October 19, 2011 · 8:59 am
Attila the Hun, ?-453 AD
Fun Facts About Attila the Hun
Attila’s Rise to Power
Called the Scourge of God by the Romans, Attila the Hun was king and general of the Hun empire from A.D. 433 to 453. Succeeding his uncle, King Roas, in 433, Attila shared his throne with his brother Bleda. He inherited the Scythian hordes who were disorganized and weakened by internal strife. Attila’s first order of affairs was to unite his subjects for the purpose of creating one of the most formidable and feared armies Asia had ever seen.
Peace Treaty Between Rome and Attila the Hun
In 434 East Roman Emperor Theodosius II offered Attila and Bleda 660 pounds of gold annually with hopes of securing an everlasting peace with the Huns. This peace, however, was not long lived. In 441 Attila’s Huns attacked the Eastern Roman Empire. The success of this invasion emboldened Attila to continue his westward expansion. Passing unhindered through Austria and Germany, Attila plundered and devastated all in his path.
Attila Attacks Italy
In 451, having suffered a setback on the Plains of Chalons, by the allied Romans and Visigoths, Attila turned his attention to Italy. After having laid waste to Aquileia and many Lombard cities in 452, the Scourge of God met Pope Leo I who dissuaded him from sacking Rome.
Attila’s Ignominious Death
Attila’s death in 453 wasn’t quite what one would have expected from such a fierce barbarian warrior. He died not on the battlefield, but on the night of his marriage. On that night Attila, who, despite common misconceptions, was not a heavy drinker, drank heavily in celebration of his new bride. In his wedding chambers at the end of the event, Attila passed out flat on his back. It was then and there that Attila had a massive nosebleed which caused him to choke on his own blood.
Special thanks to www.about.com
Filed under Historical Events & Figures
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September 15, 2011 · 9:51 am
Fun Facts About the U.S. Federal Reserve
- The Federal Reserve holds a monopoly on the issuance of currency in the USA. In essence, this is the power to borrow an infinite amount of money at 0%. The dollar bill in your pocket is a 0% loan to the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve then uses these 0% loans to purchase income-producing assets. Before 2008, the assets purchased were primarily Treasury debt, which is backed by the taxation power of the US Government. In other words, we are exchanging the property rights to our valuable assets (land, labor, entrepreneurship) for little slips of green paper to buy trinkets with. The government can then tax these valuable assets to pay for our excess. The more we spend, the more the Fed owns.
- If all money created is debt and counts as principal, where does the money come from to pay interest on this debt? It comes from the money that gets printed in the future. This is why inflation is a natural result of our current monetary system.
- Prior the the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act/TARP Act of September 2008, commercial banks were required to hold 10% of deposits as reserves. This placed a limit on the potential amount of money creation at around 9x the original deposit. An obscure clause in the TARP Act changed the reserve requirement to 0%, immediately making the potential money supply infinite.
- The reason for the credit spread blowups of October/November 2008 was because in the same TARP Act the Fed was allowed to pay interest on deposits without publicly stating the interest rate. Before the TARP Act, there was around $20 billion deposited by commercial banks at the Fed. After the TARP Act, deposits immediately jumped 50x to $1 TRILLION. This resulted in a disappearance of demand for risky assets, which led to blowouts in credit spreads.
- As a result of various acts of Congress in 2008, the Federal Reserve now has the authority to buy all sorts of assets (commercial paper, corporate bonds, mortgage loans, etc.). A cynical person would say this essentially allows the Fed to seize all valuable assets in this country directly by exchanging fancy bits of green paper for them without having to go through the intermediate step of coercing the US Government into spending more money and taking on more debt.
- Much of the Fed’s activity is not made public because of the use of off-balance sheet vehicles.
- There is debate over the constitutionality of the Fed’s various awesome powers.
What does this all mean? This economic crisis will not become a depression. By employing the new tools of monetary policy that the Fed has created for itself (interest on reserves and direct asset purchases), the money supply can be jerked around as if on a string. Initially, this means we will soon experience another period of easy credit and unsustainable economic growth.
However, the end result of current policies is that the Fed will be powerless to stop the next economic crisis. Assuming no outside shocks (another big war, nuclear attack, etc.), the dollar will over time lose its status as the reserve currency, and we will experience a currency crisis followed by rampant inflation at some point down the road.
Special thanks to www.seekingalpha.com
Filed under Economics, Historical Events & Figures
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August 27, 2011 · 2:53 pm
UNIVAC 1 - one of the world's first "supercomputers"
Fun Facts About the UNIVAC 1 Supercomputer
- Prior to the installation of the UNIVAC, The Census Bureau continued to use updated versions of Herman Hollerith’s 1890 electric counting machine through the 1940 census.
Hollerith's Electronic Counting Machine
- During World War II, the War Department (precursor to the Department of Defense) began to explore the use of electronic digital computers to process ballistic information.
- In 1943, the National Defense Research Council (NDRC) approved the design and construction of the Electronic Numeric Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) to be used by the War Department’s Ballistic Research Laboratory. The computer was built over the course of three years by a team of engineers led by John W. Mauchly and his former student J. Presper Eckert.
- During ENIAC project, Mauchly met with several Census Bureau officials to discuss non-military applications for electronic computing devices.
- The research for the project proceeded badly, and it was not until 1948 that the actual design and contract was finalized. The Census Bureau’s ceiling for the project was $400,000. J Presper Eckert and John Mauchly were prepared to absorb any overrun in costs in hopes of recouping from future service contracts, but the economics of the situation brought the inventors to the edge of bankruptcy.In 1946, with ENIAC completed, Mauchly and Eckert were able to secure a study contract from the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) to begin work on a computer designed for use by the Census Bureau. This study, originally scheduled for six months, took about a year to complete.
- In 1950, Eckert and Mauchly were bailed out of financial trouble by Remington Rand Inc. (manufacturers of electric razors), and the “Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation” became the “Univac Division of Remington Rand.” Remington Rand’s lawyers unsuccessfully tried to re-negotiate the government contract for additional money. Under threat of legal action, however, Remington Rand had no choice but to complete the UNIVAC at the original price.
- Mauchly and Eckert began building UNIVAC I in 1948 and delivered the completed machine to the Census Bureau in March 1951.UNIVAC was, effectively, an updated version of ENIAC. Data could be input using magnetic computer tape (and, by the early 1950’s, punch cards). It was tabulated using vacuum tubes and state-of-the-art circuits then either printed out or stored on more magnetic tape.
- The machine was 25 feet by 50 feet in length, contained 5,600 tubes, 18,000 crystal diodes, and 300 relays. It utilized serial circuitry, 2.25 MHz bit rate, and had an internal storage capacity 1,000 words or 12,000 characters.
- Power consumption was about 120 kva. Its reported processing speed was 0.525 milliseconds for arithmetic functions, 2.15 milliseconds for multiplication and 3.9 Milliseconds for division.
J.Prosper Eckert and John Mauchly
- The computer was used to tabulate part of the 1950 population census and the entire 1954 economic census.
- Throughout the 1950’s, UNIVAC also played a key role in several monthly economic surveys. The computer excelled at working with the repetitive but intricate mathematics involved in weighting and sampling for these surveys.
- The Bureau purchased a second UNIVAC I machine in the mid-1950’s, and two UNIVAC 1105 computers for the 1960 census.
- The UNIVAC was also the first computer to come equipped with a magnetic tape unit and was the first computer to use buffer memory.
- Remington Rand became the first American manufacturers of a commercial computer system. Their first non-government contract was for General Electric’s Appliance Park facility in Louisville, Kentucky, who used the UNIVAC computer for a payroll application.
- John Presper Eckert and John Mauchly’s UNIVAC was a direct competitor with IBM’s computing equipment for the business market. The speed with which UNIVAC’s magnetic tape could input data was faster than IBM’s punch card technology, but it was not until the presidential election of 1952 that the public accepted the UNIVAC’s abilities.
- In a publicity stunt, the UNIVAC computer was used to predict the results of the Eisenhower-Stevenson presidential race. The computer had correctly predicted that Eisenhower would win, but the news media decided to blackout the computer’s prediction and declared that the UNIVAC had been stumped.
- When the truth was revealed, it was considered amazing that a computer could do what political forecasters could not, and the UNIVAC quickly became a household name.
- From 1951 to 1958 a total of 46 UNIVAC I computers were delivered, all of which have since been phased out.
- The original UNIVAC now sits in the Smithsonian Institution.
Filed under Historical Events & Figures, Science
Tagged as Ballistic Research Laboratory, census, Census Bureau, circuitry, computer, contract, crystal diode, design, Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation, Eisenhower, Electronic Numeric Integrator and Computer, ENIAC, function, IBM, J. Presper Eckert, John Mauchly, John W. Mauchly, magnetic computer tape, National Bureau of Standards, National Defense Research Council, NBS, NDRC, population, power, relay, Remington Rand, Smithsonian Institute, storage capacity, supercomputer, UNIVAC, Univac Division, vacuum tubes