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Dendrite Earings by Nervous SystemMost jewelry designers create pieces intended for mass production, Chronogram observes. Not so with Nervous System. Cofounders Jesse Louis-Rosenberg and Jessica Rosenkrantz built their company around open-source software that lets people design one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces based on gorgeous, biological patterns.

Louis-Rosenberg and Rosenkrantz, who come from science and architecture backgrounds, also have pre-designed pieces available: their delicate dendrite earrings were inspired by the aggregate growth of coral; their cut-felt radial necklace (part of the radiolaria series) nods to the bubbly repetition of plant cells and honeycomb.

But perhaps best of all? Most people can afford to engage with Nervous System’s art. “Our work is just as beautiful in stainless steel as it would be in silver, so why should we exclude a large segment of the population just to make a little more money?” the duo told Chronogram. “Besides, it is difficult to blur the line between consumer and producer when most consumers cannot afford the pieces.”

Source: Chronogram 

Image from Nervous System, licensed under Creative Commons.


A new study from Yale University suggests that babies as young as six-months old can tell the difference between helpful and unhelpful creatures. Not surprisingly, Roxanne Khamsi reports for the New Scientist, they prefered the helpful ones. To discover this, the researchers put on a puppet show and tested the infants’ reactions. The show starred a wooden block with eyes, struggling with to make its way up a hill, while another block either helpfully pushes it up the hill or aggressively shoves it back down. Almost all the babies in the experiment preferred the helping blocks. Take a look at the video to see the adorable experiment in action:

In order to make sense of the experiment, the babies needed to know that the block wanted to go up the hill. This suggests that babies are able to understand other people’s intentions long before they can mutter their first word. The study also suggests that that very early in human development, people learn to like nice people.

Brendan Mackie



EmbarrassedWriting for the online magazine Greater Good, Dacher Keltner explores the evolutionary roots of embarrassment and explains how our pink cheeks can actually help us. Keltner, a psychologist who studies positive emotions, writes: “We may feel alienated, flawed, alone, and exposed when embarrassed, but our display of this complex emotion is a wellspring of forgiveness and reconciliation.”

The simple elements of the embarrassment display I have documented and traced back to other species' appeasement and reconciliation processes—the gaze aversion, downward head movements, awkward smiles, and face touches—are a language of cooperation, they are the unspoken ethic of modesty. With these fleeting displays of deference, we navigate conflict-laden situations—watch how regularly people display embarrassment when in close physical spaces, when negotiating the turn-taking of everyday conversations, or when sharing food. We express gratitude and appreciation. And, with deflections of attention or face-saving parodies of the mishap, we quickly extricate embarrassed souls from their momentary predicaments.

Studying embarrassment does seem sort of fun—at least, for the researchers who are charged with inducing said embarrassment. “In perhaps the most mortifying experiment,” Keltner writes, “participants had to sing Barry Manilow's song ‘Feelings’ using dramatic hand gestures—and then had to watch a video of their performance surrounded by other students.”

(Congrats to Greater Good on their 2009 Utne Independent Press Award nomination for social/cultural coverage!)

Source: Greater Good 

Image by Symic, licensed under Creative Commons.


I believe that God, once finished creating the heavens and the earth and the fish of the sea, created nature documentarian David Attenborough’s voice to chronicle it all. The veteran BBC nature lover has filmed much of the world in more than twenty series since his start in 1954. In a pleasant-minded ramble, Laurie Taylor of the New Humanist chats with the oft-decorated Brit about the source of his popularity, why some scientists find him too soft, and the reasons why his shows support evolution. You can also watch a clip from the BBC documentary Life in the Freezer, below.

Brendan Mackie


Attenborough: Life in the Freezer: Wandering Albatross

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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.

Source: Predictably Irrational 


Sapporo beer

Japan seems to have decidedly more fun with their space program than their fellow astronauts. Just two months after heralding their space-launched paper airplanes, Japanese brewer Sapporo has announced the development of beer brewed from “Sapporo Space Barley.” The barley seedlings spent five months aboard the Russian Research Modules of the International Space Station before coming back to Earth for planting, harvesting, and fermentation.

The batch produced 100 liters of beer, most of which will be used for studies on the “Impact of Extreme Environmental Stresses on Barley” (an experiment I wouldn’t mind being a part of) and the possibility of brewing in space. The brewery is doing a small public tasting in January, but alas, the brew apparently tastes just like regular beer.

(Thanks, Boing Boing)

Image courtesy of ronin691, licensed under Creative Commons.



According to Live Science, the military may soon utilize a battlefield video system like the National Football League’s instant replay technology. The system would work by tagging individual frames of video with metadata like time, date, and location in order to help analysts get a quick sense of the relevance of each recording. Other pieces of data might include audio input from soldiers on the ground identifying people and structures captured on video. Why do this? Well:

In the past few years, the amount of intelligence and surveillance video coming in from robots and other sources has increased sharply, overwhelming analysts who simply can't keep up.

For instance, U.S. Air Force drones collected roughly 1,800 hours of video a month in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2009, nearly three times as much video than in 2007, noted Howard Lance, chairman, president and CEO of Melbourne-Fla.-based Harris Corporation, which provides the NFL and Major League Baseball instant-replay technology.

This is only expected to grow as the number of robots increases on the battlefield, as do their capabilities - for example, the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) can record in 10 directions simultaneously.

Now Harris is helping the Pentagon with this information overload by helping devise a customized video analysis system that might cut the time needed to analyze trillions of bytes of video from weeks to minutes. After all, U.S. broadcasters handle 70,000 hours daily of video, Lance noted.

Source: Live Science

(Thanks, Danger Room.)

Image by cell105, licensed under Creative Commons.

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