For several years now, the Fed has been making money available to the financial sector at near-zero interest rates. Under my plan, each American household could borrow $10 million from the Fed at zero interest. The more conservative among us can take that money and buy 10-year Treasury bonds. At the current 2 percent annual interest rate, we can pocket a nice $200,000 a year to live on. Because we will be making money in basically the same way as hedge fund managers, we should have to pay only 15 percent in taxes, just like they do. [Sheila Bair/Washington Post]
Male doctors found their hysterical and neurasthenic patients especially frustrating. Many doctors suggested that women would feel better if they engaged in sexual intercourse until its natural conclusion with a male orgasm. But given the ineffectiveness of vaginal penetration in satisfying many women, doctors resorted to other solutions. By 1900, doctors had a wide variety of devices to choose from, helping relieve the tedium of digitally massaging female patients. Even better from medical professionals’ perspective was the invention of a hand-held vibrator in 1905, allowing women to treat their own hysteria without visiting a physician. [AlterNet]
Tessa Price, a 22-year-old college senior, is gazing into a mirror in a virtual-reality laboratory at Stanford University. Looking back at her is Tessa Price—at the age of 68. Staring into a mirror today and seeing yourself as you will look in the year 2057 is unnerving. But that may be just what it takes to shock Americans into saving more. These researchers are tapping into what is called the Proteus effect, behavioral alterations in the real world that are triggered by changes in how our bodies appear to us in a virtual world. [WSJ]
The research is the first to document the role that both parenting and sexual orientation play in the formation of intense and visceral fear of homosexuals. [University of Rochester]
“Whatever you post online, expect it to be used by companies to sell advertising.” [5 Ways Google Earns Money Off You | SmartMoney]
Reliable and unbiased random numbers are needed for a range of applications spanning from numerical modeling to cryptographic communications. While there are algorithms that can generate pseudo random numbers, they can never be perfectly random nor indeterministic. Researchers at the ANU are generating true random numbers from a physical quantum source. [Australian National University]
The longest that anyone has survived in the ‘anechoic chamber’ at Orfield Laboratories in South Minneapolis is just 45 minutes. It’s 99.99 per cent sound absorbent and holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s quietest place, but stay there too long and you may start hallucinating. [DailyMail]
Just five companies, Apple, Microsoft, Cisco, Google, and Pfizer, now hold nearly one-quarter of all corporate cash, equal to more than a quarter-trillion dollars. […] Netflix is now responsible for about one-third of all Internet bandwidth. […] As the economy tanked in 2009, the top 25 hedge fund managers collectively earned $25.3 billion. On average, that works out to about $2,000 a minute for each manager. […] The combined assets of Wal-Mart’s Walton family is equal to that of the bottom 150 million Americans. [Motley Fool]
Baboons have mastered one of the basic elements of reading – identifying the difference between sequences of letters that make up actual words from nonsense sequences. Linguists agree that language is needed during reading, but at which stage language becomes a necessity has come under debate. [Cosmos]
The study, reported in The Journal of Neuroscience , provides the first direct evidence that humans, like rats, moths and butterflies, secrete a scent that affects the physiology of the opposite sex. […] He found that the chemical androstadienone — a compound found in male sweat and an additive in perfumes and colognes — changed mood, sexual arousal, physiological arousal and brain activation in women. […] Other studies have shown that when female sweat is applied to the upper lip of other women, these women respond by shifting their menstrual cycles toward synchrony with the cycle of the woman from whom the sweat was obtained. [ScienceDaily]
Pew research has a new survey showing that tablets and smart phones are now 27% of Americans’ primary news source. The overwhelming share of this is phones, not tablets; and a reasonable view says this will rise to 50% in three years. The news business has been plunged into a crisis because web advertising dollars are a fraction of old media money. And mobile is now a fraction of web: the approximate conversion rate is $100 offline = $10 on the web = $1 in mobile. [Guardian]
Whereas Android generates $1.70/device/year and thus an Android device with a two year life generates about $3.5 to Google over its life, Apple obtained $576.3 for each iOS device it sold in 2011. [ASYMCO]
A few blocks later, Zupan wants to demonstrate what he calls “shy distance”: how close you get to an approaching person with whom you are bound to collide before one of you shifts to the side. The process is sometimes anticipated with a kind of foreplay, what Nicholson Baker in The Mezzanine described as “the mutual bobbings you exchange with an oncoming pedestrian, as both of you lurch to indicate whether you are going to pass to the right or to the left.” [Slate]
Natural selection never favors excess; if a lower-cost solution is present, it is selected for. Intelligence is a hugely costly trait. The human brain is responsible for 25 per cent of total glucose use, 20 per cent of oxygen use and 15 per cent of our total cardiac output, although making up only 2 per cent of our total body weight. Explaining the evolution of such a costly trait has been a long-standing goal in evolutionary biology, leading to a rich array of explanatory hypotheses, ranging from evasion of predators to intelligence acting as an adaptation for the evolution of culture. Among the proposed explanations, arguably the most influential has been the “social intelligence hypothesis,” which posits that it is the varied demands of social interactions that have led to advanced intelligence. [Proceedings of The Royal Society B]
Under the transgender umbrella, a distinct subset of “Bigender” individuals report blending or alternating gender states. It came to our attention that many (perhaps most) bigender individuals experience involuntary alternation between male and female states, or between male, female, and additional androgynous or othergendered identities (”Multigender”). [Medical Hypotheses | via Neuroskeptic]
Alright, the Earth has only one mechanism for releasing heat to space, and that’s via (infrared) radiation. We understand the phenomenon perfectly well, and can predict the surface temperature of the planet as a function of how much energy the human race produces. The upshot is that at a 2.3% growth rate (conveniently chosen to represent a 10× increase every century), we would reach boiling temperature in about 400 years. And this statement is independent of technology. Even if we don’t have a name for the energy source yet, as long as it obeys thermodynamics, we cook ourselves with perpetual energy increase. [Do the Math]
Scientists report that they have mapped the physical architecture of intelligence in the brain. The researchers also found that brain regions for planning, self-control and other aspects of executive function overlap to a significant extent with regions vital to general intelligence. The study provides new evidence that intelligence relies not on one brain region or even the brain as a whole, but involves specific brain areas working together in a coordinated fashion. [University of Illinois]
Can women climax from vaginal stimulation alone? And is there any difference between so-called clitoral and vaginal orgasms? Now, a new series of essays lays out the evidence that vaginal and clitoral orgasms are, in fact, separate phenomena, activating different areas of the brain and perhaps revealing key psychological differences between women. [LiveScience]
His experiments show that cheerful people are easier to deceive, couldn’t detect lies as easily as those in negative moods and couldn’t tell a thief from an honest person. [Washington Post]
Intuitively, the sequence of events that leads to a voluntary act must be as follows: You decide to raise your hand; your brain communicates that intention to the neurons responsible for planning and executing hand movements; and those neurons relay the appropriate commands to the motor neurons that contract the arm muscles. But Libet was not convinced. Wasn’t it more likely that the mind and the brain acted simultaneously or even that the brain acted before the mind did? […] The results told an unambiguous story, which was bolstered by later experiments. The beginning of the readiness potential precedes the conscious decision to move by at least half a second and often by much longer. The brain acts before the mind decides! This discovery was a complete reversal of the deeply held intuition of mental causation. [Scientific American]
Scientists are finding that the same changes to chromosomes that happen as people age can also be found in people experiencing major stress and depression. The phenomenon, known as “accelerated aging,” is beginning to reshape the field’s understanding of stress and depression not merely as psychological conditions but as body-wide illnesses in which mood may be just the most obvious symptom. [WSJ]
New scientific research raises the possibility that advanced versions of T. rex and other dinosaurs — monstrous creatures with the intelligence and cunning of humans — may be the life forms that evolved on other planets in the universe. “An implication from this work is that elsewhere in the universe there could be life forms based on D-amino acids and L-sugars. Such life forms could well be advanced versions of dinosaurs, if mammals did not have the good fortune to have the dinosaurs wiped out by an asteroidal collision, as on Earth.” [ACS]
Thriving colonies disappear overnight without leaving a trace, the bodies of the victims are never found. It’s what’s happening to fully a third of commercial beehives, over a million colonies every year. Seemingly healthy communities fly off never to return. The queen bee and mother of the hive is abandoned to starve and die. Until recently, the evidence was inconclusive on the cause of the mysterious “colony collapse disorder” (CCD) that threatens the future of beekeeping worldwide. But three new studies point an accusing finger at a culprit that many have suspected all along, a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids. [Reuters]
New analysis of 36-year-old data, resuscitated from printouts, shows NASA found life on Mars, an international team of mathematicians and scientists conclude in a paper published this week. [Discovery]
Is there foreign life on earth? […] Some have postulated the existence of a ’shadow biosphere’ on Earth, teeming with life that has gone undiscovered because scientists simply don’t know where to look. […] How did life start…? […] Joyce says that there will come a point at which researchers learn how to synthesize an evolving, replicating system from scratch. […] Several labs have already made headway. […] and can we delay its end? […] Both papers, and a slew of work since, have suggested that it might be possible to significantly slow human ageing and its associated diseases. [Nature]
Remembering involves a process of reconstruction. We store assorted features of an event as representations that are distributed around the brain. To experience the rich, vivid “re-living” of a past event that is remembering, we fit these features together into a representation of what took place. [Guardian]
How to actually be good at rote memorization. A group of psychologists decided to help the kids out by examining the optimal duration for studying a particular item. […] Performance was much better for intermediate (e.g., 4 s) presentation durations. […] I bring up this study not because it’s crucial for our education system, but because in the future every part of our lives will be designed based on this type of research. Advertisements, online dating profiles, and all manner of printed instructions will be optimized for the perfect exposure length. [peer-reviewed by my neurons]
Red seems to affect us in a way that other colors don’t. […] The authors are then tasked to come up with an hypothesis as to why redness is less attractive. Their suggestion is that red is suggestive of menstrual blood. [NeuroDojo]
The researchers in charge of performing psychometric testing recently made an interesting observation: if they wear a white coat when interacting with the participants (and their parents), they receive more respect. [Gaines, on brains]
We show that if a car stops at a stop sign, an observer, e.g., a police officer, located at a certain distance perpendicular to the car trajectory, must have an illusion that the car does not stop, if the following three conditions are satisfied: (1) the observer measures not the linear but angular speed of the car; (2) the car decelerates and subsequently accelerates relatively fast; and (3) there is a short-time obstruction of the observer’s view of the car by an external object, e.g., another car, at the moment when both cars are near the stop sign. [Dmitri Krioukov/arXiv | PDF]
The Federal Railroad Administration insists that all trains must be painted with an “F” at the front, so you can tell which end is which. Over-regulated America.
Shoppers scan barcodes of products which are displayed at the Homeplus store located in a Seoul subway station. “You place an order when you go to work in the morning and can see the items delivered at home when you come home at night.” [photos + video | Tesco opens world’s first virtual store]
Robert Provine found that babies laugh 300 times a day, while adults laugh only 20 times. [Mental Floss]
Study uncovers a possible positive effect of using multiple forms of media at the same time. Multitasking – not so bad for you after all?
On 30 June 1908, a mammoth explosion in western Siberia flattened trees across more than 2000 square kilometers. The most common explanation is that an asteroid or comet exploded in the atmosphere, yet no extraterrestrial material has been found. Six mystery blasts.
Internet users in Iran will be permanently denied access to the World Wide Web and cut off from popular social networking sites and email services, as the government has announced its plans to establish a national Intranet within five months. [IBT]
A series of hacks perpetrated against so-called “smart meter” installations over the past several years may have cost a single U.S. electric utility hundreds of millions of dollars annually, the FBI said in a cyber intelligence bulletin. [KrebsOnSecurity]
One by one, pillars of classical logic have fallen by the wayside as science progressed in the 20th century, from Einstein’s realization that measurements of space and time were not absolute but observer-dependent, to quantum mechanics, which not only put fundamental limits on what we can empirically know but also demonstrated that elementary particles and the atoms they form are doing a million seemingly impossible things at once. Combining the ideas of general relativity and quantum mechanics, we can understand how it is possible that the entire universe, matter, radiation and even space itself could arise spontaneously out of nothing, without explicit divine intervention. [ Lawrence M. Krauss/LA Times]
Their model suggests that new universes could be created spontaneously from apparently empty space. From inside the parent universe, the event would be surprisingly unspectacular. Does the Early Universe Harbor Evidence of Time Before the Big Bang?
Vang Vieng, deep in the jungle of Laos, is a backpacker paradise where there are no rules. Last year at least 27 travelers died there, and countless more were injured.
For years before they caught him, the Italian police had no idea that Paolo Di Lauro was one of Naples’s most powerful crime bosses, running a drug and counterfeit-goods empire—and responsible for a peace his turf had rarely known.
In Bailey’s Democracy, David Bailey photographed a raft of people in the nude, including Damien Hirst, pulling his prepuce and mugging at the camera. A telling image of Hirst’s skills – not that much, stretched not very far. [Craig Raine/New Statesman]
A general continuum theory for the distribution of hairs in a bundle is developed, treating individual fibers as elastic filaments with random intrinsic curvatures. Applying this formalism to the iconic problem of the ponytail, the combined effects of bending elasticity, gravity, and orientational disorder are recast as a differential equation for the envelope of the bundle, in which the compressibility enters through an ‘equation of state’. [arXiv]
Beer taxes thus played a crucial role in financing the Dutch Revolt which led to the separation of the Low Countries and, eventually, the creation of Belgium. [PDF]
TransRatFashion: When we arrived in Rio we were struck by all the transvestites working the streets as prostitutes. We decided to use taxidermied rats, so I started to hunt down the rats.