science

Why is he smiling in this moment — during a question and answer regarding such a serious subject? A smile, when it’s out of context, is always telling.

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According to a paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, you can come off as more persuasive by speaking slightly louder than you normally do, and by varying the overall volume of your voice (i.e., speaking both more loudly and softly). […] it will make you appear more confident when you speak, which has a positive impact on your overall persuasiveness, according to the study.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

‘Now looking at the screen, it feels like the future didn’t last long, so Find The Filter You Love The Most And Let It Kill You.’ –Fette Sans

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“The human eye is extraordinarily sensitive to light,” Dr. Woods said. Throw a few dozen photons its way, a few dozen quantum-sized packets of light, and the eye can readily track them. […]

N.I.S.T. disk number two was an example of advanced ultra-black technology: elaborately engineered arrays of tiny carbon cylinders, or nanotubes, designed to capture and muzzle any light they encounter. […] The N.I.S.T. ultra-black absorbs at least 99.99 percent of the light that stumbles into its nanotube forest. But scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported in September the creation of a carbon nanotube coating that they claim captures better than 99.995 of the incident light. “The blackest black should be a constantly improving number,” said Brian Wardle, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics and an author on the new report. “Folks will find other materials that are blacker than ours.” […]

Psychologists have gathered evidence that black is among the most metaphorically loaded of all colors, and that we absorb our often contradictory impressions about black at a young age. […] Participants were asked to link images with traits. Which boy was likeliest to cheat on the test? Which man was likely to be in charge at work? Which girl was the smartest in her class, which dog the scariest? Again and again, among both children and young adults, black pulled ahead of nearly every color but red. Black was the color of cheating, and black was the color of cleverness. A black tie was the mark of a boss, a black collar the sign of a pit bull. Black was the color of strength and of winning. Black was the color of rage. […]

Diemut Strebe, an artist in residence at M.I.T., collaborated with Dr. Wardle on a project that would merge carbon at its most absorptive configuration, in the form of carbon nanotubes, with carbon in its most reflective and refractive state, as a diamond. One of their biggest challenges: finding a jeweler willing to lend them a chunky diamond that would be plastered with what amounts to high-tech soot. “I tried many companies, Tiffany, others,” Ms. Strebe said. “I got many no’s.” Finally, L.J. West Diamonds, which specializes in colored diamonds, agreed to hand over a $2 million, 16.78-carat yellow diamond, provided the process could be reverse-engineered and the carbon nanotube coating safely removed. The resulting blackened bling is on view at the New York Stock Exchange, which Ms. Strebe calls “the holy grail of valuation.”

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

roboto a roboto

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Electrical activity from the brains of a pair of human subjects was transmitted to the brain of a third individual in the form of magnetic signals, which conveyed an instruction to perform a task in a particular manner. […]

In [another] report, a human using a noninvasive brain interface linked, via computer, to the BCI of an anesthetized rat was able to move the animal’s tail.

{ Scientific American | Continue reading }

art { Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, San Francisco Museum of Art, Calendar, 1969 }

Holihowlsballs and bloody acres!

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Do a country’s inhabitants get happier as it gets richer? […]

In Britain, for example, happiness fell sharply during the two world wars. It began to rise again after 1945, peaked in 1950, and then fell gradually, including through the so-called Swinging Sixties, until it reached a nadir around 1980.

America’s national happiness, too, fell during the world wars. It also fell in the 1860s, during and after the country’s civil war. The lowest point of all came in 1975, at the end of a long decline during the Vietnam war, with the fall of Saigon and America’s humiliating defeat.

In Germany and Italy the first world war also caused dips in happiness. By contrast, during the second world war these countries both got happier as the war continued. […]

A one-year increase in longevity has the same effect on national happiness as a 4.3% increase in gdp. […]

it is warfare that causes the biggest drops in happiness. On average it takes a 30% increase in gdp to raise happiness by the amount that a year of war causes it to fall. The upshot appears to be that, while increasing national income is important to happiness, it is not as important as ensuring the population is healthy and avoiding conflict.

{ The Economist | Continue reading }

‘O teach me how I should forget to think.’ –Shakespeare

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Targeted Memory Reactivation During Sleep Improves Next-Day Problem Solving

Many people have claimed that sleep has helped them solve a difficult problem, but empirical support for this assertion remains tentative. […]

In the evening, we presented 57 participants with puzzles, each arbitrarily associated with a different sound. While participants slept overnight, half of the sounds associated with the puzzles they had not solved were surreptitiously presented.

The next morning, participants solved 31.7% of cued puzzles, compared with 20.5% of uncued puzzles (a 55% improvement). […]

These results demonstrate that cuing puzzle information during sleep can facilitate solving, thus supporting sleep’s role in problem incubation.

{ Sage | Continue reading }

art { John Gerrard, Western Flag (Spindletop Texas), 2017 }

broad beans, hig, steak, hag, pepper the diamond bone

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You might (or might not) be surprised at how often in my work as a mortician I am asked whether a mourning family member can keep a dearly departed’s skull. […] In theory, people get to decide what happens to their body after death. In reality, it is near impossible to get legal permission to display a relative’s skeleton. […]

As a funeral professional, I frankly have no idea what equipment a proper decapitation requires. The subsequent de-fleshing would probably involve boiling and/or dermestid beetles, incredible creatures used in museums and forensic labs to delicately eat the dead flesh off a skeleton without destroying the bones. Dermestids are happy to wade into a gruesome, sticky mass of decaying flesh and delicately clean around even the tiniest of bones. […]

Abuse-of-corpse laws exist for a reason. They protect people’s bodies from being mistreated (ahem, necrophilia). They also prevent a corpse from being snatched from the morgue and used for research or public exhibition without the dead person’s consent. History is littered with such violations. Medical professionals have stolen corpses and even dug up fresh graves to get bodies for dissection and research. […]

In the United States, no federal law prevents owning, buying, or selling human remains, unless the remains are Native American. Otherwise, whether you’re able to sell or own human remains is decided by each individual state. At least 38 states have laws that should prevent the sale of human remains, but in reality the laws are vague, confusing, and enforced at random. In one seven-month period in 2012–13, 454 human skulls were listed on eBay, with an average opening bid of just under $650 (eBay subsequently banned the practice).

{ The Atlantic | Continue reading }

In recent years, the number of studies examining mind wandering has increased considerably, and research on the topic has spread widely across various domains of psychological research. Athough the term “mind wandering” has been used to refer to various cognitive states, researchers typically operationalize mind wandering in terms of “task-unrelated thought” (TUT).

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Stendhal syndrome, Stendhal’s syndrome or Florence syndrome is a psychosomatic condition involving rapid heartbeat, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations, allegedly occurring when individuals become exposed to objects or phenomena of great beauty.

Although psychologists have long debated whether Stendhal’s syndrome exists, the apparent effects on some individuals are severe enough to warrant medical attention.

Though there are numerous accounts of people fainting while taking in Florentine art, dating from the early 19th century on, the syndrome was only named in 1979; when it was described by Italian psychiatrist Graziella Magherini, who observed over a hundred similar cases among tourists in Florence.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

‘Insufficient sleep lowers lifespan, but it means you spend more hours awake per day… could outweigh dying sooner?’ –NeuroSkeptic

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Social media consumption plays an important role in everyday life and, thus, one would expect that this topic is reflected in dreams. […] Social media dreams were quite rare (two percent of all remembered dreams)

{ Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking | Continue reading }

Scientists disagree as to what extent dreams reflect subconscious desires, but new research [2009] reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology concludes that dreams do influence people’s decisions and attitudes.

{ American Psychological Association | Continue reading }

quote { NeuroSkeptic | more }

Make a sound in the east, then strike in the west

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Physicists have long struggled with a perplexing conundrum: How do we reconcile what we see in the quantum world with what we don’t in the classical world? In a phenomenon called quantum superposition, particles have been shown to shift between particle-like and wave-like states, meaning they’re in two places at once.

But this phenomenon hasn’t been observed with more massive objects—it’s only been seen in the smallest particles, such as atoms, photons, and electrons. That’s beginning to change. […]

Physicist Markus Arndt of the University of Vienna and an international team of researchers have demonstrated quantum superposition in molecules, the largest particles ever tested.

{ Popular Mechanics | Continue reading }

photo { Andy Warhol: Elvis Paintings, Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, 1963 }

Touliang huanzhu is a 4-character Chinese language term referring to the clandestine use of cheap construction materials in place of higher-quality materials to cut costs. The resultant shoddy construction may be referred to as a tofu-dreg project.

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A standard response of both policy makers and private citizens to hardships—from natural disasters to mass shootings—is to offer “thoughts and prayers.” Critics argue that such gestures are meaningless and may obstruct structural reforms intended to mitigate catastrophes. In this study, we elicit the value of receiving thoughts and prayers from strangers following adversity. We find that Christians value thoughts and prayers from religious strangers and priests, while atheists and agnostics are “prayer averse”—willing to pay to avoid receiving prayers. Furthermore, while indifferent to receiving thoughts from other secular people, they negatively value thoughts from Christians.

{ PNAS | Continue reading }

photo { Guy Bourdin | Vogue France, May 1970 }

his buildings needed to be the biggest, the grandest, the tallest (in the pursuit of which he skipped floors in the numbering to make them seem higher)

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studies have shown that America has been getting more narcissistic since the Seventies […] one study found narcissistic traits to be rising as quickly as obesity, while yet another showed that almost one-third of high school students in America in 2005 said that they expected to eventually become famous.

{ Rolling Stone | Continue reading }

‘The formula of our happiness: a Yea, a Nay, a straight line, a goal.’ –Nietzsche

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When faced with a personal problem people typically give better advice to others than to themselves. This has been termed ‘Solomon’s Paradox’, named after the biblical King Solomon who was wise for others, but not so when it came to making decisions that would have an impact on his own standing.

Suppose that instead of imagining a problem from the perspective of another you were actually able to have a conversation with yourself about it, but from the embodied perspective of another.

A previous study showed how it is possible to enact internal dialogue in virtual reality (VR) through participants alternately occupying two different virtual bodies – one representing themselves and the other Sigmund Freud. They could maintain a self-conversation by explaining their problem to the virtual Freud and then from the embodied perspective of Freud see and hear the explanation by their virtual doppelganger, and then give some advice. Alternating between the two bodies they could maintain a self-dialogue, as if between two different people.

Here we show that the process of alternating between their own and the Freud body is important for successful psychological outcomes. An experiment was carried out with 58 people, 29 in the body swapping Self-Conversation condition and 29 in a condition where they only spoke to a Scripted Freud character. The results showed that the Self-Conversation method results in a greater perception of change and help compared to the Scripted. We compare this method with the distancing paradigm where participants imagine resolving a problem from a first or third person perspective.

We consider the method as a possible strategy for self-counselling.

{ Nature | Continue reading }

synthetic polymer and silkscreen ink on canvas { Andy Warhol, Are You “Different?” (Positive), 1985 }