27 jun. 2011

Free Hugs

The Free Hugs Campaign is a social movement involving individuals who offer hugs to strangers in public places. The campaign in its present form was started in 2004 by an Australian man known only by the pseudonym "Juan Mann". 
The campaign became famous internationally in 2006 as the result of a music video by the Australian band Sick Puppies, which is one of the most popular on the site, having been viewed over 69,000,000 times. The hugs are meant to be random acts of kindness - selfless acts performed just to make others feel better. International Free Hugs Day is celebrated on the first Saturday of July.

The Free Hugs campaign in its present form was started by Juan Mann on June 30, 2004, when he began giving out hugs in the Pitt Street Mall in central Sydney. In the months prior to this, Mann had been feeling depressed and lonely as a result of numerous personal difficulties. However, a random hug from a stranger made an enormous difference, with Mann stating that "...I went out to a party one night and a completely random person came up to me and gave me a hug. I felt like a king! It was greatest thing that ever happened. Now, his sole mission was to reach out and hug a stranger to brighten up their lives. 
"I'd been living in London when my world turned upside down and I'd had to come home. By the time my plane landed back in Sydney, all I had left was a carry on bag full of clothes and a world of troubles. No one to welcome me back, no place to call home. I was a tourist in my hometown.
Standing there in the arrivals terminal, watching other passengers meeting their waiting friends and family, with open arms and smiling faces, hugging and laughing together, I wanted someone out there to be waiting for me. To be happy to see me. To smile at me. To hug me.
So I got some cardboard and a marker and made a sign. I found the busiest pedestrian intersection in the city and held that sign aloft, with the words "Free Hugs" on both sides.
And for 15 minutes, people just stared right through me. The first person who stopped, tapped me on the shoulder and told me how her dog had just died that morning. How that morning had been the one year anniversary of her only daughter dying in a car accident. How what she needed now, when she felt most alone in the world, was a hug. I got down on one knee, we put our arms around each other and when we parted, she was smiling.
Everyone has problems and for sure mine haven't compared. But to see someone who was once frowning, smile even for a moment, is worth it every time." Juan Mann
In this age of social disconnectivity and lack of human contact, the effects of the Free Hugs campaign became phenomenal. As this symbol of human hope spread accross the city, police and officials ordered the Free Hugs campaign banned. What we then witness is the true spirit of humanity come together in what can only be described as awe inspiring. Mann carried the now iconic "FREE HUGS" sign from the outset. However on his first attempt in his hometown, where he returned to find that he was the only person he knew, as his friends and family had moved away, he had to wait fifteen minutes before an elderly lady came up to him and gave him a hug.
Initial distrust of Juan Mann's motives eventually gave way to a gradual increase of people willing to be hugged, with other huggers (male and female) helping distribute them. In October 2004 police told them they must stop, as Mann had not obtained public liability insurance worth $25 million for his actions. Mann and his companions used a petition to attempt to convince authorities that his campaign should be allowed to continue without the insurance. His petition reached 10,000 signatures. He submitted it and was allowed to continue giving free hugs.
Mann befriended Shimon Moore, lead singer for Sick Puppies, shortly after commencing his campaign, and over a two-month period in late 2004 Moore recorded video footage of Mann and his fellow huggers. Moore and his band moved to Los Angeles in March 2005 and nothing was immediately done with the footage. Meanwhile Mann continued his campaign throughout 2005 and 2006 by appearing in Pitt Street Mall in Sydney most Thursday afternoons.
In mid 2006 Mann's grandmother died, and in consolation Moore made the music video using the footage he had shot in 2004 to send to Mann as a gift, stating in an interview that, "I sent it to him on a disc as a present and I wrote down 'This is who you are'."  The video was later uploaded onto YouTube where it is now one of the most viewed videos on the site, with over 69 million views as of June 2011.
On October 30, 2006, Mann was invited by Oprah Winfrey to appear on her show Oprah after her producer's doctor saw the Free Hugs video on YouTube. Juan Mann made an appearance outside her studio that morning, offering free hugs to the crowd waiting to see the taping of that day's episode. Oprah's camera crews caught several people in the audience hugging Mann as the morning progressed.
On October 23, 2007, Juan Mann announced his residential address online and offered an open invitation to anyone to come over and chat on-camera as part of his 'open-house project'. Mann hosted 80 guests over 36 days. On November 25, 2007, Mann's landlord threatened him with eviction, so he launched an online appeal.


On December 25, 2007, Juan Mann made his e-book "The Illustrated Guide to Free Hugs" available as a free download. On November 22, 2008, at YouTube Live Sick Puppies did a performance of "All the Same" while Juan Mann gave hugs to crowd members. On February 13, 2009 a Free Hug Day took place.
On August 23, 2009, "Juan Mann" announced via his Facebook page linking to an article on his blog that he is "retiring" from Free Hugs, and has invited any interested party to take over the role – though he stresses that he does not own any rights relating to the Free Hugs concept, nor any income, and that there is nothing stopping anyone from undertaking the activity at any time, any place in the world. The successful applicant will take over the responsibilities of maintaining the Free Hugs website and forum, as well as any other "official" Free Hugs presence Juan presently maintains online.


22 jun. 2011

Cube Rubik

In March 1970, Larry Nichols invented a 2×2×2 "Puzzle with Pieces Rotatable in Groups" and filed a Canadian patent application for it. Nichols's cube was held together with magnets. Nichols was granted U.S. 

Patent 3,655,201 on April 11, 1972, two years before Rubik invented his Cube. On April 9, 1970, Frank Fox applied to patent his "Spherical 3×3×3". He received his UK patent (1344259) on January 16, 1974.
In the mid-1970s, Ernő Rubik worked at the Department of Interior Design at the Academy of Applied Arts and Crafts in Budapest. Although it is widely reported that the Cube was built as a teaching tool to help his students understand 3D objects, his actual purpose was solving the structural problem of moving the parts independently without the entire mechanism falling apart. He did not realize that he had created a puzzle until the first time he scrambled his new Cube and then tried to restore it.
Rubik obtained Hungarian patent HU170062 for his "Magic Cube" in 1975. Rubik's Cube was first called the Magic Cube (Buvuos Kocka) in Hungary. The puzzle had not been patented internationally within a year of the original patent. Patent law then prevented the possibility of an international patent. Ideal wanted at least a recognizable name to copyright; of course, that arrangement put Rubik in the spotlight because the Magic Cube was renamed after its inventor.
The first test batches of the product were produced in late 1977 and released to Budapest toy shops. Magic Cube was held together with interlocking plastic pieces that prevented the puzzle being easily pulled apart, unlike the magnets in Nichols's design. In September 1979, a deal was signed with Ideal to bring the Magic Cube to the Western world, and the puzzle made its international debut at the toy fairs of London, Paris, Nuremberg and New York in January and February 1980.
Nichols assigned his patent to his employer Moleculon Research Corp., which sued Ideal in 1982. In 1984, Ideal lost the patent infringement suit and appealed. In 1986, the appeals court affirmed the judgment that Rubik's 2×2×2 Pocket Cube infringed Nichols's patent, but overturned the judgment on Rubik's 3×3×3 Cube.

Greek inventor Panagiotis Verdes patented a method of creating cubes beyond the 5×5×5, up to 11×11×11, in 2003 although he claims he originally thought of the idea around 1985. As of June 19, 2008, the 5x5x5, 6x6x6, and 7x7x7 models are in production in his "V-Cube" line. 
The Cube has inspired an entire category of similar puzzles, commonly referred to as twisty puzzles, which includes the cubes of different sizes mentioned above as well as various other geometric shapes. Some such shapes include the tetrahedron (Pyraminx), the octahedron (Skewb Diamond), the dodecahedron (Megaminx), the icosahedron (Dogic). There are also puzzles that change shape such as Rubik's Snake and the Square One.
In Rubik's cubists' parlance, a memorised sequence of moves that has a desired effect on the cube is called an algorithm. This terminology is derived from the mathematical use of algorithm, meaning a list of well-defined instructions for performing a task from a given initial state, through well-defined successive states, to a desired end-state. Each method of solving the Rubik's Cube employs its own set of algorithms, together with descriptions of what the effect of the algorithm is, and when it can be used to bring the cube closer to being solved.
Most algorithms are designed to transform only a small part of the cube without scrambling other parts that have already been solved, so that they can be applied repeatedly to different parts of the cube until the whole is solved. 
Some algorithms have a certain desired effect on the cube but may also have the side-effect of changing other parts of the cube. Such algorithms are often simpler than the ones without side-effects, and are employed early on in the solution when most of the puzzle has not yet been solved and the side-effects are not important. Towards the end of the solution, the more specific (and usually more complicated) algorithms are used instead, to prevent scrambling parts of the puzzle that have already been solved.
The most popular method was developed by David Singmaster and published in the book Notes on Rubik's "Magic Cube" in 1981. David's solution consisted to use a notation developed by him to denote a sequence of moves, referred to as "Singmaster notation". Its relative nature allows algorithms to be written in such a way that they can be applied regardless of which side is designated the top or how the colours are organised on a particular cube. After practice, solving the Cube layer by layer can be done in under one minute.
In 2007, Daniel Kunkle and Gene Cooperman used computer search methods to demonstrate that any 3×3×3 Rubik's Cube configuration can be solved in 26 moves or fewer.In 2008, Tomas Rokicki lowered that number to 22 moves,and in July 2010, a team of researchers including Rokicki, working with Google, proved the so-called "God's number" to be 20. This is optimal, since there exist some starting positions which require at least 20 moves to solve.
A solution commonly used by speed cubers was developed by Jessica Fridrich. It is similar to the layer-by-layer method but employs the use of a large number of algorithms, especially for orienting and permuting the last layer. Fridrich's solution requires learning roughly 120 algorithms but allows the Cube to be solved in only 55 moves on average.

Although there are a significant number of possible permutations for the Rubik's Cube, there have been a number of solutions developed which allow for the cube to be solved in well under 100 moves.
In 1997, Denny Dedmore published a solution described using diagrammatic icons representing the moves to be made, instead of the usual notation.

Speedcubing (or speedsolving) is the practice of trying to solve a Rubik's Cube in the shortest time possible. There are a number of speedcubing competitions that take place around the world.
The first world championship organised by the Guinness Book of World Records was held in Munich on March 13, 1981. All Cubes were moved 40 times and lubricated with petroleum jelly. The official winner, with a record of 38 seconds, was Jury Froeschl, born in Munich. The first international world championship was held in Budapest on June 5, 1982, and was won by Minh Thai, a Vietnamese student from Los Angeles, with a time of 22.95 seconds.
Since 2003, the winner of a competition is determined by taking the average time of the middle three of five attempts. However, the single best time of all tries is also recorded. The World Cube Association maintains a history of world records.
The World Cube Association only sanctions blindfolded, one-handed, and feet solving as official competition events.
The current world record for single time on a 3×3×3 Rubik's Cube was set by Feliks Zemdegs, who had a best time of 6.24 seconds at the Kubaroo Open 2011. The world record for average time per solve is also currently held by Feliks, who set 7.87 seconds at the Melbourne Summer Open 2011.
On March 17, 2010, 134 school boys from Dr Challoner's Grammar School, Amersham, England broke the previous  Guinness World Record for most people solving a Rubik's cube at once in 12 minutes. 

21 jun. 2011

Pedestrian Crossings

A pedestrian crossing or crosswalk is a designated point on a road at which some means are employed to assist pedestrians wishing to cross. They are designed to keep pedestrians together where they can be seen by motorists, and where they can cross most safely across the flow of vehicular traffic. Pedestrian crossings are often found at intersections, but may also be at other points on busy roads that would otherwise be too unsafe to cross without assistance due to vehicle numbers, speed or road widths. They are generally also installed common where large numbers of pedestrians are attempting to cross (such as in shopping areas) or where vulnerable road users (such as school children) regularly cross.

The term pedestrian crossing includes a wide range of crossing provisions, both those that give priority to pedestrians, and those that assist pedestrians, but legally still prioritise road vehicles. Signalised pedestrian crossings meanwhile clearly separate when each type of traffic (pedestrians or road vehicles) can use the crossing. They, especially when combined with other features like pedestrian priority or raised surfaces, can be used as a traffic calming technique.
Pedestrian refuges or small islands in the middle of a street may be added when a street is very wide, as these crossings can be too long for some individuals to cross in one cycle. In places where there is very high pedestrian traffic, pedestrian scrambles (also known as Barnes Dances) may be used, which stop vehicular traffic in all directions at the same time. Another relatively widespread variation is the Curb (or kerb) extension (also known as a bulb-out) which narrows the width of the street and is used in combination with crosswalk markings.

Reports suggest that many walk buttons in some areas such as New York City are actually placebo buttons designed to give pedestrians an illusion of control while the crossing signal continues its operation as programmed. This can also be witnessed at Anniesland Cross, a large road junction in Glasgow, Scotland. While each pedestrian crossing has a push button, all roads and pedestrian crossing run on a cycle and the pedestrian crossing will change only at the correct point of the cycle, whether the buttons are pushed or not. 

In the United States, crosswalks are sometimes marked with white stripes, though many municipalities have slightly different methods, styles, or patterns for doing so, and the styles may vary over time as intersections are built and reconstructed. There are two main methods for road markings in the United States. Most frequently, they are marked with two thick white lines running from one side of the road to the other.

The designs used vary widely between jurisdictions, and often vary even between a city and its county (or local equivalents). Where a road forms part of a city limit or other such political boundary—thus making the intersection shared between the two—there may be more than one design used on different sides, depending upon which government painted it.
At crossings controlled by signals, the most common variety is arranged like this: At each end of a crosswalk, the poles which hold the traffic lights also have white "walk" and Portland Orange "don't walk" signs. These particular colors are used in North America to provide conspicuity against the backdrop of red, yellow, and green traffic lights. Modern signals generally use pictograms of an red hand and a green pedestrian rather than words. As a warning, the "don't walk" or hand signals begin to blink when the transition to "don't walk" is imminent. This normally occurs several seconds before the light turns yellow, usually going solid orange when the traffic light turns yellow. A black baffle is customarily placed in front of the lights to shield them from the sun and increase their visibility, as well as protect them from damage.


Crosswalks have also been adapted for the blind by adding accessible pedestrian signals [APS] that include two small distinct speakers at the actuator for each crossing location. The current accepted APS units have a continuous audible chirp that is easy to detect from a close distance but is not so loud as to be intrusive to neighboring properties.
In some countries, instead of "don't walk", a depiction of a red man or hand indicating when not to cross, the drawing of the person crossing appears with an "X" drawn over it.

As we can see in this article, the pedestrian crossings have been, in the last few decades, not also a form of controlling the traffic circulation but a form of art expresion about all the world.
Some countries around the Baltic sea in Scandinavia duplicate the red light. Instead of one red light, there are two which both illuminate at the same time.
In many parts of eastern Germany, the design of the crossing man (Ampelmännchen) has a hat.
In Mexico City, the walking man moves his feet.
In Taiwan there is generally no crossing manner. The majority of crossings cannot be controlled by pedestrians, although there are exceptions in Taipei. 
In the United States, there are many inconsistencies, although the variations are usually minor. There are several distinct types in the United Kingdom, each with their own name, usually animal names are  used to distinguish these several types:
  • Zebra crossing: wide longitudinal stripes on road, often with belisha beacons; pedestrians may cross at any time; drivers must give way to pedestrians who demonstrate intent to cross.
  • Pelican crossing: traffic lights for pedestrians and vehicles; button-operated.
  • Puffin crossing: pedestrian lights on near side of road; button-operated with curb-side detector.
  • Toucan crossing: for bicycles as well as pedestrians.
  • Pegasus crossing: an equestrian crossing.
Belisha beacons are found at zebra crossings. The other types of crossing use coloured pictogram lights, depending on the intended users of the crossing this will be a man, a bicycle or a horse.

In Australia, pictograms are standard on all traffic light controlled crossings. Like some other countries, a flashing red sequence is used prior to steady red to clear pedestrians. Moments after, a flashing yellow sequence begins for the motorist who can proceed through the crossing if safe to do so.