Madagascar on Wall Street?
“Occupy Wall Street’s most defining characteristics – its decentralized nature and its intensive process of participatory, consensus-based decision-making – are rooted in … the scholarship of anarchism and, specifically, in an ethnography of central Madagascar,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports. “It was on this island nation off the coast of Africa that David Graeber, one of the movement’s early organizers, who has been called one of its main intellectual sources, spent 20 months between 1989 and 1991. He studied the people of Betafo, a community of descendants of nobles and slaves, for his 2007 book, Lost People. Betafo was ‘a place where the state picked up stakes and left,’ says Mr. Graeber, an ethnographer, anarchist and reader in anthropology at the University of London’s Goldsmiths campus. … ‘Basically, people were managing their own affairs autonomously,’ he says.”
Pi dries the laundry
“A U.S. computer scientist and a Japanese systems engineer say they’ve computed the value of pi to 10 trillion digits, doubling the previous Guinness record,” says United Press International. “Calculating so many digits of pi … serves no useful mathematical purposes since pi is an infinite number, but the quest to calculate the curious ratio sparks intense passion, NewScientist.com reported Wednesday. Alexander Yee wrote the pi-calculating software and engineer Shigeru Kondo ran it on his custom-built PC, augmented with 10 more hard drives than used in a previous attempt. The intense calculations required caused Mr. Kondo’s computer to heat the air in its room to [40C] ‘We could dry the laundry immediately, but we had to pay 30,000 yen [$400]a month for electricity,’ Mr. Kondo’s wife Yukkio told The Japan Times.”
What are zombies saying?
Noting the current craze for the undead, John Sudworth of BBC News writes: “[S]me media critics and cultural commentators have begun to wonder whether this explosion of zombie enthusiasm is, as well as a bit of fun, an expression of something else. After all, it’s often been argued that the boom in sci-fi tales of alien attack in 1950s and 1960s America was in some way an expression of the fear of Soviet invasion. So what might the current zombie craze tell us about the world we’re living in now? … [T]e idea that zombies offer some kind of commentary on the monotony and emptiness of our modern lives can be found in some of the best films of the genre. In one of the most celebrated scenes from George A. Romero’s 1978 film, Dawn of the Dead, a couple stand and watch zombies pacing aimlessly through a shopping mall. ‘What are they doing? Why do they come here?’ the woman asks. ‘Some kind of instinct. Memory. What they used to do,’ comes the reply. ‘This was an important place in their lives.’ ”
Not now, Mom
“A Nevada man faces misdemeanour charges after authorities say he carried his mother out of a church when she arrived to stop his wedding,” says Associated Press. “The Record-Courier reports [the Gardnerville man]carried his 56-year-old mother out of the church [last]Monday as she loudly objected to the ceremony. [The]wedding at the Carson Valley United Methodist Church was called off after the disruption.” A church volunteer said he didn’t know what the mother’s objections concerned.
Frankenstein in orbit
“Satellites that reach the end of their useful lives are often boosted into a ‘graveyard’ orbit in order to make way for replacements,” the New Scientist reports. “Now, Darpa [the Pentagon research projects agency]has proposed a grave-robbing robot that could stitch together parts from these dead satellites to create new ones, avoiding the huge expense of launching components into space. Darpa’s Phoenix program aims to repurpose ground-based robot systems, such as those used by surgeons to operate on remote patients, allowing a person on the ground to disassemble satellites and reuse expensive parts such as antennas. The program will also develop a new kind of nanosatellite that hitches a ride aboard a normal satellite launch vehicle and ejects once it reaches the correct orbit. The grave-robbing robot can then scoop up these nanosatellites and attach them to an old antenna to create a new low-cost communications platform.”
Thought du jour
“In real life, of course, it is the hare who wins. Every time. Look around you. And in any case it is my contention that Aesop was writing for the tortoise market. … Hares have no time to read. They are too busy winning the game.”
- Anita Brookner (1928-), English novelist and art historian