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War of the Minds - Archive - War XIV

An Internet Contest


We have a winner of War XIV

Soumen Nandy has accumulated 320 points.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Archives - War XIV

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Archives of Previous Battles - War XIV

War XIV - battle 2
1. Forestry
I live in the United States.
Five of the following six tree species are native where I live: Which one is not?
Do I reside in New York, Kentucky, Georgia, Nebraska, Texas or California?
How do you know?
see Answer
2. Computers
I am creating an array matrix for a boat dock to show houseboat reservations. They have 25 houseboats, I need to store the number of days reserved by houseboat number and by month of the year and by home state of the customer.
They want to keep up with customers from each state of the United States and to use another array element for foreign countries.
Assuming I use a two byte integer to store the number of days reserved, what is the minimum number of bytes necessary to store this array?
see Answer
3. Philosophy and Science
Add three words to this list and explain:
see Answer
4. Culture
What is the title of this painting and who is the artist?


see Answer
 
 
Points on this battle were won as follows:
 
 
1. Forestry
I am personally loath to put strict boundaries on the range of plants. Disjunct populations are often known a state or two away from the usual range, so undoubtedly more remain unrecognized. Further, the ranges listed in various texts are rarely in 100% accordance unless they use some common source.

However, California is far outside the natural range of essentially all the trees listed, which rules it out. Nebraska seems unlikely: all the trees may be found in neighboring states, but most or all are not reported in the state itself. Texas, likewise, is outside the nominal range of several of the species, making it unlikely. The Longleaf Pine does not go as far north as NY.

At this point, I have to trust in the thoroughness of our Forestry and Extension services. The Longleaf Pine hasn't been reported in KY, though it's found in the Carolinas and I've always considered it an "Appalachian tree". Apparently, however, it is limited to the piedmont region (southern foothills) of the Appalachian mountains. Meanwhile, the Bigtooth Aspen is not reported in Georgia, though disjoint populations are found in both North and South Carolina.

Answer: you live in Kentucky. I know this because you've mentioned it often in the War of the Minds, and elsewhere on your site. Besides, the microclimate variations between the hills and valleys of the Southern Appalachians far exceeds the north-south variation across the arbitrary (not coinciding with any natural feature) Gerogia/Carolina border, so if there are Bigtooth Aspens in NC/SC, I'd bet there's at least one somewhere near Brasstown Bald.
2. Computers
If I understand the specs correctly, the matrix for US states would use 25 houseboats x 50 states x 12 months x 2 bytes per entry for number of days reserved, for a total of 30,000 bytes. It's not clear to me if the foreign rentals would be lumped together as a "51st state" element in the above array for a grand total of 30,600 bytes, or handled in a separate matrix (mapping each individual country vs month) whose size would depend on the number of countries represented. In addition, depending on the programming language, a matrix construct requires at least 2-4 additional bytes to hold the pointer to the matrix base address.

As a former gonzo machine code programmer, I'd suggest another structure, such as a tree. Each entry could then fit in 5 bytes (if I understand the problem correctly): five bits for up to 32 boats, 6 bits for 50 states plus 14 foreign countries, 4 bits for up to 16 months (though only 12 are needed), plus 5 bits for up to 31 days/month -- and two bytes for pointers in a 64K address space. This leaves a 4 extra bits that are alloted, but not actually used, for added options. A tree only creates the entries that actually contain data, while most of the matrix would be necessarily empty a given boat is limited to 31 one-day rentals, for a maximum of 155 bytes, vs. the 1200 bytes per boat (600 entries, mostly empty) in the matrix described. Further the number of days reserved per houseboat per month is limited to 32, which only takes 5 bits as a binary number, vs. the 16 bits needed by 2 digits of ASCII. Therefore, a tree's dataspace, though variable, would be smaller than a corresponding matrix. Admittedly, it'd take a dozen or so extra instructions to decode each entry, and several hundred or thousand cycles to scan the tree to tabulate results, but this is a negligible overhead for even the slowest 1980 vintage CPU, which churned out hundreds of thousands of instructions per second.

A properly structured hash table might save more space and time, but that's not my gig anymore.
3. Philosophy and Science
Hoo-boy! The subject of the Devil and Hell in Judeo-Christianity is one of my favorite rants - a real can of worms. I'll try to be cautious not to disturb the faith of others. Please be aware that this is just a gloss. I've had hundreds of pages of internet discussion on this topic, using original Latin (Church councils, etc.) Greek (NT), Hebrew (OT), and other texts, including recently released excerpts of the Dead Sea Scrolls. As a reader, I myself would quibble with details of what follows, but this is just an WotM answer, not a college thesis.

One must recall that Jesus was a Jew, and firmly upheld the validity of Jewish theology, albeit not necessarily as it was represented by the Pharisees and rabbis of the era (see Matt 23) I've always distinguished between religions that were actually founded by their "great figure", and those that inspired after their deaths: Mohammed was Muslim (repudiating his earlier beliefs), Confucius was Confucian (refining and joining multiple earlier beliefs), but Buddha was Hindu (as were his followers for centuries after his death) and Jesus considered himself a Jew to the end - albeit one who felt that "salvation" was possible for the Gentiles as well.

This is crucial because "hell" is not a part of Jewish theology, even today (in most sects). It is a widely known Jewish "folk belief", as golems (wooden effigies come to life) once were, and due to its obvious appeal may lead it to be accepted by many Jews, but it is generally accepted among theologians that Judaism does not place any weight on the afterlfe: reward and punishment are limited to this world. Clearly, this often leads to percieved conflicts in the mind of the common man, and large stretches (e.g. Job) are devoted to addressing this in various ways.

Look at the Christian pseudo-religious icon, "Santa Claus". It has almost completely eradicated the corresponding legend of a century ago (the Infant Jesus brought the presents on Christmas) Few actually believe in this figure, but he is clearly Christian, and it is not hard to imagine post-Armageddon 41st century archeologists or Christians believing Santa was a genuine 20th century Christian teaching. (Portrayals of Santa greatly exceed protrayals of the infant Jesus in our modern world.) Indeed, in some areas, like Austria and Bavaria, where the actual bishop, Sankt Nikolaus lived, there is a groundswell to ban what they call "the American Santa Claus" in order to preserve the older Christkind (Christ child) legend. Sankt Nikolaus was a menacing, often punitive, figure in local mythology, while Jolly Old Saint Nick was entirely invented in the late 18th century American poem, "The Night before Christmas".

It is important to understand that Christianity was long divorced from its source texts. Almost no early Christian scholar could read Hebrew or Aramaic. They learned Greek, the language of the New Testament, and the Greek NT is known to have been altered during the centuries when it was a closely-held text of a persecuted underground cult. Later, when the Church spread to the Middle East or lands like Turkey which had long traded with the Arab world, native speakers found considerable divergence from the original texts, and the Roman Catholic Church held a doctrine that the original language texts were irrelevant. The truth is officially presumed to be contained in the successive inspirations and redactions by generations of translators and Church leaders (a doctrine that I find troubling on many levels, e.g.: since this divinely inspired interpretation has varied from century to century, the "ultimate truth" may differ as much from our beliefs, as we do from the theology of 1000AD -- and those differences are huge).

It may seem shocking that this Holy Book has been deliberately and knowingly tampered with, but not only was this a fairly common practice, but it is a ill-kept secret, known by every serious student, but only investigated by the diehard. I studied at the school of theology of a former religious university as part of my philosophy degree, and constantly read mentions of Church documents, or Biblical books that were removed or edited, but it was usually hard to get a copy. They were buried, and according to the check-out cards, they went years or decades without being seen. Today, many are available from the Vatican, but only in Latin or Italian (as I was darkly warned by a Vatican archivist, who 'knew the limitations' of a lowly American. I said I was fine with Latin, but never heard from him again.) Fortunately, copyright has long since expired, and today, I own at least a dozen compilations on CD-ROM, each cheaper than a paperback, and on-line versions make cross-referencing the original text easy. There are no more excuses.

Dozens of books have been cast out of the Bible since its original form. at least one (Barnabus, if I recall correctly) was discarded because a (believed) verifiable original version was unearthed, revealing the changes that had been made. Others were discarded because they didn't agree with the picture the church wished to paint e.g. I find that the Infant Gospel of St. Thomas (not to be confused with the Gospel of St. Thomas) admirably resolves some theological issues that had long troubled me, but the Church felt its portrayal of the Young Jesus was "undesirable" (and may well have seen and objected to the very theological resolutions that made it valuable to me) Of course, that opinion may carry at least as much weight as my amateur work - but you can only decide by reading it yourself and pondering its implications beyond the immediate viceral reaction (It's short, and available on the Web)

As Christianity expanded, and especially during the conflicts with the Arabic- speaking Muslims, words were added or key phrases were translated differently according to context, as assigned by Church dogma (e.g. in John 3:16, often called the most quoted verse in the bible, 'bene elohim' is assigned the unique translation, never used elsewhere, 'only begotten son', which overstates the words of the disciples themselves, a fact which is noted in the footnotes of most annotated Bibles) Other conventions, like selective capitalization, dictated the official interpretation of when Divine nature or common nature was to be ascribed to the exact same word. These created or assigned meanings not found anywhere in the words of the original texts.

This practice antedates Christianity. In Matt 23, Jesus repeatedly condemns Jewish scribes and Pharisees together. This is not a criticism of 'learned men' (i.e. smarty-pants theologians) as I have often heard in sermons. Indeed, Jesus decries that He sends wise men of understanding, and they are ignored. No, He criticizes the scribes because they could easily blow the whistle on the Pharisees misrepresentations (at a time when few could read), but by failing to do this, are implicit co-conspirators.

Indeed, control over sacred texts has been a key aspect of the 'mature' (developed) phase of many religions. Until the end of the Dark ages, a few centuries ago, it was actually considered dangerous for laypeople to read the Bible, because it might contradict Church teachings. Even many priests were illiterate; they only needed to repeat what they were told, not understand

As an aside, the Protestant Reformation addressed many of the more evident 'percieved excesses' of the Roman Catholic Church of the time, but it did almost nothing to bring Christianity into line with the original texts or teachings at the time of Christ. The fundamental shape of Christianity had already been molded to a form where the religion of the original texts would have seemed alien and probably -to put it ironically- "unChristian"

The modern "hell" is a conflation of several different Jewish terms from the Old Testament. I can only touch on a few here.

Gehenna (the "fire and brimstone" hell) was literally the name of a valley (Hinnom) outside Jerusalem, long condemned because of a hideous slaughter of children that took place there in ancient times. By the time of Jesus, it was a garbage dump, filled with rotting and burning food, furs and skins, which have a well-known brimstone smell due to the sulfur-containing amino acids that give them their structural strength. (Cloth and wood were valuable fuel in the desert region - burned as fuel in the city rather than thrown out. Metal scraps were resmelted.)

Sheol was the folkloric destination of the dead. Some argue that it originally referred to the grave: the terms 'sheol' and 'shachath' (pit) are used almost interchangeably in Job, Isaiah and elsewhere. Others say Judaism always distinguished between the fate of the body (ashes and dust) and the fate of the freed soul . Whichever view one takes, there is no doubt that the conception of Sheol was influenced by outside beliefs, like the Greek 'hades', and was originally quite distinct from Gehenna and other terms.

The popular contemporary beliefs in the fate of the soul -whether a return to God for all souls (later amended to include only the faithful); some form of purgatory for the less than holy; or hell for the damned- are complex mixtures of themes and ideas that cannot be readily accessed in English (tainted by centuries of theological changes), and require a return to the original languages. I suggests Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed as an initial treatment of Jewish theology and the origins and implications of Jewish folk beliefs that had become popular among the Jewish masses by 1100. Alas, The Guide is self-admittedly written in an esoteric mode (often deliberately seeming to say the opposite of its analytic meaning, to protect the faith of the common man) that will not suit or enlighten everyone. I also *strongly* recommend that Strong's Concordance (a numerically indexed dictionary of Greek and Hebrew, which also locates other uses of the same word, throughout he NT/OT) be used along with any reading of the Bible. It will reveal so many nuances and outright reversals that I can't imagine reading without it.

SATAN (Heb. 'adversary') was not evil. In fact, as St. Gregory said (of angels in general) "nomen est officii, non naturę" ("It's a title of office, not a name") He was not an adversary against God or man, but solely in the sense of "district attorney": a faithful member of God's court, who traveled the earth (see Job) and brought the unjust before God for judgement. In England, "The King's Adversary" was not his enemy, but a prosecutor on his behalf.

Satan is repeatedly called "bene elohim" or "son of God" (a fact many translations deliberately obscure, in e.g. Job 1), and never once harmed anyone except at God's explicit command. A great deal that is otherwise confusing becomes clear if one reads each mention of Satan in this light. For example, during the Temptation of Jesus, the word "diabolos" ('devil, slanderer', see below) is used *except* in the final temptation: the earlier temptations were minor infractions, at most a bit haughty, but the final temptation, repudiating God, would have been a 'Divine felony' - a matter for the Heavenly Court.

'Bene elohim' is a tricky topic: Jesus refers to himself as "bene elohim" which was translated by the early Christians, away from the Biblical lands, as simply "son of God". However, "bene elohim" is/was a common Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic expression that means "noble or godly man" as opposed to 'bene adam' (son of man) which means the coarse, common man. Not only does the Bible call many other people "bene elohim", but Jesus himself uses that phrase for other Jewish leaders. As we've noted, Satan is "bene elohim" - as I will note below, the "fall of Lucifer" was invented in the Christian era, perhaps to help explain this.

Many Christians and Satanists alike may disagree with this characterization, but I believe even serious Satanists (if there is such a thing. I have no firsthand knowledge of it) would agree that the commonest so-called 'satanic' practices are nothing but adolescent rebellion, and would disdain it. It parodies the Church, and has no identity of its own. (I certainly do not include Wiccans and other ancient religions in this category; they are only mistakenly lumped with Satanists). Their excremental 'sacrilege', backward spoken Latin, and other childish games can only create a 'religion' that *presumes* the existence and genuine power of a greater Church to mock. If this 'common' (public stereotype) Satanism ever gained pre-eminence, its practice would be a self-evidently pathetic echo of a fallen, forgotten church. To worship Satan that way would be to acknowledge the ascendance of God as thoroughly as any faithful 'Christian'. This fact seems to elude its fans and enemies alike.

However, as I have said, I know nothing of actual serious Satanic practice, and am open to reasoned and well-supported discussion with those who do.

LUCIFER (Lat. 'light-bearer') is the name given to a certain "fallen angel" in Isaiah 4, but as suggested by a Latin name in an otherwise Hebrew chapter, it was not originally part of Isaiah. The original text was about a 'fallen' Babylonian king who once persecuted the Jews, with NO mention of anything demonic or angelic. Let me repeat: no matter what the King James Version says, in Jesus' time, there was NO link between the "lucifer passage" and devils or angels. Lucifer is not Satan, but is a post-Christian invention.

'Lucifer and his fall' goes back at least to St. Jerome (4th cent) who is (charitably) said to have misread the Hebrew metaphor "heleyl, ben shachar" ("Shining one, son of the Dawn") which referred to either the 'morning/evening star', Venus, or the once-favored Babylonian king. (The KJV drew on St. Jerome instead of the original Hebrew) Others argue that the degree of invention calls for a less charitable view of St. Jerome or source texts doctored by scribes and leaders.

MEPHISTOPHELES is not a biblical figure, but is the shadowy deceiver "devil" of Goethe's Dr. Faustus. The name has become shorthand for a now- common myth of a devil who "buys souls" in exchange for granting all one's wishes (and is commonly shown as granting only the letter of the wish, in a manner that leaves the victim unhappier than before) He is extra-religious folklore, much as Santa Claus is. The Devil (for lack of a better generic term) does not bargain for souls, any more than Santa Claus fills stockings with toys.

Rudolf Steiner claimed the name came from the Hebrew phrase 'mephiz-topfel' ('mephiz' = corrupter, 'Topfel' = liar), and that Mephistopheles is "merely another name for Ahriman" whose task it was "to prevent man from discerning the spiritual basis of the world, tricking him instead with a mere illusion of it" and inducing in men the belief that "there is no such thing as spirit underlying and permeating all material substance." While I am not sure about this etymology, I think this is a fair representaion of Goethe's Faust, who seems, on closer examination, to have few if any powers beyond deception and the powers of Faust himself, and merely crafts these into the illusion that he possesses great powers himself. In one tale, Mephistopheles seems to be powerless on his own: he is unsettled and frightened by events in the court, while Faust is off in the spiritual world of the "Mothers", and prays for Faust's return.

Goethe's Mephistopheles draws heavily on the Greek 'diabolos' (slanderer, liar - see below) that has become the English word 'devil' and is used for one of the various kinds of 'devils' in the New Testament. It also draws on ancient and newer Teutonic legends, such as the tale of Faust hiself, and other mythic traditions known to the widely-read Goethe.

BEELZEBUB is used in varying senses in the Old Testament. It is usually ascribed to Ba'al, the 'lord of the flies', a Philistine god of the Ekrons who lived a mere 25 miles from Jerusalem. Ba'al also common meant simply [secular] 'lord' in the Phillistine tongue, just as the Hebrew "elohim" can mean God, angel, ruler, or noble man - with all the attendant confusion that creates for translators. In some cases [e.g. 1 Kings], Beelzebub appears to be merely an oracle or other mortal figure, rather than a diety or king (a moot distinction in some tribes).

In the New Testament, a similar word Beelzeboul (literally 'lord of the mansion', but used to refer to a certain evil spirit) seems to have been confounded with the more famous Beelzebub. Jesus was accused of being possessed by Beelzeboul. There are many theories why this particular spirit was chosen, and what significance it carries. Beelzebub and Beelzeboul weren't considered any sort of arch-demons in Palestine at the time. I myself wonder if it isn't a sly esoteric pun (religious works often use these) to mean Jesus is possessed (infused with) "the Lord of the mansion" (God), and that the priest's accusations are really signs that they oppose God. In the two NT passages that seem to identify Beelzebub with Satan, it has been suggested that the translators mistakenly fused two independent clauses (akin to leaving out a comma in English)

Some related Terms: ANTICHRIST is a term used in limited passages in he Bible, and applied particularly to Revelations. It is not necessarily Satan, or any of the other diabolical terms listed here. Christos (annointed) is actually distinct from Messiah (savior, divine leader) and was not applied to Jesus until well after his Crucifixion. Christos was used, quite literally for any one who was annointed with oil (a mark of respect), and by extension any king or priest (since those two offices required an annointing ceremony), and finally, any honored guest of family member who might be annointed as a sign of respect. An antichristos might be any figure who opposed, or would be followed instead of, a 'genuine' christos. Revelations is a particularly unclear chapter, and all the theologians I know either refuse to address it, or dismiss it as a failed prophecy regarding the specific politics of that era. However, many churches firmly assign their own (usually idiosyncratic and mutually contradictory) interpretations to it.

BELIAL, BELIAR: used as synonyms for Satan, but not necessarily the same. In some passages (1 Kings)it is used interchangeably with "devil", but in others it refers to a "Prince of Darkness" akin in power to the Islamic Iblis (see below). In literature, the name is generally equated with filth or worthlessness (e.g. in Milton)

DJINN: In Islam, these are beings that are higher than man, but jealous of the special place man has in God's eyes. They are not necessarily evil, per se (arguably they can't be, being higher beings), but they may not mean mankind well. Some djinn (or all, depending on who you believe) are led by Shaitan aka Iblis, who unlike the Judaic Satan is indeed a adversary to man. These djinn mislead and confuse man (see 'devil'), and may be the source of all misery on earth.

DIABOLOS (pl. diaboloi) is the root for "diabolical" and (via Latin) the words for 'devil' in the Romance languages like French, Spanish, Italian, etc. While to word can be applied to any number of lesser imps or malicious spirits, there is said to be only one Diabolos, who is also known as "the Slanderer, Liar or False Accuser". Some have argued that it is a state of mind, rather than an entity, while others have argued it is an office, by analogy to other similar Greek words. Neither of these arguments is overwhelmingly strong.

DEVIL: this word is often traced to Diaboloi (Gk. "slanderer or accuser"), which might be correct if English were a Romance language (its cognates in French, Italian, and Spanish do clearly derive from Diaboloi, via Latin ) However, English is actually derived from Low German, and as a result, the roots of 'devil' follow a more convoluted path, all the way back to PIE (Proto Indo European) "deva", probably via the Sanskrit/Hindu "Deva" [There are many strong Indian-German links, the Aryans have a stronger presence in India (whose true native populace is the very dark, 'Dravidian' South Indians) than in Hitler's Aryan-loving Germany! It's no accident that the Hitler's swastika was the mirror image of the Indian swastika of peace]

Interestingly, the word 'divine' traces back to the same PIE root. At least once in history, when the Zoroastrian Persian faced Hindu opponents, the gods of one side were literally the devils of the other. The 'divine' Hindu daivas (aka Sanskrit devas = "shining ones") were 'bright angels' on the side of the Gods, and Devi was the One Great Goddess, of which the three main Hindu goddesses were just manifestations. To the Persian/Aryans, these were all evil 'devils'. Words from both sides reached English. (the term 'deva', meaning an enlightened being on a higher plane, human or divine, persists in Buddhism: as I noted, Buddha was a Hindu)

The devil is distinct from Satan. Where Satan was well-regarded in the OT, the devil is a liar, deceiver and slanderer (i.e. he slanders man to God and vice versa) and it is not clear that he is of the same high status or power as the 'bene elohim' like Satan. The OT was written over a period of centuries, and in the later books, Satan is portrayed as a more inimical accuser, and often merges with the portrayal of the Devil. I believe a distinction remains: Satan primarily speaks to God, while the devil primarily misleads man (like Iblis' djinn) Though the name "tempter" is used indiscriminately for all "diabolical figures", it is probably most appropriate for the Devil or perhaps Diabolos, not for Satan.

THE SNAKE doesn't really belong here, but so many Christians believe that the snake in the Garden of Eden was Satan or the Devil, directly or by possession, that I feel obligated to point out that it is generally agreed that he was neither. The snake's origins are stated: he is an animal, lower than man. Further, the snake is condemned to forever go forth on its belly, which neither Satan or the Devil are reported to do. Finally, though possession is reported in the OT, there is not one word to indicate the snake was possessed by any demon or deity.

I think Genesis gives a clear account of who and what the snake is - and why, but it seems difficult for some people to apprehend, just as they reduce the entire message of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and misapprehend the meaning of 'lest ye shall die'.

DEMONS (Gk. daimon, Lat. daemon) were originally (pre-Christian) spirits that were intermediate (and sometimes intermediary) between man and god(s). Not originally evil, the word was sometimes used in Greek as a synonym for theos or 'god' or for any departed soul. "Eudaimonia' (having good demons) meant happiness and fulfillment (or, as we say in English, 'in good spirits'). To a monotheistic religion, however, any other supernatural entity stood as an enemy, so demons gained an evil cast.

Medieval theologians constructed an elaborate hierarchy of demons, angels, seraphim, cherubhim, etc., with archangels filling the former intercessory and messenger roles of demons. Few realize today that the lowest cherub outranks the loftiest archangel. Angels were the lowest, for they dealt with man; archangels ranked slightly higher because they communicated God's word to man. Seraphim, cherubhim, and the rest of the heavenly choir dealt solely with God, praising his Glory constantly, and were therefore of higher rank. This reveals as much about medieval society as it does about theology, but even modern popes have felt obligated to acknowledge and clarify the role and nature of demons. Exorcism remains a valid, if rare, practice in most sects.

Prior to Christianity, daimon was translated into Hebrew various as shedim (lords, idols), seyahrim ('hairy beasts' = satyrs or he-goats, later becoming Eng. 'seraphim') or mataia ('vain things', esp. in Tobit and other Apocrypha)

You know, sometimes you just can't tell the good guys from the bad without a scorecard! As Aquinas' teacher, Albert Magnus said: A daemonibus docetur, de daemonibus docet, et ad daemones ducit ("It is taught by the demons, it teaches about the demons, and it leads to the demons" - it really sounds much funnier in Latin)

I hope I haven't set too many heads spinning. Don't be intimidated by Biblical translation, it's pretty straightforward if you don't have an ideological axe to grind. People are people, and for all the subtleties of foreign languages, we mostly think and speak the same way. Just use Strong's *whenever* you read the Bible, and understand that the Bible (like most religious works, and Jesus' parables) is deliberately written in an "esoteric style" (cryptic with clear but hidden meaning). There are solid reasons for this, as outlined in books like Levi Strauss' "Persecution and the Art of Writing". Sure, it's a little extra work, but you quickly fall into the habit, and it's the price of truth; the rewards are fascinating and rich! Personally, I find the direct translations I get via Strong's make more sense, and resolve theological problems that I've had since I was a child in Sunday School. Between Maimonides and Strong, I ended up learning a fair bit of Greek and Hebrew without really trying. (Alas, I still lack key phrases like "What's your sign, baby?", "Where's the restroom?" and "I didn't mean to insult your goat")
4. Culture
"Daniel in the Lions' Den" (c. 1613/1615) by Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577-1640), currently residing in the National Gallery of Art, portrays the Biblical story from Daniel 6.

While this painting may not, at first glance, seem to display the lush full curves that have passed into the English language as the adjective "Rubenesque", other paintings of this tale by the "Great Masters" seem gaunt and emaciated by comparison. Other hallmarks of Rubens' style are the highly emotional tone, the lively composition that suggests movement, the vivid colors (e.g. the red robe), and vibrant textures (e.g. the lifelike fur, and even rocks are given more than cursory treatment). The sense of immediacy created by the proximity of the lions is heightened by the two lions to the right who seem to notice the viewer, turning or rising to meet the "new intruder". One readily imagines this tableau as the instant the guards rolled the stone aside.
 
 
 
 

Jump back to the top.
War XIV - battle 1
1. Forestry
Below are pictures of examples of three species of snakes that might be found in forests on the east coast of North America. Which of these is poisonous? What species is it? How does one distinguish that species from the others?


see Answer
2. Computers
How is WAP different than bluetooth?
see Answer
3. Philosophy and Science
It has been found that some (maybe most or all) disease causing bacteria, when they are present in a victim's body, do not begin to attack their host until sufficient numbers of the bacteria are present for the ensuing attack to be significant. What signals the bacteria to begin such an attack? Please tell something about the researchers and the research in this field.
see Answer
4. History
In the context of the picture below, what does A.E.I.O.U. stand for?

What is this picture?
see Answer
 
 
Points on this battle were won as follows:
 
 
1. Forestry
As every Boy Scout (or whatever they call themselves now that it's been renamed Scouting USA) knows, there are four types of poisonous snake in North America: rattlesnakes, the cottonmouth (water) mocassin, the copperhead and the coral snake.
I actually have a bit of history with the poisonous snake pictured (see below), so I will depart slightly from the canonical description taught in schools and Scouts, in favor of a system I find simpler and more usable.
At least 10 species of RATTLESNAKES are found in NA, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but most are readily identified by their tail "rattles", which they shake in warning when threatened (but not when they strike prey). Juvenile rattlers have small rattles (they typically grow by one segment with each moulting), which are sometimes too soft to rattle. Injury, mutation or local variation make reliance on the rattle a risky proposition, at best.
Colors and patterns are likewise unreliable. COTTONMOUTHs (water mocassins) can vary from brown to grey to greenish, or even bright sulfur yellow in juveniles (where the bright color lures frogs and other aquatic prey). Cottonmouths can be distinguished from similar water and wetland snakes (when needed) by their raccoon mask and a white stripe along the triangular head.
Despite their name, the cottonmouth's closely-related landbound cousin, the COPPERHEAD, may range from coppery to bright orange, silver-pink or peach.
All three of these snakes are pit-vipers (which use IR-sensitive 'pits' to help target their strikes) and are characterized by a triangular head (the skull provides strong anchors for muscular jaws to assure strike penetration) and vertical elliptical ("cats-eye") eyes. This can help distinguish them from similarly colored and patterned corn- or rat snakes.
Admittedly, a few harmless snakes can have triangular heads, or like the hogsnake, flatten their heads into a triangular shape when threatened. Similarly, it can be hard to discern the eyes of a potential rattler or copperhead hiding (as they tend to do, under heavy vegetation, outcrops, or other sheltered locales, so you might be fooled by a round-pupiled rat or corn snake. But how often is that risk important enough to outweigh the risk that it *is* a venomous snake?
The fourth snake, the coral snake, is brightly colored with bands of red, yellow and black, and mostly differ from lookalikes like the scarlet snake, the scarlet kingsnake and several species of red and black banded mountain kingsnakes in the order of the bands. Commonly, scouts are taught partially effective mnemonics like "Red touch yellow, kill a fellow. Red touch black, friend to Jack" but this fails to completely distinguish the coral snake. Only those with a black nose are coral snakes. It may seem picky to check the color of the nose -- but I find that when I'm faced with a possibly lethal snake, my first thought (most thoughts thereafter) is to keep my eyes on that potentially fanged, venomous head!
Fortunately, the one deadly species of coral snake (as far as I know) has a much more limited range than the other poisonous snakes of North America, and even that species (the Eastern coral) rarely bites unless mishandled, and has had few lethalities. It's reported that no one has ever died from the bite of a Western (Arizona) coral, and though I haven't seen that fact confirmed for the Texas coral, I haven't read of any deaths, either.
Based on these criteria, I can instantly rule out most candidates shown: none have triangular heads, so they cannot be pit-vipers, and only B has the black nose of a coral snake.
Though they are uncommon in Georgia, a coral snake was the first wild snake I observed at length (vs, watching it slither rapidly away in the tall grass) and captured. Okay, I didn't catch it. I beat it to death with a stick, and cautiously returned several hours later with a jar, half-hoping it's be gone. Cruel, perhaps, but I was only 9 or 10, and it turned out to be a wise choice. Though I'd been taught an inaccurate mnemonic (which I won't repeat for fear that it'll stick in some readers head), and we'd been told in school that the coral snake lived 200 miles south of us, (in Florida) a quick trip to the encyclopedia before show and tell revealed the truth.
Since then, I've never trusted a mnemonic I didn't write (or verify personally).
2. Computers
Typically, networking is divided into layers, with the most common system being the 7-layer OSI model. A well designed network should separate the coding of these layers as much as possible for flexibility, extendibility, portability, security and reliability. Handling all the functions at once (as is commonly done in non-network comms, like fancy printer drivers) makes it hard to debug and extend, and often more easily spoofed. This is fine if there's a printer on the other end of the cable, but dangerous when it's the Internet and a world'o'hackers.
A) The PHYSICAL layer involves the actual physical transmission of bits: voltage or radiation levels that correspond to 1 or 0; the physical media, etc.
B) The DATA LINK layer involves the grouping of bits. This include the arrangement of the data, error checking codes (parity, CRC, etc.), tokens (packets that aren't data but are used to decide with node gets to "speak") and collision detection (what happens when everyone speaks at once or noise reaches bit-like levels) and other layout of the actual bits themselves.
C) The NETWORK layer doesn't handle bits per se, but only deals with packets. Routing packets around a network is a classic Network layer function. The IP (Internet Protocol) of the famous TCP/IP and the X.25 protocol used to establish connections and route packets on many digital (landline) phone networks are Network layer.
D) The TRANSPORT layer assures reliable communication. Things like detection and retransmission of lost packets are handled in the Transport layer. The TCP (Transport Control Protocol) of TCP/IP and the single UDP control packets make up most of the Internet's Transport layer.
E) The SESSIONS layer is actually rarely used in todays programs. It handles things like synchronization between two databases, dialogue control, etc. These are generally handled other layers in most settings. Is this a problem? Who knows? Not I!
F) The PRESENTATION layer, is likewise mostly a theoretical construct at present. However, if it is the best layer for encryption implementation (so that the contents of a network packet can be encrypted from the time it leaves the sending application protocol (see below) until it reaches its destination application, even if the other layers it passes through can be compromised, the data will be safe from prying eyes. This is "end-to-end" encryption.
G) The APPLICATION layer is the last step to the "end user". Ideally, any program -whether it's e-mail or a nuclear launch control- should be able to work reliably, verifiably and securely over any network it needs to traverse. The layers of the network should take care of the nitty-gritty details, the HTTP protocol used on the web (and by many other web programs) is in the Application Layer: HTTP isn't an application, like a web browser, but it defines how web browsers, webservers and other hypertext applications "talk" to each other
WAP is a set of protocols that doesn't quite fit the seven layer OSI model, but comes close enough for analogy to the networks we use daily.
WAE (the Wireless Application Environment) is akin to HTTP (Applications layer). Several WAP protocols serve the purpose of Presentation Layer: WML (Wireless Markup Language) and WMLscript traverse via WAE the way HTML and Javascript traverse via HTTP; and WBMP carries bitmaps akin to the various graphics formats of the web.
WTLS (Wireless Transport layer Security) handles security, but is Presentation layer (not Transport Layer, as the name may suggest) -- a good choice according to the OSI model, but initially crippled by a flawed implementation: bad end-to-end cryptography is simply bad cryptography. WSP, the Wireless Session Protocol, is akin to TCP in the Session Layer.
WDP (Wireless data protocol) is akin to TCP and UDP in the Transport Layer.
Finally, the so called "Bearer services" are akin to the Internet Protocol (Network layer)
BLUETOOTH, on the other hand, is a set of frequency, timing, and specs for a system of communication in the "unlicensed" 2.4 GHz band. Bluetooth compliant devices must support a spread spectrum, frequency hopping, full-duplex signal at up to 1600 hops/sec. (The signal hops among 79 frequencies at 1 MHz intervals to give a high degree of interference immunity.) It corresponds roughly to the OSI PHYSICAL layer.
You can implement anything over Bluetooth - baby monitors, cordless phones, and even WAP. It's not the only physical layer used in this band (an older physical layer specification called 802.11 is more widely used today)
Network experts often say one can implement Bluetooth over WAP. but I prefer to say one can implement WAP over Bluetooth, just as we say we implement TCP/IP over microwave links, Cat-6 cables, fiber optics, or twisted pair copper wire POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service)
3. Philosophy and Science
I am deliberately NOT ANSWERING this question.
You'd think this would be an easy one for me, but I can't lump all the various mechanisms into a single overweening theory, and usually dismiss attempts to do so as simplistic. That does not mean that they are wrong or lack value, but I find the distinctions between the specifics of various disease to be more important than the similarities. Still, sometimes a blanket term allows a change in thinking -a paradigm shift- that is of great value.
There are a number of "trigger" or "threshold" mechanisms that are shared by more than one infectious disease, but I am not aware that any one mechanism or "signal to attack" is considered pre-eminent by the medical community. In a draft of an answer, I outlined over a dozen distinct and well-studied mechanisms of well-known infectious diseases (you know how I get carried away sometimes). A single preeminent 'signal to attack' would be a revolution in our understanding of infection, and throw much of 20th century research into a cocked hat.
That's not impossible, but it would probably seem more plausible to someone who is not aware of the intricacies of various infectious diseases. It's common for researchers or reports to overspeculate on the possible applicability of a given finding,
I fear I am reading too much into your question, but I do not believe there is a single generally accepted "signal to attack" underlying very many, much less most, infectious diseases, nor do I find it particularly plausible. I can think of too many chemical triggers that apply to a handful of diseases to single any one trigger out as exceptional.
In fact, I'd say that a single unifying factor would be more likely found in the host immune system -- not be so much a "signal to attack" as a possible vulnerability in our defenses.
Perhaps, as far as accepted medicine goes, the correct answer is "none". Perhaps in a day or two, I'll realize what you were asking for, and give you a more appropriate answer.
The answer I was asking for was the work summarized on this web page on bacterial communication and this web page about quorum sensing, but since I am a layman and Mr. Nandy has more expertise than I and since his answer was very extensive, I am accepting his answer as correct.
4. History
That appears to be the crest of the Imperial House of Hapsburg. Frederick III, the first Hapsburg Emperor was obsessed with this mystical anagram, and it was carved on his tomb. Yet they say he never told even his children exactly what it stood for. It is believed to stand for "Austria will unite the world", "Austria will rule over the world", "Austria is above all others", or somesuch, but though my German is pretty decent, I can't even begin to squeeze those letters into a suitable translation. The language has changed and standardized heavily towards Hochdeutsch since the 17th century, when each principality or province had a distinctive dialect, and dictionaries were almost unheard of. [1]
The German word for Austria (Oesterreich) doesn't even begin with an A anymore, so I'm lost from square one. Then again, though I never had any problem with Hochdeutsch or Schwyzertuytsch (Swiss German - their spelling of "Schweizer Deutsch" tells you how different it is), even an Austrian accent is often enough to baffle me. I've tried, but I think I have some sort of neurological defect in that regard.
[1] Sidenote: Robert Cawdrey's "A Table Alphabeticall", the precursor to English dictionaries, did exist in 1604, but such new-fangled books wouldn't become consistent with each other, much less have a unifying effect on the language until the 1800s. The first real German dictionary, in the modern sense, was written in the mid-1800s by, of all people, the Brothers Grimm.
 
 
 
 

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