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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?
- Quercus palustris - pin oak
- Pinus palustris - longleaf pine
- Robinia pseudoacacia - black locust
- Acer saccharum - sugar maple
- Liquidambar styraciflua - sweet gum
- Populus grandidentata - bigtooth aspen
Do I reside in New York, Kentucky, Georgia, Nebraska, Texas or California?
How do you know?
- 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
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?
- 3. Philosophy and Science
- Add three words to this list and explain:
- 4. Culture
- What is the title of this painting and who is the artist?
Points on this battle were won as follows:
- Soumen Nandy - 160 points for answers to all four questions.
- 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
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
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
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
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
- 2. Computers
- How is WAP different than bluetooth?
- 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.
- 4. History
- In the context of the picture below, what does A.E.I.O.U. stand for?
What is this picture?
Points on this battle were won as follows:
- Soumen Nandy - 160 points for answers to all four questions.
- 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
- 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
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
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
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. 
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.
 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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Last revised April 9, 2003.
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