Random Thoughts


Shia LaBeouf, Brad Pitt and more less cramped outside their tank in Fury. image by Sony Pictures

By Clifford Williamson, Bath Spa University

The latest corner of World War II to be dramatized for the big screen is small. Cramped, even. In Fury, starring Brad Pitt and Shia leBeouf, we follow the story of five American soldiers, a crew serving in one tank in Germany, 1945.


Credit: mikecogh, CC BY-SA

By Suzie Thomas, University of Helsinki

In my latest attempt to debunk some of the nonsense that passes for analysis among Internet marketers I decided it might be worthwhile to talk about large systems theory.  The problem, of course, is that there really is no "large systems theory" (or a universal theory of large systems).  At least, we are still searching for the theory that will universally explain all large systems regardless of what field of thought in which we are discussing them.  We know that large systems exist and we intuitively feel that there is something characteristic about large systems which makes them large.
Credit: Millionaire Chess tournament

When I was a kid, no one outside Texas played Texas Hold 'Em. We played Stud, we played Draw, we played Liar's, but not Hold 'Em.

Like Esther Williams movies and organic food, some things just make their way into pop culture and there is no rational reason why. Texas Hold 'Em is now the most popular card game in the country, every month or so our neighborhood gets together at one of our homes and puts in 20 bucks each and we go at it.

This may surprise, but Ludwig Wittgenstein, for many the greatest philosopher, or anyway the most eminent exponent of analytic philosophy according to Roger Scruton, maintained that music (!) was the most important to him, not formal logic or philosophy. On the other hand, it is known for at least a century, this I take from a mentioning in Bertrand Russell’s “The Analysis of Mind”, that artistic skills, apparently especially that of drawing pictures, suffer when the brain starts using more resources for rational tasks. Similarly, some who lose logic functionality due to stroke start drawing very well.

 

Mackie's at Taypack Ltd. has been around since 2009 but the joint venture between the Taylors, Perthshire potato farmers, and Mackie's of Scotland,  has finally figured out a way to differentiate themselves from Frito-Lay: they are making potato chips flavored like whisky and haggis.

Everyone knows what Scotch is. Haggis is sheep stomach stuffed with meat and barley. Scotland's National Poet, Robert Burns, sang its praises in his works.


Credit: tjmwatson, Flickr

Given its rampant crime, corruption and money issues, a lot of residents of Illinois publicly wish they could give Chicago away. They almost never had it at all.

The original proposed northern boundary of Illinois was a straight line from the southernmost tip of Lake Michigan to just south of the Rock and Mississippi River confluence - had it been approved,  the northern 51 miles of the Illinois Territory would have become Wisconsin when it became a state in 1848.


George Clooney used to copy my haircuts.

People who knew me in the 1990s always marveled at my classic, parted-on-the-side, immaculately coiffed style. It was retro, just like the term "marvelous' is today. Prior to that, I had a classic Caesar no-part look. He showed up in the television show "E.R." sporting that and I dismissed it as coincidence but when he then jumped onto my "Mad Men without the goop" look, I became suspicious and switched again, to a slicked-back "1980s martial arts villain" look, before changing to what I have now; a random part, more California, less Northeast serious. When you are young, it is a struggle to be taken seriously in the physics and engineering world but I am older now, so it's all cowboy boots and casual.


Charles Hard Townes (AP Photo)

Charles Townes has a lot going for him; he just saw his 99th birthday and 500 people showed up to cheer for him. He has a Nobel prize and a younger wife - Frances is 98.

Oh, and he invented the laser, which just about everyone on planet Earth has heard of.

Mission Accomplished. Now it's time to go back home.

After two space shuttle missions and almost two decades, astronaut Mike Massimino has left NASA for Columbia University in New York. During the final servicing mission of the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009, Massimino became the first astronaut to tweet from space, and he now has nearly 1.3 million followers.