Blog roundup: U+, Bloomfield, Stuka, Gino

In this 2005 message to the unicode-ml mailing list, Ken Whistler explains the origin of the “U+1234” notation (hat tip Corentin Jabot):

The use of the U+xxxx notation in publications goes back to Unicode 1.0 (1991), where it was explicitly used, and explained on p. xv:

An individual Unicode value is expressed as U+nnnn, where nnnn is a four digit number in hexadecimal notation […]

The usage appears in draft documents from late 1989, so the convention itself dates back to then. […]

What is little-known generally is that the “U+” convention itself was an ASCII-fied compromise for what the Unicode designers really wanted to use for the Unicode hexadecimal prefix, which was U+228E MULTISET UNION (whose glyph is a union sign with a plus sign in it). That symbol can actually be spotted in some of the early Unicode collateral (T-shirts, stationery, business cards, etc.), because it was used as part of the original Unicode logo design, before the switch to the now ubiquitous Uni design that has been used for more than a decade.

The semantic appropriateness of MULTISET UNION as a designator for Unicode code points ought to be apparent, and the shape of the union symbol itself was iconic for the “U” of Unicode. But use of the symbol in data files and documentation in the early days was problematical, of course, and it soon gave way to the much more practical use of “U+” instead.

Can you imagine writing “⊎228E MULTISET UNION” instead of “U+228E MULTISET UNION”? I think it’s both fortunate and inevitable that that idea never took off. (For those whose fonts lack it, we’re talking about the \(\uplus\) glyph.)

From around the web, I highly recommend this “wildly over-researched” dive into the hyperlocal history of Minneapolis:

And speaking of deep dives, this surprisingly long and detailed history of the Stuka bomber:

Finally, this take on the Gino scandal, by the apparently always entertaining Adam Mastroianni:

I’ll only speak for myself here: if I found out that every single one of these studies had been nothing more than Gino running create_fake_data.exe on her computer over and over again, I wouldn’t believe anything different about the human mind than I already believe now.

This isn’t specific to Gino and Ariely; I think you could It’s-a-Wonderful-Life most psychologists, even the famous ones, without any major changes to what we know. […]

In 2015, a big team of researchers tried to redo 100 psychology studies, and about 60% failed to replicate. This finding made big waves and headlines, and it’s already been cited nearly 8,000 times.

But the next time someone brings it up, ask them to name as many of the 100 studies as they can. […] (I asked a few of my colleagues in case I’m just uniquely stupid, and their answers were: 0, 0, 0, 0, 1, and 3.)

This is really weird. Imagine if someone told you that 60% of your loved ones had died in a plane crash. Your first reaction might be disbelief and horror — “Why were 60% of my loved ones on the same plane? Were they all hanging out without me?” — but then you would want to know who died. Because that really matters! The people you love are not interchangeable! Was it your mom, your best friend, or what? It would be insane to only remember the 60% statistic and then, whenever someone asked you who died in that horrible plane crash, respond, “Hmm, you know, I never really looked into it. Maybe, um, Uncle Fred? Or my friend Clarissa? It was definitely 60% of my loved ones, though, whoever it was.”

So if you hear that 60% of papers in your field don’t replicate, shouldn’t you care a lot about which ones? Why didn’t my colleagues and I immediately open up that paper’s supplement, click on the 100 links, and check whether any of our most beloved findings died? The answer has to be, “We just didn’t think it was an important thing to do.”

Posted 2023-09-16