In India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal, they don’t group numbers by three decimals like we do, but by two. That is, while we have thousand (1,000), million (1,000,000), billion (1,000,000,000), etc., they have lakh (1,00,000), crore (1,00,00,000), etc. Sometimes there are two decimals between each comma, sometimes three. Somebody with 10 million rupees would have 1 crore rupees, or 1,00,00,000 rupees. I had assumed that three decimals was universal, and that language followed accordingly, but in retrospect there’s no reason why that should be so. →
- Christian Science Monitor: Way cleared for horse slaughter to resume in US after 5-year ban
Congress has passed a bill, and the president has signed it into law, that re-legalizes the slaughter of horses for human consumption. Banning that practice was a huge mistake, for reasons that were obvious at the time, but it took a five-year ban to show that to be so. Even PETA supports the change. The problem was that horses were either being abandoned to starve to death or shipped in crowded trailers to Canada or Mexico, where they were slaughtered (under terrible conditions in Mexico) and their meat sent back to the U.S. It actually increased animal suffering. Good for Congress for making a necessary—sure to be unpopular—change in the law.
- ACLU of Virginia: Norfolk Man Who Refused to Stop Videotaping Police at Demonstration Is Not Guilty of Disorderly Conduct
A Norfolk man was charged with disorderly conduct for videotaping an on-duty police officer back in April. I'm glad to see that he's been found not guilty by a Norfolk General District Court judge. There's been a strange rash of arrests, all around the country, for the non-existent crime of videotaping police officers. Decisions like this will help bring this to an end.
- Print Free Graph Paper
Just what it says on the tin.
- Wikipedia: Point Roberts, Washington
A tiny exclave of the United States is found off the coast of Washington State. "Point Bob," as it's known, is the southernmost tip of a Canadian peninsula, which extends just barely south of the 49th parallel that defines the U.S./Canadian border. To get there by land, one must go through two international border crossings. There are just over 600 households there, and one elementary school. After third grade, kids have to take a bus through Canada and back to the U.S. to get to school.
- Sunlight Foundation: Use the Net!
Both Sen. Jim Webb and Mark Warner are still filing campaign finance reports with the FEC on paper. They've presumably each got small staffs who do all of their data collection and number crunching on computers, only to them print out their campaign finance reporters, snail-mail them to the FEC, who have to scan them in and key them in again. The result is a huge waste of federal dollars and a significant delay in making those reports public. The rest of the world—including every last member of the House of Representatives—long ago moved to electronic filing. What's the deal with Webb and Warner?
- PhysOrg: Study shows voter turnout can be increased with simple word change
This small-scale study found a substantial increase in voter turnout by asking people to be a "voter," rather than to "vote." No doubt this logic will be put to work on a larger scale within the next couple of election cycles, and that demonstrate whether this theory stands up or not.
- BusinessJournalism.org: When visualizing numbers gets ridiculous
A journalism pet peeve of mine is when reporters provide numbers without context. "The state spent $34.4B last year." Is that a lot? How did that compare to the prior year, or ten years prior? Or they'll put "$1M" next to "$1B." That's not helpful—use the same unit for comparison, listing "$1M" and "$1,000M." But some have gone too far the other way, providing meaningless visualizations. "That's enough dollar bills to stretch to the moon and back." What is the reader to do with this knowledge? Better to just use numbers to express numbers, and let their context provide context.
- Wikipedia: “A” size illustration
This is a simple chart demonstrating how “A” sizes of paper (e.g., an A1 sheet is similar in size to an 8.5"x11" sheet) are sized, from A0–A8. It's a golden spiral! I'm really impressed by the elegance of this.
- USPS Postal Addressing Standards
Ever wondered what the proper format is for an address on an envelope? It turns out that it’s very specific. Don’t put “Suite 100” on its own line—it goes on the same line as the street address; if offsetting it with a hash sign, leave a space after the #, as in “123 E. Main St # 100.” Don’t put a comma after the city name. Punctuation should be omitted (“St”, not “St.”). It goes on.
- Save The Words
From the Oxford University Press comes this website that promotes words in danger of dying out unless people start using them again. "Sputcheon," "tortiloquy," "exlineal," and "jecorory" are just a few of hundreds that make the list
- Discovery Channel: Mike Rowe Senate Testimony
The host of "Dirty Jobs" provided an important argument to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation about why our education system needs to emphasize skilled trades. College is not for everybody. Way too many kids are going to college—it doesn't make economic sense, for them or for our society. More kids need to learn skilled trades.
- Wikipedia: Benford’s law
Numbers are not evenly distributed. Not theoretical numbers, but the real numbers that describe the world around us: stream flow rates, bank account numbers, atomic weights, street addresses, etc. Numbers start with 1 about 30% of the time. (e.g. 11, 103, 1539) They start with 2 about 18% of the time, 3 about 12%, and so on, until 9, which leads of numbers 4.6% of the time. This is described by Benford's law, which has become useful for forensic analysis of any numbers (such as accounting data), to see if it's real, or somebody has just made the numbers up. The less the adherence to Benford's law, the greater the cause for suspicion.
- New York Times: Wealthy Donors to G.O.P. Are Providing Bulk of Money in Gay Marriage Push
The push to legalize gay marriage in New York is being bankrolled by Republicans. You might need to re-read that sentence to comprehend that—a double take is a reasonable response. Although some Democrats may regard this as bad news—we've basically got a lock on the gay vote—I think it's great news. My gay conservative friends will surely welcome it. This shouldn't be a partisan issue, and I hope this is a sign that transformation is in progress.
- Stack Overflow: Regular expression to search for Gadaffi
How do you identify "Gadaffi" (and its many, many variants) in an block of text? With this regular expression. \b(Kh?|Gh?|Qu?)[aeu](d['dt]?|t|zz|dhd)h?aff?[iy]\b looks like the winner. Bonus points go to the guy who figured out that it can be matched with Soundex, which is probably a better way to deal with this problem.
- xkcd: Radiation Chart
I have frequently linked to xkcd because it's funny. But this time it's straight-up interesting. Randy Munroe has put together a chart that contextualizes the doses of ionizing radiation received from various activities. This provides a perspective that's timely—in light of the Japanese nuclear reactor situation—and also full of comparative values that might make you rethink your notion of what is and isn't safe. Note that what doesn't appear on this chart is radiation from a cell phone. That's because it doesn't produce ionizing radiation.
- Mathematically Correct Breakfast
A möbius sliced bagel. Mmmm…math.
- Wolfram MathWorld: Pi Digits
The first thirty million digits of pi are almost uniformly distributed. That is, 1 occurs with the same frequency as 2, 3, 4, etc. That's consistent with randomness, but hardly evidence of it.
- Ludolph Van Ceulen’s Headstone
This Dutch mathematician devoted his life to calculating pi. By the time of his death, in 1610, he had calculated the first 35 digits, a feat that by modern standards is a pathetic waste of a life, but for the time was an amazing accomplishment. He had the numbers inscribed on his headstone.
- Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages
If you ever want to know anything about spices, I see no reason to look any place other than here.
- New York Times: Palin’s Popularity Declines Among Republicans
"[Sarah Palin's] ratings are now in the range of Al Sharpton and Pat Buchanan in the years before they ran for president, rather than those who were considered viable candidates."