Thursday, July 31, 2008

"When Gene Wolfe wrote what will probably stand as his single greatest (multi-volume) work, he did something extraordinarily sly: Where most science fiction writers invent strange-looking words to indicate exotic things, people, creatures, and concepts, he employed what looked like invented words but were actually legitimate terms taken from the dustier reaches of the dictionary. Heptarchs, margays, naviscaputs, and other heteroclite beings abound."

-- Michael Swanwick

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"This result leads, at this stage of analysis, to rather pessimistic conclusions about the allocation of public goods. Samuelson has demonstrated that the equilibrium attained by a market mechanism for public goods will, in general, fail to be an optimum. The analysis here implies that a majority rule political process will fail to reach an equilibrium at all. Thus, in the case of public goods, society can count upon neither the market nor a majority rule political process to be a desirable allocative device."

-- Charles R. Plott, "A Notion of Equilibrium and its Possibility Under Majority Rule," The American Economic Review, Vol. 57, No. 4 (Sep., 1967), pp. 787-806.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Project West Ford (also known as Westford Needles and Project Needles) was a test carried out by Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory on behalf of the United States military in 1961 and 1963 to create a ring of 3.5×108 copper dipole antennas (1.78cm long and 25.4μm (1961) and 17.8μm (1963) diameter needles) in orbit which would allow global radio communication."

-- Wikipedia

[I figure the individual needles weighed about 40 micrograms each. If you were wondering.]

Monday, July 28, 2008

"They hang the man, and flog the woman,
That steals the goose from off the common;
But let the greater villain loose,
That steals the common from the goose."

-- Anonymous 17th century protest poem

Sunday, July 27, 2008

"All cancer agents act by disrupting chemical bonds. In a classic 2001 op-ed LBL physicist Robert Cahn explained that Einstein won the 1905 Nobel Prize in Physics for showing that cell phones can’t cause cancer. The threshold energy of the photoelectric effect, for which Einstein won the prize, lies at the extreme blue end of the visible spectrum in the near ultraviolet. The same near-ultraviolet rays can also cause skin cancer. Red light is too weak to cause cancer. Cell-phone radiation is 10,000 times weaker."

-- Bob Park

[Correction: Einstein did not win the 1905 Nobel Prize in physics; he won the 1921 Prize for work published in 1905.]

Saturday, July 26, 2008

"But for every accommodating pal, there’s another who feels going under the knife is beyond the duty of bridesmaid. Becky Lee, 39, a Manhattan photographer, declined when a friend asked her — and five other attendants — to have their breasts enhanced. “We’re all Asian and didn’t have a whole lot of cleavage, and she found a doctor in L.A. who was willing to do four for the price of two,” said Ms. Lee, who wore a push-up bra instead."

-- New York Times

Friday, July 25, 2008

“Then, the funniest dumb mistake [in WALL-E]: The ship apparently has a system for generating gravity, because it does not rotate to provide a "down" for the passengers. The gravity generator is presumably located in the bottom of the ship.

So when the navigation goes awry and the ship tilts, the gravity generator still remains in exactly the same position, relative to the rest of the ship. There is simply no way that, from merely tilting the ship, it would cause people to slide along the deck and bunch up along one edge.”

-- Orson Scott Card

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"Don't look now, but there's something funny going on over there at the bank, George. I've never really seen one, but that's got all the earmarks of being a run."

-- Ernie Bishop the Taxi Driver in It's A Wonderful Life.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"In the edited US printing, the book [A Clockwork Orange] ends with Alex being "cured" of his cure and able once again to rape and murder freely. The final missing chapter, however, shows him matured and having outgrown his violent youth. Without this epilogue, the entire story has a very different meaning. I find it an interesting commentary on American society for the publishers to have rejected the original ending and opted instead for a bleak final outcome. As the story goes, the publisher felt that it was "a sell out" to have Alex change as a person and they were not interested in that. They felt that the American audience was more interested in reading about a character who was straight up evil with no possibility of growth or redemption."

-- David Palumbo

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"And Penny will see the evil me
Not a joke, not a dork, not a failure
And she may cry but her tears will dry
When I hand her the keys to a shiny new Australia."
-- Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog, Act II

Monday, July 21, 2008

"Relatively speaking, Paris’ global reputation as a city of romance is an entirely modern one. Only a century and a half ago, Paris was widely considered a slum-infested pit — rotting from its core. Under Napoleon III, the city underwent sweeping urban renewal, aimed primarily at revitalizing its public sphere. In just two decades, from 1850 to 1870, Paris’ network of parks jumped from 45 to 4,500 acres, and the city went from a filth-strewn collection of alleyways to one of majestic boulevards and promenades."

-- LA Weekly

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"Bank notes issued just a few months ago are not enough to buy even a single sheet of toilet tissue... in any case there is no toilet tissue to be found in the stores of Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean 50-billion-dollar note is worth just 33 U.S. cents, by the time you hear this possibly even less than that...

This week the Harare Herald advertised that the Lotto Bonanza prize being offered was 1.2 quadrillion Zimbabwean dollars. A quadrillion is what comes after a trillion. 1.2 quadrillion Zimbabwean dollars are worth about 4000 U.S. dollars."

-- NPR Weekend Edition

Saturday, July 19, 2008

"No woman would ever want to be buried at Wrigley Field."

-- Maribeth (apparently not a true Cubs fan after all)

Friday, July 18, 2008

"How do I know when I'm in Chinatown?"

-- Mark Dawson

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Students of calculus encounter the function sin x/x early in their study, when it is shown that lim x->0 (sin x)/x = 1; this result is then used to establish the differentiation formulas (sin x)' = cos x and (cos x)' = −sin x. Once this has been done, however, the function is soon forgotten, and the student rarely sees it again. This is unfortunate, for this simple-looking function not only has some remarkable properties, but it also shows up in many applications, sometimes quite unexpectedly."

-- Eli Maor, Trigonometric Delights

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"There were no tents set up for shade, no trash cans ... no water."

-- IndyMac customer Todd Bash expects waiting outside his failing bank to resemble an amusement park ride

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"Their conversation turned upon those subjects, of which the free discussion has generally much to do in perfecting a sudden intimacy between two young ladies; such as dress, balls, flirtations, and quizzes. Miss Thorpe, however, being four years older than Miss Morland, and at least four years better informed, had a very decided advantage in discussing such points; she could compare the balls of Bath with those of Tunbridge; its fashions with the fashions of London; could rectify the opinions of her new friend in many articles of tasteful attire; could discover a flirtation between any gentleman and lady who only smiled on each other; and point out a quiz through the thickness of a crowd."

-- Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Monday, July 14, 2008

"The great and unlooked for discoveries that have taken place of late years in natural philosophy, the increasing diffusion of general knowledge from the extension of the art of printing, the ardent and unshackled spirit of inquiry that prevails throughout the lettered and even unlettered world, the new and extraordinary lights that have been thrown on political subjects which dazzle and astonish the understanding, and particularly that tremendous phenomenon in the political horizon, the French Revolution, which, like a blazing comet, seems destined either to inspire with fresh life and vigour, or to scorch up and destroy the shrinking inhabitants of the earth, have all concurred to lead many able men into the opinion that we were touching on a period big with the most important changes, changes that would in some measure be decisive of the future fate of mankind."

-- Thomas Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population

Sunday, July 13, 2008

"Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging from? Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are Christians. Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you -- Does our education prepare us for such atrocities? Do our laws connive at them? Could they be perpetrated without being known, in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such a footing; where every man is surrounded by a neighborhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay every thing open?"

-- Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

"Space People read our mail. The Space People think that TV news programs are comedies, and that soap operas are news. The Space People will contact us when they can make money by doing so. The Space People think factories are musical instruments. They sing along with them. Each song lasts from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. No music on weekends."
-- liner notes from Stop Making Sense by the Talking Heads