Saturday, June 28, 2008

Why things cost $19.95

There were three scenarios involving different retail prices: one group of buyers was given a price of $5,000, another was given a price of $4,988, and the third was told $5,012. When all the buyers were asked to estimate the wholesale price, those with the $5,000 price tag in their head guessed much lower than those contemplating the more precise retail prices. That is, they moved farther away from the mental anchor. What is more, those who started with the round number as their mental anchor were much more likely to guess a wholesale price that was also in round numbers. The scientists ran this experiment again and again with different scenarios and always got the same result.
... a physician might say that your chance of responding to a medication is “good” or that your chance of responding is 80 percent. The percentage is more precise, but many studies have shown that patients prefer vague generalities like “good,”...

Miracle fruit makes (almost) everything delicious

Synsepalum dulcificum:

For about an hour after you eat it, everything sour tastes sweet... Scientists say a protein in the fruit works by binding to taste buds and altering the tongue's so-called sweet receptors to activate when sour foods are eaten. A French explorer known as the Chevalier des Marchais first encountered the effects in 1725 somewhere in West Africa, says Adam Gollner, who is writing a book about miracle fruit. The chevalier saw villagers eat the berry before consuming gruel and palm wine, so he gave it a try himself.

ZoomProspector -- geo data for businesses to select location

ZoomProspector aggregates information about various cities and communities - such as labor force sizes, unemployment rates, education levels, venture capital investments, and household incomes - and makes that info accessible through a map-based search tool.

SunHope solar balloons

"The design is also ideal for a multitude of off-the-grid applications, with the potential to bring power to deserts, isolated islands, ocean-bound freighters, and heavily forested landscapes. Additionally, the balloons’ eminently deployable nature makes them perfect for disaster and emergency situations, since the balloons are quick to set up and can be delivered via air. Cory and Gurfil have constructed several prototypes and have conducted research to show that a 10 ft balloon could provide around a kilowatt of energy (equivalent to 25 square meters of solar panels). Their target cost is $4,000 per balloon, compared to the $10,000 it would cost for a solar field producing the same amount of energy."

Glass chip spins silk

Inside the chip, the two proteins flow along tiny tubes and are exposed to a phosphate salt solution that makes them aggregate into tiny spheres 1 to 5 micrometres across.

A sudden jump in acidity and phosphate concentration then partially breaks open the spheres, allowing the proteins to latch together into chains. At this point, the flow speed increases and draws out the proteins into long silk fibres.

Creating fibres from two proteins was found to make the silk more chemically stable. The team has not tested the artificial silk's mechanical properties, but its grainy appearance suggests it does not yet rival the quality of the real thing.

Dutch bill to ban magic mushrooms

... the government's decision was prompted by the death of a 17-year-old French girl last year, who jumped from a bridge in Amsterdam.

But no formal link was established between her death and the use of mushrooms.

Other incidents involving the drug have included an Icelandic tourist jumping from a balcony and breaking both legs and a Danish tourist driving his car wildly through a camping ground, narrowly missing sleeping campers.

The ban on the cultivation and use of the mushrooms means most of Smart Shops will have to close.

The Horse, the Wheel, and Language

The book is subtitled "How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World". The link is to Marginal Revolution's excerpt; interesting take on ethnic identity:
And the same critical attitude toward bounded tribal territories is applied to European history. Ancient European tribal identities -- Celt, Scythians, Cimbri, Teoton, and Pict -- are now frequently seen as convenient names for chamelon-like political alliances that had no true ethnic identity, or as brief ethnic phenomena that were unable to persist for any length of time, or even as entirely imaginary later inventions.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Infected with insanity: Could microbes cause mental illness?

Not just prenatal.

GROU.PS -- all your collaboration tools in one place

The system supports wikis, photos, links, blogs, calendars, chat, forums, maps, profiles, and subgroups - each of which is available as a plug-and-play module for your community. These modules also allow users to pull in their data from other third party services (flickr, Digg, blogs, ...)

High temperature superconductor breakthroughs

Well, up to 52K anyways.

The field hasn't come to an agreement on to how to account for the behavior of cuprate high-temperature superconductors. It is believed that the layered structure of the cuprates, the ability of electrons to hop from copper ion to copper ion, and the shielding provided by copper-free layers all contribute to the superconductivity. Since these new materials also have a similar-ish layered structure, are bad conductors before they transition, and exhibit antiferromagnetism, it is hoped that they can offer new insights into a general mechanism(s) of high-temperature superconductivity.

How to remove permanent marker stains

Baking soda toothpaste

The goal of Buddhist practice

What the Buddha wants us to achieve is to have our mind awaken to itself (i.e., bodhicitta) instead of being asleep; deeply transfixed to the physical body. There exists a variety of practices because the nature of delusion is complex. Some people, therefore, require a different practice than others...

We must also be careful of not becoming a warden over the physical body as if it were a convict and needed constant monitoring.

Cultures of vengeance

Among Highland clans, each killing demands a revenge killing, so that a war goes on and on, unless political considerations cause it to be settled, or unless one clan is wiped out or flees. When I asked Daniel how the war that claimed his uncle's life began, he answered, "The original cause of the wars between the Handa and Ombal clans was a pig that ruined a garden." Surprisingly to outsiders, most Highland wars start ostensibly as a dispute over either pigs or women. Anthropologists debate whether the wars really arise from some deeper lying ultimate cause, such as land or population pressure, but the participants, when they are asked to name a cause, usually point to a woman or a pig.

Silly Putty light

The mushy lamps consist of an organic compound, which is coupled with ultraviolet light and a glasslike inorganic compound that gives the substance structural protection. The combo can handle temperatures to 500 degrees Celsius, uses half the power of typical fluorescent lights, and will last longer than white LEDs due to heat resistance.

Financial compensation for organ donors is working

... a non-profit, volunteer-run Dialysis and Transplant Patients Association (DATPA) mediates between recipients and donors. Recipients who cannot be assigned a kidney from a deceased donor and who cannot find a related living donor may apply to the DATPA. The DATPA identifies a possible donor from a pool of people who have applied to the DATPA to be donors. Donors are medically evaluated by transplant physicians, who have no connection to the DATPA, in just the same way as are non-financially compensated donors. The government pays donors $1,200 plus limited health insurance coverage. In addition, charitable organizations also provide renumeration to impoverished donors.

Boneheaded business decisions

Like thinking that there was no need to improve upon the Model T or thinking of the telephone as a toy.

Waterproof edible packaging

... adding beeswax to starch from peas produces an edible material that can be spread into thin films but is water resistant too.

Life Before Death -- before and after portrait series

Short profile and a quote excerpted from interviews with the photographers.

A smart Post-It

Ixp-Note is a new form of intelligent Post-It (TM) note. More than just a blank sticky note, the Ixp-Note allows the user to enter time and date of the future event. Using low cost electronic circuit printing technology, on paper, the user selects the time and date via touching the printed scroll strip with the finger. The user then writes the event to remember on the glow strip, which will flash or sound at the chosen time.

Brain tumor causes uncontrollable paedophilia

From a 2002 article.

In October 2001 he complained of headaches and secretly collected pornography once more. But after a MRI scan revealed tumour regrowth and it was removed, the behaviour again disappeared.

A list of biblical massacres

3. Doeg the Edomite killed 85 priests and all the men, women, children, infants, oxen, donkeys, and sheep with a sword. 1 Samuel 22:18-29

Cookie Monster takes a look in the mirror

Me thinks me have serious problem. Me thinks me addicted. But since when it acceptable to call addict monster? It affliction. It disease. It burden. But does it make me monster?

BananaSplitter -- split an avi into two segments

Bypassing codecs or any external libraries.

Just how safe is vitamin supplementation?

Megadoses of E, for example, can increase the risk of bleeding if you’re already on heart meds like blood thinners. An earlier 2004 analysis by Johns Hopkins researchers found consuming 400 IU or more of vitamin E a day alone (some products on the market today contain 1,000 IU per capsule) was associated with a higher risk of dying and should be avoided. (One theory says high doses may alter your natural immune function and actually become pro-oxidant.) Taking too much niacin without a doctor’s okay can lead to liver damage and other problems over time. And too much vitamin A increases the risk of liver and lung cancers, and can cause birth defects and reduce bone density.

Maxim's sexiest vegetarians

10. Kylie Bax.

Europe's philosophy of failure

Orienting kids to hate markets and free enterprise is a setup for some real pain.

Shape-shifting skin to reduce drag on planes and subs

One design uses "legs" just beneath the skin that lengthen under the influence of an electric field, bending the skin upwards. By controlling the field around each piezoceramic leg, Lagoudas’ team can deform the skin into corrugations of right wavelength and amplitude to cut down drag.

Beef and dairy farming leave much bigger carbon footprint than food transport

Final delivery leg not as important as production practices.

Historical figures with the weirdest deaths

Like sex unto death and farting out your innards.

FastStone Capture -- screenshot app

Can save captures in various formats (bmp, gif, jpeg, pcx, png, tga, tiff and pdf), and send anyscreenshot to your image editor of choice, printer, email client, open it in a Word or Powerpoint doc, or upload it to an ftp site. Can also annotate.

Molecules that sef-assemble into nanofiber scaffolding for nerve growth

Just inject into spinal cord of paralyzed mouse, et voila, function restored:

The new material is different because the researchers can inject it as a liquid directly into the spinal cord. Negatively charged molecules in the liquid start clumping together when they come in contact with positively charged particles such as calcium and sodium ions in the body. The molecules self-assemble into hollow, cylindrical nanofibers, which form a scaffold that can trap cells. On the surface of the nanofibers are biological molecules that inhibit scars and encourage nerve fibers to grow.