MonthApril 2006

Religion maps

Percentage of religious adherents by county in the US.

Maps on Robot Wisdom.

Growing popularity of Sufism in Iran

BBC reports:

Iranian Sufis say Islamic mysticism has become more and more popular in the country in recent years.

No official statistics are available, but Heshmatollah Riazi, a former professor of philosophy and theology in Iran, believes two to five million Iranians practice Sufism today – compared to only about 100,000 before Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979.

Full Story: BBC: Growing popularity of Sufism in Iran

(via Robot Wisdom).

Time shifting advertisements

Lots of talk lately about You Tube, and about television advertising. There’s something I find interesting about the whole “everyone wthing digital copies of TV shows just skips all the ads” thing. True, most people will skip all a show’s ads if given a chance. But many people are happy to just watch commercials. Funny commercials have always been popular on, online or off. People forward video clips of funny commercials by e-mail, and funny commercials have always ranked high on sites like Stupid Videos. I haven’t spent enough time with You Tube yet to know if ads are popular there, but I suspect they are. Which leads me to speculate:

People do not like to have their shows interrupted by ads, but people are quite willing to watch ads separately if they are engaging. But in order to get seen, the ads have to propagate through some sort of social filtering system. Before you’ll watch an ad, someone you trust has to point to it for you, or it’s got to be ranked high on a site like You Tube or Stupid Videos. To use Malcom Gladwell’s vocabulary, they are social contagions.

There are those odd-balls out there, ad mavens in Gladwellian, who prefer to skip the shows and just watch the commercials. So savvy TV advertisers should be targeting the ad maven, and thinking of TV sponsorship as a way not to directly reach millions of people, but as a way to reach the right trendsetters to get the ad circulated around the Internet.

Adam Greenfield on Everyware

Jon Lebkowsky talks to Adam Greenfield about ubiquitous computing:

WorldChanging: We normally think of surveillance as a bunch of guys that are watching monitors that are linked to cameras that are placed around, but what we’re really talking about here, is a bunch of sensors that are gathering data where the patterns can be analyzed, and you don’t have to depend on having a human looking at a million different monitors, right?

Adam Greenfield: You sure don’t. It’s inferential. And to me, one of the scariest things about it is that it’s sort of imperceptible, right? These are systems that are embedded, they communicate wirelessly, they’re not perceptible to immediate, ordinary analysis. When you walk into a room, you might have no idea that they’re operating. But they’re collecting information, and inference is being made, machine inference is being applied to the fact patterns that they’re gathering. And then this becomes actionable. Once that exists, then people can make determinations about their behavior based on it. And to me that’s scary.

Full Story: World Changing: WorldChanging Interview: Adam Greenfield

Adam’s take on “micropatronage”

Adam compares Jason Kottke’s micropatronage scheme with Josh Ellis’s:

In the year of his micropatronage experiment, Jason Kottke offered content that appeared little different than what he had been offering for nothing, expanding on it greatly neither in subject nor depth.

[…]

Furthermore, especially given the five-figure amount at stake, any description of the experiment’s results that did not start and end with a positive effusion of gratitude was bound to read as petulant to some part of the patronage.

[…]

I’m surely going to remember both the way that Ellis framed his request for support and what he offered his supporters in return, because I think that they amount to something close to best practices.

I have to say I agree. I’m very excited that things worked out for Josh, and I hope that they continue to work out. I dig the idea of the street performer protocol I was excited when Kottke got the funding to do his project, but was disappointed with the results. I think this project by project model that Josh has worked out could be the beginning of great things to come.

Cockroaches Make Group Decisions

Discovery New reports:

Cockroaches govern themselves in a very simple democracy where each insect has equal standing and group consultations precede decisions that affect the entire group, indicates a new study.

The research determined that cockroach decision-making follows a predictable pattern that could explain group dynamics of other insects and animals, such as ants, spiders, fish and even cows.

Full Story: Discovery News: Cockroaches live in a democracy
(via Abstract Dynamics)

Chaos = Order: WUSTL physicists make baffling discovery

From the Washington University web site:

While working on their model — a network of interconnected pendulums, or “oscillators” — the researchers noticed that when driven by ordered forces the various pendulums behaved chaotically and swung out of sync like a group of intoxicated synchronized swimmers. This was unexpected — shouldn’t synchronized forces yield synchronized pendulums?

But then came the real surprise: When they introduced disorder — forces were applied at random to each oscillator — the system became ordered and synchronized.

Full Story: Washington University: Chaos = Order: WUSTL physicists make baffling discovery

(via Occult Design).

Judge rejects claims in “Da Vinci” suit

MSNBC:

A judge ruled Friday that mega-selling author Dan Brown did not steal ideas for “The Da Vinci Code” from a nonfiction work, ending the suspense about the case with an ultimately unsurprising decision.

High Court judge Peter Smith rejected a copyright-infringement claim by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, authors of “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail,” who claimed that Brown’s blockbuster “appropriated the architecture” of their 1982 book. In the United States, the book is titled, “Holy Blood, Holy Grail.”

Full Story: MSNBC: Judge rejects claims in ‘Da Vinci’ suit.

(via haplesschyld).

Werewolf FAQ

The source for the idea of selling your soul to the devil for a werewolf belt may be this story:

Another unfortunate werewolf was Peter Stubb of Cologne, tortured until he confessed having transformed himself into a wolf by a magic girdle given him by the devil. The judges couldn’t find the girdle where Stubb said he hid it, but they explained this by saying it had “gone to the Devil whence it came, so that it was not to be found.” Though his case was unproved, Stubb was nastily executed for the crime of lycanthropy: he was sentenced to have the flesh pulled off his bones in ten places with red-hot pincers, then to have his legs and arms broken with a wooden axe; finally to be beheaded and burned.

From: alt.horror.werewolves FAQ.

Anyone know what kid’s book this is?

I’m hoping to track down a copy of this book. Anyone know the name, ISBN, or have a copy they’d be willing to sell, loan or scan? Here’s an edited exchange from the comments on Strange Reading Tastes of Children:

Me: When I was about 6 or 7 I checked a book out of the childrens book section of the Madisonville, TX (a town of a couple-few thousand people) that explained how to sell your soul to the devil in order to become a werewolf.

Charlie’s Horsey: that book about the Devil making you a werewolf – that didn?t mention some weird little ritual in which he?d give you a belt of fur, right? Like one of those giant leather workout belts, but for becoming a werewolf? My tiny, very Christian lower school library had a book along those lines in it. I adored it. My favorite bit was about how just picking the wrong type of flowers in the woods could supposedly turn you.

Me: Dude, I think there was something about a belt in that book. I think it might have been a book about both werewolves and vampires. I think the vampire section talked about people digging up bodies to see if their hair and finger nails had grown to see if they were vampires or not.

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