US Mint ends production of one dollar coins

Awhile ago Last Tuesday, 13 December 2011, the U.S. Mint announced that production of one dollar coins is ending. The Mint will continue to produce a few one dollar coins for collectors, as required by law:

Instead of producing 70-80 million coins per president, the Mint will now only produce as many as collectors order.

These coins will have numismatic value, and as such will cost far more than their $1.00 face value. Remaining circulating demand for $1 coins will be met with Federal Reserve stockpiles until they are depleted.

reverse face of 2010 Native American one dollar coin

$1 coin: Hiawatha belt bundles 5 arrows symbolizing 5 nations of the Iroquois Confederacy via US Mint 2010

Unwanted

The $1 coins would have saved hundreds of millions of dollars over time, as they are more durable than paper money.  Despite being a more sustainable, environmentally friendly alternative to paper currency, they were never popular with the American public: 40% of $1 coins were returned, unwanted, to the Federal Reserve each year.

My favorite $1 coin featured Sacagawea, guide to Lewis and Clark, the 2010 Native American. It is beautiful. Sacagawea is on the obverse side. The image above is the reverse side. (more…)

Published in: on June 21, 2020 at 8:10 am  Comments (6)  
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White Lives Matter

flow chart about race

It doesn’t matter what you do; it will never be enough.

Published in: on June 20, 2020 at 9:13 pm  Comments (4)  
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Not so current developments in typography

I wrote this post about the Indian rupee some years ago but never published it. Given the feeling of time suspended brought on by COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders (and suspension of normal life in general), I decided to publish rather than discard it.

My initial motivation was to come up with something interesting to say using combinations and permutations in meaning of the words “economics”, “typography”, “development”, and “current”. I DO love typography!

Currency of developing economies

Most countries have distinct identification symbols for their currencies, but until 2011, there was no official currency sign for the Indian rupee. Only `Rs’ was used to represent it.  India shared the abbreviated form of the rupee with Pakistan, Nepal, Seychelles and Sri Lanka.

India’s finance ministry organized a public competition to design a new symbol for the rupee. The successful designer was awarded Rs 2.5 lakh, but had to surrender the copyright to the government of India. The symbol chosen was

which is U+20B9 in Unicode and ₹ in HTML. It is a blend of the Devanagri ‘Ra’ and Roman ‘R’. (more…)

Published in: on April 9, 2020 at 6:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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Cutting corners on telecom infrastructure with Huawei

In January 2013, I wrote a blog post about Huawei’s twisty, winding path to prominence. There were plenty of oddities, e.g. Huawei was supplier to the Taliban and nearly acquired by GOP presidential Mitt Romney… but not a the same time!

Huawei is back in the limelight. Curiously, the problem is not one of Chinese state interference but of sloppy software development. I’ll get to that, but first, let’s take an illustrated tour of the Huawei story.

A casual Huawei timeline

2001 – Huawei India faces allegations that it had developed telecommunications equipment used by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Huawei greeters at ITU World Telecom 2007 but probably not for the Taliban

2010 – Reuters reports that a major Iranian partner of Huawei tried to sell embargoed Hewlett-Packard computer equipment to Iran‘s largest mobile-phone operator.

Huawei at mobile device trade show convention in Iran

2011 – The Australian government excludes Huawei from tendering contracts with a government-owned corporation constructing a broadband network.

2012 – The Canadian government excludes Huawei from plans to build a secure government communications network.

Huawei phone Pegasus, Barcelona 2012

2013 – The U.S.- China Economic & Security Review Commission advised Congress about Chinese government influence on Huawei.

2013 – Reuters investigative report following receipt of a letter from a concerned Los Alamos National Labs (LANL) employee:

[LANL] had installed devices made by H3C Technologies Co [which] raises questions about procurement practices by U.S. departments responsible for national security.

The devices were Chinese-made switches used for managing data traffic on LANL computer networks. Huawei’s relationship with Chinese military was mentioned.

(more…)

Published in: on October 23, 2019 at 5:48 am  Comments (2)  
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Why is Norway is expanding its armed forces now?

The Norwegian government posted this brief video explicitly for the benefit of English-speaking audiences a few weeks ago. The YouTube comments are turned off, but the description reads as follows,

“We asked the question: Why do we need the armed forces and a military? In the end what do we, as a nation, want to happen? This is the answer.”

The video is brief and well-produced. I’ll provide that referenced answer after the jump just in case anyone will consider it a spoiler for me to do otherwise.

(more…)

Published in: on January 20, 2019 at 3:38 pm  Comments (3)  
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Yet another academic plagiarism scandal: blockchains, medical research, and patents

One must be intrinsically motivated to be ethical and honest. Integrity cannot be imposed by peer review.

This is not another SFYL (sorry for your loss) tale of cryptocurrency scamming. That is merely a grace note. Academic plagiarism can happen, regardless of whether bitcoin, blockchains, or cryptocurrency are involved.

One’s own professional community, and the moral implications of having lied and plagiarized i.e. shame, should be enough to keep scientific and other original researchers (and investigatory work in general) honest. It clearly isn’t. I make that observation based on this passage via Andrew Gelman (emphasis mine): (more…)

Published in: on November 16, 2018 at 6:28 am  Comments (7)  
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Most dangerous nations for women in 2018: US in top 10

Reuters recently published a news report, Factbox: Which are the world’s 10 most dangerous countries for women?. The results were the subject of a post at Feminist Philosophers blog, where I occasionally visit and even understand a bit, without being a philosopher nor much of a feminist. I reacted with incredulity to the results.

United States is the 3rd most dangerous country for sexual violence?

Sexual violence is defined by the survey as follows:

“This includes rape as a weapon of war; domestic rape; rape by a stranger; the lack of access to justice in rape cases; sexual harassment and coercion into sex as a form of corruption.”

How often was rape used as a weapon of war in the United States in 2018?

Yes, this fact check—based on investigative journalism that was funded, produced, and published by the Thomson Reuters Foundation—reports that women in the US are more at risk of sexual violence than in Syria! The US is considered more dangerous for women than nations where female genital mutilation is common, and untreated obstetric fistulas ruin lives.
(more…)

Growth of the early Internet, node by node

Network diagrams are a popular way of visualizing social and corporate relationships. Network theory has been used to model telecommunications performance and especially, the Internet. Communications networks increase in value as the number of connections increases. Metcalfe’s Law attempts to quantify the increased value.

Optimizing Metcalfe’s Law

For a network with n members, Metcalfe’s Law posits that the total value of that network is proportional to n * (n-1). Metcalfe’s Law as applied to the Internet, and even to the telephone network, is only valid if all connections have equal value. This is incorrect. Some internet connections are hardly used and contribute limited value. Of course, there are reasons to connect everyone that are not based on monetary value! Rural electrification is an example.

Andrew Odlyzko’s article about Metcalfe’s Law (IEEE Spectrum, 2006) was written with a keen awareness of the 2000 dotcom bubble. Odlyzko demonstrated how Metcalfe’s Law’s applicability could be limited by the equal value assumption, among others. I read it, and wondered: What is the Internet’s optimal number of nodes and connections? When did the value of a larger Internet network start diminishing?

At some point, ISPs (Internet Service Providers) stopped charging users for access, as the business of delivering content became more valuable than providing greater network connectivity. AOL charged for service until 2002 or so.

I thought it would be helpful to begin with a timeline of Internet growth, by number of sites connected and corresponding events, as a starting point for determining incremental value. I searched for a streamlined history, but the best that I could find is provided by The Computer History Museum, and it isn’t quite linear. It also has a lot of technical detail that isn’t relevant for verifying Metcalfe’s Law. I decided to construct a timeline of dates and nodes, from which connectivity can be determined. I am writing this partly for myself, for reference purposes. (I don’t know how to value connectivity, not yet.)

In the beginning

In the beginning, the Internet had only two nodes. It was called the ARPANET. (more…)

Published in: on November 25, 2016 at 6:41 am  Comments (9)  
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Oil prices and OPEC influence

Light, sweet crude is the most desirable grade of crude oil because it requires minimal refining while producing the most gasoline. This chart is useful when considering geopolitical risk and commodities prices, as it illustrates where the “best” oil is.

Comparison of oil types by country

Oil types by country (click image to view full-sized)

The chart was produced by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2012. Perhaps that is why West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude is not listed, as the U.S. was not an oil exporting nation until recently, under President Obama’s administration, although we are not a net oil exporter.

OPEC

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has had varying levels of power since its founding in 1960 and heyday in the 1970s. Saudi Arabia has always been the controlling producer in the cartel. OPEC’s objective is to control oil price by either freezing production or cutting production.

Iran is an OPEC member. (more…)

Published in: on March 4, 2016 at 2:31 am  Comments (3)  
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Cornucopia of mathematics

This image was originally developed as the focal point of the Math Awareness Month poster of April 2000. The theme was “Math Spans All Dimensions”. It was too lovely to be retired, and appeared again at TFBCON2003.

Dimension Cornucopia via TFBCON2003

According to the artist, Brown University professor Thomas Banchoff, it is suffused with joy, just as I had hoped!

It begins with mere points, then a curve that flares into a spiral and eventually a colorful 3-d cornucopia of mathematical plenty:

…suggesting the possibility of further dimensions yet to come.

Professor Banchoff’s art work has even graced some book covers, including this one, written by my favorite statistician.

Published in: on February 27, 2015 at 12:33 am  Comments (2)  
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