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Shines Like Gold
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Triple-Decker Weekly, 29

Joel Sternfeld

A woman has successfully grown a new ear on her arm.

A woman woke from brain surgery to find quarter of her head missing – and it was being stored in her stomach.

Progress in Automatic Giraffe Recognition.

Devising marking systems (signs & etc.) which can be easily understood by anyone, anywhere, and in any language, is never going to be an easy task. Now imagine that on top of this, the systems have to remain intact and effective for the next 10,000 years. Specifically to discourage inadvertent intruders at a large-scale nuclear waste repository. Just such a daunting task was evaluated by two teams co-ordinated by the US Sandia National Laboratories in 1992. They produced a 351-page report detailing their findings: Expert Judgment on Markers to Deter Inadvertent Human Intrusion into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. [Improbable Research]

The idea that humans walk in circles is no urban myth. This was confirmed by Jan Souman and colleagues in a 2009 study, in which participants walked for hours at night in a German forest and the Tunisian Sahara. […] Souman’s team rejected past theories, including the idea that people have one leg that’s stronger or longer than the other. If that were true you’d expect people to systematically veer off in the same direction, but their participants varied in their circling direction. Now a team in France has made a bold attempt to get to the bottom of the mystery. […] [It] suggests that our propensity to walk in circles is related in some way to slight irregularities in the vestibular system. Located in inner ear, the vestibular system guides our balance and minor disturbances here could skew our sense of the direction of “straight ahead” just enough to make us go around in circles. [BPS]

[A possible explanation for why we enjoy watching sad films] Media psychologists have long puzzled over how individuals can experience enjoyment from entertainment such as tragedies that often elicit profound feelings of sadness. The present research examines the idea that a focus on “meaningful” entertainment and affective responses identified as “elevation” may provide a framework for understanding many examples of sad or dramatic entertainment. The results of this study suggest that many types of meaningful cinematic entertainment feature portrayals of moral virtues (e.g., altruism). These portrayals, in turn, elicit feelings of elevation (e.g., inspiration) that are signified in terms of mixed affect and unique physical responses (e.g., lump in throat). Ultimately, elevation also gives rise to motivations to embody moral virtues, such as being a better person or helping others. [Wiley | via BPS]

A popular but misinformed POV, adhered to by perhaps 30-45% of the general public, is that living a radically long life would become excruciatingly tiresome due to unavoidable “boredom.” […] No one will understand what “boring” means in a century; “Boredom” will be defined as a mysterious, extinct mental condition that disappeared from human consciousness.  It will be a mere sound, a rough primitive noise that got flushed down the toilet of vocabulary history. Why do I believe the future will infinitely intrigue us? In the past (and present), activity options were limited due to requisite drudgery of multiple tasks – should I wash dishes first, or pay bills? – but… as automation annihilates our mind-numbing chores, we’ll be provided with Time, Wonderful Time, Long Hours of Happy Relaxed Time that we devote to endless intriguing challenges and interactions. Plus, pharmacology will provide us with a wide menu of euphoric states of consciousness. [Hank Pellissier/IEET]

According to an influential and controversial theory, autism is the manifestation of an “Extreme Male Brain.” The reasoning goes something like this – the condition is far more prevalent in males than females; people with autism think in a distinctive style that’s more commonly observed in men than women (that is, high in systematising and low in empathising); and greater testosterone exposure in the womb appears to go hand in hand with an infant exhibiting more autism-like traits in later childhood. Simon Baron-Cohen, the psychologist who first proposed the theory, always conjectured that there may also be such a thing as an “Extreme Female Brain.” Now in a new paper, a pair of researchers in the USA have made the case that the Extreme Female Brain exists, it’s highly empathic, and it comes with its own problematic consequences, in terms of a fear of negative evaluation by others, and related to that, a greater risk of eating disorders (which are known to be far more prevalent in women than men). [BPS]

Canadian researchers have come up with a new, precise definition of boredom based on the mental processes that underlie the condition. Although many people may see boredom as trivial and temporary, it actually is linked to a range of psychological, social and health problems, says Guelph psychology professor Mark Fenske. […] After reviewing existing psychological science and neuroscience studies, they defined boredom as “an aversive state of wanting, but being unable, to engage in satisfying activity,” which arises from failures in one of the brain’s attention networks. In other words, you become bored when: you have difficulty paying attention to the internal information, such as thoughts or feelings, or outside stimuli required to take part in satisfying activity; you are aware that you’re having difficulty paying attention; and you blame the environment for your sorry state (“This task is boring”; “There is nothing to do”). [University of Guelph]

The authors’ basic idea is that many men, wishing to appear ‘manly’, don’t talk about or get help for their problems, especially psychological issues: boys don’t cry, and men certainly don’t. However, the authors argue that gay men, generally less encumbered by traditional masculinity, may be an exception to this rule. […] In accordance with the authors’ predictions, gay men were indeed more open to seeking psychological help. But unexpectedly, they were actually less likely to report experiencing psychological distress. That’s surprising, given several previous reports of higher rates of mental illness in homosexuals, which has been dubbed ‘velvet rage’. Sánchez et al’s data suggest that gay men may be, er, more gay (…the other kind), and that their increased rates of diagnosed mental illness are a product of their greater willingness to seek help: maybe straight men are just in denial. [Neuroskeptic]

Try to recall the last time you were angry, depressed, or anxious. What did you want to do with those feelings? There is a good chance you had an urge to text your best friend, post a Facebook status update, or write in your journal. We often want to get things off our chest and prevent them from festering inside of us. If we pick the right outlet, disclosing our emotions can help us feel better in the moment. Furthermore, there’s evidence that emotional disclosure through writing can improve mental and physical health outcomes months and even years later. [Psych Your Mind]

Researchers have discovered a way to generate new human neurons from another type of adult cell found in our brains.

Our patent system is a mess. It’s a fount of expensive litigation that allows aging companies to linger around by bullying their more innovative competitors in court. Critics have suggested plenty of reasonable reforms, from eliminating software patents to clamping down on ”trolls” who buy up patent portfolios only so they can file lawsuits. But do we need a more radical solution? Would we be better off without any patents at all? That’s the striking suggestion from a Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis working paper by Michele Boldrin and David Levine, professors at Washington University in St. Louis who argue that any patent system, no matter how well conceived, is bound to devolve into the kind of quagmire we’re dealing with today. [The Atlantic]

Courts are rarely asked to judge beauty. Such a subjective practice would normally be anathema to the ideal of objective legal standards. However, one area of federal law has a long tradition of explicitly requiring courts to make aesthetic decisions: the law of design. New designs may be protected as design patents, but only if they are “ornamental” in nature. As the U.S. Supreme Court has noted, “a design must present an aesthetically pleasing appearance…” This study uses empirical and experimental approaches to test the hypothesis that courts tend to favor more attractive patented designs over less attractive ones. It relies upon a data set that includes all design patent decisions from 1982 until 2010 in which a court made a final determination of validity or infringement, with every design patent at issue therein classified as valid or invalid and infringed or not infringed. [Journal of Intellectual Property Law/SSRN]

The nuns in Catholic school taught us there was such a thing as sanctuary — the police cannot arrest a suspect in a church. Does this concept have a basis in law, or is it just a social custom that can be discarded on a whim? [The Straight Dope]

Oklahoma Survivalist Claims Motor will Run on Anything.

California has become the third state to explicitly legalize driverless vehicles.

Phones to drive cars in future of “ubiquitous computing.”

Newspaper sales suffer due to lack of stimulating content.

Genetics may make some women more vulnerable to the pressure of being thin.

Can glass shape really affect how fast you drink?

Black mamba venom makes a great painkiller.

Genetically engineered cow makes anti-allergy milk.

Through three separate experiments a team of scientists from Hiroshima University showed that people showed higher levels of concentration after looking at pictures of puppies or kittens. […] “This finding suggests that viewing cute images makes participants behave more deliberately and perform tasks with greater time and care,” said the researchers, according to the published paper. […] The study’s authors write that in the future cute objects could be used as a way to trigger emotions “to induce careful behavioral tendencies in specific situations, such as driving and office work.” [WSJ]

Most of the occasional singers sang as accurately as the professional singers. Thus, singing appears to be a universal human trait. However, two of the occasional singers maintained a high rate of pitch errors at the slower tempo. This poor performance was not due to impaired pitch perception, thus suggesting the existence of a purely vocal form of tone deafness. [Acoustical Society of America | PDF]

Nowadays, many massively multiplayer online video games have become so complex that game companies are turning to economists for help. […] Players build their own spaceships and traverse a galaxy of 7,500 star systems. They buy and sell raw materials, creating their own fluctuating markets. They speculate on commodities. They form trade coalitions and banks. […] In Eve Online, Guðmundsson oversees an economy that can fluctuate wildly — he says it expanded 42 percent between February 2011 and February 2012, then contracted 15 percent by the summer. His team will periodically have to address imbalances in the money supply. For instance, they can curb inflation by introducing a new type of weapon, say, to absorb virtual currency. [Washington Post]

How can you live in a city like Karachi with all its rampant violence? I can’t really confess to the folks in my village that, unlike in the rest of Pakistan, in Karachi you can buy beer without much hassle. (Alcohol is illegal throughout the country.) Nobody knows how many people live in Karachi. Current estimates range between 17 and 20 million. I have never met anyone who has seen the whole of the city. Every few months, you’ll hear of a neighborhood that you’ve never heard of before. […] Half a dozen people are killed on an average day: for political reasons, for resisting an armed robbery, for not paying protection money, and sometimes for just being in the wrong spot when two groups are having a go at each other. [The New Republic]

Maria TV, a new Egyptian channel that solely features veiled women, might be the first in the industry without a makeup room.

How To Build A Black Hole Laser.

Evidence Emerges That Iran Is Building Its Own Hidden Internet.

In late 2011, Broad built a 30-story building in 15 days; now it intends to use similar methods to erect the world’s tallest building in just seven months.

Apple’s New iPhones Cost $207-$238 to Make.

Where Do India’s Billionaires Get Their Wealth? [PDF]

When she asked why Tom Cruise would not break up with her himself, she was told he was not to be disturbed. […] She was also harangued for hours and made to confess what a horrible human being she was. Normal education was minimized because of Scientology’s belief in reincarnation—everyone was already millions of years old.

Julian Wolkenstein’s Symmetrical Portraits take individual faces, split them down the middle, then mirror each side, creating two “new” identities from the same person

Johannes Kahrs, Untitled (four men with table), 2008. Oil on canvas. Diptych.

Dog shaming.

“This would be from 1983. Hair length, and H.R. missing that tooth he knocked out hitting a huge stage divider pole at the Reggae Lounge. Brooke would have been around 18, maybe still a Ford model.”

Hands-free automatic sperm extractor for donors.

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