Monday, February 27, 2012

Companies and Corruption

Pumpjack pumping an oil well near Lubbock, Texas / Flcelloguy at en.wikipedia

Royal Dutch Shell and other natural resources companies have stepped up efforts to counteract planned anti-corruption rules that would force them to disclose payments to governments in countries where they operate ...
The new requirements for US and EU quoted businesses are designed to highlight regimes that receive large sums from selling oil, gas, minerals and forests but then siphon off the proceeds rather than reinvest locally for public benefit...

Andrew Jack and Sylvia Pfeifer ["Resource groups seek to dilute anti-graft rules", Financial Times, 19 February 2012] 
Link1 / Link2

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Comfort food

πιάτο δωρικό / I.A. Daglis

Μια από τις πολλές μόδες που έχουν επικρατήσει στη γαστρονομία τον τελευταίο καιρό είναι το comfort food. Στην Ελλάδα τη μόδα αυτή ενίοτε την μεταφράζουμε ως «παρηγορητικό φαγητό». Ίσως όμως πρέπει να τη μεταφράσουμε και ως «φαγητό της παρηγοριάς». Έχει διαφορά η μια μετάφραση από την άλλη. Η μεν πρώτη αφορά φαγητά που τρώγοντάς τα χαλαρώνεις, νιώθεις ευχαριστημένος σαν ένα μωρό που ρεύεται μετά από μια νόστιμη κρεμούλα. Η δεύτερη μετάφραση αφορά το φαγητό που τρώει κανείς μετά από μια κηδεία, εκείνο το υπόγλυκο παξιμάδι που με την τραγανότητά του σου θυμίζει ότι εσύ είσαι ακόμη ζωντανός και με τη λανθάνουσα γλύκα του απαλύνει την πίκρα του καφέ και της απουσίας.

Στην κατάσταση που βρισκόμαστε ως χώρα αυτό που χρειαζόμαστε πλέον είναι φαγητό της παρηγοριάς. Αντί όμως να πέσουμε με τα μούτρα στο κατ’ εξοχήν comfort food της Ελλάδας, την πιατέλα με τα αρνίσια παϊδάκια, αυτό που αρμόζει στην κατάσταση είναι ένας μεζές της περισυλλογής, ένα πιάτο λιτοδίαιτο, δωρικό ως προς τα εδέσματα που φέρει, π.χ. ένας ουζομεζές της Μυτιλήνης: μια σαρδελίτσα, μια φέτα αγγουράκι, λίγο λαδοτύρι, άντε και μία ελιά ή ένα παξιμαδάκι (πάντα ένα παξιμαδάκι), συνοδεία αυστηρού τσίπουρου δίχως γλυκάνισο. Αυτό το φαγητό δεν θα μας παρηγορήσει τόσο, όσο θα μας κάνει να σκεφτούμε την ύπαρξή μας ως χώρας, όπως ακριβώς κάνουν ο καφές και το κονιάκ μετά από μια κηδεία...

Επίκουρος [Κάθε μπουκιά και αναστεναγμός, "Ε", 28 Αυγούστου 2011]

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Charles Dickens

BBC News Magazine
200th birthday of Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens is one of the most important writers of the 19th Century. But his influence goes far beyond just literature. Many of his phrases, characters and ideas have engrained themselves in modern culture...
One of the things Dickens cared about most was those at the bottom. He was one of the first to offer an unflinching look at the underclass and the poverty stricken in Victorian London...

Charles Dickens: Six things he gave the modern world
By Alex Hudson
BBC News Magazine

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Fermi, Pasta, Ulam, and a mysterious lady

Mary Tsingou

Born on 14 October 1928 to a Greek family living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Mary Tsingou performed the computations for the first-ever numerical experiment: the famous Fermi-Pasta-Ulam (FPU) experiment. 

Tsingou earned her BS in 1951 at the University of Wisconsin and her MS in mathematics in 1955 at the University of Michigan. In 1952, following a suggestion by her advanced differential equations professor, a woman, she applied for a position at Los Alamos National Laboratory. At the time, women were not encouraged to pursue mathematics, but the Korean War had created a shortage of young American men, so staff positions were also offered to young women. She was thus hired, along with a group of recent college graduates, to do hand calculations.
She was initially assigned to Los Alamos's T1 division (T for theoretical), which during World War II had been led by Rudolf Peierls and to which the famous spy Klaus Fuchs belonged. But she quickly moved to the T7 division, led by Nicholas Metropolis, to work on the new computer, the MANIAC I, that no one could program. She and Mary Hunt were the first programmers to start exploratory work on it. The computer was used primarily for weapons-related tasks, but from time to time and mostly during the weekend, the researchers could use it to study physics problems and even to play chess. Tsingou and John Pasta were the first ones to create graphics on the computer, when they considered a problem with an explosion and visualized it on an oscilloscope.
In addition to Pasta, she interacted with Stanislaw Ulam, but she had little contact with Enrico Fermi, who was a professor in Chicago and visited Los Alamos only for short periods. However, she knew Fermi's daughter Nella much better because Nella didn't want to stay with her parents during their visits to Los Alamos. The two young women slept in the same dormitory, while Enrico and Laura Fermi were hosted by their good friends Stan and Françoise Ulam...
Thierry Dauxois ["Fermi, Pasta, Ulam, and a mysterious lady", Physics Today, January 2008]

Για τον προπάτορα του MANIAC, τον ENIAC, και άλλη μια ελληνική παρουσία στον χώρο:
«Από τον ENIAC στα laptop και από τον Nicholas Metropolis στον Nicholas Negroponte – 60 χρόνια από την επανάσταση των κομπιούτερ», Γεωτρόπιο, 346, σελ.70-74, 2 Δεκεμβρίου 2006

The algorithm Mary Tsingou used to code the first numerical experiment. 
Note the date of the Los Alamos report, 5-20-55, at the top right of the figure.

 Courtesy of Mary Tsingou Menzel

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Constantin Carathéodory

62 years ago (2 February 1950): Death of Constantin Carathéodory (or Constantine Karatheodori), a Greek mathematician who made significant contributions to the theory of functions of a real variable, the calculus of variations, and measure theory. His work also includes important results in conformal representations and in the theory of boundary correspondence. In 1909, Carathéodory pioneered the Axiomatic Formulation of Thermodynamics along a purely geometrical approach.

More about Karatheodori here: