor, distant from the camera and neither moving nor speaking. The announcer than inquires, "Why are foreign movies so bad?" Then some lettering is shown that states: "Why ask why? Drink Bud Dry."

It was a great and iconic commercial, but the question is genuine. Perhaps a large element in the tedium and clumsiness of so many foreign movies is the lack of carefully planned and executed continuity.

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A script supervisor (also called continuity supervisor) is a member of a film crew responsible for maintaining the motion picture's internal continuity and for recording the production unit's daily progress in shooting the film's screenplay. The script supervisor credit typically appears in the closing credits of a motion picture.

Up until the late thirties and early forties, the script supervisor in the American film and television industry was typically called the continuity clerk, script reader or script girl. Individuals performing such duties were either credited with these titles or, more often, not credited at all. During this span of time, many script supervisors were indeed women, a fact that originally spawned the title "script girl." However, over the years, script supervisor positions throughout the American motion picture industry became more thoroughly integrated and formed a better balance among men and women. This fact, coupled with producers' desire to promote gender neutrality in a position that was increasingly taken up by men, produced the gradual change in nomenclature. By the fifties, the gender-specific term had virtually disappeared from film and television credits, but sometimes appeared in everyday speech.

In the most basic description, the script supervisor is the editor's and writer's representative on set, as well as being the right hand aide to the director and the director of photography. It is the script supervisor's job to make sure that at the end of the day the film can be cut together. In that sense, they back up every department, monitor the script during shooting and make sure that errors in continuity do not occur that would prevent the film from being able to be compiled in the editing room.

In pre-production, the script supervisor creates a number of reports based on the script, including a one-line continuity synopsis providing basic information on each scene such as the time of day, day in story order, and a one line synopsis of the scene. These reports are used by various departments in order to determine the most advantageous shot order and ensure that all departments, including production, wardrobe, hair and makeup, are in sync in regards to the progression of time within the story.

During production, the script supervisor acts as a central point for all production information on a film shoot, and has several responsibilities:
  • Continuity
  • – The supervisor is responsible for working with all departments (camera, lighting, sound, wardrobe, make-up, properties and sets) to make sure that continuity errors do not happen.The script supervisor takes notes on all the details required to recreate the continuity of a particular scene, location, or action. For every take, the script supervisor will note the duration of the take (usually with a stopwatch) and meticulously log information into a daily editor log about the action of the take, including position of the main actor (s), screen direction of their movement, important actions performed during the shot, type of lens used, and additional information which may vary from case to case. When multiple cameras are in use, the script supervisor keeps separate notes on each. These logs also notate a director's comments on any particular take as to whether it is no good, a hold take (ok, but not perfect), or a print take (a good take). All of these notes are crucial not just for continuity – they provide the editor information on what the director prefers, any problems with any of the takes and other notes to assist the editing process.
  • Axis & Eyelines
  • – The script supervisor is also the go-to person for determining the axis of a scene. The supervisor keeps track of and helps the director and the camera-operator set the camera position and off-camera eyelines ensuring that the coverage of a scene cuts seamlessly and that the characters within a scene always appear, without any confusion on the part of the viewer, to be looking precisely at the intended character or object.

  • Slating
  • – The script supervisor interacts with the clapper loader (second camera assistant) and the production sound mixer to make sure that each take of exposed film has a consistent and meaningful slate, that the sound and picture slates match. The script supervisor also notes the sound roll of each sync take, and the state of all MOS takes. This ensures that there is proper identification on the film footage in the editing room so the editor can find and use the correct takes.

  • Script

  • – The script supervisor is responsible for keeping the most current version of the shooting script. During shooting, the script supervisor notates any changes from the screenplay that are made by the actors, director or others during the actual filming process. If significant changes are made to the script that affect a future day's shooting, the script supervisor is responsible for providing those changes to the assistant director's team who then will distribute those changes to the rest of the crew. The script supervisor's script is also referred to as their lined script because during shooting, a script supervisor draws a vertical line down the page for each different camera setup. Each line designates the start and stop of that setup, a quick note of what the shot description was and whether or not the dialogue was on camera for that setup. This allows the editor to quickly reference which camera setups cover which portion of the dialogue or action.

  • Production Reports

  • – At the end of each shooting day, the script supervisor prepares daily reports for the production team. These reports vary in form depending on the studio or production company; however, they generally include a log of the actual times that shooting and breaks started and stopped, and a breakdown of the pages, scenes and minutes that were shot that day, as well as the same information for the previous day, the total script and the amounts remaining to be done. Also included are the number of scenes covered (completely shot), the number of retakes (when a scene has to be reshot), and the number of wild tracks. The script supervisor is the official timekeeper on any set.

  • Editor's Notes
  • – In addition to the production reports, each shooting day the script supervisor also compiles the continuity logs for the day's shooting as well as the relevant lined script pages for the scenes shot that day. Those notes are sent off to the editorial staff to assist them in the editing process. The script supervisor is the primary liaison between the director (who decides what scenes are to be shot) and the editor (who is usually not present during actual filming but needs to have exact records of the filming in order to do the job of cutting the film together.) The script supervisor is a technical rather than artistic position and is generally considered as part of the producer's or studio's staff. There is usually only one script supervisor on a given film production.
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    Continuity editing
    is the predominant style of film editing and video editing in the post-production process of filmmaking of narrative films and television programs. The purpose of continuity editing is to smooth over the inherent discontinuity of the editing process and to establish a logical coherence between shots.

    In most films, logical coherence is achieved by cutting to continuity, which emphasizes smooth transition of time and space. However, some films incorporate cutting to continuity into a more complex classical cutting technique, one which also tries to show psychological continuity of shots. The montage technique relies on symbolic association of ideas between shots rather than association of simple physical action for its continuity.
    Common techniques of continuity editing

    Continuity editing can be divided into two categories: temporal continuity and spatial continuity. Within each category, specific techniques will work against a sense of continuity. In other words, techniques can cause a passage to be continuous, giving the viewer a concrete physical narration to follow, or discontinuous, causing viewer disorientation, pondering, or even subliminal interpretation or reaction, as in the montage style.

    The important ways to preserve temporal continuity are avoiding the ellipsis, using continuous diegetic sound, and utilizing the match on action technique.

    An ellipsis is an apparent break in natural time continuity as it is implied in the film's story. The simplest way to maintain temporal continuity is to shoot and use all action involved in the story's supposed duration whether it be pertinent or not. It would also be necessary to shoot the whole film in one take in order to keep from having to edit together different shots, causing the viewer's temporal disorientation. However in a story which is to occupy many hours, days, or years, a viewer would have to spend too long watching the film. So although in many cases the ellipsis would prove necessary, elimination of it altogether would best preserve any film's temporal continuity.

    Diegetic sound
    is that which is to have actually occurred within the story during the action being viewed. It is sound that comes from within the narrative world of a film (including off-screen sound). Continuous diegetic sound helps to smooth temporally questionable cuts by overlapping the shots. Here the logic is that if a sonic occurrence within the action of the scene has no breaks in time, then it would be impossible for the scene and its corresponding visuals to be anything but temporally continuous.

    Match on action technique can preserve temporal continuity where there is a uniform, unrepeated physical motion or change within a passage. A match on action is when some action occurring before the temporally questionable cut is picked up where the cut left it by the shot immediately following. For example, a shot of someone tossing a ball can be edited to show two different views, while maintaining temporal continuity by being sure that the second shot shows the arm of the subject in the same stage of its motion as it was left when cutting from the first shot.

    Temporal discontinuity
    can be expressed by the deliberate use of ellipses. Cutting techniques useful in showing the nature of the specific ellipses are the dissolve and the fade. Other editing styles can show a reversal of time or even an abandonment of it altogether. These are the flashback and the montage techniques, respectively.

    A fade-out is a gradual transformation of an image to black; whereas a fade-in is the opposite.  A dissolve is a simultaneous overlapping transition from one shot to another that does not involve an instantaneous cut or change in brightness. Both forms of transition (fade and dissolve) create an ambiguous measure of ellipsis that may constitute diagetic (narrative) days, months, years or even centuries. Through the use of the dissolve or the fade, one may allude to the relative duration of ellipses where the dissolve sustains a visual link but the fade to black does not. It cannot be argued that one constitutes short ellipsis and the other long however, as this negates the very functional ambiguity created by such transitions. Ambiguity is removed through the use of captions and intertitles such as "three weeks later" if desired.

    The flashback is a relocation of time within a story, or more accurately, a window through which the viewer can see what happened at a time prior to that considered (or assumed) to be the story present. A flashback makes its time-frame evident through the scene's action or through the use of common archetypes such as sepia toning, the use of home-movie style footage, period costume or even through obvious devices such as clocks and calendars or direct character linkage. For example, if after viewing a grown man in the story present, a cut to a young boy being addressed by the man's name occurs, the viewer can assume that the young boy scene depicts a time previous to the story present. The young boy scene would be a flashback.

    The montage technique is one that implies no real temporal continuity whatsoever. Montage is achieved with a collection of symbolically related images, cut together in a way that suggests psychological relationships rather a temporal continuum.

    Just as important as temporal continuity to overall continuity of a film is spatial continuity. And like temporal continuity, it can be achieved a number of ways: the establishing shot, the 180 degree rule, the eyeline match and match on action.

    The establishing shot is one that provides a view of all the space in which the action is occurring. Its theory is that it is difficult for a viewer to become disoriented when all the story space is presented before him. The establishing shot can be used at any time as a reestablishing shot. This might be necessary when a complex sequence of cuts may have served to disorient the viewer.

    One way of preventing viewer disorientation in editing is to adhere to the 180 degree rule. The rule prevents the camera from crossing the imaginary line connecting the subjects of the shot. Another method is the eyeline match. When shooting a human subject, he or she can look towards the next subject to be cut to, thereby using the former's self as a reference for the viewer to use while locating the new subject within the set.

    With the establishing shot, 180 degree rule, eyeline match, and the previously discussed match on action, spatial continuity is attainable; however, if wishing to convey a disjointed space, or spatial discontinuity, aside from purposefully contradicting the continuity tools, one can take advantage of crosscutting and the
    jump cut.

    Cross cutting
    is a technique which conveys an undeniable spatial discontinuity. It can be achieved by cutting back and forth between shots of spatially unrelated places. In these cases, the viewer will understand clearly that the places are supposed to be separate and parallel. So in that sense, the viewer may not become particularly disoriented, but under the principle of spatial continuity editing, crosscutting is considered a technique of spatial discontinuity.

    The jump cut is undoubtedly a device of disorientation. The jump cut is a cut between two shots that are so similar that a noticeable jump in the image occurs. The 30 degree angle rule was formulated for the purpose of eliminating jump cuts. The 30 degree rule requires that no edit should join two shots whose camera viewpoints are less than 30 degrees from one another.

    Discontinuous editing

    Discontinuous editing
    describes the deliberate or accidental violation of rules of continuity when editing films. As a deliberate technique, it may be used to connote authenticity or to create alienation. The viewer's expectation of continuity can be violated by such methods as changing image size or tone between shots, changing direction or changing shots before the viewer has time to recognize what is happening. It is also known as montage editing, and employs a series of often rapid and non-matching cuts which creates a style the audience is conspicuously aware of, or alternatively that create uneven and unpredictable rhythms and emphasize the rapidity of movement between images.

    Tuesday, November 27, 2012

    The Science of Wood Fires

    Flames To Ashes: Campfire Science
    By Enrico Uva, Science 2.0, November 26th 2012

    Birch bark, which is found in many parts of the U.S., Canada, Europe and China, is a great way to start a campfire. Rich in terpenoids, the paper-thin material ignites easily. The heat it releases provides enough activation energy to set small twigs ablaze, which of course should be placed in a tee-pee arrangement, so as to let in more oxygen. All of this should take place in a pit surrounded by stones, not to let wind take heat away from the young fire and not to burn the forest down.

    The hues of a flame are rarely constant for a second, a hint that something complex is occurring within them. There is a set of chain mechanisms involving intermediate molecules that are needed for subsequent steps. Many of the in-between products are radicals, reactive molecules with unpaired electrons. Radicals are often created in the high temperature regions of the flame, but they diffuse back into the colder regions where they are needed to generate the final products. To reveal more details, laser-based investigative techniques have been used so as not to disturb the flame. Even when burning as simple a molecule as diatomic hydrogen, radicals like O, H, OH and HO2 form. When the combustion of hydrocarbons like cellulose and lignin in wood takes place, we get a greater variety of radicals, some of them carbon-centered. C2 and the radical CH arise in excited form and release blue and green light. Lignin-derived radicals involving benzene structures are not the healthiest things to inhale, but mere occasional exposure is probably nothing to worry about, unless there's a concentration of wood-burning stoves in a particular area. All of this underlines the fact that whenever we write an overall equation for a fuel consumed in a fire, it's like we are seeing only the ingredients of a recipe and the final product without witnessing the cooking.

    Hot, gaseous products of combustion expand and rise, stretching flames vertically. The ascension leads to pressure gradients, and fresh air is pushed into the fire. The circulation supplies it with more oxygen, the electron-thief that campfires depend on to release heat as more tightly bonded products like water and carbon dioxide are created. There's energy needed to drive molecular fragments of cellulose apart, in the same way that you need to exert force against gravity if you want to push a ball up a hill. But once at the top, the ball can roll further down on the other side. With chemicals, it's not the combination of mass, gravity and varying heights that accounts for differences in potential energy but Coulombic forces acting over a variety of distances between positive atomic nuclei and valence electrons.

    Why is a wood flame predominantly yellow-orange? It has been proposed that it's not the result of electron transitions; what's supposedly responsible is incandescence of particles at about 1100 to 1200 oC . Since the combustion of wood is incomplete, the flame's soot particles, some of which are elemental carbon, emit part of their vibrational energy as photons. How fast the molecules vibrate depends on their temperature, and the hotter the surface, the higher the frequency of the photons emitted. The same mechanism would account for the red glow of logs at the base of a fire. But the temperature is lower, in the neighborhood of 700 to 1000oC, hence a color of a longer wavelength and a lower frequency.

    Different parts of the charcoal emit light of slightly different frequencies, intermittently and in different directions. A point on the surface of the charcoal particle that has just emitted photons will have lost energy and cooled slightly. Although exothermic reactions quickly compensate, from that same spot, the temperature will not necessarily be identical, especially in light of air movement and the exact frequency of photons is not necessarily replicated.

    It's well known that the ease of ignition and burning rate of wood vary greatly with moisture content. Specifically, a drop in moisture content of 10% results in an increase of 20–30% in burning rate. When wood is too dry the combustion rate increases, but an inadequate oxygen supply leads to more undesirable emissions. The combustion rate also depends on boundary conditions and the species being burnt. Why does it vary with tree type? Wood composition is not constant. Wood is essentially a matrix of cellulose and other carbohydrate fibers (hemi cellulose) reinforced by the adhesive binding action of lignin. But hardwoods can have anywhere from 18 to 25% lignin along with varying amounts of hemicellulose, usually a partly acetylated, acidic xylan. Softer woods have other hemicellulose fibers and more "binder", 25 to 35% lignin. There is also an assortment of oils and other secondary products present.

    The different wood recipes not only affect kinetics but thermochemistry. Softwoods, compared to hardwoods, release on average an extra 5% of heat, a maximum of 21 instead of 20 MJ/kg, to be precise. From the point of view of carbon dioxide emissions, it's not a good idea to rely on wood as a primary fuel. For every MJ of heat obtained from wood, on average, 80 g of CO2 are emitted. In contrast, natural gas combustion only puts out 50 g per MJ.
    Finally, when the fire dies and we're left with ashes, what exactly are we staring at?
    In general the ash is of an alkaline nature, with a pH of about 12, mostly due to the presence of carbonates of calcium and potassium, specifically CaCO3 and K2Ca(CO3)2. At higher temperatures, about 1300 oC, calcium and magnesium oxides are ashes' main compounds. Those alkaline compounds were not originally present in plant tissue. Neutral metals weren't either, so the carbonates must have formed indirectly, perhaps ions precipitating with carbonic acid, derived from water and carbon dioxide.

    In the same way that the nature of flames and soot depends on the type of wood, the more detailed composition of ash also varies. According to a fairly recent study, it matches the needs of trees growing in a particular area. Among ashes of all conifers and broadleaves tested, that of birch trees, whose bark started this discussion, has the most calcium, the 2nd most phosphorus and is the only one without aluminum. But birch ash only has a fraction of the potassium and magnesium ions found within that of poplars and maples, respectively. Like cremated people and exploding suns, trees leave a signature in their ashes.

    Saturday, November 24, 2012

    Why American debt matters

    "The debt we create is basically money we owe to ourselves, and the burden it imposes does not involve a real transfer of resources."

                  -- Economist Paul Krugman in a recent article

    The problem with this reasoning is that Klugman is a quack. He doesn’t understand money and debt as well as, say, a certified public accountant. "Money we owe to ourselves" can grow so big and so fractious that it ruins nations.

    Here’s a link that shows, in plain language, the havoc created by too much borrowing:

    Friday, November 23, 2012

    Memory and Electrical Frequencies

    Brain waves encode rules for behavior
    Fluctuations in electrical activity may also allow the brain to form thoughts and memories.
    By Anne Trafton, MIT News Office, November 21, 2012

    "One of the biggest puzzles in neuroscience is how our brains encode thoughts, such as perceptions and memories, at the cellular level. Some evidence suggests that ensembles of neurons represent each unique piece of information, but no one knows just what these ensembles look like, or how they form.

    A new study from researchers at MIT and Boston University (BU) sheds light on how neural ensembles form thoughts and support the flexibility to change one’s mind. The research team, led by Earl Miller, the Picower Professor of Neuroscience at MIT, identified groups of neurons that encode specific behavioral rules by oscillating in synchrony with each other.

    The results suggest that the nature of conscious thought may be rhythmic, according to the researchers, who published their findings in the Nov. 21 issue of Neuron.
    "As we talk, thoughts float in and out of our heads. Those are all ensembles forming and then reconfiguring to something else. It’s been a mystery how the brain does this," says Miller, who is also a member of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory. "That’s the fundamental problem that we’re talking about — the very nature of thought itself."

    Rules for behavior

    The researchers identified two neural ensembles in the brains of monkeys trained to respond to objects based on either their color or orientation. This task requires cognitive flexibility — the ability to switch between two distinct sets of rules for behavior.

    "Effectively what they’re doing is focusing on some parts of information in the world and ignoring others. Which behavior they’re doing depends on the context," says Tim Buschman, an MIT postdoc and one of the lead authors of the paper.

    As the animals switched between tasks, the researchers measured the brain waves produced in different locations throughout the prefrontal cortex, where most planning and thought takes place. Those waves are generated by rhythmic fluctuations of neurons’ electrical activity.
    When the animals responded to objects based on orientation, the researchers found that certain neurons oscillated at high frequencies that produce so-called beta waves. When color was the required rule, a different ensemble of neurons oscillated in the beta frequency. Some neurons overlapped, belonging to more than one group, but each ensemble had its own distinctive pattern.

    Interestingly, the researchers also saw oscillations in the low-frequency alpha range among neurons that make up the orientation rule ensemble, but only when the color rule was being applied. The researchers believe that the alpha waves, which have been associated with suppression of brain activity, help to quiet the neurons that trigger the orientation rule.

    "What this suggests is that orientation was dominant, and color was weaker. The brain was throwing this blast of alpha at the orientation ensemble to shut it up, so the animal could use the weaker ensemble," Miller says.

    The findings could explain how the brain can create any appropriate behavioral response to the countless possible combinations of stimuli, rules and required actions, says Pascal Fries, director of the Ernst Strungmann Institute for Neuroscience in Frankfurt, Germany.

    "We likely compose the appropriate neuronal assembly on the fly through synchronization," says Fries, who was not part of the research team. "The number of combinatorial possibilities is enormous, just like the number of possible 10-digit telephone numbers is."

    Eric Denovellis, a graduate student at Boston University, is also a lead author of the paper. Other authors are Cinira Diogo, a former Picower Institute postdoc, and Daniel Bullock, a professor of cognitive and neural systems at BU.

    Oscillation as consciousness

    The researchers are now trying to figure out how these neural ensembles coordinate their activity as the brain switches back and forth between different rules, or thoughts. Some neuroscientists have theorized that deeper brain structures, such as the thalamus, handle this coordination, but no one knows for sure, Miller says. "It’s one of the biggest mysteries of cognition, what controls your thoughts," he says.

    This work could also help unravel the neural basis of consciousness.

    "The most fundamental characteristic of consciousness is its limited capacity. You only can hold a very few thoughts in mind simultaneously," Miller says. These oscillations may explain why that is: Previous studies have shown that when an animal is holding two thoughts in mind, two different ensembles oscillate in beta frequencies, out of phase with one another.

    "That immediately suggests why there’s a limited capacity to consciousness: Only so many balls can be kept in the air at the same time, only a limited amount of information can fit into one oscillatory cycle," Miller says. Disruptions of these oscillations may be involved in neurological disorders such as schizophrenia; studies have shown that patients with schizophrenia have reduced beta oscillations.

    The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Mental Health.

    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense

    ''Honi soit qui mal y pense" is a French phrase meaning: "Shamed be he who thinks evil of it". The phrase is sometimes archaically rendered as "Honi soit quy mal y pense", "Hony soyt qe mal y pense", "Hony soyt ke mal y pense", "Honi soyt ki mal y pans" and various other phoneticizations. It is the motto of the English chivalric Order of the Garter. In Modern French it is rendered as "Honni soit qui mal y pense" (the modern conjugation of the verb honnir being honni). It is also written at the end of the manuscript Sir Gawain and the Green Knight but it appears to have been a later addition. Its literal translation from Old French is "Shame be to him who thinks evil of it". It is sometimes re-interpreted as "Evil be to him who evil thinks".


    This statement supposedly originated when King Edward III was dancing with his first cousin and daughter-in-law, Joan of Kent. Her garter slipped down to her ankle, causing those around her to snigger at her humiliation. In an act of chivalry Edward placed the garter around his own leg, saying "Honi soit qui mal y pense", and the phrase later became the motto of the Order.

    It may be understood as 'A scoundrel, who thinks badly by it', or 'Shame on him, who suspects illicit motivation'.

    Other translations include: "Spurned be the one who evil thinks" and "Evil on him who thinks evil"

    Tuesday, November 20, 2012

    Positive Quiddity: Raymond Loewy

    Raymond Loewy (November 5, 1893 – July 14, 1986) was an industrial designer, and the first to be featured on the cover of Time magazine, on October 31, 1949. Born in France, he spent most of his professional career in the United States. Among his work were the Shell and former BP logos, the Greyhound Scenicruiser bus, Coca-Cola vending machines, the Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 and S-1 locomotives, the Lucky Strike package, Coldspot refrigerators, the Studebaker Avanti and Champion, and the Air Force One livery. His career spanned seven decades.

    Loewy designs



    • Ayrel
    • aircraft, 1909



    • Gestetner mimeograph duplicating machine shell, 1929



    • Boeing 307 – Interior of the Boeing 307 (Stratoliner) owned by Howard Hughes
    • International Harvester Farmall tractor letter series, 1939-1954
    • International Harvestor Metro series of light & medium duty vans and trucks, 1939
    • Pennsylvania Railroad:
      • PRR K4s steam locomotive
      • PRR S1 steam locomotive
      • PRR T1 steam locomotive
      • PRR GG1 electric locomotive, 1936
    • Sears products, including 1935 Sears Coldspot refrigerator

                                       Loewy at front of PRR S1 Locomotive
    • Electrolux L300 refrigerator, 1940
    • Harley-Davidson components of the 1941 74FL Knucklehead
    • Schick electric razor, 1941
    • Lucky Strike, white package, 1942
    • Electrolux floor polisher model B6, 1944
    • Fairbanks-Morse "Erie-built" (1945) and "C-liner" (1950) models, Model H10-44 (1944) and H-20-44 (1947), and early Model H-12-44 (1950), H-12-46 (1950), H-15-44 (1947), H-16-44 (1950), and H-16-66 (1950) diesel locomotives
    • Hallicrafters Model S-38 shortwave radio, 1946
    • Filben Maestro jukebox, 1947
    • 1947 Studebaker Champion, 1947
    • Baldwin Locomotive Works Model DR-4-4-15 "Sharknose" diesel locomotives, 1949
    • IBM 026 keypunch, 1949
    • Norfolk and Western Railway Roanoke, Virginia station renovation (now the O. Winston Link Museum), 1949


    • Union News restaurants coffee shop, at the TWA Flight Center, Idlewild
    • Le Creuset French Ovens
    • Lionel’s #497 Coal Loader, 1950
    • Greyhound Lines Double-Deck Coach PD-4501 Scenicruiser (US Patent 2,563,917), 1951.
    • Peace (cigarette), 1952
    • Studebaker Commander, 1953
    • Northern Pacific Railway, Vista-Dome North Coast Limited (exterior color scheme and interiors), 1954.
    • Coca-Cola redesign of the original contour bottle, eliminating Coca-Cola embossing and adding vivid white Coke/Coca-Cola lettering, designed and introduced first king-size or slenderized bottles, that is, 10, 12, 16 and 26 oz. (1955) Later, in 1960, he designed the first Coke steel can with diamond design.
    • Hillman Minx automobile, Series One onward, 1956–1959.
    • Scott-Atwater Royal Scott outboard motor made by McCulloch, 1957
    • 500-Series of Cockshutt tractors, 1958
    • Le Creuset Coquelle, 1958
    • Leisurama homes, 1959
    • Dorsett
    • recreational boats, 1959



    • USCG Racing Stripe logo (1964)
    • Air Force One’s distinctive blue, white and chrome livery, 1962. Variations on Loewy's original design are today flown by most of the U.S. Air Force's fleet of VIP aircraft, including the military "VC" models of 747s, 757s, 737s, and Gulfstreams.(A similar "livery" was applied in 2006 to Union Pacific diesel locvomotive #4141 to honor former president George H.W. Bush)
    • Union News restaurants coffee shop, at the TWA Flight Centerm, Idlewild, circa 1962
    • Studebaker Avanti, 1963
    • Unitef States Coast Guard "racing stripe" Service Mark, 1964
    • Five cents John Kennedy postage stamp, 1964
    • DF-2000 line of modern furniture, 1965
    • Exxon logo, 1966 (introduced in 1972)
    • New York City Transit Authority R40 car, whose slant-front design had to be retrofitted with guide rails due to safety concerns, 1967.
    • Chubb logo, 1968
    • Elna Styled the Lotus compact sewing machine. Elna's best selling - more than 1 million sold. Today you can find the Elna Lotus in the Design Collection of New York's Museum of Modern Art (MOMA),
    • SPAR logo, 1968


                                   1963 Studebaker Avanti [not factory wheelcovers]


    • United States Postal Service eagle logo, 1970
    • Shell logo, 1971
    • Air France Concorde interior, 1975
    • NASA’s Skylab space station, first interior design standards for space travel including a porthole to allow a view of earth from space, interior designs and color schemes, a private area for each crew member to relax and sleep, food table and trays, coveralls, garment storage modules, designs for waste management
    • Norfolk Scope, hallmark and logo


    Work in years or models unknown

    • Frigidaire refrigerators, ranges, and freezers
    • Coop logo
    • Panama Line: Loewy designed the interiors for a trio of American-built cargo liners named the SS Ancon, SS Cristobal and SS Panama.
    • the Wahl-Eversharp Symphony fountain pen.
    • The International Harvester "IH" "Man on a tractor" logo.
    • Dorsett "Catalina", a popular early fiberglass pleasure boat.
    • Zippo Lighter

    Windsor Castle

    Windsor Castle is a medieval castle and royal residence in Windsor in the English county of Berkshire that is notable for its long association with the British royal family and for its architecture. The original castle was built after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror. Since the time of Henry I, it has been used by a succession of monarchs and is the longest-occupied palace in Europe. The castle's lavish, early 19th-century State Apartments are architecturally significant, described by art historian Hugh Roberts as "a superb and unrivalled sequence of rooms widely regarded as the finest and most complete expression of later Georgian taste". The castle includes the 15th-century St George’s Chapel, considered by historian John Robinson to be "one of the supreme achievements of English Perpendicular Gothic" design. More than five hundred people live and work in Windsor Castle.

    Originally designed to protect Norman dominance around the outskirts of London, and to oversee a strategically important part of the River Thames, Windsor Castle was built as a motte and bailey, with three wards surrounding a central mound. Gradually replaced with stone fortifications, the castle withstood a prolonged siege during the First Baron’s War at the start of the 13th century. Henry III built a luxurious royal palace within the castle during the middle of the century, and Edward III went further, rebuilding the palace to produce an even grander set of buildings in what would become "the most expensive secular building project of the entire Middle Ages in England". Edward's core design lasted through the Tudor period, during which Henry VIII and Elizabeth I made increasing use of the castle as a royal court and centre for diplomatic entertainment.

    Windsor Castle survived a tumultuous period during the English Civil War, in which the castle was used as a military headquarters for Parliamentary forces and a prison for Charles I. During the Restoration, Charles II rebuilt much of Windsor Castle with the help of architect Hugh May, creating a set of extravagant, Baroque interiors, still praised today. After a period of neglect during the 18th century, George III and George IV renovated and rebuilt Charles II's palace at colossal expense, producing the current design of the State Apartments, full of Rococo, Gothic and Baroque furnishings. Queen Victoria made minor changes to the castle, which became the centre for royal entertainment for much of her reign. Windsor Castle was used as a refuge for the royal family during the bombing campaigns of the Second World War and survived a fire in 1992. It is a popular tourist attraction, a venue for hosting state visits, and the Queen's preferred weekend home.

    Sunday, November 18, 2012

    New Mexico Chili Cookoff

    Introduction by the Blog Author

    This was posted on Facebook.  It's probably true, or at least most of it.  What is says about human nature itself is reliably honest and forthright.

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    New Mexico Chili Cookoff
    Note: Please take time to read this slowly.
    If you pay attention to the first two judges,
    the reaction of the third judge is even better.

    For those of you who have lived in New Mexico, you know how true this is. They actually have a Chili Cook-off about the time Halloween comes around. It takes up a major portion of a parking lot at the Santa Fe Plaza.

    Judge #3 was an inexperienced Chili taster named Frank, who was visiting from Springfield , IL who said:

    "Recently, I was honored to be selected as a judge at a chili cook-off. The original person called in sick at the last moment and I happened to be standing there at the judge's table, asking for directions to the Coor's Light truck, when the call came in. I was assured by the other two judges (Native New Mexicans) that the chili wouldn't be all that spicy; and, besides, they told me I could have free beer during the tasting, so I accepted and became Judge #3."

    Here are the score card notes from the event:

    Judge # 1 -- A little too heavy on the tomato. Amusing kick.
    Judge # 2 -- Nice, smooth tomato flavor. Very mild.
    Judge # 3 (Frank) -- Holy crap, what the hell is this stuff? You could remove dried paint from your driveway. Took me two beers to put the flames out. I hope that's the worst one. These New Mexicans are crazy.

    Judge # 1 -- Smoky, with a hint of pork. Slight jalapeno tang.
    Judge # 2 -- Exciting BBQ flavor, needs more peppers to be taken seriously.
    Judge # 3 -- Keep this out of the reach of children. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to taste besides pain. I had to wave off two people who wanted to give me the Heimlich maneuver. They had to rush in more beer when they saw the look on my face.

    Judge # 1 -- Excellent firehouse chili. Great kick.
    Judge # 2 -- A bit salty, good use of peppers.
    Judge # 3 -- Call the EPA. I've located a uranium spill. My nose feels like I have been snorting Drano. Everyone knows the routine by now. Get me more beer before I ignite. Barmaid pounded me on the back, now my backbone is in the front part of my chest. I'm getting sh*t-faced from all of the beer.

    Judge # 1 -- Black bean chili with almost no spice. Disappointing.
    Judge # 2 -- Hint of lime in the black beans. Good side dish for fish or other mild foods, not much of a chili.
    Judge # 3 -- I felt something scraping across my tongue, but was unable to taste it. Is it possible to burn out taste buds? Sally, the beer maid, was standing behind me with fresh refills. This very ugly woman is starting to look HOT ... Just like this nuclear waste I'm eating! Is chili an aphrodisiac?

    Judge # 1 -- Meaty, strong chili. Jalapeno peppers freshly ground, adding considerable kick. Very impressive.
    Judge # 2 -- Chili using shredded beef, could use more tomato. Must admit the jalapeno peppers make a strong statement.
    Judge # 3 -- My ears are ringing, sweat is pouring off my forehead and I can no longer focus my eyes. I farted, and four people behind me needed paramedics. The contestant seemed offended when I told her that her chili had given me brain damage. Sally saved my tongue from bleeding by pouring beer directly on it from the pitcher. I wonder if I'm burning my lips off.. It really ticks me off that the other judges asked me to stop screaming. Screw them.
    Judge # 1 -- Thin yet bold vegetarian variety chili. Good balance of spices and peppers.
    Judge # 2 -- The best yet. Aggressive use of peppers, onions, garlic. Superb.
    Judge # 3 -- My intestines are now a straight pipe filled with gaseous, sulfuric flames. I crapped on myself when I farted, and I'm worried it will eat through the chair. No one seems inclined to stand behind me except that Sally. Can't feel my lips anymore. I need to wipe my butt with a snow cone.

    Judge # 1 -- A mediocre chili with too much reliance on canned peppers.
    Judge # 2 -- Ho hum, tastes as if the chef literally threw in a can of chili peppers at the last moment. **I should take note that I am worried about Judge #3. He appears to be in a bit of distress as he is cursing uncontrollably.
    Judge # 3 -- You could put a grenade in my mouth, pull the pin, and I wouldn't feel a thing. I've lost sight in one eye, and the world sounds like it is made of rushing water. My shirt is covered with chili, which slid unnoticed out of my mouth. My pants are full of lava to match my shirt. At least during the autopsy, they'll know what killed me. I've decided to stop breathing. It's too painful. Screw it; I'm not getting any oxygen anyway. If I need air, I'll just suck it in through the 4-inch hole in my stomach..

    Judge # 1 -- The perfect ending, this is a nice blend chili. Not too bold but spicy enough to declare its existence.
    Judge # 2 -- This final entry is a good, balanced chili. Neither mild nor hot. Sorry to see that most of it was lost when Judge #3 farted, passed out, fell over and pulled the chili pot down on top of himself. Not sure if he's going to make it. Poor fella, wonder how he'd have reacted to really hot chili?
    Judge # 3 -- No report.

    Saturday, November 17, 2012

    Great Piano Performances Made New

    By the blog author

    Suppose it were possible to take great piano performances from 70 or even 100 years ago and bring them up to standard as modern digital releases.  It sounds impossible, because the sound of a concert grand piano is so complex and the ancient recording instruments and microphones were not able to record the entire range of sound.

    But the digital age has made it possible to classify and diagnose the ancient recordings and determine the piano touch, loudness, pedal action and other aspects of a recital piece and to instruct a mechanical keyboard and pedal to repeat the original intended actions.  This makes a ghostly computer re perform an old but classic performance by a piano master.

    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

    Beginning in 2007, audio software pioneers Zenph Studios began collaborating with Sony Masterworks to bring classic, but poorly recorded piano recordings from yesteryear into the modern digital age. The idea was to capture the full range of musical performance nuance for each note – volume, tempo, articulation, pedal action, etc. – using sophisticated computer encoding, and then to re-record the performance as "played" by a comparable acoustic grand piano fitted with Zenph reading computers and hardware. The result is a Zenph Re-Performance®, bringing state-of the art fidelity to timeless interpretations by the great pianists of the past. The first two collaborations, Glenn Gould's historic 1955 recording of the Goldberg Variations (2007) and a 1949 live concert of jazz wizard Art Tatum at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, as Piano Starts Here (2008) received rave reviews. Now the pair presents Rachmaninoff Plays Rachmaninoff, based on a set of recordings made by the great composer/pianist between 1921 and 1942 of five original works – including the famed Prelude in C#-, Op.3, No.2.

    [Here is the Classical Archives review of the reperformance of Rachmaninoff solos:]

    The most recent addition to the Zenph-Sony partnership is the album Rachmaninoff Plays Rachmaninoff, featuring a set of thirteen tracks, recorded between 1921 and 1942, of his original compositions and transcriptions – including such favorites as his Prelude in C#-, Op.3, No.2, and the arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumble-Bee. For this Re-Performance®, Zenph fitted their digital software to a 1909 Steinway D acoustic grand powered by the SE reproducing system, implemented by Richard Shepherd of Live Performance, Inc. This 2009 release marks the 100th Anniversary of Rachmaninov's US recital debut. As with the other two recordings, the Sony release presents the full album program two times, the first in standard (redbook) stereo, and the second in "binaural stereo", re-creating the aural experience that the pianists themselves might have had.

    Classical Archives presents the complete new Sony Masterworks release, along with several fascinating comparative recordings. We first present comparisons between Zenph Re-Performances® and the original recordings (re-mastered in 1989) on three tracks: Rachmaninov's Prelude in C#-, Op.3, No.2, and his arrangements of Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumble-Bee and Kreisler's Liebesleid; we then offer comparative recordings of Rachmaninov's performances and those of other famed pianist on two tracks: Etude tableau, Op. 33, No.2 (Vladimir Horowitz) and Moment musicaux, Op.16, No.2 (Vladimir Ashkenazy). Finally, we present an excerpt from the liner notes by Max Harrison, author of Rachmaninoff: Life, Works, Recordings.
    Liner Notes (excerpt)

    Besides being a great composer, Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873–1943) was also a marvelously accomplished and original performer on the piano, an instrument which has never lacked outstanding players. He cut gramophone recordings between 1919 and 1942, a period during which many improvements were made in the quality of recorded sound. Yet by twenty-first century standards Rachmaninoff's work for the gramophone sounds relatively primitive, thin and lacking the full resonance of which the piano is capable. These Zenph re-performances, which completely eliminate the technological limitations of the past, use computerized captures of attacks, key-speeds, pitches, durations, plus interpretative nuances including those added by Rachmaninoff's always subtle pedaling. And all this is done on a 1909 Steinway concert grand in optimum condition such as the composer always played himself.

    These re-performances are programmed in the order of their original recording. Indeed the sequence begins and ends with Rachmaninoff's paraphrases of items by his friend Fritz Kreisler, "Liebesleid" and "Liebesfreud." These are in both pianistic and harmonic terms elaborate, sophisticated settings of what initially were simple tuneful encore pieces. The perfumed luxuriance of such performances immediately establishes what an extraordinary pianist Rachmaninoff was and each gives a bewitching demonstration of the real meaning of rubato.

    All the above from:

    Note from the Blog Author
    What this actually sounds like is Rachmaninoff himself playing the piano in a modern digital studio. The piano is crisp, perfect and nuanced. The Zenph technology also makes a point that argues with what critics and performers have been saying about Rachmaninoff for decades. This great pianist was not mechanical, not unfeeling and not a throwback to anyone in the nineteenth century. His technique was that of a virtuoso performer that doesn’t make mistakes and who communicates his own moods in tremendous detail with unequalled honesty. As the moods change, the rubato often changes, too, which is anathema to many continental artists and critics. But it works and it makes sense.  The performances also sharply rebuke those critics who have minimized Rachmaninoff as a composer and performer since his death in 1943.

    Listening to the "earphone" recordings, with microphones placed where the composer’s ears would be located above the piano bench, actually does give a rendition played as the composer himself must have heard it. This is remarkable and informative.

    Zenph re recordings of Glenn Gould and Art Tatum are also available.  I can only wish that Zenph would re perform the now antique piano solos recorded from Ernesto Leuceona and Ray Turner!

    Friday, November 16, 2012

    Continuously Variable Transmissions

    A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is a transmission that can change steplessly through an infinite number of effective gear ratios between maximum and minimum values. This contrasts with other mechanical transmissions that offer a fixed number of gear ratios. The flexibility of a CVT allows the driving shaft to maintain a constant angular velocity over a range of output velocities.

    CVT can provide better fuel economy than other transmissions by enabling the engine to run at its most efficient revolutions per minute (RPM) for a range of vehicle speeds. It can also be used to build kinetic energy recovery system.

    Alternatively it can be used to maximize the performance of a vehicle by allowing the engine to turn at the
    RPM at which it produces peak power. This is typically higher than the RPM that achieves peak efficiency.

    Finally, a CVT does not strictly require the presence of a clutch, allowing the dismissal thereof. In some vehicles though (e.g. motorcycles), a centrifugal clutch is nevertheless added, however this is only to provide a "neutral" stance on a motorcycle (useful when idling, or manually reversing into a parking space).

    Many small tractors for home and garden use have simple rubber belt CVTs. For example, the John Deere Gator line of small utility vehicles use a belt with a conical pulley system. They can deliver an abundance of power and can reach speeds of 10–15 mph (16–24 km/h), all without need for a clutch or shifting gears. Nearly all snowmobiles, old and new, and motorscooters use CVTs, typically the rubber belt/variable pulley variety.

    Some combine harvesters have CVTs. The CVT allows the forward speed of the combine to be adjusted independently of the engine speed. This allows the operator to slow or accelerate as needed to accommodate variations in thickness of the crop.

    CVTs have been used in aircraft electrical power generating systems since the 1950s and in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Formula 500 race cars since the early 1970s. CVTs were banned from Formula 1 in 1994 due to concerns that the best-funded teams would dominate if they managed to create a viable F1 CVT transmission. More recently, CVT systems have been developed for go-karts and have proven to increase performance and engine life expectancy. The Tomcar range of off-road vehicles also utilizes the CVT system.

    Some drill presses and milling machines contain a pulley-based CVT where the output shaft has a pair of manually adjustable conical pulley halves through which a wide drive belt from the motor loops. The pulley on the motor, however, is usually fixed in diameter, or may have a series of given-diameter steps to allow a selection of speed ranges. A handwheel on the drill press, marked with a scale corresponding to the desired machine speed, is mounted to a reduction gearing system for the operator to precisely control the width of the gap between the pulley halves. This gap width thus adjusts the gearing ratio between the motor's fixed pulley and the output shaft's variable pulley, changing speed of the chuck. A tensioner pulley is implemented in the belt transmission to take up or release the slack in the belt as the speed is altered.  In most cases the speed must be changed with the motor running. 

    CVTs should be distinguished from Power Sharing Transmissions (PSTs), as used in newer hybrid cars, such as the Toyota Prius, Highlander and Camry, the Nissan Altima, and newer-model Ford Escape Hybrid SUVs. CVT technology uses only one input from a prime mover, and delivers variable output speeds and torque; whereas PST technology uses two prime mover inputs, and varies the ratio of their contributions to output speed and power. These transmissions are fundamentally different. However the Mitsubishi Lancer, Proton Inspira, Honda Insight, Hinda Fit, and Honda CR-Z hybrids, the Nissan Tiida/Versa (only the SL model), Nissan Cube, Juke, Sentra, Altima, Maxima, Rogue, Murano, Micra, Honda Capa, Honda Civic HX, Jeep Patriot and Compass, and Subaru Impreza, Legacy and Outback offer CVT.

    Thursday, November 15, 2012

    Check for Bedbugs

    How to Check for Hotel Bed, November 13, 2012

    Most of us greatly enjoy the pleasures of sleeping away at a hotel. Whether one is away for business or on vacation, the beauty of staying in a hotel has several perks. There’s luxury, convenience, cleanliness, hospitality and much more. Unfortunately, as much as we’d like to believe that everything will go our way, it may not always be the case. Common downfalls can range from clogged toilets to broken air conditioners. However, the one thing most people don’t think about is the possibility of bed bugs.

    The only good thing about bedbugs is that you can easily prevent a night getting bit by doing these procedures to check for them.
    • Take a close look under the bed sheets. Look closely at the mattress, running your fingers along the upper and lower seams. Bedbugs like dark areas, so also take a look at the mattress tag.
    • If possible, remove and look around the headboard. Check for tiny black spots that are smaller than poppy seeds. You may also see translucent light brown skins.
    • Examine the nightstands for any signs of bedbugs. Wood tends to attract bedbugs as well.
    • Keep your suitcases elevated on a luggage stand and off the floor.
    If you do discover bedbugs, be sure to request a different room and inform hotel management of the issue. If they do get into your clothes of luggage, be sure to launder all cloth items with hot water and detergent and dry.

    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    The Flexible Flyer sled lives on

    A flexible flyer or steel runner sled is a steerable wooden sled with thin metal runners.

    Flexible fliers are flexible both in design and usage. Riders may sit upright on the sled or lie on their stomachs, allowing the possibility to descend a snowy slope feet-first or head-first. To steer the sled, riders may either push on the wooden cross piece with their hands or feet, or pull on the rope attached to the wooden cross-piece. Shifting the cross-piece one way or the other causes the flexible rails to bend, turning the sled.

    Flexible flyers work best on hard packed or icy snow. If the snow is soft and deep, the sled's runners are likely to sink in and prevent the sled from moving.

    Samuel Leeds Allen patented the flexible flyer in 1889. Allen's company flourished by selling these speedy and yet controllable sleds at a time when others were still producing toboggans and "gooseneck" sleds.

    Allen began producing sleds in his farm equipment factory to keep his workers busy even when it was not the farm season. He developed many prototypes before he created the flexible flyer. The sleds did not sell well until he began marketing them to the toy departments of department stores. In 1915, around 120,000 flexible fliers were sold, and almost 2,000 flexible flyers were sold in one day.

    In 1968, Leisure Group of Los Angeles, California bought the S. L. Allen Company. Leisure Group continued to produce flexible flyers in Medina, Ohio. In 1973, a group of private investors bought Leisure Group's toy division and started manufacturing the sleds under the name "Blazon Flexible Flyer" in West Point, Mississippi. In 1993, Roadmaster purchased the rights to production and moved production to Olney, Illinois, and in 1998, production was moved to China. As of 2012, Flexible Flyers are made in China and the by Paricon LLC in South Paris, Maine.

                    Note the three full arches and cross members for this full size sled.

    see also:

    "Lesser of Two Evils" = Fallacy

    Fallacy Detective: Three Assumptions Made by "Lesser of Two Evils" Voters

    Posted by Tobin, October 31, 2012

    So if you have not noticed, there is a presidential election again this year, and it is therefore a good time to hear more logical fallacies than usual in the media and in political conversations.

    It seems there are a whole lot of Party P voters out there who do not like their party nominee, Candidate P, very much, but who will be voting for him anyway based on the reasoning that he is better than the incumbent, Candidate Q. I hear that some have even been calling him the "Lesser of Two Evils" (which will hereafter be referred to as the "LOTE"). What these voters seem to be proposing is that Candidate P’s most admirable characteristic is that he is not Candidate Q, and that this is enough reason to vote for him.

    I will not be addressing whether this is, in fact, Candidate P’s best characteristic nor endorsing or denouncing any candidate whatsoever; so far as I know, Classical Conversations is not in the business of doing either. What we are in the business of is logic, so what I will be doing is playing the role of a fallacy detective; what I will be addressing is whether or not, if this were found to be true, it would be a valid reason for electing him.

    Please do not infer any charge to vote for one candidate or the other. What I am doing is merely an exercise in logic, based on some reasoning I have been hearing a lot lately. The most I will accomplish (hopefully) is to point out some reasons why the "LOTE" is not, in itself, a compelling reason to vote for a candidate.

    The "Lesser of Two Evils" reasoning fails to differentiate the person from his policies.

    Fallacy: Red Herring, Ad Hominem

    When Party P voters say that Candidate P is a lesser evil than Candidate Q, most are stating the claim with regard to personal character: Candidate P is Christian (or at least something like it), while Candidate Q is a heathen, postmodernist cigarette smoker with lots of skeletons in his closet. (For the purpose of this example, let it be assumed that we know Candidate P is neither a closet-smoking nor skeleton-hiding candidate.)

    Moral character is certainly an important condition in choosing a leader, but it is not a sufficient condition; competence is at least equally important. What we need to be discussing, at least as much, is whether the policies of Candidate P are really likely to have a better impact on the country than the policies of Candidate Q.

    For example, one could easily envision a situation in which Candidate Q is an atheist, liar, and chauvinist, who proposes some disastrous new kind of national insurance coverage, whereas Candidate P is a philanthropist and family man, who supports the same disastrous new kind of insurance coverage. In choosing between them, we should not assume that Candidate P will be a better kind of president simply because he is a better kind of man; a good man can bankrupt the nation just as easily as a bad man if they both have the same disastrous ideas. If their policies are the same, their presidencies will be the same.

    The "Lesser of Two Evils" reasoning restricts the argument to the current presidential term.

    Fallacy: Framing the Debate

    When Candidate P is recommended as being the "LOTE," the argument is always confined to the immediate presidential term: after four years of Candidate Q, the "LOTE" proponents say, the country shall be worse off than it would after four years of Candidate P. (For the purpose of this example, we will assume that they are correct, and that the country would, in fact, be worse off after four years of Candidate Q than it would after four years of Candidate P.)

    The problem is, this assumes that the two choices being put before voters are:

    (Circle One)

    a) Four years of Candidate P

    b) Four years of Candidate Q

    Actually, the two choices being put before voters are:

    (Circle one)

    a) Four years of Candidate P, and Candidate P subsequently up for reelection

    b) Four years of Candidate Q, and potentially some other Party P representative subsequently up as challenger

    People who do not like Candidate P now are unlikely to like him any better four years from now. By voting for the "LOTE," they are almost certainly locking him into the ballot four years from now instead of taking the chance that the next challenger might be someone who does not make them hold their noses.

    By framing the debate, the "LOTE" proponents are accepting a lesser good now and rejecting a greater good later.

    The "Lesser of Two Evils" reasoning assumes that there are only two options.

    Fallacy: Exigency, Either/Or

    This shall be the hardest fallacy to argue for, so I will argue it in brief. I feel I should reiterate the disclaimer that this article is not proposing that either candidate is evil. Rather, it is speaking of a situation in which one candidate is considered the "LOTE" by many of the people who are going to vote for him.

    Adopting such a stance concedes that Evil #1 and Evil #2 are the only possible options – or at least, that the badness of Evil #1 constitutes such an emergency that Evil #1 can only be combated by submitting to Evil #2.

    There are at least two flawed assumptions with this concession.

    The first is that while exigencies of time or convenience do have the power to limit our practical options (one might not have time to study for both exams, and so prepares for the one on which a poor grade would be more disastrous), it does not follow that they have the power to limit our moral options. And it is in moral terms that the "LOTE" argument has chosen to present itself.

    For example, when making merely practical decisions (clean part of the house now or have to clean it all later), it is acceptable to choose the lesser of two inconveniences, and in fact we do so all the time. But when making moral decisions (and the "LOTE" proponents, by that very vocabulary, believe that this is one) choosing the "less bad" of the two options is not the correct way to go about it. This is because a moral decision is being made as if it were a practical decision. One does not even have to disagree with the candidate who is being chosen in order to dismiss this particular decision-making process.

    The second assumption is that the two options need always be unappealing. "LOTE" reasoning accepts a state of affairs that it deems unacceptable, instead of trying to change it over time by the influence of the dissenting "conscience vote." There is as yet no law that compels us to vote for either Candidate P or Candidate Q, and while voting for someone else might indeed be the impractical choice, once again remember that the reasons against doing so ought to then be cast in terms of practicality (such as "choosing the lesser of two inconveniences"), not in terms of morality.

    Oddly, a political climate has arisen in which the impractical choice is deemed to be evil, and the practical, or self-proclaimed "less evil" choice, is hailed as being good.


    These are the three assumptions fallacy detectives can find in the "LOTE" reasoning: it talks about the person when it ought to be talking about policy, it narrows the issue to what is immediate, and it confuses practical exigency with moral exigency.

    Monday, November 12, 2012

    Thousands Sign US Secession Petitions

    Secession petitions filed in 20 states

    By Mike Krumboltz, YahooNews, November 12, 2012

    In the wake of last week's presidential election, thousands of Americans have signed petitions seeking permission for their states to peacefully secede from the United States. The petitions were filed on We the People, a government website.

    States with citizens filing include Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Oddly, folks from Georgia have filed twice. Even stranger, several of the petitions come from states that went for President Barack Obama.

    The petitions are short and to the point. For example, a petition from the Volunteer State reads: "Peacefully grant the State of Tennessee to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government." Of all the petitions, Texas has the most signatures so far, with more than 23,000.

    Of course, this is mostly a symbolic gesture. The odds of the American government granting any state permission to go its own way are on par with winning the lottery while getting hit by a meteor while seeing Bigfoot while finding gluten-free pizza that tastes like the real thing.

    An artivcle from WKRC quotes a University of Louisville political science professor who explained that these petitions aren't uncommon. Similar petitions were filed following the 2004 and 2008 elections. Still, should the petitions garner 25,000 signatures in a month, they will require an official response from the Obama administration.

    From the We the People site:
    The right to petition your government is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. We the People provides a new way to petition the Obama Administration to take action on a range of important issues facing our country. We created We the People because we want to hear from you. If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it's sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.
    Not everybody who wants to secede is polite enough to write a petition. Peter Morrison, treasurer of the Hardin County (Texas) Republican Party, wrote a post-election newsletter in which he urges the Lone Star State to leave the Union.
    "We must contest every single inch of ground and delay the baby-murdering, tax-raising socialists at every opportunity. But in due time, the maggots will have eaten every morsel of flesh off of the rotting corpse of the Republic, and therein lies our opportunity... Why should Vermont and Texas live under the same government? Let each go her own way in peace, sign a free trade agreement among the states and we can avoid this gut-wrenching spectacle every four years."

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    Follow on story – Texas has hit the 25,000 signature threshold!

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    White House May Respond
    to Texas Secession Petition
    By Olivier Knox, Yahoo! News
    White House Correspondent

    Looks like the Obama administration may have to respond to a petition seeking the green light for Texas to secede from the United States—one of 20 such requests filed on the official White House website since Election Day.

    At the time of the writing of this post, the Texas secession petition had garnered 25,318 signatures—above the White House's self-imposed rules for requiring a reply. 

    The White House may opt out of replying. Under its own rules, "To avoid the appearance of improper influence, the White House may decline to address certain procurement, law enforcement, adjudicatory, or similar matters properly within the jurisdiction of federal departments or agencies, federal courts, or state and local government in its response to a petition."

    Other secession petitions include requests for Arkansas, South Carolina, Georgia, Missouri, Tennessee, Michigan, Colorado, Oregon, New Jersey, North Dakota, Montana, Indiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, North Carolina, Alabama and New York. (Spoiler alert: No, the White House won't approve secession.)
    Here's the text of the Texas petition:
    The U.S. continues to suffer economic difficulties stemming from the federal government's neglect to reform domestic and foreign spending. The citizens of the U.S. suffer from blatant abuses of their rights such as the NDAA, the TSA, etc. Given that the state of Texas maintains a balanced budget and is the 15th largest economy in the world, it is practically feasible for Texas to withdraw from the union, and to do so would protect its citizens' standard of living and re-secure their rights and liberties in accordance with the original ideas and beliefs of our founding fathers which are no longer being reflected by the federal government.

    Sunday, November 11, 2012

    The Problem of Irreproducible Results

    By Elizabeth Iorns

    Cutting edge scientific research is often interdisciplinary. Geneticists team up with biostatisticians, physicists with computer scientists, and biologists with chemists. Partially because of this increasing complexity, however, the scientific literature is littered with papers that cannot be replicated, either because of the good faith efforts of scientists who fail in their attempts to be jacks-of-all-trades or because corners are cut deliberately.

    We are trying to fix that.

    Science and technology have always been intertwined. The first scientist to describe the cellular composition of life built his own microscope. These days, however, it is safe to say that the majority of cell biologists would not have any idea how to grind a lens or engineer a light box. Most cognitive psychologists probably have only a rudimentary understanding of the physics behind functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), let alone the image processing steps.

    These are common examples of the growing specialization required for the modern scientific enterprise to advance.

    One positive result of this specialization is the rise of core facilities in the best universities, in which departments intent on recruiting and keeping top scientific talent provide incentives that include specialized facilities for animal breeding, microscopy, genomics, etc. Core facilities are run by dedicated professional scientists who are responsible for maintaining the highest quality and most up-to-date technologies in their designated domains.

    Core facilities often have excess capacity that goes unused by researchers in their home institutions. That’s one reason we started Science Exchange. We wanted to bring the efficiencies of electronic marketplaces into the service of science by connecting investigators and service providers, matching needs and expertise regardless of geographic location. Our aim is to improve the quality and efficiency of scientific research, while reducing costs.

    Additionally, Science Exchange provides a tool to address the problem of reproducibility. In our network, we have over 1,000 service providers, who work on a fee-for-service basis. What if we could harness those experts to independently replicate the most important research findings?

    Earlier this summer, an advisory group of scientific leaders and I launched the Reproducibility Initiative using Science Exchange as a platform. The initiative has two tracks. First, if they have the funds to pay for the service, researchers may submit findings that they want to have independently replicated, perhaps because of its potential translational or commercial value. Where we have providers with the necessary expertise, we will randomly assign replication studies to them.

    Second, as part of a broader, more inclusive survey of reproducibility, we invite authors of recently published papers to nominate their work for independent replication. Our partner, Mdndeley, will track the download and citation statistics of invited papers, and our funding partners will support the replication of a fraction of the nominated papers, effectively creating an audit mechanism. Our expectation is that papers that are nominated for replication are more likely to be reproducible and robust. In effect, we are implementing a behavioral screen for papers in which authors demonstrate full confidence.

    We are working with PLOS ONE – an open-access publisher which provides articles free of charge to the public – to give authors of replicated studies the opportunity to publish their results, regardless of outcome. Publishing "negative" data, in which experiments fail to replicate, is just as important as publishing a confirmation of results. In this way, we hope to encourage and reward robust, reproducible research.

    The beauty and power of using core facilities to perform independent replications of scientific studies is that their incentives are clear. They want to provide the best service possible, within the limited domain of their expertise, for a fee. And importantly, there is no conflict of interest, since they have no vested interest in the outcome of any particular research study.

    Using this unique strategy, we believe our Initiative will help solve the problem of reproducibility.

    Elizabeth Iorns is the co-founder and CEO of Science Exchange.