Monthly Archives: November 2013

Masculinist history of the modern world, pt. 2: WWII mustaches

Continuing my, somewhat tongue in cheek, Masculinist history, part 1: beards, I thought I’d move on to mustache history, centering on WWII. I see the conflict as big mustaches vs little mustaches leading to a peace of no face hair at all. First consider that, at the start of the war, virtually all the leaders had mustaches, with similar mustached men allied. Consider that Hitler was weird and hi’s mustache was weird, and that, within a few years of peace, virtually no major leader had a hairy lip. Why?

Let me begin by speculating that the mustache is worn by the man who wishes to be seen as manly, but who also wants to appear civilized. The message of the mustache, then: I’m a leader of great vision within a civilized society. Thus visionaries like Albert Einstein, Duke Ellington, S. Dali, and T. Roosevelt, all decided to grow mustaches. The mustache may not make men into champions of a new vision, but a man with the will to champion something new will tend to wear a mustache. It is thus no surprise that a world war would begin when all the world leaders had mustaches, or why a crazy person like Hitler would wear a crazy mustache, but why is it that so few world leaders have been mustached since. Where have all the mustaches gone? Read onward.

Emperor Akihito, center, had to open Japan; Emperor Meiji, upper right, a wild beard and terror who defeated China and Russia; Emperor Hirohito, bottom left, crafty mustache. Caveat Emperor. Tojo, bottom right, the man to lead the fight and pay the price.

Emperor Akihito, upper left was induced to open Japan; Emperor Meiji, upper right, defeated China and Russia; WWII Emperor Hirohito, bottom left; General Tojo, bottom right, the man to take the fall. Caveat Emperor.

As WWII begins with the Japanese, lets look at the face hair on several Japanese  emperors’ faces. At the upper left, Mikado (Emperor) Akihito. He had no vision, drive or mustache, and was induced to open Japan to the west in 1854 in response to his advisors and Admiral Perry who sailed 4 black warships into Tokyo harbor. His successor, Emperor Meiji (upper right, bearded) won wars against China and Russia in the late 1800s (see the significance of warlike beards). Emperor Hirohito, bottom left, wore the mustache and authorized the beginning of WWII including the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the rape of Nanking. His associate, General Tojo, bottom right, also mustached lead the actual deeds and took the blame. Akihito looks feminine and unhappy, as one might understand. Meiji looks like a holy terror; and both Hirohito and his general wear mustaches trimmed in the British style. My interpretation: their goal was to build a sea-land empire based on the British model.

After Emperor Meiji defeated China and Russia, his obvious next step should have been to attack the USA, but Meiji did not. Large-mustachioed, US President, Th. Roosevelt noticed the danger and used his “talk softly and carry a big stick” deterrent. He was a man of civilization and sent a “peace delegation” of white-pained warships to Tokyo Harbor. They were painted white for peace, and to differentiate the modern, civilized Roosevelt from President Tyler of the Black warships. The message seems to have gotten through to Meiji, and we had no more trouble from him, nor from his son (no face hair). But Meiji’s grandson, Hirohito joined with Tojo, and realized that all Americans were not like Th. Roosevelt. He ceased the opportunity of American isolationism and tried to get the job done as his grandfather would have wanted. They figured, correctly, that we didn’t want war, and incorrectly, that we would give up in the face of a single military victory. Hirohito had studied in England and admired the British empire. Seeing the power of bearded George V, he came to believe that a small, but unified island nation could take and hold a mighty empire so long as the nation was strong enough and understood modern organizational management. Surely it was time Japan made its empire by taking Hong Kong from England, Vietnam from France, The Philippines from the US, and (most importantly) Malaysia from the Dutch (Malaysia had oil). What’s the worst that could happen?

Hirohito built a world-power army and navy, and invaded China successfully. He fought Chiang Kai Shek (trimmed, British mustache; he was a modernizer himself). Meanwhile, for 15 years the Japanese military developed for empire. The military college planned an attack on Pearl Harbor based on careful organization and management. When carried out Dec. 7, 1941, the attack was brilliantly successful. The next day, Dec 8-9, the same “zero” planes that had hit Hawaii, helped destroy both the British navy near Hong Kong and the US airbase in the Philippines. We never even thought to prepare as we didn’t think the Japanese were organized or advance enough. The Mitsubishi “zero” was an advanced version of a Fiat design (see my piece on Fiat’s latest). As with other Fiat products, it was small, fast, maneuverable, efficient, and unreliable.

Now look at the European leaders, axis and allies, below. In the late 1930s, all sport mustaches except for Mussolini. This might suggest a world ripe for war that would benefit Mussolini: everyone’s vision can’t come to be, and most everyone might want to ally with a feminine peace-nick. At first, that’s what happened: modern military mustached Franco took over Spain from the old-fashioned, up-mustached king of Spain and his incompetent government. Mussolini was a passive ally. Big mustached Stalin took over the Baltic countries; Mussolini was his national-socialist friend. Half-mustache Hitler then allied with Mussolini and armed the Rhineland. This scares old-fashioned mustached Giraud (France) and British Chamberlain into giving him eastern Czechoslovakia. Mussolini looks on. Chamberlain comes to believe that he has achieved peace in our time, but he has not. Now, the big mustached king of Italy, Victor Emanuel chooses no-mustache Mussolini to restore Italian unity. Mussolini goes to war and takes Libya on his second try. He almost takes Greece too. Useless, clean-shaven, general Badoglio resigns. These conquests do not lead to world war or condemnation of Italy (or Germany, or Russia) The mustachioed socialists of France, Poland, England and the US have quite a lot in common with the national socialists of Germany and Italy. We hold, like they do, that the state must make the jobs if it is to pull out of the depression, and that the state must be strong, pure, and united — something best achieved by socialism and keeping immigrants out. The theme of the New York Word’s Fair in 1939 is Peace through Progress, a theme of unrealistic optimism. For now, though, the US is neutral, and all the nations have exhibitions in NY.

War of the mustache men. Top row: axis leaders at the beginning of WWII; l-r: Hitler, Franco (Spain), King Victor Emanuel and Mussolini (Italy), and Stalin (Russia, an early ally of Hitler). Bottom row: allied leaders, l-r; King Alfonso (Spain); Chang Kai Shek (China), François Lebrun (France), Ignazy Moscicki (Poland); N. Chamberlain (UK). All are mustached except Mussolini.

Top row: axis leaders at the beginning of WWII; l-r: Hitler, Franco (Spain), King Victor Emanuel and Mussolini (Italy), and Stalin Bottom row: allied leaders, l-r; King Alfonso (Spain); Chiang Kai Shek (China), François Lebrun (France), Ignazy Moscicki (Poland); N. Chamberlain (UK). All are mustached except Mussolini.

But peace isn’t in the cards as one could tell by the mustaches. Big mustache Stalin hatches a secret pact with small-mustache Hitler. They invade Poland together in September 1939. The mustache of the masses and the mustache of the pure race join to destroy Poland in a week. Because of treaties, England and France are now at war too, but they do nothing till May 1940. Not understanding that mustaches must war, they assume no war exists. This changes when Hitler sweeps his armies through Belgium and into Paris. England rejects the mustached enemies, and elects clean-shaved Winston Churchill, a Labor liberal turned Conservative. He sports a big-stick policy and wears a big-stick cigar. His cigar is like a flaming mustache, but far more mobile.

Churchill’s policies are just as mobile as his mustache. He confidently tells the masses, “We will fight them on the beaches.” And confidently tells the elites: “Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we’re fighting for, it’s Champaign.” A cigar, unlike a mustache, can be warlike of peaceful: in your face or out depending on the group. A Republican with at cigar is a diplomat, not a dogmatist.

Churchill finds an ally in clean-shaven, cigarette holder, segregationist FDR. “Meeting FDR is like opening your first bottle of Champaign,” says Churchill, “Getting to know him is like drinking it.” The two english-speaking countries share a special relationship and similar smoking preferences. FDR, still vowing neutrality, lends England ships tanks, and money, but sends no troupes except volunteers (the Lafayette squadron). With this diplomatic, middle road in place, FDR handily defeats the shaven, cigarette smoking, war-monger, Wendell Wilkie in the 1940 election (Wilkie used to be a Democrat). The Free French take to small mustache, Charles De Gaulle, in preference to the larger mustache, Philippe Petain, or the similarly mustached Edourd Deladier and Maurice Gamelin.

De Gaulle and Churchill do not get along. De Gaulle (small mustache) wants action. He becomes the liberation of French Africa. Meanwhile, Churchill talks war, but only to defend “this rock, this England.” De Gaulle describes the differences this way:  “I get angry when I’m right, and Churchill gets angry when he’s wrong; therefore we are angry at each other quite a lot.” Churchill claims that “going to war without the French is like going hunting without your bagpipe.”

Roosevelt has much in common with Churchill as might be guessed from the lack of face hair and the similar smoking choices. The two major clean-shaven leaders meet and pray together abroad the HMS Prince of Wales in August 1941. Roosevelt meets too and gets along with Mrs. Chiang Kai Shek (no face hair, needless to say). He sends Madame Chiang a less-than-well funded, volunteer force, The American Volunteer Group, otherwise known as The Flying Tigers. This group is given 99 obsolete planes that the French had ordered, and is put under the command of Claire Chennault, a mustached WWI flier, and self-appointed colonel. Chennault recruits the drunken dregs of the US army air corps with the promise of $500 per Japanese plane. In the few months before WWII, The Flying Tigers destroy nearly 200 Japanese planes while heavily outnumbered and out gunned. Most of the flyers are mustached. Ad-hoc Volunteer forces seem to work for the USA: T. Roosevelt had success as a self-appointed Lt. Colonel 40 years earlier. Eventually, The flying Tigers are re-absorbed into the Army Air Corps; Chennault and his Tigers take a shave and join the regulars.

Meanwhile, mustached, long haired, Albert Einstein (a visionary if ever there was one) comes to understand the potential of the atom bomb. While most of the world still believes that matter and energy and independent entities, Einstein realizes that even a small amount of mass converted to energy can destroy a city. Speaking of science and art, he says, “Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by individuals who labor in freedom.” Within 5 years, his visionary ideas will help end the war, and few scientists will sport face hair or labor in freedom. Einstein encourages FDR to build the A-bomb. FDR spends $3 billion ($70B in 2013 dollars) under the management of visionary, mustachioed General Leslie Groves. The best physicists and engineers of the US and Europe join together to build the device Einstein described; it’s the A Bomb built by the A Team.

Meanwhile back in Europe, weird mustached, Hitler attacks his ally Stalin and despite massive deaths seems to be winning (c.f. Napoleon, 140 years earlier). Stalin joins the shaven allies (for now) against Germany, and immediately sets to steal the secret of the A Bomb. Churchill doesn’t trust him, a good call since Stalin is still allied with the mustached Mikado of Japan in the East against Britain. And then the Pearl Harbor attack, December 7, 1941, and everything changes. On December 8 Congress declares war on Japan, and Hitler declares war on us (perhaps the stupidest move of the 20th century). Churchill says he had the first good night’s sleep in years, but does nothing to protect the English navy or air force from Japan’s zero fighters. The HMS Prince of Wales is sunk December 10. The Canadian cost and California oil tanks are attacked by Japanese submarine-fired cannon. And what about Stalin? Through all of this, he remains allied with Japan and with us (what a man). It’s something you might have expected from his mustache.

Allied leaders toward the end of WWII. De Gaulle, Stalin, Churchill, FDR, Chiang Kai Shek, Mao Tze Tung. Only de Gaulle and Stalin have mustaches; Stalin is still an ally of Japan; Mao and Chiang at war. The US and UK share a special relationship.

Decline of the mustache. Allied leaders early 1945. l-r: De Gaulle, Stalin, Churchill, FDR, Chiang Kai Shek, Mao Tze Tung. Only de Gaulle and Stalin have mustaches; Stalin is still an ally of Japan; Mao and Chiang at war over China. The US and UK share a special relationship.

US dollars and Russian manpower turn the tide in Europe. Hitler kills himself and is replaced by clean-shaven Keitel who sues for peace (too little, too late). Mussolini flees Italy for Switzerland, and gets help killing himself. Fascist-free Italy turns to a mustache-free leader: General Badoglio of the failed Greek invasion. Stalin takes over Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, and East Germany. Churchill objects and is tossed out of office while negotiating at Yalta. He’s replaced by small mustached Clement Attlee who sees no problem with Stalin’s expansion. His is a  grand (socialist) vision for England.

Civil-rightist Republican from NY, Tom Dewey is the major presidential candidate to host a mustache.

Civil-rightist NY Republican, Tom Dewey, the last mustached presidential hopeful, loses.

Fresh-faced, smoker, FDR dies in a liaison with a woman not his wife, and is followed by feisty, fresh-faced, non-smokier, Harry S. Truman, who continues FDR’s vision and drops two A-Bombs on Japan as twice pay-back for Pearl harbor. Stalin switches sides, sort of, for now: Japan is now his enemy, but Mao, not Chiang is a friend. Hirohito sees the new (atomic) light and the Russian army; he surrenders to the Americans. His mustache is much reduced at surrender (see below). Hirohito, still the visionary, admits he’s not a god, nor is he the gate to God (Mikado means heavenly gate; the title stops being used except for light opera). Tojo takes the blame for the war, and is executed. Mao Tze Tung conquers China after Chang Kai Shek flees to Taiwan. Stalin turns on his hairless, hapless, ex-allies. He keeps eastern Europe in contravention of the Yalta agreements, and kills a few million of his troupes: a peacetime army is dangerous. Franco keeps power in Spain.

Small-mustache Attlee builds a British A-Bomb, and takes over most of British business including The Bank of England, civil aviation, the coal mines, the steel industry, the railways, most road haulage, canals, cable and wireless, electricity and gas, and The Thomas Cooke travel agency. His grand vision provides England full employment, better work conditions, and health care, but also rationing, starvation and a lack of fuel. Attlee tries to stop Jewish migration to Israel and the formation of the state. He remains in power till 1950, becoming the last, and perhaps greatest, of several great, mustached, British prime ministers. Churchill’s shaven face returns to oversee England’s stagnation. Click for Churchill-Attlee jokes, jibes and insights.

In the US, clean-shaven Truman wins re-election against the last mustachioed presidential candidate, New York, civil-rightist, Republican, Thomas Dewey. De Gaulle is tossed out of office, but returns to build France’s A- bomb and reject NATO. De Gaulle’s little mustache is the last face hair seen on the leader of a nuclear nation.

The war ends here. Hirohito, McArthur, and Mr A-Bomb. Hirohito now has a smaller stature and mustache. Tojo gets executed.

The war ends here. Hirohito, McArthur, and Mr. A-Bomb. Hirohito now has a smaller stature and a much smaller mustache (looks like Tom Dewey, or every racist Japanese depiction). Tojo gets executed for Hirohito’s crimes. And the world moves to cautious shaven leaders and the ever-present nuclear threat.

And now the key question: why do mustaches lose favor so fast? My thought is that the Bomb is to blame. That, and the relative failures of mustached leaders in Europe. It’s a new dangerous world, with no place for men with big plans who might use the A-bomb to get-the-job-done. This is a weapon that kills more than soldiers and civilians; it could kill elites too, and no elitist wants a leader who might kill one of the elite. The A-Bomb is never again used in war, but it is always in the war room. Nuclear leaders must stay calm, and give the image of one who will use the bomb only as a last resort, to protect the home-land, or never. China, Pakistan, India, North Korea (and Israel) get “defensive” A-bombs but make no move to use them in anger. Goldwater claims he might, and is handily defeated in 1964. After WWII, all nuclear power leaders are more-or-less feminine looking, if not more feminist. Is this the future? Check out pt 1: Beards, Republicans, and Communists.

Dr. Robert E. Buxbaum, Nov. 28, 2013. I’m not sure if these post is ridiculous, or if it’s brilliant. At the least, it’s an observation of a pattern, and any observed pattern may lead to truth. I’ve written on modern architectureart how to climb a ladder without falling off, plus on guns, curtains, crimehealthcare, heat bills, nuclear power, and the minimum wage.

The 2013 hurricane drought

News about the bad weather that didn’t happen: there were no major hurricanes in 2013. That is, there was not one storm in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, or the Gulf of Mexico with a maximum wind speed over 110 mph. None. As I write this, we are near the end of the hurricane season (it officially ends Nov. 30), and we have seen nothing like what we saw in 2012; compare the top and bottom charts below. Barring a very late, very major storm, this looks like it will go down as the most uneventful season in at least 2 decades. Our monitoring equipment has improved over the years, but even with improved detection, we’ve seen nothing major. The last time we saw this lack was 1994 — and before that 1986, 1972, and 1968.

Hurricanes 2012 -2013. This year looks like it will be the one with the lowest number and strength of modern times.

Hurricanes 2012 -2013. This year there were only two hurricanes, and both were category 1 The last time we had this few was 1994. By comparison, in 2012 we saw 5 category 1 hurricanes, 3 Category 2s, and 2 Category 3s including Sandy, the most destructive hurricane to hit New York City since 1938.

In the pacific, major storms are called typhoons, and this year has been fairly typical: 13 typhoons, 5 of them super, the same as in 2012.  Weather tends to be chaotic, but it’s nice to have a year without major hurricane damage or death.

In the news this month, no major storm lead to the lack of destruction of the boats, beaches and stately homes of the North Carolina shore.

In the news, a lack of major storms lead to the lack of destruction of the boats, beaches, and stately homes of the North Carolina shore.

The reason you have not heard of this before is that it’s hard to write a story about events that didn’t happen. Good news is as important as bad, and 2013 had been predicted to be one of the worst seasons on record, but then it didn’t happen and there was nothing to write about. Global warming is supposed to increase hurricane activity, but global warming has taken a 16 year rest. You didn’t hear about the lack of global warming for the same reason you didn’t hear about the lack of storms.

Here’s why hurricanes form in fall and spin so fast, plus how they pick up stuff (an explanation from Einstein). In other good weather news, the ozone hole is smaller, and arctic ice is growing (I suggest we build a northwest passage). It’s hard to write about the lack of bad news, still Good science requires an open mind to the data, as it is, or as it isn’t. Here is a simple way to do abnormal statistics, plus why 100 year storms come more often than once every 100 years.

Robert E. Buxbaum. November 23, 2013.

Physics of no fear, no fall ladders

I recently achieved a somewhat mastery over my fear of heights while working on the flat roof of our lab building / factory. I decided to fix the flat roof of our hydrogen engineering company, REB Research (with help from employees), and that required me to climb some 20 feet to the roof to do some work myself and inspect the work of others. I was pretty sure we could tar the roof cheaper and better than the companies we’d used in the past, and decided that the roof  should be painted white over the tar or that silvered tar should be used — see why. So far the roof is holding up pretty well (looks good, no leaks) and my summer air-conditioning bills were lowered as well.

Perhaps the main part of overcoming my fear of heights was practice, but another part was understanding the physics of what it takes to climb a tall ladder safely. Once I was sure I knew what to do, I was far less afraid. As Emil Faber famously said, “Knowledge is good.”

me on tall ladder

Me on tall ladder and forces. It helps to use the step above the roof, and to have a ladder that extends 3-4′ feet past roof level

One big thing I learned (and this isn’t physics), was to not look down, especially when you are going down the ladder. It’s best to look at the ladder and make sure your hands and feet are going where they should. The next trick I learned was to use a tall ladder — one that I could angle at 20° and extends 4 feet above the roof, see figure. Those 4 feet gave me something to hold on to, and something to look at while going on and off the ladder. I found I preferred to go to or from the roof from a rung that was either at the level of the roof, or a half-step above (see figure). By contrast, I found it quite scary to step on a ladder rung that was significantly below roof level even when I had an extended ladder. I bought my ladder from Acme Ladder of Capital St. in Oak Park; a fiberglass ladder, light weight and rot-proof.

I preferred to set the ladder level (with the help of a shim if needed) at an angle about 20° to the wall, see figure. At this angle, I felt certain the ladder would not tip over from the wind or my motion, and that it would not slip at the bottom, see calculations below.

if the force of the wall acts at right angles to the ladder (mostly horizontally), the wall force will depend only on the lever angle and the center of mass for me and the ladder. It will be somewhat less than the total weight of me and the ladder times sin 20°. Since sin 20° is 0.342, I’ll say the wall force will be less than 30% of the total weight, about 65lb. The wall force provides some lift to the ladder, 34.2% of the wall force, about 22 lb, or 10% of the total weight. Mostly, the wall provides horizontal force, 65 lb x cos 20°, or about 60 lbs. This is what keeps the ladder from tipping backward if I make a sudden motion, and this is the force that must be restrained by friction from the ladder feet. At a steeper angle the anti-tip force would be less, but the slip tendency would be less too.

The rest of the total weight of me and the ladder, the 90% of the weight that is not supported by the roof, rests on the ground. This is called the “normal force,” the force in the vertical direction from the ground. The friction force, what keeps the ladder from slipping out while I’m on it, is this “normal force” times the ‘friction factor’ of the ground. The bottom of my ladder has rubber pads, suggesting a likely friction factor of .8, and perhaps more. As the normal force will be about 90% of the total weight, the slip-restraining force is calculated to be at least 72% of this weight, more than double the 28% of weight that the wall pushes with. The difference, some 44% of the weight (100 lbs or so) is what keeps the ladder from slipping, even when I get on and off the ladder. I find that I don’t need a person on the ground for physics reasons, but sometimes found it helped to steady my nerves, especially in a strong wind.

Things are not so rosy if you use a near vertical ladder, with <10° to the wall, or a widely inclined one, >40°. The vertical ladder can tip over, and the widely inclined ladder can slip at the bottom, especially if you climb past the top of the roof or if your ladder is on a slippery surface without rubber feet.

Robert E. Buxbaum Nov 20, 2013. For a visit to our lab, see here. For some thoughts on wind force, and comments on Engineering aesthetics. I owe to Th. Roosevelt the manly idea that overcoming fear is a worthy achievement. Here he is riding a moose. Here are some advantages of our hydrogen generators for gas chromatography.

A Masculinist History of the Modern World, pt. 1: Beards

Most people who’ve been in university are familiar with feminist historical analysis: the history of the world as a long process of women’s empowerment. I thought there was a need for a masculinist history of the world, too, and as this was no-shave November, I thought it should focus on the importance of face hair in the modern world. I’d like to focus this post on the importance of beards, particularly in the rise of communism and of the Republican party. I note that all the early communists and Republicans were bearded. More-so, the only bearded US presidents have been Republicans, and that their main enemies from Boss Tweed, to Castro to Ho Chi Minh, have all been bearded too. I note too, that communism and the Republican party have flourished and stagnated along with the size of their beards, with a mustache interlude of the early to mid 20th century. I’ll shave that for my next post.

Marxism and the Republican Party started at about the same time, bearded. They then grew in parallel, with each presenting a face of bold, rugged, machismo, fighting the smooth tongues and chins of the Democrats and of Victorian society,and both favoring extending the franchise to women and the oppressed through the 1800s against opposition from weak-wristed, feminine liberalism.

Marx and Engles (middle) wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1848, the same year that Lincoln joined the new Republican Party, and the same year that saw Louis Napoleon (right) elected in France. The communists both wear full bards, but there is something not-quite sincere in the face hair at right and left.

Marx and Engels (middle) wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1848, the same year that Lincoln joined the new Republican Party, and the same year that saw Louis Napoleon (right) elected in France. The communists both wear full bards, but there is something not-quite sincere in the face hair at right and left.

Karl Marx (above, center left, not Groucho, left) founded the Communist League with Friedrich Engels, center right, in 1847 and wrote the communist manifesto a year later, in 1848. In 1848, too, Louis Napoleon would be elected, and the same year 1848 the anti-slavery free-soil party formed, made up of Whigs and Democrats who opposed extending slavery to the free soil of the western US. By 1856 the Free soils party had collapsed, along with the communist league. The core of the free soils formed the anti-slavery Republican party and chose as their candidate, bearded explorer John C. Fremont under the motto, “Free soil, free silver, free men.” For the next century, virtually all Republican presidential candidates would have face hair.

Lincoln the Whig had no beard -- he was the western representative of the party of Eastern elites. Lincoln the Republican grew whiskers. He was a log-cabin frontiersman, rail -splitter.

Lincoln, the Whig, had no beard — he was the western representative of the party of eastern elites. Lincoln, the Republican, grew whiskers. He was now a log-cabin frontiersman, rail-splitter.

In Europe, revolution was in the air: the battle of the barricades against clean-chined, Louis Napoleon. Marx (Karl) writes his first political economic work, the Critique of Political Economy, in 1857 presenting a theory of freedom by work value. The political economic solution of slavery: abolish property. Lincoln debates Douglas and begins a run for president while still clean-shaven. While Mr. Lincoln did not know about Karl Marx, Marx knew about Lincoln. In the 1850s and 60s he was employed as a correspondent  for the International Herald Tribune, writing about American politics, in particular about the American struggle with slavery and inflation/ deflation cycles.

William Jennings Bryan, 3 time Democrat presidential candidate, opponent of alcohol, evolution, and face hair.

William Jennings Bryan was three-times the Democratic presidential candidate; more often than anyone else. He opposed alcohol, gambling, big banks, intervention abroad, monopoly business, teaching evolution, and gold — but he supported the KKK, and unlike most Democrats, women’s suffrage.

As time passed, bearded frontier Republicans would fight against the corruption of Tammany Hall, and the offense to freedom presented by prohibition, anti industry sentiment, and anti gambling laws. Against them, clean-shaven Democrat elites could claim they were only trying to take care of a weak-willed population that needed their help. The Communists would gain power in Russia, China, and Vietnam fighting against elites too, not only in their own countries but American and British elites who (they felt) were keeping them down by a sort of mommy imperialism.

In the US, moderate Republicans (with mustaches) would try to show a gentler side to this imperialism, while fighting against Democrat isolationism. Mustached Communists would also present a gentler imperialism by helping communist candidates in Europe, Cuba, and the far east. But each was heading toward a synthesis of ideas. The republicans embraced (eventually) the minimum wage and social security. Communists embraced (eventually) some limited amount of capitalism as a way to fight starvation. In my life-time, the Republicans could win elections by claiming to fight communism, and communists could brand Republicans as “crazy war-mongers”, but the bureaucrats running things were more alike than different. When the bureaucrats sat down together, it was as in Animal Farm, you could look from one to the other and hardly see any difference.

The history of Communism seen as a decline in face hair. The long march from the beard to the bare.

The history of Communism seen as a decline in face hair. The long march from the beard to the bare. From rugged individualism to mommy state socialism. Where do we go from here?

Today both movements provide just the barest opposition to the Democratic Party in the US, and to bureaucratic socialism in China and the former Soviet Union. All politicians oppose alcohol, drugs, and gambling, at least officially; all oppose laser faire, monopoly business and the gold standard in favor of government created competition and (semi-controlled) inflation. All oppose wide-open immigration, and interventionism (the Republicans and Communists a little less). Whoever is in power, it seems the beardless, mommy conservatism of William Jennings Bryan has won. Most people are happy with the state providing our needs, and protecting our morals. is this to be the permanent state of the world? There is no obvious opposition to the mommy state. But without opposition won’t these socialist elites become more and more oppressive? I propose a bold answer, not one cut from the old cloth; the old paradigms are dead. The new opposition must sprout from the bare chin that is the new normal. Behold the new breed of beard.

The future opposition must grow from the barren ground of the new normal.

The future opposition must grow from the barren ground of the new normal. Another random thought on the political implications of no-shave November.

by Robert E. Buxbaum, No Shave, November 15, 2013. Keep watch for part 2 in this horrible (tongue in) cheek series: World War 2: Big mustache vs little mustache. See also: Roosevelt: a man, a moose, a mustache, and The surrealism of Salvador: man on a mustache.


Ab Normal Statistics and joke

The normal distribution of observation data looks sort of like a ghost. A Distribution  that really looks like a ghost is scary.

The normal distribution of observation data looks sort of like a ghost. A Distribution that really looks like a ghost is scary.

It’s funny because …. the normal distribution curve looks sort-of like a ghost. It’s also funny because it would be possible to imagine data being distributed like the ghost, and most people would be totally clue-less as to how to deal with data like that — abnormal statistics. They’d find it scary and would likely try to ignore the problem. When faced with a statistics problem, most people just hope that the data is normal; they then use standard mathematical methods with a calculator or simulation package and hope for the best.

Take the following example: you’re interested in buying a house near a river. You’d like to analyze river flood data to know your risks. How high will the river rise in 100 years, or 1000. Or perhaps you would like to analyze wind data to know how strong to make a sculpture so it does not blow down. Your first thought is to use the normal distribution math in your college statistics book. This looks awfully daunting (it doesn’t have to) and may be wrong, but it’s all you’ve got.

The normal distribution graph is considered normal, in part, because it’s fairly common to find that measured data deviates from the average in this way. Also, this distribution can be derived from the mathematics of an idealized view of the world, where any variety derives from multiple small errors around a common norm, and not from some single, giant issue. It’s not clear this is a realistic assumption in most cases, but it is comforting. I’ll show you how to do the common math as it’s normally done, and then how to do it better and quicker with no math at all, and without those assumptions.

Lets say you want to know the hundred-year maximum flood-height of a river near your house. You don’t want to wait 100 years, so you measure the maximum flood height every year over five years, say, and use statistics. Lets say you measure 8 foot, 6 foot, 3 foot (a draught year), 5 feet, and 7 feet.

The “normal” approach (pardon the pun), is to take a quick look at the data, and see that it is sort-of normal (many people don’t bother). One now takes the average, calculated here as (8+6+3+5+7)/5 = 5.8 feet. About half the times the flood waters should be higher than this (a good researcher would check this, many do not). You now calculate the standard deviation for your data, a measure of the width of the ghost, generally using a spreadsheet. The formula for standard deviation of a sample is s = √{[(8-5.8)2 + (6-5.8)2 + (3-5.8)2 + (5-5.8)2 + (7-5.8)2]/4} = 1.92. The use of 4 here in the denominator instead of 5 is called the Brussels correction – it refers to the fact that a standard of deviation is meaningless if there is only one data point.

For normal data, the one hundred year maximum height of the river (the 1% maximum) is the average height plus 2.2 times the deviation; in this case, 5.8 + 2.2 x 1.92 = 10.0 feet. If your house is any higher than this you should expect few troubles in a century. But is this confidence warranted? You could build on stilts or further from the river, but you don’t want to go too far. How far is too far?

So let’s do this better. We can, with less math, through the use of probability paper. As with any good science we begin with data, not assumptions, like that the data is normal. Arrange the river height data in a list from highest to lowest (or lowest to highest), and plot the values in this order on your probability paper as shown below. That is on paper where likelihoods from .01% to 99.99% are arranged along the bottom — x axis, and your other numbers, in this case the river heights, are the y values listed at the left. Graph paper of this sort is sold in university book stores; you can also get jpeg versions on line, but they don’t look as nice.

probability plot of maximum river height over 5 years -- looks reasonably normal, but slightly ghost-like.

Probability plot of the maximum river height over 5 years. If the data suggests a straight line, like here the data is reasonably normal. Extrapolating to 99% suggests the 100 year flood height would be 9.5 to 10.2 feet, and that it is 99.99% unlikely to reach 11 feet. That’s once in 10,000 years, other things being equal.

For the x axis values of the 5 data points above, I’ve taken the likelihood to be the middle of its percentile. Since there are 5 data points, each point is taken to represent its own 20 percentile; the middles appear at 10%, 30%, 50%, etc. I’ve plotted the highest value (8 feet) at the 10% point on the x axis, that being the middle of the upper 20%. I then plotted the second highest (7 feet) at 30%, the middle of the second 20%; the third, 6 ft at 50%; the fourth at 70%; and the draught year maximum (3 feet) at 90%.  When done, I judge if a reasonably straight line would describe the data. In this case, a line through the data looks reasonably straight, suggesting a fairly normal distribution of river heights. I notice that, if anything the heights drop off at the left suggesting that really high river levels are less likely than normal. The points will also have to drop off at the right since a negative river height is impossible. Thus my river heights describe a version of the ghost distribution in the cartoon above. This is a welcome finding since it suggests that really high flood levels are unlikely. If the data were non-normal, curving the other way we’d want to build our house higher than a normal distribution would suggest. 

You can now find the 100 year flood height from the graph above without going through any the math. Just draw your best line through the data, and look where it crosses the 1% value on your graph (that’s two major lines from the left in the graph above — you may have to expand your view to see the little 1% at top). My extrapolation suggests the hundred-year flood maximum will be somewhere between about 9.5 feet, and 10.2 feet, depending on how I choose my line. This prediction is a little lower than we calculated above, and was done graphically, without the need for a spreadsheet or math. What’s more, our predictions is more accurate, since we were in a position to evaluate the normality of the data and thus able to fit the extrapolation line accordingly. There are several ways to handle extreme curvature in the line, but all involve fitting the curve some way. Most weather data is curved, e.g. normal against a fractal, I think, and this affects you predictions. You might expect to have an ice age in 10,000 years.

The standard deviation we calculated above is related to a quality standard called six sigma — something you may have heard of. If we had a lot of parts we were making, for example, we might expect to find that the size deviation varies from a target according to a normal distribution. We call this variation σ, the greek version of s. If your production is such that the upper spec is 2.2 standard deviations from the norm, 99% of your product will be within spec; good, but not great. If you’ve got six sigmas there is one-in-a-billion confidence of meeting the spec, other things being equal. Some companies (like Starbucks) aim for this low variation, a six sigma confidence of being within spec. That is, they aim for total product uniformity in the belief that uniformity is the same as quality. There are several problems with this thinking, in my opinion. The average is rarely an optimum, and you want to have a rational theory for acceptable variation boundaries. Still, uniformity is a popular metric in quality management, and companies that use it are better off than those that do nothing. At REB Research, we like to employ the quality methods of W. Edwards Deming; we assume non-normality and aim for an optimum (that’s subject matter for a further essay). If you want help with statistics, or a quality engineering project, contact us.

I’ve also meant to write about the phrase “other things being equal”, Ceteris paribus in Latin. All this math only makes sense so long as the general parameters don’t change much. Your home won’t flood so long as they don’t build a new mall up river from you with runoff in the river, and so long as the dam doesn’t break. If these are concerns (and they should be) you still need to use statistics and probability paper, but you will now have to use other data, like on the likelihood of malls going up, or of dams breaking. When you input this other data, you will find the probability curve is not normal, but typically has a long tail (when the dam breaks, the water goes up by a lot). That’s outside of standard statistic analysis, but why those hundred year floods come a lot more often than once in 100 years. I’ve noticed that, even at Starbucks, more than 1/1,000,000,000 cups of coffee come out wrong. Even in analyzing a common snafu like this, you still use probability paper, though. It may be ‘situation normal”, but the distribution curve it describes has an abnormal tail.

by Dr. Robert E. Buxbaum, November 6, 2013. This is my second statistics post/ joke, by the way. The first one dealt with bombs on airplanes — well, take a look.