Alien abduction insurance is an insurance policy issued against alien abduction. The insurance policy is redeemed if the insured person is abducted by aliens. The very first company to offer UFO abduction insurance was the St. Lawrence Agency in Altamonte Springs, Florida. The company says that it has paid out at least two claims. [Wikipedia]
French driver trapped for an hour in speeding 125mph car with no brakes. He finally came to a stop in a ditch in Belgium when his Renault Laguna ran out of petrol after 200km trip.
The behavior of crowds at heavy metal concerts […]. In these crowds, fans often form circles called mosh pits and then run together with physical abandon, bouncing off one another with arms flaying and legs kicking. “The collective mood is influenced by the combination of loud, fast music (130 dB, 350 beats per minute), synchronized with bright, flashing lights, and frequent intoxication,” say Jesse Silverberg and pals at Cornell University in Ithaca. The resulting disorder may sound chaotic but Silverberg and co say it turns out to have all the properties of self-organized emergent behaviour. Today, they reveal the results of their study of this phenomenon. [The Physics arXiv Blog]
Teenagers from all walks of life who believe people can’t change react more aggressively to a peer conflict than those who think people can change. And teaching them that people have the potential to change can reduce these aggressive reactions. […] The researchers who carried out this study sought to determine whether teens in any environment (rich or poor, violent or nonviolent) could develop a belief—that people’s character traits are fixed and can’t change—that led them to react aggressively. “Our past research showed that believing people’s traits are fixed leads teens to think the world is full of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ people, with nobody in between; they are then quick to classify people as one or the other,” according to David Yeager, assistant professor of developmental psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, the study’s lead investigator. “In our new research, we found that teens in this ‘fixed’ mindset, even after a minor offense like getting bumped in the hall or being left out of a game of catch, relegated peers to the ‘bad person’ group, decided that they had offended on purpose, and want aggressive revenge.” [EurekAlert]
On the evening of August 13, 1967, two women were attacked and killed by grizzly bears in separate incidents within Glacier National Park. Following these incidents, there was speculation that due to odors associated with menstruation, women may be more prone to attack by bears than are men. [Bearman’s | Thanks Tim]?
There is human DNA discarded carelessly all over New York City and one artist has been picking up a little of it and making facial reconstructions of what its owner might look like. “I’ve worked with face recognition and speech recognition algorithms in the past, but I had never considered the emerging possibility of genetic surveillance; that the very things that make us human: hair, skin, saliva, become a liability as we constantly face the possibility of shedding these traces in public space, leaving artifacts which anyone could come along and mine for information,” Heather Dewey-Hagborg, a self-described information artist, wrote in a blog post introducing the concept that she has spent about a year working on. […] She has taken DNA samples found on the streets of New York City from cigarette butts and gums and has been able to determine gender, ethnicity (based on the mother’s side) and eye color. [The Blaze]
To determine whether “folk myths” regarding the relationships of penile size to body height and foot size have any basis in fact, 63 normally virilized men were studied. Height and stretched penile length were measured; shoe size was recorded and converted to foot length. Penile length was found to be statistically related to both body height and foot length, but with weak correlation coefficients. Height and foot size would not serve as practical estimators of penis length. [Annals of Sex Research, 1993]
Gary and members of his law firm filed a lawsuit late Monday in federal court in Fort Pierce on behalf of Chubby Checker, the 71-year-old singer known for “The Twist,” against Hewlett-Packard and its subsidiary Palm Inc. over the use of Checker’s name on a software application that claims to estimate the size of a man’s penis based on his shoe size… [via Improbable ]
Exploring the Good (Reactive) and Bad (Suspicious) Sides of Romantic Jealousy: Jealousy and Relationship Closeness.
When it comes to having a lasting and fulfilling relationship, common wisdom says that feeling close to your romantic partner is paramount. But a new study finds that it’s not how close you feel that matters most, it’s whether you are as close as you want to be, even if that’s really not close at all.
It is considered common knowledge that boys and men are more violent than girls and women. In hospital data on psychotic individuals, however, the gender gap decreases or even turns to be the opposite. Exploring female rage among adolescents admitted to adolescent forensic psychiatric inpatient care.
Facial symmetry is not a reliable cue of aggressive behavior. [PDF]
The study suggests that we have limited ability to perceive mixed color-shape associations among objects that exist in several locations. […] Say, for example, a person sees a string of letters, “XOOX,” and the letters are printed in alternating colors, red and green. Both letter shape and letter color need to be encoded, but the associations between letter shape and letter color are mixed (i.e., the first X is red, while the second X is green), which should make neural synchrony impossible. “The perceptual system can either know how many Xs there are or how many reds there are, but it cannot know both at the same time,” Goldfarb and Treisman explain. [APS]
US researchers have effectively given laboratory rats a “sixth sense” using an implant in their brains. An experimental device allowed the rats to “touch” infrared light – which is normally invisible to them.
Faces are important for non-verbal communication in daily life, and eye gaze direction provides important information for adult–infant interaction. Four-month-old infants and adults better recognize faces when accompanied with direct gaze, suggesting a special status of ‘eye contact.’ Whether mutual gaze plays a role in face recognition from birth, or whether it requires expertise, is investigated in this paper. We conducted a between subjects design, for a total of four experiments, […] to investigate newborns’ ability to recognize faces when gaze direction is manipulated. We predicted that a face accompanied with direct gaze would be better recognized by newborns. In contrast, we expected no evidence of identity recognition when newborns were familiarized with a face with averted gaze. According with our expectations, newborns were able to recognize a face identity when previously familiarized with direct gaze, but not with averted gaze. However, this effect was face identity-specific. Overall, our results suggest that direct gaze can modulate face processing and affects preferences and face identity learning in newborns. [Infant and Child Development | PDF }
This research constitutes an initial investigation into key issues which arise in designing a flying humanoid robot (FHR), with a focus on human-robot interaction (HRI). The humanoid form offers an interface for natural communication; flight offers excellent mobility. Combining both will yield companion robots capable of approaching, accompanying, and communicating naturally with humans in difficult environments. Problematic is how such a robot should best fly around humans, and what effect a robot’s flight will have on a person in terms of non-verbal communicative cues. To answer these questions, we propose an extension to existing proxemics theory (“z-proxemics”) and predict how typical humanoid flight motions will be perceived (“z-kinesics”). Data obtained from participants watching animated sequences are analyzed to check our predictions. The paper also reports on the building of a flying humanoid robot, which we will use in interactions. […] One possible design for a flying humanoid robot (FHR): “Angel”, a soft, safe companion robot intended for playful and affectionate interactions who a) approaches b) entertains, c) accompanies and guides, and d) serves humans. [IEEE | PDF]
A multinational security firm has secretly developed a software capable of tracking people’s movements and predicting future behaviour by mining data from social networking websites. [Guardian]
A comparison with traditional surveillance data showed that Google Flu Trends, which estimates prevalence from flu-related Internet searches, had drastically overestimated peak flu levels. The glitch is no more than a temporary setback for a promising strategy, experts say, and Google is sure to refine its algorithms. But as flu-tracking techniques based on mining of web data and on social media proliferate, the episode is a reminder that they will complement, but not substitute for, traditional epidemiological surveillance networks.
We seem to be in the unprecedented position where sophisticated grey-market pharmacologists are rapidly inventing completely new-to-science drugs in underground labs for thrill-seeking punters. […] A study just published in Forensic Science International looked at the chemicals in a new wave of ‘fake pot’ herbal highs sold over the internet. Firstly, the research identified 12 new synthetic cannabinoids. That’s twelve completely new untested cannabis-like drugs. The turnover in the market is both stunning and scary. [Mind Hacks]
Over the past decade, researchers have repeatedly discovered high levels of many drug molecules in lakes and streams near wastewater treatment plants, and found evidence that rainbow trout and other fish subjected to these levels could absorb dangerous amounts of the medications over time. Now, a study published today in Science finds a link between behavior-modifying drugs and the actual behavior of fish for the first time. A group of researchers from Umeå University in Sweden found that levels of the anti-anxiety drug oxazepam commonly found in Swedish streams cause wild perch to act differently, becoming more anti-social, eating faster and showing less fear of unknown parts of their environment. [Smithsonian]
Now banks no longer just borrow to lend to small businesses and home owners, they borrow to trade credit swaps with other banks and hedge funds, to buy real estate in Argentina, super senior synthetic CDOs, mezzanine tranches of bonds backed by the revenues of pop singers, and yes, investments in Mexico pesos. Everything and anything you can imagine. […] Many risk managers will privately tell you that knowing what they own is as much a problem as knowing the risk of what is owned. Put mathematically, the complexity now grows non-linearly. This means, as banks get larger, the ability to risk-manage the assets grows much smaller and more uncertain, ultimately endangering the viability of the business. [ Chris Arnade/Scientific American]
Among those given shorter sentences was a 74-year-old who has served more than 15 years for possessing $10 worth of drugs and an 81-year-old behind bars for more than 17 years for stealing dozens of packs of cigarettes.
UFO reports have been evaluated in terms of the supposed reliability of eyewitness accounts and questionable photographic evidence. The constraints that interstellar distances, time and the conservation of energy impose on interstellar space travel for these supposed alien craft seem never to be considered by UFO proponents. Since they do provide descriptions of spacecraft of circular disks, cylinders and triangles that move strangely and rapidly and vary in size from 50 feet in diameter to 300 feet long, I undertake here to apply these constraints to the design of a hypothetical spacecraft in order to determine the feasibility of such craft and their use for interstellar travel. As a physicist and astronomer I think it important to consider not just the accounts of alien contact, but the physics of such a possibility as well. For my model I have chosen a spacecraft with a crew of six that will leave its planet for a planet in the habitable zone of a star 10 light years away. […] Consequently, I conclude that alien spacecraft cannot exist. [Skeptic/1 | Skeptic/2]
The Tunguska event was an enormously powerful explosion that occurred near (and later struck) the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in what is now Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia, on June 30, 1908. The explosion is believed to have been caused by the air burst of a large meteoroid or comet fragment at an altitude of 5–10 kilometres (3–6 mi) above the Earth’s surface. Estimates of the energy of the blast range from 5 to as high as 30 megatons of TNT, with 10–15 megatons of TNT the most likely—about 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. The Tunguska explosion knocked an estimated 80 million trees down over an area covering 2,150 square kilometres (830 sq mi) (i.e. circular area of 52km in diameter). It is estimated that the shock wave from the blast would have measured 5.0 on the Richter scale. [Wikipedia]
Graduate student Megan Thode wasn’t happy about the C-plus she received for one class, saying the mediocre grade kept her from getting her desired degree and becoming a licensed therapist — and, as a result, cost her $1.3 million in lost earnings. Now Thode is suing her professor.
Grandmaster Melle Mel was the first rapper to call himself “MC” (Master of Ceremony). Other Furious Five members included his brother The Kidd Creole, Scorpio, Rahiem, and Cowboy. While a member of the group, Cowboy created the term “hip-hop” while teasing a friend who had just joined the US Army, by scat singing the words “hip/hop/hip/hop” in a way that mimicked the rhythmic cadence of marching soldiers. [Wikipedia]
I’m pretty mediocre. I’m ashamed to admit it. I’m not even being sarcastic or self-deprecating. I’ve never done anything that stands out. No “Whoa! This guy made it into outer space!” or, “This guy has a best selling novel!” or, “If only Google had thought of this!” I’ve had some successes and some failures but never reached any of the goals I had initially set. Always slipped off along the way, off the yellow brick road, into the wilderness. [James Altucher/The Rumpus]
Trail Blazers was a live web surf event where you could show off your PRO surfing skills. No keyboard, no google, just pure links! [Thanks GG]