People with a good sense of smell may also be better at navigation

Recent research suggests that our sense of smell evolved to help us find our way. Now, McGill University neuroscientist Louisa Dahmani and her colleagues support that idea, termed the "olfactory spatial hypothesis." From Science News:

Scientists linked both skills to certain spots in the brain: The left orbitofrontal cortex and the right hippocampus were both bigger in the better smellers and better navigators. The left orbitofrontal cortex and the right hippocampus were both bigger in the better smellers and better navigators. While the orbitofrontal cortex has been tied to smelling, the hippocampus is known to be involved in both smelling and navigation. A separate group of 9 people who had damaged orbitofrontal cortices had more trouble with navigation and smell identification...

"An intrinsic association between olfactory identification and spatial memory in humans" (Nature Communications) Read the rest

Why are moths drawn to lamps?

According to the explanation of the phrase "like a moth to the flame" at The Phrase Finder, "the word moth was used the the 17th century to mean someone who was apt to be tempted by something that would lead to their downfall." But why do moths have this fatal attraction anyway? National Geographic explains in the above video:

The theory is that these primarily nocturnal insects have evolved to travel by the light of the moon and stars. This way of travel is called transverse orientation. An easy way to think about transverse orientation is to imagine a sailor travelling in the direction of the North Star. In theory, moths similarly follow the light source at a precise position and a precise angle to their bodies. This is how moths would navigate for millions of years … by the light of the moon. What moth evolution couldn’t account for was the proliferation of constant electric light in our modern world. When Thomas Edison patented the lightbulb on January 27, 1880 it was a bad day in moth history. These lightbulbs began to act as artificial moons, confusing moths and overwhelming their senses. Since moths are accustomed to orienting to distant light sources, they can be easily disoriented when a closer light source, like a porch lamp, comes into view.

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Riot grrrl Kathleen Hanna's new t-shirt line pays for girls to attend school in Togo

OG riot grrrl Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre has launched a new t-shirt line with all the money going to Peace Sisters, a non-profit that helps pay school tuition for underprivileged young girls in the West African nation of Togo. The shirts feature the likes of Kim Gordon, Jill Soloway, Chuck D (all seen below), Patton Oswalt, W. Kamau Bell, and Carrie Brownstein. The money from each $40 t-shirt sends a girl to school for a year. Buy 'em at Tees 4 Togo.

From Rolling Stone:

Hanna devised the concept after meeting Peace Sisters founder Tina Kampor. A former teacher in Togo, Kampor immigrated to Pasadena 15 years ago, where she would become a full-time registered nurse. Still, she could not forget her students back home: “[Tina] grew up there and she just saw all these girls who weren’t able to go to school,” explains Hanna. “A lot of them are orphans, or very poor. Past the fifth grade in Togo, you have to pay for [education]. She saw all these girls dropping out in the sixth grade. So when she came to California she started sending money home, then opened it up for other people to help. She’s put 130 girls through school herself and supported members of her family at the same time. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and [said], ‘I want to be a part of this!'”

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Fantastically far out poster for 1974 artificial intelligence lecture at UC Berkeley

Chris Veltri, proprietor of San Francisco's legendary Groove Merchant record shop, posted this astounding artifact to his Instagram wunderkammer of outré culture paper ephemera @collagedropoutsf! It's a poster for a lecture by artificial intelligence pioneer Herbert Simon that took place at UC Berkeley in 1974. The speech was titled "How Man and Computers Understand Language."

Far fucking out. Read the rest

Excellent trailer for Pee-wee's Big Halloween

I only wish that this was the real new Halloween film.

It’s been 40 years since Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) survived a vicious attack from the crazy and zany Pee-wee Herman on Halloween night. But when Pee-wee escapes, will her family be safe from what is certainly to be his biggest Halloween adventure ever?

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Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder, RIP

Paul Allen, billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, philanthropist, science fiction fan, and founder of Seattle's Museum of Pop Culture (formerly the Experience Museum Project), has died from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 65.

"From technology to science to music to art, I’m inspired by those who’ve blurred the boundaries, who’ve looked at the possibilities, and said, “What if...? In my own work, I’ve tried to anticipate what’s coming over the horizon, to hasten its arrival, and to apply it to people’s lives in a meaningful way." -- Paul Allen

Allen's professional timeline is quite something:

1953: Paul Allen is born January 21, 1953 in Seattle, Washington 1968: While at Lakeside School, Paul meets Bill Gates. A friendship that would later produce one of the world’s most innovative companies, Microsoft. 1969: Attends first rock concert, where he sees Jimi Hendrix at Seattle Center Coliseum 1975: Founds Microsoft  1982: In September, Paul is diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Nearly eight months later, doctors said he had beaten the disease. 1983: Officially resigns from Microsoft in March 1986: Founds Vulcan Inc. in Seattle as an investment and project management firm with his sister, Jody Allen 1988: Establishes The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation 1988: Purchases the Portland Trail Blazers 1988: Rescues Seattle Cinerama from demolition by purchasing and restoring the theater 1990: The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation makes its first grant. 1990: Becomes a billionaire at age 37 1995: Makes his single biggest investment to date by purchasing a 18.5% stake in Dreamworks 1996: Purchases the St. Read the rest

Climate change will make beer much more expensive

Over the next century, higher temperatures and an increased number of droughts will hit the global barley supply, pushing beer prices way up. University of East Anglia economist Dabo Guan and his colleagues developed multiple scenarios based on several climate and economic models. Nature:

The researchers then simulated the effect of these droughts and heat waves on barley production by using software to model crop growth and yield on the basis of weather and other variables.

They found that, globally, this extreme weather would reduce barley yield by between 3% and 17%. Some countries fared better than others: tropical areas such as Central and South America were hit badly, but crop yields actually increased in certain temperate areas, including northern China and the United States. Some areas of those countries saw yield increases of up to 90% — but this was not enough to offset the global decrease.

Finally, Guan and his colleagues fed these changes in barley yield into an existing economic model that can account for changes in supply and demand in the global market. This enabled them to look at how reduced barley production would affect pricing and consumption of beer in countries, as well as trade between nations.

In the worst-case scenario, the reduced barley supply worldwide would result in a 16% decrease in global beer consumption in the years of extreme-weather events. Prices would, on average, double...

One goal of the research, Guan says, was to make tangible how "climate change will impact people’s lifestyle... Read the rest

New David Bowie documentary in production at BBC

BBC Studios Production is completing a new feature documentary, David Bowie: The First Five Years, to air next year. Its the third in director Francis Whately's trilogy that has included "David Bowie: Five Years" (2013) and "David Bowie: The Last Five Years" (2017). The film will cover the Bowie's formative years as an artist, starting in 1966 up until the birth of Ziggy Stardust. According to the BBC, the 90-minute doc "traces his interest in everything from Holst to Pinky and Perky, from Anthony Newley to Tibetan Buddhism, and how he used all these influences to create not only Ziggy Stardust, but the material for his entire career."

The film also unearths a report, deep from the BBC Archives, following a BBC audition on Tuesday 2 November 1965 of a band called David Bowie and the Lower Third. Their audition material included Chim-Chim-Cheree as well as an original number called Baby That’s A Promise. The BBC’s ‘Talent Selection Group’ describe him as having “quite a different sound”, but also “no personality”, “not particularly exciting” and “will not improve with practice”. The BBC later appears to have changed its mind...

Contributors include Bowie’s first cousin and lifelong-friend Kristina Amadeus and former girlfriend and muse Hermione Farthingale - both of whom have never before been filmed talking about him; the late Lindsay Kemp in his last filmed interview, lifelong friend and producer Tony Visconti, former girlfriend and friend Dana Gillespie, lifelong friends Geoff MacCormak and George Underwood, Bowie's producer Mike Vernon, Bowie's early producer Tony Hatch, and Woody Woodmansey, the last remaining Spider from Mars.

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Python falls from ceiling in bank

A staff meeting at a bank in Nanning, southern China was interrupted when a 5-foot python fell from the ceiling. CCTV video below. From Yahoo!7:

A snake catcher was called to retrieve the python, which will be sent to a local wildlife conservation centre.

According to online reports, this is the second time a snake has slipped into this branch of the bank.

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Random nude man jumps into Toronto aquarium with sharks

On Friday night, a nude man jumped into a large tank at Ripley's Aquarium in Toronto for a brief swim with sand tiger sharks, sawfish, green sea turtles, green moray eels, and other fish. "The guy seemed totally relaxed... and like laughing," said one onlooker. Pretty ballsy. From CBC Toronto:

Security at the popular tourist attraction asked the man to leave shortly before 10:30 p.m. ET but he refused, said Jenifferjit Sidhu, a spokesperson for Toronto Police Service.

Instead, he swam to the edge of the enclosure and emerged from the tank before doing a backward flip into the water, she told CBC Toronto on Monday...

But before officers arrived, the man got out of the water, put on his clothes and left the aquarium. No marine animals were harmed during the stunt, Sidhu said.

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Mr. Resistor, an electrifying stop motion animation

Mr. Resistor is director Mark Gustafson's electrifying stop motion animation from 1994. Original soundtrack by Francesco de Donatis. Read the rest

Kurt Russell and The Osmonds go behind the scenes at Disney's Haunted Mansion

Enjoy this delightful clip from Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color "Disneyland Showtime" that aired on March 22, 1970. From the IMDB page:

The Osmond Brothers, accompanied by Kurt Russell and E.J. Peaker, come to Disneyland to perform at a show being held there. But Donny and Jay Osmond go off to explore the park. Worried that they will miss the performance, the rest of the cast go to try and retrieve them before it is too late. They also visit the then-newest Disneyland attraction at the time, the Haunted Mansion.

(via r/ObscureMedia)

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Stephen Hawking's final scientific paper was just published

Stephen Hawking's final paper that he and his colleagues completed just days before his death has now been published. It's titled "Black Hole Entropy and Soft Hair," co-authored with Sasha Haco, Malcolm J. Perry, and Andrew Strominger, about the black hole information paradox. Here is the abstract:

A set of infinitesimal VirasoroL⊗VirasoroR diffeomorphisms are presented which act non-trivially on the horizon of a generic Kerr black hole with spin J. The covariant phase space formalism provides a formula for the Virasoro charges as surface integrals on the horizon. Integrability and associativity of the charge algebra are shown to require the inclusion of `Wald-Zoupas' counterterms. A counterterm satisfying the known consistency requirement is constructed and yields central charges cL=cR=12J. Assuming the existence of a quantum Hilbert space on which these charges generate the symmetries, as well as the applicability of the Cardy formula, the central charges reproduce the macroscopic area-entropy law for generic Kerr black holes.

The Guardian has a translation:

In the latest paper, Hawking and his colleagues show how some information (contained in an object that falls into a black hole) at least may be preserved. Toss an object into a black hole and the black hole’s temperature ought to change. So too will a property called entropy, a measure of an object’s internal disorder, which rises the hotter it gets.

The physicists, including Sasha Haco at Cambridge and Andrew Strominger at Harvard, show that a black hole’s entropy may be recorded by photons that surround the black hole’s event horizon, the point at which light cannot escape the intense gravitational pull.

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The man who created Ctrl+Alt+Del

Meet David Bradley, chief engineer of the IBM PC, who created Ctrl+Alt+Del.

"I may have invented it, but Bill made it famous," Bradley once said.

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Enjoy this strange new audiovisual illusion from Caltech scientists

Caltech researchers developed the illusion above to illustrate postdiction, a sensory phenomenon "in which a stimulus that occurs later can retroactively affect our perceptions of an earlier event." From Caltech Matters:

"Illusions are a really interesting window into the brain," says first author Noelle Stiles (PhD '15), a visitor in biology and biological engineering and a postdoctoral scholar–research associate at USC. "By investigating illusions, we can study the brain's decision-making process. For example, how does the brain determine reality with information from multiple senses that is at times noisy and conflicting? The brain uses assumptions about the environment to solve this problem. When these assumptions happen to be wrong, illusions can occur as the brain tries to make the best sense of a confusing situation. We can use these illusions to unveil the underlying inferences that the brain makes...."

Postdictive processing has been demonstrated within individual senses, but this work focuses on how the phenomenon can bridge multiple senses. The key to both of the new illusions is that the audio and visual stimuli occur rapidly, in under 200 milliseconds (one-fifth of a second). The brain, trying to make sense of this barrage of information, synthesizes the stimuli from both senses to determine the experience, using postdiction to do so.

Read more in the researchers' scientific paper: "What you saw is what you will hear: Two new illusions with audiovisual postdictive effects" (PLoS ONE) Read the rest

Incredible video of Boston Dynamics' Atlas robot doing parkour

Boston Dynamics has just released this astounding video of their Atlas humanoid robot doing parkour:

The control software uses the whole body including legs, arms and torso, to marshal the energy and strength for jumping over the log and leaping up the steps without breaking its pace. (Step height 40 cm.) Atlas uses computer vision to locate itself with respect to visible markers on the approach to hit the terrain accurately.

Unfortunately the engineers failed to outfit Atlas with a speech synthesizer to yell "Parkour! Parkour! Parkour!" like so.

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L.A. morning show host surprised that a K-pop star from Vancouver speaks English

After K-pop group NCT 127 from Vancouver, Canada performed on KTTV-Fox 11's Good Day L.A., host Araksya Karapetyan gave one of the singers an odd compliment: "Very cool, your English is awesome. I love it."

Here's the clip:

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