(Roughly) Daily

“The dice of Zeus always fall luckily”*…

14th century medieval dice from the Netherlands

Whether at a casino playing craps or engaging with family in a simple board game at home, rolling the dice introduces a bit of chance or “luck” into every game. We expect dice to be fair, where every number has equal probability of being rolled.

But a new study shows this was not always the case. In Roman times, many dice were visibly lopsided, unlike today’s perfect cubes. And in early medieval times, dice were often “unbalanced” in the arrangement of numbers, where 1 appears opposite 2, 3 opposite 4, and 5 opposite 6. It did not matter what the objects were made of (metal, clay, bone, antler and ivory), or whether they were precisely symmetrical or consistent in size or shape, because, like the weather, rolls were predetermined by gods or other supernatural elements.

All that began to change around 1450, when dice makers and players seemingly figured out that form affected function, explained Jelmer Eerkens, University of California, Davis, professor of anthropology and the lead author of a recent study on dice.

“A new worldview was emerging — the Renaissance. People like Galileo and Blaise Pascal were developing ideas about chance and probability, and we know from written records in some cases they were actually consulting with gamblers,” he said. “We think users of dice also adopted new ideas about fairness, and chance or probability in games”…

From fate to fairness: how dice changed over 2,000 years to be more fair: “It’s not how you play the game, but how the dice were made.”

[via Tim Carmody‘s always-illuminating newsletter, Noticing]

* Sophocles

###

As we consider the odds, we might send frontier-challenging birthday greetings to a man who tempted chance– Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager; he was born on this date in 1923.  A flying ace, test pilot, and ultimately U.S. Air Force General, Yeager became the first human to officially break the sound barrier when, in 1947, he flew the experimental Bell X-1 at Mach 1 at an altitude of 45,000 ft.

Perhaps as famously, Yeager was a mentor and role model for the first class of NASA astronauts, as memorialized in Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, and Philip Kaufman’s film adaptation.  On finishing high school at the beginning of World War II, Yeager had enlisted in the Air Force as a private; he served a mechanic before being accepted into the enlisted flight program, from which he graduated as a “Flight Officer” (equivalent to a Chief Warrant Officer).  His extraordinary skill as a pilot fueled his continued rise through the ranks.  But NASA’s requirement that all astronauts have college degrees disqualified Yeager from membership in the space program.  So though he was by most accounts far the most qualified potential astronaut, he became instead their head teacher, the first commandant of the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School, which produced astronauts for NASA and the USAF.

Yeager in front of the Bell X-1, which, as with all of the aircraft assigned to him, he named Glamorous Glennis (or some variation thereof), after his wife.

source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 13, 2018 at 1:01 am

Desk Jobs…

Bihar, India. Sushma Prasad (b. 1962) is an assistant clerk at the Cabinet Secretary of the State of Bihar (population 83 million) in The Old Secretariat in the state capital, Patna. She was hired “on compassionate grounds” because of the death of her husband, who until 1997 worked in the same department. Monthly salary: 5,000 rupees (\$110, euro 100).

Bureaucratics is a project consisting of a book (ISBN 978-1-59005-232-7) and exhibition containing 50 photographs, the product of an anarchist’s heart, a historian’s mind and an artist’s eye. It is a comparative photographic study of the culture, rituals and symbols of state civil administrations and its servants in eight countries on five continents, selected on the basis of political, historical and cultural considerations: Bolivia, China, France, India, Liberia, Russia, the United States, and Yemen. In each country, I visited up to hundreds of offices of members of the executive in different services and at different levels. The visits were unannounced and the accompanying writer, Will Tinnemans, by interviewing kept the employees from tidying up or clearing the office. That way, the photos show what a local citizen would be confronted with when entering.

– Dutch documentary photographer Jan Banning

China. Qu Shao Feng (b. 1964) is chief general of Jining Public Security Bureau Division of Aliens and Exit-Entry Administration in Jining City, Shandong province. Monthly salary: 3,100 renminbi (\$384, 286 euro).

USA, Texas. Jessie Wolf (b. 1952), a former professional football player for the Miami Dolphins, is now sheriff of Tyler County (some 20,000 inhabitants), Texas, based in Woodville, the county seat. Monthly salary: \$ 3,417 (2,542 euro).

Yemen. Alham Abdulwaze Nuzeli (b. 1982) works at the regional office of the Ministry of Tithing and Alms in the city of Al-Mahwit, Al-Mahwit governorate. Monthly salary: 12,000 rial (\$67, euro 46). Behind her a portrait of president Saleh of Yemen.

Continue the tour through dozens more photos at Jan Banning’s “Bureaucractics.”

[TotH to Flavorwire]

As we feel the need of a coffee break, we might recall that it was on this date in 1959 that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) introduced America’s first astronauts to the press: Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper Jr., John H. Glenn Jr., Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Walter Schirra Jr., Alan Shepard Jr., and Donald Slayton. The seven men, all military test pilots, were selected from a group of 32 candidates to take part in Project Mercury, America’s first manned space program.

After they were announced, the “Mercury Seven” became overnight celebrities. But the Mercury Project suffered some early setbacks; and on April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited Earth in the world’s first manned space flight. Less than one month later, on May 5, astronaut Alan Shepard was successfully launched into space on a suborbital flight. Then on February 20, 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth.  NASA continued to trail the Soviets in the space race until the late 1960s, when NASA’s Apollo program put the first men on the moon and safely returned them to Earth.

The gentlemen with The Right Stuff (source: NASA)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 9, 2011 at 1:01 am