Monday, May 31, 2010

11 Brain-Twisting Paradoxes


Paradoxes have been around since the time of Ancient Greeks & the credit of popularizing them goes to recent logicians. Using logic you can usually find a fatal flaw in the paradox which shows why the seemingly impossible is either possible or the entire paradox is built on flawed thinking. Can you all work out the problems in each of the 11 paradoxes shown here? If you do, post your solutions or the fallacies in the comments.

#11 - The Omnipotence Paradox


The paradox states that if the being can perform such actions, then it can limit its own ability to perform actions and hence it cannot perform all actions, yet, on the other hand, if it cannot limit its own actions, then that is—straight off—something it cannot do. This seems to imply that an omnipotent being’s ability to limit itself necessarily means that it will, indeed, limit itself. This paradox is often formulated in terms of the God of the Abrahamic religions, though this is not a requirement. One version of the omnipotence paradox is the so-called paradox of the stone: “Could an omnipotent being create a stone so heavy that even that being could not lift it?” If so, then it seems that the being could cease to be omnipotent; if not, it seems that the being was not omnipotent to begin with. An answer to the paradox is that having a weakness, such as a stone he cannot lift, does not fall under omnipotence, since the definition of omnipotence implies having no weaknesses.

#10 - The Sorites’ Paradox


The paradox goes as follows: consider a heap of sand from which grains are individually removed. One might construct the argument, using premises, as follows:

1,000,000 grains of sand is a heap of sand. (Premise 1)
A heap of sand minus one grain is still a heap. (Premise 2)
Repeated applications of Premise 2 (each time starting with one less grain), eventually forces one to accept the conclusion that a heap may be composed of just one grain of sand.

On the face of it, there are some ways to avoid this conclusion. One may object to the first premise by denying 1,000,000 grains of sand makes a heap. But 1,000,000 is just an arbitrarily large number, and the argument will go through with any such number. So the response must deny outright that there are such things as heaps. Peter Unger defends this solution. Alternatively, one may object to the second premise by stating that it is not true for all collections of grains that removing one grain from it still makes a heap. Or one may accept the conclusion by insisting that a heap of sand can be composed of just one grain.


#9 - The Interesting number paradox


Claim: There is no such thing as an uninteresting natural number.

Proof by Contradiction: Assume that you have a non-empty set of natural numbers that are not interesting. Due to the well-ordered property of the natural numbers, there must be some smallest number in the set of not interesting numbers. Being the smallest number of a set one might consider not interesting makes that number interesting. Since the numbers in this set were defined as not interesting, we have reached a contradiction because this smallest number cannot be both interesting and uninteresting. Therefore the set of uninteresting numbers must be empty, proving there is no such thing as an uninteresting number.


#8 - The arrow paradox


In the arrow paradox, Zeno states that for motion to be occurring, an object must change the position which it occupies. He gives an example of an arrow in flight. He states that in any one instant of time, for the arrow to be moving it 8must either move to where it is, or it must move to where it is not. It cannot move to where it is not, because this is a single instant, and it cannot move to where it is because it is already there. In other words, in any instant of time there is no motion occurring, because an instant is a snapshot. Therefore, if it cannot move in a single instant it cannot move in any instant, making any motion impossible. This paradox is also known as the fletcher’s paradox—a fletcher being a maker of arrows.
Whereas the first two paradoxes presented divide space, this paradox starts by dividing time – and not into segments, but into points.


#7 - Achilles & the tortoise paradox


In the paradox of Achilles and the Tortoise, Achilles is in a footrace with the tortoise. Achilles allows the tortoise a head start of 100 feet. If we suppose that each racer starts running at some constant speed (one very fast and one very slow), then after some finite time, Achilles will have run 100 feet, bringing him to the tortoise’s starting point. During this time, the tortoise has run a much shorter distance, say, 10 feet. It will then take Achilles some further time to run that distance, by which time the tortoise will have advanced farther; and then more time still to reach this third point, while the tortoise moves ahead. Thus, whenever Achilles reaches somewhere the tortoise has been, he still has farther to go. Therefore, because there are an infinite number of points Achilles must reach where the tortoise has already been, he can never overtake the tortoise. Of course, simple experience tells us that Achilles will be able to overtake the tortoise, which is why this is a paradox.

[JFrater: I will point out the problem with this paradox to give you all an idea of how the others might be wrong: in physical reality it is impossible to transverse the infinite - how can you get from one point in infinity to another without crossing an infinity of points? You can't - thus it is impossible. But in mathematics it is not. This paradox shows us how mathematics may appear to prove something - but in reality, it fails. So the problem with this paradox is that it is applying mathematical rules to a non-mathematical situation. This makes it invalid.]


#6 - The Buridan’s ass paradox


This is a figurative description of a man of indecision. It refers to a paradoxical situation wherein an ass, placed exactly in the middle between two stacks of hay of equal size and quality, will starve to death since it cannot make any rational decision to start eating one rather than the other. The paradox is named after the 14th century French philosopher Jean Buridan. The paradox was not originated by Buridan himself. It is first found in Aristotle’s De Caelo, where Aristotle mentions an example of a man who remains unmoved because he is as hungry as he is thirsty and is positioned exactly between food and drink. Later writers satirised this view in terms of an ass who, confronted by two equally desirable and accessible bales of hay, must necessarily starve while pondering a decision.

#5 - The unexpected hanging paradox


A judge tells a condemned prisoner that he will be hanged at noon on one weekday in the following week, but that the execution will be a surprise to the prisoner. He will not know the day of the hanging until the executioner knocks on his cell door at noon that day. Having reflected on his sentence, the prisoner draws the conclusion that he will escape from the hanging. His reasoning is in several parts. He begins by concluding that the “surprise hanging” can’t be on a Friday, as if he hasn’t been hanged by Thursday, there is only one day left – and so it won’t be a surprise if he’s hanged on a Friday. Since the judge’s sentence stipulated that the hanging would be a surprise to him, he concludes it cannot occur on Friday. He then reasons that the surprise hanging cannot be on Thursday either, because Friday has already been eliminated and if he hasn’t been hanged by Wednesday night, the hanging must occur on Thursday, making a Thursday hanging not a surprise either. By similar reasoning he concludes that the hanging can also not occur on Wednesday, Tuesday or Monday. Joyfully he retires to his cell confident that the hanging will not occur at all. The next week, the executioner knocks on the prisoner’s door at noon on Wednesday — which, despite all the above, will still be an utter surprise to him. Everything the judge said has come true.

#4 - The barber’s Paradox


Suppose there is a town with just one male barber; and that every man in the town keeps himself clean-shaven: some by shaving themselves, some by attending the barber. It seems reasonable to imagine that the barber obeys the following rule: He shaves all and only those men in town who do not shave themselves.

Under this scenario, we can ask the following question: Does the barber shave himself?
Asking this, however, we discover that the situation presented is in fact impossible:

- If the barber does not shave himself, he must abide by the rule and shave himself.
- If he does shave himself, according to the rule he will not shave himself

#3 - Epimenides’ Paradox

3 This paradox arises from the statement in which Epimenides, against the general sentiment of Crete, proposed that Zeus was immortal, as in the following poem:

They fashioned a tomb for thee, O holy and high one
The Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies!
But thou art not dead: thou livest and abidest forever,
For in thee we live and move and have our being.

He was, however, unaware that, by calling all Cretens liars, he had, unintentionally, called himself one, even though what he ‘meant’ was all Cretens except himself. Thus arises the paradox that if all Cretens are liars, he is also one, & if he is a liar, then all Cretens are truthful. So, if all Cretens are truthful, then he himself is speaking the truth & if he is speaking the truth, all Cretens are liars. Thus continues the infinite regression.

#2 - The paradox of the court


The Paradox of the Court is a very old problem in logic stemming from ancient Greece. It is said that the famous sophist Protagoras took on a pupil, Euathlus, on the understanding that the student pay Protagoras for his instruction after he had won his first case (in some versions: if and only if Euathlus wins his first court case). Some accounts claim that Protagoras demanded his money as soon as Euathlus completed his education; others say that Protagoras waited until it was obvious that Euathlus was making no effort to take on clients and still others assert that Euathlus made a genuine attempt but that no clients ever came. In any case, Protagoras decided to sue Euathlus for the amount owed.
Protagoras argued that if he won the case he would be paid his money. If Euathlus won the case, Protagoras would still be paid according to the original contract, because Euathlus would have won his first case.

Euathlus, however, claimed that if he won then by the court’s decision he would not have to pay Protagoras. If on the other hand Protagoras won then Euathlus would still not have won a case and therefore not be obliged to pay. The question is: which of the two men is in the right?

#1 - The unstoppable force paradox


The Irresistible force paradox, also the unstoppable force paradox, is a classic paradox formulated as “What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?” The paradox should be understood as an exercise in logic, not as the postulation of a possible reality. According to modern scientific understanding, no force is completely irresistible, and there are no immovable objects and cannot be any, as even a minuscule force will cause a slight acceleration on an object of any mass. An immovable object would have to have an inertia that was infinite and therefore infinite mass. Such an object would collapse under its own gravity and create a singularity. An unstoppable force would require infinite energy, which does not exist in a finite universe.

Bonus - Olbers’ Paradox


In astrophysics and physical cosmology, Olbers’ paradox is the argument that the darkness of the night sky conflicts with the assumption of an infinite and eternal static universe. It is one of the pieces of evidence for a non-static universe such as the current Big Bang model. The argument is also referred to as the “dark night sky paradox” The paradox states that at any angle from the earth the sight line will end at the surface of a star. To understand this we compare it to standing in a forest of white trees. If at any point the vision of the observer ended at the surface of a tree, wouldn’t the observer only see white? This contradicts the darkness of the night sky and leads many to wonder why we do not see only light from stars in the night sky.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

10 Recycled Critter Collections

Human beings have relied on the innate warmth and coziness of animal skins for ages, and back in the day with sub-zero temperatures swirling about and the threat of snarling, chronically hungry prehistoric animals at every turn, it made sense to make the most of what remained following a heart-throbbing hunt. Despite the eventual creation of a highly profitable industry built around raising creatures for the sole purpose of harvesting their lush coats, the practice is in our current day and age increasingly considered not only inhumane but also entirely unacceptable now that we’ve developed perfectly viable vegan alternatives. Those who are eco-sympathetic may feel that it is wrong to kill an animal and profit from the sale of its skin, but what about recycling perfectly usable critter body parts when random creatures have met their untimely demise underneath cars, as the result of ill-placed power lines or following a mishap with an immaculately clean office building window? As you will see below, there are more than a few fashion designers and their creative (or morbidly?!?) inspired compadres who pursue the darker side of animal recycling in an effort to craft left-of-center fashion statements that purportedly celebrate the lives of those whose candles have burned out well before their time.


Iris Schieferstein


It’s one thing to strut your stuff while wearing the skin of a sacrificed alligator or cow, but once you dare to literally hoof it while sporting recognizable body parts or dead-on, fully intact critters…wellllll, let’s just say that that’s where many fashionistas would easily draw the line. German artist Iris Schieferstein has certainly gone where no other creative minded animal recycler has gone before by fashioning what-the-huh? footwear out of hedgehog bodies, once soaring white doves and now dead-as-a-doornail horsie feet. Certainly striking, these inarguably practical fashion staples nonetheless provoke one to declare a piercingly audible, “Neighhhhh!!!!”


Reid Peppard’s RP/ENCORE


Unlike many of her taxidermy contemporaries who fail to clearly identify precisely how they source the subject of their works, Reid Peppard has long been very transparent about using city casualties that have been found rather than hunted. While it’s not surprising that many find her distinctive brand of fashion rather repulsive, the self-confessed vegetarian sees nothing wrong with transforming what would have normally gone to waste into beautiful personal adornments that might potentially have the power to change the general perception of city-dwelling vermin and garden variety rodents. Interestingly, Peppard has commented that many of her naysayers will “wear leather without thinking…eat meat, drive cars that pollute the atmosphere (and) then turn around and say that my taking waste and preserving it is somehow wrong.” Good point. Now who’s this close to buying her pristine white rat carcass coin purse? Hello? Any takers? Rat purse anyone?


April Hale


For those who experience a serious case of the heebee-jeebies when it comes to the mere mention of the words rat purse, April Hale’s line of roadkill jewelry (with no heads attached) may be just what the doctor ordered. Why must we continue farming conventional forms of fur, anyway? Imagine going cold turkey on the fur industry altogether and instead repurposing the hides of anything that perishes due to natural or city-livin’ causes? There’s certainly a seemingly endless supply…   Hale — who also happens to eschew meat — was inspired to pursue this unconventional fashion niche following an unfortunate incident in which a squirrel pulled a deer-in-headlights moment by freeze-framing underneath the tire of her car. She now pays her bills by transforming all manner of flattened critters (house pets excluded) into quirky adornments that celebrate the simple beauty of what we take for granted.


James Faulkner


Brits tend to dabble in the quirky side of life (or death as the case may be),  but in their defense, they are also far more likely to exercise sustainable behaviors due to a deep-seated eco-awareness that permeates their culture. Scotland-born James Faulkner initially applied his green inclinations on a grand scale by transforming a dearly departed magpie located on the side of the road into a show-stopping headpiece for a friend’s wedding. With ooohs, aaahs and many follow-up orders under his belt, Faulkner soon found himself smack dab in the middle of a dandy little business that allowed him to exercise his artistic inclinations while also honoring his belief in treading lightly on the earth. Stating that he hopes to “maintain the beauty of these creatures” with his hand-crafted millinery, he is opposed to “farming for fashion, which is why (he) sources all of (his) materials as much as possible.”


Lady Lavona


Fancy a gnarly-looking bird claw, set of critter choppers or a brawny black beak dangling from your neck? Then Lady Lavona is your gal, conjuring up all sorts of beastly anthropomorphic fashion adornments that pay homage to the macabre Victorian-era penchant for recycling bits and pieces of animals bagged in hunting excursions. While she sources some of her inventory straight from 16th – 19th century stockpiles — including vintage animal hoof necklaces and full spreads of miniature fangs — a great deal of what she sells is self-designed, such as her wildly popular crows feet amulets accented with an artful tangle of earth-toned semi-precious jewels. One thing that Lady Lavona wants prospective buyers to know about her collection is that her animal trinkets are legitimately recycled, unlike those of her competitors that “are bred in captivity for the sole purpose of being sold to human consumers…labs, pet stores, etc.” and yet billed as never being killed for the sole purpose of becoming one of their end products.


Wim Delvoye


Judging from current industry statistics, the pork biz is doing oinkingly well — by golly, it’s the top animal-based protein source consumed in America! While the other white meat is deeply entrenched in our food chain, we rarely stop to think about how piggy parts are typically recycled. Aside from the bazillion rawhide ears that man’s best canine friends typically snack on in the span of one year or the potted pig meat wonder that we guiltily fry up in a pan (most commonly known as Spam) — porcine skin is also used in the fashion world…but how about pre-tattooed pig skin accessories? Wackadoodle Belgium artist Wim Delvoye has made this seemingly inhumane concept a very real reality on his Beijing-operated ‘art farm’ (the location specifically chosen due to the lack of animal rights concerns). It is there that he and his staff of master tattoo artists brand live (but fortunately sedated) pigs slowly but surely with all sorts of varied images and then allow them to grow to slaughter weight, tan their skins and then either sell the resulting canvases as art, use them as the foundation for custom fashion accessories or taxidermy entire creatures to sell to well-heeled consumers who think nothing of staring eye-to-eye at their specially ordered critter casualties.


Maximilian’s Pet Shop


Katie Higgs and Ella Kigour — the masterminds behind Maximilian’s Pet Shop — know just how ga-ga we are for our pets, so in a nod to the celebrity trend of dragging petite creatures along with us on mundane shopping excursions, the design team has conceived of a way for mere mortal no-names to do the same while employing a dash of conversation-starting-style. Sure, they have a few designs — such as their burrow friendly rodent accessible sweaters/scarves and bird cage purses — that enable still alive and kicking creatures to see the world with their pet guardians in tow. What is particularly creepy, however, is their Taxidermy Kitty Carrier which, while technically not a fashion accessory per se, still deserves to a place in the annals of extreme eco-fashion since those who are desperately smitten with their departed kittens might feel inclined to show the whole world just how sweet their whiskered face once was (and still is thanks to the modern wonder of well-executed taxidermy). Anyone squirming yet?


Loved To Death


Oh goodness gracious…squirrel paw and bird head jewels?!?! Oh sure, why not! The folks at Loved To Death — who by the way have been very publicly accused of misleading their buyers by claiming that no animals were intentionally killed to create their pieces — made headlines with their instantly heart-sinking Polly-no-longer-want-a-cracker pendant, and with good reason. The instantly recognizable parrot, often found in the homes of many-an-animal-lover, never did anyone wrong aside from randomly chomping down on pokey, chronically inquisitive fingers for no particular reason. Not that such an unwelcome action deserves being beheaded and mounted on a silver-plated shield. Sigh. Parrots of the world…be forewarned.


Julia DeVille’s Disce Mori Collection


‘Learn to Die’ doesn’t sound like a very nice name for a company, and yet Julia DeVille’s appropriately Latin-named taxidermy-based company isn’t billing itself as anything other than being a haven (or fashionista pedestal, if you will) for the preserved bodies and random parts of creatures that have passed over to the other side.  The natural born Kiwi who now calls Australia her home intentionally utilizes “symbols of mortality” that have perished au naturel in an effort to inspire wearers to “contemplate their own mortal existence and, in turn, appreciate the significance of life.” The result is a collection of crumpled, bejeweled and tah-dahhh fashion statements that are oddly compelling yet flat-out freaky-deaky…great for the fashion-forward goth enthusiast or been-there-done-that rock star who really wants to get tongues flapping.


Custom Creature Taxidermy


Embracing a ‘waste not, want not’ mentality, wildlife rescue/rehabilitator/conservationist Sarina Brewer — who feels that animals are just as beautiful in death as they were while alive — proudly recycles every single animal body or component that passes through her hands. Typically reincarnating the bodies of creatures with varying circumstances (think roadkill, animals that are deemed as pests, pet trade casualties and discarded cattle), the Science Museum of Minnesota volunteer is an odd breed in that she is not only a self-confessed science nerd but also an artist who creates oil-based paintings, sculptural works and wearable fashion accoutrements. If her $45 grouse foot necklace doesn’t grab you, then her $55 coiled rat tail necklace, preserved raccoon heart or mummified kitten paw earrings surely will. The good news for sustainably-minded consumers is that you can take your eco-purchase one step further by repurposing many Custom Creature Taxidermy jewelry pieces as makeshift back scratchers — hmmm, on second thought, perhaps that extracurricular application might kick your itch into overdrive!


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Top Ten Boycotts (Past and Present)


merican activists have long operated under the opinion that a successful company owes it to themselves, as well as the world, to operate in an ethical, humane, and environmentally responsible manner. Few companies are blameless when it comes to conforming to all of these moral standards, but some are worse than others. The outcome of unacceptable business practices are sometimes deadly, sometimes unspeakable, and other times good for a dark laugh at the murky depths to which our worldwide culture has allowed itself to sink.

Boycotts have conventionally been society’s greatest means for changing these companies and thus improving the well being of the Earth and its people. Some boycotts work and others don’t. Here is a list which explores a wide range of successful and unsuccessful boycotts and sheds light on the misdirected efforts world businesses employ just to turn a buck.


#10 - Adidas Football Cleats and Shoes


Despite increasing complaints from their consumers (or potential consumers) the Adidas shoe company continues to use kangaroo skin in the construction of a specific line of football cleats. What started as a small consumer boycott is rapidly turning into a nationwide scandal. So far, Adidas has seen no substantial repercussions, but many individuals in the company are amazed that an ethical error on only one model of shoe has the potential to cause such turmoil.



#9 - Kahrs Company


This wholesale and retail organization is being boycotted for the distribution of Merbau flooring, a wood floor product that is often the subject of many environmental debates. While the company has previously stated that their Merbau is not purchased from companies exploiting the Indonesian rainforest, recent disputes over the Karhs Company’s vagueness as to the origin of their wood has sparked an environmental outrage, so much so that many individuals are boycotting the company’s flooring products altogether.

Karhs does not seem to be concerned about this. Business theorists have speculated that “not enough people could possibly know or care about this boycott to make it work.” One particularly well-spoken blogger is quoted as saying, “Putting a boycott on a specific type of wood floor has got to be the dumbest shit I have ever heard,” a revealing and insightful statement to say the least.


#8 - Caterpillar


Contrary to what one might think, a bulldozer is not exclusively a construction-oriented device. A bulldozer, while often used in the creation of a highway or new home, has tremendous damaging power and can be used to accomplish incredible terrain-altering feats. For instance, just one bulldozer can level more terrain in one long work day than a Daisy Cutter bomb. And what’s more, no one will arrest you for driving a bulldozer on the back of your tractor trailer. Try hijacking a military explosive to do the same job and see how far you get.

Israel realized the startling capability of this US-based company’s construction products and implored them to sell some of their machines to the Israeli military for use as “Armored Construction Equipment.” Caterpillar agreed, furnishing the bulldozers and equipment, which would later be used as a militaristic tool to destroy the homes, farmland, and infrastructure of Occupied Palestinian Territories. Sometimes while they were occupied. A boycott has commenced in defense of the inhumanity of Caterpillar’s executive decision to directly participate in questionable militaristic affairs.


#7 - Chevron –Texaco


A boycott against Texaco has been initiated due to the company’s major role in the contamination of the Ecuadorian ecosystem and their unwillingness to cease business over the questionable practices of the Ecuadorian government, who discloses inhabited lands as “vacant” and allows drilling in close proximity, sometimes on top of native settlements.

The Ecuadorian government, while not directly responsible for Texaco’s use of faulty and/or “leaky” drilling methods, is responsible for the use of military troops on their own indigenous population, a practice that has raised red flags in activist groups around the world. The Texaco boycott is the result of virtually every conceivable infraction by Texaco concerning unethical practice, greed, and non-environmentally friendly drilling tactics. The solution: stop buying gas from them.


#6 -  Herbal Essences


We’ve come a long way from boycotting English tea in the 1770s. Currently, amidst this world economic crisis, when companies are scrimping and scraping to save a buck and morality and conventionally sound business practices are flying out the window, boycotts on items as innocent as Herbal Essences shampoo are taking the forefront of consumer activism. Herbal Essences, coined “Hurtful Essences” by boycotters, is the subject of animal activist groups around the world due to the company’s animal testing policy, which is somewhat ambiguous and does not deny the use of animals in the creation of their products.


#5 - Tesco


Just when you thought that bringing your own bag to the grocery store could only save the environment, you find out that Tesco, a company who is not operating extensively in the United States (yet), is putting computer chips and tracking devices in their plastic grocery bags and using them to spy on their consumers.

This process, termed Radio Frequency Identification (RFI), involves a team of marketers, computer experts, and statisticians who monitor where the products go, how frequently, and which products are purchased by which return customers. RFI chips have recently been introduced to private consumer items like wallets, pants, belts, and even underwear. The information gathered is invaluable to Tesco. The moral question of most consumers, specifically those inciting a boycott, is whether Tesco has the right to do this. The answer, most feel, is no. So remember, next time your underwear feels a bit out of place, next time the “tag itches” or the “seam comes loose,” check inside for your new computerized friend… perhaps one day you’ll even find a camera…

Side note: Tesco is also on a boycott list in China for selling live turtles, frogs, and tortoises in Chinese retail stores where no animal welfare laws exist. I wonder if those poor tortoises are gagging on pea-sized computer chips shoved down their throats, or if the frogs are shimmering bright green from some sort of radioactive tracking goop. Remember, no matter how tempting it seems and no matter how desperate you may be to impress your loved ones, DO NOT accept the complimentary “glows-for-fun” tree frog at the checkout counter of your local department store.


#4 - Wal-Mart


Feeling Blue Seeing Red has called a boycott of Wal-Mart stores, as if enough people don’t already hate them (even though they may shop there religiously). The group is quoted as initiating the boycott on the grounds of “transgressions [made by Wal-Mart] of local, state and U. S. laws, anti-union activities, support of overseas sweat shops, and adjusting its retail philosophy to accord with social conservative priorities.” With a laundry list of what some would call “inconsequential” infractions behind them, it is painfully obvious that Wal-Mart execs aren’t losing sleep over this one.


#3 - Toyota


In addition to issues concerning this company’s eagerness to build and sell cars that are known to have multiple deadly or potentially hazardous defects, recent reports listing businesses who have failed to sever relations with Burma (a nation which is controlled by a tyrannical government and employs the use of a shooting gallery of unethical, inhumane, and non-environmentally sound operations) have listed Toyota as a player in the continuation of the corrupt Burmese economy.

Officials at Toyota stated last year that their company has only sold roughly 40 vehicles within the nation’s borders, all of which were to embassies controlled and owned by other nations operating within said country. These 40 sales, Toyota claims, do not count as sales to Burmese people. While many agree with this statement, others argue that Toyota is still affiliated with Myanmar, a car company who does extensive business within the borders of Burma.

A somewhat underground boycott against Toyota has been in effect for several years in hopes of persuading the company to retract all business from the corrupt nation and focus instead on its primary markets (the United States and Oriental nations).


#2 - FireHollywood


In the height of the post-911 pandemonium and America’s infamous “we hate French people” and “Freedom Fries” campaigns, the tendency of the American Right was to take patriotic boycotting as far and as high as their raised pitchforks could carry it. Boycotts which could be likened to shooting a BB gun at a detonating nuclear warhead were instigated by activist individuals (generally conservatives) who felt that certain widely respected and acclaimed US companies and organizations were unpatriotic and even anti-American.

One such boycott, albeit only mildly successful (and the butt of many liberalist jokes), was called “FireHollywood.” FireHolloywood is the standing boycott of a slew of Hollywood filmmakers and musicians between 2003 and the present. Such actors and filmmakers include Tommy-Lee Jones, Keanu Reeves, Norm Macdonald, Gary Oldman, and countless others, basically anyone involved in the contemporary film industry save for R. Lee Ermey.

The group went so far as to plead to the Attorney General of the United States to try Michael Moore on the grounds of treason, a case that never quite made it to court.


#1 - Britain’s East India Company


The boycott of the East India Company is without question the most notorious boycott to take place on US soil. The East India Tea company, on the verge of bankruptcy due to low sales in England, organized a deal with the British government that would give them exclusive rights to distribute to the nation’s settlements in the New World. In an effort to save this business, which was a key player in the British economy, the government allowed East India Company to forgo paying the traditional taxes imposed on colonial merchants. These merchants, who conventionally served as middlemen in the tea trade, were undersold by Easy India Company due to their ability to slash prices in lieu of the unconventional tax break.

The middlemen were ticked off beyond words and so donned masks, war paint, and raided tea ships under the cover of darkness. This destructive effort against East India Company and the British government is referred to as the Boston Tea Party. It is the most infamous display of product boycotting by the American people to this day. Its roots in the British government’s bold act of business-related favouritism are proof that historically not every economic stimulus package has the people’s best interest at heart.

by Jesse Stretch


Thursday, May 20, 2010

10 Amazing Active Volcanoes


Volcanoes are in the news and not in a good way, but Iceland’s tongue-twistingly named, travel-disrupting Eyjafjallajökull volcano is just doing what volcanoes do: erupt. It’s not alone, either. Around the world at any given moment, dozens of volcanoes are smoking, shaking and stirring up their neighborhoods. Here are 10 of the most active.

Kilauea, Hawaii, USA

Kilauea, Hawaii, USA

Kilauea Volcano on the island of Hawaii (the Big Island) is widely considered to be the most active volcano on Earth. Over the course of its most recent eruption which began in January of 1983, the volcano has expelled enough lava to pave a road around the planet three times over.


If not for its brilliant orange lava fountains and slow-flowing rivers of molten rock, Kilauea wouldn’t be much to look at: though the summit is 4,091 feet (1,247m) above sea level, the gently sloping shield volcano is dwarfed by neighboring 13,677 ft (4,169m) high Mauna Loa… for the present, at least.


Kilauea’s name means “spewing” in the Hawaiian language; an indication that the volcano has been erupting long before England’s Captain Cook discovered the Hawaiian Islands in the late 18th century. One relic of those days are the “1790 Footprints” preserved in hardened lava from an explosive eruption of Kilauea. The footprints are said to have been left by up to 80 warriors from a dissident Hawaiian faction who died in a pyroclastic flow from Kilauea.

Etna, Italy


Mount Etna, on the Italian island of Sicily, has been erupting more or less continuously for the past 2,000 years though its overall history stretches back approximately 300,000 years. Though somewhat less famous (or infamous) than neighboring Mount Vesuvius, Mount Etna greatly outclasses the latter peak as it rises 2.5 times its height. In addition, most of Etna’s more spectacular eruptions and associated geological events occurred in prehistory. The volcano erupted in every year from 200 through 2008 and its recent eruption occurred in April of 2010.


Volcanoes occasionally belch giant smoke rings into the sky, a rare and curious phenomenon that can last up to 15 minutes and range in size up to 600 feet across! Mount Etna has blown volcanic smoke rings on a number of occasions; some of those that occurred during the 2000 eruption have been documented photographically.

Nyamuragira, Democratic Republic of Congo



Mount Nyamuragira is an active volcano located in the Virunga Mountains of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although it has erupted more than 30 times since explorers of European origin began documenting the mountain in the 1880s, recent eruptions have caused ever greater concern as the surrounding area has become heavily populated. As well, the Virunga range is one of the last remaining sanctuaries for threatened great apes including majestic Mountain Gorillas.


Mount Nyamuragira brought in the new year with an eruption: On January 2, 2010, lava began to flow from the main crater eventually reaching a distance of 1,640 feet (500m) downslope to the south and southwest. Mount Nyamuragira often exudes a particularly thin and fast-moving type of lava that makes any necessary evacuations hurried and often disorganized affairs.

Sakurajima, Japan



The Sakurajima volcano is located on what was formerly an island in southern Japan’s Kagoshima Bay. The island is now connected to the mainland via a low-lying peninsula created by lava flows during the mountain’s immense eruption of 1914. Sakurajima stands 3,665 feet (1,117m) above sea level and has been erupting more or less continuously since 1955.


Sakurajima is a successor volcano that exudes and erupts magma from the huge subterranean chamber beneath the Aira Caldera. This 12 mile (20 km) wide caldera was created approximately 22,000 years ago in a massive eruption that sent ash and tephra hundreds of miles in every direction. Should Sakurajima follow the same path to destruction, millions of people will find themselves at extreme risk.

Erebus, Antarctica


The world’s most southerly active volcano, Mount Erebus has been erupting since 1972 though the eruptions have varied greatly in intensity. The 12,448 ft (3,794m) snow-covered stratovolcano is covered with snow but harbors in its crater a red hot, long-lasting lava lake that can be seen from space.


Mount Erebus regularly subjects its frigid environs to a blast of geothermal activity, resulting in ethereal ice caves and horn-like fumaroles carved out of its icy coat by scalding steam. Though considered to be in a state of eruption, Mount Erebus behaves rather calmly (as volcanoes go) and has been extensively studied by volcanologists based at nearby McMurdo Station (USA) and Scott Base (NZ).

Chaitén, Chile


The Chaitén volcano in southern Chile began erupting on May 2 of 2008, an event that caught scientists by surprise as the mountain’s last eruption was estimated to have occurred about 9,500 years ago. Though the mountain is still in an eruptive state, the initial stages were marked by the expulsion of voluminous ash clouds shot through by incandescent bolts of lightning.


Within 24 hours of the eruption’s inception, a huge plume of ash had risen tens of thousands of feet into the sky, there to be blown to the southeast by upper level winds. The ash plume was photographed from orbiting satellites and can be seen above, stretching completely across the width of Argentina and far into the South Atlantic Ocean.

Anak Krakatau, Indonesia


Anak Krakatau (“child of Krakatoa”) may not be especially large but note the name – it carries within it the seeds of future disaster. Though the famed 1883 explosive eruption of its parent peak (Krakatoa, east of Java) caused the deaths of roughly 36,000 people, a similar event today would be unfathomably worse due to exceptional population growth over the past century.


As Anak Krakatau grows larger – it’s been adding approximately 5 inches (13cm) per week to its height since 1955 – it also grows more dangerous. The volcano’s current eruptive phase began in April of 2008 and is ongoing.


nak Krakatau first poked its summit above the surface of the Sunda Strait between the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra in August of 1930 and by 2005 had reached a height of 985 feet (300m)… when Krakatoa exploded with the force of a 200 megaton atomic bomb in 1883 it was 2,667 ft (813m) high.

Tungurahua, Ecuador


Tungurahua is one of the world’s tallest volcanoes, soaring 16,480 ft (5,023 m) into the thin Andean air above the South American nation of Ecuador. Those figures will likely need to be revised… Tungurahua has been actively erupting since 1999 with major eruptions occurring in 2006 and 2008.


As with most high volcanoes in the Andes, Tungurahua’s upper slopes are snow-covered and the summit is capped by a small glacier… well, they were until 1999 when the volcano’s eruption quickly melted them away. The greatest danger from such volcanoes is not so much the ash, lava and superheated pyroclastic flows, but flooding and mudslides sweeping into populated areas on the volcano’s lower slopes. The evacuation of 25,000 people from the hot springs resort town of Banos was mainly to safeguard them from that possibility.

Yasur, Vanuatu


Mount Yasur, on Tanna Island in the South Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu, not only has been erupting for many centuries, but perks up several times per hour! Though just 1,184 feet (361m) in height, Mount Yasur is crowned by an almost perfectly circular summit crater over 1,300 feet (400m) wide.


Much like Hawaii’s Kilauea, Mount Yasur erupts in a very predictable manner and at a steady level of activity, allowing tourists to approach to very close distances. An example of this was seen during the broadcast of “Survivor: Vanuatu – Islands of Fire”, when players who won a reward challenge enjoyed a picnic of hotdogs and beer while Mount Yasur’s lava fountains provided a unique sound and light show.

Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland


ast but not least, the noisy newsmaker itself – Eyjafjallajökull. The volcano’s current eruptive phase may have only just begun: its previous eruption which began in December of 1821 lasted well into 1823. Volcanologists have determined that Eyjafjallajökull also erupted in the year 1612, and before that in 920.


Ominously, each of the three previous eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull were followed by the eruption of Katla, a much larger subglacial volcano just 15 miles (25km) away. In a BBC interview broadcast on April 20, Icelandic President Ólafur Grímsson described the current chaos caused by Eyjafjallajökull as “a small rehearsal”, and warned that “the time for Katla to erupt is coming close… we [Iceland] have prepared… it is high time for European governments and airline authorities all over the world to start planning for the eventual Katla eruption.” C’mon Ólafur, don’t sugarcoat it, give it to us straight, OK?

Just to show that Ólafur isn’t kidding, here’s a video showing what active Icelandic volcanoes like Eyjafjallajökull are all about:

Volcano Eyjafjallajoekull at Iceland, via Marcszeglat



Some wonder as to the reasons for the increasing appearances of volcanic eruptions in the news media (global warming? The End Times?), but in actuality it’s WE who are appearing more – in closer proximity to active volcanoes than ever before. Population pressure will do that and there’s nothing like an infusion of volcanic ash and minerals to boost the fertility of soil and attract opportunistic farmers. One might say, don’t blame science fiction, instead blame human friction.