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April 02, 2008

Octopuses sometimes dress in drag

The Associated Press: Study: Octopuses Kinky Creatures of Sea

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Wild octopuses are far from the shy, unromantic loners their captive brethren appear to be, a new study finds. Marine biologists from the University of California, Berkeley, who journeyed off the coast of Indonesia to study octopus love lives found a kinky and violent society of jealous murders, gender subterfuge and once-in-a-lifetime sex.

The scientists watched the Abdopus aculeatus octopus, which are the size of an orange, for several weeks, in research published recently in the science journal Marine Biology. They witnessed picky, macho males carefully select a mate, then guard their newly domesticated digs so jealously that they would occasionally use their 8-to-10-inch tentacles to strangle to death a romantic rival.

The researchers also observed smaller "sneaker" male octopuses put on feminine airs, such as swimming girlishly near the bottom and keeping their male brown stripes hidden in order to win unsuspecting conquests.

March 26, 2008

Our brains were never meant to read

We were never meant to read - Telegraph

Reading, says Wolf, changed history. More than that, it changes the brain. It creates new pathways in the brain, and, by doing this, makes us think in new ways. When you read, you see letters written on a page, then you recognise them as representations of sounds made by the human voice, then you join the sounds together to make words, then you fit the words together into sentences.

This takes an amazing amount of ultra-fast processing. Brains that do this are different from brains that don't.

One important thing to bear in mind is that our brains did not evolve to read. They evolved to hunt and gather, make campfires and so on. This means that reading is an act of improvisation - when you read, you're actually using parts of the brain that were designed to do other things. You are, as it were, patching together several different technologies.

That's why lots of people can't read very well - until very recently in human history, the ability to read written language was not adaptive; it conferred no advantages. But 50,000 years ago, on the savannah or the steppes, the dyslexic brain might well have given its possessor an edge.

(via Bookninja)

March 25, 2008

Boomerangs work in zero gravity

Does a boomerang thrown in space return to its pitcher? - space - 24 March 2008 - New Scientist

My mind has been blown.

Does a boomerang thrown in space return to its pitcher? It does if it was thrown inside an airy environment like the International Space Station, a Japanese astronaut proved last week. But scientists say he would have had different results if he had tossed the boomerang outside the orbiting outpost.

Takao Doi, an astronaut with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, did the experiment while visiting the space station as part of NASA's latest space shuttle mission, which is scheduled to land on Wednesday.

The boomerang behaved no differently than on Earth, flying back to Doi after he threw it. "It flew just like on Earth, and I was really surprised and impressed," Doi told his wife in a chat from space, according to Japan's Mainichi Daily News.

March 24, 2008

Exposure to symbols and sigils can affect how you think

grinding.be -- Signs and Wonders

The team conducted an experiment in which 341 university students completed what they believed was a visual acuity task, during which either the Apple or IBM logo was flashed so quickly that they were unaware they had been exposed to the brand logo. The participants then completed a task designed to evaluate how creative they were, listing all of the uses for a brick that they could imagine beyond building a wall.

People who were exposed to the Apple logo generated significantly more unusual uses for the brick compared with those who were primed with the IBM logo, the researchers said. In addition, the unusual uses the Apple-primed participants generated were rated as more creative by independent judges.

“This is the first clear evidence that subliminal brand exposures can cause people to act in very specific ways,” said Greinne Fitzsimons. “We’ve performed tests where we’ve offered people $100 to tell us what logo was being flashed on screen, and none of them could do it. But even this imperceptible exposure is enough to spark changes in behavior.”

Other than their defined brand personalities, the researchers argue there is not anything unusual about Apple and IBM that causes this effect. The team conducted a follow-up experiment using the Disney and E! Channel brands, and found that participants primed with the Disney Channel logo subsequently behaved much more honestly than those who saw the E! Channel logos.