Digital Genetics

Society

Change Blindness

by on Mar.12, 2012, under Psychology, Society

Youtube user trutapes has posted a fascinating video of an experiment testing a phenomenon called Change Blindess.

Change blindness is the phenomenon that occurs when a person viewing a visual scene apparently fails to detect large changes in the scene. For change blindness to occur, the change in the scene typically has to coincide with some visual disruption such as a saccade (eye movement) or a brief obscuration of the observed scene or image. When looking at still images, a viewer can experience change blindness if part of the image changes.”

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Liquefication, promession & the mushroom death suit

by on Aug.31, 2011, under cool, nature, science, Society, technology

Have you ever considered the manner in which your body is disposed of when you die? Often I have pondered my existence on this comparatively tiny blue planet of ours, but never have I really considered this.

Until recently I thought that there were really only two options, burial and cremation, but prompted by a recent article by Neil Bowdler on the BBC News website, I started to research the subject in more depth, and now I realise that body disposal has become quite creative.

In his article, titled “New body ‘liquefaction’ unit unveiled in Florida funeral home‘ neil describes a device which works by:

Submerging the body in a solution of water and potassium hydroxide which is pressurised to 10 atmospheres and heated to 180C for between two-and-a-half and three hours.
Body tissue is dissolved and the liquid poured into the municipal water system. Mr Sullivan, a biochemist by training, says tests have proven the effluent is sterile and contains no DNA, and poses no environmental risk.

Whilst it may seem macarbe, this technique is far more environmentally friendly that tradition cremation techniques. For example, through the use of cremation, a single person can contribute over 200kg of air emissions.


Fig 1
the “alkaline hydrolysis” unit installed at a Florida funeral home.

In contrast to this method, Neil also discusses an alternate approach titled ‘Promession’. Promession is the brain child of a Swedish biologist named Susanne Wiigh-Masak, and is likened to a method of composting.

Promession is described as:

The process involves a fully automated and patented machine. Coffins are fed in one end, and the body removed from the coffin within the unit and then treated with liquid nitrogen.

The body is then vibrated until the body fragments, after which the remains are dried and refined further, and then passed through filters to remove metals, including dental amalgam. The remains are then poured into a square biodegradable coffin, again automatically, for shallow burial.

The combination of the tiny body fragments and the square biodegradable coffin, results in a smaller burial plot and hastens the decomposition process. Whilst I like the sound of my body getting so jiggy with it, that it breaks into thousands of pieces allowing for bite sized morsels for all sorts of soil bacteria and underground creatures, it is nowhere near as cool as the mushroom death suit!

The mushroom death suit is the work of an artist by the name of Jae Rhim Lee. Basicallly, it is a body suit embroidered with thread infused with mushroom spores. The design of which is inspired by the dendritic growth of mushroom mycelium.

According to Jae Rhim Lee the suit:

Is accompanied by an Alternative Embalming Fluid, a liquid spore slurry, and Decompiculture Makeup, a two-part makeup consisting of a mixture of dry mineral makeup and dried mushroom spores and a separate liquid culture medium. Combining the two parts and applying them to the body activates the mushroom spores to develop and grow.

The project is currently growing and training various mushroom cultivars in the hope of producing what she refers to as the ‘infinity mushroom’.

Jae Rhim Lee is training fungi to consume her own body tissue and excretions–skin, hair, nails, blood, bone, fat, tears, urine, feces, and sweat. The fungi have been chosen for their potential to utilize the nutrients in human tissue and to remediate industrial toxins in soil.

How do you plan to go in the end?

To read Neil Bowdler’s full article on liquefication and promession, visit:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14114555

To learn more about the mushroom death suit, visit:
http://infinityburialproject.com/mushroom

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An Age of Rage?

by on Jul.26, 2011, under Internet, Psychology, Society

Tim Adams (The Observer) in his article ‘How the internet created an age of rage’, details his argument that the internet has created a cloak of anonymity, allowing its netizens the freedom (or deindividuation) to descend into new levels of hatred.

Here is an excerpt of the article:

“The worldwide web has made critics of us all. But with commenters able to hide behind a cloak of anonymity, the blog and chatroom have become forums for hatred and bile. … The psychologists call it ‘deindividuation.’ It’s what happens when social norms are withdrawn because identities are concealed. The classic deindividuation experiment concerned American children at Halloween. Trick-or-treaters were invited to take sweets left in the hall of a house on a table on which there was also a sum of money. When children arrived singly, and not wearing masks, only 8% of them stole any of the money. When they were in larger groups, with their identities concealed by fancy dress, that number rose to 80%. The combination of a faceless crowd and personal anonymity provoked individuals into breaking rules that under ‘normal’ circumstances they would not have considered. … One simple antidote to this seems to rest in the very old-fashioned idea of standing by your good name. Adopt a pseudonym and you are not putting much of yourself on the line. Put your name to something and your words are freighted with responsibility.”

For the full article, visit http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/jul/24/internet-anonymity-trolling-tim-adams

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Philip Zimbardo shows how people become monsters … or heroes

by on Jul.21, 2011, under Psychology, Society

Philip Zimbardo is an American Psychologist, best know for his work on the Stanford Prison Experiment. In this TED video, Philip presents  a seemingly positive message encapsulated within a disturbing view of human nature & psychology.

Warning: This video contains graphic imagery of a disturbing nature

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Protecting your online presence

by on Jun.14, 2011, under Internet, Security, Society, technology

Imagine you were one of the millions of account holders which were recently compromised when sony’s security was breached by hackers! It was not simply credit card details which were stolen, but personal details as well. Unfortunately, events like these are becoming increasingly common.

Protecting your online presence extends beyond simply thinking about what information you share on social media sites.  So what exactly can each of us do to ensure that we protect our privacy online? the answer to this is simple:

  • Limit the personal information you reveal. Just because a website is asking for personal details, that doesnt mean you are obligated to provide that information. In fact, you make it easier for identity thieves when you make lots of information about yourself public.
  • Think about how you are disposing of your personal documents – A shredder is a cost-effective way to safely destroy personal documents, and the resulting waste can be easily recycled or even used in the garden as mulch.
  • Avoid making online purchases or checking banks or investment websites on a public Wi-Fi network (ie. free internet at mcdonalds or your favourite coffee shop, internet cafe’s etc).
  • NEVER use the same passwords between websites. If the details from one website or organisation is compromised, then your banking and social media accounts such as facebook or twitter may also be compromised as well.
  • Check online privacy settings so you are aware of how your information is used – Find out what someone else intends to do with your information, exercise your right to choose who sees your posts when social networking and ‘opt out’ of receiving marketing material from third parties (if you choose to).

For help choosing suitably strong passwords for your favourite websites, checkout the following youtube video titled ‘How to choose a strong password – simple tips for better security‘.

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MIT Scientist Captures 90,000 Hours of Video of His Son’s First Words & Graphs It

by on Mar.08, 2011, under Family, Psychology, science, Society

MIT cognitive scientist Deb Roy, started a project five years ago, upon bringing his newborn son home from the hospital, to record his family’s movement and speech inside their house. Since then, Roy has used various techniques to analyze and distill the 200 terabytes of raw data into useful and interesting visualizations.

“For example, Roy was able to track the length of every sentence spoken to the child in which a particular word — like ‘water’ — was included. Right around the time the child started to say the word, what Roy calls the ‘word birth,’ something remarkable happened. ‘Caregiver speech dipped to a minimum and slowly ascended back out in complexity.’ In other words, when mom and dad and nanny first hear a child speaking a word, they unconsciously stress it by repeating it back to him all by itself or in very short sentences. Then as he gets the word, the sentences lengthen again. The infant shapes the caregivers’ behavior, the better to learn.”

Roy also compiled videos showing each time his son used certain words over a period of many months, clearly illustrating how those parts of the child’s linguistic capabilities evolved over time.

Click here for the full length article

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Deindividuation

by on Feb.21, 2011, under Psychology, Society

Thanks to a cross-post from jasco, I found a fascinating and thought-provoking article delving into the concept of deindividuation. According to wikipedia, Deindividation is ‘immersion in a group to the point at which the individual ceases to be seen as such‘ (https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Deindividuation).

According to David RcRaney, the misconception is that ‘people who riot and loot are scum who were just looking for an excuse to steal and be violent’, where in fact the truth is that within a group ‘you are prone to losing your individuality and become absorbed into a hivemind under the right conditions’.

David McRaney writes:

Police and firefighters are well aware of this tendency for crowds to gather and taunt, and this is why they tape off potential suicide scenes and get the crowd out of shouting distance. The risk of a spontaneous cheering section goading a person into killing themselves is high when people in a group feel anonymous and are annoyed or angry. It only takes one person to get the crowd going. Those are the three ingredients – anonymity, group size and arousal. If you lose your sense of self, feel the power of a crowd and then get slammed by a powerful cue from the environment – your individuality may evaporate.

Within a crowd like this many will retain their sense of right and wrong. Some are able to maintain their composure. Many who witnessed these events felt terrible about what happened and condemned those who encouraged the jumpers, going so far as to condemn humanity itself after seeing such a dark display. What they didn’t realize, and what the people yelling didn’t anticipate, was the predictability and regularity of the behavior.

This is going to be hard to believe, but this sort of behavior could be inside you as well. Under the right circumstances, you too might yell “Jump!”

The full article is available via the URL:
http://youarenotsosmart.com/2011/02/10/deindividuation/

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Moving forward?

by on Jan.24, 2011, under Environment, nature, Society, technology

According to a recent article posted on the Globe and mail website:

In September, a privately held and highly secretive U.S. biotech company named Joule Unlimited received a patent for “a proprietary organism” – a genetically engineered cyanobacterium that produces liquid hydrocarbons: diesel fuel, jet fuel and gasoline. This breakthrough technology, the company says, will deliver renewable supplies of liquid fossil fuel almost anywhere on Earth, in essentially unlimited quantity and at an energy-cost equivalent of $30 (U.S.) a barrel of crude oil. It will deliver, the company says, “fossil fuels on demand.”

Whilst it is an obvious step forward in terms of technology and zero dependence of raw materials, agricultural land, crops (ie. ethanol) or fresh water, i’m not convinced this is a step in a positive environment-oriented direction. It is essentially (as the globe and mail suggested) liquid hydrocarbons on demand.

For the full article, go to:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/opinion/a-brave-new-world-of-fossil-fuels-on-demand/article1871149/

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Are you ready for the 21st Century

by on Nov.29, 2010, under Internet, Society, technology

“Intuitively, people everywhere are now sensing that they are living on credit … borrowing from the future in terms of the economy, the environment and sources of energy. People from all walks of life are beginning to realize they are borrowing from an uncertain future to finance current levels of prosperity. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that the current models for society are mortgaging the quality of life from future generations in order to fulfill current desires.

Thus, mental models are beginning to change, and people don’t want a range of disparate studies on various disconnected problems; rather, they are seeking concrete analyses and approaches that can help redirect or remedy difficult and complex situations.”

For more information visit: http://www.constellationw.com/

Are You Ready for the 21st Century ? from Michel Cartier on Vimeo.

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Underwater Sculpture by Jason deCaires Taylor

by on Oct.14, 2010, under Art, nature, Society

What an inspirational and beautiful example of art. Not only will art like this drive further tourism dollars, but has the more important side effect of creating further awareness about our sensitive oceanic diversity and our need to protect it. Well done Jason!

“The first 200 sculptures are ready to be deployed in Cancun, Mexico in what will soon be the largest underwater museum in the world. The Museum of Underwater Art, created by internationally renowned sculpture and installation artist Jason deCaires Taylor, will feature more than 400 statues of real people when completed, forming a monumental artificial reef designed to promote marine life, increase bio-diversity and draw Cancun visitors gently away from existing reef habitats.” (GreenMuze 15 June, 2010. Retreived from http://www.greenmuze.com/nature/oceans/2742-cancun-underwater-sculpture-museum.html)

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