I’ve written about invisibility cloaks before, however those weren’t for visible light. In other words, while it may hide something from radar, it wouldn’t be hidden from a two dollar pair of fake glasses. This time, however, we’re talking about full-on visible spectra invisibility of the Harry Potter Now-You-See-Me-Now-You-Don’t freaky sci-fi magic variety.
Of course, there’s still so much more to do - scaling it up to larger objects, making it more cloak-like and not carpet-like, integrating it with invisibility for other radiation types, etc - but this proof of concept shows that this is real, this is happening, and that it’ll be another piece of the bizarre puzzle of life and technology in the next few years.
For the first time, scientists have devised an invisibility cloak material that hides objects from detection using light that is visible to humans. The new device is a leap forward in cloaking materials… [which] “are still in their infancy.”
Most cloaks are made of materials that can only hide things using microwave or infrared waves, which are just below the threshold of human vision. To remedy this, the researchers built a reflective “carpet cloak” out of layers of silicon oxide and silicon nitride etched in a special pattern. The carpet cloak works by concealing an object under the layers, and bending light waves away from the bump that the object makes, so that the cloak appears flat and smooth like a normal mirror.
Although the study cloaked a microscopic object roughly the diameter of a red blood cell, the device demonstrates that it may be “capable of cloaking any object underneath a reflective carpet layer. In contrast to the previous demonstrations that were limited to infrared light, this work makes actual invisibility for the light seen by the human eye possible,” the scientists write.
The authors acknowledge funding from the U.S. Army Research Office…
Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society.
Have to say, I was very interested in the article (and I’m sure Gladwell is smiling too), but I was actually a bit let down. It seems to rely too much on abstractions and so may have moved too far away from reality. For instance, most people probably don’t change their minds simply after meeting two people with the opposing view, and the degree to which our beliefs are malleable varies from person and subject. So, all in all, an interesting piece - but I’m waiting for the real-life followup.
Those solar panels on top of your roof aren’t just providing clean power; they are cooling your house.. too, according to a team of researchers… Using thermal imaging, researchers determined that during the day, a building’s ceiling was 5 degrees Fahrenheit cooler under solar panels than under an exposed roof. At night, the panels help hold heat in, reducing heating costs in the winter.
“Talk about positive side-effects,” said Kleissl.
As solar panels sprout on an increasing number of residential and commercial roofs, it becomes more important to consider their impact on buildings’ total energy costs, Kleissl said. His team determined that the amount saved on cooling the building amounted to getting a 5 percent discount on the solar panels’ price, over the panels’ lifetime. Or to put it another way, savings in cooling costs amounted to selling 5 percent more solar energy to the grid than the panels are actually producing— for the building researchers studied… Also, the more efficient the solar panels, the bigger the cooling effect, said Kleissl. For the building researchers analyzed, the panels reduced the amount of heat reaching the roof by about 38 percent…
“There are more efficient ways to passively cool buildings, such as reflective roof membranes,” said Kleissl. “But, if you are considering installing solar photovoltaic, depending on your roof thermal properties, you can expect a large reduction in the amount of energy you use to cool your residence or business.”
Positive emotions like joy and compassion are good for your mental and physical health, and help foster creativity and friendship. But people with bipolar disorder seem to have too much of a good thing. In a new article.. psychologist June Gruber of Yale University considers how positive emotion may become negative in bipolar disorder.
One of the characteristics of bipolar disorder is the extreme periods of positive mood, or mania. People in the grip of mania also have increased energy, sleep less, and experience extreme self-confidence. At first glance, this may sound good and even desirable. However, during these times of mania, people with bipolar disorder often take dangerous risks, run up their credit card debt, and wreak havoc in marriages. “The fact that positive emotion has gone awry is something unique about bipolar disorder, as almost all other emotional disorders are characterized by difficulties in negative emotions” Gruber says.
Gruber points out that positive emotions are problematic for people with bipolar disorder even when they’re not experiencing mania.. they still experience more positive emotions than people who have never had bipolar disorder. More positive emotions may not sound like a bad thing, but there are times when these positive emotions aren’t appropriate. “In our work, those with bipolar disorder continue to report greater positive emotions whether it’s a positive film, very sad film clip of a child crying over his father’s death.. they still feel good even if a close romantic partner tells them something sad face to face, they still feel good. “It’s rose-colored glasses gone too far.”…
[In short,] Psychologists should also consider that there are downsides of positive emotions even for people who don’t have bipolar disorder, Gruber says. “Although positive emotions are generally good for us, when they take extreme forms or when they’re experienced in the wrong context, the benefits of positive emotion begin to unravel,” she says. The goal: “experience it in moderation, in the right place and time.”
I’ve been waiting years for someone to finally invent this!! God, this is so past due and so very welcome!
Just consider its benefits to reducing glare in your sunglasses or - more importantly - windshield or mirrors while driving.
Now consider how this tech will help open up research on “smart-glass”: since it’s LCDs embedded in the glass, perhaps it can help with augmented reality, whether on a car windshield (e.g. projecting infra-red image as well) or even on contact lenses, as are being researched at UW.
All in all, this little finding is a big deal in my book - which I can now comfortable read in the sun =D
Chris Mullin.. has teamed up with the University at Buffalo to develop sunglasses that detect bright spots of light and darken specific parts of the lens to protect sunglasses wearers from blinding glare...
"Our products let users see more in glare situations than ever before, because they reduce direct glare 10 to 100 times more than any other sunglasses,” says Mullin, adding, “when there is no glare, it’s just a pair of sunglasses.”…
The glasses’ lenses are actually liquid crystal display (LCD) screens, capable of creating dark spots that specifically target glaring light. A pinhole camera in the bridge of the glasses takes a picture of the frame’s line of vision. The camera itself analyzes the image and scans it for glare that exceeds a certain threshold. The camera then alerts an adjacent microcontroller, which directs the LCD to send extra pixels of shade to that portion of the lens, displaying a four- to six-millimeter gray square in front of the eye. The square moves with the wearer to block the source of glare at any angle but still allows the surroundings to remain visible. If the sun moves, then so does the LCD spot. This whole process takes about 50 milliseconds.
Glasses for glaucoma patients with sensitivity to light would certainly benefit from Mullin’s technology, as would a car’s rearview mirrors and windshield, to avoid being blinded by either bright headlights at night or the sun. “A few circuits, a little battery power and you can really fight the sun,” says Mullin.
A bit choppy, but here are some highlights from a recent paper on improving quantum computers - i.e. the mindblowing computers of the future. Just thought I’d post to remind everyone that this hasn’t gone away just because it’s not been in the headlines lately. Research is ongoing and improving our understanding and technology.
…Using high magnetic fields [they] managed to suppress decoherence, which is one of the key stumbling blocks in quantum computing. “High magnetic fields reduce the level of the noises in the surroundings, so they can constrain the decoherence very efficiently,” Takahashi said. Decoherence has been described as a “quantum bug” that destroys fundamental properties that quantum computers would rely on…
Though the concepts underpinning quantum computing are not new, problems such as decoherence have hindered the construction of a fully functioning quantum computer. Think of decoherence as a form of noise or interference, knocking a quantum particle out of superposition — robbing it of that special property that makes it so useful. If a quantum computer relies on a quantum particle’s ability to be both here and there, then decoherence is the frustrating phenomenon that causes a quantum particle to be either here or there.
The researchers calculated all sources of decoherence in his experiment as a function of temperature, magnetic field, and by nuclear isotopic concentrations, and suggested the optimum condition to operate qubits, reducing decoherence by approximately 1,000 times.
Lately I’ve been craving data. Today’s flavor is information about petitions - specifically, the (presumed) rise in their use due to the interweb, and data about which, when, where, who, etc. of those petitions. Oh, and it’d be nice to know if they’re working. (I’m not a petition junkie but I probably sign more than most people and would like to know if it’s making a dent in the ridiculous structure of our planet.)
A data-hungry man can dream…
… or lazily post thoughts on the tubes like a careless message in a bottle…
p.s. I’m surprised most of you (apparently) don’t think we’ll acquire the power to destroy the universe. Not that I think such an idea is likely, but given humanity’s track record for developing science of mass destruction… idk, I just wouldn’t sweep it off the table of possibilities just yet.
What do you do if you’re driving down the motorway and 500 meters ahead of you there is an accident? Now there is an app that tells your car to stop. It does it in half the time of any of the applications, and in contrast to the systems already available on the market, not only does it act on what can be seen from your car but also on what is happening miles away… this automatic accident detection system could reduce the number of vehicles involved in pile-ups by up to 40 percent.
For now, at least, that’s what it does on paper and in computer simulations… Road tests will be carried out this summer…
"Basically, what we are doing is placing cars in peer to peer communication," comments Marco Roccetti, professor of Internet architecture at the University of Bologna…"The technologies we are using are already mature and available," says Alessandro Amoroso, another of the project’s authors. "It could be integrated directly into the car dashboard, or in the sat-nav. If the road tests go well, deciding whether or not to launch on the market is merely a commercial issue."
So, just a question, but do you think that humans (will) have the ability to destroy the Universe or reality etc? You know, like how they say, “Marty, that’ll mess up the space-time continuum!” - or something like that?
Do you think we may ever acquire that power (and any guesses as to how)?
Attach a lens to the back of a Windows 7 phone, take a drop of blood from the patient and you have instant results and huge improvement over the “current ‘state-of-the-art’ malaria detection method used in these areas [which] involves a cotton swap test that results in only 40% accuracy.”
So, yeah, did I mention how awesome smart-phones are becoming, particular for improving the medical field? Check out the link.
p.s. love this guy’s tumblr handle and logo; I also took a quick look at his blog - pretty cool stuff. I expect I’ll be reblogging some more from him soon.
Hello Future: A Printer That Makes Chairs, iPhones, Kidneys - & More Printers!!!
I hope you’re sitting down for this. If not, I can print a chair for you.
Some of you may have heard of 3D Printers while others are wondering what the heck that can even mean. Basically, a 3D Printer prints out objects. Typically it works by melting plastic into the shape of the object one layer at a time and stacked on top of one another. So, if it were printing a cup, it might spill out an ooze of plastic in the shape of a filled circle, maybe do that 2 more times on top of it, and then print out a hollowed circle, say, 50 more times on top of that. (Still confusing? Check out this video.) Voila! A cup!
Now, around a year ago was when I first started to get really interested in this - and I promised a post about it that somehow never happened, but there’ve been some great developments with the technology lately which reminded me that the post is long overdue.
In particular, I was blown away by a recent video (e.g. here) about a prototype 3D printer which, instead of using the typical heating elements and medium (e.g. plastic), was basically “desert powered”: It uses solar panels to power the electronics, solar rays and a huge magnifying glass to melt the material, and the material it uses is sand! The electronics guide the machine which then melts the sand into objects made of glass. Pretty amazing stuff. But that’s just the beginning.
There are different ways to make 3D printers and different kinds of mediums to use, ranging from wood to chocolate (yes, you can print 3D edible goodies). And there’s a lot to be said about it all. However, I want to stick to three main points.
But before continuing, I should caution that reading any further may - and likely will - result in mind-explosions and paradigm shifts. You are warned.
Interesting article from the New York Times about how the science “industry’s” interest in positive and novel findings has led to a less rigorous science community and thus less confidant scientific findings. It’s rather similar to newspapers running sensational stories without checking them out first, and perhaps only publishing a small “correction” later. Not a good situation.
In short, an important point and a good read. Check it out.
Last night I met up with some Tumblrs at the BetterWorlds “Immodest Proposals” discussion group. The conversation centered around why Americans work more - and for less - than other countries, and what will become of “work” in an automated future that has machines doing just about everything. Good fun, and the bar sported a Tardis.
A few minutes ago I noticed that some of my queued and drafted posts were gone. Which is really annoying since I spent quite some time on them yesterday. Gar! *sad panda* :(
But tonight I’ll be attending the AMNH science “tweetup” about “picturing science”. Should be pretty good and looking forward to seeing some of y’all there. :)
Just a thought... as mankind advances, are we getting closer to or further from nature?
Hmm, I like these sort of open-ended introspective questions.
Of course, it largely depends on what we mean by “closer to nature”. Our understanding of nature has increased, and compared to the last 50 years, I think our appeciation of our place in it is increasing. With issues like the loss of biodiversity and climate change and the push for a “greener” society, we are realizing that it’s a mistake to consider ourselves outside of nature, that it’s not good for the planet or for us.
However, I do worry that we are merely finding unnatural ways to nurture nature. For instance, it kinda blows my mind that one can walk in a city and not see dirt or water. Think about it: The surface of the earth is pretty much nothing but dirt or water, yet one can go days? weeks? months? without seeing it in a way more meaningful than a potted plant. Unnatural nature.
But the trend of finding analogs for natural things (e.g. artificial flavors, tanning booths, computer backgrounds displaying some of the only natural scenery most people tend to see) or ways to box in or present “potted” versions of nature (e.g. a pet, a plant, the yearly walk through the park) is part of a larger issues, as I see it, of humans, while striving for efficiency, relying on cheap simulations of reality - and losing touch with so much of what makes life gritty and wonderful.
But, like I said, things are changing. Who knows what the future will bring. If enough of this planet survives our unsustainable heritage and practices, the future may bring, I hope, some incredible technology, technology that helps us get in touch with ourselves and nature as a whole.
I was actually just thinking about this point earlier today. In short, I’m the kind of person who instinctively trusts - or, gives the benefit of the doubt - to people who are authorities in their particular field. There are exceptions - such as politicians! - but that’s basically how I work.
If that article had been the first time I’d heard about the idea, or if it sounded improbable to me, I’d be more skeptical. But yeah, it’s sortof old news and fits well with what I already understand of psych and neuroscience.
That said, I would not fault anyone for being skeptical in a situation, but if you asked me, I’d say not to completely dismiss things before one even has the chance to entertain the idea - even when being skeptical.
This is about Dr. Pepper - the drink - but also about you, me, sexual freedom, evolution, drugs, and more.
Do any of you remember a few years ago when all the soda companies were advertising how natural they are? “We’re only water, sugar, and natural flavor! How natural!” That was, more or less, what they were all saying. Not Dr. Pepper. They went the other way and came out with their 23(c) campaign: “We use no less than 23 different ingredients! It is a lab experiment run amok! … but it’s ridiculously tasty and the only way to make it! So grab your lab goggles and enjoy a beaker-full.” (At least that’s what I think when I drink it! lol)
Anyways, Dr. Pepper has something I call “synthenticity”: They embrace their truly concocted, synthetic nature. Now, aside from having been a refreshing and realistic ad campaign, it’s also a lesson for us: Do not think that we are much different.
When people speak of nature as something divine, something not to be tinkered with, I often wonder if they lack synthenticity. For instance, as someone interested in transhumanism, I often encounter much closed-mindedness about things such as significant life extention (say, an extra 200+ years). Now, I can understand that someone may simply not choose it, or that they think it’ll be bad for society, but for people to simply dismiss it as impossible (btw, I think it’s inevitable) or somehow “wrong” - that’s a different story. (And as I often point out, no-one seems to have a problem with antiperspirant.) It’s similar to discussions about homosexuality and whether it’s natural. Honestly, aside from the abundant evidence that it is a natural part of the world, for me the question is more fundamental: Who cares if it’s natural or not? Why does that even matter? Why do many only consider minds as a metaphysical phenomenon, their bodies as sacrosanct, our nature as divine? Why not consider the alternative - that we are exactly what we seem to be? We are molecules. We are star-dust that learned to speak. It was a neat trick, and took a few billion years, but it’s natural. We have evolved. We are mud that used what resources were around and whatever beneficial mutation got us through the day for whatever problem we had at the time. And we’ll continue to evolve - both naturally and artificially.
It also relates to medication. Some people don’t like the idea of taking medicine because it’s “artificial” and “full of chemicals”. Hello? WE ARE CHEMICALS!! If one would rather not take for whatever reason, that’s fine, but let’s face the facts of what we are. We need to purge this “natural superstition” from ourselves. (And myself included, btw.)
do you know if energy has some type of molecule? im trying to come up with an idea for a future tattoo.
I don’t think it does, but I’m not a physicist. However, I’ve always thought of it as sort of an abstraction, like love. It exists, but not in a specific form. But perhaps some other RCS readers will have something to add.
“It’s ridiculous to live 100 years and only be able to remember 30 million bytes. You know, less than a compact disc. The human condition is really becoming more obsolete every minute.”
That.... is only 30MB.
"Robert Birge (Syracuse University) who studies the storage of data in
proteins, estimated in 1996 that the memory capacity of the brain was
between one and ten terabytes, with a most likely value of 3
terabytes. Such estimates are generally based on counting neurons and
assuming each neuron holds 1 bit. Bear in mind that the brain has
better algorithms for compressing certain types of information than
It makes sense when you remember some people are fluently multilingual, and they can remember songs, and stories, and faces, and how to operate their body, ok 30MB is nothing... :P
Interesting but only of a somewhat technical import as far as the quote goes. (And I’m sure Minsky used whatever measurements were popular at the time.) After all, even if the human mind can store 10 tb, that’ll soon - due to Moore’s Law - be a trivial amount.
And it’s just one example. As our technology improves, we are gradually supplanting our human abilities. After all, most math for business is done on excel and much of manufacturing is already automated. Wikipedia and the internet is replacing the need to memorize data, and next generation electronics will quickly surpass even such amazing abilities as vision, hearing, and more (and in some ways already has). So, in short, I think Minsky is speaking to a larger point than just a particular technical stat.
This is one of the most transhumanist statements I’ve ever heard. It’s starkly real, a bit frightening, but can also inspire us to see how far we’ve come - and how far we can push ourselves still. No wonder it’s from Minksy.
Have you guys heard of Eureqa? I just learned of it from a Radiolab. And, frankly, it sounds unutterably amazing.
Basically, it’s the kind of narrow AI scientists have dreamed of: It will analyze experiments and derive patterns and laws from the data. (And with some extra gear, will perform much of the tedious experimental work too!)
Case in point: Using a double-pendulum it independently “thought up” the conservation of energy and F=MA. (Don’t ask me how; it’s all magic to me!)
That was some of its early results.
In fact, while this was first developed a few years ago - and is freely available for download - the only problem has been that Eureqa discovers such complex and novel patterns, researchers often don’t know what it means! Still helpful, but still confusing. So Eureqa’s developers have spent the past few years working on how to better enable the program to “explain” it’s findings. (Like I said, it’s all voodoo to me!)
The U of T researchers, led by Professor Ted Sargent, report the first efficient tandem solar cell based on colloidal quantum dots (CQD). “The U of T device is a stack of two light-absorbing layers — one tuned to capture the sun’s visible rays, the other engineered to harvest the half of the sun’s power that lies in the infrared,” said lead author Dr. Xihua Wang…
According to doctoral student Ghada Koleilat, “We needed a new strategy — which we call the Graded Recombination Layer — so that our visible and infrared light-harvesters could be linked together efficiently, without any compromise to either layer.”
The team pioneered solar cells made using CQD, nanoscale materials that can readily be tuned to respond to specific wavelengths of the visible and invisible spectrum. By capturing such a broad range of light waves — wider than normal solar cells — tandem CQD solar cells can in principle reach up to 42 per cent efficiencies…
"Building efficient, cost-effective solar cells is a grand global challenge…" Sargent is hopeful that in five years solar cells using the graded recombination layer.. will be integrated into building materials, mobile devices, and automobile parts. “The solar community — and the world — needs a solar cell that is over 10% efficient, and that dramatically improves on today’s photovoltaic module price points,” said Sargent. "This advance lights up a practical path to engineering high-efficiency solar cells that make the best use of the diverse photons making up the sun’s broad palette."
High-tech training may trump tax breaks for creating more jobs and improving a state’s economy, according to a team of economists.
"We found that lower state taxes were not statistically associated with a state’s economic performance," said Stephan Goetz, professor of agricultural economics and regional economics, Penn State. “The tax climate was not linked to either growth or income distribution.”…
While lower taxes were not factors in economic growth, the researchers.. said policies that promoted the use of high technology and entrepreneurship were significantly correlated with job creation and economic growth…
Goetz.. said lowering taxes is often categorized as a race-to-the-bottom policy and investing money in technology is considered a race-to-the-top strategy. “Race-to-the-top policies are generally defined as those involving investments in education, entrepreneurship and infrastructure,” said Goetz. “In contrast, race-to-the-bottom policies involve competition among the states for jobs by using lower taxes and industrial recruitment incentives.” Goetz said that the importance of finding the right mix of race-to-the-top and race-to-the-bottom policies to stir economic recovery is growing for state officials.
I wanted to post this bc it’s a study I don’t like. My issue is that yeast, unlike a great many multicellular species - like, hmm, humans and most of what we eat! - can adapt a lot faster. This is primarily because they reproduce quickly and exist in huge populations. Also, being an old species, they likely have old genes to help deal with various “stress” situations, genes which are more likely to be turned on than in more recent, slower-reproducing, smaller-population species.
So all I really get out of this study is that simple, unicellular organisms will likely survive climate change, but I never really doubted that. (And perhaps that we’ll all be eating a lot of Marmite in the near future.)
Evolution is usually thought to be a very slow process, something that happens over many generations, thanks to adaptive mutations. But environmental change due to things like climate change, habitat destruction, pollution, etc. is happening very fast. There are just two options for species of all kinds: either adapt to environmental change or become extinct. So, according to McGill biology professor, Andrew Gonzalez, the question arises, "Can evolution happen quickly enough to help a species survive?" The answer, according to his most recent study, published in Science, is a resounding yes…
Yeast was chosen for the experiment because a lot is known about the genetic makeup of this model organism and because it can reproduce in a matter of hours. Bell and Gonzalez used the robot to submit different yeast populations to varying degrees of environmental stress in the form of salt and so study evolutionary rescue, which is the ability of a population to adapt rapidly through evolution, in real time…
Gonzalez and his team were in effect watching evolution at work. And what they discovered is that it can happen surprisingly fast, within 50 to 100 generations. "The same general processes are occurring whether it’s yeast or mammals," said Gonzalez. “At the end of the day we can’t do the experiment with a panda or a moose, for example, because the time it would take to study their evolution is far longer than the time we have given the current rate of environmental change. At some point we have to work at the level of a model and satisfy ourselves that the basic reality we capture is sufficient to extrapolate from.” While there has been theoretical work on the subject done in the past, this is the first time anyone has done a practical experiment of this kind, and shown evolutionary rescue at work…
A 504-bed Midwestern health system saved up to 2,700 hours and $110,000 a year by creating a “Red Box” safe zone, a three-foot square of red duct tape extending from the threshold of the door, to facilitate communication with patients on isolation or “Contact Precautions,”…
Typically, HCPs must don personal protective equipment (PPE) before entering an isolated patient’s room before any type of communication. Dressing in gowns and gloves before each interaction is time-consuming, costly and creates communication barriers with patients. The study showed that HCPs could safely enter the Red Box area without PPE for quick communication and assessment…
In a satisfaction survey, 67% of healthcare workers said that the Red Box lessened barriers when communicating with patients. Also, 79.2% reported that the Red Box saved time in not having to put on and remove PPE. The same number said healthcare workers could assess and communicate with patients more easily. The box also serves as an additional visual cue to remind HCPs that they are entering an isolation room, which is usually only indicated by a sign outside the patient’s room…
"It costs as much as a roll of tape, and yet pays off with significant savings in time, money and increased satisfaction for both patients and staff."
Washington, DC: The DMV may soon be adding another little sticker to your car, but unlike the others, this one’s for you.
Lawmakers are considering adding an “advisory label" - a small, cautionary sticker - to the driver side window of passenger cars. Measuring approximately 8.5 by 5 cm, the labels are meant to encourage people to pursue alternative forms of transportation, such as public transit, but especially bicycling and walking.
The move was first proposed in the 1960’s by Citizens for American Health (CAH), a DC based non-profit lobbying agency, with the aim of reducing smog in cities and improving community health. Recently, it has been revived and seen as a means for also addressing problems ranging from the United States’ obesity epidemic to dilemmas as difficult as global warming.
"It’s about time that citizens were reminded of how cars, as a simple ‘shortcut,’ can actually create quite a few adverse effects", said Bill Brothers, Chairman of CAH. "When we were kids, it was easier: No-one realized how much cars contribute to these problems. We first started to get a glimpse of it with some smog cities. But even today, when people know about these problems, they don’t seem to remember or unable to muster the strength to make the better choice… We don’t see these labels as offensive. They’re just reminders, just like a mother would tell her child to button-up his coat in Winter. Well, just a reminder: There are better, healthier alternatives.”
So what are these alternatives? "Primarily walking and cycling", reads the official CAH proposal, "but with concessions for public transportation." Some in Washington, though, are worried that this may cost cities millions. “Many cities do not have the infrastructure to support such a surge in mass transit use”, cautioned one representative from Kentucky. “And the bicycling lanes are nearly non-existent. This can create serious problems and many accidents. The sidewalks too may require expansion.”
Still, the most debate surrounds the specific content of the advisory labels. While some have debated the merits of a small printed message (such as, “Caution: Driving cars contributes to pollution, global warming, and poor health”, as suggested by CAH), others have suggested using a token symbol, such as a bicycle and a tree - which has the obvious benefit of being “readable” from either side of the window. Still others have suggested using more stark messages, such as one frightening image which has been circling the net of a morbidly obese mother who is bed-ridden due to her weight and a heart condition. Lisa Marangue, from Shamrock, Texas, is the woman in the photo. She says she’s hoping the sight of her condition will discourage others from using cars so that she will not have suffered in vain. And with study participants showing the most positive results from disturbing images like Lisa’s, she may get her wish in the end, despite some dissent within the pro-label community about adopting such drastic measures.
However, many - such as auto-manufacturers, city and DMV officials, and libertarian organizations - are fighting the proposal, claiming it is one push too far.
"If I want to go for a leisurely drive or to pick up my kids, I don’t need a sign in my face with a picture of a smiling oak tree telling me to take the bus - let alone a photo of open-heart surgery" said one representative from Ford Motor Co. at a meeting last week. “No-one would allow this on a bag of [potato] chips…”
“Given how many skeletons there are in here, I am assuming the point of the Hall of Human Origins is that modern mad evolved from skeletons.”— Text message I got the other day from my friend David while he was visiting the AMNH. I got to say, it made me smirk.
A Web app tailors language learning to your ability, and turns the experience into a game.
A world memory champion and a neuroscientist have joined forces to create a language-learning website called Memrise, which combines mnemonic tricks with a game to help users learn quickly and efficiently. Its carefully paced learning structure and competitive points system, the app’s developers believe, make their site more effective than other language-learning tools.
Memrise makes learning a game with virtual gardens that users must tend. As they do, they also earn points and thereby fight their way up a community-wide leaderboard.
Mandarin Chinese and English are the only languages that have been rolled out yet, but others including French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Arabic can be used in beta form. The app was recently featured at this year’s Boston Techstars event, which presented startups that were chosen to receive investment.
The premise is that each word or phrase is a seed for users to plant in their gardens. A new word is planted when a user is exposed to it. Once planted, the seed sprouts in a few hours and must be harvested—that is, the user is tested, typically by having to type out words or choose characters, depending on the language. With each success, a plant is moved to a greenhouse, where it will thrive or wilt depending on how well the user tends it by practicing with the word.
So getting this. These kind of awesome apps make me want to dance. The future’s got amazing potential.