when history repeats itself itself

the memory is pure, but it’s just a flashback borrowed:
a strong link to the past, but a weak one to tomorrow.

the picture is clear, but it’s just a glimpse deranged:
nothing’s really different, yet everything has changed.

the meaning is real, but it’s just a carbon copy:
identical on the surface, but underneath it’s sloppy.

the thought is deep, but it’s just ol’ déjà vu:
ancient is the memory, but the circumstance is new.

when history repeats itself, we’re quick to place the blame,
lessons learned gleaned nothing, and time produced the same.

but take a closer look – today is not the past –
and chart a new path forward where the opportunities are vast…

“History is the only laboratory we have in which to test the consequences of thought.” – Etienne Gilson

A Profile of Portugal

The love of my life and I are taking a vacation later this year to Portugal! I figured I would organize and share some Portugal facts/stats as we continue to research and solidify our trip…

Major Dates

  • 1143 – Kingdom of Portugal Recognized
  • 1578 – Battle of Ksar El Kebir in Morocco, in which the Portuguese King and (pretty much) the entire Portuguese nobility were lost. That resulted in Portugal being annexed by Spain for 60 years. (info from Rod Carvalho)
  • 1755 – Major, Devastating Earthquake
  • 1803-1815 – Napoleonic Wars
  • 1822 – Independence of Brazil
  • 1910 – Deposition of the Monarchy, Republic Proclaimed
  • 1974 – Left-Wing Military Coup
  • 1975 – Colonial Independence (Angola, Mozambique, East Timor)
  • 1976 – Constitution Adopted
  • 1986 – Becomes Member of EU (formerly the EC)

Fun Facts

  • During the Napoleonic Wars, Portugal was, for a time, Great Britain’s only ally on the continent.
  • Also during the Napoleonic invasions, the Portuguese royal family moved to Brazil and Rio de Janeiro was, albeit for a brief period, the capital of the Portuguese Empire. Such empire was named the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves. (again thanks here to Rod Carvalho!)
  • The oldest alliance in the world, still in force, is the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance, signed in 1373.
  • The Vasco de Gama Bridge in Lisbon is the longest bridge in Europe.
  • Portugal is a global leader in renewable energy with its solar energy farm in Alentejo.
  • It is illegal for a bull to be killed in Portuguese bullfighting.
  • The Estoril Casino, 20 km outside of Lisbon, is the largest gambling outlet in Europe.

Famous Portuguese

  • Henry the Navigator (explorer)
  • Vasco da Gama (discovered the sea route to India)
  • Bartolomeu Dias (first person to sail round the southern tip of Africa, which he named the Cape of Good Hope)
  • Ferdinand Magellan (first to complete a circumnavigation of the world, which he did in 1522)
  • Pedro Alvares Cabral (discoverer of Brazil)
  • José Mourinho (soccer coach, Inter Milan)
  • Nelly Furtado (singer)
  • Luis Figo (soccer player)
  • Cristiano Ronaldo (soccer player)
  • Click here for more (via Wikipedia)…


  • Total Area: 92,090 sq km (ranked #110, slightly smaller than Indiana)
  • Land Area: 91,470 sq km
  • Water Area: 620 sq km
  • Capital: Lisbon
  • Structure: 18 Districts, 2 Autonomous Regions (Azores, Madeira)
  • Land Boundary: 1,214 km (with Spain)
  • Coastline: 1,793 km
  • Highest Altitude: 2,351 km (Ponta do Pico in the Azores)
  • Population: 10,707,924 (July 2009 est., ranked #76)
  • Population Growth Rate: 0.275% (ranked #178)
  • Population Density: 115 ppl / sq km (ranked #89)
  • Median Age: 39.4 years
  • Life Expectancy at Birth: 78.21 years (ranked #47)
  • HIV/AIDS Prevalence Rate: 0.50% (ranked #74)
  • Religious Breakdown: 84.5% Roman Catholic, 9.0% unknown, 3.9% none, 2.2% other Christian
  • Literacy: 93.3%
  • Education Expenditures (% of GDP): 5.5% (ranked #50)
  • Human Development Index: 0.909 (ranked #34)
  • Happy Planet Index: 37.5 (ranked #98)
  • Euromoney Country Risk Rating (Low=Best): 82.43 (ranked #24)
  • Military Expenditures (% of GDP): 2.3% (ranked #72)
  • GDP: $232.2 Billion (ranked #50)
  • GDP – Per Capita: $21,700 (ranked #56)
  • Exports: $41.42 Billion (ranked #52)
  • Export Partners: Spain (25.6%), Germany (12.6%), France (11.1%), Angola (5.9%), UK (5.3%)
  • Imports: $58.79 Billion (ranked #40)
  • Import Partners: Spain (28.9%), Germany (11.6%), France (8%), Italy (4.9%), Netherlands (4.4%)
  • Unemployment Rate: 9.2% (ranked #103)
  • Total Airports: 65 (ranked #76)
  • Annual Air Traffic (2006): 11,722,211 (ranked #20)
  • Railways: 2,786 km (ranked #59)
  • Roadways: 82,900 km (ranked #55)
  • Internet Hosts: 1.967 Million (ranked #33)
  • Internet Users: 4.476 Million (ranked #45)
  • Cell Phone Users: 14.91 Million (ranked #44)
  • Freedom Press Rating (Low=Free): 16 (ranked #16)


The Power of Anticipation

In today’s society, gaining an inch can be like gaining a mile.

Soccer takes a lot of skill and athleticism. You need to be able to dribble, pass, shoot, tackle, communicate, see, sprint, etc. But as I’ve stated before (“mind bend it like beckham” – 2/11/2009) it’s just as much a mental game as it is a physical one. You need to think like your opponent and play somewhat of a guessing game, connecting dots before there’s any visible relationship between them. You need to forecast outcomes, intellectually seeing into the future guided by the data that’s available.

This sort of anticipation is an imperative ability for success in the future – within any endeavor. In business, anticipation means a gaining a leading edge on the competition. For defense, it means preparation and contingency plans for what might be likely to occur. In decision-making its gaining threshold confidence in your decision – using as much relevant information to guide a range of actions, opinion,s and ultimately, outcomes. And not to mention, it helps us grab our umbrella when running out the door.

Predictive analytics, although a seemingly new, hot topic today, has been around forever. Prophets, Mayans, Nostradamus, Pythia, lunar calendars, and the Akashwani – in a historical sense the predictions were informed by a variety of sensory stimuli coupled with intuition and a variety of other external factors. Nowadays, it’s really not that different. Today, we have data and semi-sophisticated mathematical processes that parallel conscious perception and intuition. We can quantify much of what could not have been quantified in the past.

“Predictive analytics encompasses a variety of techniques from statistics, data mining and game theory that analyze current and historical facts to make predictions about future events.

In business, predictive models exploit patterns found in historical and transactional data to identify risks and opportunities. Models capture relationships among many factors to allow assessment of risk or potential associated with a particular set of conditions, guiding decision making for candidate transactions.” (Wikipedia)

It’s imperative that people embrace predictive analytics to inform decision-making. Math doesn’t have to make the decision – that’s mostly for humans – but the math can give a comprehensive picture that outlines components of the decision and also tells us what the decision may lead to (or may have led to in the past) in terms of primary, secondary, and tertiary outcomes. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is a great example of this, using computer algorithms to predict world events of the future – war, proliferation, conflict, etc. Decisions are not made by computer models, but humans are briefed of probable scenarios in order to make better-informed decisions.

I’ve said this before – math can be simple when it’s made to be simple. It’s a toolbox of problem-solving techniques and thought processes to help guide real-world decisions and understanding. It’s important to not be afraid of the math – start small and grow your mathematical toolbox over time. Take it head on and don’t be overwhelmed. We all have something to learn and we all have something to gain by embracing prediction and anticipation.

So whether it’s sport, meteorology, national security, or adding garlic to the pan, find a way to anticipate. In doing so, my prediction is that you’ll be better off…


A Visualization Of Deadliest Earthquakes Since 1900

Earlier today, The Guardian DataBlog resourcefully provided a link to USGS earthquake data. The table lists all individual earthquakes that have caused 1,000 or more deaths, since 1900. Data elements include date, location, latitude, longitude, deaths, and magnitude. Below are some summary tables and a map that visualize this data. You can also click here for some USGS maps of the Haiti earthquake.

Map of Deadliest Earthquakes, 1900-2009
Dot Size = Total Deaths,
Dot Color = Average Magnitude

Summary of Deadliest Earthquakes by Year, 1900-2009

Summary of Deadliest Earthquakes by Month, 1900-2009

Investigation of Relationship Between Earthquake Magnitude and Deaths, 1900-2009

As a note for the right-side plot, I’ve cut out the earthquakes causing more than 20,000 deaths to just look at those causing between 1,000 and 20,000 deaths. Looking at the entire data set, the correlation coefficient for earthquake magnitude and total deaths is about 0.286 which represents a weak positive relationship between the two variables. Obviously, the existence of a relationship does not imply that a higher magnitude earthquake causes more total deaths, but it is insightful to identify a relationship between the two variables to inspire more investigation. Moving forward, one might investigate the data for clusters based on geo-location, decade, or season (controlled for hemisphere).

My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the Haiti earthquake.


How Fast (Or Slow) Is The Speed Of Light?

A Little Background

The first recorded discussion regarding the speed of light was in and around 300 B.C. where Aristotle quotes Empedocles as theorizing that the light from the sun must take some time to reach the Earth. Almost two millennia later during the Scientific Revolution (circa 1620 A.D.), Descartes theorized that light was instantaneous. At about the same time, Galileo gave a more general thought that light was much faster than sound but not instantaneous, offering up some ideas as to how it might be tested using lanterns and telescopes. At what point would these theories actually be tested and how?

About half a century after Descartes and Galileo, the Danish astronomer Ole Römer began measuring the actual speed of light through observation of Io, one of Jupiter’s moons. He recognized that as the Earth and Jupiter moved in their orbits, the distance between them varied. The light from Io (reflected sunlight) took time to reach the earth, and took the longest time when the earth was furthest away.  When the Earth was furthest from Jupiter, there was an extra distance for light to travel.  The observed eclipses were furthest behind the predicted times when the earth was furthest from Jupiter.  By measuring the difference in time and using a little math, the speed of light could essentially be calculated.

From that point forward, numerous scientists tackled this quest through a diverse set of accompanying theories and experiments. The speed of light would be more accurately determined, leading to wide applications in optics, astronomy, and physics. For example, in the early 1900’s, the speed of light became a foundational component of Einstein’s theories (general and special) of relativity, proven to relate energy to mass (E=m*c^2 where c = speed of light). As a result of these applications, the calculation of the speed of light was a major platform for new scientific discovery and enlightenment.

So How Fast Is It?

Well, the measured speed of light in a vacuum is exactly 299,792,458 meters per second, often approximated as 300,000 kilometers per second (3.0 * 10^8 m/s or 3.0 * 10^5 m/s) or 186,000 miles per second. Outside of a vacuum where there might be atoms and molecules that act as impeding forces, the speed of light slows down based on the refractive index of the material. For a given substance with refractive index (n), the actual speed of light (v) is given by v=c/n where c is the constant speed of light in a vacuum. Of note:

v(air) = 299,704,764 m/s (n=1.0002926 at standard room temperature)
v(water) = 224,900,568 m/s (n=1.3330)
v(salt) = 194,166,100 m/s (n=1.544)
v(diamond) = 123,932,392 m/s (n=2.419)

Let’s put the speed of light, in air, in a bit of context…

The circumference of the Earth is about 40,000 km on average. That means that light could travel around the Earth 7.5 times in a second.

The distance between the Earth and its moon is about 380,000 km on average. It takes light about 1.27 seconds to travel from one to another. Click here for a demonstration.

On the size of our solar system, it takes light from the sun about 8 seconds to reach Earth, 43 minutes to reach Jupiter, and nearly 7 hours to pass the orbit of Pluto.

On the size of our galactic realm, the Milky Way is a spiral galaxy. Our solar system is located on what is called Orion’s arm, about 25,000 light years from the center of the Milky Way’s center. One light year is the distance light travels in one Earth year. In more earthly terms, that’s about (3*10^5 km/s)*(60 s/min)*(60 min/hr)*(24 hrs/day)*(365 days/yr) = 9,460,800,000,000 kilometers. And I thought a marathon was far.

Beyond our Milky Way galaxy and looking at our Local Group of galaxies, it extends about 4 million light years across. That means for light to run from a galaxy one side of our Local Group to a galaxy on the other side of our Local Group, it takes 4 million years. Yikes.

And our Local Group of galaxies is part of a larger “supercluster” that is 150 million light years across. The dinosaurs roamed Earth from 230 million to 65 million years ago. In other words, light from the Ursa Major and Virgo galactic clusters still hasn’t reached us if it was emitted during the extinction of dinosaurs. Makes light seem pretty slow now, no?

Whether quick relative to earthly distances or slow through vast cosmic voids, even light has meaning. It provides perspective, foundation, discovery, and well, light.

For more on the speed of light and the depths of the universe and time, I highly recommend Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything (it’s my favorite book).

Archimedes: The Father of Mathematics


  • Birth: c. 287 BC in Syracuse, Sicily (colony of Magna Graecia)
  • Death: c. 212 BC in Syracuse, Sicily (during the Second Punic War)
  • Alias(es): Archimedes of Syracuse
  • Ethnicity: Greek
  • Residence(s): Syracuse, Sicily; Alexandria, Egypt (during school)
  • Language(s): Works were written in Doric Greek (Sicilian)
  • Religion(s): Judaic Christian
  • Father: Phidias/Pheidias (astronomer and mathematician)
  • Mother: Unknown
  • Spouse(s): Unknown
  • Children: Unknown
  • Relatives: King Herion II (unconfirmed), Gelon (unconfirmed)
  • Acquaintances: Conon, Dositheus, Eratosthenes, Heracleides
  • Class/Wealth Notes: Upper
  • Institutions/Degrees: The School of Alexandria
  • Profession(s): Mathematician, engineer, astronomer, physicist, inventor
  • Field(s) of Study: Hydrostatics, Mechanics, Geometry, Calculus, Defense
  • Famous Works: The Sand Reckoner, On the Equilibrium of Planes, On Floating Bodies, On the Measurement of a Circle, On Spirals, On the Sphere and the Cylinder, On Conoids and Spheroids, The Quadrature of the Parabola, Ostomachion, The Method of Mechanical Theorems, Book of Lemmas (Liber Assumptorum), Cattle Problem
  • Legacy: “Eureka!”; known as “The Father of Mathematics”; with Newton and Gauss he is commonly referred to as one of the three greatest mathematicians who ever lived; last words were “Do not disturb my circles”;
  • Cause of Death: Killed in Syracuse, Sicily during the Second Punic War despite orders from the Roman general Marcellus to leave him unharmed. The Greek historian Plutarch reported that Roman soldiers killed Archimedes to steal his scientific instruments. Another version states he was stabbed for ignoring a Roman soldier’s orders because he was too entranced in a geometrical diagram he drew in the sand.
  • Notable Historian(s): Isidore of Miletus, Eutocius, Plutarch, Polybius, Thābit ibn Qurra (Arabic translator), Gerard of Cremona (Latin translator)

Archimedes’ Principle & The First Law of Hydrostatics

Story: Archimedes was tasked to determine if the new crown made for King Herion II was made of solid gold. While taking a bath, he observed the level of water in the tub rise as he got in… leading to his “Eureka!” moment regarding density and displacement.

Science: A body immersed in a fluid experiences a buoyant force equal to the weight of the fluid it displaces. Therefore Archimedes could immerse the crown in water, measure the amount of water displaced, divide it by the weight of the crown, and arrive at the density of the crown.

Impact: Hydrostatics, or the study of the mechanical properties of liquids at rest, was born. Archimedes’ Principle regarding buyancy and density is used throughout science today. It’s used in the building of ships, other industrial manufacturing, and really any type of engineering. Without it, well, we might be “screwed” (see Archimedes’ other works below).

Other Works

  • Archimedes’ Screw – This consists of a long screw enclosed in a cylinder. With tilted so that its bottom tip is placed in the water, turning the screw pushes water up the screw and out the top. This was used to bilge water out of large ship he designed, the Syracusia.
  • Law of the Lever – Achimedes supplied the first real scientific explanation of how levers work in his work titled On The Equilibrium of Planes (although he certainly did not invent levers).
  • Method of Exhaustion and Pi – Archimedes used the “method of exhaustion” to determine approximate areas and volumes of circles. It involves drawing one polygon outside of a circle, and inscribing a similar polygon on the inside of the circle. Since the area of a polygon (at that time) could be worked out more easily than a circle, Archimedes would determine the areas of the polygons, continuously adding more sides to the polygons, computing the new areas, and estimate the area of the circle which falls between those of the inner and outer polygons. This helped him determine an approximation of pi which he set at somewhere between 3.1429 and 3.1408.
  • Spheres and Cylinders – Archimedes, through the use of several means, proved that a sphere had two-thirds the volume and surface area of a cylinder that circumscribes the sphere.
  • Engineering Feats – Archimedes engineered and built several machines, based on the physical properties and relationships he had proven, to help defend Syracuse from the Roman assault. These included giant pulleys and catapults that would lift ships out of the water and shake them up, destroying them (check out the “claw of Archimedes”). He also built a giant mirror that focused the sunlight onto a ship to burn it.

Adsideological Discussion

Archimedes’ life highlights when a needs translates to accomplishments. This is a characteristic of most inventions, because they need money to flourish and inventors need money to succeed and continue inventing. But Archimedes’ accomplishments were much more than this. It seems to me that he was driven by pure curiosity and intellect, a desire to test his mind against science and nature.

At some level, perhaps he spent too little time outside of his passion of mathematics and discovery. A passion is supposed to be a majority consumer of time and energy. However, no legacy really exists, outside of his scientific accomplishments, that tells us about Archimedes the man and Archimedes the neighbor. Perhaps this has something to do with the time frame in which he lived, but a story told is a story told. Regardless, Archimedes was a life changer and contributed an incredible balance of both an immediate impact and a long term impact on society.

People Studying People

Society is people. Whether it’s business growth, intellectual advancement, government, mass media, artistic culture, knowledge transfer, sports successes, health care, economic development, or charity, it all starts with people. Therefore, in order to learn about how society is shaped and how it can change, it’s imperative that we learn as much as we can about the people who have come before us.

One purpose of my blog is to organize information about influential people of the past and present to try and pass this information on to others. Adsideology very much follows this notion – that life is about people, and we should study people to become people. I do recognize that the more diverse the people, the more wholesome the information gained. However, I’ll probably start with some mathematicians as I’ve recently bought a few books on the great ones in history.

As a start, let’s think of some numbers. Solely focusing on Earth, how many people have ever lived? Most estimates fall around 100 billion total. The interesting note about this number is that with a current population of over 6.7 billion, this means that almost 7% of people ever born in the history of Earth are living today. In other words, only 93% of people ever born have ever died! Pretty wild to think about, right?

On Knowledge Innovation

I want to quickly mention a correlating note regarding knowledge innovation for the future – how new thought can best be stimulated given the current state of society. It is clear that one pillar of innovation will always be people – the human component. Even in a world growing in reliance on information services, the human component will always remain. I’ve posted previously on the need for the human component in future mathematics initiatives as well as the need for expanded human intervention for optimized search technologies. The fact is, the human component will always be there. Common sense, yes, but commonly understood, maybe not.


on circles: simplicity and perfection

Within the bounds of modern human cognition, the circle is the most basic – but also the most perfect – shape.

I really enjoyed (and highly recommend) the recent New York Times piece titled “The Circular Logic of the Universe” by Natalie Angier. In this article, Angier makes reference to circles of both natural and man-made origin, discussing their physical characteristics and their often debated meanings.

Angier also uses the Russian artist and theorist Wassily Kandinsky‘s piece “Several Circles” (image above) as a foundation for her article. Wassily Kandinsky found interest in the abstract and concrete nature of shapes, delicately balancing geometry as a science and an art.

“The circle is the most modest form, but asserts itself unconditionally. It is simultaneously stable and unstable, loud and soft, a single tension that carries countless tensions within it.”

“The circle, is the synthesis of the greatest oppositions. It combines the concentric and the eccentric in a single form and in equilibrium. Of the three primary forms, it points most clearly to the fourth dimension.”

Some of this stuff is pretty wild if you take a moment and think about it. Circles are everywhere and have been researched for millennia. The earliest known use of the wheel was around 3500 B.C. My current reading “Of Men and Numbers” by Janet Muir talks at length about Archimedes’ (and others’) mathematical discoveries and engineering feats regarding the circle well over two thousand years ago! Fast forward and we are still researching and finding new meaning in circles today – in engineering, cosmology, social science, mathematics and every other knowledge branch.

I guess it’s safe to say that new questions will continuously arise for which we may never find an answer – for all things, circles included. No matter how simple they seem or how perfect they look, the wheels will always go round and round.