Author Archive | Haystack
Dalton Conley and Jacqueline Stevens make a pretty compelling argument in a recent NY Times op-ed:
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With the Senate preparing to debate filibuster reform, now is a good time to consider a similarly daunting challenge to democratic representation in the House: its size. It’s been far too long since the House expanded to keep up with population growth and, as a result, it has lost touch with the public and been overtaken by special interests.
Indeed, the lower chamber of Congress has had the same number of members for so long that many Americans assume that its 435 seats are constitutionally mandated.
But that’s wrong: while the founders wanted to limit the size of the Senate, they intended the House to expand based on population growth. Instead of setting an absolute number, the Constitution merely limits the ratio of members to population. “The number of representatives shall not exceed one for every 30,000,” the founders wrote.
Readers may be familiar with the infamous Sokal Affair, where a physicist successfully published an utterly nonsensical article in Social Text, a journal of postmodern cultural studies, in order to demonstrate its poor editorial standards and idealogical biases.
Recently, professor of medical education John C. McLachlan pulled the same stunt on an “International Conference on Integrative Medicine” held in Jerusalem in 2010, where he was invited to present a paper on the promising new field of ass reflexology. He described his findings as such:
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Recently, as a result of my developmental studies on human embryos, I have discovered a new version of reflexology, which identifies a homunculus represented in the human body, over the area of the buttocks.
The homunculus is inverted, such that the head is represented in the inferior position, the left buttock corresponds to the right hand side of the body, and the lateral aspect is represented medially.
Thomas Edison had notoriously bad judgment about the viability of his many inventions. He once embarked on an expensive scheme to construct entire houses, including furniture, out of cast concrete. This via IEEE Global History Network:
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Edison’s concrete housing effort began around 1908. Portland cement (which Edison did not invent) was coming into fashion as a construction material. Edison and his team worked on perfecting a formula for mixing concrete (a mixture of cement and filler materials such as sand or gravel) and building re-usable steel molds to cast the walls of houses. By 1910, he had cast two experimental buildings — a gardener’s cottage and a garage — at his New Jersey mansion Glenmont. He announced in the press that he did not intend to profit from the venture, but would instead give away the patented information to qualified builders.
The publicity generated by this announcement attracted the attention of philanthropist Henry Phipps who proposed using the concrete houses to solve New York City’s housing problems.
Paleo-Future has posted a collection of seven lithographs depicting a 19th century vision of the present day; and yes, it involves flying cars:
This lithograph from 1882 depicts the fanciful world of 2000; flying buses, towering restaurants, and of course, 1880′s French attire. Albert Robida is less well-known than Jules Verne but contributed just as much to the collective imagination through his amazing illustrations.
If you speak French I recommend picking up the Robida book La vie électrique. For the record, I don’t speak French. Much like a child, I got it for the pictures.
(UPDATE: Some very good questions have been raised about the date of production for this lithograph. The year 1882 came from a Library of Congress source. La Vie Electrique (published 1892) contains structures that look similar to the Eiffel Tower but are in fact lighthouses. However, I am definitely open to the idea that “circa 1900″ would be a more appropriate label.)
[See the rest at Paleo-Future]
Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic has published a piece on his experience opting-out of the back-scatter body scanners at Baltimore-Washington International:
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At BWI, I told the officer who directed me to the back-scatter that I preferred a pat-down. I did this in order to see how effective the manual search would be. When I made this request, a number of TSA officers, to my surprise, began laughing. I asked why. One of them — the one who would eventually conduct my pat-down — said that the rules were changing shortly, and that I would soon understand why the back-scatter was preferable to the manual search. I asked him if the new guidelines included a cavity search. “No way. You think Congress would allow that?”
I answered, “If you’re a terrorist, you’re going to hide your weapons in your anus or your vagina.” He blushed when I said “vagina.”
“Yes, but starting tomorrow, we’re going to start searching your crotchal area” — this is the word he used, “crotchal” — and you’re not going to like it.”
“What am I not going to like?” I asked.