Thursday, August 29, 2013

Where Is Syria?

As world leaders continue to debate Syria and conversation amongst the commentariat focuses ever more sharply on whether we should go to war, the professional quiz masters over at usvsth3m have created an interactive map, asking ‘Do you know where Damascus is? The US and UK are probably about to bomb it.’


Players are asked to click on where they are from and then click on where they think Damascus is, before their accuracy is revealed. A heat map then appears, showing how their answers compare with all the others who take the quiz.

Given the widespread news coverage of Syria over the past week and frequent reporting of the conflict for the past twenty months, it seems surprising that anyone wouldn’t know where Damascus was.
But Rob Manuel of usvsth3m told the Independent that preliminary analysis showed 19 of 1,150 people who responded to the quiz this morning had done so from computers inside the Houses of Parliament. Of those responses, one guessed Damascus was in Western Mongolia.

He said "I can tell you that, as of writing this sentence, there have been 19 answers sent through the Houses of Parliament's proxy servers: 18 were very close, but one guess was in the middle of western Mongolia. I hope that respondent isn't in charge of anything military. "

There is more here.

Poverty Versus Mental Capacity

People who are poor expend so much mental energy on the immediate problems of paying bills or cutting costs that they are left with less capacity to deal with other complex but important tasks, including education, training or managing their time, suggests research published on Thursday.

The cognitive deficit of being preoccupied with money problems was equivalent to a loss of 13 IQ points, losing an entire night's sleep or being a chronic alcoholic, according to the study. The authors say this could explain why poorer people are more likely to make mistakes or bad decisions that exacerbate their financial difficulties.

Read more here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The WSJ Juicing Guide

'A juice bar...

...on every corner" could be the unofficial slogan of the Obama era. In New York, the trend hit critical mass in the last year or so, but long before that, there was Melvin Major, Jr. "When I got into juicing 23, 24 years ago, it was kale, collards, chard," he said of the prevailing circa-1990 approach. "I couldn't do all-green—it was too hard-core. I wanted a great taste."

Perhaps you will find that great taste with the help of some recipes here.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Goussainville-Vieux Pays

It was once the archetypal French village. Weekend markets with farmers selling local fresh produce drew hundreds to Goussainville-Vieux Pays’ squares, as church bells rang, and shops and cafes did a roaring trade.


But seemingly overnight Goussainville-Vieux Pays was left virtually deserted – a mixture of tragedy and noise pollution compelling the village’s rustic residents to abandon their homes, leaving them overgrown and rotting.
The problems can be traced back to the mid-1960s when plans were drawn up for a new airport to be built in the suburbs north of Paris.




Read more here.

The Mashco Piru Tribe, Peru

News emerged this week that an indigenous tribe in the Peruvian Amazon, the Mashco-Piro, has been trying to make contact with outsiders. In the past, the Mashco-Piro have always resisted interaction with strangers, avoiding – and sometimes killing – any they encounter. How should Western societies respond to these so-called uncontacted tribes? New Scientist looks at the issue.



How many uncontacted tribes are still left?

No one knows for sure. At a rough guess, there are probably more than 100 around the world, mostly in Amazonia and New Guinea, says Rebecca Spooner, of Survival International, a London-based organisation that advocates for the rights of indigenous peoples. Brazil's count is likely to be the most accurate. The government there has identified 77 uncontacted tribes through aerial surveys, and by talking to more Westernised indigenous groups about their neighbours.
There are thought to be around 15 uncontacted tribes in Peru, a handful in other Amazonian countries, a few dozen in the Indonesian part of the island of New Guinea and two tribes in the Andaman Islands off the coast of India. There may also be some in Malaysia and central Africa.

War Crimes: When Veterans Bring The Violence Back Home

At one point, one in five people behind bars in America were Vietnam veterans.

Now, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are increasingly showing up behind bars. Many experts are saying the common thread is often posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. While half of all Vietnam vets with PTSD have been in jail at least once, alarmingly many signs indicate that the numbers for veterans from these two recent wars could be even worse. In this episode, Vanguard correspondent and Navy SEAL, Kaj Larsen, examines the root factors of this growing trend.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Jeff Bridges & Photography

Jeff Bridges photographs the world he knows best: the movie sets he ends up in while he is working as an actor. Using a Widelux camera, each time he captures a world never seen before. And thus he produces a behind-the-scenes perspective of an industry many of us find intriguing.



His latest work documents the making of R.I.P.D. You can check it out here.

Van Morrison To Receive "Freedom of Belfast"

Van Morrison is to be granted the Freedom of Belfast.

The 68-year-old singer-songwriter, who was born in the east of the city, is likely to receive the accolade next year. Belfast City Council is expected to agree the honour - the highest it can bestow -at a meeting next month.

Read more here.

Female sexual desire?

What do women want? Sigmund Freud famously asked the question, but he didn't have an answer. Even today, the question of what motivates female sexual desire continues to resound. Definitive answers have proven elusive.



The female body,studies show, likes everything, or at least responds to everything (or does not know what it likes, the cynics will say). Female physiological arousal (as measured by vaginal lubrication) occurs in response to viewing most any type of sexual activity: man with woman, woman with woman, man with man. Even watching sex among Bonobo monkeys stimulates physiological arousal in women.
The prominent anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy of the University of California Davis has proposed that this all-inclusive arousal pattern is an evolutionary adaptation. According to this theory, the vagina immediately becomes moist at any hint of sexual activity in the vicinity so as to protect the woman from injury in the event of rape or sexual violence. This arousal is not necessarily related to the sexual desires, intents, or preferences of the woman. After all, women do not really want to have sex with Bonobos.

Indeed, it turns out that unlike men, women’s objective bodily responses don’t reflect their subjective mental desires. This is one reason Viagra does not work for women. Physical preparedness does not imply desire. That the woman can have sex does not mean she wants to.
So what does she want?

See if you can find out here.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The House In The Woods

Finnish photographer Kai Fagerström presents unique photo series, where he captures wild animals making themselves comfortable in abandoned houses in the woods of Finland. Titled The House in the Woods, the photo series is set in cottages near Kai’s summer house, which were abandoned by their tenants after the owner of the place died in a fire. Award-winning photographer noticed how the place was slowly being reclaimed by the nature, and what started as a few snapshots, ended up being a book, published in Finnish, German, and English.

Check it out here (via Bored Panda).



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Beautiful Minds

Scientific American has published an article about "the real neuroscience of creativity".

Neuroscientists are investigating what actually happens in the brain during the creative process. And their findings are overturning conventional notions surrounding the neuroscience of creativity.

The latest findings from the real neuroscience of creativity suggest that the right brain/left brain distinction is not the right one when it comes to understanding how creativity is implemented in the brain. Creativity does not involve a single brain region or single side of the brain.

Instead, the entire creative process– from the initial burst of inspiration to the final polished product– consists of many interacting cognitive processes and emotions. Depending on the stage of the creative process, and what you’re actually attempting to create, different brain regions are recruited to handle the task.

Green: the attentional control network - red: the imagination network
Importantly, many of these brain regions work as a team to get the job done, and many recruit structures from both the left and right side of the brain. In recent years, evidence has accumulated suggesting that “cognition results from the dynamic interactions of distributed brain areas operating in large-scale networks.”
Depending on the task, different brain networks will be recruited. For instance, if you’re attempting to mentally rotate an image in your mind (e.g., trying to figure out how to fit luggage into the trunk of your car), the Visuospatial Network is likely to be active. This network involves communication between the posterior parietal cortex and frontal eye fields.

Read more here about the networks which are involved.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Voices in Eleanor's Head

To all appearances, Eleanor Longden was just like every other student, heading to college full of promise and without a care in the world. That was until the voices in her head started talking. Initially innocuous, these internal narrators became increasingly antagonistic and dictatorial, turning her life into a living nightmare. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, hospitalized, drugged, Longden was discarded by a system that didn't know how to help her. Longden tells the moving tale of her years-long journey back to mental health, and makes the case that it was through learning to listen to her voices that she was able to survive.
Eleanor Longden overcame her diagnosis of schizophrenia to earn a master’s in psychology and demonstrate that the voices in her head were “a sane reaction to insane circumstances.”

Bad driving

According to The Guardian the following are 10 of the most interesting biases and errors we face when behind the wheel:

1. We fail to realize when we are being aggressive - or we do not care.
2. We believe we are safer than we really are.
3. We forget that other drivers are people too.
4. We behave more aggressively to those of "lower status".
5. We believe we can see everything happening around us.
6. We also believe other drivers cannot see us.
7. We attribute near misses to a lack of ability in other drivers.
8. We overestimate our own skills at the same time.
9. We drive more recklessly when we are going solo.
10. We believe hands free car phones are safe.

Read the whole article here.