7 Quick Takes (10/12/12)

— 1 —

Vi Hart is continuing her lovely videos on hexaflexagons!  Catch up on installment one, and then watch the video below (in which Feynman enters our narrative, so everything gets very wonderful, very fast).


— 2 —

I’m a little nervous about sequel/prequels, but my queasy feelings about Monsters University, are very slightly calmed by the kickass website that Pixar put together for the titular school.  It’s incredibly detailed (down to an events calendar and police safety alerts) but my favorite bits are the course lists under the Academics tab.

MON 345: Existential Threats (4 units)
Taught by world-renowned Fearologian, Dr. Barnabus Malworthy, this advanced philosophy course engages the timeless debate of whether fear evolved from nothingness or a higher power.

SEM 390: Semantics (4 Units)
In-depth study of the meanings of expressions, whether phrases, exclamations, screams, or moans.

ACC 305: MAAP Conversions (4 units)
A study in the translation between the various accounting practices detailed in the Monster-Accepted Accounting Principles (MAAP), with focus on base-2, base-8, base-10 counting systems.

— 3 —

Possibly some of you will find this photo project well suited to the Monsters University curriculum, but I really like these mashed up portraits of pairs of family members.

— 4 —

Via an article in The Guardian, I found another delightfully surreal art project.

Set on a raised plinth at the end of the dark, curving corridor space, powerfully backlit by a glaring spotlight, the perfectly rectangular chunk of rain appears transposed from a parallel place, with the precision of a carefully staged experiment.

As visitors step up on to the stage, these identical vertical lines of driving rain begin to be repelled, as if each body is giving off a kind of invisible magnetic field. As you step further in, the rain closes around you, enveloping each silhouetted figure in a perfect cylindrical void. It is a startlingly surreal experience.

The apparently simple trick is the result of a lengthy period of development, which came out of playing with large-format printing.

“We started three years ago, testing temporary ‘printing’ with water, spraying droplets from above, like a long-distance ink-jet printer,” says Florian Ortkrass, who founded Random International with fellow Royal College of Art design graduates Stuart Wood and Hannes Koch in 2005.

— 5 —

Eve Tushnet linked to a totally me-bait story on the variations in ASL between the African American and white Deaf communities.  I don’t know much about these linguistic divisions, but  my favorite ASL dictionary does a pretty good job noting regionalisms (more common with recent words, check out all the different signs for ‘gay‘).

In Ireland, because the Catholic schools for the Deaf were sex-segregated, two distinct forms of Gaelic Sign Language developed, one for men and one for women.  Today, only the men’s version is commonly used.

— 6 —

I’ve only stuck one longform article in here, so you’d have no reason not to pop over to Ars Technica and read “How a rogue appeals court wrecked the patent system.” It’s an excellent and timely bit of reporting.  I’ll pull two quotes, so you’re extra-specially tempted to read the whole thing:

Patent scholars Adam Jaffe and Josh Lerner tell a story in their 2004 book Innovation and Its Discontents that illustrates the problem Congress was trying to solve with the creation of the Federal Circuit. Every Tuesday at noon, a crowd would gather at the patent office awaiting the week’s list of issued patents.

As soon as a patent was issued, a representative for its owner would rush to the telephone and order a lawyer stationed in a patent-friendly jurisdiction such as Kansas City to file an infringement lawsuit against the company’s competitors. Meanwhile, representatives for the competitors would rush to the telephone as well. They would call their own lawyers in patent-skeptical jurisdictions like San Francisco and urge them to file a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the patent. Time was of the essence because the two cases would eventually be consolidated, and the court that ultimately heard the case usually depended on which filing had an earlier timestamp.

But the solution (a new federal court for patent cases) had has some serious problems.

“It is not common in the life of the law in America for a lower court and a major segment of its bar to take on the nation’s highest court, effectively reversing some major precedents or at least substantially mitigating their impact,” notes Steven Flanders in a recent history of the patent court. “Yet this was done.”

…This dismissive attitude toward Supreme Court precedents apparently survives to this day among patent lawyers. In the wake of this year’s decision limiting patents on the practice of medicine, patent attorney Gene Quinn wondered, “How long will it take the Federal Circuit to overrule this inexplicable nonsense?” Obviously, the Federal Circuit can’t “overrule” a Supreme Court decision. But with enough persistence, it can, and often does, subvert the principles enunciated by the nation’s highest court. And when it does so, it almost always works in the direction of making patents easier to obtain and enforce.

— 7 —

Goodness that patent piece is excellent-but-depressing!  Let me reward you for learning sucky truths:

A report from the National Wife Carrying Championships!

Well before these Wife-Carrying Championships came to Newry, Maine’s Sunday River Ski Resort a decade ago, and well before Dave and Lacey Castro were a world-class pair, Wife-Carrying already had a long, half-nefarious history. While Wife-Carrying sounds like something an enterprising Jack might have invented in 1956 to amuse the local Rotarians, it’s actually a centuries-old Scandinavian tradition.

Story goes that a Finnish robber named Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen used women as training weights to prepare his marauding bands for their raids on nearby villages. That’s the sanitized tale, at least; it’s also possible that modern-day Wife-Carrying has its origins in Rosvo-Ronkainen’s knack for women-napping. This is part of why I’d been a bit reluctant to haul my progressive wife on my back like she was some sort of nifty plunder.

“Some people say, ‘Oh, Wife-Carrying is such a sexist sport,'” Lacey Castro says. “But I feel like I’ve been training just as long as my husband has. The women are forcing the husbands to do it just as much as the other way.”

The Castros have forced themselves into phenomenal shape for the one-minute a year when they have a chance to be the absolute best at something. Silly as that something may seem to an outsider, they take the Championships seriously, and they’re made for them. Lacey, a body-builder with about a thimble’s-worth of body fat, weighs in at around 108 pounds, which is the minimum for wives; Dave, compact and slim, has the bulging calves of a UPS driver. Which is because he is a UPS driver.

“He’s basically training all the time,” Lacey told me. “Five days a week he’s running around with 50-pound boxes from door to door.”




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  • Clicked on you randomly from Conversion Diary and LOVE that your first post is of ViHart! I tried so hard to make the hexaflexagon and utterly failed.

  • deiseach

    Webcomic wife-carrying sport link!

  • Love #7–at first I thought it was four people all stacked up there, but then realized it is two men carrying their wives. So funny!

  • Lukas Halim

    There are also some excellent youtubes of wife carrying competitions. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52-omtSBws8

  • Mitchell Porter

    Leah, thanks to your example, I can see that there is real potential for progress on the problems of moral ontology and epistemology, by having a “fight” (in the Librescan sense of the word) between scholasticism and naturalism. I was already in the same borderlands by being interested in quantum-brain theories of ontologically fundamental intentionality, and now I see that focusing on the *agency* of the “quantum monads” creates a place where conceptions as different as “morality as intuition of essences” and “morality as neural computation” can actually come into contact. A very interesting development!

  • Ted Seeber

    How do 50 lb boxes train you for carrying a 150 lb wife?

    • Xanthate

      The wife’s wight is probably better distributed-straight above the carrier’s center of mass, rather than (literally) at arms length. Leverage matters.

  • Hungarian Sign Language has 7 dialects, based around the 7 cities wher ethe deaf schools are. I always found it funny that people knew where the other went to school based on certain signs.

  • Owlmirror

    Incidentally, I see that blockquote style is still that hideous italic-light-gray-on-gray. Leah, do you realize that you can fix that on a case-by-case basis by using:
    in your blockquote html?

    I can fix it for myself by using a file in the directory [Mozilla profile directory]/chrome called userContent.css, with the following:

    @-moz-document domain(patheos.com) {
    body, h1, h2, h2 a, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6, p, input, select, textarea {
    color: black; !important;
    div.entry-content p {
    color:black !important;
    blockquote p {
    color:black !important;
    font-style:normal !important;

    I think you can fix the problem in general by using !important (as in the example above) in your site’s individual CSS file.

  • grok87

    link to magnificat year of faith:
    Today’s reading is by Thomas Merton.
    I have mixed feelings about Merton. His language is a little abstract for my taste, at least in this passage.

  • And one of the worst things about our patent system is we’re trying to export it to the rest of the world.

  • jenesaispas

    How fast can Vi say hexaflexagons!
    Thankyou for the link on sign language I’m starting lessons in January and now I’m quite excited! 😀