Friday, December 28, 2012

A Cry for Help (or clever forgery)

Here is a letter included with some Hallowe’en decorations made in China and bought at K Mart a year ago:

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


If you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resent this letter to the World Human Right Watch organization. Thousands people here who are under the persicution of Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever.

This product produced by Unit 8, Department 2, Mashanjia Labour Camp, Shenyang, Liaoning China.

People who work here, have to work 15 hours a day with out Saturday Sunday break and any holidays. Otherwise they will suffer torturement beat and rude remark. Nearly no payment (10 yuan /1 month).

People who work here, suffer punishment 1~3 years averagingly, but without Court Sentence (unlaw punishment). Many of them are Falung Gong practitioner, who are totally innocent people only because they have different believe than CCPG. They often suffer more punishment than others.

[this transcription by the blog author. Actual document: ] 
It has been suggested that the letter is a fake and a plant, but the spelling, tense case errors and strikeovers are consistent with an honest and desperate letter. The letter’s description of a labor camp is also consistent with the compartmentalized Chinese internal borders in which an international port city like Hong Kong has an armed internal border with an internal abutting city like Shenzhen, which also has an armed internal border with the Chinese countryside.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Logic Puzzles

A logic puzzle is a puzzle deriving from the mathematics field of deduction.

The logic puzzle was first produced by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who is better known under his pen name Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In his book The Game of Logic he introduced a game to solve problems such as confirming the conclusion "Some greyhounds are not fat" from the statements "No fat creatures run well" and "Some greyhounds run well". Puzzles like this, where we are given a list of premises and asked what can be deduced from them, are known as syllogisms. Dodgson goes on to construct much more complex puzzles consisting of up to 8 premises.

In the second half of the 20th century mathematician Raymond M. Smullyan has continued and expanded the branch of logic puzzles with books such as The Lady or the Tiger?, To Mock a Mockingbird and Alice in Puzzle-Land. He popularized the "knights and knaves" " puzzles, which involve knights, who always tell the truth, and knaves, who always lie.

There are also logic puzzles that are completely non-verbal in nature. Some popular forms include Sudoku, which involves using deduction to correctly place numbers in a grid; the nonogram, also called "Paint by Numbers", which involves using deduction to correctly fill in a grid with black-and-white squares to produce a picture; and logic mazes, which involve using deduction to figure out the rules of a maze.

Logic Grid Puzzles
Another form of logic puzzle, popular among puzzle enthusiasts and available in magazines dedicated to the subject, is a format in which the set-up to a scenario is given, as well as the object (for example, determine who brought what dog to a dog show, and what breed each dog was), certain clues are given ("neither Misty nor Rex is the German Shepherd"), and then the reader fills out a matrix with the clues and attempts to deduce the solution. These are often referred to as "logic grid" puzzles. The most famous example may be the so-called Zebra Puzzle, which asks the question Who Owned the Zebra?.

Common in logic puzzle magazines are derivatives of the logic grid puzzle called "table puzzles" that are deduced in the same manner as grid puzzles, but lack the grid either because a grid would be too large, or because some other visual aid is provided. For example, a map of a town might be present in lieu of a grid in a puzzle about the location of different shops.

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

Here is an alphabetic list of such puzzles that can be solved by using logic:


  • 1001 Crystal Mazes Collection


  • Ages of Three Children puzzle
  • Atsumari (puzzle)


  • Bag (puzzle)
  • Balance puzzle
  • Battleship (puzzle)
  • Bridge and torch problem
  • Buchstabensalat (logic puzzle)
  • Bulls and cows


  • Clue Suspects
  • Country Road (puzzle)
  • Cross-figure
  • Crosswordoku


  • Dissection puzzle


  • Fill-In (puzzle)
  • Fillomino
  • Four glasses puzzle
  • Fox, goose, and bag of beans puzzle
  • Futoshiki


  • God’s algorithm
  • Goishi Hiroi
  • Gokigen Naname


  • The Hardest Logic Puzzle Ever
  • Hashiwokakero
  • Hero’s Heart (Windows)
  • Heyawake
  • Hidato
  • Hitori
  • Hotaru Beam


  • Induction puzzles
  • Inshi no heya
  • Isolate (puzzle)
  • Uzukirudo


  • Kakuro
  • Keisuke (puzzle)
  • KenKen
  • Killer sudoku
  • Knights and Knaves
  • Kuromasu


  • Lasertank
  • LightUp
  • Lights Out (game)
  • LITS
  • Logic maze
  • Lonpos


  • Mastermind (board game)
  • Masyu
  • MindTrap
  • Missing dollar riddle
  • Missionaries and cannibals problem
  • Tetsuya Miyamoto
  • Monkey and banana problem
  • MU puzzle
  • Mutilated chessboard problem


  • Navigrid
  • Nikoli
  • Nonogram
  • Numberlink
  • Nurikabe


  • Prisoners and hats puzzle


  • Ripple Effect (puzzle)
  • River crossing puzzle
  • Robot Rescue


  • Self-reference puzzle
  • Shikaku
  • Shinro
  • Slitherlink
  • Sokoban
  • Stained Glass (puzzle)
  • Str8ts
  • Sudoku
  • Super Swap
  • Survo puzzle


  • Takuzu
  • Tantrix
  • Tatamibari
  • Tatebo-Yokobo
  • Theseus and the Minotaur
  • THOG problem
  • Train shuntingk puzzle
  • Trigon puzzle
  • Truel
  • TuxMathScrabble


  • Verbal arithmetic


  • Wason selection task
  • Wine/water mixing problem


  • Yajilin
  • Yajisan-Kazusan


Zebra Puzzle

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Positive Quiddity: Scientific Skepticism

There’s a fascinating article published in 2005 that explains why most published research findings are false:

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

Wikipedia has done a profile on the study’s author:

John P. A. Ioannidis
(born 1965 in New York City) is a professor and chairman at the Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology, University of Ioannina School of Medicine as well as adjunct professor at Tufts University School of Medicine and Professor of Medicine and Director of the Stanford Prevention Research Center at Stanford University School of Medicine.
He was born in 1965 and raised in Athens, Greece. He was Valedictorian of his class at Athens College, graduating in 1984. He graduated first in his class at the University of Athens Medical School, then attended Harvard University for his medical residency in internal medicine. He then did a fellowship at Tufts University for infectious disease.

Ioannidis's 2005 paper "Why Most Published Research Findings Are False" has been the most downloaded technical paper from the journal PloS Medicine. This paper has met much approval, though Goodman and Greenland criticized it in a short comment and a longer analysis. Ioannidis has answered this critique.

A profile of his work in this area appears in the November 2010 issue of The Atlantic. The Atlantic article notes Ioannidis analyzed "49 of the most highly regarded research findings in medicine over the previous 13 years". And "Of the 49 articles, 45 claimed to have uncovered effective interventions. Thirty-four of these claims had been retested, and 14 of these, or 41 percent, had been convincingly shown to be wrong or significantly exaggerated."

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Positive Quiddity: Distilled Water

Distilled water is water that has many of its impurities removed through distillation. Distillation involves boiling the water and then condensing the steam into a clean container.

Drinking water has been distilled from sea water since at least ca. 200 AD when the process was clearly described by Alexander of Aphrodisias. Its history predates this, as a passage in Aristotle’s Meteorologica (II.3, 358b16) refers to the distillation of water. Captain Israel Williams of the Friendship (1797) improvised a way to distill water, which he described in his journal.

In chemical and biological laboratories, as well as industry, cheaper alternatives such as deionized water are preferred over distilled water. However, if these alternatives are not sufficiently pure, distilled water is used. Where exceptionally high purity water is required, double distilled water is used.

Distilled water is also commonly used to top off lead acid batteries used in cars and trucks. The presence of other ions commonly found in tap water will cause a drastic reduction in an automobile's battery lifespan.

Distilled water is preferable to tap water for use in automotive cooling systems. The minerals and ions typically found in tap water can be corrosive to internal engine components, and can cause a more rapid depletion of the anti-corrosion additives found in most antifreeze formulations.

Distilled water is also preferable to tap water for use in model steam engine boilers and model engines of other types. Mineral build-up resulting from the use of tap water in model boilers can severely reduce the efficiency of the boilers if run for long periods. This build-up is known as boiler scale.

Using distilled water in steam irons for pressing clothes can help reduce mineral build-up and make the iron last longer. However, many iron manufacturers say that distilled water is no longer necessary in their irons.

Some people use distilled water for household aquariums because it lacks the chemicals found in tap water supplies. It is important to supplement distilled water when using it for fishkeeping;; it is too pure to sustain proper chemistry to support an aquarium ecosystem.

Distilled water is also an essential component for use in cigar humidors. Mineral build-up resulting from the
use of tap water (including bottled water) will reduce the effectiveness of the humidor.

In addition, some home brewers, who are interested in brewing a Traditional European Pilsner, will dilute their hard water with distilled water so as to mimic the soft waters of Pilsen.

Another application is to increase the density of the air to assist early airplane jet engines during takeoff in "hot and high" atmospheric conditions, as was used on the early Boeing 707.

Distilled water is also used in Constant Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines. These machines are used by people with sleep apnea to help breathing throughout sleep cycles. The water evaporates and is used to humidify the air going into the users mouth. Distilled water will not leave any contaminants behind when the humidifier in the CPAP machine evaporates the water.

Equipment to Distill Water
Up until World War Two, distilling sea water to fresh water was time consuming and expensive in fuel. The saying was: "It takes one gallon of fuel to make one gallon of fresh water." Shortly before the war, Dr. R.V. Kleinschmidt developed the compression still, that became known as the Kleinschmidt Still, for extracting fresh water from sea water or contaminated water. By compressing the steam produced by boiling water, 175 gallons of fresh water could be extracted from sea water for every gallon of fuel used.

During World War Two this unit became standard on Allied ships and on trailer mounts for armies. This method was in widespread use for ships and portable water distilling units during the latter half of the century. Modern vessels now use flash-type evaporators to boil sea water, heating the water to between 70-80°C and evaporating the water in a vacuum - this is then collected as condensation before being stored.

Solar stills can be relatively simple to design and build, with very cheap materials.

[Atmospheric Water Generators also exist which make distilled water from air].

Drinking distilled water
Bottled distilled water can usually be found in supermarkets or pharmacies, and home water distillers are available as well. Water purification, such as distillation, is especially important in regions where water resources or tap water is not suitable for ingesting without boiling or chemical treatment.

Municipal water supplies almost always contain trace components at levels, which are regulated to be safe for consumption. Some other components such as trace levels of aluminium may result from the treatment process (see water purification). Fluoride and other ions are not removed through conventional water filter treatments. However, distillation eliminates most impurities.

Distilled water is also used for drinking water in arid seaside areas lacking sufficient freshwater, via desalination of seawater.

Health Concerns

The drinking of distilled water has been both advocated and discouraged for health reasons. The lack of naturally occurring minerals in distilled water has raised some concerns. The Journal of General Internal Medicine published a study on the mineral contents of different waters available in the US. The study concluded:
Drinking water sources available to North Americans may contain high levels of Ca2+, Mg2+, and Na+ and may provide clinically important portions of the recommended dietary intake of these minerals. Physicians should encourage patients to check the mineral content of their drinking water, whether tap or bottled, and choose water most appropriate for their needs.
It was observed that consumption of "hard" water, or water containing dissolved solids, is associated with possible cardiovascular effects. As noted in the American Journal of Epidemiology, consumption of hard drinking water is negatively correlated with (i.e., helping to prevent) atherosclerotic heart disease.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Character Actor Jack Klugman Dies

Jacob Joachim "Jack" Klugman (April 27, 1922 – December 24, 2012) was an American stage, film and television actor. He was best known as Felix Unger’s 's sloppy roommate Oscar Madison in the American television series The Odd Couple (1970–1975), for his starring role in Quincy, M.E. (1976–1983), as Juror #5 in 12 Angry Men, and his multiple appearances on The Twilight Zone.

Early Life
Klugman was born in Philadelphia, the son of Rose, a hat maker, and Max Klugman, a house painter. His parents were Russian Jewish immigrants. He attended Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie Mellon University, where he graduated in 1948. He began acting after being discharged in 1945 from serving in the United States Army during World War II. As a struggling actor in New York City, he roomed with future star Charles Bronson.


In 1950, Klugman had a small role in the Mr. Roberts road company at the Colonial Theater in Boston.
In 1954, Klugman played Jim Hanson on the soap opera The Greatest Gift. Also in 1954, Klugman made multiple appearances on the NBC legal drama Justice, starring Gary Merrill and Dane Clark, that was based on cases of the Legal Aid Society of New York.

On September 4, 1955, Klugman and Tony Randall appeared together with Gena Rowlands in the episode titled "The Pirate's House" of the CBS anthology series, Appointment with Adventure.

Klugman starred in several classic films, including 12 Angry Men (1957), Days of Wine and Roses (1962), and Goodbye, Columbus (1969). On television, he won an Emmy Award for his work on the series The Defenders and appeared in four episodes of the acclaimed series The Twilight Zone (tied with Burgess Meredith for the most appearances in a starring role). Klugman says his greatest thrill was appearing with Humphrey Bogart and Henry Fonda in a 1955 live television broadcast of The Petrified Forest. In 1963, he also appeared in The Fugitive episode titled "Terror at High Point".

Klugman also starred in the original Broadway production of The Odd Couple as a replacement for Walter Matthau. He won two Emmy Awards for the television version of The Odd Couple.

Klugman was nominated for a Tony Award in 1960 for Best Featured Actor (Musical) for his role in Gypsy, but lost to Tom Bosley ion Fiorello! During the pre-Broadway tryout tour in 1959, several of Klugman's songs were cut, including a song for his character Herbie called "Nice, She Ain't", due to Klugman's untrained singing voice.

In 1957, he appeared in the film 12 Angry Men as Juror #5. Of the twelve actors who
portrayed the jurors, he was the last survivor. He was scheduled to appear in a stage production of 12 Angry Men at the George Street Playhouse in New Jersey in the spring of 2012, but on March 6 it was announced he had withdrawn from the production for health reasons.

Klugman was roasted on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast on NBC March 17, 1978.
He returned to acting in a 1993 Broadway revival of "Three Men on a Horse".

Films and Television Appearances
(not including game shows)

  • Grubstake
  • (1952)
  • Time Table'
  • (1956)
  • Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Mail Order Prophet
  • (1957)
  • 12 Angry Men
  • (1957)
  • Cry Terror
  • (1958)
  • The Velvet Alley (Playhouse 90)
  • (1959)
  • " The Untouchables (1959 TV series) (1961) Episode: Loophole
  • Naked City (1958 TV series) Let Me Die Before I Wake
  • (1962) Original Air Date: 14 February 1962 (Season 3, Episode 19)
  • Days of Wine and Roses
  • (1962)
  • The Yellow Canary
  • (1963)
  • I Could Go On Singing
  • (1963)
  • Act One
  • (1963)
  • "A Passage for Trumpet"
  • episode of The Twilight Zone (1960)
  • "A Game of Pool"
  • episode of The Twilight Zone (1961)
  • "Death Ship"
  • episode of The Twilight Zone (1963)
  • "In Praise of Pip"
  • episode of The Twilight Zone (1963)
  • "Terror At High Point" episode of The Fugitive (1963)
  • "Harris Against the World" (1964-1965)
  • "Everybody Gets Hit In The Mouth Sometimes" episode of The Fugitive (1965)
  • Hail, Mafia
  • (1965)
  • The Detective (1968)
  • The Split
  • (1968)
  • Goodbye, Columbus
  • (1969)
  • The Odd Couple
  • (1970–1975)
  • Who Says I Can't Ride a Rainbow?
  • (1971)
  • Two-Minute Warning
  • (1976)
  • Quincy, M.E.
  • (1976–1983)
  • Dean Martin Celebrity Roast
  • (1978)
  • Challenge of the Tiger
  • (1980)
  • You Again?
  • (1986)
  • The Odd Couple: Together Again
  • (1993)
  • Parallel Lives
  • (1994)
  • Dear God
  • (1996)
  • Brothers Keeper
  • (1999)
  • Diagnosis Murder
  • (1990s)
  • Third Watch
  • (2000)
  • Glitch
  • episode of The Outer Limits (2000)
  • Scene Smoking: Cigarettes, Cinema & the Myth of Cool
  • (2001) (documentary)
  • Crossing Jordan
  • (2002)
  • When Do We Eat?
  • (2005)
  • Camera Obscura
  • (2010)


    Klugman died at the age of 90 at his home in Northridge, California on December 24, 2012 with his wife, Peggy, at his side. He is survived by his sons, David and Adam, and two grandchildren.

    Sunday, December 23, 2012

    Positive Quiddity: Aspirin

    Aspirin, also known as acetylsalicylic acid (abbreviated ASA), is a salicylate drug, often used as an analgesic to relieve minor aches and pains, as an antipyretic to reduce fever, and as an anti-inflammatory medication. Aspirin was first isolated by Felix Hoffman, a chemist with the German company Bayer in 1897.

    Salicylic acid, the main metabolite of aspirin, is an integral part of human and animal metabolism. While in humans much of it is attributable to diet, a substantial part is synthesized endogenously.

    Aspirin also has an antiplatlet effect by inhibiting the production of throboxane, which under normal circumstances binds platelet molecules together to create a patch over damaged walls of blood vessels. Because the platelet patch can become too large and also block blood flow, locally and downstream, aspirin is also used long-term, at low doses, to help prevent heart attacks, strokes, heart attacks, strokes, and blood clot formation in people at high risk of developing blood clots. It has also been established that low doses of aspirin may be given immediately after a heart attack to reduce the risk of another heart attack or of the death of cardiac tissue. Aspirin may be effective at preventing certain types of cancer, particularly colorectal cancer.

    The main undesirable side effects of aspirin taken by mouth are gastrointestinal ulcers, stomach bleeding, and tinnitus, especially in higher doses. In children and adolescents, aspirin is no longer indicated to control flu-like symptoms or the symptoms of chickenpox or other viral illnesses, because of the risk of Reye’s syndrome.

    In 1897, chemists working at Bayer AG produced a synthetically altered version of salicin, derived from the species Filipendula ulmaria (meadowsweet), which caused less digestive upset than pure salicylic acid. The identity of the lead chemist on this project is a matter of controversy. Bayer states the work was done by Felix Hoffman, but the Jewish chemist Arthur Eichengrun later claimed he was the lead investigator and records of his contribution were expunged under the Nazi regime. The new drug, formally acetylsalicylic acid, was named Aspirin by Bayer AG after the old botalical name for meadowsweet, Spiraea ulmaria. By 1899, Bayer was selling it around the world. The name Aspirin is derived from "acetyl" and Spirsäure, an old German name for salicylic acid. The popularity of aspirin grew over the first half of the 20th century, spurred by its supposed effectiveness in the wake of the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. However, recent research suggests the high death toll of the 1918 flu was partly due to aspirin, as the doses used at times can lead to toxicity, fluid in the lungs, and, in some cases, contribute to secondary bacterial infections and mortality. Aspirin's profitability led to fierce competition and the proliferation of aspirin brands and products, especially after the American patent held by Bayer expired in 1917.

    The popularity of aspirin declined after the market releases of paracetamol (acetaminophen) in 1956 and ibuprofen in 1969. In the 1960s and 1970s, John Vane and others discovered the basic mechanism of aspirin's effects, while clinical trials and other studies from the 1960s to the 1980s established aspirin's efficacy as an anticlotting agent that reduces the risk of clotting diseases. Aspirin sales revived considerably in the last decades of the 20th century, and remain strong in the 21st century, because of its widespread use as a preventive treatment for heart attacks and strokes.
    Discovery of the mechanism

    In 1971, British pharmacologist Robert Robert Vane, then employed by the Royal College of Surgeons in London, showed aspirin suppressed the production of prostaglandins and thromboxanes. For this discovery he was awarded the 1982 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, jointly with Sune K. Bergstrom and Bengt I. Samuelsson. In 1984 he was made a Knight Bachelor.

    Suppression of prostaglandins and thromboxanes

    Aspirin's ability to suppress the production of prostaglandins and thromboxanes is due to its irreversible inactivation of the cyclooxygenase (PTGS) enzyme required for prostaglandin and thromboxane synthesis.

    Aspirin acts as an acetylating agent where an acetyl group is covalently attached to a serine residue in the active site of the PTGS enzyme. This makes aspirin different from other NSAIDs (such as eiclofenac and ibuprofen), which are reversible inhibitors.

    Low-dose, long-term aspirin use irreversibly blocks the formation of thromboxane A2 in platelets, producing an inhibitory effect on platelet aggregation. This antithrombotic property makes aspirin useful for reducing the incidence of heart attacks. 40 mg of aspirin a day is able to inhibit a large proportion of maximum thromboxane A2 release provoked acutely, with the prostaglandin I2 synthesis being little affected; however, higher doses of aspirin are required to attain further inhibition.

    Prostaglandins, local hormones produced in the body, have diverse effects, including the transmission of pain information to the brain, modulation of the hypothalamic thermostat, and inflammation. Thromboxanes are responsible for the aggregation of platelets that form blood clots. Heart attacks are caused primarily by blood clots, and low doses of aspirin are seen as an effective medical intervention for acute myocardial infarction. An unwanted side effect of the effective anticlotting action of aspirin is that it may cause excessive bleeding.

    Veterinary Use
    Aspirin is sometimes used for pain relief or as an anticoagulant in veterinary medicine, primarily in dogs and sometimes horses, although newer medications with fewer side effects are generally used, instead. Both dogs and horses are susceptible to the gastrointestinal side effects associated with salicylates, but it is a convenient treatment for arthritis in older dogs, and has shown some promise in cases of laminitis in horses. Aspirin should be used in animals only under the direct supervision of a veterinarian; in particular, cats lack the glucuronide conjugates that aid in the excretion of aspirin, making even low doses potentially toxic.

    Edited from:

    Saturday, December 22, 2012

    Positive Quiddity: Cryptography

    Cryptography is the practice and study of techniques for secure communication in the presence of third parties (called adversaries). More generally, it is about constructing and analyzing protocols that overcome the influence of adversaries and which are related to various aspects in information security such as data confidentiality, data integrity, authentication, and non-repudiation. Modern cryptography intersects the disciplines of mathematics, computer science, and electrical engineering. Applications of cryptography include ATM cards, computer passwords, and electronic commerce.

    Cryptography prior to the modern age was effectively synonymous with encryption, the conversion of information from a readable state to apparent nonsense. The originator of an encrypted message shared the decoding technique needed to recover the original information only with intended recipients, thereby precluding unwanted persons to do the same. Since World War I and the advent of the computer, the methods used to carry out cryptology have become increasingly complex and its application more widespread.

    Modern cryptography is heavily based on mathematical theory and computer science practice; cryptographic algorithms are designed around computational hardness assumptions, making such algorithms hard to break in practice by any adversary. It is theoretically possible to break such a system but it is infeasible to do so by any known practical means. These schemes are therefore termed computationally secure; theoretical advances (e.g., improvements in integer factorization algorithms) and faster computing technology require these solutions to be continually adapted. There exist information-theoretically secure schemes that provably cannot be broken even with unlimited computing power—an example is the one-time padbut these schemes are more difficult to implement than the best theoretically breakable but computationally secure mechanisms.

    Cryptology-related technology has raised a number of legal issues. In the United Kingdom, additions to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 require a suspected criminal to hand over their encryption key if asked by law enforcement. Otherwise the user will face a criminal charge. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is involved in a case in the Supreme Court of the United States, which may determine whether requiring suspected criminals to provide their encryption keys to law enforcement is unconstitutional. The EFF is arguing that this is a violation of the right of not being forced to incriminate oneself, as given in the fifth amendment [to the Constitution].

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

    In cryptography, the one-time pad (OTP) is a type of encryption which has been proven to be impossible to crack if used correctly. Each bit or character from the plaintext is encrypted by a modular addition with a bit or character from a secret random key (or pad) of the same length as the plaintext, resulting in a ciphertext. If the key is truly random, as large as or greater than the plaintext, never reused in whole or part, and kept secret, the ciphertext will be impossible to decrypt or break without knowing the key. It has also been proven that any cipher with the perfect secrecy property must use keys with effectively the same requirements as OTP keys. However, practical problems have prevented one-time pads from being widely used, except with quantum-key distribution.

    First described by Frank Miller in 1882, the one-time pad was re-invented in 1917 and patented a couple of years later. It is derived from the Vernam cipher, named after Gilbert Vernam, one of its inventors. Vernam's system was a cipher that combined a message with a key read from a punched tape. In its original form, Vernam's system was vulnerable because the key tape was a loop, which was reused whenever the loop made a full cycle. One-time use came a little later when Joseph Mauborgne recognized that if the key tape were totally random, cryptanalysis would be impossible.

    The "pad" part of the name comes from early implementations where the key material was distributed as a pad of paper, so the top sheet could be easily torn off and destroyed after use. For easy concealment, the pad was sometimes reduced to such a small size that a powerful magnifying glass was required to use it. Photos show captured KGB pads that fit in the palm of one's hand, or in a walnut shell. To increase security, one-time pads were sometimes printed onto sheets of highly flammable nitrocellulose.

    Perfect Secrecy

    OIne-time pads are "information-theoretically secure" in that the encrypted message (i.e., the ciphertext) provides no information about the original message to a cryptanalyst (except the maximum possible length of the message). This is a very strong notion of security first developed during WWII by Claude Shannon and proved, mathematically, to be true of the one-time pad by Shannon about the same time. His result was published in the Bell Labs Technical Journal in 1949. Properly used one-time pads are secure in this sense even against adversaries with infinite computational power.

    Claude Shannon proved, using information theory considerations, that the one-time pad has a property he termed perfect secrecy; that is, the ciphertext C gives absolutely no additional information about the plaintext. This is because, given a truly random key which is used only once, a ciphertext can be translated into any plaintext of the same length, and all are equally likely. Thus, the a priori probability of a plaintext message M is the same as the a posteriori probability of a plaintext message M given the corresponding ciphertext.  Perfect secrecy is a strong notion of cryptanalytic difficulty.

    Conventional symmetric encryption algorithms use complex patterns of substitution and transpositions. For the best of these currently in use, it is not known whether there can be a cryptanalytic procedure which can reverse (or, usefully, partially reverse) these transformations without knowing the key used during encryption. Asymmetric encryption algorithms depend on mathematical problems that are thought to be difficult to solve, such as integer factorization and discrete logarithms. However there is no proof that these problems are hard and a mathematical breakthrough could make existing systems vulnerable to attack.


    Despite Shannon's proof of its security, the one-time pad has serious drawbacks in practice:
    • it requires perfectly random one-time pads, which is a non-trivial software requirement
    • secure generation and exchange of the one-time pad material, which must be at least as long as the message. (The security of the one-time pad is only as secure as the security of the one-time pad key-exchange).
    • careful treatment to make sure that it continues to remain secret from any adversary, and is disposed of correctly, preventing any reuse in whole or part — hence "one time". See data remanence for a discussion of difficulties in completely erasing computer media.

    Movie Review: Skyfall as a modern classic

    Introduction by the Blog Author

    is an edgy, dangerous James Bond movie in which the head of British military intelligence is shown to sacrifice agents to achieve objectives, especially when dealing with post-cold war international criminals.
    Bond himself nearly dies from friendly fire in the introduction of the movie. A competition between modern electronic signal intelligence and old fashioned human agents is a main sub-plot of this movie. The deft action sequences do much to carry the movie.

    We are also given something of a biography of James Bond through the twists of the plot, and this background is essential to the film.  That biography only indirectly, be example, includes a personal characteristic that has been a key to James Bond’s mission successes throughout the series of 23 movies as well as the Ian Fleming novels. Bond has a superlatively active visual cortex. He spots the small fishing boat in You Only Live Twice that allows Tiger Tanaka to locate the area where rockets are launched. He kills one of Largo’s goons with a quick and deadly first shot from a speargun in Thunderball. In Skyfall, he watches a corrupt program unfold and asks that it be stopped; when it is frozen, he correctly guesses the overall password. This mental and visual skill is of utmost importance to the subplot of old human ("humint") espionage verses modern electronic ("sigint") espionage.

    But this is not just another clever, state-of-the-art action movie. While interrogated by a legislative committee for her dangerous and risky actions, the head of the agency, Judith Dench in her role as "M," defends herself while quoting Tennyson. This speech serves as a transition from the committee hearing to the streets of London, where Bond himself is running at breakneck speed to reach the chamber due to the danger imminent to the life of "M."  The Tennyson quote continues without a break as the editing switches to Bond running with all his energy.  And there’s much more to this than a gimmick.

    Below are different authors' comments on a single blog that define why this movie is so striking and memorable.  A mistake that I fear they all make is that they do not catch on to the special secret horror of the "double oh" designation. The double oh agents are given missions that are more important than their own lives. The license to kill is also a license to get the mission accomplished even if it engenders death, even if it engenders neglect or inhumanity from allies – because the mission is so vital it is worth dying for.

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    The film is hugely fun, but has a very serious theme: the place of tradition in the modern world. It really feels like a statement about modern Britain by Mendes [director], Deakins [cinematographer] and Crag [sp, leading actor Daniel Craig] - three of our leading [motion picture assets in the UK].

    Skyfall is by far the closest depiction of the Bond from the novels. The novels are in many ways are about the traditions of the British Empire colliding with post WW2 decline. Something that Skyfall almost stands as a response to. Skyfall itself is an answer [to] the questions and insecurities Fleming exposed as the Empire rapidly declined in the 50s and 60s.


    The central Tennyson quote by M is the key to the whole film (incase you missed the relevance of the Fighting Temarare by Turner earlier on). Throughout the film tradition is constantly threatened by modernity - and each time a tempered version of tradition comes up trumps. There are countless examples... Bond is shot not by the mistake of someone on the ground, but because of the high tech communication. MI6 new building is destroyed and they're safer in ancient WW2 tunnels. Silva is a tech genius, but Bond (and M) is repeatedly called out of touch or old. And of course, the final sequence can be seen as one giant metaphor - the high tech invaders storming Bond's castle with all their equipment and Bond has ancient rifles and a knife. And how does he finally beat Silva - by the most simple weapon he has. There is so much of this throughout the film I can't remember it off the top of my head. The whole film is about the interaction of tradition and modernity.

    The reading I take from the film is as Tennyson says: time will give you a beating, but hold onto your history and traditions and they will steel you against anything that comes at you. That's exactly what James Bond does.


    I'd love to hear how Americans react to the themes of tradition in the film. Particularly around the relevance of the Tennyson quote from Ulysses spoken by M:

    Though much is taken, much abides; and though
    We are not now that strength which in old days
    Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
    One equal temper of heroic hearts,
    Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
    To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

    If putting that Tennyson speech into the mouth of one of our greatest living actors [famed Shakespearean actress Judith Dench] in the middle of our biggest cultural exports [the Bond films] isn't a statement about Britain, I don't know what is.

    I can't see any of those sentiments or political position of Skyfall being made by many American filmmakers.

    – David Thomson

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    Sir, the Tennyson is the essential to our understanding of the film but for these complementary reasons:

    The film is absolutely about selling Britain and Mendes underlines how Bond is the best of Britain by drawing a parallel, or possibly an umbilical cord through time between this most modern hero and our most ancient, King Arthur.

    It was Tennyson in his 'Idylls of the King' codified the Arthurian legend and Mendes is in effect continuing the tale of Arthur when he returns, when England needs him most.

    The pre-title sequence is the Malory's (does that name ring a bell from the movie?) Le Morte d'Arthur, the story of how Arthur is betrayed by a woman, mortally wounded in action and disappears presumed dead in the lake.

    During the titles Bond undergoes a symbolic Christian rebirth.

    Time passes and when Britain needs Arthur/Bond again and so he returns as legend foretells.
    The threat is once again Mordred (Silva) about whom legend is distinctly ambiguous of the familial relationship between he and Arthur.

    Thus we have lots of references to M as their joint (metaphorical) mother, (both men are orphans, Arthur also had a fostered upbringing), Severine, the woman they share is also an orphan. Further, Bond is revealed to have a birth mother with a Spanish maiden name, suggesting a further ahem, bond with Silva.
    The Merlin figure is of course Q.

    I don't believe a director as erudite as Mendes would include these details/imagery/language by coincidence, it would almost impossible to do so by accident. The purpose is to anchor Bond firmly in the tradition of British heroic sacrifice (Tennyson also of course wrote The Charge Of The Light Brigade) and so elevate him from the mundane into the legendary.

    These elements incorporated in the subtext will be registered in the audience's mind whether they realise it or not, they will be familiar with the basic elements of Arthurian legend but not necessarily identify them as such in Skyfall but the film will benefit from the cultural echoes regardless.

    Yes this is what Joseph Campbell was writing about in The Hero With a Thousand Faces (and far better than I) but what Mendes does is employ the theory to wed Bond to Arthur for Bond's benefit, the movie's benefit and for the audience's benefit.
    Thanks for listening.

    Taken from Roger Ebert's Journal

    -- a comment by Chris Hunneysett

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    I don't see this as a political statement at all, but a statement about M and Bond's character. We enter a time where the intelligence community and its HUMINT (human intelligence) can't compare to the effectiveness of SIGINT (signal intelligence). The film explores just how important having human agents is. Furthermore, the poem is the exact definition of M and Bond. They are old hardware yet are able to do what needs to be done and will always endure against all challenges, even if that means risking their lives.

    Aging is a tough subject for everyone, but Skyfall makes a great commentary on not only the characters, but the franchise beyond that which sparked in 1962. This franchise has some mileage on it, what with Bond in his 50th year on the big screen, but still today we can say that though he is aged, he has stood the test of time and is better than ever. That is what will always make this series of films in everyone's hearts and minds. It now means so much to generation after generation, and to be apart of that is spine tingling.

    -- OBradyMOBondFanatic7

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    The above are comments from the link below:

    Thursday, December 20, 2012

    Positive Quiddity: The Royal Society

    The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence.
    Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London". The Society today acts as a scientific advisor to the British government, receiving a parliamentary grant-in-aid. The Society acts as the UK's Academy of Sciences, and funds research fellowships and scientific start-up companies.

    The Society is governed by its Council, which is chaired by the Society's President, according to a set of Statutes and Standing Orders. The members of Council and the President are elected from and by its Fellows, the basic members of the Society, who are themselves elected by existing Fellows. There are currently 1,314 Fellows, allowed to use the postnominal title FRS (Fellow of the Royal Society), with 44 new Fellows appointed each year. There are also Royal Fellows, Honorary Fellows and Foreign Fellows, the last of which are allowed to use their postnominal title ForMemRS (Foreign Member of the Royal Society). The current Royal Society President is Sir Paul Nurse, who took up the position on 30 November 2010.

    Since 1967, the Society has been based at 6–9 Carlton House Terrace, a Grade I listed building in central London.

    Founding and Early Years
    The Royal Society started from groups of physicians and natural philosophers, meeting at variety of locations, including Gresham College in London. They were influenced by the "new science", as promoted by Francis Bacon in his New Atlantis, from approximately 1645 onwards. A group known as The Philosophical Society of Oxford was run under a set of rules still retained by the Bodleian Library. After the English Restoration, there were regular meetings at Gresham College. It is widely held that these groups were the inspiration for the foundation of the Royal Society.

    18th Century
    During the 18th century, the gusto that had characterised the early years of the Society faded; with a small number of scientific "greats" compared to other periods, little of note was done. In the second half, it became customary for Her Majesty’s Government to refer highly important scientific questions to the Council of the Society for advice, something that, despite the non-partisan nature of the Society, spilled into politics in 1777 over lightning conductors. The pointed lightning conductor had been invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1749, while Benjamin Wilson invented blunted ones. During the argument that occurred when deciding which to use, opponents of Franklin's invention accused supporters of being American allies rather than being British, and the debate eventually led to the resignation of the Society's President, Sir John Pringle. During the same time period, it became customary to appoint society Fellows to serve on government committees where science was concerned, something that still continues.

    19th Century to the Present
    The early 19th century has been seen as a time of decline for the society; of 662 fellows in 1830, only 104 had contributed to the Philosophical Transactions. The same year, Charles Babbage published Reflections on the Decline of Science in England, and on Some of Its Causes, which was deeply critical of the Society. The scientific Fellows of the Society were spurred into action by this, and eventually James South established a Charters Committee "with a view to obtaining a supplementary Charter from the Crown", aimed primarily at looking at ways to restrict membership. The Committee recommended that the election of Fellows take place on one day every year, that the Fellows be selected on consideration of their scientific achievements and that the number of fellows elected a year be limited to 15. This limit was increased to 17 in 1930 and 20 in 1937; it is currently 44. This had a number of effects on the Society: first, the Society's membership became almost entirely scientific, with few political Fellows or patrons. Second, the number of Fellows was significantly reduced—between 1700 and 1850, the number of Fellows rose from approximately 100 to approximately 750. From then until 1941, the total number of Fellows was always between 400 and 500.

    The Society's motto, Nullius in verba, is Latin for "Take nobody's word for it". It was adopted to signify the Fellows' determination to establish facts via experiments and comes from Horace’s Epistles, where he compares himself to a gladiator who, having retired, is free from control.

    Functions and Activities
    The Society has a variety of functions and activities. It supports modern science; it finances approximately 700 research fellowships for both early and late career scientists, along with innovation, mobility and research capacity grants. Its Awards, prize lectures and medals all come with prize money intended to finance research, and it provides subsidised communications and media skills courses for research scientists. In 2008, the Society opened the Royal Society Enterprise Fund, intended to invest in new scientific companies and be self-sustaining, funded (after an initial set of donations on the 350th anniversary of the Society) by the returns from its investments.

    Through its Science Policy Centre, the Society acts as an advisor to the European Commission and the United Nations on matters of science. It publishes several reports a year, and serves as the Academy of Sciences of the United Kingdom. Since the middle of the 18th century, government problems involving science were irregularly referred to the Society, and by 1800 it was done regularly. The Society now formally acts as Her Majesty Government's chief scientific advisor, and is the United Kingdom's Academy of Sciences.

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    The Royal Society
    is the oldest of an entire system of parallel existing societies.

    This is a list of Royal Societies listed alphabetically:

  • Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents 1917
  • Royal Society for Asian Affairs 1901
  • Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals 1840
  • Royal Society for the Promotion of Health 1904
  • Royal Society for the Protection of Birds 1904
  • Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 1849
  • Royal Society of Arts 1754
  • Royal Society of Canada 1882
  • Royal Society of Chemistry 1980
  • Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783
  • Royal Society of St George 1894
  • Royal Society of Literature 1820
  • Royal Society of Medicine 1805
  • Royal Society of New South Wales 1821
  • Royal Society of New Zealand 1851
  • Royal Society of Queensland 1884
  • Royal Society of South Africa 1877
  • Royal Society of South Australia 1880
  • Royal Society of Tasmania 1844
  • Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 1920
  • Royal Society of Victoria 1854
  • Royal Society of Western Australia 1914
  • Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts 1916 1976 [2] (including the Royal Society for Nature Conservation)
  • Royal Statistical Society 1834
  • Royal West of England Academy 1913

      Wednesday, December 19, 2012

      Judicial Enigma: Robert Bork

      Robert Heron Bork (March 1, 1927 – December 19, 2012) was an American legal scholar who advocated the judicial philosophy of originalism. Bork formerly served as a Yale Law School professor, Solicitor General, Acting Attorney General, and judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In 1987, he was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan, but the Senate rejected his nomination. Bork had more success as an antitrust scholar, where his once-idiosyncratic view that antitrust law should focus on maximizing consumer welfare has come to dominate American legal thinking on the subject.

      Bork attended the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut and earned bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Chicago. While pursuing his bachelor's degree he became a brother of the international social fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta. While pursuing his law degree he served on Law Review. At UChicago he was awarded a Phi Beta Kappa key with his law degree in 1953 and passed the bar in Illinois that same year. After a period of service in the United States Marine Corps, Bork began as a lawyer in private practice in 1954 and then was a professor at Yale Law School from 1962 to 1975 and 1977 to 1981. Among his students during this time were Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Anita Hill, Robert Reich, Jerry Brown, John R. Bolton, Samuel Issacharoff, and Cynthia Estlund.

      Advocacy of originalism
      Bork was best known for his theory that the only way to reconcile the role of the judiciary in the U.S. government against what he terms the "Madisonian"" or "counter-majoritarian" dilemma of the judiciary making law without popular approval is for constitutional adjudication to be guided by the framers' original understanding of the United States Constitution. Reiterating that it is a court's task to adjudicate and not to "legislate from the bench," he has advocated that judges exercise restraint in deciding cases, emphasizing that the role of the courts is to frame "neutral principles" (a term borrowed from Herbert Wechsler) and not simply ad hoc pronouncements or subjective value judgments. Bork once said, "The truth is that the judge who looks outside the Constitution always looks inside himself and nowhere else."

      Bork built on the influential critiques of the Warren Court authored by Alexander Bickel, who cfiticized the Supreme Court under Earl Warren for shoddy and inconsistent reasoning, undue activism, and misuse of historical materials. Bork's critique was harder-edged than Bickel's, however, and he has written, "We are increasingly governed not by law or elected representatives but by an unelected, unrepresentative, unaccountable committee of lawyers applying no will but their own." Bork's writings have influenced the opinions of conservative judges such as Associate Justice Antonin Scalia and former Chief Justic William Rehnquist of the U.S. Supreme Court, and sparked a vigorous debate within legal academia about how the Constitution is to be interpreted.

      Some conservatives criticized Bork's approach. Conservative scholar Harry Jaffa criticized Bork (along with Rehnquist and Scalia) for failing to adhere to natural law principles. Noted jurisprudential scholar Robert P. George explained Jaffa’s critique this way: "He attacks Rehnquist and Scalia and Bork for their embrace of legal positivism that is inconsistent with the doctrine of natural rights that is embedded in the Constitution they are supposed to be interpreting."

      Antitrust scholar
      At Yale, he was best known for writing The Antitrust Paradox, a book in which he argued that consumers were often beneficiaries of corporate mergers, and that many then-current readings of the antitrust laws were economically irrational and hurt consumers. Bork's writings on antitrust law, along with those of Richard Posner and other law and economics and Chicago School thinkers, were heavily influential in causing a shift in the U.S. Supreme Court's approach to antitrust laws since the 1970s.

      Solicitor General
      Bork served as Solicitor General in the U.S. Department of Justice from June 1973 to 1977. As Solicitor General, Bork argued several high profile cases before the Supreme Court in the 1970s, including 1974's Milliken v. Bradley, where Bork's brief in support of the State of Michigan was influential among the justices. Chief Justice Warren Burger called Bork the most effective counsel to appear before the Court during his tenure. Bork hired many young attorneys as Assistants who went on to have remarkable careers, including Judges Danny Boggs and Frank H. Easterbrook as well as Robert Reich, later Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration.
      "Saturday Night Massacre"

      On October 20, 1973, Solicitor General Bork was instrumental in the "Saturday Night Massacre", U.S. President Richard Nixon’s's firing of Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, following Cox's request for tapes of his Oval Office conversations. Nixon initially ordered U.S. Attorney General, Elliot Richardson, to fire Cox. Richardson resigned rather than carry out the order. Richardson's top deputy, Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, also considered the order "fundamentally wrong" and also resigned, making Bork the Acting Attorney General. When Nixon reiterated his order, Bork complied and fired Cox, an act later found to be illegal in November of that year in a suit brought by Ralph Nader. Bork remained Acting Attorney General for approximately eight weeks, until the appointment of William B. Saxbe on December 17, 1973.

      United States Circuit Judge

      Bork was a circuit judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit between 1982 and 1988. He was nominated by President Reagan on December 7, 1981, was confirmed by the Senate on February 8, 1982, and received his commission on February 9, 1982.

      One of his opinions while on the D.C. Circuit was Dronenburg v. Zech, 741 F.2d 1388, decided in 1984. This case involved James L. Dronenburg, a sailor who had been administratively discharged from the Navy for engaging in homosexual conduct.

      Dronenburg argued that his discharge violated his right to privacy. This argument was rejected in an opinion written by Bork and joined by Antonin Scalia, in which Bork critiqued the line of Supreme Court cases upholding a right to privacy.

      In rejecting Dronenburg's suggestion for a rehearing en banc, the D.C. Circuit issued four separate opinions, including one by Bork (again joined by Scalia), who wrote that "no principle had been articulated [by the Supreme Court] that enabled us to determine whether appellant's case fell within or without that principle."

      Supreme Court nomination

      President Reagan nominated Bork for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on July 1, 1987. A hotly contested United States Senate debate over Bork's nomination ensued. Opposition was partly fueled by strong opposition by civil and women's rights groups concerned with Bork's opposition to the authority claimed by the federal government to impose standards of voting fairness upon the states (at his confirmation hearings for the position of Solicitor General, he supported the rights of Southern states to impose a poll tax), and his stated desire to roll back civil rights decisions of the Warren and Burger courts. Bork was one of only three Supreme Court nominees, along with William Rehnquist and Samuel Alito, to ever be opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union. Bork was also criticized for being an "advocate of disproportionate powers for the executive branch of Government, almost executive supremacy", most notably, according to critics, for his role in the Saturday Night Massacre.

      Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell was a moderate, and even before his expected retirement on June 27, 1987, some Senate Democrats had asked liberal leaders to form "a solid phalanx" to oppose whomever President Ronald Reagan nominated to replace him, assuming it would tilt the court rightward. Democrats also warned Reagan there would be a fight if Bork were nominated. Nevertheless, Reagan nominated Bork for the seat on July 1, 1987.

      Following Bork's nomination to the Court, Sen. Ted Kennedy took to the Senate floor with a strong condemnation of Bork declaring:
      Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is—and is often the only—protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy ... President Reagan is still our president. But he should not be able to reach out from the muck of Irangate, reach into the muck of Watergate and impose his reactionary vision of the Constitution on the Supreme Court and the next generation of Americans. No justice would be better than this injustice.
      Bork responded, "There was not a line in that speech that was accurate."[23] In an obituary of Kennedy, The Economist remarked that Bork may well have been correct, "but it worked." Bork also contended in his best-selling book, The Tempting of America, that the brief prepared for Sen. Joe Biden, head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, "so thoroughly misrepresented a plain record that it easily qualifies as world class in the category of scurrility."
      Television advertisements narrated by Gregory Peck attacked Bork as an extremist. Kennedy's speech successfully fueled widespread public skepticism of Bork's nomination. The rapid response to Kennedy's "Robert Bork's America" speech stunned the Reagan White House, and the accusations went unanswered for two and a half months.

      During debate over his nomination, Bork's video rental history was leaked to the press. His video rental history was unremarkable, and included such harmless titles as A Day at the Races, Ruthless People, and The Man Who Knew Too Much. Writer Michael Dolan, who obtained a copy of the hand-written list of rentals, wrote about it for the Washington City Paper. Dolan justified accessing the list on the ground that Bork himself had stated that Americans only had such privacy rights as afforded them by direct legislation. The incident led to the enactment of the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act.

      To pro-choice rights legal groups, Bork's originalist views and his belief that the Constitution does not contain a general "right to privacy" were viewed as a clear signal that, should he become a Justice on the Supreme Court, he would vote to reverse the Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. Accordingly, a large number of groups mobilized to press for Bork's rejection, and the resulting 1987 Senate confirmation hearings became an intensely partisan battle. Bork was faulted for his bluntness before the committee, including his criticism of the reasoning underlying Roe v. Wade.

      On October 23, 1987, the Senate rejected Bork's confirmation, with 42 Senators voting in favor and 58 voting against. Two Democratic Senators, David Boren (D-OK) and Ernest Hollings (D-SC), voted in his favor, with 6 Republican Senators (John Chafee (R-RI), Bob Packwood (R-OR), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Robert Stafford (R-VT), John Warner (R-VA), and Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. (R-CT)) all voting against him.
      The vacant seat on the court to which Bork was nominated eventually went to Judge Anthony Kennedy who was unanimously approved by the Senate, 97-0. Bork, unhappy with his treatment in the nomination process, resigned his appellate-court judgeship in 1988.

      Bork died of complications from heart disease at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Virginia, on December 19, 2012. Following his death, Scalia referred to Bork as "one of the most influential legal scholars of the past 50 years" and "a good man and a loyal citizen." Mike Lee, Senator from Utah, called Bork "one of America's greatest jurists and a brilliant legal mind."

      Tuesday, December 18, 2012

      Family Scholars Propose National Agenda to Reverse Decline of Marriage in Middle America
      Contact: Matt Kaal, Institute for American Values; 212-246-3942

      NEW YORK, Dec. 16, 2012 — A team of family scholars today released "The President’s Marriage Agenda for the Forgotten Sixty Percent" to tackle the striking yet little-discussed decline in marriage among "Middle America" – the nearly 60 percent of Americans who have completed high school, but do not have a four-year college degree.

      Among that group, 44 percent of children are now born outside of marriage, up sharply from 13 percent in the 1980s.

      The agenda is the centerpiece of the latest State of Our Unions report, an annual, joint publication of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and the Institute for American Values in New York City.

      According to numerous studies, children born or raised outside of marriage are more likely to suffer from a range of emotional and social problems – including drug use, depression, attempted suicide and dropping out of high school – compared to children in intact, married families, as summarized in past reports such as "Why Marriage Matters" from the same team.

      While debates over same-sex marriage have filled the headlines, the rapid hollowing out of marriage in Middle America – more than half of births among women under 30 now occur outside of marriage – has received scant attention from national leaders, the report notes.

      "Marriage in Middle America is at a tipping point, with unwed childbearing threatening to become a new norm," said report co-author W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project and a professor of sociology at U.Va.

      "The children of Middle America, already vulnerable to economic challenges in their communities, are exposed to even greater risks when their parents are unable to form and sustain a healthy marriage," said report lead author Elizabeth Marquardt, director of the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values.

      To reverse that prospect, the report’s recommendations include:

      • Eliminate marriage penalties and disincentives for the poor, for unwed mothers, and for older Americans, including lesser-known disincentives present in current Medicaid and Social Security policies.
      • Triple the child tax credit to shore up the economic foundations of family life in Middle America.
      • Help young men to become more marriageable and better husbands and fathers with job apprenticeship programs championed by report co-author Robert I. Lerman of the Urban Institute, military programs like the Strong Bonds Program, and prison programs like Within My Reach.
      • Enact the Second Chances Act to prevent unnecessary divorce.
      • Provide marriage education for newly forming stepfamilies.
      • Invest in and evaluate marriage and relationship education programs, especially those that target at-risk individuals and couples, such as Virginia’s Strengthening Families Initiative, the Family Expectations program in Oklahoma City, and First Things First in Chattanooga, Tenn. Fund such programs by devoting 1 percent to 2 percent of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families block grants.
      • Engage Hollywood, much as the anti-smoking movement did, to help shape positive American attitudes toward marriage and parenting.
      • Launch social media campaigns about the facts and fun of marriage, perhaps led by the U.S. Surgeon General.
      • Model how to talk about shared marriage values from a variety of perspectives.

      "These recommendations would do a lot to signal that we value families," said report co-author Linda Malone-Colón, founder of the National Center on African American Marriages and Parenting.

      Even modest improvements in the health of marriage in America will reduce suffering and yield savings for taxpayers, the report argues. One study calculated that reducing family fragmentation by just 1 percent would save $1.1 billion annually as fewer children repeat grades, are suspended from school, require counseling or attempt suicide.

      Noting that the disappearance of marriage in Middle America is tracking with the disappearance of the middle class in the same communities, the authors argue that strengthening marriage is a vital pathway to opening social opportunity and reducing inequality.

      "The retreat from marriage is both a cause and a consequence of increasing inequality in America," said report co-author David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values.

      Marquardt closes: "The president and all our nation’s leaders must confront the marriage challenge in Middle America with the urgency and compassion it deserves."

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      For information about this report, or to schedule an interview with the authors, contact Matt Kaal at the Institute for American Values at 212-246-3942 or email

      Music and Movement Hardwired in Humans

      Music and movement might share a common structure
      Dec. 17, 2012, Courtesy of PNAS and WorldScience staff

      Music and movement might share a common structure across disparate cultures, according to a study.

      Researchers Thalia Wheatley of Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. and colleagues developed a computer program to generate both simple piano melodies and an animated bouncing ball.

      The scientists then recruited 50 US college students and separated them into two equal groups. They then asked one group to move slider bars on a computer screen that controlled five melody related qualities — rate, jitter, direction, step size, and consonance — to reflect different emotions, such as "angry," "happy," "peaceful," "sad," and "scared."

      The other group was asked to perform the same task, but the slider bars varied equivalent attributes of the ball’s movement in relation to the same emotions.

      People who used music to express an emotion set the slider bars to the same positions as those who expressed the same emotion through movement, the scientists found, suggesting music and movement might share an underlying structure.

      When a slightly modified version of the experiment was conducted among villagers in L’ak, a culturally isolated tribe in northeastern Cambodia, the investigators found that the features of emotional expression through music and movement are similar across cultures.

      Unraveling the culturally universal features of music might help researchers uncover why and how music originated, Wheatley and colleagues argued.

      "By studying universal features of music we can begin to map its evolutionary history," they wrote, reporting their findings in this week’s early online issue of the research journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Understanding the cross-modal nature of musical expression may in turn help us understand why and how music came to exist."

      "The shared structure of emotional music and movement must be reflected in the organization of the brain," they added. They also cited past work by Stanislas Dehaene and Laurent Cohen at the University of Paris Sud and University of Paris VI, who have argued that sophisticated activities like reading and math "repurpose" brain areas that originally served for simpler purposes. Similarly, music may "recycle" brain areas that evolved for movement and speech, Wheatley and colleagues proposed.

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      Sunday, December 16, 2012

      Why school children were shot dead

      Here is a wise explanation for the tragic shootings at the Connecticut elementary school:

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      "You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here's why.

      "It's because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single *victim* of Columbine? Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he'll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.

      "CNN's article says that if the body count "holds up", this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer's face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer's identity? None that I've seen yet. Because they don't sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you've just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.

      "You can help by forgetting you ever read this man's name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news."
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      This essay went out over the net earlier today as a view authored by famous actor Morgan Freeman. But Freeman didn’t write this!

      Essential Human Inventions

      Cooked food
      Trap (for animals)
      Metal alloys
      Printing press
      Steam engine
      Inorganic Chemistry
      Organic Chemistry
      Periodic Table of the Elements
      Euclidean Geometry
      Newtonian physics and optics
      Flaking stone into tools
      Rope making
      Multi-stage axial flow compresser jet engine
      Internal combustion engine
      Double-entry bookkeeping
      Paper money
      The domestication of the dog
      Generation of electricity
      Correct modeling of the solar system
      English common law
      Due Process
      Rules of Evidence
      Separation of Powers
      Games of chance based on incomplete information (poker and contract bridge)
      Porcelain and other enamels
      The electric light
      The phonograph
      Motion pictures
      The laser
      The hologram
      Alternating current
      Atomic bomb
      Hydrogen bomb
      Von Neumann machines (computers)
      Logical argumentation
      Heavier than air airplane
      Circulatory system
      Anesthetic agents
      Biologic classification system
      Psychology and Psychiatry (the crown jewels of Greek Shamanism and analogy)
      Modern Drama (Shakespeare’s changing protagonist as the play progresses)
      Stringed instruments
      Brass instruments

                Expanded by the blog author yet including items mentioned at:


      Friday, December 14, 2012

      Nature Exhibits 12 "Matter Particles"

      How many matter particles exist in nature? Particle physicists have been dealing with this question for a long time. The 12 matter particles contained in the standard model of particle physics? Or are there further particles with too high a mass to be produced by the experiments performed so far?

      These questions are now answered by researchers of KIT, CERN, and Humboldt University in the current issue of the Physical Review Letters. (DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.109.241802)

      Matter particles, also called fermions, are the elementary components of the universe. They make up everything we see on earth or through telescopes. "For a long time, however, it was not clear whether we know all components," explains Ulrich Nierste, Professor at KIT. The standard model of particle physics knows 12 fermions. Based on their similar properties, they are divided into three generations of four particles each. Only the first generation of particles occurs in appreciable amount outside of particle accelerators. Among these particles are the electron, the electron neutrino, and the up-quark and down-quark. Up- and down-quarks form heavier particles, such as protons and neutrons and, hence, all elements of the periodic system.

      "But why does nature have second and third generations, if these are hardly needed? And are there maybe more generations of particles?", ask the main authors of the article, Martin Wiebusch and Otto Eberhardt. At least, the latter question is answered: "There are exactly three fermion generations in the standard model of particle physics!"

      For their analysis, the researchers combined latest data collected by the particle accelerators LHC and Tevatron with many known measurements results relating to particles, such as the Z-boson or the top-quark.

      The result of the statistical analysis is that the existence of further fermions can be excluded with a probability of 99.99999 percent (5.3 sigma). The most important data used for this analysis come from the recently discovered Higgs particle.

      The Higgs particle gives all other particles their mass. As additional fermions were not detected directly in accelerator experiments, they have to be heavier than the fermions known so far. Hence, these fermions would also interact with the Higgs particle more strongly. This interaction would have modified the properties of the Higgs particle such that this particle would not have been detected. With the exclusion of the fourth fermion generation the first open question of particle physics is now answered by the measurements made at the new LHC particle accelerator ring of CERN.

      "Within the standard model the number of fermions is now firmly established," explains Nierste. However, some interesting questions remain. The properties of the just discovered Higgs particle still have to be determined and it has to be found out why there is more matter than antimatter in the universe.

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      Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is a public corporation according to the legislation of the state of Baden-Württemberg. It fulfills the mission of a university and the mission of a national research center of the Helmholtz Association. KIT focuses on a knowledge triangle that links the tasks of research, teaching, and innovation.

      Thursday, December 13, 2012

      Two Lunar Probes Will Hit Our Moon

      NASA Gravity Probes Prepare
      to Hit the Moon

      NASA production editor, Dr. Tony Philips

      Dec. 13, 2012:
      A pair of NASA spacecraft that have been studying the Moon's gravitational field are being prepared for a controlled descent into a mountain near the Moon's north pole. Impact is expected at about 2:28 p.m. PST (5:28 p.m. EST) on Monday, Dec. 17.

      "It is going to be difficult to say goodbye to our little robotic twins," says MIT professor Maria Zuber, principal investigator of the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission. "Planetary science has advanced in a major way because of their contributions."

      The two probes, named Ebb and Flow, are being sent purposely into the lunar surface because their low orbit and low fuel levels preclude further scientific operations.

      Ebb and Flow's successful mission to the Moon has yielded the highest-resolution gravity field map of any celestial body. The map will provide a better understanding not only of the Moon, but also of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed and evolved.

      The spacecraft have been flying in formation around the Moon since Jan. 1, 2012. They were named by elementary school students in Bozeman, Mont., who won a contest.
      The first probe to reach the Moon, Ebb, also will be the first to go down, at 2:28:40 p.m. PST. Flow will follow Ebb about 20 seconds later. Both spacecraft will hit the surface at 3,760 mph (1.7 kilometers per second). No imagery of the impact is expected because the region will be in shadow at the time. The impact site is located near a crater named Goldschmidt.

      Ebb and Flow will conduct one final experiment before their mission ends. They will fire their main engines until their propellant tanks are empty to determine precisely the amount of fuel remaining in their tanks. This will help NASA engineers validate fuel consumption computer models to improve predictions of fuel needs for future missions.

      "Our lunar twins may be in the twilight of their operational lives, but one thing is for sure, they are going down swinging," said GRAIL project manager David Lehman of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Even during the last half of their last orbit, we are going to do an engineering experiment that could help future missions operate more efficiently."

      Because the exact amount of fuel remaining aboard each spacecraft is unknown, mission navigators and engineers designed the depletion burn to allow the probes to descend gradually for several hours and skim the surface of the moon until the elevated terrain of the target mountain gets in their way.

      The burn that will change the spacecrafts' orbit is scheduled to take place Friday morning, Dec. 14.

      "Such a unique end-of-mission scenario requires extensive and detailed mission planning and navigation," said Lehman. "We've had our share of challenges during this mission and always come through in flying colors, but nobody I know around here has ever flown into a Moon mountain before. It'll be a first for us, that's for sure."

      Wednesday, December 12, 2012

      Positive Quiddity: Brunswick Stew

      Introduction by the Blog Author
      Brunswick stew is a secret power food guzzled in copious quantities in the American southeast. It is peculiarly, strangely delicious. It may be the best "heat-and-serve" canned stew available anywhere. Of course, disputes over the origin and proper ingredients abound.

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      from Wikipedia:

      Brunswick stew
      is a traditional dish, popular in the American South. The origin of the dish is uncertain, and there are two competing claims as to the place in the South where it originated, in addition to a claim of a German origin.

      Recipes for Brunswick stew vary greatly but it is usually a tomato-based stew containing various types of lima beans/butter beans, corn, okra, and other vegetables, and one or more types of meat. Most recipes claiming authenticity call for squirrel or rabbit meat,m but chicken, pork and beef are also common ingredients. Some versions have a distinctly smoky taste. Eastern North Carolina Brunswick Stew has potatoes, which thickens it considerably. Eastern Virginia Brunswick Stew tends to be thinner, with more tomato flavor and less smoky flavor.

      The stew essentially resembles a very thick vegetable soup with meat. The key distinguishing factor between soup and Brunswick stew is the consistency. Brunswick stew must be thick; otherwise, it would be vegetable soup with meat added. Most variations have more meat and vegetables than liquid.

      The main difference between the Georgia and Virginia versions have been the types of meat used.  The Virginia version tends to favor chicken as the primary meat, along with rabbit. The Georgia version tends to favor pork and beef along with squirrel. As there is no "official" recipe for Brunswick stew, it is possible to find chicken, pork, beef, and other types of meat included in the same recipe. North Carolina natives have been known for their own unique concoction, similarly thick and tomato based, using chicken-breast chunks and pulled Eastern North Carolina-style barbecue (pork) as the meat.

      The town of Brunswick, Georgia, and Brunswick County, Virginia, both claim to be the origin of the stew.

                                                             Brunswick Stew
      A plaque on an old iron pot in Brunswick, Georgia, states the first Brunswick stew was made in it on July 2, 1898, on nearby St. Simons Island. competing story claims a Virginia state legislator's chef invented the recipe in 1828 on a hunting expedition.

       However, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, in her 1942 Cross Creek Cookery, wrote that the stew, said to have been one of Queen Victoria's favorites, may actually come from Braunschweig, Germany.

      In areas where Brunswick stew is sold for fundraising, it is made in large iron pots over open flame or gas. Unlike soup, the stew is usually allowed to simmer and cook for long periods of time. This may be attributed to the older tradition of putting game meats into the stew, which might require a longer cooking time to ensure that the meats were tender.

      Commercial Stew from Mrs. Fearnow
      Mrs. Fearnow's
      is a popular brand of canned Brunswick stew. In the 1920s Mrs. Lillie Pearl Fearnow began making her stew on Hope Farm in Virginia. Still made with the same recipe, it is now owned by Bost Distributing Company.

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      This stuff is good. My son will eat it!!!
      Love this stew.
      An review written October 1, 2012, by Jaci Pergerson

      This stew rocks. My 6 year old loves it. Better than the stew in the refrigerated tub. We plan to have lots on hand this winter for if the power goes out, etc. We haven't seen it in stores for about 3 months but the web site blames the distributor and they say that it will be back soon. Yeah!!!! It is really good and it has been around forever.