Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Miscellaneous/2009 August 26

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August 26[edit]

Climate change[edit]

Do you believe the United States is doing its fair share to prevent global warming? Richard (talk) 03:15, 26 August 2009 (UTC)

We don't really do opinions on the Reference desk. I'm sure there are forums that want to discuss such issues. --Tagishsimon (talk) 03:21, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
Defining what is "fair" seems to be the issue here. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 06:59, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
So which is it now, "global warming" or "climate change"? Apparently the term changes every week.--WaltCip (talk) 13:30, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has apparently not changed name since its founding in 1988. Synonyms and near synonyms are not uncommon in English and not necessarily an indication of any kind of terminology flip-flopping, though there may be some disagreement between different groups over which term is best.
Note that our articles cover recent anthropogenic effects at global warming and the more general concept of changing climates at climate change. AlmostReadytoFly (talk) 14:00, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
Comment moved so as not to appear in the middle of mine. AlmostReadytoFly (talk)
They aren't "either/or" terms - they are different things. In principle, warming of the world might or might not cause the climate to change. After all, if the only thing that happened was that the temperature went up by a few degrees, most people wouldn't even notice. "CO2 pollution" causes "the greenhouse effect" - which starts "global warming" - which causes "climate change" and "sea level rise". They are each separate phenomena that happen to be linked by an interconnected chain of events. In fact, "sea level rise" also causes "global warming" because light colored beach sand becomes covered with darker colored water which absorbs more sunlight. The feedback of one phenomenon into the other is the kind of thing that makes it hard to predict what's going to happen (in detail, at least). At the level of the science, the terms are quite distinct and have subtle and important meaning. At the level of politics and public debate, we can simplify and use the terms more or less interchangeably even though that's not quite correct. SteveBaker (talk) 12:49, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
The IPCC's "tasked to evaluate the risk of climate change caused by human activity". All current research points to current human activity giving rise to a specific form of climate change being the most likely and therefore of greatest concern and that is global warming. The terms don't change, it's just that they mean different things. BTW this was discussed a few months okay on the science desk Nil Einne (talk) 06:36, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
Oh those crazy [Vaguely defined Political group] and their double-talk nonsense. Watch me cleverly skewer them by pointing out that sometimes they describe the same thing with different words! No one will ever vote for [them] again, now that I have brilliantly pointed out their lack of a strict, rigidly defined, one-to-one correspondence of thoughts to nomenclature. Vote Robot Party in 2012! (talk) 14:17, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
"Robot Party"? Sir, what side of the aisle says "the science is settled" and refuses to debate?--WaltCip (talk) 23:34, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
The IP user was accusing you of having a wikt:robotic approach to language parsing, not making any comment on scientific consensus or lack thereof. AlmostReadytoFly (talk) 07:34, 27 August 2009 (UTC)

24 hour public transport[edit]

how many cities around the world have regular 24 hour public transport? I cant find a list anywhere. also, whilst most major cities do have this why doesnt Tokyo?is it that late night taxis are controlled by the mob and want more business? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:36, 26 August 2009 (UTC)

I have no idea how many cities do, or what counts as "major" to you, but I can assert that Seattle (certainly one of the U.S.'s larger cities, though not top 10) doesn't, and as I recall Vancouver, B.C. (one of Canada's larger cities...I'd guess top 10) doesn't either. Tokyo, of course, is in a different class of city than these, but I thought I'd point out that the number of cities (at least in North America) with 24 hours public transport must not be very large, if my sample is at all representative. Jwrosenzweig (talk) 06:17, 26 August 2009 (UTC)

Vancouver is, I believe, Canada's third-largest city. If not, at least top 5. Thanks, gENIUS101 17:49, 26 August 2009 (UTC)

Toronto sort of does, on the major bus routes at least, but not the subway. Clarityfiend (talk) 06:27, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
In general 24-hour public transport = night buses. Most subway and overground trains can't run all through the night because they need to carry out maintenance at night. The only exception is the New York City Subway. Many large cities run night buses, but I can't find a list of them. We have an article on night buses but it's not very helpful. --Richardrj talk email 07:33, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
The PATH train between New York and New Jersey also runs 24 hours. I think I read somewhere that about 4 to 7 cities in the US (counting PATH as separate from NY) have 24-hour light rail/subway service. Jørgen (talk) 19:12, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
Vienna (Austria, pop. 2 mio) and a number of other European cities have a night bus service, which kicks off when the trams, normal busses and subway / underground / tube close. In Vienna, there are about 25 lines with a frequency of 2 per hour. There is also a collective cab system for low density routes (fixed times / fixed pick up points) which is subsidised. --Cookatoo.ergo.ZooM (talk) 07:43, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
Hi Cooky. I took one of those only the other night. Very useful and reliable it was too! --Richardrj talk email 07:46, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
(ec) There was an extensive list here until someone deleted it. See here. Obviously it will be incomplete but it might be of interest.--Shantavira|feed me 07:47, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
Hamburg has 24-hour public transport, the S-Bahn (urban light rail) runs 24 hours a day, in addition to night buses. — QuantumEleven 09:50, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
Brighton & Hove has night buses. DuncanHill (talk) 17:57, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
So do London and Paris. -- Александр Дмитрий (Alexandr Dmitri) (talk) 18:49, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
Probably easier to list which major cities that haven't got 24 hours public transport. --Saddhiyama (talk) 18:50, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
The Berlin S-Bahn runs all night in the weekends. As for night bus service, I agree that most big cities should be expected to have them (though the public transport-intensive Oslo, for example, only has service on weekends). Jørgen (talk) 19:14, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
Some of the buses and trains in Chicago run 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. Crypticfirefly (talk) 03:19, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
"The downtown buses run all night, doo-dah, doo-dah..." Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots 05:29, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
Bugs, you are fast becoming the latter day StuRat of the ref desks. Where is StuRat these days, anyway? -- JackofOz (talk) 11:45, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
I don't know from Rats. I do know that these pages are much more interesting, and with the chance of actually providing some results, than is WP:ANI. Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots 20:18, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
Stu's still lurking about. Clarityfiend (talk) 21:26, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
Judging by the interest show here, I was bold and restored the list to the Night bus service article. Astronaut (talk) 15:13, 27 August 2009 (UTC)

Honest politicians and newsworthiness[edit]

If honest politicians are as rare as is so widely claimed, then why do the media consider all acts of political dishonesty to be newsworthy? Wouldn't the real news then be the rare act of honesty in the face of temptation? NeonMerlin 06:04, 26 August 2009 (UTC)

The real rarity is politically neutral media. Every journalist would like to be the one that gets a Pulitzer Prize for exposing a juicy ( = sells newspapers and gets a promotion) scandal. It does happen that an editorial extolls the noble achievements of a statesman but usually after he's dead. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 06:56, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
Plus, the media are not generally interested in good news stories, they only want to report scandal and negative events. An act of honesty is not newsworthy, whereas an act of dishonesty is. --Richardrj talk email 07:27, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
Many politicians would be 'honest' most of the time, some virtually all the time. It depends to a degree on what you mean by honest and how far you want to take it, but there would certainly be many politicians who would not actually be corrupt (admittedly I do come from a country with a relatively uncorrupted system, I know many others are far worse). But is these politicians doing the right thing news? It's kind of the thing that you can't prove a negative - as long as a politician is being honest it's not news (what could you report anyway, "Senator xxxx continues to stick to his word...", who wants to read that everyday?) and it may be hard to prove anyway, but if they do something dishonest then it does become news. And you can hardly report about how honest a politician is when at any time they may prove to be dishonest - you really have to wait till the end of their career, and that's not happening all the time. However if they do something wrong you can instantly report on that. A lot of the dishonesty that is reported is really pretty trivial when you look at it anyway (again from my local POV), often it's simply journos looking for a story. --jjron (talk) 08:09, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
That's why I said "in the face of temptation." NeonMerlin 03:58, 27 August 2009 (UTC)

Simply - honest politicians are not rare at all. The problem with 'honesty' is that the media can be a bit black and white. They often seem to see any change of stance, any change to a previously agreed/proposed plan as proof of dishonesty - when a lot of the time it is simply that things change. The public's perception of politicians seems to be that they are dishonest, so all these sorts of things are pushed as acts of dishonesty and corruption, when a logical and sensible reason may well exist. The beauty (and major problem) of journalism is that you can write a story in such a way that the readership fills in the blanks. Basically though, there are 100s of politicians in pretty much every country (mine being the Uk) and my perspective says that the vast majority will be largely honest - or at least no more dishonest than the average person. As I said I believe the problem is that when people see the claim "we will reduce tax by 10%" and then when it doesn't transpire they call it lies - when the reality may be that they wanted to do it, but ultimately something prevented them (I appreciate this perspective appears to be rare in view of politicians). As others said there's no sales to be made in headlines such as "Politician meets their committment" (in the national media at least - local media appears to be more positive). (talk) 09:15, 26 August 2009 (UTC)

Define 'honest'. On the pure criterion nobody is totally honest. Politicians tend towards the need to guard the truth sometimes (ahead of a currency revaluation, for example). Their worst tendency, however, is to work only in the short-term..i.e. In our village, the church roof needed repair. Instead of replacing tiles and timbers (as recommended) the mayor replaced tiles only. Thus one of his successors, in only 5 years or so, will have to fund another roof stripping. Think for the moment only. This distinguishes the politician from the statesman. But there are not many statesmen! (talk)DT —Preceding undated comment added 14:27, 26 August 2009 (UTC).

You mean your village council takes responsibility for the church? That seems odd, especially since your IP address indicates you're in France, a country known for its state secularism. NeonMerlin 04:01, 27 August 2009 (UTC)

Napoleon was responsible for one heck of a lot. Including the abolition of the RC church in France and the confiscation of its property. The church became legal later (1842 I think) but the property was never restored. So the French State owns the churches. And is responsible for their upkeep. The Church have to furnish, etc. of course. So, yes, our village taxes went up for two years to pay for the repairs. And, yes, I do live in a lovely French fishig village. Some people have all the luck! (talk) 13:05, 27 August 2009 (UTC)DT

Image recollection question[edit]

Why is it, that when you see pictures of something you particularly enjoy seeing - in this particular case, scantily clad women - you enjoy it much more when you saw it yourself in the flesh, particularly when you took the pictures yourself, even though the end result is the same: the actual event, as is happened, is gone, and only the pictures remain? As a personal example, I have nowhere near a photographic memory. I can easily remember that I saw something - for years, if not decades - but what it looked like is gone within days, if it's not a repeated occasion. Pictures of the event make me remember exactly what it looked like, but they're not any better than anyone else's pictures of the same event, in fact, they're worse, as I'm not a professional photographer. But seeing someone else's photographs of such an event makes me anxious and envious thinking "damn, I should have been there", but seeing my own photographs simply makes me think "oh yes, that was nice to see", even though the photographs are the only actual recollection I have of the event. Can anyone provide an explanation for this? JIP | Talk 20:05, 26 August 2009 (UTC)

You might be interested in our article Explicit memory - the section on 'encoding and retrieval' seems to offer a little around the way that the 'photograph' acts as a cue to aid recollection. I would also add the note that our brains are particularly good at filling in the blanks with gay abandon for the 'truth'. This is touched on in the article Eyewitness testimony and the linked article Confabulation. ny156uk (talk) 21:02, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
Souvenir? --Sean 21:31, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
It seems fairly obvious: the anxiety and jealousy comes from the things not shown in the photograph which you didn't have the opportunity to see or do. For instance, substitute "scantily clad woman" with "ancient megalithic structure", something I think you'll agree is also nice to see. If you were actually there you can perform a thorough investigation of the site and look at it from all angles, and generally satisfy your curiosity. Therefore when you see a picture of the megaliths at a later date you have less cause for anxiety, since you remember all about it at least on a factual level, and don't feel that you are missing out. (talk) 21:50, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
Human memory is not like computer memory—it's not just raw visual data that is being stored, it is also a whole host of emotions, physical states, smells, etc. All sorts of things can trigger those and get very strong reactions. You can even fake memories if you are clever about it, and build up the right responses (see false memories). Every memory is a little network of sensations that get triggered. When you go back to a strong memory, it is like tripping a switch and having a cascade of little unconscious memories set off. -- (talk) 04:38, 27 August 2009 (UTC)

Who is that woman?[edit]

In a number of places where I've worked, there's a sign in the the staff kitchen/tea room, written in spookily similar terms. It usually goes something like this:

  • Please wash your own coffee mugs, plates, utensils etc and leave the kitchen clean and tidy. It's unfair on other staff to expect them to clean up after you. You wouldn't do this in your own home, so don't do it here.

I've always wondered, who is this person (sounds like a mother - no offence) who keeps following me around and having a parallel career path? How does she know what the state of our private pigsties are like? Does she pop up in other countries?

OK, silly question, but after having typed it, I couldn't bear to lose it. Just remove it if it's inappropriate. -- JackofOz (talk) 20:41, 26 August 2009 (UTC)

That reminds me of the countless number of times I've seen a sign saying "your mother doesn't work here, so clean up after yourself". Well, my mother doesn't work in my own workplace, or in my father's workplace, but she does work in her own worplace, and I've visited it many times, roughly once or twice per year, since my early childhood. JIP | Talk 20:51, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
Not sure what to say, but I offer you passive-aggressive notes and meme. (talk) 21:36, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
I think assuming it's a woman is a bit strange. I used to work with the most anal retentive person I've ever met and it was a guy, married with kids. And he was the source of most of the "notes" around the office. To annoy him, I kid you not, when he'd leave his desk we would move one of his highlighters from its "spot" in front of his monitor to just beside it and he would be beside himself until he worked out what was out of place and put it back. Back to the "note" thing, I think it's getting worse, right now I work in an office which even has illustrated instructions of how to use the male toilets. I mean, I don't know what's worse, the fact the instructions are there, or the fact that someone had a reason to think they need to be there. I'm in Australia, by the way. Vespine (talk) 22:43, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
Jack, this is not confined to Australia. In my office, there is often a note left by an employee in the company kitchenette that reads something like "Your mother doesn't work here, so clean up after yourself." (I say "often", because periodically it is removed. It is then—maybe a few days later—replaced with another.) I don't know whether a man or woman posts this note. I'm in the United States, by the way. Marco polo (talk) 22:59, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
No no, i mentioned I'm from australia to demonstrate this wasn't confined to the states, not to imply it was just an australian thing...Vespine (talk) 00:26, 28 August 2009 (UTC)
Vaguely related, Alan King once ridiculed signs in New York that said, "It's your city. Keep it clean." His response to that bit of nannyism was, "If it's my city, maybe I'd like to keep it dirty!" Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots 00:12, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
Vespine, I share your concern that a sign telling males how to use the toilet should be necessary. But apparently it is. In one of my earlier workplaces, we were confronted one day with the sight (and smell) of a faeces-loaded toilet seat. Only the staff had access to the office, so outsiders were ruled out. There were a couple of new workers who were from other countries where Western toilets are the exception rather than the rule, and it was assumed that one of them had no idea what to do, so he stood on it rather than sit on it, aimed rather poorly, and chose to do nothing about his ... droppings. I kid you not. We hoped we weren't being unfair to our foreign cousins, but no other reasonable explanation presented itself. The culprit was never identified afaik. Whoever it was, anal retention was apparently the least of his problems. -- JackofOz (talk) 08:26, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
oh yeah look, I totally understand the reason, it is the same where I work there are many people who are more accustomed to squat toilets, but make it part of "induction" or something. I just find it a bit frustrating, it's like all the signs that say "do not jump off the pier", purely because of a few cases where idiots broke their necks and sued the council?! I mean come on. It has become our social responsibility to pre-empt every human idiocy. Vespine (talk) 00:26, 28 August 2009 (UTC)
At school, in my days of youthful frivolity, we put up a sign which said, "flush twice, it's a long way to the cafeteria." We put that sign up in a restroom. As happens so often with such signs, someone else removed it. (This may be a little off topic.) Bus stop (talk) 12:52, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
This woman can get quite sarcastic. A sign in my office (workplace) kitchen a few years ago - "Milk, like revenge, is best served cold. Put milk back in the fridge after use". (talk) 08:59, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
FWIW: We have a big shared kitchen at work - and there are occasional problems (particularly with people not turning on - and subsequently not emptying - the dishwasher). We approach it with humor - and it seems to work. I drew up a ridiculously complicated flow chart for how to use the dishwasher with things like "Do you see your mother nearby?"...if yes..."Feel free to leave your coffee mug on the counter top and she'll deal with it"...if no..."Yell 'MOMMY, MOMMY, HELP ME NOW'"...with subsequent instructions on what to do if she doesn't show up. It covers about four sheets of paper. We also have two very complicated Italian-made coffeemakers - the kind with lots of levers and dials and chrome pipework. A nice photograph of a flash-flood washing away a bridge is accompanied by "List of ways to flood the kitchen with an Italian coffee-maker that is the approximate cost and complexity of a Ferrari F430". SteveBaker (talk) 12:40, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
Did it include a question on whether your mother appreciates being treated as a servant? Mine certainly wouldn't. AlmostReadytoFly (talk) 13:19, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
My office kitchen had a notice that tried to (gently) break to us the news of the non-existence of the dish-fairy. DJ Clayworth (talk) 14:33, 27 August 2009 (UTC)

Maybe its an Aussie thing, but David Thorne also takes issue with being told how and when to wash up at the office. He dealt with it in his own unique way. Rockpocket 17:04, 27 August 2009 (UTC)

When you find these kinds of signs ordering you to clean up the area, a good place to start is by tossing those signs into the nearest trash can. Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots 20:16, 27 August 2009 (UTC)

Oh, I don't mind a gentle reminder; a humorous one is even better. But this "You expected me to clean up your mess and I was forced to comply and I resent having to do that" sort of message can go to hell.'s passive-aggressive notes covers it well, I think. -- JackofOz (talk) 21:27, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
The best one I ever saw was "Help keep are office clean". The perfect combination of nannyism and bad English. Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots 21:43, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
For once I'm with Baseball Bugs. Sounds like paternalism gone wrong and sexist too. Pfly (talk) 04:59, 28 August 2009 (UTC)

School and university holidays[edit]

Why do both students and staff of schools and universities get such long holidays compared to other occupations. Clover345 (talk) 22:37, 26 August 2009 (UTC)

Warning: anecdotal evidence on my part: I had always heard that, at least here in Ireland, it was originally so that the children/young adults were free to help with agricultural work during the summer. That could be total BS, but it could make sense in that around the time compulsory education was introduced, farming families might have been reluctant to lose part of what was then very much a family business, for the entirety of the year. Fribbler (talk) 23:05, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
Yes, I've always heard that the long summer holiday is intended to allow children to help with the harvest. --Tango (talk) 00:36, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
I think there was some truth to that originally. In recent years (i.e. since the 70s) the story in the US at least is that schools extended vacation, especially the winter one, in order to cut down on heating costs (and cooling in the summer months) due to the high prices of oil at that time. It's not unreasonable - I know my small college of about 2400 students spent roughly $1 million a month on energy for all of the campus buildings, so keeping students out as much as possible cuts down on that. ~ Amory (usertalkcontribs) 00:55, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
If that were true one would expect northern states to have long winter breaks (to save on heating) and southern ones to have long summer breaks (to save on aircon). Is that the case? --Tango (talk) 01:04, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
People go to school in the American south?!? No, I don't think that's the case, but I think that iss more due to the bureaucracy of the system than anything else - If schools in the North are getting paid 50k a year to have students in school for six months while schools in the South are charging the same for 8-10 months, well then the South is gonna change real fast. ~ Amory (usertalkcontribs) 02:02, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
I was describing a system where different schools have the same amount of term time, just at different times of the year. There is no need for heating in Florida during the winter - I know because I spent last new year there and it was anything but cold - there is, however, need for lots of aircon in the summer. Vice versa in northern states. --Tango (talk) 02:27, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
The reason is probably that everyone knows that much of what passes for formal education is unimportant and that taking a vacation is arguably just as important. Bus stop (talk) 07:15, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
Schooling is supposed to serve the community not replace it with another community, as full-time schooling would do.Cuddlyable3 (talk) 08:17, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
Homework and the marking it entails means my mother is constantly complaining about the fact that she works more hours than me, even including holidays. The small hours are, she says, an illusion. Vimescarrot (talk) 10:31, 27 August 2009 (UTC)

What about universities then? Why do they get such long holidays? Most universities have longer holdiays compared to schools. Clover345 (talk) 10:33, 27 August 2009 (UTC)

While this isn't true of all schools, many now offer courses year-round, where the academic calendar is divided into three terms. For the courses to fit, the year gets divided into three equal four-month chunks — a long summer session is thus required.
In jurisdictions where universities aren't fully funded by the government, a longer summer break allows students to find full-time employment to offset some of the debt load they might otherwise incur. (In some fields, this time might be occupied by volunteer projects or internships to build experience instead.) It takes a certain amount of time to get any new employee or intern up to speed, and a short break wouldn't make hiring a student worthwhile.
Even though the undergraduates are gone for the summer, the professors, postdocs, and graduate students are usually still on campus, working away on their projects. They can get a lot of stuff done when there aren't undergrads underfoot, and they're not distracted by marking and teaching. It's important to remember that 'undergrads aren't in class' isn't directly equivalent to 'everyone is on holiday'. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 12:56, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
Those are all great points, and some schools even do quarters. It gives students more flexibility in their lives, the speed at which they want to take courses and graduate. And as you said, a lot of work is done on the "off period," mainly by the professors, who need to "publish or perish." 40% of their time during the year doesn't always add up to much, and that's assuming they can even make the 40-mark. ~ Amory (usertalkcontribs) 13:14, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
Not having to deal with undergrads in the libraries during the summer is awesome. It's so quiet! Adam Bishop (talk) 15:03, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
Academic term give some insights. Astronaut (talk) 16:50, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
In America, most public schools operate on a 180-day calendar; and most schools distrubute those 180 days in a "traditional" school calendar featuring the standard long 9-week summer break. However, in my county in North Carolina, lots of schools have converted to a Year-round calendar featuring a "9-week-on, 3-week-off" 4-track rotating schedule (each school has 4 tracks, and at any one 3-week period, one of the tracks is "off"). This schedule still uses 180 days, but no break is longer than 3-weeks, with the exception of an extra week at christmas and mid-summer, and sporadic holidays throughout the year, when all tracks are out. Though there are educational advantages of this calendar (such as not having a long break to forget stuff), but the real reason is space problems; year-round schools can hold 25% more students (since the building never goes unused), and the huge growth in my county has outstripped the county's ability to build schools. --Jayron32 03:16, 28 August 2009 (UTC)
Actually it is 33% more students. There is room for 4 tracks in the building that would usually hold 3, that's 33% extra. --Tango (talk) 00:13, 29 August 2009 (UTC)