Pies Are Round: why a big pizza is a better deal


The "squared" in Pi(R)^2 means that the area of a pizza grows exponentially polynomially in relation to its diameter. As an interactive graph on Planet Money demonstrates, pizza places generally underprice their bigger pies relative to the amount of food contained in each. This is probably because energy and labor inputs account for the largest slice of the pizza-baking ahem pie, and ingredients are way down on the balance-sheet. Whatever the reason, if you're interested in getting more food for less money, larger pies are almost always a substantially better deal.

74,476 Reasons You Should Always Get The Bigger Pizza [Quoctrung Bui/Planet Money]

(via IO9)

For sale: Swiss Scrooge McDuck swimming pool/vault full of shiny coins


If you've ever dreamed of owning a bank-vault mounded high with shiny coins in which you can bathe like Scrooge McDuck, now is your chance. A Swiss bank-vault filled with 8 million Swiss 5-cent pieces is up for auction. The vault was made in 1913 for the Schweizer Volksbank. The coins -- 15 tons' worth -- were used in a 2013 installation in which they were dumped in a public square, with no security, as an exercise in public trust. The coins and the safe are presently in Basel. You will have to relocate them.

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Stamping Chinese banknotes with censorship-busting QR codes


An anonymous anti-censorship group is stamping Chinese banknotes with a QR code and the message "Scan and download software to break the Internet firewall." The stamps encode a URL for Freegate, a firewall-busting service. The stamps are widely suspected to be the work of Falun Gong, an outlawed religious sect that has a long history of supplying anti-censorship technology inside of mainland China, both to supply access to its own censored websites and to advertise the virtues of its belief-system to Chinese Internet users who are more interested in beating censorship than religion.

The money-stamping story has been big news in China, even attracting reportage in state-run media, where the comment-sections are full of Chinese Internet users complaining that the photos of the stamped money are too low-rez to be scanned in.

This isn't the first time that anti-corruption messages have been circulated through defaced currency: Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's fame runs the Stamp Stampede, which stamps messages condemning the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, which opened the floodgates of unlimited, anonymous political campaign spending.

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Produce an anti-corruption photo and win a year's supply of Ben and Jerry's


I've posted before about Ben "Ben and Jerry's" Cohen's Stamp Stampede project: Cohen is calling on enemies of corruption to stamp messages opposing the Citizens United Supreme Court decision on dollar bills. Citizens United allows for unlimited political spending, on the grounds that money is speech and corporations are people.

Cohen's running a competition to produce the best Stamp Stampede promotional photo: grand prize is a year's supply (52 pints) of Ben and Jerry's ice-cream.

The 2nd Annual Stampede Photo Contest is currently underway and will end on January 18.

Hobo nickels of 2013 from Mr The


Hobo Nickels, a subject we've been doting on for 12 years now, had a bumper year in 2013, as is evidenced by this gallery of Mr The's nickel-carvings (not all the coins are nickels, but the term is generic regardless of the coin) from the past year. Mr The specializes in big head/mini man carvings that add a tiny torso, arms and legs to the nickel's traditional head (it especially rocks with monster heads).

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Democratic lawmakers share a squalorous house in DC


A group of top Democratic lawmakers live in a squalorous group house in DC. The house was once the family home of Rep. George Miller (D-CA), but he relocated back to his California district with his wife and family. Now, three decades later, Illinois senator Dick Durbin shares the house with New York senator Chuck Schumer and congressman Miller, amid dusty, filthy and disused furnishings dating back to the 1980s. The lawmakers only spend three nights a week at the house, and come and go at odd hours between meetings, fundraisers, and appearances. They use the Congressional gyms and other facilities for the majority of their needs, and boast about the holes in the stovetop and the dumpster-dived furniture, as well as Durbin's comfort-food of choice: raisin bran.

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Square Cash: email money to other people without a fee

Square Cash, released today in the United States, lets you send cash to anyone with an email address, simply CC the message to "cash@square.com," and the recipient will receive the money in two business days or less.

Send money to anyone with an email address. It's fast, safe, and free!

No account needed. Just securely link your debit card to start sending money. It's free to send, and free to receive money directly to your U.S. bank account.

Secure. Your financial information is entered through a secure connection and kept private. You can confirm or reject any transfer.

Fast. Money automatically deposits to your bank account within 1-2 business days.

Square Cash for iPhone

Chinese tourists with room full of Euro coins weren't counterfeiters; they got 'em from scrap cars

A hotelier in Paris called the cops on a pair of Chinese guests who were paying their bills nightly with Euro coins and who had 3,700 more in their rooms. He thought they were counterfeiters. It turned out that they were friends with a Chinese car-scrapper who had harvested forgotten coins from European cars on their way to the wrecker.

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Visualizing five years of political fundraisers

Nicko from the Sunlight Foundation sez, "The Sunlight Foundation is celebrating five years of the Political Party Time site with a look at where and when U.S. politicians fundraise the most. The review of nearly 18,000 invites in the Party Time database found that the most fundraisers, about 76 percent, happen within just three blocks of the U.S. Capitol. Restaurants, social clubs and private residences close to the Hill are frequented over and over by members of both parties. Additionally, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are the most popular days for fundraisers with happy hour or dinner events the preferred time of day. Below is an interactive map that details where in D.C. and across the U.S. politicians, mostly Congress, are raising money for their campaigns and PACs."

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Your new financial advisor is Harold Pollack's 4x6" index card

Harold Pollack's advice:

Max your 401k or equivalent employee contribution
Buy inexpensive, well diversified mutual funds such as Vanguard Target 20XX funds
Never buy or sell and individual security. The person on the other side of the table knows more than you do about this stuff
Save 20% of your money
Pay your credit card balance in full every month
Maximize tax-advantages savings vehicles like Roth, SEP and 529 accounts.
Pay attention to fees. Avoid actively managed funds.
Make financial advisor commit to a fiduciary standard
Promote social insurance programs to help people when things go wrong

Bucky Woody's version is somewhat tighter, and perhaps more approachable to people of all income levels; The Washington Post's Ezra Klein explains.

UPDATE: Gabe Rivera simplifies further:

Mark Wagner's currency collages


Mark Wagner is an American visual artist who collages US currency to make incredible images; it's not clear to me whether this constitutes an illegal destruction of currency, but if it does, then that law is wrong. Shown here: a detail from The Way of the Dinosaur, 2013.

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What FRPGs can teach us about gold

"Look at games like World of Warcraft, Diablo, Dungeons and Dragons, or the original Final Fantasy. In those games, gold is the money, and you often get gold not by doing an honest day's work, but by running around and beating people up and taking their gold. In other words, the entire world of modern fantasy role-playing is a subtle joke on gold's unsuitability as a medium of exchange." -Noah Smith (via Making Light)

Senator requests NASA investigation of Space Vikings

Image: Ved Chirayath

This photo, taken by astronautics grad student and photographer Ved Chirayath, was meant to be a bit of free promotion for NASA and space exploration. It's part of an art exhibition called Physics in Vogue, which combines real science with the style of fashion photography. With the help of a Viking re-enactment troupe and some of his colleagues from the Ames Research Center, he put together a shot that was meant to connect current NASA projects to the exploration-oriented Viking culture. What if two of Earth's greatest explorers met face-to-face?

The photo was done on Chirayath's own time, using funds from two arts grants that had nothing to do with NASA. But it has become the center of an extensive investigation initiated by Senator Chuck Grassley, aimed at discovering whether dastardly NASA scientists were using taxpayer money to make whimsical photos. They weren't. Ironically, though, the investigation did use taxpayer money. More, Chirayath estimates, than it would have cost him to get such a photo done by a professional.

Jane Austen to grace £10 notes


Jane Austen will appear on a new issue of the English £10 note, a welcome break in the sausage-fest that presently constitutes our specie. The new Bank of England governor Mark Carney -- a Canadian, from a country where the money is staunchly blokey -- confirmed the change after the outgoing governor Mervyn King let it slip.

"Jane Austen certainly merits a place in the select group of historical figures to appear on our banknotes. Her novels have an enduring and universal appeal and she is recognised as one of the greatest writers in English literature," the new governor said.

He also announced that the Bank would carry out a review of the process for selecting the historical figures who appear on banknotes, to ensure that a diverse range of figures is represented.

"We believe that our notes should celebrate the full diversity of great British historical figures and their contributions in a wide range of fields. The Bank is committed to that objective, and we want people to have confidence in our commitment to diversity. That is why I am today announcing a review of the selection process for future banknote characters," Carney said. The review will be overseen by the chief cashier Chris Salmon, whose signature appears on banknotes.

What an amazing turn of events. The only thing that would make this better is more women on the money -- I look forward to the Ada Lovelace fiver and the Emmeline Pankhurst 20.

Jane Austen to appear on £10 note [Katie Allen and Heather Stewart/The Guardian]

Stamping $1s to amend the Constitution & kill Citizens United

Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's is riding around the country in a rainbow colored van, stamping $1 bills with messages like "not to be used for bribing politicians," as a way of raising consciousness about the impact of money in politics in the wake of the Citizens United Supreme Court verdict, which opened the doors to infinite campaign financing by special interests.

He's seeking a constitutional amendment that overturns the verdict, and he's got 15 states onboard. You can sign a petition, buy a stamp and stamp your own money, and hold stamping parties with your friends. The full list of stamp messages is:

"Not to Be Used for Bribing Politicians".
"Stamp Money Out of Politics"
"Corporations are Not People"
“Not To Be Used for Buying Elections”

Stamp Stampede