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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In the News: July 20, 2011

It's been a while since the last update... Sorry folks.

To get back into the swing of things, here's an ItN update:

Google Is Destroying Our Memories, Scientists Find
Well, that explains the disappearance of my short-term memory...

"The Internet, Google in particular, has made our memories fuzzy, a research report in Science Magazine says (via CNN).

Thanks to the powerful search engine, information is at our fingertips. We no longer need to rack our brains or ask friends for help recalling whatever it is we're after.

Four studies suggest when people are asked difficult questions, they automatically think about computers.

Also, when they expect to have information readily available, their ability to retain and recall information is lower. Instead of reciting the information itself, people recall where the information can be found.

“We are becoming symbiotic with our computer tools, growing into interconnected systems that remember less by knowing information than by knowing where information can be found,” the studies' authors write.

Betsy Sparrow, a psychology professor at Columbia University and lead author of one of the memory studies, says this phenomenon isn't so bad. "It's allowing us to have access to much more external memory; our network of people is just vastly expanded," she says.
(Business Insider)

BBC picked up on the story too:
Internet's memory effects quantified in computer study

"Computers and the internet are changing the nature of our memory, research in the journal Science suggests.

Psychology experiments showed that people presented with difficult questions began to think of computers.

When participants knew that facts would be available on a computer later, they had poor recall of answers but enhanced recall of where they were stored.

The researchers say the internet acts as a "transactive memory" that we depend upon to remember for us.

Lead author Betsy Sparrow of Columbia University said that transactive memory "is an idea that there are external memory sources - really storage places that exist in other people".

"There are people who are experts in certain things and we allow them to be, [to] make them responsible for certain kinds of information," she explained to BBC News.

Co-author of the paper Daniel Wegner, now at Harvard University, first proposed the transactive memory concept in a book chapter titled Cognitive Interdependence in Close Relationships, finding that long-term couples relied on each other to act as one another's memory banks.

Police: Florida teen killed parents with hammer, hosted house party
Definitely planned the party, parents said 'no', he got angry and killed them. Case closed. Call me Columbo.

"A Florida teen bludgeoned his parents to death with a hammer, stashed their bodies in a bedroom, then hosted dozens of people for a house party, police said Monday.

Tyler Hadley, 17, is in police custody, booked just before 5 p.m. Monday on two counts of second-degree murder with a weapon, according to the St. Lucie County Sheriff's website. Port St. Lucie Police spokesman Tom Nichols told reporters earlier that the teenage boy, who will be tried as an adult, was denied bond.

Around 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Port St. Lucie Police Capt. Don Kryak said Hadley posted an invitation on Facebook, inviting friends to a party at his house.

Sometime after that, police said he used a 22-ounce framing hammer to fatally beat his parents -- Blake and Mary-Jo Hadley -- in the head and torso outside their master bedroom door of their Port St. Lucie home. He then dragged them inside the room and used "books, files, towels, anything that he could find inside the home to cover the bodies," Nichols said.

Then the teenager proceeded to party.

"Between 40 and 60 people turned up sometime after 9 p.m., according to police. Nichols said that "during the party and after the party, there was a rumor that perhaps Tyler had killed his parents." But, while saying police wanted to talk to more partygoers, he did not indicate if anyone else saw the dead couple's bodies locked in the master bedroom.

Police became involved after getting an anonymous tip, which led them to conduct a welfare check at the house around 4:20 a.m. Sunday.

Kryak said Tyler Hadley appeared "nervous" when law enforcement officers arrived, telling them his parents were out of town. They eventually found the alleged murder weapon lying between his parents' bodies.


Cops: Woman complains of lack of love song, is hit
Undecided who I'm rooting for in this one...
On the one hand, he hit a woman
On the other hand, I bet she was really annoying him.
Q: What do you call a woman with two black eyes?
A: Nothing, you already told her twice.

Q: What do you call a woman with one black eye?
A: A quick learner.
"Authorities say that when a Pennsylvania woman complained that her songwriter boyfriend had never written a song about her, he choked her and hit her in the face.

Ambridge police say 29-year-old Jason Banks attacked his girlfriend June 30 after she complained and pointed out he had written songs about other women.

The Beaver County Times reports that Banks has been charged with simple assault. He did not immediately return a call for comment Tuesday to a phone number listed in his name.
(Miami Herald via Barstool)

Moaning Mouth-Bot Learns to Croon, Is Even Creepier Than Ever
SO creepy.

"Headphones on, everyone. The moaning mouth 'bot is back, this time to sing you a Japanese nursery rhyme. (Freaking you out is a side effect, not the main goal.) Hideyuki Sawada of Kagawa University in Japan brought the mouthbot to Robotech 2011 to demonstrate its new powers. You can watch it below singing "Kagome Kagome," a children's song.

The robot, which first started freaking us out last spring, is designed to help hearing-impaired people improve their speech. It's the most mechanically accurate robot mouth ever, with an air pump to simulate lungs, artificial vocal chords, a resonance tube, a nasal cavity, and a microphone attached to a sound analyzer. It listens to itself and uses a learning algorithm to better mimic the sounds of human speech.

For those of you who did not grow up with Japanese nursery rhymes, you can hear what "Kagome Kagome" is supposed to sound like here, so you can judge the robot's vocal skills.

Your Brain on Androids
'Creepy Mouth' fall into this category?

Brain response to videos of a robot, android and human. The researchers say they see, in the android condition, evidence of a mismatch between the human-like appearance of the android and its robotic motion.

"Ever get the heebie-jeebies at a wax museum? Feel uneasy with an anthropomorphic robot? What about playing a video game or watching an animated movie, where the human characters are pretty realistic but just not quite right and maybe a bit creepy? If yes, then you've probably been a visitor to what's called the "uncanny valley."

The phenomenon has been described anecdotally for years, but how and why this happens is still a subject of debate in robotics, computer graphics and neuroscience. Now an international team of researchers, led by Ayse Pinar Saygin of the University of California, San Diego, has taken a peek inside the brains of people viewing videos of an uncanny android (compared to videos of a human and a robot-looking robot).

Published in the Oxford University Press journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, the functional MRI study suggests that what may be going on is due to a perceptual mismatch between appearance and motion.

The term "uncanny valley" refers to an artificial agent's drop in likeability when it becomes too humanlike. People respond positively to an agent that shares some characteristics with humans – think dolls, cartoon animals, R2D2. As the agent becomes more human-like, it becomes more likeable. But at some point that upward trajectory stops and instead the agent is perceived as strange and disconcerting. Many viewers, for example, find the characters in the animated film "Polar Express" to be off-putting. And most modern androids, including the Japanese Repliee Q2 used in the study here, are also thought to fall into the uncanny valley.

The Incredible Rube Goldberg Portrait Photography Machine
Love these things...

"This video from 2dphotography.ca is the epitome of a Rube Goldberg Invention. For four incredible minutes, a warehouse of photography gear is abused, rolled, smashed, swung, photographed, and used in ways the manufacturer never intended in order to get a single shot portrait shot.

The amount of gear on show here is just astonishing — and occasionally wince inducing as they're abused. Watching those Profoto Boxes fall, or the lens get whacked by a hammer? And then some of the uses are wonderful, like repurposing a monumental number of GorillaPods into a bath for a ball, or using rolling lenscaps down a wall.

The man behind the concept, David Dvir, talks a bit about how it was done on a blog post, and also in the behind the scenes video below. Apparently this has been in the planning stages since November of last year, and in construction since January. Click through the link to see how they made the cool photobooth effect part-way through the shoot. My only complaint is that there's no music in the video — I bet OK GO would have signed on board for this!

Amid growing pressure, churches in China 'are at a critical moment,' pastor says
"Officially" China's largest religion is Buddhism/Taoism, but it's pretty well understood that Christianity is much larger than the government admits, possibly the largest.

"The congregants were seated in rows of folding chairs, clasping their hands in prayer or studying passages in their Bibles.

The choir was sitting up front ready to sing on cue. A cross hung behind the pastor. The service looked like a Christian service you would see pretty much anywhere else in the world. But this is Beijing, and the recent Sunday service was illegal.

I couldn't stop glancing at the door and wonder - are the authorities on their way?

This must be the feeling the people in informal churches here have lived with for decades, I thought.

In China, the government allows religious activity but tightly controls it, requiring Christians to meet at state-approved churches. Many Chinese Christians prefer to worship on their own terms at "house" churches, which generally start as small prayer meetings in people's homes.

In recent years, the authorities have tolerated these underground churches. In fact, the parishioners CNN spoke to seemed unfazed by their church's illegal status.

However, Pastor Ezra Jin, the leader of Zion Church, said these churches are now under tremendous pressure - in the midst of China's crackdown on dissent here in the wake of the Arab Spring.

"We are at a critical moment," he said. "What we need is communication."

House churches, he said, cannot afford to stay silent - one of the reasons he granted CNN rare access to film in his banned church.

Jin is concerned that China's underground churches could become targets of jittery authorities like one of Beijing's biggest house churches, Shouwang. Over the past several months, Shouwang's members have been routinely detained and its leaders put under house arrest.

“Well Educated” Chick From The Metro North Incident Says She Feels “Raped by the Internet”
Can't believe this is the first time I've heard of this! Best example liberal elitism ever!

"Hermon Raju wants to stop the crazy train of bad publicity that continues to barrel her way.

A source tells us the cocky commuter, who became a media sensation last month when her recorded rant against a Metro-North conductor went viral, is reaching out to crisis-management PR experts to repair her reputation.

Our source passed along a letter that Raju sent to one firm seeking guidance in dealing with the media over the incident. "The public only knows the two minutes of my dispute that were shown on the video that went viral," she writes. "However, there was a lot more to the story than those two minutes.

"I can honestly say I feel raped by the Internet," Raju gripes, after claiming that she initially was advised "not to speak to the media" about the incident.

"As Raju notes in her letter, the video went viral after being posted on the Internet. Fueled by the revelation that her education took place at NYU and not one of the Ivy League schools, Raju's rant became the top story on Yahoo!, AOL and Huffington Post, among other websites.

The story was also covered on television by Anderson Cooper. Keith Olbermann named Raju the "Worst Person in the World" on his first show on Al Gore's Current TV.

"Unbelievable how my dispute on the train made me so despised," she wrote in her letter seeking a crisis-management pro.

Shortly after the video was posted, Raju deleted her Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn profiles. Bloggers, however, managed to locate Google's cache of her LinkedIn account and use it as fodder, particularly her boast on LinkedIn that she possessed "excellent management and communication skills."
(NY Post via Barstool)

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