Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Humanities/2008 August 5

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Humanities desk
< August 4 << Jul | August | Sep >> August 6 >
Welcome to the Wikipedia Humanities Reference Desk Archives
The page you are currently viewing is an archive page. While you can leave answers for any questions shown below, please ask new questions on one of the current reference desk pages.


August 5[edit]

Why is Sweden considered the most irreligious?[edit]

I just stumbled upon the Irreligion page, and it had a picture showing how "unimportant" religion was, with Sweden being at the top of the list. Yet I can find no reason on the Sweden article for its irreligiosity being so high. If anything, it seems the opposite, since an official "Freedom of Religion" act wasn't accepted until 1959... any idea?

Much help appreciated ! -=- Xhin -=- (talk) 04:40, 5 August 2008 (UTC)

All I know about Sweden comes from the bikini team but there is the possibility that the passage of the act was simply a "cleaning house" sort of law. It could have been that nobody really paid attention to anyone's religious choices and then finally someone came along who bothered to lobby hard enough to get it put into writing. Dismas|(talk) 05:55, 5 August 2008 (UTC)
What sometimes happens in countries with state religion (the Church of Sweden was the state church until 2000) is that citizens list themselves as religious for purposes of culture or tradition, even if they don't necessarily believe in God. Strad (talk) 07:23, 5 August 2008 (UTC)
I saw a TV interview with a BNP thug who said "We hate the Mozzies (Muslims) coz were Church of fucking England!". I thought, yes - I wonder when you last went to Church. -- Q Chris (talk) 13:15, 5 August 2008 (UTC)
See Religion in Sweden and note that the number of Swedes who regard religion as "non-important" is higher than the number who is not religious. See [1]. Religion plays a small role in Sweden, even for many Christians. PrimeHunter (talk) 12:40, 5 August 2008 (UTC)
One reason might be a high level of education. Science, in particular, often stands at odds with many religious teachings, so people with scientific training are somewhat less likely to believe. Conversely, religious individuals are less likely to endorse science. StuRat (talk) 13:01, 5 August 2008 (UTC)
Then perhaps Finland should be the highest in this? Their education scores routinely beat Sweden - much to the dismay of the Swedes. I don't think education will have a major impact - much more so will be the setup of a national culture. PLaces such as France and the US that have a republican model of citizenship would - I assume - have higher levels of practicing believers (in whatever faith) than a country with a more participatory citizenship model (I forget if that is the name of the model that is regularly used to describe Sweden and don't have my textbooks with me to check). 194.221.133.226 (talk) 15:19, 5 August 2008 (UTC)
Republican model of citizenship? Republic just means a country doesn't have a monarchy (more or less) and can vary from Switzerland to the US to China or Cuba (see User:Mwalcoff if you're still confused). Sweden has a monarchy so they indeed aren't a republic but this doesn't really seem to be what you are getting at. Are you thinking more of the difference between representative democracy and direct democracy (or perhaps that Sweden has a more participatory democracy)? Personally I'm not convinced it's the biggest factor. Education definitely has a role, as does history, culture and a variety of other factors probably including size. The level of immigration is also a factor since immigrants from Africa, South Asia, most of South East Asia, West Asia/the Middle East, the Pacific Islands and South/Central America are more likely then the older population to be religious.
Japan for example has a rather low level of religion, probably primary because of history. New Zealand while not that compared to Sweden and others (although note the actual level could be higher or lower because it's based purely on the census results with ~13% that didn't answer) is significantly higher then other anglophile Western countries probably a mix of history, culture and size. Both these have (AFAIK for Japan) rather limited levels of partipatory/direct democracy. Nil Einne (talk) 20:11, 6 August 2008 (UTC)

History of religion - second map down may answer your question. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 71.100.160.78 (talk) 15:52, 5 August 2008 (UTC)

...per the question above[edit]

Why is Sweden considered the most irreligious?

Is there correlation between climate or geographic location and religious belief? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 71.100.160.78 (talk) 15:31, 5 August 2008 (UTC)

Ignore this troll. 194.50.118.230 (talk) 15:44, 5 August 2008 (UTC)
...yes, I decided not to go with Communism so very much ignore me and go with the Pot Head from Amsterdam instead. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 71.100.160.78 (talk) 15:53, 5 August 2008 (UTC)
I don't really see how this is trolling, but anyway, a quick look at Image:Europe belief in god.png suggests that there is a weak correlation with latitude and belief in god in Europe. It doesn't really mean anything though... Philc 0780 17:06, 5 August 2008 (UTC)
I think the trolling comment comes from this diff. — The Hand That Feeds You:Bite 17:18, 9 August 2008 (UTC)
To expound, correlation does not imply causation. — Lomn 18:41, 5 August 2008 (UTC)
Yes, but only to the degree that causation is accompanied by correlation such that a positive correlation may suggest the possibility of a cause/effect relation which must then be investigated.
In the case of belief in God those geographic locations which have a high percentage of belief may simple have developed laws, etc. for a longer period of time around that belief or because it serves a particular social need better. Not to speculate, however. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 71.100.162.249 (talk) 19:03, 5 August 2008 (UTC)

Extra Terrestrial Contact - USA Government Reaction?[edit]

What if extra terrestrial beings came down to earth and contacted a major US TV station and announced that they are here just to visit and come in peace and what not. How do you think the US Government would react? --Anilmanohar (talk) 14:34, 5 August 2008 (UTC)

The purpose of the Reference Desk is not to engage in speculation. -- Coneslayer (talk) 14:35, 5 August 2008 (UTC)

OK then. Does the US Government have any SOP's in situations like this? --Anilmanohar (talk) 14:37, 5 August 2008 (UTC)

I assume you mean Standard operating procedure and not Sales and Operations Plan. :) Zain Ebrahim (talk) 14:45, 5 August 2008 (UTC)

Correct, Zain..--Anilmanohar (talk) 14:46, 5 August 2008 (UTC)

See The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming BTW- there are a large contingent of Russians left over from the Cold War who have invaded the robotics programs at Carnegie-Mellon and Georgia Tech that the US government has no idea what to do with except to send them looking for work at the JPL.
I don't know about the US government, but the International Astronomical Union has a "declaration of principles" on what to do if extra-terrestrial life is found. It's generally based on the assumption that the discovery will be of a signal, rather than them actually visiting, though. It's described in Patrick Moore's Atlas of the Universe, but it's probably online somewhere too, I can't seem to find it, though (there seem to be other similar things by other organisations as well). The basic idea seems to be to verify the signal, notify various authorities and then once people are certain about what they're detecting, announce it to the world. --Tango (talk) 22:37, 5 August 2008 (UTC)
The USA used to have This NASA policy covering "Extra-terrestrial Exposure" but it's more "Andromeda Strain" and less "The Day the Earth Stood Still". In any case, it's gone now. APL (talk) 02:23, 6 August 2008 (UTC)

Number of computers[edit]

where can I find out how many computers are used by the Vatican? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 71.100.160.78 (talk) 15:18, 5 August 2008 (UTC)

I doubt you can find that out anywhere. In fact, I'd be surprised if even the Vatican knew that exactly. -- Captain Disdain (talk) 11:38, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
Six hundred and sixty six perhaps? -- Q Chris (talk) 15:16, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
It depends what you mean by a computer anyway. Does a PDA count? What about a smart mobile? What about a calculator? Nil Einne (talk) 20:12, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
Desktop or perhaps laptop in the role of a desktop. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 71.100.162.249 (talk) 14:32, 7 August 2008 (UTC)
Sounds like a Fermi problem. Gandalf61 (talk) 15:28, 7 August 2008 (UTC)
The CIA Factbook notes the number of hosts (they define this as a computer directly connected the internet) is 20; see [2]. That number seems a bit low, but its a start. - Thanks, Hoshie 08:14, 9 August 2008 (UTC)

What's profitable about common stocks that don't pay dividends?[edit]

Right now I'm trying to learn finance on my own, so I'm asking a basic question. I've read that some companies issue common stocks but they will never pay dividends to the stockholder. If so, how can the stockholder profit?199.76.152.250 (talk) 16:55, 5 August 2008 (UTC)

Stockholders are always dependent on receiving some kind of return from their stock, which for long-term holders must come either from dividends or from capital transactions (e.g., a sale of the company). Many companies do not currently pay dividends, typically because the company is in a growth or turnaround mode. The expectation, however, is that the company will provide returns to holders in the future. In the meantime, holders can realize on their stock only by selling it; if the company's plans for growth are realized, its increased value will be reflected in a higher stock price.
The above is for public companies. Many private companies deliberately never pay dividends, because they provide returns to their owners in a more tax-efficient manner, typically through salaries. John M Baker (talk) 17:05, 5 August 2008 (UTC)
Capital gains, I would think. There may also be a class of non-dividend stock with special voting privileges which would be a different (not directly monetary) kind of reward. Rmhermen (talk) 20:09, 5 August 2008 (UTC)
If you know for certain that a comany will never pay dividends then the only value that I can see would be that someone would eventually buy the stock for its voting rights in order to influence the company. Note that the directors can't reliably say that they're never going to pay a dividend because they don't last forever and such comments are not likely to increase their tenure. They may have said "for the foreseeable future" which usually implies that larger dividends can be expected later on. Zain Ebrahim (talk) 20:48, 5 August 2008 (UTC)
When a company doesn't pay dividends they instead invest all their profits in expansion. There is a limit to how much any company can expand, so sooner or later the company will either fail, or it will have to start giving money to its shareholders (not necessarily as dividends, it could be through buyback of shares or the whole company being bought out, or maybe some other methods I can't think of). The current value of the stock is based on what people expect it to pay out in the future. You don't have to actually wait until it starts paying out to make profit, though, you can just wait for the share price to go up (assuming it does!) and then sell the shares. --Tango (talk) 22:42, 5 August 2008 (UTC)
There are some types of stock which never give a dividend and a company may issue several types of stock with different privileges. Tax advantages are also a reason to not issue dividends.[3] Rmhermen (talk) 03:28, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
The OP specifically said "common stock", so stock with extra voting rights wouldn't count. There are plenty of advantages to not pay dividends, but sooner or later any company is going to have to return money to its shareholders, otherwise the shares would have no value. As I said, that doesn't have to be through dividends (it could even be by liquidating the company and sharing out the proceeds), but it has to happen. --Tango (talk) 03:52, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
I don't believe that that is true. Specifically that "sooner or later any company is going to have to return money to its shareholders, otherwise the shares would have no value", the stock has value as long as the company has value and people are willing to buy the stock. Rmhermen (talk) 13:54, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
Common stock that never will pay dividends doesn't exist. Theoretically, if it does, the voting rights may have value if people are "willing to buy the stock" for those rights. Nothing else that I can see - would you be willing to buy a piece of paper that gave you no voting rights and you were certain that it would never pay dividends? Zain Ebrahim (talk) 14:03, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
Yes, if I were a risk tolerant long-term investor and I thought the capital value of the stock would increase and especially so if I preferred capital appreciation to income. A stock issuer is not obliged to pay dividends. Gandalf61 (talk) 14:20, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
(e/c) I own several stocks that do not pay dividends. Whether they theoretically will in the future is unknown. The reason to purchase such stocks is the belief that the share price will increase, at which point the stock can be sold for a profit. I do have voting rights, and I try to use them intelligently when I have the opportunity, however ultimately I want the price to go up so I can sell and have money for beer. --LarryMac | Talk 14:22, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
@ Gandalf: I'm talking about a theoretical common stock that was certain to never pay dividends. Without voting rights, why would such a stock have any capital value? Zain Ebrahim (talk) 14:31, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
Capital value is determined by the market price of the stock i.e. by what other investors are willing to pay for it. At a minimum, this will be related to the net asset value or liquidation value of the company, and generally it will be higher as potential investors factor in future growth prospects. If a company is trading succesfully and profitably and is reinvesting its profits sensibly in, say, R&D, new product lines or acquisitions then the net asset value of the company and the value of its stock will increase even if it is not paying dividends. Gandalf61 (talk) 14:43, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
But how would the market treat the stock of that company if it was structured to never ever pay a dividend and carry no voting rights but similar to common stock in all other respects? For example, if the prospectus explicitly stated that no dividends will ever be paid. I would say that this theoretical stock has no value. Zain Ebrahim (talk) 14:52, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
The market value of a company's stock can never fall much below the company's net asset value - if it did, an asset stripper could take out a bank loan, buy all the company's shares, liquidate the company's assets. pay off its liabilities, repay the bank loan and still make a profit on the deal. Gandalf61 (talk) 15:02, 6 August 2008 (UTC)

(rm indent)Yes, but in this (extremely theoretical) case, the asset stripper won't have any voting rights after buying the shares and so can't make the decision to sell off any assets. Zain Ebrahim (talk) 15:06, 6 August 2008 (UTC)

Let's go back a few steps. You said "common stock that never will pay dividends doesn't exist". You are technically correct in the sense that a company cannot guarantee that it will absolutely never will pay dividends on its stock in the future. However, stocks that have never in the past paid dividends certainly do exist, and are still a good investment for certain types of investor even while they continue not to pay dividends. That's all I'm saying. Gandalf61 (talk) 15:17, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
Oh, then I agree with you. :) Zain Ebrahim (talk) 15:18, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
I have received a prospectus for a stock guaranteed to never pay a dividend and not to carry voting rights. Although I can't say for certain that it was called a "common stock", it was the IPO and only existing stock of the company. Rmhermen (talk) 03:58, 8 August 2008 (UTC)
Footnote: Wow, our business articles are poor. Two sentences for common stock? Rmhermen (talk) 04:02, 8 August 2008 (UTC)

Futher nudity question[edit]

As I said in my previous question, I don't have a problem going around nude among strange people in situations where nudity is expected, for example on a nude beach. In such a situation, I don't care whatsoever who sees me nude. I do care, however, whom I see nude. I prefer seeing nude women over seeing nude men. It's not such a big problem if I see nude men, but I think nude women are more attractive, so I tend to focus on them.

So my question here is two-fold: Is this typical for men who don't have a problem going nude in social nudity situations themselves? And secondly, what about women in such situations? JIP | Talk 21:09, 5 August 2008 (UTC)

Well, the majority of men and women are heterosexual, so I'd say, yes, it's typical. Of course, it's not unusual for a heterosexual person to appreciate attractiveness in someone of their own sex, even if they are not personally attracted to the person. --Tango (talk) 22:44, 5 August 2008 (UTC)
Is there any major difference between men and women regarding whom they want to see nude? JIP | Talk 04:09, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
Yep, the beach. Just the beach without people. Julia Rossi (talk) 10:45, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
That rather defeats the point of social nudity, doesn't it? =)
My question was obviously only in the context of social nudity events. Do women care more, or less, about who see them nude and whom they see nude? JIP | Talk 16:32, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
You'e righht, it does. I was brief, but usually people being naked don't look so hot when they're just going about using everyday actions. Staging the body can help with the beauty look, but to answer your question about what people prefer to see nude, it's pretty general and depends on what one person believes is attractive and the range is huge. As for diff between sexes, isn't it commonly argued that men are more voyeuristic than women? Can't speak for myself. I understand what conventional beauty is (classical, trendy, eye candy etc), but appreciate unconventional beauty. As to what attracts moi, it's complicated by more than visuality. :) And for women who care or not about being seen nude, it's about personal boundaries, physical confidence, peer pressure, conditioning etc with huge variations. Julia Rossi (talk) 00:37, 7 August 2008 (UTC)
We are getting off the topic here. My question was about the difference between men and women in social nudity situations, not about what makes someone beautiful or what women look for in men. Although I tend to agree that nude people don't look as visually attractive when they're just going around on normal business than when they're explicitly staged and performing. Based on my own feelings, and the replies here, in social nudity situations, men don't care about the sex of those who see them nude, but they themselves prefer seeing nude women. Do women in such situations view nude men and nude women equally, or do they also prefer seeing nude men? JIP | Talk 16:17, 7 August 2008 (UTC)
Full disclosure: I live in America, where social nudity hardly exists, but I think you might be mixing your terms. You talk about "social nudity" and "preference." Doesn't social nudity mean being nude and basically ignoring that fact that everyone is exposing their sex organs, just going about your business? So it shouldn't matter whom you see nude (or who's seeing you nude), and therefore in a social-nudity situation there isn't a preference about whom you're seeing. By that reasoning, you can completely eliminate the whole nudity aspect of the question and say "Men don't care about the sex of those who see them nude, but they themselves prefer seeing nude women. Do women in such situations view nude men and nude women equally, or do they also prefer seeing nude men?" which is kind of a pointless question. If you insist on including the nudity aspect, then you're asking a question about sexuality, and then you can find your answer by considering hetersexuality, homosexuality, and the differences in how men and women are visually sexually stimulated.--El aprendelenguas (talk) 23:50, 7 August 2008 (UTC)
OK, let's go back to the basic point of my original question. As a heterosexual man, I am visually sexually stimulated by women. But as for men, it's the contrary - I find them un-stimulating. Heterosexual women generally also find men visually sexually stimulating, but is it common for heterosexual men and women to find their own sex un-stimulating, or are they just indifferent about it? For me, this aspect is still present in social nudity situations. JIP | Talk 05:08, 8 August 2008 (UTC)
When you differentiate between "un-stimulating" and indifferent, do you mean that you find it uncomfortable around nude men? (I mean, if you're not indifferent and you're not stimulated, but rather "un-stimulated", that strikes me as an important distinction.)
Anyway, I can tell you that it's very common for the heterosexual men and women I know to hang around nude in social situations -- us Finns and our saunas being what they are -- with no problem or discomfort whatsoever when members of their own sex are present, but I know that's hardly universal. Certainly, things like anti-gay sentiment, sexual insecurity and cultural standards play a huge part in this. Then again, I also know that for some heterosexual people the opposite is true -- they're comfortable with being nude with people of their own sex (the classic example would probably be a gym's locker room), but if a person of the opposite sex comes around, they get very uncomfortable because they are used to associating sexual situations with those situations, and obviously that's pretty inappropriate if the environment is decidedly non-sexual. I really don't think you're going to get any kind of an universal answer on this one; it's all a question of what people are used to. I mean, for example, I know that for a lot of people seeing their parents or siblings naked under any circumstances is a big thing. For me, it means nothing; I've been sharing saunas with them all my life. But that's a question of culture and context. If I see my mom naked in the sauna, it's a non-issue; if I were to stupidly barge in on her when she (or anyone else, for that matter) was about to get intimate with someone, that would be a completely different situation, and my reaction would change accordingly.
But I don't think this is a built-in thing, it's just how I've learned to be. If I spent a lot of time in a different culture, it would probably influence the way I feel about it, at least when I'm a part of that culture. And by "culture" I don't really mean a national culture (though certainly that has an impact as well), but rather the culture of my social circles. People can adapt to this kind of thing fairly easily, if they're just willing to do so. -- Captain Disdain (talk) 13:12, 8 August 2008 (UTC)
Well yes, that is what I meant by "un-stimulating", more or less. It's actually only that I find the sight of male genitals unattractive. I'm comfortable with the rest of the male body (heck, with what men wear on public beaches and swimming pools, I'd have to be). So when I look at a nude man, I tend to focus on the face or the chest instead. It's not such a big problem that I'd actually have to make an effort not to look at them. It's nothing to do with anti-gay sentiment or cultural standards, quite the opposite. It's purely aesthetic.
As for saunas, as a Finn, I enjoy saunas, and take pretty much every opportunity to go to one - either alone, in all-male company, or in mixed company, it doesn't matter. (I've not tried it yet in all-female company, though.) I just counted that I have gone to saunas with six different organisations, and the only ones that have been all-male have been with my workplace and with my civilian service place. JIP | Talk 16:50, 8 August 2008 (UTC)