A theory of Halloween

From Giorgio Agamben, “State of Exception,” translated by Kevin Attell, (U Chicago Press, 2005), pp. 71-72:

Folklorists and anthropologists have long been familiar with those periodic feasts (such as the Anthesteria and Saturnalia of the classical world and the charivari and Carnival of the medieval and modern world) that are characterized by unbridled license and the suspension and overturning of normal legal and social hierarchies … Scholars have always had difficulty explaining these sudden anomic explosions within well-ordered societies and, above all, why they would be tolerated by both the religious and civil authorities. * * * The same can be said for the acts of harassment committed during masked feasts and children’s begging rituals in which children punished whoever denied their obligations to give a gift with acts of violence that Halloween only distantly recalls.

Costume contest

You can check out this interactive costume popularity chart here.

Adjudication and the Turing Test

Legal trials resemble the Turing Test in many ways. First, let’s restate the original version of the Turing Test and then compare this test to the process of adjudication. Continue reading


Economic history of the modern world

Are we living in the best of all possible worlds? Check out this amazing visualization of two-hundred years’ worth of data in four minutes! Hat tip to WretchesandKings for the pointer.

Isaac Asimov on creativity

Probably more inhibiting than anything else is a feeling of responsibility. The great ideas of the ages have come from people who weren’t paid to have great ideas, but were paid to be teachers or patent clerks or petty officials, or were not paid at all. The great ideas came as side issues.” But what makes an idea “great”? Read Asimov’s entire essay here.


Can you spot a fake $100 bill?

Frank Bourassa, the world’s most prolific counterfeiter, shows you how.

Turing Trials?

Is the current legal system broken or in need of repair? Instead of an endless number of motions, costly discovery, and randomly-selected jurors, why don’t we try a different method of resolving legal disputes, one based on the Turing Test in computer science? That is, why not place the parties to a legal dispute in different rooms and allow an interrogator (or an intelligent machine) to pose a fixed number of questions directly to the parties themselves? We will identify the similarities between the Turing Test and adjudication and expand on our idea for Turing Trials in a future post

Our hero.