Das Rabblemeister

Veni, Vidi, Scripsi

Posts Tagged ‘National Geographic Society

Thursday, October 28 — birthday of Tokugawa Yoshinobu (1837) and Jigoro Kano (1860)

leave a comment »

  • Tokugawa who? And Jigoro what? OK, for the one or two of you who are not deeply steeped in 19th-century Japanese history, Tokugawa Yoshinobu was Japan’s last shogun. And Jigoro Kano was the Japanese martial artist who invented Judo. Both were truly remarkable men with very interesting lives and many varied accomplishments, such as Yoshinobu for both his overhaul of the Japanese military and for his photography, and Kano who in addition to being one of Japan’s all-time great martial artists was Japan’s national director of primary education and the first Asian member of the International Olympic Committee. Well worth reading about both — see links above.
  • Afghan girl

    This photo of an Afghan girl is one of the most famous photographs in history, taken by Steve McCurry for National Geographic in 1985. In 2002 McCurry returned to Afghanistan and found her again. She had never seen the cover photo and had no idea that hers is one of the most famous faces on the planet. Click on the photo for her amazing story. Her name, by the way, is Sharbat Gula. Image copyright National Geographic Society.

  • Also born on this day: Gilbert Grosvenor (1875), founder of the National Geographic Society, by whose maps you can go look up where Japan is. Also Microsoft founder and multi-gazillionaire Bill Gates (1955), who helped create a generation of children, and now young adults, who no longer know how to use paper maps.
  • Taliban Tabasco? Forewarned, spice lovers: Carrying salt, pepper, or spices in your luggage can get you tagged as a potential terrorist. See this incident of well-known food writer whose Tabasco Spiced Salt got him flagged for special search. More examples in the comments.
  • Cable customers with attitude: Don’t you hate it when the cable company drops one of your favorite channels? It’s infuriating, but what can you do? The cable companies usually hold a local monopoly and therefore have all the power — or do they? In New York local provider Cablevision got into a dispute with News Corp. (owner of the Fox Network and Fox News) and decided just to drop Fox. Oops, not so fast: Customers are so angry at losing Fox that they’ve just hit Cablevision with a $450 million class-action suit, including a request for an injunction to force Cablevision to restore Fox immediately. ($450 million is about one month’s revenue for Cablevision. New Yorkers pay an average of $150/month for cable — yikes.)
    Some of the immediate anger is because blacking out Fox means blacking out the impending World Series. But another  stated cause in the lawsuit is that “The Fox Channels provide a distinctive point of view in the political speech arena, which Cablevision customers are being deprived of just days before a critical mid-term election in the United States.” That’s rather surprising coming from the very liberal New York City area, but perhaps it shouldn’t be: In the latest ratings (and for most of this decade) Fox News has out-pulled all the other cable news networks (CNN, HLN, MSNBC) combined, and by a large margin at that. And it’s not just conservatives — 61% of Fox News’ audience is moderates or liberals, meaning more liberals and moderates watch Fox News than any other news channel (!). In fact Fox News is now the second-highest-rated of all cable channels, which is simply amazing for a channel that does only news and politics. C’mon, all you news junkies, watch something else once in a while — the History Channel, Discovery, Nat Geo, the Cartoon Channel, something other than just news.
  • Squasher and squashee: Looking up the numbers on Fox News’ ratings dominance reminds me of what Ted Turner, at the time owner of then-dominant CNN, said about Fox News when it first went on the air in 1996: “We’ll squash them like a bug.” Flashback, 3000 years ago: Pride goeth before a fall, quoth the writer of Proverbs.
  • Dumber than insects: In computing news, it was announced today that the fastest supercomputer in the world is now… in China. But to put that in perspective, researchers at Queen Mary University of London have found that one of the hardest computing problems in the world — the so-called “traveling salesman” problem, which is how to determine the shortest path to reach multiple arbitrary locations visiting each one only once, a problem that can easily take a supercomputer days to solve for just a few dozen locations — can be solved in only a few minutes by… a bee. A plain ol’ buzz-around-flowers honeybee or bumblebee. And having solved the problem, the bee will then remember and re-use the route. That’s quite remarkable considering that a bee’s brain is about the size of the tip of a pencil — the pointy tip of a pencil. Based on current computing theory, one could make a pretty good case that a bee-sized brain simply cannot do that, just as aerodynamicists once stated that, based on their mechanics and aerodynamics, bees should not be able to fly — except they do.
Advertisements