Monday, March 31, 2014

"Unintended Consequences" Invite Humility

In the social sciences, unintended consequences (sometimes unanticipated consequences or unforeseen consequences) are outcomes that are not the ones intended by a purposeful action. The term was popularised in the 20th century by American sociologist Robert K. Merton.
Unintended consequences can be roughly grouped into three types:

  • A positive, unexpected benefit (usually referred to as luck, serendipity or a windfall).
  • A negative, unexpected detriment occurring in addition to the desired effect of the policy (e.g., while irrigation schemes provide people with water for agriculture, they can increase waterborne diseases that have devastating health effects, such as schistosomiasis).
  • A perverse effect contrary to what was originally intended (when an intended solution makes a problem worse)

The idea of unintended consequences dates back at least to Adam Smith, the Scottish Enlightenment, and consequentialism (judging by results). However, it was the sociologist Robert K. Merton who popularized this concept in the twentieth century.

In his 1936 paper, "The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action", Merton tried to apply a systematic analysis to the problem of unintended consequences of deliberate acts intended to cause social change. He emphasized that his term "purposive action... [is exclusively] concerned with 'conduct' as distinct from 'behavior.' That is, with action that involves motives and consequently a choice between various alternatives". Merton also stated that "no blanket statement categorically affirming or denying the practical feasibility of all social planning is warranted."

More recently, the law of unintended consequences has come to be used as an adage or idiomatic warning that an intervention in a complex system tends to create unanticipated and often undesirable outcomes. Akin to Murphy’s law, it is commonly used as a wry or humorous warning against the hubristic belief that humans can fully control the world around them.

Possible causes of unintended consequences include the world's inherent complexity (parts of a system responding to changes in the environment), perverse incentives, human stupidity, self-deception, failure to account for human nature or other cognitive or emotional biases. As a sub-component of complexity (in the scientific sense), the chaotic nature of the universe—and especially its quality of having small, apparently insignificant changes with far-reaching effects (e.g., the butterfly effect)—applies.

Robert K. Merton listed five possible causes of unanticipated consequences in 1936:

  1. Ignorance
(It is impossible to anticipate everything, thereby leading to incomplete analysis)
  • Error
  • (Incorrect analysis of the problem or following habits that worked in the past but may not apply to the current situation)
  • Immediate interest
  • , which may override long-term interests
  • Basic values
  • may require or prohibit certain actions even if the long-term result might be unfavorable (these long-term consequences may eventually cause changes in basic values)
  • Self-defeating prophecy
  • (Fear of some consequence drives people to find solutions before the problem occurs, thus the non-occurrence of the problem is not anticipated.)
    In this paper, Merton announced that he would write a book on the history and analysis of unintended consequences - but this remained unfinished when he died in 2003.


    Unexpected benefits

    • The medieval policy of setting up large hunting reserves for the nobility has preserved green space, often as parks, throughout England and other places in Europe Likewise the creation of "no-man’s lands" during the Cold War, in places such as the border between Eastern and Western Europe, and the Korean Demilitarized Zone, has led to large natural habitats.
    • The sinking of ships in shallow waters during wartime has created many artificial coral reefs, which can be scientifically valuable and have become an attraction for recreational divers.
    • In medicine, most drugs have unintended consequences ('side effects') associated with their use. However, some are beneficial. For instance, aspirin, a pain reliever, is also an anticoagulant that can help prevent heart attacks and reduce the severity and damage from thrombotic strokes. The existence of beneficial side effects also leads to off-label use—prescription or use of a drug for an unlicensed purpose.

    Unexpected drawbacks

    • In 1990, the Australian state of Victoria made safety helmets mandatory for all bicycle riders. While there was a reduction in the number of head injuries, there was also an unintended reduction in the number of juvenile cyclists—fewer cyclists obviously leads to fewer injuries, assuming all else being equal. The risk of death and serious injury per cyclist seems to have increased, possibly due to risk compensation. Research by Vulcan et al. found that the reduction in juvenile cyclists was because the youths considered wearing a bicycle helmet unfashionable. A health benefit model developed at Macquarie University in Sydney suggests that, while helmet use reduces "the risk of head or brain injury by approximately two-thirds or more", the decrease in exercise caused by reduced cycling as a result of helmets laws is counterproductive in terms of net health.
    • Prohibition in the 1920s United States, originally enacted to suppress the alcohol trade, drove many small-time alcohol suppliers out of business and consolidated the hold of large-scale organized crime over the illegal alcohol industry. Since alcohol was still popular, criminal organizations producing alcohol were well-funded and hence also increased their other activities. Similarly, the War on Drugs, intended to suppress the illegal drug trade, instead consolidates the profitability of drug cartels.
    • Most modern technologies have negative consequences that are both unavoidable and unpredictable. For example, almost all environmental problems, from chemical pollution to global warming, are the unexpected consequences of the application of modern technologies. Traffic congestion, deaths and injuries from car accidents, air pollution, and even global warming are unintended consequences of the invention and large scale adoption of the automobile. Hospital infections are the unexpected side-effect of antibiotic resistance, and even human overpopulation is the side-effect of various technological (i.e., agricultural and industrial) revolutions.
    • In CIA jargon, "blowback" describes the unintended, undesirable consequences of covert operations, for example: covert funding of the Afghan Mujahideen, which contributed to the rise of Al Qaeda.
    • The introduction of exotic animals and plants for food, for decorative purposes, or to control unwanted species often leads to more harm than good done by the introduced species.
      • The introduction of rabbits in Australia and New Zealand for food was followed by an explosive growth in the rabbit population; rabbits have become a major feral pest in these countries.
      • Cane toads, introduced into Australia to control canefield pests, were unsuccessful and have become a major pest in their own right.
      • Kudzu, introduced as an ornamental plant and later used to prevent erosion in earthworks, has become a major problem in the Southeastern United States. Kudzu has displaced native plants, and has effectively taken over significant portions of land.
      • Africanized bee: In 1957, while searching for an increase in honey production, Warwick E. Kerr accidentally released Africanized bees in Brazil. The "especially defensive" Africanized bee species expanded into the north and south Americas.

    Perverse results

    • The term Streisand Effect is applied to the internet phenomenon that occurs when an attempt to censor or remove a certain piece of information (such as a photograph, document, etc.) instead causes the information to become widely known and distributed. The fact that a piece of information is being restricted assigns to it a previously nonexistent value in the eyes of the public.
    • Theobald Mathew’s temperance campaign in 19th-century Ireland (in which thousands of people vowed never to drink alcohol again) led to the consumption of diethyl ether, an intoxicant much more dangerous due to its high flammability, by those seeking to become intoxicated without breaking the letter of their pledge.
    • It was thought that adding south-facing conservatories to British houses would reduce energy consumption by providing extra insulation and warmth from the sun. However, people tended to use the conservatories as living areas, installing heating and ultimately increasing overall energy consumption.
    • A reward for ghost nets found along the Normandy coast, offered by the French government between 1980 and 1981, resulted in people vandalizing nets to collect the reward.

    Sunday, March 30, 2014

    Movie Review: "Divergent"

    By the Blog Author

    Something great has happened to "action" movies starting with the revolution of the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men and continuing through the humane and haunting James Bond of Skyfall. The studio that has completely picked up on this is Lionsgate. They have gone from sexy vampires to screen versions of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games books. Comes now something different, something intellectually challenging without being tedious for a second – Divergent.

    It’s a very credible action movie, especially since the lead actor does his own stunts. It’s also a masterful presentation of past and future dystopias. A special, delicious cookie is offered to the audience -- the question being, "Who it is morally necessary to hide and cover for." The test proctor (also herself a tattoo artist) and the police academy chief trainer demonstrate precisely how to offer help and prepare the necessary disguises.

    All people who find themselves erudite must go see Divergent on the big screen. You’ll be humbled, but you won’t be sorry.

    Why is social justice such a vapid, unworkable chimera? Kate Winslet, perhaps in the role of her lifetime, tells us why in this film. To dree our weird, we must pay strictest attention to her whenever she’s on the screen.

    This is a firecracker of a movie. As a bonus, it is also a genuine romance. See it.

    Saturday, March 29, 2014

    The Dystopia of Distributive Justice

    Distributive justice concerns the nature of a socially just allocation of goods in a society. A society in which incidental inequalities in outcome do not arise would be considered a society guided by the principles of distributive justice. The concept includes the available quantities of goods, the process by which goods are to be distributed, and the resulting allocation of the goods to the members of the society.

    Often contrasted with just process, which is concerned with the administration of law, distributive justice concentrates on outcomes. This subject has been given considerable attention in philosophy and the social sciences.

    In social psychology, distributive justice is defined as perceived fairness of how rewards and costs are shared by (distributed across) group members.  For example, when workers of the same job are paid different salaries, group members may feel that distributive justice has not occurred.

    To determine whether distributive justice has taken place, individuals often turn to the distributive norms of their group. A norm is the standard of behaviour that is required, desired, or designated as normal within a particular group. If rewards and costs are allocated according to the designated distributive norms of the group, distributive justice has occurred.

    Types of Distributive Norms
    Five types of distributive norm are defined by Forsyth:
    1. Equity
    2. : Member’s outcomes should be based upon their inputs. Therefore, an individual who has invested a large amount of input (e.g. time, money, energy) should receive more from the group than someone who has contributed very little. Members of large groups prefer to base allocations of rewards and costs on equity.
  • Equality
  • : Regardless of their inputs, all group members should be given an equal share of the rewards/costs. Equality supports that someone who contributes 20% of the group’s resources should receive as much as someone who contributes 60%.
  • Power
  • : Those with more authority, status, or control over the group should receive more than those in lower level positions.
  • Need
  • : Those in greatest needs should be provided with resources needed to meet those needs. These individuals should be given more resources than those who already possess them, regardless of their input.
  • Responsibility
  • : Group members who have the most should share their resources with those who have less.
    In Organizations
    In the context of organizational justice, distributive justice is conceptualized as fairness associated with outcomes decisions and distribution of resources. The outcomes or resources distributed may be tangible (e.g., pay) as well as intangible (e.g., praise). Perceptions of distributive justice can be fostered when outcomes are perceived to be equally applied (Adams, 1965).

    Distributive justice affects performance when efficiency and productivity are involved (Cohen-Charash & Spector, 2001). Improving perceptions of justice increases performance (Karriker & Williams, 2009).
    Organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) are employee actions in support of the organization that are outside the scope of their job description. Such behaviors depend on the degree to which an organization is perceived to be distributively just (Cohen-Charash & Spector, 2001; Karriker & Williams, 2009). As organizational actions and decisions are perceived as more just, employees are more likely to engage in OCBs. Perceptions of distributive justice are also strongly related also to the withdrawal of employees from the organization (Cohen-Charash & Spector, 2001).

    Distributive Justice and Wealth
    See also: Redistribution (economics)

    Distributive justice considers whether the distribution of goods among the members of society at a given time is subjectively acceptable.

    Not all advocates of consequentialist theories are concerned with an equitable society. What unites them is the mutual interest in achieving the best possible results or, in terms of the example above, the best possible distribution of wealth.

    In Policy Positions
    Distributive justice theory argues that societies have a duty to individuals in need and that all individuals have a duty to help others in need. Proponents of distributive justice link it to human rights.

    Many governments are known for dealing with issues of distributive justice, especially countries with ethnic tensions and geographically distinctive minorities. Post-apartheid South Africa is an example of a country that deals with issues of re-allocating resources with respect to the distributive justice framework.

    See Also
  • Restorative justice
  • Interactional justice
  • Redistributive justice
  • Injustice
  • Utilitarianism and/or Consequentialism
  • Extended sympathy
  • Constitutional economics
  • Distribution (economics)
  • Justice (economics)
  • Rule of law
  • Rule According to Higher Law
  • Teaching for social justice
    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

    A Critique by the Blog Author
    What is the source of the wisdom of the redistributing authority? Is there anything here other than self-righteous sentimentality of arrogant dystopians? I can’t find more than that in its advocates.

    A redistributing government is arrogating power unto itself. How do we know that this self-serving increase in power will stop at the edge of providing humane assistance? How do we know that this more powerful governmental organ will not attract people who are power-seekers to a larger extent than they are humane?
    What, anywhere, ever, successfully substitutes for anonymous personal generosity given privately? Why are we to assume that a bureaucracy is more generous or more humane than an individual acting with conscience?

    What if this sentimental toy of redistribution is not a proper function of government? Example: which highly planned socialized western country stopped Hitler? Every since country in western Europe made a deal of collapsed against this external threat except the United Kingdom, which still had an empire and was able to bankrupt its own international banking system in order to maintain a stalemate against the Nazis. Without a British Empire, Hitler would have won that continent. With a long-established welfare state in England, Hitler would have won that continent. Redistribution takes funds and resources away from essential government functions –why is this wise?

    A higher percentage of Americans are poor than in 1965 at the beginning of the "War on Poverty." Although studied to death, redistribution doesn’t work. What determines whether an American child will be a success? "Family history" and how well-educated a child’s parents are. That was true in 1965 and it is still true after a couple of trillion dollars were fluffed on ineffective redistribution.

    Finally, redistribution is insulting, it’s dismissive, it’s paternalistic, and it is hated by the recipients of institutionalized largesse. It justly foments rebellion and discontent.

    Friday, March 28, 2014

    A Summary of Procedural Justice

    Procedural justice is the idea of fairness in the processes that resolve disputes and allocate resources. One aspect of procedural justice is related to discussions of the administration of justice and legal proceedings. This sense of procedural justice is connected to due process (U.S.), fundamental justice (Canada), procedural fairness (Australia), and natural justice (other Common law jurisdictions), but the idea of procedural justice can also be applied to nonlegal contexts in which some process is employed to resolve conflict or divide benefits or burdens. Other aspects of procedural justice can also be found in social psychology and sociology issues and organizational psychology.

    Procedural justice concerns the fairness and the transparency of the processes by which decisions are made, and may be contrasted with distributive justice (fairness in the distribution of rights or resources), and retributive justice (fairness in the punishment of wrongs). Hearing all parties before a decision is made is one step which would be considered appropriate to be taken in order that a process may then be characterised as procedurally fair. Some theories of procedural justice hold that fair procedure leads to equitable outcomes, even if the requirements of distributive or restorative justice are not met. It has been suggested that this is the outcome of the higher quality interpersonal interactions often found in the procedural justice process, which has shown to be stronger in affecting the perception of fairness during conflict resolution.

    In Relation to Communication
    In relation to communication, procedural justice deals with the perceptions of fairness regarding outcomes. It reflects the extent in which an individual perceives that outcome allocation decisions have been fairly made.
    The use of fair procedures helps communicate that employees are valued members of the group. Procedural Justice can be examined by focusing on the formal procedures used to make decisions. Procedural justice, a subcomponent of organizational justice, is important in communication and in the workplace because it involves fair procedures, it allows the employees to have a say in the decision process, it gives employees fair treatment, and allows them to have more input in the appraisal process. Additionally, research by Tom R. Tyler and colleagues found that giving disgruntled group members a voice regardless of whether it is instrumental (i.e. a voice that affects the decision-making process) or non-instrumental (i.e. a voice that will not have any weighting on the decision-making process) is sometimes enough for a process to be viewed as fair. The ability and right to a voice is linked with feelings of respect and value, which emphasizes the importance of the interpersonal factors of procedural justice. This is important in the workplace because employees will feel more satisfied and respected, which can help to increase job task and contextual performance. There is an emphasis on the interpersonal and social aspects of the procedure, which result in employees feeling more satisfied when their voices are able to be heard. This was argued by Greenberg and Folger. Procedural justice also is a major factor that contributes to the expression of employee dissent. It correlates positively with managers' upward dissent. With procedural justice there is a greater deal of fairness in the workplace. There are six rules that apply to procedural justice, "Leventhal rules", are consistence, bias suppression, accuracy, correctability, representativeness, and ethicality. With procedural justice in the workplace and in communication, things need to be fair to everyone, when something is applied it has to be applied to everyone and procedures need to be consistent with the moral and ethical values.

    Perfect, Impure and Pure
    In A Theory of Justice, the philosopher John Rawls distinguished three ideas of procedural justice:

    1. Perfect procedural justice
    2. has two characteristics: (1) an independent criterion for what constitutes a fair or just outcome of the procedure, and (2) a procedure that guarantees that the fair outcome will be achieved.
  • Imperfect procedural justice
  • shares the first characteristic of perfect procedural justice--there is an independent criterion for a fair outcome--but no method that guarantees that the fair outcome will be achieved.
  • Pure procedural justice
  • describes situations in which there is no criterion for what constitutes a just outcome other than the procedure itself.
  • Models of Procedural Fairness
    The theory of procedural justice is controversial, with a variety of views about what makes a procedure fair. Traditionally these views tend to fall into three main families, which can be called the outcomes model, the balancing model, and the participation model.

    The outcomes model

    The idea of the outcomes model of procedural justice is that the fairness of process depends on the procedure producing correct outcomes. For example, if the procedure is a criminal trial, then the correct outcome would be conviction of the guilty and exonerating the innocent. If the procedure were a legislative process, then the procedure would be fair to the extent that it produced good legislation and unfair to the extent that it produced bad legislation.

    This has many limitations. Principally, if two procedures produced equivalent outcomes, then they are equally just according to this model. However, as the next two sections explain, there are other features about a procedure that make it just or unjust. For example, many would argue that a benevolent dictatorship is not (as) just as a democratic state (even if they have similar outcomes).

    The balancing model

    Some procedures are costly. The idea of the balancing model is that a fair procedure is one which reflects a fair balance between the costs of the procedure and the benefits that it produces. Thus, the balancing approach to procedural fairness might in some circumstances be prepared to tolerate or accept false positive verdicts in order to avoid unwanted costs (political) associated with the administration of criminal process.

    The participation model

    The idea of the participation model is that a fair procedure is one that affords those who are affected by an opportunity to participate in the making of the decision. In the context of a trial, for example, the participation model would require that the defendant be afforded an opportunity to be present at the trial, to put on evidence, cross examination witnesses, and so forth.

    The group engagement model

    Models have also been proposed to understand the psychological basis of justice. One of the more recent of these models is the group engagement model.

    The group engagement model (GEM), devised by Tom R. Tyler and Steven L. Blader, incorporates past psychological theories to explain the underlying psychological processes of procedural justice. Based on social identity theory and relational models of procedural justice, this model suggests that a group's procedural justice process influences members' identification with the group, which in turn influences their type of engagement within the group.

    According to the model, group engagement is seen as either mandatory or discretionary behavior. Mandatory behavior is defined by Tyler and Blader as behavior that is required by the group and thus is motivated by incentives and sanctions. Conversely, discretionary behavior is motivated by internal values and is seen as more cooperative and therefore ideal within a group.

    Depending on the procedural justice processes of the group, the social identity of the members will be influenced accordingly and different values will be emphasised. The more a member agrees with the type of procedural justice employed, the more they will identify with their group. This increased identification results in the internalization of the group's values and attitudes for the group member. This creates a circular relationship as the group's procedural justice processes will affect group members' levels of identification and, as a consequence, this level and type of identification will affect their own values of what is fair and unfair. This, in turn, will then affect how the individuals will engage with their group, with higher identification leading to discretionary and more desirable behavior.

    Thursday, March 27, 2014

    Fair Managers Risk Burn Out

    Fair bosses pay a price

    Michigan State University Today, March 24,2014

    Bosses who are fair make their workers happier and their companies more productive, but in the end may be burning themselves out.

    A new study led by Michigan State University’s Russell E. Johnson found the act of carefully monitoring the fairness of workplace decisions wears down supervisors mentally and emotionally.

    "Structured, rule-bound fairness, known as procedural justice, is a double-edged sword for managers," said Johnson, assistant professor of management. "While beneficial for their employees and the organization, it’s an especially draining activity for managers. In fact, we found it had negative effects for managers that spilled over to the next workday."

    For the study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, the researchers surveyed 82 bosses twice a day for a few weeks. Managers who reported mental fatigue from situations involving procedural fairness
    were less cooperative and socially engaging with other workers the next day.

    "Managers who are mentally fatigued are more prone to making mistakes and it is more difficult for them to control deviant or counterproductive impulses," Johnson said. "Several studies have even found that mentally
    fatigued employees are more likely to steal and cheat."

    Johnson said procedural justice is mentally fatiguing because it requires managers to conform to particular fairness rules, such as suppressing personal biases, being consistent over time and across subordinates, and
    allowing subordinates to voice their concerns.

    Employees may be concerned about not having personal input into a decision, skeptical about whether accurate information was used to make decisions or resentful over not receiving the same consideration as another more favored employee.

    "Essentially managers have to run around making sure their subordinates’ perceptions remain positive, whether the threat to the atmosphere of the workplace is real or imagined. Dealing with all of this uncertainty
    and ambiguity is depleting," Johnson said.

    Managers who are fair cannot realistically avoid some burnout, he added. They just need to create situations in which they are better prepared to cope with the fatigue and overcome it.

    Tips for managers include getting sufficient sleep, taking short mental breaks during the workday, adhering
    to a healthy diet and detaching from work completely when outside of the office – for example, not reading email or memos at home after 7 p.m.

    Johnson’s co-authors are Klodiana Lanaj, assistant professor at the University of Florida, and Christopher Barnes, assistant professor at the University of Washington, both doctoral graduates from MSU.

    Wednesday, March 26, 2014

    Dog Psychologist Stanley Coren

    Stanley Coren (born 1942) is a psychology professor and neuropsychological researcher who has become best known to the general public for his best selling and award winning books regarding the intelligence, mental abilities and history of dogs. Through television shows and media coverage that have been broadcast in Canada and the United States as well as overseas, he has become popular with dog owners, while continuing research and instruction in psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia.

    Dog Behavior and the Human-Canine Bond

    Later in his career, Coren shifted to the study of canine behavior and the relationship that people have with their dogs. This shift away from neuropsychological research also marked a shift in his publishing strategy, away from single study publications in research journals, to publication of his new data as part of material presented in book form. Many of his books on dogs do contain hithertofore unpublished empirical data. For example his book "The Intelligence of Dogs" is based on a survey sent to all of the dog obedience judges in the United States and Canada, and resulted in the ranking of 110 dog breeds by intelligence. This ranking caused a rather large media stir. His book "Why we love the dogs we do" looks at the personality of people and how the owner's personality predicts their relationship with various dog breeds. It is based on a survey of more than 6000 people who took a personality test and reported on their experiences with the various dogs that they have owned. This book proved to be very popular and Coren's personality test is now used by some dog shelters to determine whether prospective owners are suitable for a particular breed of dog.

    Similarly, his book "Why does my dog act that way?" uses data from approximately a thousand dogs to determine features of the personality of various dog breeds. However other books that he has written on dog behavior have provided less formal data presentation and in these his creative contribution is based on the organization and interpretation of the research of others, as is the case in "How to speak dog". These books have also been well accepted and have been proven to be very popular. Overall, it is probably true that for scientific audiences Coren is best known for his neuropsychological contributions while for the general public he is best known for his writing and research concerning dogs, dog behavior, and the relationship between dogs and people.


    With the success of "The Intelligence Of Dogs," Coren received substantial media coverage, appearing on shows throughout Canada and the United States, as well as being cited by major newspapers throughout North America. His success led to the creation of the television show Good Dog!, appearing on the Life Network in Canada and syndicated in Australia and New Zealand. The show is focused on training for the family dog, including how to read body language and how to test his intelligence. He is also one of the human stars of The Animal Attraction, an Australian Broadcasting Corporation program. Most recently he is regularly featured on the TV show Pet Central which is broadcast on the Pet Network in

    Coren was also involved in the development of The Dog Companion DVD series aimed at aiding dogs with separation issues, providing video intended to give dogs something they can watch when left alone.

    Tuesday, March 25, 2014

    Dystopia Defined and Explained

    A dystopia is a community or society that is in some important way undesirable or frightening. It is the opposite of a utopia. Such societies appear in many artistic works, particularly in stories set in a future. Dystopias are often characterized by dehumanization, totalitarian governments, environmental disaster, or other characteristics associated with a cataclysmic decline in society. Dystopian societies appear in many sub-genres of fiction and are often used to draw attention to real-world issues regarding society, environment, politics, economics, religion, psychology, ethics, science, and/or technology, which if unaddressed could potentially lead to such a dystopia-like condition.

    Famous depictions of dystopian societies include R.U.R., which introduces the term Robot and the modern Robot concept along with the first Androids due to being organic, and is the first elaborate depiction of a machine take-over.Nineteen Eighty-Four, which takes place in a totalitarian invasive super state; Brave New World, where the human population is placed under a caste of psychological allocation; Fahrenheit 451, where the state burns books out of fear of what they may incite; A Clockwork Orange, where the state undertakes to reform violent youths, but at what cost?; Blade Runner in which genetically engineered replicants infiltrate society and must be hunted down before they injure humans; The HungerGames, in which the government controls its people by maintaining a constant state of fear through forcing randomly selected children to participate in an annual fight to the death; Logan’s Run, in which both population and the consumption of resources are maintained in equilibrium by requiring the death of everyone reaching a particular age, and Soylent Green, where society suffers from pollution, overpopulation, depleted resources, poverty, dying oceans, and a hot climate. Much of the population survives on processed food rations, including "soylent green."

    Jack London’s The Iron Heel was described by Erich Fromm as "the earliest of the modern Dystopia."

    Decades before the first documented use of the word "dystopia" was "cacotopia" (using Ancient Greek: κακόs, "bad, wicked") originally proposed in 1818 by Jeremy Bentham: "A
    s a match for utopia (or the imagined seat of the best government) suppose a cacotopia (or the imagined seat of the worst government) discovered and described." Though dystopia became the more popular term, cacotopia finds occasional use, for example by A Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess, who said it was a better fit for Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four because "it sounds worse than dystopia."

    The first known use of dystopian, as recorded by the Oxford EnglishDictionary, is a speech given before the British House of Commons by John Stuart Mill in 1868, in which Mill denounced the government's Irish land policy: "It is, perhaps, too complimentary to call them Utopians, they ought rather to be called dys-topians, or caco-topians. What is commonly called Utopian is something too good to be practicable; but what they appear to favour is too bad to be practicable."

    Monday, March 24, 2014

    The Infamous Zimmermann Telegram

    The Zimmermann Telegram (or Zimmermann Note) was a 1917 diplomatic proposal from the German Empire for Mexico to join the Central Powers, in the event of the United Staters entering World War I on the side of the Entente Powers. The proposal was intercepted and decoded by British intelligence. Revelation of the contents outraged American public opinion and helped generate support for the United States declaration of war on Germany in April of that year.

    The message came as a coded telegram dispatched by the Foreign Secretary of the German Empire, Arthur Zimmermann, on January 16, 1917. The message was sent to the German ambassador to Mexico, Heinrich von Eckardt. Zimmermann sent the telegram in anticipation of the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare by Germany on 1 February, an act which Germany predicted would draw the neutral U.S. into war on the side of the Allies. The telegram instructed Ambassador Eckardt that if the U.S. appeared likely to enter the war, he was to approach the Mexican Government with a proposal for military alliance, with funding from Germany. Mexico was promised territories in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona that had been lost to the United States starting in 1836 as parts of the former Republic of Texas, and in 1848 with the Mexican Cession. Eckardt was also instructed to urge Mexico to help broker an alliance between Germany and the Japanese Empire. Mexico, unable to match the U.S. military, ignored the proposal and after the U.S. entered the war, officially rejected it.

    The Zimmermann Telegram was intercepted and decoded by the British cryptographers of Room 40 [see yesterday’s blog post about Room 40]. The telegram's message was:

    FROM 2nd from London # 5747.
    "We intend to begin on the first of February unrestricted submarine warfare. We shall endeavor in spite of this to keep the United States of America neutral. In the event of this not succeeding, we make Mexico a proposal of alliance on the following basis: make war together, make peace together, generous financial support and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The settlement in detail is left to you. You will inform the President of the above most secretly as soon as the outbreak of war with the United States of America is certain and add the suggestion that he should, on his own initiative, invite Japan to immediate adherence and at the same time mediate between Japan and ourselves. Please call the President's attention to the fact that the ruthless employment of our submarines now offers the prospect of compelling England in a few months to make peace." Signed, ZIMMERMANN
    Mexican Response
    The Zimmermann Telegram was part of an effort that was being carried out by the Germans, in order to postpone the transportation of supplies and other war materials to the Triple Ententer. The Zimmermann Telegram's main purpose was to make the Mexican government declare war on the U.S., which would have tied down U.S. forces and slowed the export of U.S. arms. The German High Command believed they would be able to defeat the British and French on the Western Front, and strangle the UK by unrestricted submarine warfare, before American forces could train and arrive in Europe in sufficient numbers.
    Mexican President Venustiano Carranza assigned a military commission to assess the feasibility of a Mexican takeover of their former territories. The general concluded that it would not be possible or even desirable for the following reasons:

    • The US was far stronger than Mexico, in the ability to make war. No serious scenarios existed under which Mexico could win.
    • Germany's promises of "generous financial support" were far too good to be true. Mexico could not possibly use any "generous financial support" to buy the arms, ammunition, or other war supplies for the very reason that the U.S. was the only sizable arms manufacturer in the Americas. To make matters worse, Germany could not be counted on to supply Mexico with war supplies directly, as the British Royal Navy controlled the Atlantic shipping lanes.
    • Even if by some chance Mexico had the military means to win the conflict with the U.S. and retake the area in question, Mexico would have had severe difficulty accommodating the large, primarily English-speaking population who were well supplied with guns and ammunition.
    • Other foreign relations were at stake. Mexico had cooperated with the so-called ABC nations in South America to prevent a war with the U.S., generally improving relations all around. If Mexico were to enter war against the U.S. it would strain relations with those same ABC nations.

    Sunday, March 23, 2014

    Room 40 and World War I

    In the history of Cryptanalysis, Room 40 also known as 40 O.B. (Old Building) (latterly NID25) was the section in the Admiralty most identified with the British cryptoanalysis effort during the First World War.

    Room 40 was formed in October 1914, shortly after the start of the war. Admiral Oliver, the Director of Naval Intelligence, gave intercepts from the German radio station at Nauen, near Berlin, to Director of Naval Education Alfred Ewing, who constructed ciphers as a hobby. Ewing recruited civilians such as William Montbgomery, a translator of theological works from German, and Nigel de Grey, a publisher.

    The basis of Room 40 operations evolved around a German naval codebook, the Signalbuch der Kaiserlichen Marine (SKM), and maps (containing coded squares), which had been passed on to the Admiralty by the Russians. The Russians had seized them from the German cruiser Magdeburg when it ran aground off the Estonian coast on 26 August 1914. Two of the four copies that the warship had been carrying were recovered; one was retained by the Russians and the other passed to the British.

    In October, 1914, the British also obtained the Imperial German Navy’s Handelsschiffsverkehrsbuch (HVB), a codebook used by German naval warships, merchantmen, naval zeppelins and U-Boats. This had been captured from the German steamer Hobart by the Royal Australian Navy on 11 October. On 30 November a British trawler recovered a safe from the sunken German destroyer S-119, in which was found the Verkehrsbuch (VB), the code used by the Germans to communicate with naval attachés, embassies and warships overseas.

    In March, 1915, the luggage of Wilhelm Wassmuss, a German agent in Persia, was captured and shipped, unopened, to London, where then-Director of Naval Intelligence Admiral Sir William Reginald Hall discovered that it contained the German Diplomatic Code Book, Code No. 13040.
    The function of the program was compromised by the Admiralty's insistence upon interpreting Room 40 information in its own way. Room 40 operators were permitted to decrypt, but not to interpret the information they acquired.

    The section retained "Room 40" as its informal name even though it expanded during the war and moved into other offices. It has been estimated that Room 40 decrypted around 15,000 German communications, the section being provided with copies of all intercepted communications traffic, including wireless and telegraph traffic. Until May 1917 it was directed by Alfred Ewing, and then direct control passed to Captain (later Admiral) Reginald ‘Blinker’ Hall, assisted by William Milbourne James.

    Merger with Military Intelligence (MI)
    In 1919, Room 40 was deactivated and its function merged with the British Army’s intelligence unit MI1b to form the Government Coder and Cypher School (GC&CS), which was housed at Bletchley Park
    during the Second World War and subsequently renamed Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and relocated to Cheltenham.

    Saturday, March 22, 2014

    Emotions Common to Hit Songs

    Analysis of 50 Years of Hit Songs
    Yields Tips for Advertisers
    By Matt Shipman, NC State University News Services, March 18, 2014

    Researchers from North Carolina State University have analyzed 50 years’ worth of hit songs to identify key themes that marketing professionals can use to craft advertisements that will resonate with audiences.

    "People are exposed to a barrage of advertisements and they often respond by tuning out those advertisements. We wanted to see what we could learn from hit songs to help advertisers break through all that clutter," says Dr. David Henard, a professor of marketing at NC State and lead author of a paper describing the research. "We also wanted to see if there were specific themes that could help companies engage with consumers in a positive way via social media.

    "Our work shows that there is a limited range of widely accepted themes that get at the heart of human experience and resonate with a large and diverse population of consumers," Henard says. "We’re not saying that every marketing effort should center on one or more of these themes, but the implication is that efforts incorporating these themes will be more successful than efforts that don’t."

    The researchers began by compiling a list of every song that hit No. 1 on Billboard magazine’s "Hot 100" song list between January 1960 and December 2009. The tracks ranged from "El Paso" by Marty Robbins on Jan. 4 and 11 in 1960 to "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys in the last five weeks of 2009.

    The researchers used computer programs to run textual analysis of the lyrics for all of those songs and analyzed the results to identify key themes.

    The researchers identified 12 key themes, and related terms, that came up most often in the hit songs. These themes are loss, desire, aspiration, breakup, pain, inspiration, nostalgia, rebellion, jaded, desperation, escapism
    and confusion. But while these themes are common across the 50-year study period, the most prominent themes have varied over time. "Rebellion," a prominent theme in the ’60s and ’70s, did not break the top 10 in the ’80s – and was in the middle of the pack in the ’90s and ’00s. The themes of "desperation" and "inspirational" leapt to the top of the list in the ’00s for the first time – possibly, Henard notes, due to the cultural effects of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
    "These themes overwhelmingly reflect emotional content, rather than rational content," Henard says. "It reinforces the idea that communications centered on emotional themes will have mass audience appeal. Hit songs reflect what consumers respond to, and that’s information that advertisers can use to craft messages that will capture people’s attention."

    The paper, "All You Need Is Love? Communication Insights ftrom Pop Music’s Number-One Hits," is forthcoming from the Journal of Advertising Research. Dr. Christian Rossetti, an assistant professor of operations and supply chain management at NC State, co-authored the article.

    Friday, March 21, 2014

    An Open Question: the Multiverse

    The multiverse (or meta-universe) is the hypothetical set of infinite or finite possible universes (including the historical universe we consistently experience) that together comprise everything that exists and can exist: the entirety of space, time, matter, and energy as well as the physical laws and constants that describe them. The various universes within the multiverse are sometimes called parallel universes.

    The structure of the multiverse, the nature of each universe within it and the relationship between the various constituent universes, depend on the specific multiverse hypothesis considered. Multiple universes have been hypothesized in cosmology, physics, astronomy, religion, philosophy, transpersonal psychology and fiction, particularly in science fiction and fantasy. In these contexts, parallel universes are also called "alternative universes", "quantum universes", "interpenetrating dimensions", "parallel dimensions", "parallel worlds", "alternative realities", "alternative timelines", and "dimensional planes," among others. The term 'multiverse' was coined in 1895 by the American philosopher and psychologist William James in a different context.

    The multiverse hypothesis is a source of disagreement within the physics community. Physicists disagree about whether the multiverse exists, and whether the multiverse is a proper subject of scientific inquiry. Supporters of one of the multiverse hypotheses include Stephen Hawking, Steven Weinberg, Brian Greene,and Max Tegmark. In contrast, critics such as David Gross, Paul Steinhardt and Paul Davies have argued that the multiverse question is philosophical rather than scientific, or even that the multiverse hypothesis is harmful or pseudoscientific.

    Occam’s Razor
    Proponents and critics disagree about how to apply Occam’s Razor. Critics argue that to postulate a practically infinite number of unobservable universes just to explain our own seems contrary to Occam's razor. In contrast, proponents argue that, in terms of Kolmorgorov complexity, the proposed multiverse is simpler than a single idiosyncratic universe.

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

    Kolmogorov Complexity
    In algorithmic information theory (a subfield of computer scienceand mathematics), the Kolmogorov complexity (also known as descriptive complexity, Kolmogorov–Chaitin complexity, algorithmic entropy, or program-size complexity) of an object, such as a piece of text, is a measure of the computability resources needed to specify the object. It is named after Andrey Kolmogorov, who first published on the subject in 1963

    History and Context
    Algorithmic information theory is the area of computer science that studies Kolmogorov complexity and other complexity measures on strings (or other data structures).

    The concept and theory of Kolmogorov Complexity is based on a crucial theorem first discovered by Ray Solomonoff, who published it in 1960, describing it in "A Preliminary Report on a General Theory of Inductive Inference" as part of his invention of algorithmic probability. He gave a more complete description in his 1964 publications, "A Formal Theory of Inductive Inference," Part 1 and Part 2 in Information and Control.

    Andrey Kolmogorov later independently published this theorem in Problems Inform. Transmission, Gregory Chaitin also presents this theorem in J. ACM – Chaitin's paper was submitted October 1966 and revised in December 1968, and cites both Solomonoff's and Kolmogorov's papers.

    The theorem says that, among algorithms that decode strings from their descriptions (codes), there exists an optimal one. This algorithm, for all strings, allows codes as short as allowed by any other algorithm up to an additive constant that depends on the algorithms, but not on the strings themselves. Solomonoff used this algorithm, and the code lengths it allows, to define a "universal probability" of a string on which inductive inference of the subsequent digits of the string can be based. Kolmogorov used this theorem to define several functions of strings, including complexity, randomness, and information.

    When Kolmogorov became aware of Solomonoff's work, he acknowledged Solomonoff's priority. For several years, Solomonoff's work was better known in the Soviet Union than in the Western World. The general consensus in the scientific community, however, was to associate this type of complexity with Kolmogorov, who was concerned with randomness of a sequence, while Algorithmic Probability became associated with Solomonoff, who focused on prediction using his invention of the universal prior probability distribution. The broader area encompassing descriptional complexity and probability is often called Kolmogorov complexity. The computer scientist Ming Li considers this an example of the Matthew effect: "... to everyone who has more will be given ..."

    There are several other variants of Kolmogorov complexity or algorithmic information. The most widely used one is based on self-delimiting programs, and is mainly due to Leonid Levin (1974).
    An axiomatic approach to Kolmogorov complexity based on Blum axioms (Blum 1967) was introduced by Mark Burgin in the paper presented for publication by Andrey Kolmogorov (Burgin 1982).

    Positive Quiddity: Writer Thomas Thompson

    THOMPSON, THOMAS (1933–1982). Thomas (Tommy) Thompson, journalist and writer, the son of Clarence and Ruth Thompson, was born on October 3, 1933, at Fort Worth, Texas. His father was a high school principal and his mother a teacher. After graduating from Arlington Heights High School, Thompson earned a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1955. He had started his own newspaper at age eight; by age twenty-three he was city editor of the Houston Press. Around 1958 he married Joyce Alford; they divorced in 1969. He joined Life magazine in 1961 and became an editor and staff writer. When Life ceased publication in 1972, Thompson turned to writing freelance magazine articles and books. His first two books-Hearts (1971), on the rivalry between Houston surgeons Michael DeBakey and Denton Cooley at the dawn of the heart transplant era, and Richie (1973), the story of a Long Island man who killed his drug-addicted son-were based on stories that first appeared in Life. While doing research in Houston for Hearts, Thompson heard a story that inspired his most successful book, Blood and Money (1976). It was based on a true story of scandal and murder among Houston's social elite and involved the deaths of Joan Robinson Hill and her husband, Dr. John Hill, who was accused of her murder before he himself was killed by an alleged hit man. The book made Thompson a millionaire and the target of three libel suits. It sold four million copies in fourteen languages. Thompson said that he wanted to write about the psyche of Texas as reflected in this case, since he felt that it was still a frontier state and its violence had always concerned him. A prodigious researcher, Thompson flew around the world three times and spent two years in Asia doing research for Serpentine (1979), the bizarre story of convicted murderer Charles Sobhraj.

    Thompson was said to be among the most consistently successful practitioners of the nonfiction novel pioneered by writers Truman Capote and Norman Mailer. Among other honors, he received the National Headliner Award for investigative reporting and the 1977 Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Blood and Money. After Serpentine, he turned to the challenge of fiction and produced one novel, Celebrity (1982). The novel described the impact of fame on three men who grew up in Fort Worth, one of them a journalist who covered the Kennedfy assassination, as Thompson did. It received mixed reviews but stayed on the national best-seller list for six months. Thompson, who had taught writing at the University of Southern California and other institutions, agreed to become an adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Austin on September 1, 1982. Before he could return to Texas from Los Angeles, where he had lived for six years, he became ill with liver cancer. It may have been caused by hepatitis he contracted while doing research in India for Serpentine. In response to the news, he said "If the Lord says it's my time to go, I can't complain. I've already done everything twice." His sons Kirk and Scott were at his bedside when he died in a Los Angeles hospital on October 29, 1982. Thompson's craft was his main religion. The nondenominational funeral services for him at the Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church attracted many celebrities.

    Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, Vol. 14. Dallas Morning News, September 14, 1976, January 26, 1978, October 30, 1982. Houston Post, September 12, 1976, October 18, 1978, April 25, 1982.
    -- Sarah L. Greene, "THOMPSON, THOMAS," Handbook of Texas Online (, Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
    Customer Reviews of Blood and Money from follow:

    A True Life Tale of Texan Greed, Love and Murder By A Customer on July 12, 1999

    "Blood and Money" first published in 1976 is a true page-turner and a major piece of non-fiction journalism. Set thirty years ago in the moneyed mansions of Houston’s River Oaks it is a spellbinding tale of an oil millionaires (Ash Robinson) obsessive love for his daughter (Joan Robinson) and her ill fated third marriage to a rising star plastic surgeon (John Hill). Events take tragic and unexpected turns carrying along the reader’s emotions. Then the author brings us through a series of court trials deepening the characters and shading their motives. Abruptly the story leaves behind the privileged rich lives and burrows into the sleazy underbelly of Texan prostitution and petty crime culminating in a final pursuit and spectacular murder trial. No fiction is a match for the awful truth here and the writer Thomas Thompson meticulously unravels this bizarre saga of greed, power, lust, love and murder. All the characters are deeply shaded and by force of sheer detail their lives are brought into vivid focus. It is a sprawling narrative similar to Norman Mailers "The Executioners Song" although largely confined to the somewhat strange state of Texas. Thompson must have utilized every possible material (court transcripts, autopsy reports, police files, photographs) and person available to him. Conversations are carefully reconstructed, events are colorfully described and the author seamlessly insinuates himself into the mind of each of the characters. Readers enjoy a fly- on-the-wall perspective of the characters doings and actions. Ultimately "Blood and Money" can fairly take its place alongside other New Journalism classics like "In Cold Blood". It would have been nice however if the author had included a preface, (some notes about his research techniques) photographs and character epilogues. The hard cover Doubleday publication does not contain any supplementary information perhaps other versions do. This caliber of journalism is damned impressive and it's a pity we don't have its originator Thomas Thompson with us any longer.

    * * * * * * * * *

    5 Stars
    EVEN FOR HOUSTON THIS WAS SHOCKING By Shannon Deason on September 3, 2006

    When I was a little boy, I snagged this book off my mother's bed stand and could not put it down, obviously it was not exactly what my mother would want me to read at ten, but it was just a fantastic read, and it happened in Houston, which for me made it totally fascinating. The story is so amazing you really cannot believe this really happened, but shockingly it did, the Hill mansion in River Oaks still sits on its corner, astride to Kirby Drive. This is a well-written barnburner on a story that pleaded for this kind of treatment. Really, one of the best true crime books every written, highly recommended.

    * * * * * * * * * *

    5 Stars
    If You Love True Crime Books, This is One You Can’t Put Down By Collar Wilson on October 28, 1999

    I saw the mini-series starring Farrah Fawcett before I read the book. I was intrigued by the movie. I had never heard of Joan Olive Robinson Hill before and after seeing the movie I wondered about her and her life and if it were possible that her husband did in fact kill her. There were a lot of questions that needed answering. I read the book and was amazed at the attention Thomas Thompson gave to even the smallest detail and how he was able to draw you into the story, you almost felt like you were there when these events happened. The book did not absolutely say that John Hill had killed Joan Hill, but it certainly provided ample motive and opportunity. And the scenario that describes the way he might have done it seems plausible. Who knows? This does not take away at all from the drama of this story and as John Hill himself is dead as well, there are some things we will never know. Thomas Thompson makes you feel empathy for Joan and her situation. He also makes you feel sympathy, compassion and scorn; why didn't she just leave the bum and find someone who really wanted her. I loved this story.

    * * * * * * * * * *

    3 Stars
    Engrossing True Crime Story – But Needs an Update By Edison McIntyre on May 29, 2006

    I don't write many "me too" reviews in this space, but I can't resist recommending "Blood and Money," not only for aficionados of "true crime" literature, but for anyone interested in the workings of the American legal system. I know little of the city of Houston or of Texas, but I gather that Thomas Thompson's tome is also an excellent snapshot of this booming energy/medical/cultural complex, c.1970.

    The details of the story are covered by other reviewers here. It's interesting that many have come to hard conclusions about the legal culpability of certain principals in this long, involved story (perhaps being influenced by other sources), while Thompson himself passes no definite judgments (though it's not difficult to tell what he's implying). Although there are no source notes or acknowledgments, one has the impression that Thompson included little in this account that could not be corroborated by "reliable sources," although he does include some speculation on specific points.

    But the real value of the book, as I said, is not so much in portraying guilt or innocence but in dealing with a larger issue: the impact of wealth, social prestige, and publicity on the legal process and on justice. Depending on how one views the evidence presented by Thompson, it's not unreasonable to say that none of the principals involved in this entire episode received justice from the Texas court system. Some relatively minor players went to jail, and one died, in part, because of their involvement. But for the big fish in this case, the legal system in the end had no answers and no closure. I'll leave the deeper reflections on class and justice to Karl Marx.

    Another thought: This book should be required reading in medical schools. A physician who insists on treating his own family and friends is asking for it!

    The publishers of this thirty-year-old book would do well to commission an "Afterword" for a new edition, to cover what happened since the 1976 publication. A few developments (based on some Internet searching): John Hill's third wife, Connie, sued Ash Robinson for wrongful death in the slaying of her husband, but no damages were awarded. Thompson was himself sued for defamation by Ash Robinson, as well as by Ann Kurth (John Hill's second wife), and by a Texas police officer who figured in the story. Robinson's case eventually was dismissed, and Thompson won the other suits. Thompson died in 1982, Ash Robinson in 1985. The story was dramatized as a TV film, "Murder in Texas," in 1981, based on the book "Prescription: Murder" by Ann Kurth, who maintained that John Hill tried to kill her and may have faked his own death. Kurth's book, and the film version, no doubt has left many with a much more definite idea as to who was responsible for the death of Joan Robinson Hill.

    Not exactly the most vital book I've read lately, but if you are seeking an intriguing, novelistic and somewhat illuminating book for bedtime or the airport, you could do far worse. And if you ARE a "true crime" fan, this book is a must.

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

    New Tuberculosis Genotype in NYC

    Notes from the Field: Outbreak of Tuberculosis Associated with a Newly Identified Mycobacterium tuberculosis Genotype — New York City, 2010–2013

    [CDC] Weekly

    November 15, 2013 / 62(45);904-904
    In January 2010, the New York City (NYC) Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) identified a tuberculosis (TB) case caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis with a genotype not reported previously in the United States (1). The patient was evaluated for TB while incarcerated but was released before the diagnosis was confirmed and before beginning TB treatment. The patient, who had a history of homelessness and clinical characteristics suggesting infectiousness, could not be located by DOHMH for 13 months. Numerous efforts were made to locate the patient, including queries to shelters, jails, and infection-control staff members at local hospitals. The patient was located after he had an abnormal chest radiograph result following referral by a local jail to a hospital emergency department (ED) for symptoms of alcohol withdrawal; he died from complications of liver cirrhosis 5 days later, without having started TB treatment. During February 2012–May 2013, DOHMH identified four additional patients with the same TB genotype. All five patients were U.S.-born black men aged 52–57 years. Four had a history of substance abuse; three had a history of homelessness; and two had a history of incarceration. All patients had drug-susceptible TB and were negative for human immunodeficiency virus. Three patients completed TB treatment. One patient, who was homeless at the time of diagnosis, began TB treatment but was lost to follow-up by DOHMH.

    Contact investigation was conducted per routine NYC protocol (2) and included contact elicitation at one jail, two homeless shelters, two health-care facilities, and one drug treatment facility. During the outbreak investigation, epidemiologists reinterviewed all patients except the index patient. Among three patients with a history of homelessness, all reported spending time living on the street. Although no patient named another patient as a contact, four patients spent considerable time near the same NYC transportation hub. Three patients, including the index patient, had multiple visits to the same NYC hospital ED for care related to alcohol withdrawal and other health issues in the years around their TB diagnoses. The index patient made several visits to this ED during the 13 months when he could not be located by DOHMH. Although it is not possible to definitively determine where transmission occurred, multiple epidemiologic links among patients indicate recent transmission of a new TB strain in NYC.

    Genotyping combined with epidemiologic expertise enabled DOHMH to detect an outbreak among persons not previously known to be linked and to identify possible sites of TB transmission that were not apparent from contact investigation alone. DOHMH also identified a social network of homeless persons who primarily lived on the street and had a history of substance abuse and frequent ED use. DOHMH and the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) have a history of working collaboratively to detect and treat TB among homeless persons residing in shelters. However, TB control among homeless persons living on the street presents unique challenges. In conjunction with this investigation, DOHMH is working with DHS, local hospitals, and other organizations to improve capacity for locating TB patients lost to DOHMH supervision and to identify mechanisms for enhancing TB diagnosis, treatment, and case management for homeless persons who live on the street.

    Although the burden of TB in the United States has largely shifted from U.S.-born to foreign-born populations over the past 2 decades (3), this outbreak is a reminder that transmission continues to occur among U.S.-born persons and highlights the need for TB controllers, ED health-care providers, and others to remain vigilant for TB among persons with a history of homelessness, substance abuse, or other TB risk factors (4). Although previous outbreaks have been linked to homeless shelters (57), this investigation revealed other sites of possible transmission, including a hospital ED and a public transportation hub. DOHMH continues to monitor TB genotyping results to identify additional patients in this outbreak.

    Reported by

    Jillian Knorr, MPH, Jeanne Sullivan Meissner, MPH, Bianca R. Perri, MPH, Shama Desai Ahuja, PhD, New York City Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene. Corresponding contributor: Shama Desai Ahuja,, 347-396-7548. 


    Public Health Research Institute at Rutgers Univ; New York State Dept of Health Wadsworth Center; New York City (NYC) Dept of Homeless Svcs; NYC hospitals; Bureau of TB Control and Public Health Laboratory, NYC Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene.


    1. CDC. Tuberculosis genotyping—United States, 2004–2010. MMWR 2012;61:723–5.
  • New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygeine, Bureau of Tuberculosis Control. Clinical policies and protocols manual. New York, NY; 2008. Available at
  • CDC. Trends in tuberculosis—United States, 2012. MMWR 2013;62:201–5.
  • CDC. Controlling tuberculosis in the United States: recommendations from the American Thoracic Society, CDC, and the Infectious Diseases Society of America. MMWR 2005;54(No. RR-12).
  • CDC. Tuberculosis transmission in a homeless shelter population—New York, 2000–2003. MMWR 2005;54:149–52.
  • CDC. Notes from the field: tuberculosis cluster associated with homelessness—Duval County, Florida, 2004–2012. MMWR 2012;61:539–40.
  • CDC. Tuberculosis outbreak associated with a homeless shelter—Kane County, Illinois, 2007–2011. MMWR 2012;61:186–9.
    The above article unedited from:

    Tuesday, March 18, 2014

    New DiPolar Molecules

    'Ultracold' Molecules Promising for
    Quantum Computing, Simulation
    By Emil Venere, Purdue News, March 12, 2014

    WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Researchers have created a new type of "ultracold" molecule, using lasers to cool atoms nearly to absolute zero and then gluing them together, a technology that might be applied to quantum computing, precise sensors and advanced simulations.

    "It sounds counterintuitive, but you can use lasers to take away the kinetic energy, resulting in radical cooling," said Yong P. Chen, an associate professor of physics and electrical and computer engineering at  Perdue University.

    Physicists are using lasers to achieve such extreme cooling, reducing the temperature to nearly absolute zero, or minus 273 degrees Celsius (minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit) - the lowest temperature possible in the universe.

    At these temperatures atoms are brought to a near standstill, making possible new kinds of chemical interactions that are predominantly quantum mechanical in nature. The process is performed inside of an apparatus called a magneto-optical trap, a system that uses a vacuum chamber, magnetic coils and a series of lasers to cool and trap the atoms.

    "This is our test tube," said Daniel S. Elliott, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and physics. "In ultracold chemistry, molecules are really moving slowly so they have a long time to interact with each other."

    Other researchers have used the method to create cold molecules out of atoms of other alkali metals, which are relatively easy to turn into ultracold molecules. The Purdue researchers are the first to achieve the milestone with the alkali metals lithium and rubidium, in work led by Chen and Elliott.

    Findings are detailed in a research paper that appeared as a "Rapid Communication" in the February issue of the journal Physical Review A, a publication of the American Physical Society. The paper was authored by former Purdue physics doctoral student Sourav Dutta, who has graduated; graduate students John Lorenz and Adeel Altaf; Elliott and Chen. The paper is available online at

    The method is called photoassociation: two atoms are merged using lasers to induce a chemical bond between them, forming a molecule. These molecules may contain two of the same types of atoms - making them homonuclear - or they can contain two different types of atoms, heteronuclear, such as the case with the lithium-rubidium molecules created by the team.

    If the molecules are heteronuclear there is a difference in electric charge between these two atoms and the molecule is said to be polar. This difference in charge is called a dipole moment, which enables interaction between molecules. The greater the dipole moment, the stronger the interaction.

    The lithium-rubidium molecule is potentially ideal for various applications, including quantum computing, because it has a significant dipole moment, which can enable these molecules to be used as "quantum bits."

    Quantum computers would take advantage of a phenomenon described by quantum theory called "entanglement." Instead of only the states of one and zero used in conventional computer processing, there are many possible "entangled quantum states" in between one and zero, dramatically increasing the capacity to process information.

    "In quantum computing the larger the dipole moment the stronger the interaction would be between molecules, and you need that interaction," Elliott said. "They need to interact with each other in order to affect each other, the key to entanglement."

    Another potential advantage for the lithium-rubidium molecule is that it can be produced in large quantities.
    "The rate of production is much greater for lithium-rubidium than for other bi-alkali-metal molecules," Chen said. "That was a pleasant surprise. It was already known that it has the third- largest dipole moment among bi-alkali-metal molecules, but nobody expected it would be made so efficiently."

    Ultracold means temperatures less than about one thousandth of degree above absolute zero. Achieving such frigid extremes requires reducing the kinetic energy of molecules as well as their "internal excitation energies," which are stored in three ways: the rotation of the molecule itself, the vibrations of the atomic nuclei, and the movement of electrons in "shells" surrounding the nuclei. The combined energy of the trio is called rovibronic, a shortened version of rotational, vibrational and electronic.

    "We are reporting a highly efficient production of ultracold lithium-rubidium molecules by photoassociation," Dutta said. "This provides the first step towards the production of such ultracold lithium-rubidium molecules in their ground, polar state."

    Molecules in their "ground state" have the lowest possible rovibronic energy, which would make them more stable and easier to control.

    A related research paper was also published by the team in January in the journal Europhysics Letters, a publication of the European Physical Society. That paper is available online at

    "Lithium rubidium is one of the last bi-alkali molecules to be made cold, and we are the first to do this," Chen said. "People knew virtually nothing about these molecules."

    Ultimately, researchers are seeking more efficient methods for the production of ultracold molecules.

    The research has been funded by Purdue's Bilsland Dissertation Fellowship, the National Science Foundation, Army Research Office, and more recently by a research incentive grant from Purdue's Office of Vice President for Research.

    The research falls within a field called AMO, for atomic, molecular, and optical physics, an area under expansion at Purdue.

    "AMO physics is an exciting area in the landscape of experimental and theoretical physics," Elliott said.
    "Seven years ago we had one person working in this area."

    Since then, the department has added three faculty members working in AMO and is in the process of adding more.

    "Purdue is positioned to become a leader in AMO physics," Chen said.

    Emil Venere, 765-494-4709,

    Yong Chen, 765-494-0947,
    Daniel S. Elliott, 765-494-3442,

    Monday, March 17, 2014

    Commodities Trader Larry Williams

    Larry Richard Williams (born October 6, 1942) is an American author and commodity trader from the state of Montana. He is the father of actress Michelle Williams.

    Williams is the author of eleven books, most on stocks and commodity trading. Other books include The Mount Sinai Myth, based on an archeological search for Mt. Sinai in Egypt. This book was featured in Vanity Fair in a re-write by Howard Blum. Williams' most current book is Confessions of a Radical Tax Protestor. This books discusses his battle with the Internal Revenue Service, which led to a trial on three charges of tax evasion. On February 5, 2010, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of failing to file income tax returns.

    Williams funds a 5 figure scholarship at the University of Oregon in honor of his college professor, Max Wales, restricted to "journalism and communication students who.. . have demonstrated creative talent, but may not have a high grade point average."

    Williams has created numerous market indicators including Williams %R
    , Ultimate Oscillator, COT indices, accumulation/distribution indicators, cycle forecasts, market sentiment and value measurements for commodity prices. Williams won the 1987 World Cup Championship of Futures Trading from the Robbins Trading Company, where he turned $10,000 to over $1,100,000 (11,376%) in a 12-month competition with real money. Ten years later his Academy Award Nominee actress daughter Michelle won the same contest. He currently lives in the United States Virgin Islands, where he trades, writes and does market research.
    His other indicators are the COT index, Accumulation indicators and was the originator of Volatility Breakouts.

    Williams has created new proprietary indicators programmed exclusively into Vantage Point trading software. Williams joined forces with long-time friend— trader and software developer Louis B. Mendelsohn — to create a comprehensive new line-up of trading indicators, within the Vantage Point software.

    Two of his more recently developed indicators include the Williams Professional Sentiment Index and Williams Electronic Market Accumulation Index. These are designed to reveal when the big money traders are actively buying or selling in a market. This action often marks the beginning of extended market trends. Williams collaborated with Mendelsohn to incorporate the early alert indexes with the neural network pattern recognition indicators that Vantage Point provides.

    His psychiatrist son, Dr. Jason Williams, at Johns Hopkins, has written a book on the personality of winning traders, The Mental Edge in Trading.

    Williams was twice the Republican Party nominee to the United States Senate in Montana, losing to Representative Max Baucus in 1978 and to incumbent Senator John Melcher in 1982. He sponsored Iniative 86, which made Montana the first state to index tax brackets for inflation. Williams was one of the founders of the "Rock and Roll Marathons"that have raised in excess of $170 million for charities throughout the world.

    External Links  "Larry Williams, Futures Trading, Futures Newsletters, Short Term Trading, Long Term Trading, Trading Education".

    All of the above from Wikipedia at:

    Sunday, March 16, 2014

    Technical Analyst John A. Bollinger

    John A. Bollinger (born 1950) is an American author, financial analyst, contributor to the field of technical analysis and the developer of Bollinger Bands. His book Bollinger on Bollinger Bands, John Bollinger, McGraw Hill, 2002, ISBN 978-0-07-137368-5, has been translated into eight languages. He has published The ’’Capital Growth Letter’’ which provides technical analysis of the financial markets since 1987.

    Bollinger Bands
    Bollinger Bands are intervals drawn on a price chart that define high and low on a relative basis. Bollinger started developing Bollinger Bands in the early 1980s. They are an adaptation of Keltner Bands and similar to Donchian channels. He was trading options at the time and much of his analytics involved volatility. At the time fixed width trading bands were in use. Mr. Bollinger's contribution was to use volatility standard devision to make trading bands adaptive.

    When they were introduced to the public on Financial News Network they didn't have a name. His interviewer pointed to the chart and said "What are those?" and Bollinger said "Let's call them Bollinger Bands." That was how they got their name.

    Rational Analysis
    "John Bollinger, CFA, has always concentrated on the overlap between technical and fundamental analysis, rather than focus on the differences. To bridge the gap between fundamental and technical analysis, Bollinger advocates an approach he calls ‘Rational Analysis’". Bollinger first coined the term "Rational Analysis" in the late 1980s. He then defined it as the "juncture of the overlap between technical and fundamental analysis" and created a visual representation.

    At the 2004 AIMR Conference, in his presentation titled Combining Technical and Fundamental Analysis, he took his concept one step further. Because the financial analysis community sub-categorizes itself in ever finer specialty groups, his updated definition of Rational Analysis was stated as "the union of the sets of technical, fundamental, quantitative and behavioral analysis".

    The analogy Bollinger uses for Rational Analysis is having multiple tool kits each with different tools. To get the job done the rational approach is to take the tool that does the job best, regardless of which tool kit it comes from. The same is true for financial analysis. Depending on the analytical scenario, sometimes technical analysis tools provide the best insights. Sometimes fundamental analysis,m behavioral analysis or quantitative analysis and most often a combination of all four is the most rigorous and productive.

    Computerized Technical Analysis
    After purchasing his first microcomputer in 1977, Bollinger became involved in the seminal stages of computer driven technical analysis. Computer technology allowed Bollinger to develop Group Power, an industry group ranking system that shows developing trends in industry groups and sectors. Over the years the service evolved, the underlying structure becoming a proprietary equal-weighted industry group structure and delivery via the Internet allowed ever more complex analytics.

    In 1996 Bollinger recognized the potential of the Internet for financial analysis and began the programming for The service utilized a 52 rule fuzzy logic model to provide analytics of the US equities market and was one of earliest charting and technical analysis websites.

    Professional Life
    After becoming an independent trader in 1980 he joined the Financial News Network, where he was the Chief Market Analyst for seven years, 1984–1990, a role in which he had primary responsibility for the technical analysis content presented on air. After FNN was purchased by NBC, Bollinger helped with the transition to CNBC and continued to provide commentary on CNBC on a regular basis. He founded his own firm, Bollinger Capital Management, an investment management and research firm. Bollinger is both a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) and CMT (Chartered Market Technician) and was the first financial analyst to earn both designations. Bollinger is the recipient of the Technical Securities Analysts Association of San Francisco Lifetime Award for Outstanding Achievement in Technical Analysis and the 2005 Market Technicians Association Annual Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Technical Analysis. He is also the founding president of Market Analysts of Southern California. Bollinger is the president and founder of Bollinger Capital Management, an investment management company that provides technically driven money management services and develops proprietary research for institutions and individuals.

    Saturday, March 15, 2014

    New Tool to Fight MRSA

    Notre Dame Chemists Discover
    A New Class of Antibiotics
    By Gene Stowe and Marissa Gebhard, Notre Dame News, March 06, 2014

    A team of University of Notre Dame researchers led by Mayland Chang and Shahriar Mobashery have discovered a new class of antibiotics to fight bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other drug-resistant bacteria that threaten public health. Their research is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society in an article titled "Discovery of a New Class of Non-beta-lactam Inhibitors of Penicillin-Binding Proteins with Gram Positive Antibacterial Activity."

    The new class, called oxadiazoles, was discovered in silico (by computer) screening and has shown promise in the treatment of MRSA in mouse models of infection. Researchers who screened 1.2 million compounds found that the oxadiazole inhibits a penicillin-binding protein, PBP2a, and the biosynthesis of the cell wall that enables MRSA to resist other drugs. The oxadiazoles are also effective when taken orally. This is an important feature as there is only one marketed antibiotic for MRSA that can be taken orally.

    MRSA has become a global public-health problem since the 1960s because of its resistance to antibiotics. In the United States alone, 278,000 people are hospitalized and 19,000 die each year from infections caused by MRSA. Only three drugs currently are effective treatments, and resistance to each of those drugs already exists.

    The researchers have been seeking a solution to MRSA for years. "Professor Mobashery has been working on the mechanisms of resistance in MRSA for a very long time," Chang said. "As we understand what the mechanisms are, we can devise strategies to develop compounds against MRSA."

    "Mayland Chang and Shahriar Mobashery’s discovery of a class of compounds that combat drug resistant bacteria such as MRSA could save thousands of lives around the world. We are grateful for their leadership and persistence in fighting drug resistance," said Greg Crawford, dean of the College of Science at the University of Notre Dame.

    Co-authors of the study include Peter O’Daniel, Zhihong Peng, Hualiang Pi, Sebastian Testero, Derong Ding, Edward Spink, Erika Leemans, Marc Boudreau, Takao Yamaguchi, Valerie Schroeder, William Wolter, Leticia Llarrull, Wei Song, Elena Lastochkin, Malika Kumarasiri, Nuno Antunes, Mana Espahbodi, Katerina Lichtenwalter, Mark Suckow, Sergei Vakulenko, Mobashery and Chang, from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, the Freimann Life Sciences Center and the Department of Biological Sciences, all at the University of Notre Dame.

    : Mayland Chang, 574-631-2965,

    Thursday, March 13, 2014

    50 New Kipling Poems Found

    Scholar unearths trove of unpublished
    work by poet voted Britain's favourite
    By Alison Flood, The Guardian, February 25, 2013

    Kipling scholars are celebrating the publication of lost poems by the author whose exhortations in "If" to "keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs and blaming it on you" are regularly voted the nation's favourite poem. Discovered by the American scholar Thomas Pinney in an array of hiding places including family papers, the archive of a former head of the Cunard Line and during renovations at a Manhattan house, more than 50 previously unpublished poems by Rudyard Kipling will be released for the first time next month.

    The collection includes several poems dating from the first world war, which Kipling initially supported, helping his son John to gain a commission in the Irish Guards.

    A short poem, "The Gambler", finishes with the couplet: "Three times wounded; three times gassed / Three times wrecked – I lost at last", while another fragment runs: "This was a Godlike soul before it was crazed / No matter. The grave makes whole."

    After his son's death at the Battle of Loos in 1915, Kipling regretted his earlier enthusiasm for the conflict, writing in his "Epitaphs of the War": "If any question why we died / Tell them, because our fathers lied".

    Another poem discovered by Pinney, "The Press", prefigures contemporary worries over media intrusion:
    "Have you any morals? / Does your genius burn? / Was your wife a what's its name? / How much did she earn?" wrote the poet in a fit of anger at the questions he was asked by journalists. "Why don't you write a play - / Why don't you cut your hair? / Do you trim your toe-nails round / Or do you trim them square?" (The complete poem is reproduced at the foot of this article.)

    A discovery in a lighter mood is a stash of comic verse that Kipling wrote on a ship sailing from Adelaide to Ceylon, which is believed to have been read aloud by the author to his fellow passengers. "It was a ship of the P&O / Put forth to sail the sea," wrote Kipling, going on to mourn the slow progress of the liner across the ocean. "The children played on the rotten deck / A monthly growing band / Of sea-bred sin born innocents / That never knew the land."

    "Kipling has long been neglected by scholars probably for political reasons," said Pinney, emeritus professor of English at Pomona College in Claremont, California. Despite winning the Nobel prize, Kipling's reputation has suffered over his association with British imperialism – he was described as a "jingo imperialist" by George Orwell, who also called him "the prophet of British Imperialism".

    "His texts have never properly been studied but things are starting to change," said Pinney. "There is a treasure trove of uncollected, unpublished and unidentified work out there. I discovered another unrecorded item only recently and that sort of thing will keep happening. It is a tremendously exciting time for scholars and for fans of Kipling."

    The 50 unpublished poems are being included alongside more than 1,300 of Kipling's poems in the three-volume Cambridge Edition of The Poems of Rudyard Kipliong, the first ever complete edition of his verse, out on 7 March.

    "They are all very engaging, and grab you immediately. A lot are very emotional little poems about the war, about his great identification with the ordinary British soldier, and his anger with the authorities," said Linda Bree, arts and literature editorial director at Cambridge University Press.

    Bree agreed with Pinney that Kipling, who died in 1936 leaving behind books including The Jungle Book, Just So Stories and Kim, had been neglected by scholars until now. "I think, personally, it's because his poems are very simple. They are about simple situations, and perhaps for that reason scholars have steered clear a little," she said. "Perhaps they speak more clearly to the ordinary reader for that reason. And of course the imperial issue does make things more difficult. [But] he is one of the nation's greatest poets … 'If' is one of the most popular poems in the English language, [and] this edition shows that he wrote much else to entertain, engage and challenge readers."

    The Press

    by Rudyard Kipling

    Why don't you write a play –
      Why don't you cut your hair?
    Do you trim your toe-nails round
      Or do you trim them square?
    Tell it to the papers,
      Tell it every day.
    But, en passant, may I ask
      Why don't you write a play?

    What's your last religion?
      Have you got a creed?
    Do you dress in Jaeger-wool
      Sackcloth, silk or tweed?
    Name the books that helped you
      On the path you've trod.
    Do you use a little g
      When you write of God?

    Do you hope to enter
      Fame's immortal dome?
    Do you put the washing out
      Or have it done at home?
    Have you any morals?
      Does your genius burn?
    Was you wife a what's its name?
      How much did she earn?

    Had your friend a secret
      Sorrow, shame or vice –
    Have you promised not to tell
      What's your lowest price?
    All the housemaid fancied
      All the butler guessed
    Tell it to the public press
      And we will do the rest.

    Why don't you write a play?

         [September 1899]

    • From The Cambridge Edition of the Poems of Rudyard Kipling, published by Cambridge University Press, £200, reproduced by kind permission of The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty

    • This article was amended on 27 February 2013. The original said that Thomas Pinney is emeritus professor of English at the University of California. That should have been at Pomona College in Claremont, California, and has been corrected.