Behind the ‘flight of stairs’

You may not know the term “nouns of assemblage” by name, but you definitely know it in practice. Nouns of assemblage are everyone’s favorite trivia question, and they’re practically never-ending: What’s a group of owls called? A parliament. Hippopotamuses? That would be a bloat.

Everyone loves a murder of crows, and we reference flights of stairs without even thinking twice about how that’s kind of a weird term for them. Though collective nouns exist in other languages, English is particularly full of these colorful, largely nonsensical linguistic specimens. In fact, many may have originated as a means to show off obscure, cultured, and self-consciously amusing vocabulary.

Who decided that certain objects and animals require specialized terms when they congregate, and why? Great question. Let’s gather to discuss.

I have had the exact same questions in the past, but did not have the patience or the time to dive deep into the etymology of these terms. This was an interesting terse read.

Source: Quartz Obsession, January 4, 2019

Edison

I was reading some daily news about the financial market and how GE has suffered to hold any growth value this past year. Reading more about GE, ended up eventually with a Wikipedia article on Edison. This is ripe full of historic trivia, links and facts and certainly looks well curated. Though I think Tesla was a genius, Edison holds his place as a fantastic businessman of his age. The link below certainly provides more details that I was not aware previously. I am sure you will learn a thing or two as well today.

Source: Thomas Edison – Wikipedia

Sita Sings the Blues

If you haven’t heard about this, then take some time to watch `Sita Sings the Blues`. It is an animated feature film, written and directed by Nina Paley. After watching a few scenes, you will notice that it has primarily been done with just 2D CG effects only.

Of course, if you do not understand the background, it is based on an Indian epic `Ramayana`. The epic is the story of Rama, an Avatar to symbolize the perfect human, the perfect son, the perfect brother, the perfect king and follows his struggles with ethics and societal morals to do everything right. His wife Sita is another symbolism for the perfect wife who abides by her husband’s word and loves him immaterial of the inflictions and abuse she undergoes as a result of Rama’s pledge to uphold virtue. In simpler words, she is the epitome of womanliness emphasized throughout ancient Indian literature.

The movie though is based on this tale, is focused on the jazz music of Annette Hanshaw. And it has also been released under the Creative Commons share-alike license.

For those Indians who take offense to the depictions of Sita as a busty, gloomy woman, please relax and enjoy the animation and retelling of the epic tale with a different twist. Now grab some snacks, go to the site and enjoy.

Watch “Sita Sings the Blues” on Reel 13.

1) Official site
2) Wikipedia article

Atomic John

There has been quite a furore about an unknown truck driver delivering a thorough account of the first 2 nuclear bombs ever built on the face of the earth. Intrigued and excited, I searched google to read more about him and stumbled on this gem of an interview/article that brought him to light.

Read David Samuels’s account about the truck driver, John Coster-Mullen, who conducted more than a decade of research to successfully build the first accurate replica of Little-Boy, the master-blaster that annihilated Hiroshima, ending WWII. The article itself is quite interesting and leaves you wanting for more. Here’s an excerpt:

I recently wrote to Coster-Mullen and suggested that we take a trip across the country to visit his Little Boy replica, which is currently housed at Wendover, a decommissioned Air Force base in Utah. After some negotiation, we agreed to ride together on his late-night delivery route between Waukesha and Chicago. We would then drive to Wendover. Along the way, he would explain the inner workings of the first atomic bombs, and I would learn how he got it right and the experts got it wrong.

Atomic John: The New Yorker.

I can’t wait to get my hands on the his book “Atom Bombs: The Top Secret Inside Story of Little Boy and Fat Man”.

My Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving. What is it ? Why is the dinner on Thanksgiving day such a big deal here in the U.S ? I’ve asked many people about that and have received varying interesting answers. Here’s a brief analysis of this holiday from my perspective.

History

The fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving Day, in the US is celebrated traditionally to give thanks to God for the things one has at the close of the harvest season.

Parallels

US – Thanksgiving : Fourth thursday in November
India – Pongal : Middle of January
Canada – Thanksgiving : Second monday in October
UK – Harvest festival : Full moon day in September
Germany – Erntedank : First sunday of October

A holiday by any other name, still is sweeeet !

Evolution

The modern day Thanksgiving seems to have diverged far from its origins and is usually marked with parades, huge family meals, wall-to-wall american football. The festival has become a commercial event bringing together family and friends for feast and marks the start of the official holiday season in US.

Nonetheless, in the basic principle of thanking God or whoever else they feel most obliged to do so, families do get together even amidst rigorous schedules. And that is probably the important aspect about any holiday – bringing people closer.

My Thanksgiving nostalgia

I was invited to a very informal Thanksgiving dinner by few friends. For my part, i made few delicious Rasagulla for dessert which by the way did not hit it off among everyone here. Sigh. Anyway, the dinner eventhough did not involve any traditional thanking speeches and toasts, still brought a deep nostalgic feeling that claws the heart. And needless to say, i watched a lot of american football games over the past few days even if i still think that it does not match the intensity of a soccer game. But hey, thats just me.

The point of that short ramble is that even a very informal dinner on such an occasion managed to bring back sweet memories into my fragile little mind. These new friends remind me of those old ones and family, so far away in India. And there lies the beauty of a holiday !

The closer the day of my visit to India draws in, the more i feel nostalgic over every simple action. 12 days and counting …

History : Why drive on the left ?

A few days earlier, me and some friends from my department were talking about the general driving system and specifically why the British chose to drive on the left while most of everyone in Europe and America drive on the right. We could not come up with any possible reason whatsoever to convince ourselves the necessity for such a discrepancy.

Now, accidentally, i came upon an article that solves the puzzle. The article answers the reason on why do the British drive on the left ?

Here’s the excerpt from the article that was relevant to the discussion i went through.

In the Middle Ages you kept to the left for the simple reason that you never knew who you’d meet on the road in those days. You wanted to make sure that a stranger passed on the right so you could go for your sword in case he proved unfriendly. This custom was given official sanction in 1300 AD, when Pope Boniface VIII invented the modern science of traffic control by declaring that pilgrims headed to Rome should keep left.

The papal system prevailed until the late 1700s, when teamsters in the United States and France began hauling farm products in big wagons pulled by several pairs of horses. These wagons had no driver’s seat. Instead the driver sat on the left rear horse, so he could keep his right arm free to lash the team. Since you were sitting on the left, naturally you wanted everybody to pass on the left so you could look down and make sure you kept clear of the other guy’s wheels. Ergo, you kept to the right side of the road. The first known keep-right law in the U.S. was enacted in Pennsylvania in 1792, and in the ensuing years many states and Canadian provinces followed suit.

Cool isn’t it ?!

Ten Obscure Factoids about Albert Einstein

1. He Liked His Feet Naked

“When I was young, I found out that the big toe always ends up making a hole in the sock,” he once said. “So I stopped wearing socks.” Einstein was also a fanatical slob, refusing to “dress properly” for anyone. Either people knew him or they didn’t, he reasoned – so it didn’t matter either way.

2. He Hated Scrabble

Aside from his favourite past-time sailing (“the sport which demands the least energy”), Einstein shunned any recreational activity that required mental agility. As he told the New York Times, “When I get through with work I don’t want anything that requires the working of the mind.”

3. He Was A Rotten Speller

Although he lived for many years in the United States and was fully bilingual, Einstein claimed never to be able to write in English because of “the treacherous spelling”. He never lost his distinctive German accent either, summed up by his catch-phrase “I vill a little t’ink”.

4. He Loathed Science Fiction

Lest it distort pure science and give people the false illusion of scientific understanding, he recommended complete abstinence from any type of science fiction. “I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.” He also thought people who claimed to have seen flying saucers should keep it to themselves.

5. He Smoked Like A Chimney

A life member of the Montreal Pipe Smokers Club, Einstein was quoted as saying: “Pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment of human affairs.” He once fell into the water during a boating expedition but managed heroically to hold on to his pipe.

6. He Wasn’t Much Of A Musician

Einstein would relax in his kitchen with his trusty violin, stubbornly trying to improvise something of a tune. When that didn’t work, he’d have a crack at Mozart.

7. Alcohol Was Not His Preferred Drug

At a press conference upon his arrival to New York in 1930, he said jokingly of Prohibition: “I don’t drink, so it’s all the same to me.” In fact, Einstein had been an outspoken critic of “passing laws which cannot be enforced”.

8. He Equated Monogamy With Monotony

“All marriages are dangerous,” he once told an interviewer. “Marriage is the unsuccessful attempt to make something lasting out of an incident.” He was notoriously unfaithful as a husband, prone to falling in love with somebody else directly after the exchanging of vows.

9. His Memory Was Shot

Believing that birthdays were for children, his attitude is summed up in a letter he wrote to his girlfriend Mileva Maric: “My dear little sweetheart … first, my belated cordial congratulations on your birthday yesterday, which I forgot once again.”

10. His Cat Suffered Depression

Fond of animals, Einstein kept a housecat which tended to get depressed whenever it rained. Ernst Straus recalls him saying to the melancholy cat: “I know what’s wrong, dear fellow, but I don’t know how to turn it off.”

via Science A Go Go

Bloody cool trivia huh ?!

1

Telepathy. Is it real ?

Here’s a nice piece of information that someone forwarded me recently, that i just couldn’t let go without posting here. This is about evidence of a strong telepathic connection between mothers and newborn babies, dogs and their owners, and identical twins. Here are a few real experiments that have been conducted to prove this ! Now read on.

Experiment 1

In 1997, the same polygraph expert supevised an experiment held in front of a live audience for a programme in Carlton TV’s Paranormal World of Paul McKenna series shown on 24th June. The subjects on this occasion were two very lively teenagers, Elaine and Evelyn Dove.

Elaine sat in the studio in front of a large pyramid put together by the special effects wizards, while Evelyn and Jeremy Barrett were in a separate room. When Elaine was nicely relaxed after some skilful light hypnosis from Paul McKenna, the pyramid exploded in a burst of sparks, flashes and coloured smoke, giving her a considerable shock. This showed up on Evelyn’s polygraph as a huge deflection – one pen running off the top of the paper, causing Barrett to comment over the intercom that “Evelyn certainly picked up something from somewhere.”

“There certainly was something coming,” he added, “and it looks to me like shock or surprise”. Interestingly, neither Evelyn Dove nor Richard Powles had any conscious awareness of the shocks their twins were being given although they were both unmistakably aware of them unconsciously.

Experiment 2

On January 10th 2003, 8-year-old Richard Powles sat in a soundproof room in a London television studio in front of a table on which there was a cardboard box and a plastic bucket filled with ice-cold water. On command, he rolled up his sleeve and plunged his arm into the near-freezing water, giving a gasp as he did so. In another studio well out of sight or earshot, his identical twin brother Damien was wired up to a four-channel polygraph (lie-detector) which, under the expert supervision of polygrapher Jeremy Barrett, was monitoring his respiration, abdominal muscles, pulse and galvanic skin response (sweat on the hands).

Neither he nor Barrett had any idea what was going on in the other room, although both knew they were taking part in a telepathy experiment to be shown later that day on Channel 4’s Richard and Judy chat show. All Damien had to do was sit quietly and “tune in” to his brother, while Barrett’s job was to watch the four pens as they woibbled along the paper chart and look out for something that shouldn’t be there.

He soon found it. At the exact moment of Richard’s sharp intake of breath caused by the freezing water, there was a sudden blip on the line monitoring Damien’s respiration rate. It was as though he too had gasped – which he hadn’t. The effect was so obvious that Barrett pointed to it with his thumb to indicate that he knew something had happened to Richard.

In another experiment, Richard was asked to open a cardboard box, which he did, hoping to find something nice – preferably eatable – in it. Instead, a huge rubber snake shot out of it at him, giving him a fright. This, too, was instantly picked up by his twin as the pulse line on the chart clearly indicated.

Was this visible proof of telepathy? Although this was not a rigidly controlled scientific experiment, it looked very much like it.

–Although the evidence for telepathy has been coming in regularly since the founding in 1882 of the Society for Psychical Research -overall probability of chance in all of the published controlled experiments being of the order of one in billions – many remain unconvinced. Some refuse to admit even the possibility of telepathy, while more reasonable sceptics prefer to suspend judgment until there is not only unmistakable evidence for it and a theory explaining how it works.

I am still trying to find out the original source of this article but haven’t got my hands on that yet. Will see if i can dig more info by googling 🙂

Trivia : Defense related

The British government was spooked back in 1935. Not because of Hitler’s air force or his infantry. It was newspaper reports that the Nazis might have a super-weapon that could incinerate living tissue or detonate a bomb at long distance. A “death ray,” the reports called it.

Flooded by letters begging for a response, the British Air Ministry asked prominent physicist Robert Watson-Watt to see if a radio-wave-based death ray was feasible.

Within ten days Watson-Watt reported that such a weapon was unlikely. But using radio waves to locate an approaching bomber was a real possibility. And that’s how radar was born.

Now, seventy years later, the invention may be coming full circle, Aviation Week reports.