Dec, 2012

The Decelerator Helmet is a experimental approach for dealing with our fast moving society. The sense of vision is consigned to an apparatus which allows the user a perception of the world in slow motion.

In a increasingly hectic, overstimulated and restless environment are the calls for deceleration omnipresent. The inconceivably amount of information and influences in our everyday lives leads in many cases to an excessive demand.The idea to decouple the personal perception from the natural timing enables the user to become aware of his own time.
In the inside of the helmet the video-signal of a camera is processed by a small computer. The slowed-down images are displayed right before the user’s eyes via a head-mounted display and are simultaneously shown on a monitor on the outside.
The helmet has three different modes which can be selected by a remote control:

  • In the auto-mode time is slowed down automatically and re-accelerated after a defined interval. The press-mode allows the specific deceleration of time. In the scroll-mode the user can completely control the speed of the elapsing of time.
  • The Decelerator gives the user the possibility to reflect about the flow of time in general and about the relation between sensory perception, environment and corporality in particular. Also it dramatically visualizes how slowing down can potentially cause a loss of the present.

[via The Creators Project]

Nov, 2012

From Scientific American:

Although most people probably don’t consider narcissism or psychopathy desirable qualities in either their friends or romantic partners, many of us are mysteriously drawn toward people with these personality traits. Mean girls are often the most popular ones at school and vampires are sex symbols. Recent research has found that people with so-called “dark” personality traits are more physically attractive than others. What is it about dark personalities that make them so appealing? The answer may help us understand what makes people with these personality traits so successful at exploiting others.

Nicholas Holtzman and Michael Strube of Washington University in St. Louis were interested in looking at the relationship between physical attractiveness and people’s tendencies towards narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism. They wanted to find out whether these three traits, referred to as the “dark triad,” are associated with a greater ability to successfully enhance one’s physical appearance.

To test this idea, they invited 111 college students (64 percent women) into their laboratory. Each student was photographed soon after they arrived. Then, after taking this initial photograph, each student asked to change out of their own clothes and put on a pair of gray sweatpants and a t-shirt. Women were instructed to remove any makeup, and anyone with long hair was asked to pull it back into a ponytail. The students were then photographed in this more natural state. Holtzman and Strube showed both sets of photographs to a group of strangers who rated them in terms of physical attractiveness. By comparing the attractiveness ratings of the dressed-down and dressed-up students, the researchers were able to determine how much each student was able to make themselves more appealing through flashy clothes, makeup, accessories, etc.

Next Holtzman and Strube assessed the students’ personalities and their tendencies towards narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism. They asked the students to rate themselves and to provide email addresses for a few of their friends so that the researchers could ask them to provide ratings as well. This combination of self and peer ratings was used to calculate a final set personality scores for each student. Furthermore, the students’ ratings on narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism were combined into create a composite “dark triad” score.

The dark triad score was positively correlated with their “dressed-up” attractiveness – a finding that mirrors previous findings. However, the dark triad score was not related to ratings of physical attractiveness in the dressed-down photos. In other words, people with dark personality traits are not seen as more physically attractive than others when you take away their freedom to wear their own clothes and makeup. People with dark personalities seem to be better at making themselves physically appealing.

Link to the rest at Scientific American

Nov, 2012

From Talking Philosophy:

My thoughts on this issue were prompted by an exchange with a friend on Twitter. She was uncomfortable with the themes in a television programme she had watched, and tweeted her concerns. Out of a desire not to appear overly aggressive or confrontational, she preceded her thoughts with a disclaimer along the lines of: “now maybe it’s just me being oversensitive, but…”. A dissenter immediately replied, calling her view stupid, and using that disclaimer against her: “you said it yourself; you’re oversensitive”.

This led to my friend feeling silenced and not taken seriously; her attempts to explain her reasons for objecting to the themes of said tv show were ignored, as she was dismissed as stupid and oversensitive. But crucially, she blamed herself for having been treated in this dismissive way. She thought she had brought it on herself for expressing her opinions in an apologetic, self-effacing manner. By preceding her thoughts with the caveat “maybe it’s just me”, she had invited rude and aggressive responses along the lines of “yes, it’s just you, idiot”.

This got me thinking about my own behaviour, because I do just this sort of thing all the time. Especially in philosophy seminars. When I need further clarification of a point, I will often begin: “sorry, I didn’t quite understand, can you explain point X a bit more for me?” Or “I’m sorry, perhaps you addressed this point and I missed it”. Often this is genuinely done from lack of confidence in my own capacities – I frequently worry that I’m not as smart as the other people in the room, and hence that I don’t know, or don’t understand, something they do. But I also do this at other times. Even when I’m reasonably confident that the question I’m asking isn’t a stupid one, or the comment I’m offering is valuable and interesting, I still frequently preface my contribution with some kind of apologetic, self-effacing caveat.


So then the worry is that when I make these self-effacing, timid sounding preambles to my arguments, I am not only undermining my own status as a bearer of knowledge and encouraging my listeners not to take me seriously. I am also reinforcing these prejudices in the minds of my audience. Given that I am a woman, they may have already been predisposed to deflate my credibility. When I express myself in an apologetic, tentative manner, I thereby present them with more evidence to confirm their biases, both with respect to myself, and women speakers in general. The prejudice is perpetuated, and my listeners are more inclined to dismiss my contributions, and further, those of other women. So perhaps I owe it not only to myself, but also to other women, to try to eradicate these displays of reticence from my speech, and be more confident and assertive. Perhaps I ought to be much bolder, more direct, perhaps even aggressive, in the way so many other people (men?) seem to be when engaging in debate. It’s especially tempting to think like this in the context of the philosophy seminar. These can be highly combative, adversarial environments, and it seems like if I want to keep up, be taken seriously and make a name for myself in this profession, I’m going to have to get over my timidity and get more assertive, quickly.

Link to the rest at Talking Philosophy

Nov, 2012

From Science Daily:

During freestyle rapping, the researchers observed increases in brain activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, a brain region responsible for motivation of thought and action, but decreased activity in dorsolateral prefrontal regions that normally play a supervisory or monitoring role. Like an experienced parent who knows when to lay down the law and when to look the other way, these shifts in brain function may facilitate the free expression of thoughts and words without the usual neural constraints.

Link to the rest at Science Daily

Nov, 2012

The latest Washington scandal features people determined to gain power, sycophants who worship them, social climbers who befriend them, and pairings of various members of these groups that occasionally led to the pantless interactions we were all warned about about in our junior high Biology class. Nothing about this sounds like much of a surprise, and yet much of the media has managed to work itself into a state of frenzied shock as they (once again) breathlessly cover humankind’s oldest and most consistent storyline. In an excellent piece, David Simon (of The Wire fame) reflects on the hypocrisy and silliness of the way these scandals are reported. “Anyone who looks at the history of mankind and argues that private sexual fidelity exists in direct proportion to political greatness or moral leadership is either a chump or a liar.”

Nov, 2012

1983 POP TARTS Frosted Dutch Apple, Frosted Blueberry and Frosted Raspberry flavorsEvery year supermarkets decide to stop selling one of my favorite items, replacing it with something new and “improved”. I’ve always wondered why they do this, and who makes these kinds of decisions, and what goes into making them, and where can I voice my feedback about these terrible ideas? (*ahem* Bring the back the Frosted Dutch Apple Pop Tarts!)

These days our food choices are being determined by “hipster hubs”, a handful of urban markets such as Boston, New York and London where big packaged-food companies, like Campbell are researching the eating habits of Millennials.

(link via Dave Pell’s Next Draft Newsletter)

It seems as if companies have learned very little from New Coke.