11/30/2009 11:46:16 AM
Children who eat a lot of candy are more likely to grow up to be violent adults. In a study of more than 17,000 kids, researchers found “a significant association between candy consumption as a child and violent behavior as an adult,” Brain Blogger reports, even when accounting for other variables. The candy itself, though, isn’t the problem. Researchers speculate that the violence stems from the children’s inability to make good choices. When parents bribe their kids with candy for good behavior, the children aren’t learning to delay gratification, which can make them more impulsive and violent. This is not to discount the effect of diet on people’s behavior entirely, however. Researchers are now looking into prisons to see if a more balanced diet can actually reduce violence.
Source: Brain Blogger
11/30/2009 10:14:27 AM
Fake Prada handbags and faux-designer sunglasses make people more inclined to lie. The rest of the world may not know a pair of sunglasses cost 2 dollars at a street vendor, not 150 dollars at a designer shop, but the person wearing the glasses knows. That knowledge makes people a little less honest in the rest of their lives, according to behavioral economist Dan Ariely in the video below. The fake sunglasses make people a little more likely to believe that other people are lying, too. You can watch Ariely explain the findings, and model a few designer glasses, below.
11/25/2009 2:06:49 PM
A virus is like Luke Skywalker attacking the Death Star, with humans playing the part of the Empire. Humans have a huge size advantage, but a virus can still win the fight. Science comedian Brian Malow provides a few jokes on this David vs. Goliath battle, including this one:
An infectious disease walks into a bar, and the bartender says “We don’t serve infectious diseases here.”
The infectious disease says, “Well you’re not a very good host.”
Watch the video from Fora.tv below:
(Thanks, 3 Quarks Daily.)
11/24/2009 4:17:55 PM
Giving junk food to rats can make them into addicts, exhibiting similar behavior to heroin junkies. For a recent experiment, researchers gave rats a diet of HoHos, sausage, poundcake, bacon, and cheesecake. The subjects quickly began compulsively eating and became obese, and soon, the pleasure centers in the rats’ brains became less sensitive to the food. “As a result,” Science News reports, “the rats ate more to get the same amount of pleasure—just as heroin addicts require more and more of the drug to feel good.” The changes due to binge eating lasted weeks after the rats began eating healthier, and researchers are now looking into the long-term affect of messing with the brains reward systems.
Source: Science News
, licensed under
11/18/2009 11:00:01 AM
When a disputed Kenyan election turned violent in 2007, an organization called Ushahidi emerged to map the destruction and killings that broke out across the country. Ushahidi, which means ''testimony'' in Swahili, used text messages from eyewitnesses to create an easily understood graphic depiction of the violence taking place. Their software was later used in the Congo and by Al Jazeera to depict the war in Gaza that took place at the end of 2008.
Ushahidi is just one of many nonprofits, governmental agencies, and human rights lobbying agencies using maps for humanitarian work. Unfortunately, these organizations are notoriously bad at sharing data, according to Patrick Meier. To solve this problem, Meier recently started the International Network of Crisis Mappers (INCM), which aims to connect people and organizations using maps for good.
When a natural disaster strikes or violence breaks out in a country, a map can change the nature of that crisis. The simple act of getting people in front of a map and asking for input can build consensus between warring parties. Maps can also ensure that humanitarian resources are used more effectively and get to the people who need them more quickly.
Crisis mapping is more than simply mapping crises, according to Meier. New technology—including text messages, Twitter, and satellite imagery—is changing the way that data for maps are being collected. Anyone with a cell phone can now help update aid workers on natural disasters or violent altercations in real time. Designers are constantly coming up with new and interesting ways to create visualizations of that data to make it look more appealing. Researchers are then using the data from maps to look for patterns. The information and maps are then pushed out into the field to give support tools to the activists and the nonprofits trying to help the people caught in a crisis.
Organizations don't always want to spend time and resources sharing data in the midst of a crisis, but more collaboration is often needed. Meier’s INCM makes it easier and less time-consuming for organizations to collaborate with each other, so that everyone can start helping people more effectively. When typhoons recently rocked the Philippines, for example, INCM connected a half dozen groups, including Open Street Map, to share information that may have helped deploy humanitarian aid more effectively. Meier hopes this burgeoning movement will continue to connect different mapping projects and humanitarian agencies to make collaboration happen more quickly and easily.
Source: International Network of Crisis Mappers
To view examples of crisis maps, watch the slideshow below:
11/18/2009 10:34:44 AM
Too often when we talk about accessibility issues for people with visual, hearing, motor, or cognitive disabilities we're talking about physical infrastructure only. What about the web? There is a great post over at Bitch called The Transcontinental Disability Choir: How to make your blog accessible in five not-very-complicated steps. The five steps, in short, are:
1. Transcribe video and audio
2. Describe your pictures
3. Make your link-text something relevant
4. Don't over-ride browser defaults for your text
5. Look at your blog/site in a different browser, at least once.
The Bitch blogger, Anna Palindrome, also suggests a web access evaluation tool called WAVE. There you can plug in the URL of your site or blog and see how accessiblit is. I plugged in the URL of a recent Utne Reader blog post and it triggered this message: Uh oh! WAVE has detected 28 accessibility errors. The Bitchpost about accessibility has 13 errors. We've all got some work to do.
The WAVE tool is a service provided by an organization called WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind). Their introduction to web accessibility is an important read. Here's an excerpt:
The internet is one of the best things that ever happened to people with disabilities. You may not have thought about it that way, but all you have to do is think back to the days before the internet to see why this is so. For example, before the internet, how did blind people read newspapers? They mostly didn't. Audiotapes or Braille printouts were expensive - a Braille version of the Sunday New York Times would be too bulky to be practical. At best, they could ask a family member or friend to read the newspaper to them. This method works, but it makes blind people dependent upon others.
...Despite the web's great potential for people with disabilities, this potential is still largely unrealized. For example, some sites can only be navigated using a mouse, and only a very small percentage of video or multimedia content has been captioned for the Deaf. What if the internet content is only accessible by using a mouse? What do people do if they can't use a mouse? And what if web developers use graphics instead of text? If screen readers can only read text, how would they read the graphics to people who are blind?
As soon as you start asking these types of questions, you begin to see that there are a few potential glitches in the accessibility of the internet to people with disabilities. The internet has the potential to revolutionize disability access to information, but if we're not careful, we can place obstacles along the way that destroy that potential and which leave people with disabilities just as discouraged and dependent upon others as before.
11/13/2009 4:51:44 PM
Prosthetics engineer and Utne visionary Jonathan Kuniholm was interviewed on NPR this week. Fresh Air sit-in host Dave Davies spoke to Kuniholm about his work with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics Program. If you missed the episode live, you can still catch Kuniholm talking about open-source prostheses and his hopes for the future of the industry, or check out the previous coverage we’ve done on him, including this online exclusive, “The Hype and Hope of Prosthetics.”
11/11/2009 3:26:50 PM
Just because people are intelligent doesn’t mean they’re smart. Though IQ tests do pretty well measuring intelligence, they don’t test for rational thought, according to the New Scientist. The magazine quotes cognitive psychologist Jonathan Evans saying, “IQ is only part of what it means to be smart.”
Relying on IQ tests can be especially problematic in education. A new documentary from American RadioWorks details the way that the use of IQ tests reinforced racial inequalities in the United States during the 1950s. According to the show, preschools were developed to close that gap and raise IQ scores for young African Americans. People used the tests again to discredit preschools, after it was shown that the schools didn’t really help people’s IQs in the long-term. Recent studies, however, have found that preschool has a long-term beneficial effect on people’s lives, even if it doesn’t raise their test scores.
For now, there’s no standard test for measuring people’s capacity for rational thought. The New Scientist highlights the work Keith Stanovich, author of the book What Intelligence Tests Miss, who believes that a test measuring “rationality-quotient (RQ)” could be helpful in measuring how smart people are. The magazine includes a few counter-intuitive questions that measure how smart you are, beyond your intelligence. Here’s an example:
If it takes five machines 5 minutes to make five widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?
Think about it… the answer might not be obvious.
Sources: New Scientist, American RadioWorks
, licensed under
11/10/2009 11:10:43 AM
Will the world end on 2012? NASA says no. In fact, the NASA website has a page specifically dedicated to debunking the myths surrounding 2012 and the end of the Mayan calendar. The website states unequivocally, “credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012.” Anyone who says otherwise is propagating “an Internet hoax,” a “bait-and-shift,” or just bad information. NASA takes a shot at an upcoming film called 2012 stating: “Impressive movie special effects aside, Dec. 21, 2012, won't be the end of the world as we know.”
The story makes for a great trailer, though:
(Thanks, Marginal Revolution.)
11/10/2009 10:52:49 AM
Photographer and artist Stan Gaz had a boyhood obsession with meteorite craters. He calls them “footprints of the stars.” His photographs of these impact sites are collected in an enormous and stunning new book, Sites of Impact, which I reviewed in our November-December issue. In the book, Gaz describes a visit to a crater in Arizona:
When I got there, I could not believe that it was real. Formed by an enormous meteorite that was traveling so fast that when it hit the earth it created an explosion equivalent to twenty atom bombs and displaced eleven million tons of dirt, the space was massive. It had an emotional effect on me that was overwhelming. Standing on the edge of this crater was like standing inside a cathedral. I picked up some sand in my hand, and for the first time I could feel the shape of the earth. I knew right away I wanted to photograph it.
When Gaz started talking about photographing impact sites from the air, a friend suggested a remote-controlled camera mounted on a helicopter. But Gaz wanted his camera in his hands.
After taking pictures from the ground, I decided to rent a helicopter and take more pictures from the air. This marked my first time flying at high altitude with the doors off the plane. Hovering above the crater at 3,000 feet, with only a Volkswagen seat belt across my waist, I can honestly say I felt uneasy. As the pilot tipped the machine onto its side, he assured me that gravity and velocity would keep me from falling out ... I felt like a tripod with wings.
Image courtesy of Stan Gaz.
11/3/2009 12:25:58 PM
People aren’t all straight, gay, or bisexual. Scientists have begun taking notice of a significant number of people who identify as asexual. Writing for the Scientific American, Jesse Bering descries asexuality as, “the absence of desire and no sexual interest in males or females, only a complete and lifelong lacuna of sexual attraction toward any human being (or non-human being).”
An estimated 1 percent of British residents describe themselves as “never having a sexual attraction to anymore,” according to a 2004 study cited by Bering. That’s just slightly lower than the 3 percent of people who identified themselves as attracted to the same sex. An aversion to sex can stem from childhood trauma or chemical imbalances, but some research points to asexuality as being a true fourth sexual orientation that’s “due neither to genetic anomaly or environmental assault.”
One 18-year-old asexual described her feelings to the University of Michigan saying:
I just don’t feel sexual attraction to people. I love the human form and can regard individuals as works of art and find people aesthetically pleasing, but I don’t ever want to come into sexual contact with even the most beautiful of people.
Source: The Scientific American
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