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Posts Tagged ‘capital punishment

“Happiness is not something ready made”*…


Hedonometer reading for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

A collaboration of data scientists at the University of Vermont and the Mitre Corporation, the Hedonometer was created to gauge happiness by assessing word use.  It was first applied to Twitter, as readers can see here.  More lately, it has been turned on the repository at Project Gutenberg, so that users can test the “happiness” of thousands of classic books… as above.  The chart in the top left shows happiness metrics through the whole of the book; the chart on the right shows a comparison of book sections, which one can select in the first chart.

As our friends at Flowing Data observe, “I wish I could say this meant something to me…”  Still, it makes one happy to know that they’re on the case.

* Dalai Lama


As we search for word replacements codes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1977 that Hamida Djandoubi became the last person to be legally executed in France by guillotine.



Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 10, 2014 at 1:01 am

Everyone ever in the world…


About 10 years ago, Peter Crnokrak gave up his career as a quantitative geneticist, deciding instead to apply his talent for manipulating large data sets to the visualization of life at the human scale.

As Co.Exist observes

His visualizations, created under the nom de data viz of The Luxury of Protest, are both visually stunning and scientifically precise. And, as with his previous genetics research (he was trying to tease out the difference between nature and nurture in our genes), Crnokrak the graphic artist wrestles with enormous, core questions about humanity and history.

His most well-known piece, titled Everyone Ever in the World, tries to capture human history’s cumulative war dead as a proportion of every person who has ever lived since 3000 BC. That piece–meant, like all of his work, to be experienced as a physical installation rather than a JPEG–was honored last year by the journal Science in the National Science Foundation’s International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge.

Crnokrak has also tried to illustrate the quantitative degree to which each of the 192 United Nations member states has contributed to peace and terror in the world. And more recently, he has graphed every known empire, colony, and territorial occupation since 2334 BC. In the resulting visual, individual empires overlap atop each other, revealing ebbs and flows in empire mania over time. That piece is called Never Forever Never for Now. (The titles themselves are meant to carry Crnokrak’s concepts in a poetic way, and he admits to having spent weeks just coming up with Everyone Ever, let alone doing the research for it.)

Explore these pieces and others at Crnokrak’s site; they’re intended to be viewed as physical objects, in person– still, the photos are very compelling.


As we brood over the big picture, we might note that this date (Don DeLillo’s birthday) was the occasion, in 1805, of the first performance of Beethoven’s only opera (at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien): a work in three acts known then as Leonore— the story of Leonore, who, disguised as a prison guard named “Fidelio,” rescues her husband Florestan from death in a political prison.  Like many of Beethoven’s pieces, the opera was subsequently reworked… in this case, distilled to two acts and retitled Fidelio.

From Beethoven’s manuscript for Leonore/Fidelio


We might also pause to send consoling birthday greetings to Timothy Evans, who was born on this date in 1924.  Evans was accused in 1950 of murdering his wife and daughter, convicted, and hanged that year.  Throughout his trial, Evans argued his innocence, and  pointed to his downstairs neighbour, John Christie, as the likely culprit.  Three years later Christie was unmasked as a serial killer, and confessed to the murder of Evan’s family.  Evan’s case– its obvious miscarriage of justice– was a major spur to the abolition of capital punishment in the U.K. in 1965.

Evans (center) being escorted by police





Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 20, 2012 at 1:01 am

I have this recurring nightmare about an exam for which I haven’t studied…

… the first of a series of questions at Nation’s Report Card‘s (U.S. Department of Education’s) web site– in the Fourth Grade section.  Having completed those, readers can graduate to Eighth and Twelfth Grade exams.

Makes one grateful for innovations in teaching like this one.

As we agree with Sam Cooke (and then again, wish that our Presidential contenders didn’t), we might recall that it was on this date in 1972 that the U.S. Supreme Court decided Furman vs. Georgia by a 5-4 vote, declaring capital punishment unconstitutional.  But it wasn’t a conclusive victory for death-penalty foes:  the majority based its decision on flaws in jury selection and sentencing processes…  which were addressed by several states over the next few years.  So, in 1976, when the issue came again before the Justices, they ruled that capital punishment could be resumed under a “model of guided discretion.”  And it was– with the 1977 execution (by firing squad) of Gary Gilmore in Utah.  In 2010, the U.S. ranked fifth in the world in the number of legal executions performed (behind China, Iran, North Korea, and Yemen; ahead of Saudi Arabia, Lybia, Syria, and the rest of the countries in the world).

Image source

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