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The Diderot effect is a social phenomenon related to consumer goods. It is based on two ideas. The first idea is that goods purchased by consumers will align with their sense of identity, and, as a result, will complement one another. The second idea states that the introduction of a new possession that deviates from the consumer's current complementary goods can result in a process of spiraling consumption. The term was coined by anthropologist and scholar of consumption patterns Grant McCracken in 1988, and is named after the French philosopher Denis Diderot (1713–1784), who first described the effect in an essay.
The term has become common in discussions of sustainable consumption and green consumerism, in regard to the process whereby a purchase or gift creates dissatisfaction with existing possessions and environment, provoking a potentially spiraling pattern of consumption with negative environmental, psychological, and social impacts.
Chesterton's fence is the principle that reforms should not be made until the reasoning behind the existing state of affairs is understood. The quotation is from G. K. Chesterton's 1929 book The Thing, in the chapter entitled "The Drift from Domesticity":
In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."
Chesterton's admonition should first be understood within his own historical context, as a response to certain socialists and reformers of his time (e.g. George Bernard Shaw).
- "Chesterton's Fence" | 2020-05-15 | 15 Upvotes 2 Comments
The International Meridian Conference was a conference held in October 1884 in Washington, D.C., in the United States, to determine a prime meridian for international use. The conference was held at the request of U.S. President Chester A. Arthur. The subject to discuss was the choice of "a meridian to be employed as a common zero of longitude and standard of time reckoning throughout the world". It resulted in the recommendation of the Greenwich Meridian as the international standard for zero degrees longitude.
- "US time zones (1857)" | 2015-07-01 | 81 Upvotes 36 Comments
Petrodollar recycling is the international spending or investment of a country's revenues from petroleum exports ("petrodollars"). It generally refers to the phenomenon of major petroleum-exporting nations, mainly the OPEC members plus Russia and Norway, earning more money from the export of crude oil than they could efficiently invest in their own economies. The resulting global interdependencies and financial flows, from oil producers back to oil consumers, can reach a scale of hundreds of billions of US dollars per year – including a wide range of transactions in a variety of currencies, some pegged to the US dollar and some not. These flows are heavily influenced by government-level decisions regarding international investment and aid, with important consequences for both global finance and petroleum politics. The phenomenon is most pronounced during periods when the price of oil is historically high.
The term petrodollar was coined in the early 1970s during the oil crisis, and the first major petrodollar surge (1974–1981) resulted in more financial complications than the second (2005–2014).
In August 2018, Venezuela declared that it would price its oil in Euros, Yuan and other currencies.
- "Petrodollar Warfare -- AKA the "Oil Currency Wars"" | 2011-04-23 | 13 Upvotes 16 Comments
Survivorship bias or survival bias is the logical error of concentrating on the people or things that made it past some selection process and overlooking those that did not, typically because of their lack of visibility. This can lead to false conclusions in several different ways. It is a form of selection bias.
Survivorship bias can lead to overly optimistic beliefs because failures are ignored, such as when companies that no longer exist are excluded from analyses of financial performance. It can also lead to the false belief that the successes in a group have some special property, rather than just coincidence (correlation proves causality). For example, if three of the five students with the best college grades went to the same high school, that can lead one to believe that the high school must offer an excellent education. This could be true, but the question cannot be answered without looking at the grades of all the other students from that high school, not just the ones who "survived" the top-five selection process. Another example of a distinct mode of survivorship bias would be thinking that an incident was not as dangerous as it was because everyone you communicate with afterwards survived. Even if you knew that some people are dead, they wouldn't have their voice to add to the conversation, leading to bias in the conversation.
- "Survivorship bias – Wikipedia" | 2017-07-11 | 14 Upvotes 1 Comments
The Odeillo solar furnace is the world's largest solar furnace. It is situated in Font-Romeu-Odeillo-Via, in the department of Pyrénées-Orientales, in south of France. It is 54 metres (177 ft) high and 48 metres (157 ft) wide, and includes 63 heliostats. It was built between 1962 and 1968, and started operating in 1969, and has a power of one megawatt.
It serves as a science research site studying materials at very high temperatures.
- "Odeillo solar furnace" | 2018-08-12 | 38 Upvotes 14 Comments
The Wells and Wellington affair was a dispute about the publication of three papers in the Australian Journal of Herpetology in 1983 and 1985. The publication was established in 1981 as a peer-reviewed scientific journal focusing on the study of amphibians and reptiles (herpetology). Its first two issues were published under the editorship of Richard W. Wells, a first-year biology student at Australia's University of New England. Wells then ceased communicating with the journal's editorial board for two years before suddenly publishing three papers without peer review in the journal in 1983 and 1985. Coauthored by himself and high school teacher Cliff Ross Wellington, the papers reorganized the taxonomy of all of Australia's and New Zealand's amphibians and reptiles and proposed over 700 changes to the binomial nomenclature of the region's herpetofauna.
Members of the herpetological community reacted strongly to the pair's actions and eventually brought a case to the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature to suppress the scientific names they had proposed. After four years of arguments, the commission opted not to vote on the case because it hinged largely on taxonomic arguments rather than nomenclatural ones, leaving some of Wells and Wellington's names available. The case's outcome highlighted the vulnerability to the established rules of biological nomenclature that desktop publishing presented. As of 2020, 24 of the specific names assigned by Wells and Wellington remained valid senior synonyms.
- "Wells and Wellington Affair" | 2021-03-18 | 16 Upvotes 1 Comments
A screw drive is a system used to turn a screw. At a minimum, it is a set of shaped cavities and protrusions on the screw head that allows torque to be applied to it. Usually, it also involves a mating tool, such as a screwdriver, that is used to turn it. The following heads are categorized based on commonality, with some of the less-common drives being classified as "tamper-resistant".
Most heads come in a range of sizes, typically distinguished by a number, such as "Phillips #00". These sizes do not necessarily describe a particular dimension of the drive shape, but rather are arbitrary designations.
- "List of screw drives" | 2018-05-07 | 303 Upvotes 255 Comments
A mount of piety is an institutional pawnbroker run as a charity in Europe from Renaissance times until today. Similar institutions were established in the colonies of Catholic countries; the Mexican Nacional Monte de Piedad is still in operation.
The institution originated in Italy in the fifteenth century, where it gave poor people access to loans with reasonable interest rates. It used funds from charitable donors as capital, and made loans to the poor so they could avoid going to exploitative lenders. Borrowers offered valuables as collateral, making the mount of piety more like a pawn shop than a bank.
- "Mount of piety" | 2021-07-17 | 62 Upvotes 9 Comments
A necktie, or simply a tie, is a long piece of cloth, worn, usually by men, for decorative purposes around the neck, resting under the shirt collar and knotted at the throat.
Variants include the ascot, bow, bolo, zipper, cravat, and knit. The modern necktie, ascot, and bow tie are descended from the cravat. Neckties are generally unsized, but may be available in a longer size. In some cultures men and boys wear neckties as part of regular office attire or formal wear. Some women wear them as well but usually not as often as men. Neckties can also be worn as part of a uniform (e.g. military, school, waitstaff), whereas some choose to wear them as everyday clothing attire. Neckties are traditionally worn with the top shirt button fastened, and the tie knot resting between the collar points.
- "Opposition to and problems with neckties" | 2009-06-01 | 13 Upvotes 31 Comments