Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tuesday Trivia

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Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 but was not removed from the US terrorism watch list until 2008. 

The anti-apartheid African National Congress, which was chaired by Mandela following his release in 1990, had been officially designated a terrorist organisation by South Africa’s ruling white minority in the 1970’s. The US did likewise. President Reagan and his administration saw the ANC as a supporter of communism, so much so that former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney wrote in his memoirs that he had tried to get President Reagan and Prime Minister to take action on South Africa:

When we spoke on the telephone the night before I left for London, however, it became clear that Ronald Reagan saw the whole South African issue strictly in East-West Cold War terms. Over the years, he and Margaret continually raised with me their fears that Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid leaders were communists. My answer was always the same. 'How can you or anyone else know that?' I'd ask again and again. 'He's been in prison for 20 years and nobody knows that, for the simple reason no one has talked to him -- including you.'

In 2008 Mandela wanted to visit the US and needed to get State Department clearance. A law was passed authorising US officials to waive restrictions imposed against Mandela. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said “It’s frankly a rather embarrassing matter" that she still had to personally waive Mandela's entry into the US.

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As part of the Argentine war effort during the Falklands War in 1982, the Argies placed over 20,000 land mines on the beaches and pastureland near the capital city. After the war the Brits began removing the mines but because it was so dangerous and laborious, they abandoned removal. Instead they simply fenced off the mined areas and put up signs not to enter. 

Penguins are too light to detonate the mines, with the result that the mined areas have become penguin sanctuaries. Numbers have grown to such an extent that today there are over one million penguins in the mined areas. The sanctuaries have proven so popular with tourists that there are efforts to prevent removal of the mines.

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Remember the scene in Good Will Hunting where Matt Damon solves a historical unsolved maths problem that was on the blackboard? That really did happen.

George Dantzig (1914 – 2005) was a graduate student at UC Berkely in 1939 when he arrived late for a class. His professor, Jerzy Neyman, had written two examples of famously unsolved statistics problems on the blackboard. Dantzig, assuming they were a homework assignment, wrote them down and handed them in duly solved a few days later. According to Dantzig, the problems "seemed to be a little harder than usual".

Six weeks later, Dantzig received a visit from an excited Professor Neyman who informed him that the homework problems he had solved were two of the most famous unsolved problems in statistics. 

According to Dantzig, “A year later, when I began to worry about a thesis topic, Neyman just shrugged and told me to wrap the two problems in a binder and he would accept them as my thesis.”

Dantzig went on to become a mathematical scientist who made important contributions to operations research, computer science, economics, and statistics. He is also known for his development of the simplex algorithm, whatever that is. Apparently it is an algorithm for solving linear programming problems.

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In 1997 Mattel painted an entire residential street in Salford, England, along with the terraced homes lining it, shocking pink to promote its Barbie doll during Barbie Pink Month. The residents agreed to the temporary pinking in return for a donation to local children’s projects. 

Mattel’s objective was to increase brand awareness and push Barbie as a global mega-brand rather than just a toy. It worked, they received mational and intternational public

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