Prime Curios II (the number 17)

The prime curios website has given me more to discuss so that I think I will choose some other numbers. In the first post in this series, I chose high, 12 to 15-digit prime numbers to discuss, and it wasn’t hard to find discussable numbers. Nearly anything I clicked on had something interesting about it.

Now I am going back to 2-digit numbers. The first one I chose is 17. Apparently, there are 17 ways to write the number 17 as the sum of primes. You are encouraged to try this out yourself before revealing what is underneath the “spoiler” below:

Click on this spoiler to see the 17 ways...

We have at our disposal 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, and 17 to work with, so let’s see how we can do this (the last few took awhile):

        1. 17=17 (take care of the obvious)
        2. 17=13+2+2
        3. 17=11+3+3
        4. 17=11+2+2+2
        5. 17=7+7+3
        6. 17=7+5+5
        7. 17=7+5+3+2, the sum of the first 4 consecutive primes.
        8. 17=7+3+3+2+2
        9. 17=7+2+2+2+2+2
        10. 17=5+3+3+3+3
        11. 17=5+5+5+2
        12. 17=5+5+3+2+2
        13. 17=5+3+3+2+2+2
        14. 17=5+2+2+2+2+2+2
        15. 17=3+3+3+3+3+2
        16. 17=3+3+3+2+2+2+2
        17. 17=3+2+2+2+2+2+2+2

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Some factoids about the number 17: Did’ja know …

      • 17 is the only number, when cubed, its digits equal the number: 17^3 = 4913 \Rightarrow 4+9+1+3=17
      • 17 = 24 + 1, which makes it almost a Mersenne prime. Mersenne primes are primes of the form 2n – 1.
      • 172 = 289 can be expressed as the sum of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 distinct squares.
        • There is one square, 172 itself
        • Sums of 289 in two distinct squares
          • 172 = 152 + 82
          • 172 = 122 + 122 + 12
        • Examples of obtaining 289 in 3 distinct squares:
          • 172 = 162 + 52 + 22 + 22
          • 172 = 122 + 82 + 92
          • There are several more with 3 distinct squares, when you get to 4 or more terms.
        • Obtaining 289 from 4 distinct squares, each appearing once:
          • 22 + 42 + 102 + 132
          • 22 + 52 + 82 + 142
          • 22 + 82 + 102 + 112
          • 32 + 62 + 102 + 122
        • Of course there are more, and click on the spoiler below at the bottom of this article to get a full list of the ways ot obtain a sum of 289 under these conditions, after trying at least a few yourself.
      • 172 = 34 – 43
      • 2(17+17) has “1717” as the first four digits. (17,179,869,184)
      • According to MIT hacker’s lore, 17 is referred to as the “least random” number.

The last point is special. Why is 17 considered “least random”? We have to not consider computers or shuffling of cards or mixing tickets in a hat, here. This is a purely human phenomenon. If a thousand people were asked to “radomly” speak out a number between 1 and 20, one would expect that each of the 20 numbers would be equally likely to be spoken out. This is far from the case. Instead, one would find that 17 is spoken out disproportionately more often compared with the other 19 numbers. If people were asked to “randomly” choose a number, a surprising number of them are primes, and 17 is the prime chosen most often. This is why it is said that 17 is the least random number to choose. The reason we choose prime numbers most often has less to do with our affinity for prime numbers and more to do with the fact that we seem to conflate “strange” or “unique” with “random”.

Click here to see 15 ways to get 289 with up to 8 unique perfect square terms.

The reading of this table is, taking the first line:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11 =>
289 = 12 + 22 + 32 + 42 + 52 + 72 + 82 + 112

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11
1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 13
1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 11
1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 13
2, 3, 4, 8, 14
2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11
2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 12
2, 4, 5, 10, 12
2, 4, 6, 8, 13
2, 4, 10, 13
2, 5, 8, 14
2, 8, 10, 11
3, 6, 10, 12
8, 9, 12
8, 15
17

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A Career Postmortem: Dr. Brian Wansink

Dr. Brian Wansink. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Being formally trained as a Food Scientist in my undergrad years, I had heard about Wansink’s 2006 book Mindless Eating, and became an admirer after reading the book. Because I was a casual reader, I made no effort to “look under the hood” at any papers and studies he might have referred to, and took him at his word as a then-executive director of the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). He was responsible for overseeing the design of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, as well as the government-run nutrition site “My Pyramid.gov”. He was also a long-time director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University. With all that under his belt, why would I question what he writes?

The book Mindless Eating has inspired many to be more active and deliberate in managing their nutritional cues, and to take a deeper look into how humans are hard-wired in their perceptions of food. The real strategy would be to find ways to work around these hard-wired perceptions, rather than against them.

The ways he would run his experiments — mostly on college-aged subjects attending Cornell — was that he would offer free food (what college student wouldn’t be attracted by that?). Once you are hooked by the free food (and sometimes a movie), the science kicked in. Plates and food packaging would be weighed by difference in a way that the subject never knew it was being done. They would get a fairly accurate calorie count that way. Then they would ask you about your own perceptions: How much did you think you ate? How many calories did you think you consumed? Depending on what was being investigated, the results when fed back to the participants were often remarkable and surprising. Some of the perceptual tricks in the design of the experiments even fooled graduate students in Dietetics. He showed that these perceptual tricks can be as simple as changing the size of the plate.

Dr. Wansink seemed sly, and clever. But he had to be, because humans can sometimes be even more sly and clever in fooling themselves into thinking that they ate less than they did. The world clearly needed someone like Wansink to expose our human frailties to ourselves, and to show us how we fool ourselves into eating more than we planned to, or than we thought we did.

Two-Buck Chuck comes in many varieties, including red and white.

In Mindless Eating, among his many tales, he discusses people’s perceptions of their meal based on the perceived vintage of the wine they were served. The investigators purchased several cases of the cheapest wine possible, Charles Shaw Wine, nicknamed “2-Buck Chuck”, a wine sold at a chain store called Trader Joe’s in United States. At the time, Charles Shaw Wine could really be purchased for two dollars (USD). All bottles had their labels removed and replaced with a fictitious label suggesting it was from California, and another label suggesting the wine was from North Dakota, a state not known for making wine. The patrons given the various wines with their meals were asked to rate the food (not the wine) they were served and asked whether they would come back. The reaction was far more favourable if the label on the bottle suggested California wine. It was a bit of a sly trick, but at least the 117 diners in the study had a prix fixe all-you-can-eat gourmet meal set at $21.00 (USD), with free wine.

There was another story Wansink likes to talk about, about the bowl of tomato soup that was filled from the bottom using a food-grade feeding tube that was invisible to the participant. The tubing led to a 2-gallon pot containing the soup. The participant seemed oblivious to the bowl of soup that would never empty. The finding here is that people will eat on average 73% more soup than a normal serving if there is no visual cue to tell them to stop eating.  Our stomachs are indeed a very crude instrument for measuring how much we have eaten. We need visual cues, which can be interfered with by the bottomless bowl, but also by regular distractions. This experiment aimed to prove that. For this experimental design, Wansink received the IgNobel prize in Nutrition in 2007.

IgNobel prizes are awarded to scientists whose research makes people laugh, then makes people think. These prizes are awarded by the publication Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), and handed out at an annual ceremony held at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with lectures from the prizewinners being given across town at MIT.

Wansink showed how our perceptions of food quantity is vulnerable to lighting; the presence of company or entertainment or other distractions; the size of our plates; the shape of our drinking glasses; the proximity of junk food from where we happen to be sitting; and so on. All of it was compelling and often headline-grabbing. He has been on interviews about his findings from all 3 major American television networks over the years.

He was apparently able to prove his findings quantitatively, but any graduate students using his findings are now better apt to check his numbers. No one has accused him of fraudulent research, just sloppy research with statistical calculations that didn’t match up with other reported numbers. It began with a now-deleted blog post where, according to The Cut,

Wansink told the story of a Turkish Ph.D. student who came to work in his lab for free. “When she arrived,” he wrote, “I gave her a data set of a self-funded, failed study which had null results (it was a one month study in an all-you-can-eat Italian restaurant buffet where we had charged some people ½ as much as others). I said, ‘This cost us a lot of time and our own money to collect. There’s got to be something here we can salvage because it’s a cool (rich & unique) data set.’ I had three ideas for potential Plan B, C, & D directions (since Plan A had failed).”

Wansink wrote glowingly about the Ph.D. student, Ozge Sigirsci, and in her ability to see the offer of data as an opportunity and get herself published. And that she did. Five papers bylined both by Wansink and Sigirsci, came out of this “failed study”. To grad students reading the blog and wanting their own work published, this raised eyebrows. He was suggesting that it was just fine for a scientist to take a failed study, then massage the data for different null hypotheses until they come up with a correlation that falls outside of a 95% confidence interval, which rejects the null hypothesis (Ho). This is science done backwards. You usually pose the hypotheses before the experiment is run, not after. In other words, a scientist doesn’t run an experiment without knowing what they are researching beforehand.

The kind of statistical error being committed in these papers is known as a “Type M Error” (“M” stands for “Magnitude”). This is where just because you found a correlation with a 5% margin of error, the effect of this statistic might be exaggerated. Remember, this result was stumbled upon as a side effect of slicing and dicing the data until a correlation of “anything” emerged. In that context, how much information is your data giving you that rejects the Ho, which came as more of an afterthought?  It would be better to run a modified experiment to see if the same thing happens when you run the experiment deliberately.

In the blog, Wansink then listed the papers that were published and where they were published. This gave readers 5 key papers to be sceptical about. And there was a research team who did the checking. Tim van der Zee​, Jordan Anaya​, and Nicholas Brown looked into 4 of these 5 papers, and found 150 statistical errors. The error findings were based on inconsistencies in the published tables without looking at the raw data. To look at the raw data, a scientist normally needs to ask the scientist who ran that experiment. It didn’t help that after repeated requests, Wansink refused to share his data with van der Zee, et. al., to settle the matter.

Now, there is no rule saying that he has to share his data. But to paraphrase Andrew Gelman in the blog Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science, there is also no rule saying that anyone in the scientific community needs to take him seriously, either. The various journals have, since 2017 retracted at least 18 of his papers, according to Wikipedia. Another 15 have been formally corrected.

Stanford determined in September, 2018 that he had, according to Science Magazine from 21 September, 2018:

“In a statement issued [on the 20th of September], Cornell’s provost, Michael Kotlikoff, said the investigation had revealed “misreporting of research data, problematic statistical techniques, failure to properly document and preserve research results, and inappropriate authorship.”

Wansink was removed from researching and teaching activities at Cornell, according to Science. Wansink also resigned after this statement was issued.

 

The Prime Curios Website

I am currently sidetracked to the Prime Curios website. It deals with primes, their properties, and some rather fascinating patterns in the numbers. It is basically a catalogue of the more interesting primes and the curious properties of individual primes.

Well, I decided to kick its tires, and see what patterns it could see in numbers that I clicked on. I chose their category of 12 to 15-digit prime numbers, since I thought they are probably going to come up with boring information. This proved wrong very early on. Each number had a link, and led to a page with a paragraph or two of information on it. I noticed that most, but not all numbers in the list were prime. But first some primes I clicked on:

100,123,456,789: Well, I clicked on the second number in the list before I noticed that the number contains all the digits from 0 to 9 in sequence, with 10 at the beginning. This is a pandigital prime number. In fact, it is difficult to dispute the site’s first assertion that it is the smallest prime to contain the string “0123456789”. But it is also the smallest prime where if you wedged a zero in between each digit, it would still be prime: 10000010203040506070809. This last number has a prime number of digits and a prime number of zeros.

100,529,784,361: also contains the numbers 0 to 9, with 10 at the start, but this time not in order. But when you break them into groups, you get perfect squares: 100=10^2; 529=23^2; 784=28^2; and 361=19^2. Squaring each digit and concatenating the results gets us the string 100254814964169361, which is also prime.

101,111,111,111: I learned a new word today: emirp. An emirp is a prime spelled backwards. The definition is that the reversal of these digits yields a different prime. This is different from a number like “101”, which is a palidromic prime, since you get the same prime when writing the digits in reverse. Also the first two digits are “10” with 1’s repeated that many times.

1,919,110,119,191: This is a palindromic prime. You get the same number if you reversse the digits. Also the first six numbers: 191911 and the last six, 119191 are both prime and “emirp”. There is another oddity about 191911 and 119191: if you rotate the first of these numbers so that it appears upside down, you get 116161 (a prime); and the second one rotated, becomes 161611 (another prime, and emirp compared with 116161). Primes generated by such a rotation is called an invertible prime. It can only happen if a digit can be a recognizable digit when turned upside-down. Such primes must therefore only contain the digits: 0, 1, 6, 8 , or 9. 1,616,110,116,161, the rotation of the entire original number, is also prime.

6,886,699,889: This is a prime which is  the same prime when rotated upside down. These invertible primes are referred to as Strobogrammatic primes.

28,116,440,335,967: This is the smallest multidigit prime number that is also a narcissistic number: the sum of each digit raised to the power of the number of digits, equals the number: 2^{14}+8^{14}+1^{14}+1^{14}+6^{14}+4^{14}+4^{14}+0^{14}+3^{14}+3^{14}+5^{14}+9^{14}+6^{14}+7^{14}  = 28,116,440,335,967.

Okay, fine. But what about the composite numbers listed by Prime Curios? Again, sticking to the same range of digits …

157,639,024,808: This composite number uses up all of the digits from 0 to 9 at least once. This makes the number pandigital, like others we’ve seen. It is also a perfect cube: 157,639,024,808 = 5402^3. In addition, the number written backwards is prime.

2,504,730,781,961: This composite pandigital number is also the 61st Fibonacci number. 61 is prime, and are the last two digits of the number.

265,744,701,192,502: Someone with time on their hands figured out that if you multiply this number by 11 and add 1, you get a number which is a concatenation of the primes 2 to 29: 2,923,191,713,117,523, which can be read as the primes: 29, 23, 19, 17, 11, 7, 5, 2, and 3. They appear in reverse order of the primes except for the 3. However, this number is also composite.

For the sake of trivia, the largest known prime, according to this site, is: 282,589,933 – 1, a Mersenne prime containing 24,862,048 digits found in 2018 by Patrick Laroche of Ocala, Florida, running a GIMPS program on their computer.

Artificial Sweetners and weight loss

Stevia.

There was a recent article on Stevia in the New York Times. There seemed to be some question as to its safety, though it has been in use for some decades in North America, and even longer in Japan.

Stevia is a sugar substitute, with a claim of zero calories, similar to NutraSweet, Cyclamate, Sucralose, and Saccharine. Saccharine is not for sale in Canada, but the others are.

The Times article tried to raise questions of food safety with Stevia, but frankly, these are generally pretty safe. The trouble with raising food safety questions is that unless there is a focused issue for which there is widespread proof of its lack of safety, raising food safety issues willy-nilly just maintains paranoia.

The real issue we should all be concerned with is that, given the cost of these sweetners, are they really effective in helping us mange our weight? They might be good for helping the body to regulate insulin, since you are not consuming as much sugar (sucrose), but is that all?

The evidence of the negative health effects of added sugar in foods and those in processed foods is uncontroversial, according to an article from Consumer Reports from last year. This includes, of course, soft drinks, other junk foods, and any sugar that you would add to food in high quantity.

Eating for calories

In January of 2019, Doctors Dana Small and Alexandra DiFeliceantonio of Yale University School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry, published a short review in the journal Science, which began by giving a history of research on this topic. Early research into rats using diets equal to their spent energy (called an isocaloric diet) which varied in volume, indicated that rats’ preferred caloric intake is fairly constant across several days and trials. It indicates that “rats eat for calories”.

How do rats know about a certain level of calories? It was theorized that there must be a signal sent to the brain communicating the energetic value of the food. If that signal indicated a low value (high volume, same calories except diluted by something else), the rat would eat more. If the signal indicated a high value (low volume, same calories), it would eat less.

This has been replicated and then verified in human subjects. We can even form associations between flavours and calories. One of the most irresistible flavours to humans is the taste of sweetness, indicating the presence of sugar. If animal researchers introduced a blocker (namely 2-deoxyglucose) to prevent sugar metabolism, they found that it inhibited the animals’ ability to form food preferences. There appeared to be broader effects than just food preference inhibition, since dopamine levels appeared in lower than normal concentrations outside of the nerve cells. When glucose was put back in the diet, normal levels of dopamine returned. So hard-wired is this tendency to prefer sweetness in animals (of which we are one species) that it is referred to as an “un-conditioned stimulus” — it does not require conditioning to eat foods that are a bit sweet, we just do without hesitation, thinking it must be good to eat. These signals run independently of our conscious perceptions about the food.

The Mindless Margin

So, if humans eat for calories as well, it means that artificial sweetners can’t be relied on by themselves to help us cut back our caloric intake. A diet must account for the fact that we will have the urge to make up the calories in some other way. It comes down to self-control, but a true win over the battle of the bulge will depend on what one Cornell food scientist once called the “mindless margin” — or just enough self control over your food intake that your body doesn’t miss the lost calories, but your body still benefits by losing the weight, albeit more slowly than planned.

The delusion of counting to a billion

In math or science class, it was sometimes helpful to give my students some idea of the size of numbers. One of those numbers was 1 billion. We worked it out that if you counted one number per second from 1 to 1 billion, it would take you around 32 years to get there. If you subtract 8 hours a day for both eating and sleeping, it would take around 42.7 years. It turns out that this length of time is wildly optimistic. In reality, accounting for the same daily breaks, it takes way longer. How much longer?

Jeremy Harper

Back in September 2007, software developer and Alabama native Jeremy Harper held the Guiness World Record for counting up to 1 million (highest number on record, spoken out loud). It took him 89 days, accounting for 8 hours of sleeping and eating per day. At 1 number per second, it should have taken him 15.4 days with the same breaks. It could be that, going by his videos left online, that he was deliberately slow in counting. He would give himeself a second or so in between each number, and not rush the number he was speaking. It would also be better to say the number in one breath, so that 1 second breaks between numbers allowed for a good inhale. I think there was a recognition that he not waste his energy on speed, otherwise he might not make it.

Guiness would usually send observers for such world records, but he had the entire 89 days of counting, eating, and sleeping documented on a YouTube livestream, making it easier for his feat to be proven. I have seen this stated elsewhere as the “fastest” count to 1 million, but I suspect that it is because it is the “only” count to 1 million. But accounting for breath control, it is likely the fastest one can expect.

Getting back to our count to 1 billion, which is 1000 million. It would have taken Jeremy, if he had the time, 89,000 days to count to 1 billion accounting for meal/sleep breaks and breath control. That would be around 243.7 years. Not possible. But even if Jeremy were to double his efforts, by counting every number in half the time, it would still take around 121.8 years to count that high. This is about as optimistic as one can be with 1 billion. But as you can see, this is triple our original estimation of 42.7 years, based on our naive assumption of 1 number per second. We are not taking into account that with more digits, numbers beyond 1 million will take longer to speak out than numbers below 1 million. The fact that there are 999 million numbers above 1 million and below or equal to 1 billion would likely skew closer to 243.7 years than to 121.8 years, even if we sped up the counting in the manner just described. Again, this is all pie-in-the-sky, since neither of these targets are humanly possible, and are hopelessly beyond the “naive” target of 42.7 years.

But to proceed ad absurdum, we have read about numbers in the trillions, such as the American military budget or their American infrastructure package. A trillion is a thousand billion, or a million million; literally \left(10^6\right)^2=10^{12}. The British used to call a trillion a “billion”, in the sense of a “bi-million” or a million million. But that got confused with the North American use of “billion”, so the British adopted the American parlance of a billion, and have been using it for trade since 1975. So, a thousand million is a billion, and a million million is a trillion, pretty much worldwide.

A trillion is “this” big.

The 89 million days (or more) it would take to count to 1 trillion would take us past the next few ice ages, should humanity last that long. It is the equivalent of 243,669 years, rounded to the nearest year. If these were light years, this would be more than the diameter of the Milky Way galaxy. And speaking of the Milky Way, there are  on the order of 1 trillion stars in our galaxy. There are also on the order of 1 trillion galaxies of every conceivable size in the known universe. Indeed, one trillion is a truly astronomical number.

Space Travel for the Masses

An artist’s rendition of a family outing in “space” at a time way into the future, when we are able to populate “space” with hotels and resorts (Courtesy Hannah-Barbera).

This is a war of the billionaires. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos lost to Virgin’s Richard Branson in their bid for the space tourism dollar. Space tourism allows anyone with a quarter million bucks to see Earth in a way that was only available to astronauts.

If you have a quarter million dollars lying around, you can now put it to good use, according to Branson, who has been a passenger on the first test flight over the planet, some 50 or so miles above the Earth’s surface. While this is at the bare minimum to be considered “space” by NASA, it is just high enough for the passenger to feel the effects of zero gravity. Indeed it is space travel for the masses. That is, if the masses each have a quarter million bucks they aren’t using.

I just wonder if, in Branson’s travels, was he able to spot the massive forest fires in the northwest US, and southern British Columbia? If these rich people were taxed a little more, maybe we could do something about it, along with addressing social and economic problems.

I have heard of another, separate effort from a Florida-based company called Space Perspective, which is putting the finishing touches on a helium-filled balloon carrying 8 passengers. But rather than going to “space”, it merely goes as high as the stratosphere, just 19 miles into the sky. This is a cheaper venture, costing each passenger a mere 125 thousand dollars, half the price of Branson’s flight. It might be low enough to smell the smoke from the California fires, but I am not sure.

The Space Perspective venture is staffed by many of the same people that came up with a previous vanity project called Biosphere 2. Biosphere 2 was a failed attempt at trying to re-create the biosphere under entirely man-made conditions for the purpose of having these closed systems deployed in outer space. Located in an Arizona desert, it was marketed to rich investors who feared an apocalypse.

Early on into the project, insect species were dying, vertebrates were dying, there were enourmous cost overruns causing investors to bail out of the project, and soon the human inhabitants of the man-made biomes couldn’t stand each other, people were bringing in food and nutrients from outside of this so-called “closed system”, and there was Steve Bannon. Yes, that Steve Bannon. Before he knew Trump and ran Breitbart News, he was hired by Ed Bass (one of the project’s founders) to curb the huge runaway costs of the Biosphere 2 project.

A depiction of Steve Bannon, during his time being chief advisor to former president Agent Orange.

While Breitbart is famous for attempting to debunk global warming, Bannon was quite instrumental in promoting theories of global warming when he was justifying the basis for Biosphere 2 to potential investors. His highly politicized, misogynistic style of managing people is well-known to most people not under a rock between the years 2015-2020, since it bears similarity to Donald Trump and his cronies, among which was Bannon for a time. The only “scientists” who took the project seriously were, according to Wikipedia, the Russian Academy of Sciences. The site has since been taken over by the University of Arizona. Perhaps now the research will be halfway serious.

The real lesson which humanity could have learned is that there is no ecosystem ever made by man  that is better than the one we all get for free here on Earth. It is a lesson not lost on Abigail Alling, former researcher and resident of Biosphere 1 and a thorn in the side of Steve Bannon.

Media Centrism II

This is an update to the media bias chart mentioned a few months ago. More strange listings to report. This time, we don’t leave the centre of the “news balance” metrics they have set up.

https://boingboing.net/wp-content/themes/boing/assets/images/logo-boingboing.pngBoingBoing is a news site, which on occasion scoops the major media on many topics political and otherwise. But mostly, their articles tend to be pretty lightweight, involving celebrity news; human interest stories that are maybe a bit more than 2 paragraphs long; gadgets; “stupid criminal” stories; and so on. Some of it is borderline BS. But it is the kind of non-partisan B. S. that places them in the centre of the distribution, but also place them relatively high in reliability in the minds of those at Ad Fontes Media. Not sure if it is enough to make me stop listening to Rachel Maddow, or cancel my subscription to the New York Times. Speaking of NYT, Ad Fontes has them as being more “biased” than BoingBoing.

Unherd. A website which Ad Fontes says is left of centre, which today has two pieces on its front page attacking the left. Most of this website is largely opinion, more than news.

The News Wires. Reuters, UPI, AFP, VOA, and their ilk deal nearly exclusively in reporting news stories, and very little in opinion. So it is no surprise that they are near the centre of the distribution. And they are a little to the left of centre, because there are only so many “stupid criminal” and gadget stories to go around that will not offend delicate political sensibilities. Many news outlets rely on a wire feed for their news, but they also seem to have a web component and most of them also have a broadcast component. This was even true of VOA (Voice of America) before it was hijacked by the previous presidential administration.

Not knowing what to do with my psh

psh, or the Perl shell, is supposed to be, among other things, a kind of “immediate mode” for perl code segments, as well as a way of injecting Perl commands and syntax into other shells such as bash.

It is always a bit ambitious at the best of times, to install anything from source into a Cygwin installation. Cygwin lacks much of the trappings of a full UNIX installation, which is understandable, having to run on top of MS-Windows. But Cygwin does support X-Windows and subsequently big-ticket window managers like Mate or Gnome, and also Java when you unpack it. It supports GCC, perl, and many of your other favourite open source languages.

The source for psh was downloaded from GitHub, and I downloaded the ZIP file for it in an empty directory.

I had to install psh as root (actually admin, because Windows), before running it with my joeuser account. When it ran, I observed that it actually re-ran the incumbent shell, and really had no actual shell of its own that would result in its own prompt style.

For all of the rest of its behaviour, it seems to be a bash shell (my default shell). Entering some perl commands appeared to just be ignored, such as something like “my $i=10; print $i*5;”

But then I tried to do an ls in my home directory in the following way:

ls -al | s/p/Q

and as predicted it turned all occurrences of p to Q in the file listings. I tried to pipe ls through s/[pP]/q, but that didn’t work for me. So if I wanted to turn both upper and lowercase from p or P to Q, I would require a second pipe:

ls -al | s/p/Q | s/P/Q

This might be somewhat understandable, but I tried this on my Cygwin installation (on a native Perl interpreter, not just a shell, and s/p/Q changed both uppercase and lowercase p. [pP] is a sed/vi convention that specified a substitution upon detection of any letter inside the square brackets, in this case, p or P. I normally use that thinking as a shorthand for not needing to know all of the Perl string handling parameters. It the kind of thing that enamoured me to perl in the first place, due to its low learning curve if you already know how to use sed or the substitution commands in vi, both of which are pretty much the same as each other.

So, it looks like psh could be a good testbed for experimental commands or interesting shell scripts, but its actual usefulness is incubment in how well its output and behaviour matches up with your native perl installation.

Digital Headphones

Go on Google and there are any number of headphones for sale for your computer. I once required a headset with a built-in mike which could be used for online sessions and so on. It turns out that shopping for these things is full of traps.

Just because you spent a lot of money for a headset, it definitely doesn’t mean more money is better. My best headphones were both Logitech G330’s, which Logitech has stopped making. I had a new set simply because the earpads wore out and the headband cracked. Being cheap, it was pretty much all plastic. But they fit around the back of my head rather than over my head, which was a selling point (apart from the great sound).  But the sound, whether from the noise-cancelling mike or to the headphones, was really good, pretty much perfect, which is high praise for $19.00 headphones.

I needed a replacement for my second set last year, and couldn’t find the same kind for sale, not even on E-Bay. They will sell you a replacement adaptor, replacement earpads, but never the headset. Slight changes in model number – whether G332 or G230, all led to radically different, chunkier, and more expensive, headphones. Amazon had an entry for the G330 with a full description, but reports that the manufacturer discontinued it, and have no G330 to sell.

This is the G330, and this is exactly how you wear it: the headpiece goes around the back of the head rather than over the head. For support, the headpiece curls over the ears. For me, this was also a very comfortable fit, since I have a big head.
SADES Spellond Pro
The SADES Spellond Pro with a blue light which I am sure impresses people below a certain age.

I decided to see what I could get and was able to spend a little more money, and bought a pair of Sades Spellond Pro headphones, and to my disappointment there was not much else available at or above the $65.00 price point among the large stock they had. Sades was not a brand that I heard about, and when I tried them I was not bowled over, but I thought they were a competent set of headphones, but not at the level of the G330s bought at a third of the price. Both headphones were of the USB variety, with controls on the cable.

The Sades headset was a bit on the gaudy side. I wasn’t aware until I put them on at home that the headpiece and microphone gives off a blue light, but only after a few days when I noticed it in my reflection. I have no need of blue light from the earpieces or microphone, as I am sure they don’t improve the sound. I would suppose this appeals to a gamer audience, and I am not really that big on gaming. The sound is boxy, and the microphone for recording video is just okay. It apparently has two sound settings, both aimed at gaming, and I would suppose that gamers find the boxy sound appealing. The Spellond also had a chunky control module part way down the cable which made it hard to pack away neatly. The rubber cable tie provided would come apart on its own, so you had to be be particular as to how tightly you bound the cables with it.

Logitech H600 wireless bluetooth headset: plastic, plastic, and more plastic, but a good mike, good sound, and the freedom of movement that comes with wireless bluetooth.

Recently at work, we were handed a USB wireless headset, and they were Logitech H600 wireless headsets. These list on logitech.com for close to $70, and are apparently sold out. They came in a plain-looking blue and clear box, and actually looked cheap. Just about all plastic, with a bare minimum of metal parts, even for the headband. I wasn’t expecting Bose Aviator headsets or anything, but for $70, they could have been constructed with better materials. The earpieces were covered by a thin layer of foam plastic. They were worn over-the-head, and were wireless, which I never warmed up to, since the charge life of the batteries limits their use. But when I tried them, my opinion changed. The sound both from the mike and through the headset was far superior to the Sades model. Sades makes up for it by superior construction and padding in the headband and the earpieces, but the sound of the Logitech appealed to me more. Also, the wireless had a range of about 30 feet, which allowed me to move away from the comptuer without missing anything or for others online to hear me. There was that freedom also. Another plus was freedom from cables. As a plus, the USB-A receiver/transmitter neatly packs away though a cavity in the headset when the headphones are not in use.

It appears that headphone manufacturers are beginning to notice that we like clear sound, and are increasing the price of their low-end headphones, since this was the kind of sound quality I got from my wired G330’s. My concern is that for the price, something so cheaply made isn’t likely to last, regardless of the sound quality.

Losing 200 million dollars in bitcoin on your hard drive because you forgot your password: A Marxist interpretation

bitcoin
Bitcoin only exists digitally. This will only provide a mental image and nothing else.

(Based on a New York Times commenter going by the name of Franz, from Germany):

Bitcoin’s increase in value is quite remarkable – the virtual increase in value is not matched by any actual value.

The generation of the Bitcoin is not a product of human labour, but that of a computer; a large amount of energy was consumed by computers around the world for this reason. As a result, the world climate, to the disadvantage of all, further heated up.

Bitcoin is neither the product of labour nor creative efforts. It is simply created out of nothing and now you lost the password and cannot have it. You see it in on the hard drive in front of you but you can not get it.

I feel sorry for the people who lose their house and belongings in a hurricane or fire, these are usually the product of a lifetime of labour. Sorry, but I can spare little empathy for Bitcoin victims.

As an asside, I think a light bulb joke is in order. Q: How many Marxists does it take to screw in a lighbulb? A: None, because it contains the seeds of its own revolution.