Posts tagged explainer

How does copyright work in space?

Here’s one for your inner copyright lawyer:

CHRIS HADFIELD has captured the world’s heart, judging by the 14m YouTube views of his free-fall rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”, recorded on the International Space Station (ISS). The Canadian astronaut’s clear voice and capable guitar-playing were complemented by his facility in moving around in the microgravity of low-earth orbit. But when the man fell to Earth in a neat and safe descent a few days ago, after a five-month stay in orbit, should he have been greeted by copyright police? Commander Hadfield was only 250 miles (400 km) up, so he was still subject to terrestrial intellectual-property regimes, which would have applied even if he had flown the “100,000 miles” mentioned in the song’s lyrics, or millions of kilometres to Mars. His five-minute video had the potential to create a tangled web of intellectual-property issues. How does copyright work in space?

Some things to think about before you answer.

Copyright law differs from country to country while global agreements also create common rules and regulations. But with the space station orbiting the planet almost 16 times a day, which earthbound jurisdiction should govern any copyright claims? Or, riddle this one: the ISS is constructed of different modules. There’s an American one along with European, Russian and Japanese ones. So whose rules would govern copyright as Hadfield floated throughout while singing Bowie’s song?

As The Economist points out, “The agreement governing the ISS makes it clear (in Article 5) that the applicable laws, including those governing IP rights, depend on which part of it an astronaut is in.” [Emphasis ours.]

Federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.

A statement by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper about the state’s legalization of recreational marijuana. The law would allow individuals to carry up to an ounce of pot and/or grow up to six plants.

Emily Bazelon, Slate. Don’t Touch Their Stash!

FJP: Call this part PSA to our Colorado friends and part example of a great explainer on how state rights and the Justice Department play on this issue.

Via Slate:

This is not a tale of the federal government following the lead of the states. It’s a tale of the Justice Department asserting its authority against the state’s voters and state sovereignty. The federal government has this authority because of the 2005 Supreme Court decision that essentially ended the march of federalism—the legal doctrine that the court’s conservatives previously invoked to limit Congress’s powers to make laws that affect commerce among the states. You may vaguely remember this one from the huge fight over Obamacare. In the 2005 case, Gonzales v. Raich, Angel Raich was a sick woman in California who said medical marijuana was the only way she could combat excruciating, life-threatening pain. She argued that in light of the state’s 1996 legalization of medical marijuana, the Justice Department couldn’t enforce the Controlled Substances Act against her—in other words, the feds couldn’t take away her pot. Raich lost 6-3, with conservative Justice Antonin Scalia joining the liberal-centrist wing of the court. When it came to a choice between a federal crackdown on pot smokers and a state-led push to leave them alone, Scalia lost his appetite for dismissing Congress and federal prosecutors in favor of the states.

Read on.

Bonus: The New York Times with a six minute “Op-Doc Video" about Chris Williams, a Montana man who faces a mandatory 80-year minimum sentence for growing pot. He did so after Montana legalized medical marijuana. As the Times op ed notes: “[A] coherent system of justice must explain why one defendant is punished more harshly than the next. It must explain why a farmer who grows marijuana in compliance with state law should be punished much more harshly than some pedophiles and killers. If we cannot explain this disparity, we should fight to change it.”

Explainer: The Problem with the Electoral College
With Election Day just around the corner, here’s a nicely made explainer on how the electoral college does (and doesn’t) work, for those of us who never really got it. Adapted from the new book Electoral Dysfunction: A Survival Manual for American Voters (The New Press, 2012), it was created by Newsbound, a media company “on a mission to make complex topics understandable.”
Newsbound is worth keeping an eye on as well. This is how they describe what they’re up to:

With an emphasis on backstory and explanation, Newsbound is breaking away from the breaking news cycle. We’re working to engage users who are motivated to learn about complex ongoing stories, but feel overwhelmed by the pace and fluency of the 24-hour news system.  Our mission is to expand the audience for substantive news and broaden the conversation around these topics.
In 2011, we produced prototype content focusing on the federal budget process and the debate over the filibuster in the U.S. Senate. Through these early experiments and subsequent user research, we identified several key problems and opportunities in the news ecosystem. We’re now working on a one-of-a-kind product that fills these gaps and we can’t wait to share it with you.  You can see some recent examples of our new “stack” format here and here.

Bonus: More Explainers from Newsbound
Super PACs Unpacked
Breaking Down The Voter ID Battle
Drone Warfare
How Conventions Turns Into Campaign Commercials
Image: Detail from The Problem with the Electoral College. Click-through to see the explainer.

Explainer: The Problem with the Electoral College

With Election Day just around the corner, here’s a nicely made explainer on how the electoral college does (and doesn’t) work, for those of us who never really got it. Adapted from the new book Electoral Dysfunction: A Survival Manual for American Voters (The New Press, 2012), it was created by Newsbound, a media company “on a mission to make complex topics understandable.”

Newsbound is worth keeping an eye on as well. This is how they describe what they’re up to:

With an emphasis on backstory and explanation, Newsbound is breaking away from the breaking news cycle. We’re working to engage users who are motivated to learn about complex ongoing stories, but feel overwhelmed by the pace and fluency of the 24-hour news system.  Our mission is to expand the audience for substantive news and broaden the conversation around these topics.

In 2011, we produced prototype content focusing on the federal budget process and the debate over the filibuster in the U.S. Senate. Through these early experiments and subsequent user research, we identified several key problems and opportunities in the news ecosystem. We’re now working on a one-of-a-kind product that fills these gaps and we can’t wait to share it with you.  You can see some recent examples of our new “stack” format here and here.

Bonus: More Explainers from Newsbound

Image: Detail from The Problem with the Electoral College. Click-through to see the explainer.

Paraskevidekatriaphobia, noun, fear of Friday the 13th
We can barely pronounce it either but as far as the word goes, Macmillan tells us that it was coined in the 90s by an American psychotherapist named Donald Dossey, and “is based on the Greek words paraskevi (‘Friday’) and dekatria (‘thirteen’) with -phobia as a suffix to indicate ‘fear’.”
A related term is triskaidekaphobia, which comes from the early 20th century, and is from the Greek ‘tris’ (three) and ‘deka’ (ten). As Macmillan notes, “This word forms the basis of a lexical variant friggatriskaidekaphobia, also meaning ‘fear of Friday 13th’. The prefix frigga is based on the name of an ancient Scandinavian goddess who was associated with witchcraft and Friday (the witches’ sabbath).”
While no one knows for sure how or why we fear Friday the 13th, About.com gives it a go with theories that range from our early selves (“Primitive man had only his 10 fingers and two feet to represent units, this explanation goes, so he could count no higher than 12. What lay beyond that — 13 — was an impenetrable mystery to our prehistoric forebears, hence an object of superstition.”); to the foundation of patriarchal society (“Thirteen had been revered in prehistoric goddess-worshiping cultures, we are told, because it corresponded to the number of lunar (menstrual) cycles in a year (13 x 28 = 364 days”); to Biblical ideas about the number (“[T]he Bible tells us there were exactly 13 present at the Last Supper. One of the dinner guests — er, disciples — betrayed Jesus Christ, setting the stage for the Crucifixion. Did I mention the Crucifixion took place on a Friday?”).
Among other theories, Wikipedia chimes in with this one:

In numerology, the number twelve is considered the number of completeness, as reflected in the twelve months of the year, twelve hours of the clock, twelve gods of Olympus, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve Apostles of Jesus, the 12 successors of Muhammad in Shia Islam, etc., whereas the number thirteen was considered irregular, transgressing this completeness. There is also a superstition, thought by some to derive from the Last Supper or a Norse myth, that having thirteen people seated at a table will result in the death of one of the diners.

Finally, here’s a wonderful urban legend that we wish were true. It runs like so:

Sometime in the 19th century, the [British] Royal Navy attempted to finally dispel the old superstition among sailors that beginning a voyage on a Friday was certain to bring bad luck. To demonstrate the falseness of this belief, they decided to commission a ship named HMS Friday. Her keel was laid on a Friday, she was launched on a Friday, and she set sail on her maiden voyage on a Friday, under the command of a Captain James Friday. She was never seen or heard from again.

Paraskevidekatriaphobia, noun, fear of Friday the 13th

We can barely pronounce it either but as far as the word goes, Macmillan tells us that it was coined in the 90s by an American psychotherapist named Donald Dossey, and “is based on the Greek words paraskevi (‘Friday’) and dekatria (‘thirteen’) with -phobia as a suffix to indicate ‘fear’.”

A related term is triskaidekaphobia, which comes from the early 20th century, and is from the Greek ‘tris’ (three) and ‘deka’ (ten). As Macmillan notes, “This word forms the basis of a lexical variant friggatriskaidekaphobia, also meaning ‘fear of Friday 13th’. The prefix frigga is based on the name of an ancient Scandinavian goddess who was associated with witchcraft and Friday (the witches’ sabbath).”

While no one knows for sure how or why we fear Friday the 13th, About.com gives it a go with theories that range from our early selves (“Primitive man had only his 10 fingers and two feet to represent units, this explanation goes, so he could count no higher than 12. What lay beyond that — 13 — was an impenetrable mystery to our prehistoric forebears, hence an object of superstition.”); to the foundation of patriarchal society (“Thirteen had been revered in prehistoric goddess-worshiping cultures, we are told, because it corresponded to the number of lunar (menstrual) cycles in a year (13 x 28 = 364 days”); to Biblical ideas about the number (“[T]he Bible tells us there were exactly 13 present at the Last Supper. One of the dinner guests — er, disciples — betrayed Jesus Christ, setting the stage for the Crucifixion. Did I mention the Crucifixion took place on a Friday?”).

Among other theories, Wikipedia chimes in with this one:

In numerology, the number twelve is considered the number of completeness, as reflected in the twelve months of the year, twelve hours of the clock, twelve gods of Olympus, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve Apostles of Jesus, the 12 successors of Muhammad in Shia Islam, etc., whereas the number thirteen was considered irregular, transgressing this completeness. There is also a superstition, thought by some to derive from the Last Supper or a Norse myth, that having thirteen people seated at a table will result in the death of one of the diners.

Finally, here’s a wonderful urban legend that we wish were true. It runs like so:

Sometime in the 19th century, the [British] Royal Navy attempted to finally dispel the old superstition among sailors that beginning a voyage on a Friday was certain to bring bad luck. To demonstrate the falseness of this belief, they decided to commission a ship named HMS Friday. Her keel was laid on a Friday, she was launched on a Friday, and she set sail on her maiden voyage on a Friday, under the command of a Captain James Friday. She was never seen or heard from again.

This is indeed a new particle. We know it must be a boson and it’s the heaviest boson ever found.

Joe Incandela, spokesperson, Large Hadron Collider, on what is believed to be the discovery of long-sought Higgs Boson particle. LiveScience, New Particle at World’s Largest Atom Smasher is Likely Higgs Boson.

Via LiveScience:

The Higgs, nicknamed the “God particle” (to the chagrin of many scientists, who prefer its official name), is thought to hold the key to one of the mysteries of the universe: Why do things have mass?

Its discovery represents a major step forward in our understanding of why the universe exists as it does, with matter clumping together to form galaxies, stars, planets and us, scientists say. 

Here’s a an animated explainer via OpenCulture about the significance of Higgs Boson. 

The Higgs Boson Explained from PHD Comics on Vimeo.

Know Your Thobe
The afternoon explainer via Brownbook.
FYI, I’ve only worn it Saudi style. — Michael

Know Your Thobe

The afternoon explainer via Brownbook.

FYI, I’ve only worn it Saudi style. — Michael

Who’s Who in Syria, an Illustrated Explainer
Slate’s running an illustrated explainer of who’s who in Syria’s power family with brief overviews of how they got there.
So, for example, you have Bashar “the accidental dictator,” his younger brother “the elite army commander” and first cousin Hafez Makhlouf “the spymaster” among others.
Image: Detail from Syria’s First Family, via Slate.

Who’s Who in Syria, an Illustrated Explainer

Slate’s running an illustrated explainer of who’s who in Syria’s power family with brief overviews of how they got there.

So, for example, you have Bashar “the accidental dictator,” his younger brother “the elite army commander” and first cousin Hafez Makhlouf “the spymaster” among others.

Image: Detail from Syria’s First Family, via Slate.

Hadoop, Say What?

With an ecosystem of components with names like Pig, Oozie, Sqoop and Zookeeper among others, it can be difficult understanding what exactly the software framework Hadoop actually is.

Fortunately, Edd Dumbill at O’Reilly Radar gives a great explainer:

Apache Hadoop has been the driving force behind the growth of the big data industry. You’ll hear it mentioned often, along with associated technologies such as Hive and Pig…

…Hadoop brings the ability to cheaply process large amounts of data, regardless of its structure. By large, we mean from 10-100 gigabytes and above. How is this different from what went before?

Dumbill goes on to core components such as MapReduce, HDFS, and then explains others that improve programmability, data access, coordination and workflow, management and deployment, and machine learning.

Interested in more? Here are some tutorials to get you started:

Visualizing the 99%

The Guardian put together this animated explainer about wealth distribution in the United States.

Click through to see the data behind the animation.

Learn what redistricting is all about through this ‘school house rock’ style music video made by Andrew Bean and Dave Holmes in partnership with ProPublica.

A Year in the Life of Dow Jones
When the Dow plunged yesterday I was flipping through cable news and couldn’t find anyone, anywhere who would contextualize what the numbers meant. 
Yes, 630 plus points (or about 5.5%) were lost from the day before but how did that compare to the year? For that matter, where were we last August?
Enter data gleaned from Wolfram|Alpha. Above is the monthly low, mean and high of the Dow Jones Industrial Average from August 2010 to yesterday.
For those wondering, here’s a flashback of past August lows:
August 2011: 10810
August 2010: 9986
August 2009: 9135
August 2008: 11284
August 2007: 12846
August 2006: 11076
August 2005: 10397 
Now watch as we jump back in time a bit:
August 1995: 4581
August 1985: 1313
August 1975: 791
August 1925: 125
And all that because the cable wouldn’t tell me that one little thing I wanted to know.

A Year in the Life of Dow Jones

When the Dow plunged yesterday I was flipping through cable news and couldn’t find anyone, anywhere who would contextualize what the numbers meant. 

Yes, 630 plus points (or about 5.5%) were lost from the day before but how did that compare to the year? For that matter, where were we last August?

Enter data gleaned from Wolfram|Alpha. Above is the monthly low, mean and high of the Dow Jones Industrial Average from August 2010 to yesterday.

For those wondering, here’s a flashback of past August lows:

  • August 2011: 10810
  • August 2010: 9986
  • August 2009: 9135
  • August 2008: 11284
  • August 2007: 12846
  • August 2006: 11076
  • August 2005: 10397 

Now watch as we jump back in time a bit:

  • August 1995: 4581
  • August 1985: 1313
  • August 1975: 791
  • August 1925: 125

And all that because the cable wouldn’t tell me that one little thing I wanted to know.

Colbert Gets His Super Pac with Media Implications

The Federal Elections Commission today approved comedian Stephen Colbert’s application to form a super PAC. Super PAC’s came on the scene in 2010 after US Supreme Court rulings in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission and SpeechNow.org v Federal Election Commission struck down spending and contribution limits to campaigns. 

The difference between a “normal” Political Action Committee and a super PAC is in the disclosure laws and uncapped “issue” expenditures, meaning a super PAC can spend whatever it can raise on targeted issues but not donate directly to a campaign.

Sarah Mimms of the Atlantic outlines the implications this could have on media involvement in US elections.

The request comes down to one essential issue: whether Viacom can legally donate production costs, airtime and use of Colbert’s staff to create ads for the so-called super PAC, to be played both on “The Colbert Report” and as paid advertisements other networks and shows.

If the FEC grants Colbert a press exemption, the decision could have a drastic effect on media involvement in federal elections, potentially opening the door for media outlets that employ politicians as commentators to aid favored candidates through undisclosed contributions. Those figures include Fox News contributor Karl Rove, who founded American Crossroads, and former Ark. Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) who heads “Huck PAC” and hosts a show on Fox News.

Several campaign finance reform advocates are expressing concern over three proposed changes the FEC will consider on Thursday. Granting Colbert’s request in full, they argue, would allow media companies to anonymously fund the political activities of their employees, under the protection of the FEC’s press exemption…

…Granting the exemption would produce what the reformers called “a sweeping and damaging impact on disclosure laws,” which would allow media companies to fund employees’ political activities anonymously. Politicians who are employed by media companies could use their television shows as platforms to raise unlimited funds for their PACs, without having to disclose it, the reform groups said.

H/T: topherchris & NPR

The afternoon explainer: A caffeinated romp through all things coffee.

"Caffeine is the worlds most used psychoactive drug. And with good reason. It’s pure awesome."

Via CGP Grey.

Run Time - 4:20.

Oil Spill amounts in perspective