Weird illusion in which adding weight to something makes it feel lighter

"Impossible Somatosensation" is a paper written by Isabel Won, Steven Gross, and Chaz Firestone Johns of Hopkins University. From the abstract: "We show that, even in full-cue conditions with objects that can be freely inspected, subjects can be made to experience a single object alone as feeling heavier than a group of objects that includes the single object as a member — an impossible and phenomenologically striking experience of weight. Impossibility can not only be seen, but also felt."

Stimuli and Procedure

Subjects saw three opaque boxes in a stack, which we refer to here as Boxes A, B, and C. Subjects were instructed to perform two lifts, one immediately after the other: In one case, they lifted Boxes A, B, and C together; in another case, they lifted Box A alone. Here in Experiment 1, subjects lifted the boxes simply by grasping them with their hands, in whatever posture felt natural (though later experiments varied this grasp posture).

After the two lifts (whose order was counterbalanced across subjects), subjects were asked which lift felt heavier (or, for half of the subjects, which lift felt lighter), and the experimenter recorded the subject’s response.


Subjects overwhelmingly reported that Box A alone felt heavier than Boxes A, B, and C together (90% of subjects reporting A heavier than A+B+C, binomial probability test, p<.001 against chance [50%] responding; Figure 3)1. However, this result should be “impossible”, because the sum of weights over a set of objects could never be less than the sum of weights over a subset of those objects: Unless the boxes somehow changed between lifts, Box A couldn’t weigh more than a group of weighted objects that includes Box A as a member.

Indeed, the experience was so striking that subjects often spontaneously and astoundedly commented on its impossibility to the experimenter, and even requested to lift the objects again after the experiment was over. Anecdotally, those subjects reported that the illusion persisted even during these repeated lifts, including when subjects placed all three boxes on their palm and then suddenly removed the two lighter boxes — distilling the phenomenon into a single impossible “moment” wherein removing weight caused the sensation of adding weight.

Image: Impossible Somatosensation/PsyArXiv

[via Futility Closet]

Animated bar chart of the most popular social media networks from 2003 - 2018

Callum Booth of TNW created this animated bar chart showing the rise and fall of different social media networks over the last 16 years.

Firstly, I had no idea how old LinkedIn is – that damn network has been around since the beginning. We also talk a lot about MySpace’s fall from grace, but the creators of Friendster must be kicking themselves at losing such a big market share.

I was also surprised that Google Buzz (remember that?) was the third most popular social network for a year or two – what a world.

That’s just scratching the surface though, I’ve watched that social media bar chart race multiple times and always find another interesting nugget. One thing’s for certain, judging by how many times the top spot changed hands over the past 16 years, none of the social media giants should be resting on their laurels. Really, anything can happen.

Google Stadia won't just need low latency, it needs a big pipe

I am not enthusiastic about Google Stadia's chances.


Google says you'll need 35Mbps to play at maximum settings—that's 4K resolution, high dynamic range (HDR), and 60 frames per second (fps) with 5.1 surround sound. As PC Gamer noted last week, that adds up to 15.75GB per hour, which would use up an entire 1TB monthly data allotment in 65 hours of game time.

Stadia will work at lower resolutions, with Google recommending 20Mbps for 1080p/60fps with 5.1 surround sound, and 10Mbps for 720p/60fps with stereo sound. That's 9GB and 4.5GB per hour, respectively, potentially using up a 1TB data cap in 114 or 228 hours.

Twitter's anti-Nazi policies result bans on pictures of anti-Nazi books

Twitter's Sensitive Media Policy bans the display of "symbols historically associated with hate groups" in your profile or banner, and of course that includes the covers of books that criticize hate groups, such as David Neiwert's 2017 book, Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump, whose cover features a stylized US flag in which the stars are all wearing little Klan hoods. (more…)

Scientists discover 4.8 quintillion pound "mystery blob" below the moon's surface

Beneath a crater on the moon lies what could be the remains of a colossal, metal-rich asteroid that hit our moon 4  billion years ago.

From NY Mag:

It sits 180 miles beneath the South Pole-Aitken basin — one of the solar system’s largest impact craters, and the moon’s oldest, at over 4 billion years — a massive dent spanning some 1,550 miles on the far side of the moon. (It’s also where China landed its Chang’e 4 lunar rover in January.) Publishing in Geophysical Research Letters, the Baylor scientists have two theories for the origin of the huge subterranean blob. It could be the leftovers of dense oxides created in the last years when the moon’s surface was an ocean of magma — a theory that relies on the giant-impact hypothesis, when an impactor the size of Mars may have collided into a magma-covered Earth, ejecting magma into orbit that became the surface of the moon.

Image: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/DLR/ASU

Study: people could be eating a credit card's worth of microplastics per week

"On average, people could actually be ingesting approximately 5 grams of microplastics every week - that’s the equivalent of a credit card." That's according to a study by WWF, Dalberg, and the University of Newcastle, Australia.

From the report (PDF):

The long-term effects of plastic ingestion on the human body are not yet well documented. But studies have shown that beyond a certain exposure level, inhalation of plastic fibres seem to produce mild inflammation of the respiratory tract. In marine animals, higher concentrations of microplastics in their digestive and respiratory system can lead to early death. Research studies have demonstrated toxicity in vitro to lung cells, the liver, and brain cells.

Some types of plastic carry chemicals and additives with potential effects on human health. Identified health risks are due to production process residues, additives, dyes and pigments found in plastic, some of which have been shown to have an influence on sexual function, fertility and increased occurrence of mutations and cancers. Airborne microplastics may also carry pollutants from the surrounding environment. In urban environments, they may carry PAHs – molecules found in coal and tar − and metals.

Image: WWF

UK government is using child spies

The United Kingdom's security minister, Ben Wallace, really gets Lord Varys from Game of Thrones, you know? The Spider had it going on, man. He was hip and, also, with it. That imaginary man who had his love pump lopped off knew from HUMINT, apparently.

From The Telegraph:

Ben Wallace says there is “increasing scope” to recruit “juvenile” undercover agents because of the growing numbers of children involved in serious crime both as perpetrators and victims.

Records show the children - most aged 17 - have already been used as “covert human intelligence sources” (CHIS) by police in the past three years to provide information on murder, gang violence, drug dealing and the use of weapons.

The evidence emerged in a legal challenge in the High Court by campaign group Just for Kids Law who maintain there are a lack of safeguards to protect the children from potential physical and emotional harm. They claim the failings are a breach of the children's human rights.

Little Birds! Wallace's bullshit is currently before the courts in England as the Home Office is pushing to raise the current amount of time that folks under the age of 18 can work as an undercover informant from one month to four.

With no guaranteed protections against the type of psychological or physical trauma that they could potentially endure, even if they're not caught snooping, I can't think of anything less scrupulous than to enlist a child to keep tabs the sort of individuals that governments at the local or state level count among their enemies.

Image via Flickr, courtesy of Tom Woodward

Arts&Crafts: bypass a fingerprint scanner with glue and tinfoil

I recently wrote about how much I enjoyed testing the OnePlus 7 Pro. One of the nicer things about it was the fact that its in-display fingerprint reader, unlike the one in the last-gen OnePlus handset, works in a timely manner. Too bad that, no matter how quickly it can read a fingerprint, it still isn't smart enough to stand up to a bit of arts and crafts from a determined security hacker.

Now, before anyone goes and loses their minds over this hack, it's important to note that in order for it to work, a digital interloper would need to get hold of the fingerprint belonging to the handset's owner in order to copy it. The best way to secure your phone against a hack like this, or being forced to unlock your smartphone for the authorities is to lock it down with an alphanumeric code.

While using biometrics to unlock your hardware might be convenient, when push comes to shove, it won't keep your digital life secure from professional snoops for long.

Is two enough when photoshopping women into an all-male "tech titans" group shot?

Jeff Bezos and a "dozen tech titans" enjoyed a mini-conference in a medieval Italian hamlet, reports GQ magazine. Leading the story was a group shot of the gang, which includes only two women: Ruzwana Bashir and Lynn Jurich. Problem is, Bashir and Jurich are photoshopped into the photo, as demonstrated when BuzzFeed's Ryan Mac noticed their odd poses and @benjymous found the untamperered original on LinkedIn.

I got some questions about this story on "tech titans" in Italy, and uhhh I think this photo is photoshopped? ... Look at the woman, supposedly SunRun CEO Lynn Jurich, in the background. Some weird stuff is going on with her leg, which isn't aligned with the rest of her body.

Is two women enough to photoshop into the techie trip to Umbria? They should have photoshopped in at least four.

"Ice Ice Baby" as covered by the "Stephen Hawking voice"

Using vintage equipment, including the DECTalk Express (the machine that physicist Stephen Hawking once used to synthesize his speech), Youtuber bd594 creates an old school remix of Vanilla Ice's 1990 hit "Ice Ice Baby." Yo, VIP, let's kick it!

Devices Used:
Stephen Hawking's vocals - DECTalk Express (Paul)
Backup vocals - DECTalk Express (Harry)
DECTalk TTY Controller - MiniComm II
Bass - Yamaha CX-5M Computer
Synth Bass - 3.5" Floppy / CDRom head mechanism.
Drums - Hard Drive Heads
Cymbals - Hard Drive Platters
Hand Claps - High voltage DC automotive spark coil

(Blame it on the Voices)

Witcher III: The Wild Hunt is coming to Nintendo Switch

When Witcher III: The Wild Hunt was released a few years ago, everyone lost their minds over how great it was. Because my aging 2015 MacBook Pro lacked the guts to even consider running it, I never had the opportunity to take the game for a spin. It looks like the Nintendo Switch--the best port machine ever created--will finally give me a chance to step into Geralt of Rivia's shoes.

From Nintendo:

The Complete Edition contains every piece of downloadable content released for the game, including two massive story expansions: Hearts of Stone & Blood and Wine. It's the perfect opportunity to enter this world for the first time or relive the adventure — on the go! Coming to Nintendo Switch in 2019.

The lack of a firm date for the game's release sucks, but it's not surprising. I suspect it'll be pushed out once the port is damn well good and ready. Being as I've gone this long without playing the game, I suspect I'll survive a little while longer without it.

Image via Flickr, courtesy of BagoGames

Guard against cyber threats with this ethical hacking course

Cyber threats get more advanced every year, and "white hat" hackers are in demand. Online security experts are required to keep up on systems and strategies that are constantly updating, and it can be hard for employers to reliably know who is capable.

Enter the Complete Ethical Hacking Certification Course, a comprehensive online master class in cyber-defense.

All 21 hours of this boot camp are taught by Mohamed Atef, an ITC consultant with more than 20 years of experience. His course takes you through the makeup and vulnerabilities of 18 popular security domains and teaches how to counter 270 different attack strategies that malicious hackers can use to penetrate them. Along the way, you'll learn preventative measures like penetration testing and understand the various scanning and enumeration countermeasures that are part of any defense expert's toolbox. From Trojans to viruses to malware, you'll have the tools and know-how to deal with them all - and the certification to prove it.

The Complete Ethical Hacking Certification Course is on sale now for $12.99, a full 93% off the original cost.

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