Giving vegetables seductive names gets people to eat them

Boring vegetables need better marketing. That's the gist of a new study from Stanford university psychologists who gave cafeteria vegetables more "indulgent" names to see if students would buy them more often. Healthy labels ("wholesome," etc) didn't do well but indulgent labels ("sizzlin'", "dynamite," etc.) boosted vegetable sales by 25%. From the BBC:

The experiment took place over the whole of the autumn academic term. Each day, a vegetable dish was labelled up in one of four ways:

• basic - where the description was simply "carrots", for example

• healthy restrictive - "carrots with sugar-free citrus dressing"

• health positive - "smart-choice vitamin C citrus carrots"

• indulgent - "twisted citrus-glazed carrots"

...The indulgent labels came out top and included "twisted garlic-ginger butternut squash wedges" and "dynamite chilli and tangy lime-seasoned beets".

Seductive names resulted in 25% more people selecting the vegetable compared with basic labelling, 41% more people than the healthy restrictive labelling and 35% more people than the healthy positive labelling.

"Association Between Indulgent Descriptions and Vegetable Consumption: Twisted Carrots and Dynamite Beets" (JAMA) Read the rest

The Smurfs, Alf, the Ninja Turtles, and the Cartoon All-Stars say no to weed!

From the 1990 TV special Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue," this catchy anti-drug ditty Wonderful Ways to Say No" (1990), posted to YouTube by a fan of famed Disney lyricist Howard Ashman (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, etc):

Here's "Wonderful Ways to Say No" from the multi-network drug-abuse prevention animated special Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue. With music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman, the song was written by the duo at the request of Roy E. Disney, producer of the special.

On his official website, Alan says of the song, "Back in the late 60's I would not have been the poster boy for this cause, but when we were asked to write ‘Wonderful Ways to Say No’ how could we say ‘no’?”

Just say know. (Thanks, Jess Rotter!)

Read the rest

How to deal with a boot on your car

An upstanding citizen submitted this photo to Baltimore 311, the city's service request system.

(via DIGG) Read the rest

The story behind the sounds of Pong, Pac-Man, and Doom

Four video game audio designers explore the psychoacoustics of vintage video games, from the accelerating heartbeat of Space Invaders to the dramatic woosh of Myst's linking books. From Wired:

With only a few channels of audio to play with, early videogame designers had to get very creative if they wanted their sounds to stand out. Pong, created in 1972, took a single tone and made it iconic, while Donkey Kong utilized the limited sounds of a Game Boy to trigger a range of cues and emotions.

As the games got more complex, so did the audio, and the theories behind it. A loop, or short, repeated section of audio, acts as a recurring cue. Dissonant sounds communicate failure, while consonant ones—think of the sympathetic vibrations of Super Mario Bros.—encourage players to continue. The tones can even mimic human sounds—a modulating synthesizer approximates laughter, like the “wawawawawa” in Duck Hunt.

Read the rest

For sale: Single home spanning two countries with doorways to both

This apartment house spans Beebe Plain, Vermont in the United States and Stanstead, Quebec in Canada. The owners, who have dual citizenship, put the fixer-upper on the market for $109,000. There are entrances from both Canada and the United States. From the Associated Press:

Beebe Plain is a community in the Vermont town of Derby, which along with Stanstead, about 60 miles (96 kilometers) northeast of Montpelier, or 75 miles (120 kilometers) southeast of Montreal, have become the cliché of security changes on the U.S.-Canadian border brought on by the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

Residential streets that used to be open were blocked by gates. The back doors of an apartment building straddling the border in Derby Line village have been locked shut. The street next to the Haskell Free Library and Opera House, deliberately built in both countries, is blocked by flower pots, although Canadians are still allowed to walk to the library's U.S. entrance without going through a border post....

Troy Rabideau, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection assistant port director for the area that includes Beebe Plain, said the agents know who live there, but keeping track can be a challenge.

"It's always a fine line," Rabideau said. "We do the best we can to keep an eye on it. We do what we have to do, security first, but we also want the support of the locals."

Read the rest

Incredible anti-drug PSA from cartoon kings Hanna-Barbera and Art Babbitt

In the 1970s, legendary Disney animator Art Babbitt, creator of Goofy, worked at Hanna-Barbera directing the studio's commercial division. His anti-drug PSA above, circa 1970, is a masterpiece of psychedelic cartooning.

Read the rest

Principal offers students $100 to stay off their screens

Diana Smith, principal of Washington Latin Public Charter School in Washington DC, offered rising 8th and 9th graders $100 each to stay entirely off their screens one day each week this summer.

“Kids have these phones under their pillows at night — they’re going to bed, they’re texting each other at 3, 4 in the morning,” Smith told WTOP. "I challenge them to stay off of any screens — so television, games, phones, tablets, everything — for the 11 Tuesdays that we have of summer break."

The students must provide two signed letters from adult witnesses to be eligible for the cash price.

Read the rest

Robots and humans, working together in harmony?

Rather than worry about robots overtaking us, it's more interesting (and realistic) to consider how we might collaborate with our machines. At Institute for the Future where I'm a researcher, we have forecasted how the real power of automation will come from "humans plus machines." BB pal Ken Goldberg, director of UC Berkeley's People and Robots Initiative, and his colleagues are making that real through their pioneering work on cloud robotics and human-centered automation. Forget the Singularity, Ken says. It's all about the "Multiplicity." From Ken's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal:

Most computer scientists agree that predictions about robots stealing jobs are greatly exaggerated. Rather than worrying about an impending Singularity, consider instead what we might call Multiplicity: diverse groups of people and machines working together to solve problems.

Multiplicity is not science fiction. A combination of machine learning, the wisdom of crowds, and cloud computing already underlies tasks Americans perform every day: searching for documents, filtering spam emails, translating between languages, finding news and movies, navigating maps, and organizing photos and videos...

While scientists still don’t understand Multiplicity very well, they are discovering clear benefits to machine diversity. Researchers have developed a family of techniques known as “ensemble learning,” in which a set of specialized algorithms work together to produce a single result. One variant, known as “random forests,” was developed by Leo Breiman and Adele Cutler at the University of California, Berkeley. They proved that in complex problems with noisy data, a group of “decision trees” will always outperform a single tree—so long as the trees are sufficiently diverse.

Read the rest

Man struck by lightning while sitting at his office desk

On Monday, Nick Gemayel was seated at his office desk in his Rochester, New York auto repair shop when he saw a bright flash spark from a light switch and heard a loud crack. Then he realized that his hand hurt like hell was blistered. A co-worker reported that he had seen lightning strike the building. It apparently arced from the light switch into Gemayel. Hospital doctors treated and released him. No word yet on what superpowers he may now have.

(Associated Press) Read the rest

Mysterious ape-like creature caught on camera in Los Angeles

Jake Gardiner was walking in the woods in the foothills of La Crescenta, a suburb of Los Angeles, when he heard rustling in the trees. He recorded video on his mobile phone and later noticed what many are saying looks like an ape-like creature swinging around the branches.

“It could be some kind of ape, it also could be a bear, it could be a large bird,” says Andrew Hughan, a spokesman with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

He added that it could be someone's pet but it's difficult to say based on the blurry video and lack of physical evidence.

“It’s an interesting mystery right at the moment, and we'll see what happens," he says.

(Los Angeles Times)

Read the rest

Why didn't Jerry Seinfeld hug Ke$ha?

Earlier this week, Jerry Seinfeld rejected an on-camera hug from Ke$ha and people thought it was so funny, they wrote Seinfeld scenes about it. Here Seinfeld explains his perfectly reasonable rationale for the refusal.

"When you get to be my age and you've done a couple things, you have your own reality. In my reality, I don't hug a total stranger. I have to meet someone, say hello. I gotta start somewhere."

Read the rest

Vintage Apple Computer sneakers up for auction

This fine pair of Apple Computer sneakers, a holy grail of Apple memorabilia, will go up for auction on Sunday. The starting bid is $15,000 but they are estimated to fetch as much as $36,000. Available only to company employees in the early 1990s, they feature Apple's far superior rainbow logo. The shoe size is 9 1/2. Unclear if they were ever worn, and if so, by whom.

APPLE COMPUTER SNEAKERS, CIRCA EARLY 1990S SIZE 9 1/2 Read the rest

Grey Gersten's beautiful music video featuring space imagery from Cassini

Grey Gersten, whose work lies at the intersection of avant-garde art, multimedia, and music, has released this interplanetary video for his track "Press Your Heart Against The Screen," from his new album Naked Light out today. The song, about the bridge between humans and machines, is complemented by stunning images captured by NASA's Cassini space probe in 2009. Gersten has explored space in his prior work as well, having composed the soundtrack to Tom Sachs' incredible film A Space Program about the installation artist's Space Program 2.0: MARS project. A force in New York City's experimental art scene, Gersten has collaborated with John Zorn and TV on The Radio, and counts Laurie Anderson as a fan.

Starting at sunset tonight at NYC's 537 Broadway gallery, Gersten is hosting an overnight performance experience with special guests, meditation, experimental films, and a dramatic reading of former FBI Director James Comey's Congress Hearing.

Far fucking out.

Read the rest

Mesmerizing video of newly categorized type of cloud

A few days ago in North Dakota, storm chaser Mike Olbinski made this absolutely incredible time-lapse video of undulatus asperatus clouds. This class of cloud is the first cloud category added to the International Cloud Atlas since 1951. Olbinski writes:

We were chasing northeast of Bismarck, North Dakota and as storms were dying out, we decided to go for a lone cell on the backside of a line of storms. We knew it had a hail core on it and we were hoping that we might get some nice sunset color at least on the storm as it moved past us, and hopefully some lightning bolts. But we had no idea what we were about to encounter. The clouds were taking on a very different, curvy, wave-like appearance and suddenly we knew what we were seeing.

Undulatus asperatus clouds are a rare phenomenon and actually the newest named cloud type in over 60 years. I've seen tons of photos of them, but never anything like what we witnessed last night. We had a storm with hail in front of us and flashing lightning which was fantastic. But then we had this layer of undulatus clouds flowing across our view. Watching them was amazing already, but then the sun slowly appeared from behind some clouds to the west and lit up our storm like nothing we've ever seen before. We were like kids in a candy store. Running around, doing our best to capture it from every possible angle.

Read the rest

Infinite chocolate chip cookies

(via @Pickover) Read the rest

"Smart" athletic clothing laden with bacteria (on purpose)

MIT researchers designed athletic clothing that's laden with bacterial cells that enable vents in the garment to automatically open up when you start to sweat. From Smithsonian:

(MIT bioengineer Wen) Wang and her team found the optimal construction was a layer of latex sandwiched by two thin layers of bacterial cells, each 1 to 5 microns thick, around the diameter of a red blood cell and 1/15th the width of a human hair. These were formed into flaps, and attached to the back of a workout garment. When the wearer sweats, the cells on the outside remain the same, but the cells on the side facing the body absorb moisture and expand, forcing the flaps open.

initially, they used a bacteria called Bacillus subtilis natto, better known as the main component of the gooey, stringy, pungent Japanese food called nattō. Ozgur Sahin, an associate professor of biological sciences and physics at Columbia University, has been using B. subtilis natto in his (unrelated) research into bacteria-using materials because of its tough, strong spores. Wang adopted it because she saw it worked, and because it’s safe enough to be used in food....

One big challenge though is that it doesn't hold up to a wash cycle. Still, Wang says, "This kind of thinking, that cloth can actually be dynamic and responsive, and that response is better for its functions, is generally an exciting aspect of the work, and it can potentially be applied in many other areas.”

Read the rest

Beautiful popsicles made from polluted water

National Taiwan University of Arts students created this genius piece of activist art, popsicles made from the water of polluted local sources. From the translated project description:

We personally take Taiwan’s 100 polluted water sources, made it into popsicles, because the popsicles are not easy to save, we will re-engrave the likeness into a 1:1 poly model to do the show, through the beautiful packaging and content of the sense of contrast to convey that pure water is important, and Then we would like to ask you is: would you want to eat a beautiful frozen polluted puddle?

Polluted Water Popsicles (Facebook via Laughing Squid)

Read the rest

More posts