Ramblings & ephemera

Why do Marlboros have red tips?

From Allen Abel And Madeleine Czigler’s “Tangerine trees and marmalade skies” (National Post: 24 June 2008): … it was [marketing sage & Chicago scientist Louis Cheskin] who turned Marlboro cigarettes from a woman’s brand — originally red-tipped to hide lipstick smears — into the cowboy-themed cancer sticks of universal renown.

How the fundamentalist thinks

From ScienceDaily’s “Brain Differences Found Between Believers In God And Non-believers” (5 March 2009): In two studies led by Assistant Psychology Professor Michael Inzlicht, participants performed a Stroop task – a well-known test of cognitive control – while hooked up to electrodes that measured their brain activity. Compared to non-believers, the religious participants showed significantly […]

Add houseplants to your home & office

From David Pogue’s “TED’s Greatest Hits” (The New York Times: 10 February 2009): Kamal Meattle reported the results of his efforts to fill an office building with plants, in an effort to reduce headache, asthma, and other productivity-sapping aliments in thickly polluted India. After researching NASA documents, he concluded that a set of three particular […]

The color of the TV you watch determines the color of your dreams

From Richard Alleyne’s “Black and white TV generation have monochrome dreams” (The Telegraph: 17 October 2008): New research suggests that the type of television you watched as a child has a profound effect on the colour of your dreams. While almost all under 25s dream in colour, thousands of over 55s, all of whom were […]

DIY genetic engineering

From Marcus Wohlsen’s “Amateurs are trying genetic engineering at home” (AP: 25 December 2008): Now, tinkerers are working at home with the basic building blocks of life itself. Using homemade lab equipment and the wealth of scientific knowledge available online, these hobbyists are trying to create new life forms through genetic engineering — a field […]

How it feels to drown, get decapitated, get electrocuted, and more

From Anna Gosline’s “Death special: How does it feel to die?” (New Scientist: 13 October 2007): Death comes in many guises, but one way or another it is usually a lack of oxygen to the brain that delivers the coup de grâce. Whether as a result of a heart attack, drowning or suffocation, for example, […]

Hallucinating the presence of the dead

From Vaughan Bell’s “Ghost Stories: Visits from the Deceased” (Scientific American: 2 December 2008): The dead stay with us, that much is clear. They remain in our hearts and minds, of course, but for many people they also linger in our senses—as sights, sounds, smells, touches or presences. Grief hallucinations are a normal reaction to […]

A woman who never forgets anything

From Samiha Shafy’s “An Infinite Loop in the Brain” (Der Spiegel: 21 November 2008): Price can rattle off, without hesitation, what she saw and heard on almost any given date. She remembers many early childhood experiences and most of the days between the ages of 9 and 15. After that, there are virtually no gaps […]

An analysis of Google’s technology, 2005

From Stephen E. Arnold’s The Google Legacy: How Google’s Internet Search is Transforming Application Software (Infonortics: September 2005): The figure Google’s Fusion: Hardware and Software Engineering shows that Google’s technology framework has two areas of activity. There is the software engineering effort that focuses on PageRank and other applications. Software engineering, as used here, means […]

Richard Stallman on the 4 freedoms

From Richard Stallman’s “Transcript of Richard Stallman at the 4th international GPLv3 conference; 23rd August 2006” (FSF Europe: 23 August 2006): Specifically, this refers to four essential freedoms, which are the definition of Free Software. Freedom zero is the freedom to run the program, as you wish, for any purpose. Freedom one is the freedom […]

How con artists use psychology to work

From Paul J. Zak’s “How to Run a Con” (Psychology Today: 13 November 2008): When I was in high school, I took a job at an ARCO gas station on the outskirts of Santa Barbara, California. At the time, I drove a 1967 Mustang hotrod and thought I might pick up some tips and cheap […]

50% of people infected with personality-changing brain parasites from cats

From Carl Zimmer’s “The Return of the Puppet Masters” (Corante: 17 January 2006): I was investigating the remarkable ability parasites have to manipulate the behavior of their hosts. The lancet fluke Dicrocoelium dendriticum, for example, forces its ant host to clamp itself to the tip of grass blades, where a grazing mammal might eat it. […]

Biometric photo watermarking using your iris

From Eric’s “Canon’s Iris Registration Mode – Biological Copyright Metadata” (Photography Bay: 9 February 2008): A recent Canon patent application (Pub. No.: US 2008/0025574 A1) reveals the next step in digital watermarking – Iris Registration. The short and sweet of it? 1. Turn the Mode dial to “REG” 2. Choose between “REG 1″ through “REG […]

The latest on electronic voting machines

From James Turner’s interview with Dr. Barbara Simons, past President of the Association for Computing Machinery & recent appointee to the Advisory Board of the Federal Election Assistance Commission, at “A 2008 e-Voting Wrapup with Dr. Barbara Simons” (O’Reilly Media: 7 November 2008): [Note from Scott: headers added by me] Optical Scan: Good & Bad […]

Tracking children who might commit a crime later

From Mark Townsend and Anushka Asthana’s “Put young children on DNA list, urge police” (The Guardian: 16 March 2008): Primary school children should be eligible for the DNA database if they exhibit behaviour indicating they may become criminals in later life, according to Britain’s most senior police forensics expert. Gary Pugh, director of forensic sciences […]

10,000 hours to reach expertise

From Malcolm Gladwell’s “A gift or hard graft?” (The Guardian: 15 November 2008): This idea – that excellence at a complex task requires a critical, minimum level of practice – surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is a magic number for true expertise: 10,000 […]

Correcting wrong info reinforces false beliefs

From Jonathan M. Gitlin’s “Does ideology trump facts? Studies say it often does” (Ars Technica: 24 September 2008): We like to think that people will be well informed before making important decisions, such as who to vote for, but the truth is that’s not always the case. Being uninformed is one thing, but having a […]

Interesting psychological disorders

From Lauren Davis’ “Delusion or Alien Invasion? Disorders That Make Life Seem Like Scifi” (io9: 27 September 2008): Capgras Delusion: You believe a loved one has been replaced with an exact duplicate. … Reduplicative Paramnesia: You believe that a place or location has been moved to another site, or has been duplicated and exists in […]

To solve a problem, you first have to figure out the problem

From Russell L. Ackoff & Daniel Greenberg’s Turning Learning Right Side Up: Putting Education Back on Track (2008): A classic story illustrates very well the potential cost of placing a problem in a disciplinary box. It involves a multistoried office building in New York. Occupants began complaining about the poor elevator service provided in the […]

Energy-efficient washing machines

From Brendan I. Koerner’s “Is a Dishwasher a Green Machine?” (Slate: 22 April 2008): To really green up your automatic dishwashing, you should always use the air-drying function, avoid the profligate “rinse hold” setting, wash only full loads, and install the machine far away from your refrigerator. … Just promise that you’ll scrape your dishes […]