вторник, 31 марта 2009 г.

Are your eyes playing tricks on you?

Most people (even many who work on the brain) assume that what you see is pretty much what your eye sees and reports to your brain. In fact, your brain adds very substantially to the report it gets from your eye, so that a lot of what you see is actually "made up" by the brain.

Some special features of the anatomy of the eyeball make it possible to demonstrate this to yourself. The front of the eye acts like a camera lens, differently directing light rays from each point in space so as to create on the back of the eye a picture of the world. The picture falls on a sheet of photoreceptors (red in the diagram), specialized brain cells (neurons) which are excited by light.

The sheet of photoreceptors is much like a sheet of film at the back of a camera. But it has a hole in it. At one location, called the optic nerve head, processes of neurons collect together and pass as a bundle through the photoreceptor sheet to form the optic nerve (the thick black line extending up and to the left in the diagram), which carries information from the eye to the rest of the brain. At this location, there are no photoreceptors, and hence the brain gets no information from the eye about this particular part of the picture of the world. Because of this, you should have a "blind spot" (actually two, one for each eye), a place pretty much in the middle of what you can see where you can't see.

Look around
. Do you see a blind spot anywhere? Maybe the blind spot for one eye is at a different place than the blind spot for the other (this is actually true), so you don't notice it because each eye sees what the other doesn't. Close one eye and look around again. Now do you see a blind spot? Hmm. Maybe its just a little TINY blind spot, so small that you (and your brain) just ignore it. Nope, its actually a pretty BIG blind spot, as you'll see if you look at the diagram below and follow the instructions.

Close your left eye and stare at the cross mark in the diagram with your right eye. Off to the right you should be able to see the spot. Don't LOOK at it; just notice that it is there off to the right (if its not, move farther away from the computer screen; you should be able to see the dot if you're a couple of feet away). Now slowly move toward the computer screen. Keep looking at the cross mark while you move. At a particular distance (probably a foot or so), the spot will disappear (it will reappear again if you move even closer). The spot disappears because it falls on the optic nerve head, the hole in the photoreceptor sheet.

So, as you can see, you have a pretty big blind spot, at least as big as the spot in the diagram. What's particularly interesting though is that you don't SEE it. When the spot disappears you still don't SEE a hole. What you see instead is a continuous white field (remember not to LOOK at it; if you do you'll see the spot instead). What you see is something the brain is making up, since the eye isn't actually telling the brain anything at all about that particular part of the picture.


суббота, 28 марта 2009 г.

How to spot weak arguments

When you’re debating, you’ll come up against many styles of arguing, based on all different levels of arguing. If you’re in the debate to win, you’ll have to spot the flaws in opposing arguments and point them out, or exploit them like a weak spot. Sometimes it’s as easy as listening for fuzzy words. Here are some words and phrases that are easy indications of flaws:

many, all, a lot, every, none, nobody, much, more - Solid arguments use actual numbers with references to their source. These words can indicate implied statistics that show the debater is making up a fact rather than working off real data. Example: “Many Christians disagree”

never, always, usually, tend, trend - These may be blanket statements that imply cause and effect, or assumptions about overall responses and opinions that don’t hold up under scrutiny. Example: “the rich have always been getting richer”

I, I don’t think, I believe - including yourself in the argument can indicate thinking personal experience equals the overall trend. If the debate is not a poll or about individual views, this can be Hasty Generalization. Someone who manages to use words from two categories:”I always choose to wear one” From: Man vs. Elephant : can you escape?“I am much more shifty than an elephant and would be able to escape if ONE was chasing me in a large field by cutting and weaving.”and one rebuttal that found the critical flaw:”Elephants charge at up to 25mph. Way faster than you can run…”

So next time you’re arguing with friends or proving your point in an online debate, listen in for these hints for weak arguments and when you make your response make it stronger by avoiding the same flaws.


воскресенье, 22 марта 2009 г.

12 year old boy invents new type of solar cell

Now here's a story that makes me feel profoundly unaccomplished: a 12 year old boy in Beaverton, Oregon recently developed a new type of 3D solar cell that makes other solar cells look inefficient by comparison.

William Yuan's 3D cell can absorb both visible and UV light. According to his calculations, solar panels equipped with his 3D cells could provide 500 times more light absorption than current commercial solar cells and nine times more light than existing 3D solar cells.

Yuan received a well-deserved $25,000 scholarship for his research. The next step? Getting his invention to market. Of course, the viability of his solar cells will ultimately depend on their cost efficiency-but Yuan has his whole life ahead of him to work on that.


Creationists can't fail Earth Science: Oklahoma

The Oklahoma House of Representatives has passed a bill that says that a student can receive a passing grade in an Earth Science class if they say that the Flying Spaghetti Monster created the Earth an hour ago, and then planted false memories into every single living creature on Earth to make it seem like they've been around longer.

Of course, that's not the intent of the bill. The intent is that a student can say the Earth is 6000 years old and still get a passing grade. The bill itself says that a student cannot be graded down if they say that what they are being taught interferes with their religious beliefs.

Specifically, the bill states:

A school district shall treat a student's voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint, if any, on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner the district treats a student's voluntary expression of a secular or other viewpoint on an otherwise permissible subject and may not discriminate against the student based on a religious viewpoint expressed by the student on an otherwise permissible subject.

It's the "otherwise permissible subject" phrase that's sticky. That can easily be interpreted as meaning tests, besides just normal classroom discussion.

For a long time, I have been disquieted by the fact that many people want to give patently ridiculous ideas as much standing as reality. One problem with this is that once you open the door to fantasy, any and all flavors of it can walk on through, as in the example above. But it also elevates fantasy to the same level as reality, and that is simply wrong.

I taught a few classes back when I was a grad student. If someone had answered a question on a test saying the Earth was 6000 years old, I would have marked it as incorrect. That's because - and sit down for this breaking news - that answer is wrong. The student could complain, they could take it to the dean, the president, the Supreme Court for all I care - I wouldn't have backed down. Wrong is wrong.

I don't care what your religious belief is, there are some things that are simple facts. An object with mass has gravity. A lump of lithium dropped into water will create heat and hydrogen gas. An accelerating charged particle will emit radiation. These are facts. It doesn't matter what you believe: reality is that which, when you go to sleep, doesn't go away.

What I find most ironic about this legislation - and there is a rich, rich field of irony to choose from - is that it was passed by conservatives, people who no doubt would rail against political correctness and relativism (for example, the bill's primary author, Sally Kern, has spoken clearly about her being against "the gay lifestyle" - she even compares being gay to cancer), yet this is exactly what this legislation is all about. The problem here is that they are trying to legislate relativistic reality. And that's simply wrong.

And it's not like they have to go far to see what a disaster this bill will create: Texas is already in a peck o' trouble for passing a similar law.

This bill still has to pass Oklahoma's state Senate before it becomes a law. If that happens, Oklahoma will have taken a long stride back into the Dark Ages. I'll be honest: if I were an employer, or a University recruiter, and the bill becomes law, I would look very skeptically at any application that came to my desk from a student who graduated in Oklahoma. That makes me sad, but that is the reality Oklahoma is aiming toward.

For more about this horrid bill, check out Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education. Also, evidently this bill will also allow the straightforward teaching of religion in school. Mainstream Baptist has something to say about that.


I would have stood in front of it with my stick and sword and said... YOU SHALL NOT PASS!

When the weather turned violent and stormy on Tuesday evening, Lori Mehmen looked out her front door in Orchard, Iowa and this is what she saw. She had a digital camera handy, and somehow managed to take this photo before crapping her pants and taking cover. This, my friends, is why always having a camera nearby is helpful. Oh, and no one was injured during this tornado, fortunately.

P.S. "The picture has been proven to be an image taken by a local in Orchard. The storm was an isolated supercell that developed along the edge of weak warm front in northern Iowa. The storm was first severe warned, but then also tornado warned as it showed a very nice lowered wall cloud with broad rotation. The storm never produced a tornado, and to my knowledge never had anything more than good sized hail and a broad rotating wall cloud with the usual scud along its' edges."


среда, 18 марта 2009 г.

42 Unusually Brilliant Business Card Designs [PICS]

metal business card designs

In today’s tech-oriented world of short attention spans it is more important than ever to make a compelling first impression. A brilliant business card that speaks to your profession, serves some unusual function or that transforms into something else can be a great way to grab attention and inspire those you meet. Organized by category here are 42 extremely creative business card designs. Some of these are old, some new, but all are still amazing examples of out-of-the-box thinking in business card design.
1) Constructable Designs - Business Cards You Have to Build

A card with some assembly required forces the recipient to spend more time with it - which is a good thing if you want to avoid getting lost in the shuffle. Some of these designs are fairly simple and create simple forms or reveal messages when distorted while others are virtual toys or art projects in their own right.automotive business cards

cool business card

beautiful business card

good business card designs

business cards

card designs for business

2) Organic Designs - Calling Cards You Can Watch Grow

What could be a more dynamic way to leave your mark than handing out something designed to actually grows and changes on its own over time? These can be used to advertise landscaping services or other plant products or simply to leave a lasting (and evolving) impression on the recipient.

visiting cards

beautiful business cards

best business cards

business card designs

3) Pragmatic Designs - Calling Cards You Can Actually Use

Instead of sticking people with another flimsy piece of paper to lose in their wallet why not give your business card a secondary function? This can be as simple as making a clothes pin, a bottle opener or a ruler or as extravagant as giving out entire USB devices with your information printed on them.

business card

business card designs

green business card

bottle opener business card

cool business cards

usb business card

4) Professionally Themed - Designs that Speak to Your Occupation

The message on a card design doesn’t necessarily have to be the print on the paper - it can be much bolder and embodied in the crafting of the object itself. Examples include: dog tags for an animal adoption program, a map that folds out and leads you to a map shop, fake medicine for the ‘brand doctor,’ and a head-hunter’s business card you are instructed to eat after reading in case your employer were to catch you with it.

metal business card

cool business card design

smart business card

pharmacy business cards

apparel business card design
simple business cards

nice business card

visiting cards

plastic business cards

tasty business card

breakable business cards

red business card

5) Creative Designs - More Cards that Don’t Fit the Mold

Of course not every business card is going to fit neatly into a category - and all the better for those trying to think outside of the box (after all, you don’t really want to copy everyone else right?). These designs range from simple to complex, artistic to obscure, but offer a bit more inspiration for those of us still sorting out what we want.

visiting card for business

business card designs

post card business cards


cool business cards
business cards

paper business card

typewriter business cards


nice design
cool design
4 way

the farm business card


Sources: Flickr, AllGraphicDesign, IFTK, FinancialHack, BoingBoing, CreativeBits


вторник, 17 марта 2009 г.

Sex Myths as Explained by Science

1. Men Reach Their Sexual Peak at 18, and Women Reach Theirs at 28

TRUE: With regard to their supply of sexual hormones, at least. Testosterone peaks at age 18 in men; women's estrogen hits its high point in their mid-20s. "But peak hormones don't mean peak sexual performance," says Marc Goldstein, M.D., a professor of reproductive medicine and urology at Cornell University's Weill Medical College. So feel free to try for a personal best-at any age.

2. Semen is Low-Carb

FALSE: "Semen is mostly fruit sugar [fructose] and enzymes-not low-carb," says Dr. Goldstein. Which finally explains why there's no Oral Sex Diet.

3. Masturbation Yields the Strongest Orgasm

TRUE: But it's not a hard-and-fast rule, as it were. "It depends on the individual," says Jon L. Pryor, M.D., a professor of urologic surgery at the University of Minnesota. "For some it does, but for others, there's nothing that beats good ol' intercourse."

4. The Average Erection Measures 8 Inches

FALSE: Relax, Shorty. It's closer to 6.

5. No Penis is Too Large or Too Small for Any Vagina

TRUE: But perception still wins the game in the end. "I was once at a dinner meeting with seven other sex doctors-six men and one woman," says Dr. Pryor. "The men all agreed that size doesn't matter. The woman looked at us and said, 'Think what you want. Size matters.' We all left dejected."

6. Oysters Make You Horny

FALSE: You make you horny. "There is no scientific evidence that oysters increase libido," says Dr. Pryor. "But there may be a placebo effect, so if it works, great!"

7. Green M&Ms Make You Horny

FALSE: Unless they do. Then it's true. Isn't the mind wonderful?

8. Men Think About Sex Every 7 Seconds

FALSE: That number is tossed around a lot, but the truth is that only 23 percent of men claim to fantasize frequently. But maybe the rest are just too distracted to check the clock.

9. Cutting Out Broccoli Will Make Your Semen Taste Better

TRUE: Semen is naturally bitter, and eating broccoli and drinking coffee can make it worse. A ray of hope for the Oral Sex Diet!

10. Having Sex Before an Important Event-the Big Game, the Critical Presentation-Can Ruin Your Performance in the Event

FALSE: Swiss researchers performed stress tests on people 2 and 10 hours after the subjects had had sex, and found that by 10 hours, the participants were fully recovered. There was only a small dip in performance 2 hours after sex.

11. Having Sex in Water (Swimming Pool, Hot Tub, Shower) Will Kill Sperm

TRUE: Some of your swimmers may die, but it isn't an effective method of birth control, according to Dr. Pryor. Though a hot tub can overheat your testicles and kill sperm, there should be plenty left for the egg hunt.

12. You Can Become Addicted to Web Porn

TRUE: But the risk is low. Only 1 percent of all people who check out Internet porn will become addicted. If you're sporting a ring, be careful: 38 percent of addicts are married.


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