Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Miscellaneous/2010 August 21

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August 21[edit]

if a trade smeargle from Colosseum will it still have a red tale[edit]

if a trade smeargle from colosseum will it still have a red tale —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:49, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

Sorry, I don't speak Markov chain. Marnanel (talk) 01:24, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
Presumably this is a Pokemon question? You would have better luck:
  1. Asking on the Entertainment Desk
  2. Slowing down to check your message, making sure you've written in full sentences and mentioned that you are talking about Pokemon.
The best I can offer you is the articles Pokemon Colosseum and smeargle. A quick skim of the article on Bulbapedia gives me no reason to think the colour of its tail will change. (talk) 01:39, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
Am I just getting old, or is pokeman a really, really strange concept? --Ludwigs2 02:25, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
It's just a wholesome children's game where you capture intelligent creatures and force them to beat each other into unconsciousness, no matter how non-violent they normally are. Who'd have a problem with that? (talk) 12:08, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
Maybe they're asking about something like this. After having played it for too long. -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 02:38, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
You know, if we do interpret the "red tale" as a communist story, it might even be possible that they're talking about an advanced game of Mao. But in that case we can't tell them the rules without taking a penalty. Marnanel (talk) 02:40, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

Red tail indicates it's shiny. There's no reason to think a Pokemon would lose its shininess being traded from one game to another; certainly, they never do when traded among the regular handheld games. (talk) 14:52, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

Please help me identify an Anchorage, Alaska building[edit]


I took this picture in Anchorage when I was there in 2006. I would like to identify it, as well as know where it is. Any help in finding out would be greatly appreciated. It's apparently not one of the tallest buildings. — Athelwulf [T]/[C] 04:06, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

Identifying that peculiar little Prince-like logo would probably help. Meanwhile, have you looked for the building in Google Images? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 07:53, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
Flickr gives ASRC Building which I'm guessing is the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, hey presto - the logo's match too. It was on the 6th page of a search of Flickr for "anchorage building alaska". Nanonic (talk) 10:49, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
And here it is on Google Maps. Nanonic (talk) 10:53, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

Wow, thanks guys! I did look through Google Images, but I guess I wasn't using the right search terms or something. Just found pretty skylines and a couple pics of Sarah Palin. Again, thanks. — Athelwulf [T]/[C] 10:29, 22 August 2010 (UTC)

Manual strangling[edit]

Suppose you were a pathologist who needs to investigate a corpse. If it was murdered by manual strangling, what signs are there on the body? (I know, I've asked enough strange questions already...) Kayau Voting IS evil 04:13, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

Marks around the neck, I would presume? (talk) 04:49, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
Try this page[1], which I got from googling post mortem signs of strangling There are many other hits. Richard Avery (talk) 07:03, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
CSI usually mention facial petechiae Rojomoke (talk) 10:11, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
From a forensic anthropology class I took many years ago, they told us that bruises around the neck and broken hyoid bone were common. The article linked to by Richard Avery seems to cover these and their deficiencies pretty well. --Mr.98 (talk) 15:55, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
The lungs will also show distinct signs, if the death was from suffocation. Looie496 (talk) 00:48, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
Anecdotally, the teeth take on a pinkish tinge as the blood vessels inside them are ruptured from the pressure. Exxolon (talk) 23:11, 22 August 2010 (UTC)

What's the formula or algorithm used to calculate the banker's offer on Deal or No Deal?[edit]

Don't know if this belongs in Entertainment, Mathematics, or here. Thanks. (talk) 17:09, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

His offer is often close to the median value, and always much less than the expectation (Arithmetic mean), but the banker plays psychological games with the contestant, so there is no algorithm. Dbfirs 17:21, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
I'm not certain, but "the banker" is in all likelihood a plot device. It is highly probable that the shadowy figure they show is in no way involved with determining the amount offered. Most gameshows which offer "jackpots" take out insurance against paying out the jackpot (and near-jackpots), in order to mitigate risk and smooth cash flows. In doing so, they have to provide the insurance company with information on the method of payout determination. In a game like Deal or No Deal, the likelihood of the contestant accepting the offer is critical to figuring the chance of a jackpot, so "we'll offer what we feel like" probably wouldn't cut it. I have no way of being certain, but I highly suspect that there *is* an algorithm used, possibly with a certain random factor included to avoid being obvious. I'd guess that most of the offers are determined solely by a computer, but with the producers "tweaking" it rarely when doing so would increase drama (e.g. play psychological games), although they're probably limited by certain guidelines (e.g. never go over the expectation value, never more than X% away from the computer estimate, etc.). If an algorithm does exist, though, it is probably protected by pretty severe confidentially agreements to avoid people "gaming" the system (like Michael Larson did on Press Your Luck when he figured out its algorithms), so even if we were sure there was an algorithm, we wouldn't know what it was. -- (talk) 17:42, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
I found this from google. The author claims that his formula (based on data of 31 banker's offers in the US NBC version) explains "99% of the variance in the banker's offer". Although my understanding is that the banker takes account of the contestant's attitude to risk - so there is no formula. Zain Ebrahim (talk) 17:31, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
I believe the US version is different to the UK w.r.t. bankers, asI recall the UK version is much more context dependent. - Jarry1250 [Humorous? Discuss.] 17:35, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
These formulas just do not work, even for the American version, though there is some truth in the claim that the offer comes closer to the expected value as the number of remaining boxes decreases. In the English version, the "banker" tends towards the median in early rounds, but there is considerable variation to make the game more interesting. Dbfirs 22:37, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
TV programs cost an absolute fortune to make and compared to that, the prize money is not the biggest cost. TV studios are much more likely to pick the amount to make the show more interesting - perhaps to skew the ratio of winners to losers to match some kind of predetermined amount that will keep people watching. SteveBaker (talk) 20:05, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
"The banker" once offered a contestant root beer. If there is a formula, I don't it's used every time. ~AH1(TCU) 19:57, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
I disagree that the producers aren't concerned with the prize money. Game shows with giant top prizes, such as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, generally have insurance against having to pay out the big jackpot. In fact, the insurer for the US version of Millionaire? sued the show after someone won $1 million -- they said the questions were too easy! -- Mwalcoff (talk) 23:14, 22 August 2010 (UTC)

Another jarring Americanism.[edit]

I listen to and watch several USA news channels and always find it jarring to hear a report such as, "The President and First Lady met with the leader of XYZ Thursday evening", or "A fire-engine broke down on the freeway Wednesday morning". Why not "last Thursday evening", or "on Wednesday morning"? And why, whenever that misuse began to develop away from the British English format, did the whole of the Continental USA unquestioningly follow suit, knowing as they must have done that it was wrong? (talk) 18:33, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

You should ask this on the language desk if you don't just want anecdotes as answers, or smug replies about how English is a living language, etc. --Mr.98 (talk) 18:35, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
Smug questions will probably get smug replies no matter where they are asked. Adam Bishop (talk) 19:03, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
Plus I don't see anything wrong with that construction. English is a living language, after all. (talk) 19:18, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
Your whole premise is wrong. American English did not develop away from British English. Both modern American English and modern British English developed away from early modern British English. In many ways, modern American English is closer and more faithful to its early modern parent than modern British English is. So, in many cases, it is modern British English that has developed away from the earlier norm. Why should American English have followed British English on its errant path? Marco polo (talk) 20:06, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
an old linguistic factiod I heard somewhere, that Shakespeare (if he were alive today) would actually be most comfortable with the way that English is spoken in Chicago. --Ludwigs2 20:27, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
More of an opinion than a fact(oid) I would venture. Alansplodge (talk) 23:40, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
You've planted a mental picture of Richard Daley II doing Richard III: "Now is da winter of our discontent..." Right. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 12:45, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
I don't have a problem with it, though I am American, so maybe I'm just used to it. I think it's better the way they do it than the way you suggest with the day of the week first. The media's way gets the heart of the story out there first and then notes the day. I care less about when something happened than I do about what happened. Dismas|(talk) 00:11, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
It may sound dysphonious to your ear, but there's nothing wrong with it. The Rhymesmith (talk) 01:46, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
Why has the USA changed its language? Surely you don't think England's version of English has remained unchanged since the 1700s? (If you do think so, perhaps a trip to the library is in order.) APL (talk) 03:42, 22 August 2010 (UTC)

If you can explain why band names in the singular are still considered plural in England... nah, not worth it. It's language; it doesn't make always sense. English has just too many exceptions to even bother figuring out such minor annoyances (if they are even that). Aaronite (talk) 04:55, 22 August 2010 (UTC)

As with any group noun, we imply "the members of ....". Perfectly logical shorthand on this side of the pond. Language just keeps changing despite pedants who try to fossilize it. Dbfirs 06:16, 22 August 2010 (UTC)

The context is clear that it's on the most recent day of the week specified. I don't see what the problem is. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 05:14, 22 August 2010 (UTC)

Ah, now I see the problem. The Brits have invented time travel and haven't bothered to tell us about it. So if they say David Cameron met with opposition leaders Thursday morning, they mean this coming Thursday. --Trovatore (talk) 07:11, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
We would say "met with opposition leaders on Thursday morning" It's the lost preposition that sounds odd, but I'm only annoyed when Brits copy Yanks. Alansplodge (talk) 08:31, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
The most recent. Like if it's Friday and I say Thursday, I'm referring to yesterday. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 07:53, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
Except if it's in the future: "XX will happen on Thursday" means the Thursday coming up. -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 08:49, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
That's not how Alan's example was worded. "Will meet" obviously refers to the future. "Met with", as he stated, indicates the past. Unless the British announcers really talk that way. Let's hope not. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 09:14, 22 August 2010 (UTC)

The British say things like "I shall be delighted to see you Tuesday next"; the ancestors of modern Britons and Americans said things like "washing clothes of a Monday" or "going to Church a-Sunday", as you'll find in nursery rhymes (e.g. "Solomon Grundy") and Shakespeare. But the preposition does make things smoother.—— Shakescene (talk) 07:42, 22 August 2010 (UTC)

I believe you're mistaken; I've never heard anyone use a construction like that. "Solomon Grundy" doesn't either - have a look at your own link. Alansplodge (talk) 08:36, 22 August 2010 (UTC)

My own grandparents (who were indeed fairly ancient) said "of a Monday" or whatever day. I took it to be a slurring of "every Monday", but whatever. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 07:55, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
I humbly point the OP to our informative and detailed article on the differences between British and American English, which should answer his query. CS Miller (talk) 15:14, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
Just one question—do they really say a fortnight in jolly old England? Bus stop (talk) 15:31, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
Yes - it's an everyday word and a jolly useful one too - you should try it. Alansplodge (talk) 15:59, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
Jolly interesting I find that. I think "fortnight" would make any American laugh if heard on this side of the ocean. (I hate the word pond.) Bus stop (talk) 21:11, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
I use the word "fortnight" reasonably often here in Texas - some people don't know what it means - but so far, laughter has not ensued. SteveBaker (talk) 23:17, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
I wouldn't laugh at it, but I'm not sure what function it serves, given that two weeks is faster to say than a fortnight. OTOH fortnightly neatly solves the problem of whether biweekly means once every two weeks, or twice a week. --Trovatore (talk) 23:29, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
I always make my decisions about vocabulary with a stopwatch in hand. Marnanel (talk) 23:43, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
Absolutely no need to apologise for not using the word "pond" to refer to the Atlantic Ocean, Bus stop. After all, it is, in case it slipped anyone's notice, a fucking ocean, and not a pond. -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 05:34, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
Apologizing for not using a colloquialism. Kind of like the time Groucho said, "Do you mind if I don't smoke?" However, I would argue that the Atlantic is just a really big, saltwater pond. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 12:41, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
Argue that way till hell freezes over if you like, you still won't get anyone worth their salt to agree with you. Is Jupiter not a planet but just a really big marble? Is Africa not a continent but just a really big clod of dirt? I could go on. The Groucho reference escapes me completely. -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 11:58, 24 August 2010 (UTC)
Solomon Grundy,
Born Monday,
Christened Tuesday,
Married Wednesday,
Took ill Thursday,
Grew worse Friday,
Died Saturday,
Buried Sunday.
This is end Solomon Grundy.

ps. The number (of) defiant and inherently inferiority-complex defences above (of) American misusages (of) (News-Speak) English , convinces (the) OP that the responders (above) are aware (of), and embarrassed (by), the slavish misuse (of) (the) Mother-Tongue, such that they have decided (en-masse) (to) blatantly adhere (to) Fox News (and) CNN English (as) determined (by) feminist striped-suit-wearing (anchors), because it demonstrates (their) independence from the old and jolly UK; and also signifies the feminist view that "difference is better". (talk) 15:55, 22 August 2010 (UTC)

Methinks the OP doth project too much. --- OtherDave (talk) 12:26, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
While "last Thursday evening" is potentially redundant, it really should be "on Wednesday morning," at least in (what should be) the semi-formal language of a newscast, but as far as "jarring Americanisms" go it's odd that you'd choose those ones when there are egregious examples like "a couple three," as in "we're going away for a couple three days." Exploding Boy (talk) 02:48, 24 August 2010 (UTC)

Average # of patents for an American patent holder[edit]

How many patents does the average person who holds at least one American patent have? Thanks. (talk) 19:20, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

I don't think there are good statistics out there for this, but it is an interesting question. Just as an informal, non-statistically significant, non-scientific test, I clicked on a little over 20 random patents issued in the last 20 years on Google Patents, then put the inventors names back into the search (throwing out those with generic names), and tallied the results. My average was an impressive 24.39, with a median of 12, which was a lot higher than I had thought it would be. The reason is that my sample ended up picking up about six inventors who worked for IBM or big medical companies or big electronics companies. These sectors churn out literally thousands of patent applications per year and they have whole teams often listed as inventors on them. One of my names (an IBM one) had his name listed on some 155 patents (but not usually as the sole inventor). It was not uncommon to find people who had between 40-90 patents.
Throwing out the high end, I still only found two inventors in my list with only 1 patent each. The rest ranged from 2-20. Anyway I was surprised by this, but I shouldn't have been — it's been pretty well documented (see David F. Noble's excellent America by Design, 1977) that since the late 19th century most patents in the US are held by major industrial concerns, not the "amateur tinkerer" that people think of when they hear the word "inventor." Even the "amateur tinkerer" probably has more than one patent, though. I suspect that patenting is one of those things that, if you do it, you probably do it a lot, and if you don't do it, you probably never do it. There are of course the occasional people who happen across an invention in their course of work and get it patented, but I suspect they are drowned out by the volume of people who are basically patenting things as a full time job. But this is just speculation, and my data is certainly not scientific. --Mr.98 (talk) 20:50, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

That sampling method doesn't quite work, for a subtle but interesting reason. Because you selected your names from randomly selected patents in the first place you don't end up with randomly selected inventors. In fact you're more likely to pick inventors with greater than average numbers of patents, which pulls your numbers up. Consider the following (rather extreme!) scenario:

  • There are 10,000 amateur inventors with 1 patent, and 100 very productive inventors with 100 patents. We'll assume every patent has only one named inventor, for simplicity.
  • Therefore there are 20,000 patents shared by 10,100 inventors; the mean patents-per-inventor is about 1.98 while the median is 1 (this distribution is highly positively skewed)
  • Taking a truly random sample of inventors, we'd expect to get a mean of roughly 2 patents each (but with some sampling error as our sample won't be totally representative; since only about 1% of inventors were productive, we'd ideally need a sample of several hundred. A sample size of 100 has roughly 37% probability of only containing amateurs, and for a sample size of 200 the risk of such an error is still about 14%. With a big enough sample though, this risk can be reduced as far as is desired, and the sample made more likely to be better representative of the whole group.)
  • Now consider selecting our sample of inventors just by picking patents at random and looking at their inventor. There were 10,000 patents by amateur inventors and 10,000 patents by productive inventors, so each inventor we select has a roughly 50% chance of being productive. This means our sample will be most likely be fairly evenly split between the productive inventors (100 patents each) and amateurs with just one. We will therefore expect our sample mean to be about fifty patents per inventor!

But of course the real mean should be about two patents per inventor. The over-large estimate of the mean was a consequence of not having equal probability of selecting each element (i.e. inventor) in the sampling frame. If you can't change the sampling methodology, an alternative is to adapt the formula used to estimate the mean instead, to take account of the fact that the highly productive inventors will tend to be overrepresented. TheGrappler (talk) 03:47, 27 August 2010 (UTC)

To adapt the formula, I seem to recall that you can use a weighted mean - instead of adding up the x (number of patents) for each inventor and dividing by the number of inventors in the sample, use a weighting w for each inventor, add up wx for all the inventors, then divide by the sum of the weights. You need to set the weight for each inventor to be w = 1/x i.e. 1/(their number of patents). This compensates for the fact that that the inventor was x-times more likely to be selected than an inventor with one patent. This has the curious result that "wx" is one for each inventor, so the sum of wx is just the number of inventors sampled, while the sum of the weights is the sum of the reciprocals of the numbers of patents. Dividing the number of inventors sampled by the sum of the reciprocals of their numbers of patents, gives you a more realistic estimate for the mean number of patents per inventor. TheGrappler (talk) 17:03, 27 August 2010 (UTC)

To rephrase[edit]

I asked a question a few days ago and it may have been badly worded as I did not get the answer. Many countries were involved in WWII. If we only look at Britain and Germany, which of these two countries made the first military attack on the other, and how long was it before the other side retaliated. I know Germany ivaded Poland and this can be seen as an act of war. I only want to know about these two countries and their interaction, for this perticular instant. Thank you —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:10, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

The only warlike act on 3rd Sep appears to have been the sinking of SS Athenia by U30, although this was unknown to the German Government and high command. "RAF aircraft drop 6 million leaflets on cities in northern Germany[2]". Two German merchant ships are seized in UK ports; one British ship seized in a German port. A number of RN submarines were bombed by the RAF[3]. The next day, 4th Sep "RAF Bomber Command go in against German warships in the Heligoland Bight with 29 Bristol Blenheim and Vickers Wellington bombers in a daylight raid. The Admiral Scheer is hit three times but the bombs do not explode. The cruiser Emden is damaged by wreckage of a shot-down Blenheim. Of the attacking aircraft, 7 are lost."[4] A famous friendly fire incident on 6th Sep was the Battle of Barking Creek. Alansplodge (talk) 23:36, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
You can't look at these two countries in isolation and claim that England started the war, as Hitler tried to do. I thought that was made abundantly clear last time this question came up. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 09:17, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
I think the OP was looking for facts to prove the Great Dictator wrong. No problem with that. Alansplodge (talk) 13:46, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
Also look at Phoney War and Miracle of Dunkirk. ~AH1(TCU) 19:55, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
The latter article is now known, more appropriately, as Dunkirk evacuation. -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 05:31, 23 August 2010 (UTC)