Monthly Archives: August 2009

11 Things You Didn’t Know about Pinball History

 11 Things You Didn’t Know about Pinball History

There’s an article in Popular Mechanics describing the history of pinball. Did you know that pinball used to be illegal in many places in the United States?

Pinball was banned from the early 1940s to the mid-1970s in most of America’s big cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, where the game was born and where virtually all of its manufacturers have historically been located. The stated reason for the bans: pinball was a game of chance, not skill, and so it was a form of gambling. To be fair, pinball really did involve a lot less skill in the early years of the game—largely because the flipper wasn’t invented until 1947, five years after most of the bans were implemented (up until then, players would bump and tilt the machines in order to sway the ball’s gravity). Many lawmakers also believed pinball to be a mafia-run racket, and a time- and dime-waster for impressionable youth. (The machines robbed the “pockets of school children in the form of nickels and dimes given them as lunch money,” New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia wrote in a Supreme Court affidavit.)


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I’ll take care of your dog after you’ve vanished, like a jerk

 I’ll take care of your dog after you’ve vanished, like a jerk
Eternal Earth-Bound Pets is a group of atheists who are happy to charge pet-owners a fee for agreeing to take care of animals after their owners have been whisked away to heaven by the rapture.
via Unreasonable Faith

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A Demonstration of the Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma

 A Demonstration of the Iterated Prisoners Dilemma

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The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a logical exercise where two players are given the choice to cooperate with or defect against one another. The highest score a player can receive is 5 points, which he earns when he defects while his opponent cooperates. In this scenario, his opponent receives no points. If both players defect, then each receives 1 point, and if both cooperate, they receive 3 points. The Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma (IPD) repeats this exercise many times over, giving each player a chance to react to the choices of his opponent. This sets up the dilemma: in each isolated round, it’s in the best interest of the player to defect. But if this leads both players to repeatedly defect against each other, then they will both score fewer points than if they repeatedly cooperated with each other.

In this demonstration, you can pit different strategies of play against one another in a tournament. By setting the numbers next to the names of the different agent types, you control the composition of your IPD tournament. When you hit the Play button, every agent you chose plays the same number of rounds of the Prisoner’s Dilemma against every other agent. The table displays the total results from all of these matchups.

This demonstration is based on Robert Axelrod’s original IPD tournaments as well as Chris Cook’s own demo of the IPD. On Wikipedia, you can read more about the Prisoner’s Dilemma and the Evolution of Cooperation. You can also download Chris Cook’s IPD demo. It has several features that this demo doesn’t.

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True fruits and false fruits

Under close scrutiny, hardly any of the things we refer to as fruits actually are.

Strawberries, you will be glad to know, are a ‘false fruit’. Which seems reasonable enough. But at this point a small doubt started to grow in my mind… what, actually, then, was a real fruit? Oranges? No, they’re a modified berry. Bananas? Leathery berry. Plums? Drupe — fleshy bit with one stone inside.

(via clusterflock)

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