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The real state of neuromarketing

Remember the hype about neuromarketing, the use of brain imaging and other technologies to directly measure consumer preference or the effect of advertisements on our unconscious? In The Guardian, Vaughan "Mind Hacks" Bell looks at the latest in neuromarketing and breaks it down into "advertising fluff, serious research, and applied neuroscience." From The Guardian:

First, it’s important to realise that the concept of neuroscience is used in different ways in marketing. Sometimes, it’s just an empty ploy aimed at consumers – the equivalent of putting a bikini-clad body next to your product for people who believe they’re above the bikini ploy. A recent Porsche advert (video above) apparently showed a neuroscience experiment suggesting that the brain reacts in a similar way to driving their car and flying a fighter jet, but it was all glitter and no gold. The images were computer-generated, the measurements impossible, and the scientist an actor.

In complete contrast, neuromarketing is also a serious research area. This is a scientifically sound, genuinely interesting field in cognitive science, where the response to products and consumer decision-making is understood on the level of body and mind. This might involve looking at how familiar brand logos engage the memory systems in the brain, or examining whether the direction of eye gaze of people in ads affects how attention-grabbing they are, or testing whether the brain’s electrical activity varies when watching subtly different ads. Like most of cognitive neuroscience, the studies are abstract, ultra-focused and a long way from everyday experience.

Finally, there is the murky but profitably grey area of applied neuromarketing, which is done by commercial companies for big-name clients. Here, the pop-culture hype that allows brain-based nonsense in consumer adverts meets the abstract and difficult-to-apply results from neuromarketing science. The result is an intoxicating but largely ineffective mix that makes sharp but non-specialist executives pay millions in the hope of maximising their return on branding and advertising.

"The marketing industry has started using neuroscience, but the results are more glitter than gold" (via Mind Hacks)

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Cross-sectioned brain sample drink coasters


Thinkgeek's Brain Specimen Coasters come in a set of ten, stacking to form a 3D brain. (via Geeky Merch)

Watch this great documentary about people who think they are gods

"Those Who Are Jesus" is Steven Eastwood's fascinating 2001 documentary about three people who have true delusions of grandeur based on "profoundly religious or revalatory experiences."

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Watch this to learn why people love bacon

The Science of Bacon

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How we learn to be helpless—and unlearn it

Learned helplessness keeps people in bad jobs, poor health, terrible relationships, and awful circumstances despite how easy it may be to escape. Learn how to defeat this psychological trap, thanks to the work of Martin Seligman.Read the rest

Parasite playing cards

The lucky attendees at this year's meeting of the American Societe of Parasitologists got a gorgeous deck of parasite-themed playing cards into their conference bags.

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Fire-pistons: start fires by compressing air


The Survival School Fire Piston is a gadget that uses a hand-pumped piston to compress air, creating enough heat to spark a bit of tinder.

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$8 microscope clips to smartphone

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I have one of these tiny inexpensive microscopes, and it is surprisingly good. But it didn't come with a clip to attach it to a phone camera, like this. It has a white LED and an ultraviolet LED so you can illuminate your specimen.

KingMas 60X Clip-On Microscope Magnifier with LED/UV Lights for Universal SmartPhones ($8) on Amazon

Here's a video of a Russian guy unboxing it and trying it out:

Researchers developing tiny robots to travel through body and fire projectiles

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Researchers demonstrated an early proof-of-concept system in which tiny robots inside your body, controlled by an MRI machine, could self-assemble into a Gauss gun and fire projectiles to clear blockages or deliver drugs. Video below.

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STD-detecting condom story "debunked"

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"This is pure tabloid bait, combining some of the tabloid’s favorite things," writes Peter Yeh. "smart children, sex, and shaming people."

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Fascinating guide to antique space maps (Also, the Earth is square)

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Above, a map of the "Square and Stationary Earth" (1893) by a Professor Orlando Ferguson of Hot Springs, South Dakota.

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How to ship a giant squid from New Zealand to New York City

The American Museum of Natural History sorted it out.

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FDA & FTC mull homeopathy's future


Both the UK and Australian governments have issued reports describing homeopathy as bunk, and now the US Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission are holding hearings on the regulation of high-priced sugar-pills.

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Teaching image-recognition algorithms to produce nightmarish hellscapes


In "Inceptionism," scientists at Google Research describe their work training neural nets with sets of images, then tweaking the "layers" of neural net nodes to produce weird outcomes.

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What's in the Pope's barn-storming environmental message?


There's a lot to love in the Pope's new encyclical on climate, poverty and the environment, and even the terrible stuff is de-emphasized.

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3D printing your organs before surgery

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This is a 3D printed heart made from CT scan data. Smithsonian talks to Brigham and Women’s Hospital radiologists Beth Ripley and Tatiana Kelil whose 3D Print For Health effort to spur conversation and exploration around 3D printing in medicine.

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Quantified Self Expo in San Francisco on Saturday (6/20)

Our pals at Quantified Self are hosting a big expo in San Francisco on Saturday and they're offering BB readers a $10 discount off the $20 ticket price! Get hip to the self-tracking scene and see your life through the lens of data! Event details here.

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