MonthJanuary 2009

Obscuring the truth for a living

In the wake of the mercury in high fructose corn syrup making rounds this week, Johnny Brainwash has some info about the flacks trying to defend the good name of the corn refinement industry, as well as illuminating information about how they operate.

Full Story:

Italy bans kebabs and foreign food from cities

The tomato comes from Peru and spaghetti was probably a gift from China.

It is, though, the “foreign” kebab that is being kicked out of Italian cities as it becomes the target of a campaign against ethnic food, backed by the centre-right Government of Silvio Berlusconi.

The drive to make Italians eat Italian, which was described by the Left and leading chefs as gastronomic racism, began in the town of Lucca this week, where the council banned any new ethnic food outlets from opening within the ancient city walls.

Yesterday it spread to Lombardy and its regional capital, Milan, which is also run by the centre Right. The antiimmigrant Northern League party brought in the restrictions “to protect local specialities from the growing popularity of ethnic cuisines”.

Full Story: the Times

(via Fadereu)

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Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don’t Go


The author of this essay has posted two follow-ups:

Just Don’t Go, Part 2

The Big Lie About the ‘Life of the Mind’

The follow-up letters I receive from those prospective Ph.D.’s are often quite angry and incoherent; they’ve been praised their whole lives, and no one has ever told them that they may not become what they want to be, that higher education is a business that does not necessarily have their best interests at heart. Sometimes they accuse me of being threatened by their obvious talent. I assume they go on to find someone who will tell them what they want to hear: “Yes, my child, you are the one we’ve been waiting for all our lives.” It can be painful, but it is better that undergraduates considering graduate school in the humanities should know the truth now, instead of when they are 30 and unemployed, or worse, working as adjuncts at less than the minimum wage under the misguided belief that more teaching experience and more glowing recommendations will somehow open the door to a real position.

Most undergraduates don’t realize that there is a shrinking percentage of positions in the humanities that offer job security, benefits, and a livable salary (though it is generally much lower than salaries in other fields requiring as many years of training). They don’t know that you probably will have to accept living almost anywhere, and that you must also go through a six-year probationary period at the end of which you may be fired for any number of reasons and find yourself exiled from the profession. They seem to think becoming a humanities professor is a reliable prospect — a more responsible and secure choice than, say, attempting to make it as a freelance writer, or an actor, or a professional athlete — and, as a result, they don’t make any fallback plans until it is too late.

Full Story: The Chronicle of Higher Education

(via Cryptogon)

Free advice for humanities majors looking for work: if you don’t have the aptitude or desire to get into the IT industry, consider becoming a sales rep for a wholesaler or manufacturer (here’s why).

Ant Nest Metropolis

As part of the documentary Ants! Nature’s Secret Power, cement was poured into an ant colony, allowed to harden, and then excavated to reveal an amazing metropolis:

Design by Superorganism

Check out the end of the video for to reveal an ant project equivalent to the Great Wall of China.   Could this be a model for producing emergent structures with nanotechnology?

I’ve got to admit, though, as more than one person has commented on various blogs, what they did in this video really sucks for the ants.Sorta like if giant aliens filled all the buildings in Manhattan with super alien epoxy and made a mold while recording the whole thing…which could make a great movie!! Mutual of Alpha Centauri’s Wild Kingdom. “Now, as you can see when we move in among these structures, these small creatures begin moving in all directions, probably as a strategy to confuse predators. My assistant, Snrblxx, will now start pumping in the quick setting polymer gel.”

Don’t Do This

Programmable Signs Provide Important Warnings

Ever wondered about those ADDCO portable signs you see flashing road conditions or other important information by the side of the road?  While Technoccult and its associates certainly do not approve of any illegal actions and you should never, ever tamper with these signs, the folks over at have provided a detailed set of instructions here, just in case you needed to determine WHAT NOT TO DO.

New Ads Watch You Watching Them

Increasingly, small cameras are being embedded in video screens in malls, health clubs, and grocery stores both to determine who is watching and to customize what is displayed to the audience.

Small cameras can now be embedded in the screen or hidden around it, tracking who looks at the screen and for how long. The makers of the tracking systems say the software can determine the viewer’s gender, approximate age range and, in some cases, ethnicity — and can change the ads accordingly.

That could mean razor ads for men, cosmetics ads for women and video-game ads for teens.

And even if the ads don’t shift based on which people are watching, the technology’s ability to determine the viewers’ demographics is golden for advertisers who want to know how effectively they’re reaching their target audience.

While the technology remains in limited use for now, advertising industry analysts say it is finally beginning to live up to its promise. The manufacturers say their systems can accurately determine gender 85 to 90 percent of the time, while accuracy for the other measures continues to be refined.

The full article can be found here, but I was most interested by the links at the bottom of the article showing the players in this area:


TruMedia Technologies:

Studio IMC:

Reading Changes Brain as Well as Mind

Brains scans show activation during narrative.

An article by Gerry Everding from discusses reseach demonstrating that various regions of the brain are activated by reading fiction.

A new brain-imaging study is shedding light on what it means to “get lost” in a good book — suggesting that readers create vivid mental simulations of the sounds, sights, tastes and movements described in a textual narrative while simultaneously activating brain regions used to process similar experiences in real life.

“Psychologists and neuroscientists are increasingly coming to the conclusion that when we read a story and really understand it, we create a mental simulation of the events described by the story,” says Jeffrey M. Zacks, study co-author and director of the Dynamic Cognition Laboratory at Washington University in St. Louis.

The study, forthcoming in the journal Psychological Science, is one of a series in which Zacks and colleagues use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to track real-time brain activity as study participants read and process individual words and short stories.

Hey, pathworking and other forms of guided imagery actually do something measurable!  Why, that means that role-playing games…umh…uh, oh.

New $3 LED Bulb Lasts 60 Years

The battle between CFL and LED bulbs may finally be over thanks to researchers at Cambridge University who have developed a $3 LED bulb that lasts for 60 years. The bulb, which is smaller than a penny, is 12 times more efficient than tungsten bulbs and three times more efficient than fluorescent bulbs.

Cambridge’s new 100,000 hour, mercury-free LED bulb uses a man-made semiconductor called gallium nitride that is grown on a cheap silicon wafer. Previously, gallium nitride has only been grown on pricey sapphire wafers.

According to researchers working on the project, the first low-cost LED bulbs could be in stores as early as 2011.

Full Story: Cleantechnica

(Thanks Appropedia)

Infrastructure for anarchists

Outline for Vinay Gupta’s talk The Temporary School of Thought.

Full Story: How to Live Wiki

This has been on my mind a lot lately since the gas heater in my apartment went out, and the gas company didn’t come look at it for a week. Turns out my building’s manager’s heat went out earlier in the winter and it took a month to fix. My partner and I were blowing fuses nearly daily because of the electric heater we were using.

Human Sewage to Power Buses in Norway

It is available for free in huge quantities, is not owned by Saudi Arabia and it contributes minimally towards climate change. The latest green fuel might seem like the dream answer to climate crisis, but until recently raw sewage has been seen as a waste disposal problem rather than a power source. Now Norway’s capital city is proving that its citizens can contribute to the city’s green credentials without even realising it.

In Oslo, air pollution from public and private transport has increased by approximately 10% since 2000, contributing to more than 50% of total CO2 emissions in the city. With Norway’s ambitious target of being carbon neutral by 2050 Oslo City Council began investigating alternatives to fossil fuel-powered public transport and decided on biomethane.

Biomethane is a by-product of treated sewage. Microbes break down the raw material and release the gas, which can then be used in slightly modified engines. Previously at one of the sewage plants in the city half of the gas was flared off, emitting 17,00 tonnes of CO2. From September 2009, this gas will be trapped and converted into biomethane to run 200 of the city’s public buses.

Full Story: EcoWorldly

(via Appropedia)

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