English outdoorsman William Willet is largely credited with the current spring-forward-fall-back Daylight Saving Time model, which he proposed in 1905.
A similar idea was proposed independently about ten years earlier, in 1895, by New Zealand entomologist George Hudson, but 1) he proposed a two hour shift, 2) he was a New Zealander, and 3) he wasn’t a golfer (that we know of), so his proposal went nowhere.
And to be sure, the idea has been around for centuries, from the Romans adjusting meeting times during the summer to Ben Franklin’s “early to bed, early to rise…”
Willet WAS an avid golfer, and he suggested the time change to provide more time in the evening for leisure activities (such as golf).
The first city in the world to enact this new Daylight Saving Time (or Summer Time, as it was/is know in most of Europe) was Port Arthur, Ontario – leave it to those crazy Canadians to jump into the fire first!
The first country to adopt DST nationwide was Germany, at the outset of the Great War. This was done largely to conserve coal – longer days meant less coal burned in the evenings. Britain and other Allied Nations saw the advantages of this and quickly followed suit.
It became common practice again during World War II to adopt DST again, for much the same reason, and then became widely adopted by most countries not already observing full time (the U.S. and most of Europe included) during the 1970’s oil crisis, and it’s been a mainstay ever since.
In 1986, Ronald Reagan, at the urging of the Golf Lobby (yes, that’s a thing), moved DST from the last Sunday in April to the first Sunday in April. By some accounts, this single action added $400 million to the golf industry alone.
Currently, DST runs from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in October.
I’ve become obsessed with remembering how to solve this damn
I use the white cross method, and I’m able to get the top
and middle sections solved with relative ease. It’s the bottom that’s been
kicking my butt.
The white cross method is a series of algorithms that start
with solving for the edge cubies on the white side (forming a white plus sign
or cross), then solving the white corner cubies, then solving the four middle
This is where it breaks down for me. When flipped over, with
the white center on the bottom and the yellow center on the top, there are
three basic configurations you look for. From any of those three configurations,
there are a series of algorithms that can be run to get to another interim step.
The goal here is to solve the yellow edges, then finish with
the yellow corners. Voila, it’s solved!
However, it’s not so easy.
(This is about to get pretty numbers-heavy, so feel free to
bail at this point. I won’t judge you.)
There are 26 physical cubies (as they’re called), but there
are 54 individual cubie faces exposed – nine each of white, green, blue,
orange, yellow and red.
Let me do the math for you. If you call the current state of
the cube it’s configuration, then there are more than
43,250,000,000,000,000,000 possible configurations. That’s 43 quintillion 250
quadrillion. That’s a huge number. And only one of those 43 quintillion
possible configurations is the “solved” configuration.
Someone much smarter than I am figured out that there is a
one in 43 trillion chance – that’s 1/43,000,000,000,000 – that you’ll
“accidentally” solve the puzzle.
In 1974, when the Hungarian professor of architecture Erno
Rubik invented his Hungarian Magic Cube, the story goes that he developed the
puzzle as a way to demonstrate to his students how to build a structure with
multiple moving parts without the structure falling apart. He didn’t realize
that he’d created a puzzle until the first time he scrambled it then tried to
restore it to its original state.
One account I read stated that it took Rubik a full month of
testing, developing nomenclature, and logging test algorithms before he
discovered a solution. But to be sure, his original solution is just one of
The Rubik’s Cube – or the solution to it, anyway – falls
into the category of Group Theory. When considered as a whole, or in subparts,
the groups of algorithms that comprise any given solution allow the puzzle
solver to successfully solve the puzzle.
With much more than 43 quintillion possible configurations,
it came as a huge surprise to me that the God Number for the Rubik’s Cube is
20. The God Number, or the minimax value, is the least number of moves
(algorithms) that an omniscient being would need to solve the given puzzle from
any configuration. The upside of this is that it makes competitive speed cubing,
as it’s called, much less mysterious. With the potential of being able to solve
any given configuration in twenty moves or less, it’s just a matter of
memorizing the various algorithms and practicing for hours on end. Much like
learning tennis or guitar or cooking, it’s an acquired skill involving much practice
and hours of determination to improve.
Just as interesting to me is the search by mathematicians for the Devil’s Number, or Satan’s Number. Whereas the God Number involves the minimum number it would take to solve any configuration just once, the Devil’s Number is concerned with determining the minimum number of algorithmic moves it would take to solve every one of the 43,250,000,000,000,000,000 different configurations. I know for certain that it’s a number between 43 quintillion and 865,000,000,000,000,000,000 (43 quintillion times 20), but anything beyond that I have to leave to someone with a more powerful computer than my Mac.
Whew, that’s a lot of numbers! I think I need a nap. But
first I’m going to try to solve this last corner cubie…
(Credit for much of this goes to the SYSK podcast on Rubik’s
Cubes and the geniuses that inhabit the math side of Wikipedia…)
I usually reserve this space for amusing anecdotes about my life or nifty little nuggets of trivia that I’ve come across, but this is serious stuff and needs to be disseminated to anyone who can read so they can be forewarned about the dangers of DHMO.
Dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO) can act as both (either) an acid
or a base – it is amphiprotic. It can be found in solid, liquid, and gaseous
forms. Its pH is 7, higher than any
other acid known to man. It is both tasteless and odorless.
Extensive research has shown that water bottles stored on
grocery store shelves for more than a month contain extremely high levels of DHMO.
This applies to both plastic and glass bottles.
Starbucks (as well as most all coffee shops) use thermally
agitated dihydrogen monoxide in all of its coffee-based beverages. DHMO is known
to cause severe burns when it comes in contact with the skin, and once DHMO
comes into contact with skin, it cannot be washed off.
Large U.S. manufacturers routinely dump vast quantities of DHMO
in our lakes, rivers and streams – and it never biodegrades. Research has shown that dihydrogen monoxide
is deliberately sprayed on organic crops in the U.S.
Scariest of all for parents: If you give your children juice
boxes, you should know that each juice box contains more dihydrogen monoxide
than an ounce of methamphetamine.
Breathing in too much DHMO can lead to certain death. In fact, the sad truth is that 100% of people who come in contact with dihydrogen monoxide eventually die.
Please be sure to check all labels – don’t mistakenly ingest
this dangerous compound, lest you meet a horrible fate! Dihydrogen monoxide is
not to be trifled with. If you’re the political activist sort, please write
your Congressperson and/or Representative and let them know that you fully
support a ban on any products containing this harmful chemical.
It’s up to us to be the change in the world we want to see!
While listening to a podcast about the Simulation Hypothesis
Argument, I ran across an interesting set of numbers.
To start, by way of comparison, the human brain can process
anywhere from 38 thousand trillion (3.8 x 10^16) to one billion billion (1 X
10^18) processes per second, depending upon whom you ask. Those are pretty big
Per second. It’s breathtaking, and truly amazing.
By contrast, in 1985 the Cray 2 supercomputer came online at
the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA. If you took a small automobile
and stood it up on its end, you’d get a general idea of the size of this
supercomputer. Certainly not the room-spanning computers of the 1950’s and
1960’s, but not a small machine, either.
This state-of-the-art supercomputer could run 200,000,000
processes per second, and it was replaced within three years by the Cray Y-MP.
That’s 200 million. Not human brain-type processing, but
pretty spectacular, nonetheless.
Just over thirty years later, Apple Computer released a
supercomputer that could run 600,000,000,000 – that’s 600 billion, with
a ‘b’ – processes per second. That’s a processing increase of 3,000%.
30 years. 3,000%. Astounding.
And the name of the supercomputer Apple released, this
computational powerhouse that out-processed a thirty-year-old supercomputer by
a factor of 3,000? You may have one in your pocket – you certainly own
something similar, if not the precise model itself.
Although I still eat way too much fast food – I’m a lazy “cook,” sue me – I find most of it gross and unpalatable. It’s more of a convenience than anything. This, of course, does NOT include the Frenchie sandwich at Jimmie John’s…mmmm, love me some Frenchies!
Here are a few of my favorite fast food (and fast food-related) facts:
Fried Chicken Wild
fowl were domesticated about 9,000 years ago in China and the Middle East. It
made it’s way to Egypt, where you can see chicken represented in many hieroglyphs.
It was also used to feed the slaves who built the pyramids.
Eventually making it’s way to Britain via Greece, it is
believed that fried chicken was introduced to the U.S. by Scottish settlers (or
invaders, if you prefer). These were pan-fried birds; the South were the first
to fry them up in vats of hot oil.
In the late 1920’s or early 1930’s, Harlan Sanders opened a restaurant in Corbin, Kentucky to sell his secret recipe fried chicken. The restaurant bombed out, but Sanders soon hit upon a brilliant strategy. He hit the road, selling his recipe and the rights to use his trademarked phrase “Kentucky Fried Chicken” in exchange for a nickel for every piece of chicken sold.
By 1964, the year 1) I was born, and 2) Colonel Sanders sold his franchising business, there were 600 restaurants nationwide. As of 2014 (the most recent number I could find), there were almost 19,000 franchises around the world. That’s a lot of chicken!
Fast Food Stats When it comes to fast food, there are a number of common ingredients. Here are a few I found interesting:
1. The most common fast food meat: Chicken. This isn’t by volume (that would be beef), but rather by number of menu items. McDonald’s, for instance, offers almost as many chicken options as burger options. And on average, fast food joints tend to offer more chicken options than beef options – when was the last time you had ground beef on your Caesar salad, for example?
2. The most common fast food spice: Salt. There is sodium chloride even in things you wouldn’t expect – shakes and ice cream sundaes, for example. It is used in different combinations to add or enhance flavor to a myriad of items. One slice of the American cheese you’d find on a Big Mac contains 250mg of NaCl, making it one of the saltier options available. And that doesn’t take into account all the salt you may dump on your fries.
3. The most common color additive: Caramel. While Red No. 40 is the most widely used food coloring in the world, fast food places seem to love their caramel coloring. Part of the psychology of eating is that for something to taste good, it must look good, and a nice, rich caramel tone seems to serve the industry pretty well.
Tacos Before the 1950’s, you would be hard-pressed to find a taco anywhere at any restaurant in the U.S. That’s when a restaurant owner in Southern California noticed the migrant Mexican workers packing tortillas in their lunches, and stuffing them with meats and vegetables from home.
Deciding that might be a good item to add to his menu, he
began offering tortillas folded in half and stuffed with food he thought his customers
might like – ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes, shredded cheese.
One problem in ran into pretty quickly was that flour
tortillas didn’t keep for very long, so he couldn’t keep a very large supply of
them at any one time. He solved this by shaping and deep frying the tortillas –
thereby creating the first hard shell tacos.
This menu item went over so well that he opened a restaurant
in 1962 devoted entirely to serving this new menu item.
His name? Glen Bell.
As of last year (2018), there were over 7,000 Taco Bells in 27 different countries. By state, California, then Texas, then Florida have the most restaurants. There is even a Taco Bell in Mexico…well, sort of. It’s actually in Tijuana. Close enough, right?
It’s been nearly four months since I’ve written anything, so
I thought this would be a good opportunity to bring you up to speed on what I’ve
On July 1, I decided – a Mid-Year Day’s Resolution, if you
will – to accomplish two things.
Learn something new every day.
Learn a new skill by the end of the year.
Number 1 is going very well. I’ve subscribed to a couple of
very good email newsletters, and I’ve become immersed in the world of podcasts.
Stuff You Should Know, hosted by Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant, is a
particular favorite. Alex Williams’ Ephemeral is another podcast I’ve
really enjoyed. The End of the World with Josh Clark, hosted by Josh Clark
(duh!), is highly recommended (by me) as well.
When I can’t listen, or don’t have the time to devote 30-60
minutes to a podcast, short articles on the interwebs have become my go-to
means of enrichment and entertainment. Google News, How Stuff Works, and Mental
Floss all have permanent bookmarks in my phone’s browser.
I’ve given number 2 some thought, and I think I’m leaning towards
learning to play tennis. Since I’ve done so well with golf – someone really
needs to come up with a sarcasm font – I thought I’d give tennis a try. The
worst that could happen is that I suck as badly at tennis as I do at golf, but
I’ll be in better shape at least, right? RIGHT?!?!
Oh, who am I kidding? The worst that can happen is probably
having a heart attack on the court as I’m lunging to return a well-placed cross-court
smash from my opponent.
So, over the course of the remainder of the year, I hope to
be able to share something new with you almost every day, whether it’s a status
update on my tennis lessons or some seemingly insignificant-yet-interesting bit
of trivia, like why golf balls have dimples or why you couldn’t get a taco in
the U.S. until the mid-1950’s.
We’ll probably also get into my irrational fear of
microscopic black holes – thanks, Josh Clark – but that’s another post for
One of my New Year’s resolutions
that quickly fell by the wayside was to learn and use a new word every day.
I’m not sure if it’s because I’m
lazy, or no one got me a word-a-day calendar for Christmas, or some combination
of the two, but by the end of the first week of January, this particular
resolution was toast.
Multiple scientific studies have
pinpointed the length of time it takes to make something a habit, and the
findings usually land somewhere in the three-week range – i.e. it takes
about 21 days of repetition to make something a habit. My assumption is that
this applies only to beneficial habits – I seem to have no difficulties
whatsoever in adopting bad habits after just one or two repetitions.
Once you hit that 21-day mark, it
becomes smooth sailing, and you’ve now adopted a (hopefully beneficial) habit.
Your body (or mind, if it’s a mental habit) kicks into autopilot, and you begin
to feel pangs of guilt immediately when you skip the activity.
Go to the gym a couple of times a
week, for instance – or whenever you feel like it – and it becomes easy to
rationalize not going. I’m busy, I’m tired, I’m not feeling that well –
all of these become valid reasons to avoid said activity.
What you’re actually trying to do is
train your body and/or mind to develop and engage in another automatic
behavior, and we have a name for this: Automaticity. This is the state
of committing a physical or mental activity to muscle memory.
One of the most commonly cited
examples involves driving. If you commute to work, try to recall the exact
route you took – pretty easy right? If you take the same route to work every
day, or cycle through two or three different routes that are essentially
similar, then it’s easy to recall how you got to work today.
Now, try to recall and describe in
detail three different vehicles you encountered on your way to work today. A
bit more difficult, correct? Unless you encountered something out of the
ordinary – an accident or collision, a truck with a vibrant, unique wrap, or
something else along those lines, chances are you can’t recall the details
about any of the vehicles that were making the same journey as you, despite the
fact that you most likely encountered dozens of vehicles on your trip this
This is because you were driving on
autopilot. Your body was engaged in an activity that it had already performed
hundreds or thousands of times before – driving a car – freeing up your mind to
address the issues that are really important to you. Are you going to be on
time with all this traffic? Where are you going to eat for lunch? Will you be
able to sneak out before 5pm today to try and beat the traffic home?
Automaticity is a useful tool, and
it allows us to function in a more sophisticated social environment. Think
about the last time you embarked on a long-distance road trip. Being aware of
the dozens or hundreds of miles that were passing by, as they were passing by,
would be agonizing, to say the least. Listening to music, playing word games
with your fellow passengers, and planning your itinerary when you reach your
destination are all activities your mind is able to engage in as your body
engages in the rote function of piloting your vehicle down the highway.
There are other fascinating real-world
applications to this as well. One study that I came across, by the social
psychiatrist Robert Cialdini, discussed the level of compliance in individuals
when presented with differing scenarios. In one of his studies, he presented
his subjects with three different requests:
“I have five pages to copy, may
I user your copier? I’m in a rush.”
“I have five pages to copy, may I use your copier?”
“I have five pages to copy, may I use your copier? I need to make
In the first instance, a valid need
is being expressed – I’m in a hurry, can I use your copier? – and a full 94% of
respondents replied in the affirmative. That is to say, they allowed the person
to make their copies.
In the second instance, that
percentage dropped to 60% – in other words, a lack of a valid reason increased
the resistance within the group of respondents to allowing the person to
complete their task.
Interestingly, in the third
instance, compliance jumped back up to 93%, despite that fact that, although a
reason was given, it was not a valid reason. The only difference between the
second and third requests is the addition of the additional (meaningless)
phrase. However, most respondents made no value judgments of what was said –
they heard what they thought was a valid reason, and so complied with
Further, when the request was made
of something a little more substantial – in Cialdini’s study, for instance, the
request was subsequently increased from five to twenty pages – disruption can
occur, jerking the subject back to attention to focus on the situation at hand.
In the case of our copiers above,
the percentages dropped to 40%, 25% and 25%, indicating that the subjects were
now paying closer attention to the reasoning when asked to make substantially
more copies – “because I need to make copies” was no longer
considered a valid reason, as evidenced by the matching percentages for both
options two and three.
Apply this to your drive to work as
well. Did that guy in the maroon BWM with the IMRICH vanity plates just cut you
off? Disruption has pulled you away from your internal reverie and drawn your
focus back to the task of driving, and presented you with a series of choices.
Do you honk and flip him off? Hit the gas and try to cut him off? Let it go?
Whatever your choice, you are now fully focused on the situation unfolding
Automaticity is a valuable, if unintentional, tool for dealing with the humdrum, repetitive tasks each of us needs to carry out without wasting valuable mental energies that can best be utilized elsewhere. Embrace this condition and learn to use it whenever you can – it will pay huge dividends in the end.