Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Humanities/2010 December 18

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December 18[edit]

Angels (cont.)[edit]

I am continuing from my last question.

By angels, what angels did James Madison mean? By angels, he meant only good angels that continue to serve God, not bad or evil angels like Satan or his demons, right?

So angels don't need to be governed. But angels are being governed. They are being governed by God. God governs angels. Angels have to obey God. But what about that?

So no internal or external checks or controls are necessary on God's government and rule because God is perfect and incapable of wrongdoing. God can govern and rule as an absolute monarch and dictator because of that. The universe doesn't need to be a democracy because of that. Democracy is not necessary for the universe because of that. Is that right? Is that what James Madison meant by that statement? Is that what he believed? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:38, 18 December 2010 (UTC)

Do you over-analyze every metaphor you meet? —Tamfang (talk) 07:45, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
He could also have said "if men were helpful elves", or "if men had pure hearts", without meaning that he actually believed in elves, or actually believed that pumps made of muscle can control our morality. Whatever he meant by the statement, the subject was government, not angels or God, and he didn't mean to indicate any belief about angels or God. (talk) 09:52, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
Beings with infallible ethics, which don't exist on the Science Desk but we are allowed to contemplate here. Please don't ask how many can dance on the head of a pin. Ginger Conspiracy (talk) 12:24, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
Madison's concern is political, not theological. He isn't trying to make a point about Angels, he's trying to make a point about governments. If you wan't to understand what he meant, read The Federalist Papers, not the Bible. --Jayron32 14:41, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
Sometimes, when people are arguing over whether the Book of Jonah describes historical events, someone will point out that Jesus referred to the story (just as Jonah was for three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth[1]) and go on to assume that Jesus believed it to have been true. This is clearly bad reasoning, because when a person refers to a story, it does not imply that the person believes it to be true. Compare The Great Divorce, where Lewis refers to the story of Alice: And she couldn't make herself smaller?— like Alice, you know. It doesn't mean that Lewis thinks Alice is a historical record. Similarly, you can't reason from Madison's mention of angels to a conclusion that a) Madison believed in angels; b) Madison did not believe in angels; c) Madison believed in angels which are like the ones anyone else believed in; d) Madison believed in angels which are like any angels which really exist. Marnanel (talk) 15:01, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
Yes, that seems to be what he was saying: we, as self-governors, are imperfect, so we had better give some thought about how best to self-govern our self-government, which we would not need to do if God had given us a host of perfect angels to implement His Divine government of us on Earth. WikiDao(talk) 15:34, 18 December 2010 (UTC)

do kurds descend from the aryans?[edit]

do they? explain how thanks! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:15, 18 December 2010 (UTC)

It's all in self-identification: for a critique of this and other widespread fantasies, see ethnogenesis.--Wetman (talk) 19:43, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
Nobody descends from 'the aryans'. The idea that there is or was an ethnic or racial group of this name is entirely discredited. The term, as it was used in the West, was originally a linguistic rather than 'racial' term in any case. AndyTheGrump (talk) 19:49, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
So it's known that Proto-Indo-Iranian was never the language of an ethnic group? Amazing what archaeology can do nowadays. —Tamfang (talk) 19:57, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
Of course it was (probably). That does not mean that we can reliably deduce that there is any genetic relationship between that group and any later group who speak or spoke an Indo-Iranian language, which was what the question was about. --ColinFine (talk) 11:59, 19 December 2010 (UTC)
See History of the Kurdish people for a rather comprehensive take on this, including genetic studies. Like all population studies, it is hard to say whether it makes sense to say one group descended from another group in a linear fashion, and there is considerable fuzziness. --Mr.98 (talk) 20:01, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
I dunno about a linear fashion, but if you look back far enough everyone (today) is descended from everyone (then), so a trivial answer is yes. —Tamfang (talk) 21:22, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
It's not true that everyone is descended from everyone. The Inuit are not descended from the French. Different population groups broke off from the "big tree" at different points. You can say that all humans are descended from the same group of Homo Sapiens, because we share common descent, but that doesn't mean that different groups are all descended from one another. --Mr.98 (talk) 21:56, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
MRCA... AnonMoos (talk) 22:05, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
Doesn't have any relevance here. We're talking about sub-groups being descended (biologically, culturally, linguistically, whatever) from other sub-groups. Nobody is doubting they're all human. I am not descended from a Pygmy; they are not descended from me. --Mr.98 (talk) 01:09, 20 December 2010 (UTC) -- What's known for absolutely certain is that Kurdish is an Indo-European language. Your question is phrased using somewhat old-fashioned terminology, and drags in a lot of additional issues which may not be easy to answer.... AnonMoos (talk) 21:47, 18 December 2010 (UTC)

Median PPP income for people in the US and UK[edit]

People in America are believed to have on average a higher income than people in the UK, on the other hand the poor in the US seem to be much poorer than the poor in the UK. To what extent is the per capita average income due to the top 10% or 20% of high earners in the US having a far higher income than the top 10% or 20% in the UK? How does the income of the bottom 90% or 80% compare, at a PPP exchange rate? What are the respective median incomes per person for the US and UK? I'm wondering if the incomes of Bill Gates and other high earners distorts the figures. Thanks (talk) 20:40, 18 December 2010 (UTC)

You might find our article on median income of interest. Very high earners distort the mean significantly in both countries. We really need a distribution graph (say by percentiles) to make a good comparison. (Perhaps we could make a better comparison using this and this)
Some of the "poor" in the UK actually have a higher income from combined benefits than those on the lowest-paid working equivalent, but those on basic benefit here without any "extras" struggle to maintain an acceptable lifestyle (I know, I've tried it!) Our article on Multidimensional Poverty Index does not mention either the USA or the UK, presumably because no-one is actually poor by any absolute standard in either country.
From this article, in the United Kingdom the richest 10% earn 13.8 times the income of the poorest 10%. In the USA, the richest tenth earn 15.9 times as much as the poorest tenth. For the richest and poorest 20%, the corresponding ratios are 7.2 times and 8.4 times. The Gini coefficient (a measure of inequality) is 34 for the UK and 45 for the USA. Dbfirs 21:13, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
"An acceptable lifestyle" - what would that be - running a car, having satellite tv, summer holiday in the Med? The idea is you go to work to pay for all that. (talk) 12:57, 19 December 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I did go to work to pay for all of that. When I was not well enough to work, I lived well below the official "poverty line" for a time (but not actually claiming benefits, just living on savings at around benefit level), and no, I couldn't afford any of those without seriously depleting my hard-earned savings! This did make me wonder how those on basic benefits manage to afford luxuries. Dbfirs 17:03, 19 December 2010 (UTC)
Very high values (outliers) distort the mean, but they don't distort the median. That's why the median is the most appropriate average to use when looking at income distribution. Itsmejudith (talk) 01:31, 19 December 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps that's why the first word of the OPs question is "median". (talk) 12:41, 19 December 2010 (UTC)
Sure, and in that context we needed to address the OP's question about whether the incomes of Bill Gates et al. might distort the median. Itsmejudith (talk) 12:18, 20 December 2010 (UTC)
Economics Gini coefficient2.svg
The Gini coefficient mentioned by Dbfirs might be the most useful for that. It is "a measure of the inequality of a distribution, a value of 0 expressing total equality and a value of 1 maximal inequality." (graph on right). It is a better reflection of the effect of outliers on the distribution than median (or mean). WikiDao(talk) 12:46, 20 December 2010 (UTC)
Yes, Gini is the most usual measure of inequality and I'm sure the OP will find it answers at least some of his/her questions. They may also want to compare the medians and, if available, the incomes in each quintile/decile. Itsmejudith (talk) 15:52, 22 December 2010 (UTC)


Now that don't ask, don't tell is (finally) over, US service-members are allowed to tell. Is the military allowed to ask? If so, how are they allowed to use that information? Staecker (talk) 23:05, 18 December 2010 (UTC)

Maybe, depending on the person, but they probably won't. I don't actually get the point of the policy in the first place? What's wrong with homosexuals serving their country? Narutolovehinata5 tccsdnew 23:24, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
I served in the military and see no problem with it at all. I wouldn't care if someone was Little Richard or Rosie O'Donald as long as they did their job. I think a lot of the younger soldiers are more open-minded. Most of the opposition will probably come from the old farts who have been in the service since Jesus was in diapers. --Ghostexorcist (talk) 23:57, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
Probably correct. [2] From the surveys, there's also variance between what branch of the US military and role. Marines have the strongest opposition as do combat arm communities (in both marines and the army) [3] [4] [5]. Several sources have stated that marines are good at following orders so now that the policy is going to be repealed they will honour their orders to work alongside gay and bisexual service people. Nil Einne (talk) 11:15, 19 December 2010 (UTC)
For the young-uns in the crowd, it used to be that the military would ask, and you'd get kicked out if you said yes. The policy was initiated in 1993 under Bill Clinton, as compromise to allow gay people to serve in the military at all: See Don't_ask,_don't_tell#Origin. While the policy now is viewed as a hindrance to gays serving in the military, it was initially created as a policy to allow homosexuals a greater ability to serve: you wouldn't have people investigating your sexuality. Buddy431 (talk) 23:54, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
But mess-mates would still ask about each other's home lives, as a natural part of getting to know each other. Those with same-sex partners back home would have to either lie about some fictitious other-sex person, or deny they had any relationship at all. Because if they revealed the truth to anyone at all, they risked being discharged. Either way, it was shockingly discriminatory, as there was never any "don't ask, don't tell" policy applying to heterosexuals. And if you think, "that's because there was no need - straight is the norm, gay is the exception", then welcome to the 21st century, where equality is supposed to be the rule. -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 01:27, 19 December 2010 (UTC)
For the reasoning used to ban gays from the armed forces under the old policy, see the "Findings" section of the old law: [6]. Remember, a lot has changed in 17 years in society's attitudes toward homosexuals. -- Mwalcoff (talk) 01:42, 19 December 2010 (UTC)
Somewhat OT but has anyone heard of any case where when someone in the US military under the old policy was asked about whether they had a partner/girlfriend and said something like 'I'm not telling and you should not ask, pursue or harass me about it again' Nil Einne (talk) 11:15, 19 December 2010 (UTC)
Note that DADT isn't actually really over yet. The law to repeal it has been passed and either signed or will be signed by Obama soon but there is still a process as outlined under the repeal bill before the policy is completely abandoned [7]. It's been suggested that all investigations should be suspended (I'm not sure if this is going to be implemented) but either way I think organisations and people are recommending those affected by the law wait before dropping their guard [8] or start telling (as per the survey linked above or simple common sense, I don't think many service people in the US military are planning a big coming out party, they're just more likely to do what JackofOz suggested, answer honestly when people they trust ask and similar things like carry photos of their partners or family.) Nil Einne (talk) 11:15, 19 December 2010 (UTC)

OK all, but I'm asking about the "ask" part of the law. All these answers are about the "tell", or just general discussion about DADT. People's opinions about this issue are a dime a dozen in the US... Staecker (talk) 13:05, 19 December 2010 (UTC)

No, not yet. DADT is still in effect and will be after Obama signs the repeal bill, which gives the DoD as much time as it takes to come up with new regulations which must then be approved by the President, Secretary of Defense, and Chair of the Joint Chiefs. The DADT law is repealed 60 days after that. There is nothing to prevent the new regulations from prohibiting asking, telling, or both (perhaps with less substantial penalties than the current law) or even requiring asking and/or telling for that matter. I predict the regulations will be drafted by a resentful 40 year old colonel chosen because although he doesn't have any experience with the subject, he's staffing a three star general's office who had staff who made personnel regulations in the past 10 years. Then I predict the proposed regulations will be approved without substantial amendments by a board of three major-rank military psychiatrists who will make jokes about them in a 45 minute meeting but not propose any changes other than a few grammar corrections. They will seem as arbitrary as any new military regulations, and will be revised at least twice in the next three years. Then everyone will essentially forget about the whole thing. You heard it here first. That will be 0.833 cents, please (a dozenth of a dime.) Ginger Conspiracy (talk) 10:00, 20 December 2010 (UTC)
We don't have a definitive answer yet. Part of the bill requires the military to devise an outline for implementing the removal of DADT policies, and to if necessary make revisions to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Once that's done, we'll see how things work out. The spirit of the bill, though, is that LGBT soldiers will be treated just like any other soldier, in any branch. Which means there may be formal questions of sexual orientation for spousal benefits (ie. insurance, visitation rights, housing, etc.) asked of every soldier in the near future. — The Hand That Feeds You:Bite 18:19, 20 December 2010 (UTC)
I wonder if dog tags will soon have a notation for sexual orientation as well as religion ? I can think of some good pictograms to use for such a case. :-) StuRat (talk) 23:35, 21 December 2010 (UTC)
I'd expect them to get RFID chips in the dog tags first. — The Hand That Feeds You:Bite 18:52, 22 December 2010 (UTC)

Travel scanners[edit]

I am looking to buy a travel scanner, specifically the hand-wand type that you run over top of a document as opposed to feeding it through. I prefer one that has a memory stick and can scan in several different formats (Jpeg, pdf, etc.) if possible and has a high resolution. I have looked at several brands online, but I am unsure of what constitutes a good scanner. What are some of the best brands available? I need some recommendations. --Ghostexorcist (talk) 23:08, 18 December 2010 (UTC)

This question might be better suited for the Computing Desk. My quick survey of recommendations sites and prices suggests that the DigiTalk HandyScan PS410 (about US$80-90 at major web retailers) has a few more features (which you probably don't need) and sells for a little less than the older VuPoint Magic Wand PDS-ST410-VP model (about US$90-100). However, the product design is so similar I wouldn't rule out the possibility that these are actually identical systems, perhaps with merely a software upgrade. For PDF I'd recommend letting the bundled OCR software try to provide one, as people generally expect copyable text in PDFs. Otherwise you might need a utility to combine .jpg files into .pdf pages, which you should be able to find for free. Ginger Conspiracy (talk) 02:50, 19 December 2010 (UTC)
The problem with wand scanners is that they tend to be very inaccurate. There have been big leaps in the last 10 years, but the fundamental problem is that it's almost impossible to swipe the wand down (or across) the page while holding it evenly. Even a slight tilt or skewing while you're scanning can make the text or image come out slanted, which makes OCR extremely difficult. Some of those scanners offer little plates or trays you can use to help guide them but, at that point, you might as well take a small scanner with you instead. — The Hand That Feeds You:Bite 18:32, 20 December 2010 (UTC)
I setttled on the Vupoint based on a rather extensive review I read on it the other day. The images I have scanned so far have been perfect. But the main reason I bought it is to scan text from reference books for school and personal projects. I don't intend on converting anything with an OCR program. I'll just print the scans out or just read the material on my computer.
I'm happy to say that I have scanned 20 items and the AA batteries powering it are still going strong. --Ghostexorcist (talk) 21:07, 20 December 2010 (UTC)

When I want to "digitize" a page of a book, a document, or a train schedule, I just use my digital camera in an appropriate mode (and, preferably, in a well-lit location). Works pretty well... -- Vmenkov (talk) 18:50, 24 December 2010 (UTC)