Friday Four

Friday, September 25, 2015

1. Someone I took to be a tourist approached me recently. She was, in fact, a news reporter. (Her videotaping equipment all fit into what looked like a purse.) I ended up on a local news segment about a new roundabout in my neighborhood. The segment used my remarks about my initial misgivings and the scarcity of roundabouts in the United States. Still, I didn't actually know why roundabouts suffered from a poor reputation and so have been rare here. But I do, now:

While these early traffic circles added aesthetic value to crowded cities, they were incredibly dangerous and impractical -- mainly for one reason: entering traffic had the right of way, while circulating traffic had to yield. This "offside priority" rule led to high-speed merging and over-congestion which, in turn, increased the frequency of collisions. Some 40 years after being integrated, traffic circles had earned a negative reputation and largely fell out of favor -- not just in the U.S., but internationally. Then, as quickly as they'd been written off, they made a comeback. [link dropped]
We can thank a British traffic engineer for changing the yield priority, immediately transforming the traffic circle into a safe and useful way to control traffic flow at intersections.

2. Believe it or not, there is a calculator on the market for over four times the price of a tablet:
Casio released a calculator and Amazon released a tablet within 24 hours of each other this week. That alone is unremarkable. One costs $220, the other costs $50. That, too, wouldn't raise many eyebrows, until you realize which is which.
To make sense of this, read the rest of the story.

3. I've mentioned moral panics about such games as Dungeons and Dragons in the past. But I bet you didn't know about the similar "moral panic over ... chess."

4. A scene in a television show I was watching with my kids caused me to search a question I figured I already knew the answer for. I still found the answer interesting: You cannot get a "moon tan" since it would take three centuries of continuous exposure to receive the same amount of ultraviolet light a sun tan would require.

-- CAV


Steve D said...

I loved the article about chess. I was vaguely aware that it once had a bad reputation (In the US and Canada only, I don't think that extended to Europe).

Interestingly, the points raised were much the same as the reasons I gave up chess. I had become quite good. However, due to the law of diminishing returns, continued improvement would have required a much larger investment in my time which I was unwilling to make. Of course I couldn’t play it without striving to improve so my only other option was cold turkey. Today, I follow a few games; solve a few problems but that’s it. Chess masters pretty much have to give up all other hobbies and their social life; most grandmasters take up chess a career.

And I agree with some of points in the 1859 article but this statement is pure nonsense.

‘it does not excite a single beautiful thought;’

It is obvious the writer doesn’t actually play chess because a chess game can be a beautiful work of art and BTW, the mental effort and stress of chess takes a whole lot out of the player physically. Most world class chess players undergo serious exercise regimens to stay in shape and more and more it has become a young person’s game in recent times.

Gus Van Horn said...


I saw the same thing with chess, as well as video games (on top of having to pay for the latter), so I only flirted with either. One kid, hearing me say why I didn't play video games, told me I was the only one of the crowd with any sense.